Teachers, Chief Call for Aboriginal Education Initiative in Southern Ontario

Successful theatre production a catalyst for professional development

TORONTO, Dec. 10 /CNW/ - An Aboriginal educational initiative that would kick-start professional development and build understanding among non-aboriginal and aboriginal school communities across southern Ontario is being proposed by the Presidents of Ontario's two largest teacher federations and Regional Grand Chief for Lake Huron Region Isadore Day, who also represents the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI).

The parties met this week in Sudbury at a performance of Roseneath Theatre's production of Spirit Horse, which has just completed a 33-community tour of Northern Ontario elementary schools organized by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA). The project, made possible by funding from the Ontario Ministry of Education, also provided Arts professional development for over 460 teachers across the north.

"Spirit Horse is a play that challenges cultural stereotypes and introduces First Nations culture and contemporary issues in a way that has ignited the imaginations of students," said ETFO President Sam Hammond. "It would be an excellent vehicle to support teacher professional development (PD), the Ministry's Aboriginal Education Policy, and anti-bullying and equity policies. ETFO and OECTA would welcome another successful partnership with the Ministry."

In its First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework released in 2007, the Ministry of Education identified Aboriginal education as one of its key priorities, with a focus on improving achievement among First Nation, Métis and Inuit students to achieve parity with non-Aboriginal students. Approximately 62 percent of Ontario's Aboriginal peoples now live in urban areas, with the majority in Southern Ontario. That percentage continues to grow.

"The development of an Aboriginal Study Guide by Aboriginal education specialists, combined with PD and the play, would assist teachers to make these studies really come alive in the classroom," added OECTA President James Ryan. "That same model drew excellent feedback from the teachers and students of 160 schools that participated in the northern Spirit Horse Arts project. This time, the primary focus would be on developing a better understanding of Aboriginal issues—historical, urban and rural—among elementary educators, and non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal school communities. "

Regional Grand Chief Isadore Day experienced the impact of Spirit Horse on students when he attended last Monday's production with the Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. "Not only does the play address the theme of racism, it provides a really important message of hope and building character," said Grand Chief Day. "As part of a Southern Ontario tour, I would want to see students and teachers from First Nations band schools participate in this initiative alongside Ontario's public and Catholic schools."

With support from the Grand Chief and Union of Ontario Indians, the ETFO and OECTA Presidents plan to approach the Ontario Ministry of Education and the federal Department of Indian Affairs for funding. A 10-12 week tour in Southern Ontario would cost approximately $600,000.

SOURCE Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario

For further information:

Valerie Dugale, ETFO      
Off: 1-888-838-3836 x2331, Cell: 416-948-0195   
  Michelle Despault, OECTA
Off: 416-925-2493 x509 

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Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario

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