FNUniv offering new teacher education in Dene
- Mick Favel | June 16, 2018
It is 6:30 AM as Gabrielle Fontaine turns off her alarm and begins her day. Fontaine makes her breakfast and does chores she would regularly do throughout the day, she finishes getting ready and is out the door by 8 AM. Fontaine then makes the half hour drive to the Clearwater Dene Nation where she is a student in the Dene Teacher Education Program (DTEP).
The First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) has partnered with various First Nations groups in Saskatchewan to create community based programs. DTEP is one of two new teaching programs being offered on Saskatchewan First Nations.
Understanding of the Dene language is essential for success in DTEP.
“When we did the interviews in Clearwater... we had an elder come in and ask the students a question in Dene in which they were supposed to answer in Dene,” said Trina Joseph, Community Based Programs Coordinator at FNUniv.
Mark Klein, Principal of the Clearwater Dene Nation School said, “You couldn’t find twenty-four fluent Indigenous students maybe anywhere in the world in one class… it’s a unique characteristic of our program.”
DTEP is in a “block system” meaning they do not run on a regular university schedule, instead DTEP takes one class at a time.
“Down south you have three or four months in a class, but here we get it all in three weeks,” said student, Farris Lemaigre. Thanks to the support of her community and classmates, Lemaigre continues to persevere.
Fontaine once had to travel to La Ronge for her education and is happy her education has now come to her. “The program is right in our community where our support is… where our elders are,” said Fontaine. “With that, we have an opportunity to embrace and nurture our language.”
Principal Klein sees a bright future for DTEP involving a self-contained Indigenous Language model one he hopes other First Nations will follow.
“After this group graduates, we will wait another five years… We want to do a Master’s program with FNUniv, so our teachers could be teaching the University classes,” said Klein.