Education in Canada is a success story. Study after study shows that our public schools are among the best in the world. But high overall quality masks deep inequality. Only 48 percent of First Nations youth living on reserve have a high school diploma. In the North, those numbers are even lower. And, too often, teachers arrive in northern First Nations without the preparation and support they need to succeed—and stay—in the classroom. The twin challenges of teacher supply and turnover compound historical injustice and systemic inequities to produce a statistical education gap between First Nations and non-First Nations communities.
Teach For Canada is a non-profit organization that works with northern First Nations to recruit committed teachers from across the country, deliver community-focused training, and provide wraparound support for schools and educators, so that every child can have access to high-quality education in their community.
In the 2020-21 school year, with the support of the Gay Lea Foundation, the organization piloted an Administrator Support Program for principals working in seven remote First Nations across the country. The program, which included one-on-one and group-based support, the sharing of best practices and resources, learning from industry experts, connecting with peers to explore specific issues, and accessing professional growth opportunities, was a tremendous success. The following year, the Foundation approved a second grant to support principal recruitment and the extension of the program in the 2021-22 school year.
“Committed and effective school leadership is a key driver of stable and supportive school environments in the North,” says Ken Sanderson, Executive Director at Teach For Canada. “The back-to-back donations from the Gay Lea Foundation have allowed us to adapt and extend our traditional support model to reach current and aspiring principals to improve effectiveness and increase retention.”
With the funding from the Gay Lea Foundation, the Administrator Support Program was extended to new and existing principals, vice principals, and aspiring local principals across all of Teach For Canada’s remote First Nation partner communities in Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta in the 2021-22 school year. A recently released year-end report confirms that 14 principals and school administrators from 12 First Nations participated in the school-year support program, while 19 principals and administrators from 15 First Nations attended the intensive week-long 2022-23 Administrator Preparation Program held in July 2022.
Funds from the Gay Lea Foundation were also used to support principal recruitment for the upcoming school year.
“Many seem unsure about how they can tangibly and meaningfully contribute to the work of reconciliation in this country. Investing in educational support and outcomes is one of the most effective ways to yield far-reaching impacts, as it helps to equip the next generation of Indigenous learners,” says Sanderson. “By supporting our work, you are actively supporting the future of Indigenous thinkers and leaders, and truly investing in reconciliation. Thank you—chi miigwetch—for your continued support as we push forward in the movement to make education more equal.”