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Nunavut teachers program sets record

The Nunavut Teacher Education Program (NTEP) has reached a new high in 2018-19 with 90 students enrolled in nine communities and via distance-learning, marking the most participants in a single school year in NTEP's history.

Inuksuk School teacher Karen Inootik says NTEP equipped her with many techniques and strategies to excel in a classroom environment. photo courtesy of Karen Inootik

The previous record, set in 2016, was 86 NTEP students enrolled across eight communities.

There's a possibility of as many as 23 homegrown teaching graduates this year.

This momentum comes as the Department of Education is reviewing the teaching program with a goal of fostering more graduates who can teach proficiently in the Inuit language. NTEP's future will partly hinge on the partnership the GN signed with Memorial University of Newfoundland, announced in October 2018, according to Nunavut Education Minister David Joanasie.

"That's an area for us to see what's going to come next, but we have high hopes of increasing the number of bilingual teachers in partnership with the college and Memorial (University)," Joanasie said.

The GN is in need of an estimated 450 qualified Inuktut teachers to help preserve the Inuit language. That's on top of the 140 existing Inuktut instructors already in schools, a number essentially equal to the sum of NTEP graduates currently working in the territory's education system.

Karen Inootik, an NTEP grad and teacher at Nakasuk School in Iqaluit, speaks highly of her experience in the teaching program. Lessons learned through NTEP have prepared her well, she said.

"Many techniques and strategies that I have studied are very relevant to the classroom environment and has prepared me to deal with everyday issues that arise within the classroom and/or from students," said Inootik. "My goal has always been to help children grow academically and socially, so, yes, teaching was the best choice I made for my career. My experience with the education system can make students understand that it is possible to achieve what you put your mind to."

Inootik, who started out as a language specialist at Qarmartalik School in Resolute prior to enrolling in NTEP, said one change she'd recommend to NTEP would be more interaction with special needs students to better understand how to help them overcome their barriers, rather than reading about it in textbooks.

Fellow NTEP graduate Bridgette Aulatjut of Arviat is also an advocate of more "hands-on" learning instead of relying on textbooks.

She, too, praised the Nunavut teaching program, particularly for helping her become more organized

"from my thoughts, readings, to my assignments."

Aulatjut said being a teacher is "a lot more work" and it means being on one's feet most of the day instead of sitting behind a desk. Nevertheless, she savours the gratification the job brings.

"I always have a sense of fulfillment when students get that 'aha' moment, when they learn new things. I really enjoy being in the classroom with students, as every day is different."