Success Stories

Read these inspiring success stories about Indspire’s Peer Support program – mentorship and coaching for educators of Indigenous students.

Mentees

Wanda Anderson (British Columbia)

I am from Golden, a small town in British Columbia. I have been in the education field for the past 4 years as a K- 12 Education Assistant. Although I am N’Quatqua, I know little about my heritage, as my great grandfather was disenfranchised for buying his own land in the 50’s. Last year I had the opportunity to take a 1 year position as the Aboriginal Education Support Worker at the high school for 70+ students. While preparing for the position I found the Indspire site and learned about the Peer Support program. The program seemed like a good fit for my new position so I applied. They did a great job in matching me with my mentor. We try to speak by phone (much more personal than email) twice a month if our schedules allow. He has helped me see that education support takes more than just educational help. A great deal of students also need to feel a connection to at least one staff member to keep them in school. My mentor has helped me set and reach personal, cultural and educational goals. He has made me feel at ease and comfortable, always providing me with insight and a laugh. Through the Peer Support program I have grown as an aboriginal educator and have made a friend along the way. It has been a pleasure to take part in this program for the second year now and I have recommended it to others without hesitation.

Mentors

Lisa Lenkart (Saskatchewan)

Share a little about yourself – where you are from, how long have you been an educator, etc.
Lisa Lenkart, currently an Administrator at Miller School in Melville, SK where I have been for the last 9 years of my career. Prior to this I taught at Muskowekwan School for 14 years where I taught various grades and was a resource teacher.

Why did you join the program?
I believe that it is imperative that we close the education gap for Indigenous students in this country. My experience and research done in my Master’s programs have given me some knowledge to share with others about how this is being done. This program gives me an opportunity to share this with another educator who shares my passion for moving our students forward.

How did you hear about the program?
My father told me about the website and I found it there.

What difference has being a part of the Mentorship program made for you?
It has given me an opportunity to spend time engaging in meaningful discussions about Indigenous Education Initiatives. I have gained far more from my mentee than I have given. Listening to her youthful enthusiasm, her well thought out questions and plans for continued growth as a professional has challenged me to keep up! I have had to clarify and define some things in my practice that I take for granted in order to articulate them to someone else. I have also been inspired to do more and to embrace change in my own practice.

What stood out for you about what you have learned from your mentor/mentee?
We are both Indigenous educators and despite our diverse backgrounds and age difference, the experiences we have in our schools are common. There are challenges we encounter that are unique to us and, I am sure, to many Indigenous Educators across this country. Having each other to connect with creates a valuable and sustaining space for me.

Share how often and how you connected with your mentor/mentee and the topics or challenges you discussed.
We would have met face-to-face at least on a monthly basis and also emailed, texted or called when there were things to discuss. I think a huge highlight of this was attending the National Gathering in Calgary.

 

My name is Kathleen Lukas. I am a mentor. This is my second year in the Peer Support program, although my first year in the program was not a very active one. I have been a teacher for over 30 years, both as a classroom teacher (gr. 2, 3, 4) and as a Physical Education specialist (gr. K-8). I am currently a Physical Education Specialist at Forest Park School-a small Early Years School in Winnipeg.

My mentor’s name is Carrie Doerksen. Carrie is a first year teacher, teaching grade 1. Carrie is a CATEP graduate (Community-based Aboriginal Teacher Education Program). Before becoming a teacher, and as part of the CATEP program, Carrie was an Educational Assistant at my school. That is how Carrie and I first met and became friends.

I heard about the Peer Support program from another CATEP graduate who became the Aboriginal Consultant for our school division. She was a mentor and strongly encouraged me to apply. I did, as I felt strongly about the value of Aboriginal Educators, and Aboriginal Education. Also, being a teacher with over 30 years of teaching experience, I thought I might have something to offer new teachers.

When Carrie was hired in my school, I encouraged Carrie to apply as a mentee with the Peer Support program. We were matched together and I became her official mentor. As we had already been good friends, I would have helped Carrie in any way possible with her teaching journey. However, being her “mentor” made our relationship official and more special. It was my job to help her in any way possible, and to always look out for her (eg. to remind her to take a break and come into the staffroom!). It made our friendship and bond closer.

This relationship has helped both of us. It has helped Carrie by having someone always available to turn to if she should need help. It has given her moral support as well. For me, it has given me the opportunity to use my expertise, problem solve, and just see a situation from a different perspective. I must point out that Carrie is an excellent teacher and I have learned much from her as well!

As Carrie and I work in the same school, we see each other and talk daily-even if it’s something as simple as “How is your day going?” Knowing that someone is there for you, really cares about you, and is there to help you anytime you need help is a big part of the success of this relationship/program. We often talk about the students in her classroom-what difficulties she is having with them, how they act in Phys. Ed. class, what she sees, what I see, what works, what doesn’t, what she has tried, what I have tried… Carrie also regularly sits in on Phys. Ed. class when I teach her class (during her preparation time). This gives her the opportunity to witness firsthand another style and method of teaching. She also sees how her students act/react to some very different situations and sees them in a very different light.

One of the topics that we often discuss is student evaluation. We discuss student’s progress, how they should be evaluated, and how this could be written up formally. We also discuss Parent/Teacher Conferences and how best to convey student progress to the parents. Part of the discussion included how I see and evaluate those students during Phys. Ed. class, and how Carrie does the same for the classroom.

I think working in the same school as your mentee is a huge bonus and is what makes our relationship such a success. We see each other daily, and can talk with each other either formally or informally daily, whether or not a problem or concern arises.

Share a little about yourself – where you are from, how long have you been an educator, etc.
I was raised in Pimichikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake). It is located in Northern Manitoba. I left the reserve at thirteen years old to attend high school. I am still connected to the North, I work with the communities in my role as School Administration Advisor with Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. I started my teaching career at Pimichikamak when I graduated from university and have been fortunate to work in various school jurisdictions and learn about education. Been in education close to forty years.

Why did you join the program?
At the Indspire conference, in Toronto, attended the mentor presentation. The presentation was effective and inviting so I decided to give it a try.

What difference has being a part of the Mentorship program made for you?
It has been an enriching experience getting to know another person. The match was great. The mentee and I got off to a great start.

What stood out for you about what you have learned from your mentor/mentee?
The mentee’s goals helped me refocus my beliefs and thoughts about FN education in her setting as a High School resource person. We tend to put so much emphasis on the academics. We should closely at the emotional well- being of students. Building relationships must happen if we want to retain our students from dropping out.

How did being a mentor help you?
The building of a friendship stood out for me, sharing stories about work and families. The mentee helped me see how systems work in another province. I had to think and conduct research on how to assist the mentee with her goals.

Share how often and how you connected with your mentor/mentee and the topics or challenges you discussed.
We have attempted to connect twice a month, via telephone, and also email. Our main goal was helping students gain knowledge and respect for their FN cultural background; thus building a foundation to stay in school..