It is always difficult to write an opinion piece on the efforts or achievements of someone you know and respect, lest one gush, but in this particular case, I’ll make an exception.

And, if gush I must, then gush I shall.

The qajaq program that Victor Sammurtok School (VSS) science teacher Glen Brocklebank developed in Chesterfield Inlet has reached impressive levels of success during the past decade, including the awarding of a $140,000 Arctic Inspiration Prize which was officially announced this past February.

Not only does the qajaq program inspire its youthful participants and boost their self-confidence in areas they may never have thought possible, it also blends core mathematics, woodworking, physical education, healthy lifestyles and cultural inclusion.

Not bad for a project which may look to some like a bunch of kids paddling in circles and rolling upside down in one body of water or another near Chester.

The project has, in fact, attracted national attention in numerous circles, even before the awarding of the Arctic Inspiration Prize money.

A smile crossed my face as the photo landed from Chester of Brocklebank and his proud-and-eager group of students displaying their latest work, as they use a large portion of the Arctic Inspiration Prize money to rebuild the school’s fleet.

The happiness and pride evident in the kid’s faces should warm the heart of anyone with an understanding of the difficulties and challenges Kivalliq youth face on an ongoing basis.

It is the type of success story in school programming that truly makes a difference in the lives of many youth in the community.

And it is the type of school programming we need more of.

Programs that think outside of the box and reach the students at their level – through what they enjoy doing, what they are connected to and what they strive to excel at – have the potential to make an incredible positive impact on young hearts and minds.

Brocklebank and his fellow teacher at VSS and wife, Ana Leishman, are committed to the community of Chesterfield Inlet, something else we need more of across the Kivalliq, whether it be through homegrown teachers or those imported from the south.

Brocklebank, who often plays down achievements such as a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching (Certificate of Achievement), is the real deal in that he truly cares about students and will do almost anything to help them succeed.

He has been instrumental in making the little school that is VSS an annual powerhouse at the Kivalliq Regional Science Fair, sending numerous students all the way to the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

In most schools, a student’s success in graduating from Grade 12 is a total team effort from the collective of teachers that guide them down their path and VSS is no exception.

However, it must be noted, coincidence or not, the number of VSS graduates has increased by about 200 per cent since Brocklebank and Leishman’s arrival in Chester.

Curiously, an argument can be made that Brocklebank’s success rate and teaching methods have received more attention and applause nationally and internationally than right here in Nunavut.

With my apologies to the good folks at Kivalliq School Operations in Baker Lake, it kind of makes one wonder exactly what kind of qualifications one needs to have to maybe, just maybe, be given a bit more of a voice in curriculum delivery and development.

I sincerely hope I have not embarrassed Mr. Brocklebank with my ‘gushing’ over his teaching accomplishments in Chester, but I am a firm believer in when you have a keeper, let everyone know and the team of Brocklebank and Leishman are keepers in Chester.

Hopefully, we’ll see similar success stories start to rear their heads in other communities across our region; success stories that have the roots of their success firmly planted in education.

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