When Roxane Letterlough was in school, she didn’t see many faces like hers at the head of the classroom. The girl from the St’át’imc Nation has grown up and graduated from that education system, and is now in a position to help with changes that will put more Indigenous students in BC’s schools.
Thompson Rivers University recently announced it is expanding its Bachelor of Education program by 16 seats for Indigenous students this September. Letterlough is the cohort co-ordinator and instructor, and an Elder and mentor will also provide support.
The expansion comes as a result of $340,000 from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training fund of $2.7 million being invested to provide Indigenous teacher education training throughout BC. This is a direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #62, which called upon governments to fund post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into the classroom.
“TRU is pleased to offer this opportunity to Indigenous students. We know that inequities and under-representation exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in many ways, including in education, and this is one step forward in addressing this issue,” said Brett Fairbairn, president and vice-chancellor at TRU.
“Indigenous students are empowered when they see themselves reflected in their teachers, and all students benefit when diversity is embraced and exemplified in their classrooms,” said Melanie Mark, minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “By investing in future Indigenous educators and role models we are working alongside Indigenous nations to answer the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action in the Thompson region and throughout B.C.”
“We know good teachers make a huge difference to every child’s learning, and the work they do is so valuable. It’s important the teaching workforce reflects the student population. Some 12 per cent of the Interior region is Indigenous peoples. Through this funding, TRU will expand our teacher education program so there will be more Indigenous role models in schools, and potentially as future leaders. Being a teacher at any time is important. Being a teacher at this time is truly transformative,” said Airini, dean of TRU’s Faculty of Education and Social Work.
She added that a minimum of 25 per cent of the newly funded seats for Indigenous students are prioritized for Secwépemc students. This is in recognition of the traditional territory upon which TRU resides as well as the partnership the university has developed with the region’s Indigenous communities. The cohort has been given the Secwepemctsín name Téxw-textwt-ken re lleqmélt, which means “I will be a strong teacher.”
Indigenous Education Executive Director Paul Michel said: “TRU’s Bachelor of Education program expansion to include 16 additional seats for Indigenous students is a relevant, responsive, respectful and receptive way to create transformative change. Indigenous teachers will bring forth holistic, interconnected and traditional curricula; strengthen Indigenous student achievement; and enhance Indigenous programs and resources. This is a dynamic, exciting and powerful initiative that will benefit our local school districts and Indigenous communities.”
Anyone with questions about the Bachelor of Education program or the Indigenous education seats can contact TRU’s education advising office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.