She exemplified leadership in her Introduction to Elementary English Language Arts class, where she often shared about her personal experiences and prior knowledge. She is a third-year Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP) student from Montreal Lake First Nation.
Sumners was recognized with an award for academic excellence at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) Indigenous Student Achievement Awards, which was held virtually on Feb. 4, 2021, to honour USask Indigenous students for their academic excellence, leadership, research, community engagement and resiliency.
The award ceremony was part of Indigenous Achievement Week (IAW), which celebrated the successes and contributions of Métis, First Nations and Inuit students, staff and faculty within the context of this year’s theme: nīkānihk itohtētān, walking together into the future. We asked TeeJay a few questions about her journey at USask.
Why did you choose the College of Education and ITEP?
I chose ITEP as I felt that it was integral to have an Indigenous perspective when the desire is to enhance the education received by Indigenous students. The acceptance into ITEP also meant that I would learn my culture and traditions that are not always fulfilled being an urban Indigenous person.
What has helped you to stay motivated and committed to your studies?
My motivation is rooted in my family; as a mother of four daughters, being a positive role model was essential. My husband works hard for our family and it is important to me that I invest in our future through education. Being a university student has opened my mind. It sounds cliché, right.
How have your studies developed your knowledge, skills and leadership?
I believe that when I entered university, I had a closed mindset. I find the importance of knowledge and the realization that there are many perspectives on the same issue. Leadership is a skill that I’ve always had; however, I am using my skills differently now. I reach out to the younger students, check in on them and encourage them to stay in school. Time passes so quickly while you’re in school, so it is easy to feel bombarded. Hopefully, checking in with students that I have been in classes with will assist them in chasing their dreams. My skill set has changed immensely.
Has someone in your life inspired you to get to where you are today?
It would be impossible to say that one person inspired me to get where I am today. First, my family: I am a proud wife, mother, daughter, sister and aunt. My family has cheered me on from the sidelines as I pursued my goals. I have been blessed with many mentors in my life. Many Okimawak have guided me and supported me in seeking my own path. Friends that I seek guidance from, learn acceptance from, and that encourage me to strive to overcome the barriers that I face as a nehiyaw iskwew.
This year’s Indigenous Achievement Week theme is nīkānihk itohtētān, walking together into the future. What does this mean to you?
nīkānihk itohtētān means that I will be able to share my skills, knowledge and insights with future leaders. As we walk together into the future as educators, we will support one another in obtaining goals. We will revive and support culture and language without shame.
Tell us anything about yourself that you would like us to share.
I am a proud nehiyaw iskwew from Montreal Lake Cree Nation. Stay close to your family and remain grounded in the hard times. Education will not only open doors for a career but will also open your mind to endless possibilities. Starting university in my 40s was scary but so incredibly worth it. Education will be my first degree but will not be the end of my education goals.