Simone De Gannes, principal of Coral Harbour’s Sakku School, had mixed feelings when she heard she would be receiving a humanitarian award from Nunavut Commissioner Eva Qamaniq Aariak.
“Numb at first,” said De Gannes about her reaction, when the commissioner held a celebration for the awards in Coral Harbour Monday, Dec. 5.
“I heard my name being called several times. I knew it was my name, and a colleague smiled and said, ‘Yes, it’s you, Simone.’ Then came the foolish grin where my lips refused to close.”
When the host of the ceremony said it was time to present the humanitarian awards, De Gannes’s eyes filled with tears.
“I am simply doing my job to the best of my ability, knowledge and experience,” said the humble principal. “All I do is serve the students. In this journey called life, we live it or pass this way only once.”
Her work as principal has been recognized before, including earning the Rick Hansen Foundation School Program Difference Maker of the Year award earlier this year.
She started at Sakku School in 2020, with a mission to see and treat each child as if they were hers.
“This approach allows me to enter their world, journey with them, learn from and grow with them while helping mold each individual to their fullest potential,” said De Gannes.
“Supporting and pushing Inuit traditions, culture, language and way of life sprinkled with academics — we are building ‘holistic’ persons. This type of acknowledgement keeps me on my toes and simply shows there is something I am doing right; without it, I continue to be true to those I serve by giving my all.”
She expressed her gratitude to the community of Coral Harbour for the nomination and to the Commissioner’s office and team for bestowing the award.
“I can say we have only just begun,” said De Gannes, “because at Sakku School, Coral Harbour, we keep our feet on the ground as we continue reaching for the sky.”
Others received awards, too, including several for knowledge-keepers, bravery, youth and more.
Teacher Nellie Ell also received a humanitarian award, which describes her as working tirelessly “for many years to encourage the learning success of her students and develop strong relationships with her colleagues.”