David Joanasie attended school in his home community of Cape Dorset and learned Inuktitut up until Grade 3. Afterwards there were still some Inuktitut classes, but lessons were primarily in English as of Grade 4.
At that time, in the early 1990s, there was little in the way of classroom resources for Inuit languages. The situation has improved but there's still great strides to be made, Joanasie acknowledged.
"It's something that as a department right now we're trying to address, too," he said. "It's going to be a huge undertaking."
As a boy, Joanasie's parents pushed him to go to school every day.
"I respected that... what you put into it is what you get out of it," he said. "I viewed learning and language equally. I had to apply myself in both languages to the highest standard. I encourage others to do the same. That's where we're trying to promote (departmentally), having a bilingual society as applying ourselves to the best of both languages."
He urges Nunavummiut to reflect on how they value and use education in their personal lives, their family lives, in their community and as a society.
"That's where I think we can really make some headway on instilling and ingraining that into our values and principles – having more and more students attend (school)."
Joanasie was a member of the Peter Pitseolak High School graduating class of 2001. He was drawn to math and enjoyed problem-solving, catching up to his older brother in math class.
"I did as best as I could in school and that has translated to the dividends after high school, I went to post-secondary," he said. "I challenged myself to do better in not just attendance but in my marks. I would say to myself, I'm going to do this better the next time. Putting in the effort ourselves, I feel like that's a big part of it. Also, at the other end, having had the privilege of having great teachers who guided our learning, I think that's the other big piece of it, too."
He holds a certificate in business communication from Saint Mary's University in Halifax and a diploma from Algonquin College.
He's also an alumni of the Nunavut Sivuniksavut college program in Ottawa.