by Curtis Walty
(May 2018) – Northland School Division No.61 (NSD) congratulates Career Pathways School Principal Angela James and Elizabeth School Teacher Laurie Collins on receiving Esquao Awards. James and Collins (pictured above with School Trustees Rubi Sakeskanip and Karen Telford) were honoured at the Esquao Awards Gala in Edmonton on April 27, 2018. The award, which recognizes the achievements of Indigenous women in Canada, is unique because when a community nominates an Indigenous woman and provides three letters of support, she will be honoured.
“It is an honour to receive this award on the behalf of Bigstone Cree Nation, youth and Northland School Division,” said James. “It is with great pleasure and honour to graduate from Mistassiniy School; then got accepted into the University of Alberta (U of A) and graduating with Bachelor of Education Degree. I’m nearly done my Master of Education Degree. With hard work, dedication and perseverance, I want to show our students they too can achieve whatever goal they have no matter who they are or where they come from. I thank the Creator every day for my blessings – my husband, my children, my students, my family, my staff and my community.”
Laurie was nominated for lifetime achievement in the field of education. She has been working at Elizabeth School since 1984 in different capacities. First as an educational assistant, playschool teacher, early childhood teacher, and then a certified teacher for almost 18 years.
“I am truly honoured to be nominated and accepted for such an exclusive award,” said Collins. “One given to individuals who have accomplished and achieved lifetime status. My intention for getting into the education field was not to receive an award but to be a role model for children and to be a good teacher. I did not expect an award for something I have truly enjoyed these past years. I am very grateful and blessed to have been given this honour.”
Angela will graduate with a Master of Education Degree from the University of Saskatchewan in December. She credits a lot of people for her success in education.
“I want to acknowledge my parents, grandparents and my community, for blessing me with the Cree language and culture,” said James. “I want to thank my first-grade teacher, the late Marianne Szabo, who was a consistent and supportive pillar. I’d like to acknowledge the late Jody Davison, who was a junior high teacher and continued to support me throughout my university. Thank you Barb Laderoute for being a shining example of educational leadership in her home community of the Gift Lake Metis Settlement. I’d like to acknowledge my Knowledge Keepers and Elders who continue to guide me and support me. I’d like to acknowledge Tahirih Wiebe and Shem Taylor for their continued support and for Darrell Anderson who I see as a role model for paving the way for a lot of us in education at Bigstone Cree Nation; as an author, educator and former Member of Council for Bigstone.”
While pursuing a Bachelor of Education Degree, Laurie says she would not have been able to achieve her goal of becoming a certified teacher without support from family.
“I would like to acknowledge my husband and children,” said Collins. “My husband inspired me to become a teacher. He was the one person who believed in me and was there for me through it all. He was there when I was diagnosed with cancer in my last year of university. He drove me and picked me up after each class or my treatments. He cooked and cleaned for our children when I was too sick to do anything. I would also like to acknowledge my parents. They instilled in me many positive traits that one needs to succeed in life.”
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we congratulate Angela and Laurie on being nominated for an Esquao Award,” said Maddy Daniels, Board Chair. “We are so fortunate to have two individuals who have dedicated so much to the field of education. They are excellent roles models for all NSD students.”