Nunavut Post

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Classrooms can be a “lifeline” for students


Key Takeaways:

  • Mary Piercey-Lewis and Joey Rhodes of Inuksuk High School have won national teaching awards.
  • Mary Piercey-Lewis, a music teacher at Inuksuk High School, had no idea her music class was a haven for students going through adversity until they told her years after graduating.

“When those young people grow up and start to share some of their stories about what [my] class meant to them in high school,” she explained, “that’s how I found out that the music program was a lifeline.” “And that was extremely humbling for me.”

She and her teacher Joey Rhodes now have Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence to remind them of the significance of their work. “We don’t usually get that kind of recognition as teachers,” said Rhodes, a math and science teacher with a passion for biology.

The annual teaching excellence awards recognize elementary and secondary school teachers from across the country who go above and beyond the curriculum.

There were 36 recipients in the category of Teaching Excellence and 17 recipients in teaching Excellence in STEM. In addition, Piercey-Lewis was honored for combining music with social activism and reconciliation.

The preservation of Inuit culture is a recurring theme in her classroom. Students compose and perform Inuktitut songs. Guest speakers and instructors include elders, Inuit singer-songwriters, throat-singers, and musicians. “That’s where the kids get to create and connect with Inuit culture and language,” Piercey-Lewis explained.

To bridge the gap between western and Inuit music, she composes melodies for the flute and clarinet to accompany songs performed by the Inuksuk Drum Dancers, allowing everyone in the class to collaborate.

Her classroom is also a place where young people can talk about issues that concern them and express their feelings through music. “Now and then, we write something fantastic. It’s truly amazing what the kids can think of. “It’s incredible,” she exclaimed.

Rhodes was recognized for his leadership and innovative approach to teaching dense courses, earning him the teaching excellence in STEM award. Rhodes also runs the robotics club and is the union representative at Inuksuk School and the vice-president of the Nunavut Teachers Association. In addition, he used to coach basketball and drive students to southern tournaments.

Source: Nunatsiaq News

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