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Community And Cultural Connection the Theme for Staff PD

Almost 500 staff members gathered at High Level Public School on November 10, 2022, the first division wide PD Day in three years.

Teachers, educational assistants, support staff, custodians and bus drivers came together to connect and learn about cultural diversity within our region. After the events of the past three years – fires, floods, and a pandemic – FVSD is committed more than ever to focusing on connection within our schools and our school communities.

Dr. Dustin Louie, Director of NITEP and Associate Professor at University of British Columbia, began the day with an insightful keynote speech about the impact of colonization in Canada. Dr. Louie spoke to an attentive audience about the differences between cultural appreciation vs cultural appropriation and how Western cultural practices are not the same as colonial practices. He highlighted how cultural misunderstandings are often the cause of much harm, providing examples of how this plays out in our daily lives and across cultures.

Dr. Louie is a First Nations scholar from Nee Tahi Buhn and Nadleh Whut’en of the Dakelh Nation in central British Columbia and is part of the Beaver Clan. He holds a degree in Canadian history, a master’s in international relations and a PhD in education research.

The day’s highlight was a panel of community elders sharing cultural perspectives. Ken Wiebe, who was born and raised in the La Crete area, spoke about the importance of faith and family within the Mennonite community. An immigrant from the Philippines, Carlito Somera (Dene Tha Community School Principal), also spoke about the importance of family within the Fillipino community and the role educators play. Elizabeth Enfield, a Dene elder from Meander River, recounted her experience growing up and living here as an Indigenous person. Noreen McAteer, a former FVSD trustee and Metis elder from Fort Vermilion, highlighted how our world has changed dramatically over the years. Henry Francis, a Beaver First Nation elder who has lived in Boyer River his whole life, talked about community values and how history has shaped his people. Joining the panel from Beaver Ranch was Graham Courtoreille, a Cree Elder who spoke to the importance of education and how it can provide youth with greater opportunities and career options.  

In keeping with the day’s theme of cultural connection, community members from Mennonite, Filipino and Indigenous backgrounds prepared and served traditional foods for FVSD staff to enjoy. On the menu was moose meat stew and bannock, wareneki (perogies), and pork and chicken adobo.

Following lunch were several breakout sessions to choose from including four bus tours. Dr. Dustin Louie gave a second presentation, further exploring topics introduced during his morning talk. A Blanket Exercise helped participants build an understanding of our shared history by walking through pre-contact with Europeans, treaty-making, colonization, and resistance. The SNCS gym was abuzz with participants of a Poverty Simulator navigating “life” based on assigned family dynamics while trying to access community supports and avoid bill collectors – an exercise that highlights the daily challenges faced by those living in poverty. Representatives from the Filipino community were also on hand at SNCS and gave a presentation about their culture while bus tours to Footner Lake, Bushie River, Eleske Shrine, and the Evangelical Church gave staff an opportunity to explore culturally significant locations.

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