A Nanaimo school district administrator was in the nation’s capital last month, imparting her wisdom on First Nations education.
Anne Tenning, vice-principal of aboriginal education, represented the school district at the annual Canada’s History Forum in Ottawa Nov. 27, and gave a speech on the role of reconciliation in education, as this year’s theme was indigenous histories.
While Tenning, a member of Stz’uminus First Nation, didn’t attend residential school, her mother – who accompanied her on the trip – did, something Tenning said she uses in her role with the school district.
Tenning said she was asked to speak about her own personal experiences and started by acknowledging the history of residential schools in her family and then speaking to the change in education she has seen as both a student and a teacher.
In the past five years, there has been a great interest regarding the indigenous perspective in curriculum at all levels – elementary through high school, said Tenning. Because new curriculum introduced by the Ministry of Education has a focus on First Nations, teachers are interested in bringing this into classrooms and requesting support, Tenning said.
“There’s already lots of really great initiatives that happen in this district that support aboriginal education. We’ve got a really strong local language program that can be seen in schools from elementary right through high school,” said Tenning.
Some districts are in the beginning stages of teaching local aboriginal language, but with its Hul’qumi’num language program, Tenning said the Nanaimo district is innovative and the work is incredible.
“To go in and hear how many students of aboriginal and non-aboriginal ancestry, administrators, teachers, that know basic words and greetings in the language to full language classes at the high school level … I think that is really amazing,” said Tenning.