This week the University of Saskatchewan is celebrating Aboriginal Achievement Week with a range of cultural events, discussion panels, artistic activities and celebrations.
Each year, there is an awards ceremony to honour Indigenous students and to recognize their academic accomplishments, leadership, research endeavours or community volunteerism.
One of the award winners this year is Cheryl McKay, a student in the Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP), who is getting an award for her leadership inside and outside the classroom.
Cheryl is a member of the Red Earth Cree Nation and is in her final year of ITEP. In fall of 2016, she completed an internship at W.P. Bate Community School in a grades 3 and 4 classroom.
As a fluent Cree speaker, she wanted to share her language with the students at the school. She incorporated Cree into her lessons, guest taught in other classrooms and even started the school’s first Cree language club.
We caught up with Cheryl to ask her a few questions about her internship experience and what has motivated her to want to become an educator.
What made you interested in getting a degree in education?
My interest in getting an education degree began right out of high school. Sadly, I did not continue into the second year and I always wanted to go back. I finally decided to return to university when I heard about ITEP and how the support system was great. I applied in 2012 and when accepted I was motivated to complete what I had started. I knew that this was what I always wanted to do: become an educator.
Did you enjoy your internship experience?
My internship was the greatest experience any student could ask for. The staff was helpful all the way through. When I wanted to bring First Nations connections into the classroom through language and values my co-operating teacher was a great help. When I needed to make connections between First Nations’ content and the subject areas I taught she guided me through. This gave me an opportunity to share a part of my culture and language with the school.
What made you want to start a Cree language club at W.P. Bate Community School?
When I began my internship I asked if there was a Cree language program in the school and found that there was not one. One of the teachers said I should start one as an extracurricular for the school. With a limited amount of time, I decided I would teach Cree to grades 1-4. The Cree club was to have students learn simple action words and a Cree song. The goal set out was to have the students learn the Cree song with six practices and perform in front of the school. This performance was successful and I am so grateful to the teachers and staff who helped make this possible.
To learn more about the events that are taking place this week, be sure to check out the Aboriginal Achievement Week website.