UBC Faculty of Education nurtures cultural identity of Indigenous students seeking to become teachers

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      Many British Columbians don’t realize that there are more than 70,000 Indigenous students in the province's K-12 public-school system. That’s about 13 percent.

      Yet only about two percent of B.C.’s approximately 42,000 certified public-school teachers are Indigenous, according to UBC’s associate dean for Indigenous education, Jan Hare.

      This has created a pressing need for Indigenous teachers and culturally grounded educators.

      “They are critical to the success of Indigenous students,” Hare told the Straight by phone.

      The Anishinaabe scholar’s mandate includes enriching UBC’s teacher education with Indigenous perspectives, histories, and pedagogies.

      She pointed out that the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning are embedded in curriculum reform in B.C.

      This holistic, reflexive, experiential, and relational approach that recognizes the role of Indigenous knowledge is also being embraced in other provinces.

      “There has been a shift across Canada in response to curriculum reform,” Hare said.

      This presents opportunities for educators to think about how young learners from narrative traditions can benefit from culturally sensitive approaches that enhance comprehension, language development, and listening skills.

      A cornerstone of the UBC faculty of education’s efforts is NITEP, which is the acronym for its Indigenous teacher education program. It began training Indigenous elementary-school teachers in 1974 and was expanded to the secondary grades in 2004.

      “There is research that suggests when Indigenous learners are taught by Indigenous educators, they’re more likely to engage more deeply in learning and experience better outcomes,” Hare said.

      NITEP offers programming in Indigenous communities and rural areas, which enables students to remain at local field centres for the first two or three years. Then they transfer to UBC’s Vancouver campus to complete their bachelor of education and their certification year to become a teacher.

      Hare emphasized that NITEP delivers a holistic experience that not only prepares future teachers for the classroom but also supports and nurtures their cultural identity. The program hosts an urban cohort for those interested in teaching in urban areas.

      “They would have an understanding of the impacts that colonialism has had on our communities and our families,” Hare said. “They would have an opportunity to develop
      an understanding of the diversity of Indigenous people in terms of their languages and cultures.”

      Graduates include B.C.’s first superintendent of aboriginal achievement, DeDe DeRose, and Fiona LaPorte, who is the head teacher at Xpey’ elementary school (formerly Sir William Macdonald elementary), which is Vancouver’s Aboriginal-focused school, located in the city’s East Side.

      Meanwhile, the 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is having an influence on the school system. Hare noted that this report has not only provided a road map for advancement but has imposed demands on the education system that UBC is addressing. That’s because 11 of its 94 “calls to action” focus on education.

      “We have a required course on Indigenous education,” she stated, “so all teacher candidates take a course on Indigenous perspectives, Indigenous content, and Indigenous learning approaches.”