By Shelly Niemi, District Manager, Aboriginal Education Department, SD57 (Prince George)
The importance of congruent, cohesive and respectful leadership is a key factor in creating and maintaining successful initiatives in schools. Aboriginal Education in School District 57 is a viable and sustainable department because of the partnerships created within all district roles ranging from trustees to students. A successful district-wide initiative is possible with the formation of meaningful relationships, shared vision and an ability to collaborate with the best interest of students, families and the professionals that work within that system.
Through the continued support of school trustees, senior administration, all levels of school district professionals, students and families, an amazing and innovative Aboriginal Education Department has developed. This has resulted in the inclusion and availability of Aboriginal Education throughout our school district. Through collaborative work and a dedication to incorporating and transforming Aboriginal Education within the school district, changes have come at all levels of educational service delivery. Instead of a top down model of Aboriginal Education, Aboriginal Education is finding a home throughout all levels of the student learning journey which continues to foster a model of inclusion versus exclusion.
A clear understanding is provided by Sandy Gaph (2013) in Decolonizing Education Nourishing the Learning Spirit, she states: “it is not only imperative for educators to insist on the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge and praxis in schools but also to transform the institutional structures of school themselves. In other words, in addition to the development of native curricula, educators need to develop systems of analysis that help theorize the ways in which power and domination inform the process and procedures of schooling” (p.190).
Transformation means change, a change in the traditional ways of learning and teaching. Change further means diverse groups of individuals coming together and working collectively in an effort to create sustainable change in the way Aboriginal Education has traditionally been taught in schools. The role of every individual from the support of the trustee to the learning of the students in the classroom is essential to the long-term success of the changing face of Aboriginal Education.