South Slave Council honours excellence in education

South Slave Council honours excellence in education
The SSDEC presents its Excellence in Education Awards for 2013. Left to right, Rob Kent (Parks Canada), Kandis Jameson (SSDEC), Marnie Villeneuve (PWK high school), Richard Zaidan (Parks Canada) and Curtis Brown (SSDEC).Photo: Steven Lee.

The South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC) presented its Excellence in Education Awards for 2013 last week during a staff-in service conference in Hay River to kick off a new school year.

Marnie Villeneuve of Fort Smith won the program staff award. A Northern-born and trained teacher, Villeneuve teaches at Paul W. Kaeser (PWK) high school and has been selected repeatedly by her colleagues to sit on the Central Executive for the NWT Teacher’s Association where she continues to serve, and was also one of 70 teachers chosen by the Speaker of the House of Commons to attend the Teacher’s Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy in 2011.

As a member of the SSDEC’s Homework and Student Skills Initiative, Villeneuve co-authored the initiative’s publication, Help, It’s Homework Time Parents’ Handbook and is a “staunch supporter of Northern and Aboriginal education,” stated a recent press release.

“She is a dedicated, committed teacher who excels in building relationships with her students. She maintains these connections once students leave her class and she actively draws kids to school,” one nominator wrote in about Villeneuve.

The Sweetgrass Station Education and Outreach Program from Wood Buffalo National Park  took home the partner in education award, recognizing the cooperation and hard work of Parks Canada staff when it comes to delivering this challenging and intensive program.

The on-the-land wilderness program has run in partnership between Parks and the Fort Smith District Education Authority since 2010. It teaches students about the importance of protecting the land, water and history of the Peace-Athabasca Delta in Wood Buffalo National Park through a number of hands-on activities.

The program is made up of two consecutive four-day camps, where a total of 50-60 students journey to Sweetgrass Station, a remote spot only accessible after a 1.5 hour bus ride, followed by a boat ride for over an hour and a 12-km backpacking hike.

Parks contributes more than 800 hours preparing the excursion every year and a handful of PWK teachers also put in extra hours to acquire food and supplies for the camp, hire boats and develop and deliver on-site programming that incorporates traditional knowledge from local elders as well as modern science.

The program continues to grow and the 2013 session will see participation from Alberta schools in Fort Chipewyan and Fort McMurray.

SSDEC hands out the excellence in education awards every year based on submitted nominations processed by a selection committee. They are part of the council’s goal to formally recognize exemplary contributions made by staff, parents and community members to give South Slave students better learning opportunities.

The conference also featured special guest Cris Tovani, an internationally recognized consultant, writer and educator from Colorado who tackles challenges in the modern classroom.

Teachers, principals and support staff from Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Lutsel K’e and K’atl’odeeche First Nation gathered on Aug. 28 and 29 to take part in Tovani’s workshops, which focused on engaging all learners, and bringing new skills and practices to the board for optimized student success.

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