- Teaching culture is essential and personal for the principal of Sakku School in Coral Harbour.
- “I know what it’s like to lose a culture,” said Simone De Gannes, principal of Sakku School for just over a year and a native of the Caribbean.
“I understand what it’s like to lose a language.” I know that you will never be able to get it back once that is gone no matter what you do. That is why my goals as principal is to preserve culture, tradition, language, and way of life and incorporate them into the school curriculum in everything we do.”
This includes everything from classroom activities to field trips to staff meetings. In addition, according to De Gannes, any meal served in the school must consist of local food to preserve the Inuit culture and help educational staff from the south assimilate into the Northern culture.
Students are educated in “both worlds” in the classroom, referring to the academic side and the cultural and traditional side.
Elders play an essential role in the school, teaching students how to skin, dress, and clean animals caught in the community, teaching the language, and engaging students in Inuit games.
Almost every subject is taught in both languages to students. However, if a teacher cannot communicate in Inuktitut, the school will bring in someone who can repeat the teacher’s instructions.
And the proof of this approach is already in the pudding. Sakku School has seen increased attendance and fewer disciplinary issues since incorporating more culture. According to De Gannes, the students become more compassionate, respectful, and interested in school. She claims that attendance rates are in the high 90s.
“Teachers are exhausted, and we’ll say, ‘Oh, my goodness, (the students) come every day,'” De Gannes joked. She has also noticed an rise in her reading levels. Her goal as a principal is to develop the whole person.
“It’s the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, creative, and social aspects of each child,” De Gannes explained.
In the future, De Gannes hopes to expand the school’s on-the-land programming, to have students on the land once a month to participate in cultural activities.
Source: Nunavut news
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