World’s top teacher shares a les­son in com­pas­sion

Mag­gie Mac­don­nell key­note speaker at lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion con­fer­ence this week­end

StarMetro Vancouver - - CANADA & WORLD - Is­abel Teoto­nio

Mag­gie Mac­don­nell, a teacher who works in a fly-in Inuit com­mu­nity in north­ern Que­bec, won a global teacher award last year. Mag­gie Mac­don­nell has had sev­eral stu­dents tell her they cre­ated a sui­cide plan. But, they never fol­lowed through.

The rea­son? They de­vel­oped so­cial sup­ports, and cop­ing strate­gies, be­cause of their re­la­tion­ship with her and in­volve­ment with pro­grams she cre­ated in their fly-in vil­lage of Sal­luit, nes­tled in north­ern Que­bec’s Inuit ter­ri­tory of Nu­navik.

“That’s the value of what a teacher brings to a class­room,” says the win­ner of the 2017 Global Teacher Prize, who will be in Toronto Satur­day to de­liver the key­note speech at the an­nual con­fer­ence of Peo­ple for Ed­u­ca­tion, a re­search and ad­vo­cacy group.

“I feel hum­bled and con­nected be­cause I also know those young peo­ple are do­ing amaz­ing things too,” says Mac­don­nell. “I get to see my­self now as in­ter­wo­ven into their story. And I know the peo­ple that they’ve saved and that they’ve pos­i­tively af­fected. And I get to un­der­stand, on a very hu­man scale, how con­nected all of our lives can be.”

The con­fer­ence is about “pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion’s role in cre­at­ing a bet­ter world,” says An­nie Kid­der, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Peo­ple for Ed­u­ca­tion, not­ing Mac­don­nell’s work “to­tally ex­em­pli­fies this.”

“For (Mac­don­nell), teach­ing is not just about stay­ing in­side the school and work­ing on cur­ricu­lum — it’s about the im­pact she and the school can have on kids’ lives and on the com­mu­nity they live in. She lives and breathes the con­nec­tion be­tween pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and the health and strength of the com­mu­ni­ties it serves.”

That con­nec­tion started in

2010. Raised in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia, near an Indige­nous com­mu­nity, Mac­don­nell was wellaware of the in­jus­tices Indige­nous peo­ple have faced. Plus, she had just spent five years work­ing in in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity devel­op­ment in East Africa, help­ing refugees, and had honed a set of skills she wanted to use in Canada’s Arc­tic.

“I thought as a Cana­dian I should re­ally open my eyes to our own colo­nial is­sues right within our bor­ders,” re­calls Mac­don­nell, who moved north in 2010 to Ikusik School in Sal­luit, the sec­ond north­ern­most Inuit com­mu­nity in Que­bec with a pop­u­la­tion of about

1,400.

Ini­tially, she hoped to last a year or two in this iso­lated com­mu­nity, which ex­pe­ri­ences a high turnover rate for teach­ers. She had no idea how she would be re­ceived, “con­sid­er­ing how ed­u­ca­tion it­self has been a tool in the cul­tural geno­cide of Indige­nous peo­ple,” she says, re­fer­ring to Canada’s res­i­den­tial school sys­tem.

Read the full story on Mag­gie Mac­don­nell at thes­tar.com/gta

VARKEY FOUN­DA­TION

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