When Clyde River couldn’t find enough interested community members to sit on the district education authority, Terry Kalluk stepped up. That was close to 15 years ago.
He’s been chair of the DEA – the community’s educational advisory board – for the past five years.
“I have learned quite a bit,” Kalluk said of his tenure.
With a new crop of high school graduates each spring, Kalluk has remained inspired to carry on with the DEA.
“Every year when people graduate, that’s always moved me, it always picks me up,” he said. “The more graduates, the better.”
The recruitment of teachers is one challenge that has persisted, but Kalluk has watched more educators emerge from within Clyde River as some high school graduates have enrolled in the Nunavut Teacher Education Program (NTEP).
“There’s quite a few people who are graduating from NTEP, local people, and that’s something really, really good,” he said. “Hopefully there will be more after this.”
Kalluk’s own education involved attending residential school, but he has many positive memories of his time in the classroom.
“At school, it was really helpful growing up like that. If it (wasn’t) I wouldn’t have got involved (in education) today,” he said. “Residential school had quite an impact, (but) some were not always bad.”
He wound up completing his education in what was known as the settlement maintenance program in Iqaluit. His studies served him well in his job at the weather office for 30 years until his recent retirement.
“You need a lot of education… to get into the job at the weather office,” he said. “There’s a lot of numbers, a lot of fractions.”
Following through with education is critical in today’s world, emphasized Kalluk, who has one child who has graduated high school and another who is in Grade 4.
“It is important to stay in school,” he said. “It’s the most important thing right now, I think.”
The observance of traditional practices, particularly in the spring, can result in temporarily reduced school attendance, Kalluk noted. However, there are important survival lessons to be learned on the land just like academic lessons in the classroom, he acknowledged.
Inuit culture is incorporated in school programming by including activities such as going out on the land with hunters in the spring and learning stitches from sewers in the community.
“We try to keep our culture alive,” said Kalluk.
With Education Act changes pending in Nunavut, Kalluk is concerned that local control over schools could be reduced.
“Hopefully things will not change drastically,” he said. “With this new Education Act, the minister’s going to be more into (decision-making) than what it used to be. With these changes that are coming, if they go ahead with it, I don’t think I’ll be interested in (being on the DEA anymore). The minister’s trying to take over more and more of the DEA’s responsibilities.”