SUNTEP graduate takes pride in her students like they’re her own
- NC Raine | October 12, 2018
Every once in a while, you encounter a person who is very clearly doing the job they were born to do. Chelsie Sinclair is one of those people.
Sinclair, a graduate of the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP), is a Grade 1 and 2 teacher at St. Jerome School in Regina. Going into only her third year of teaching, Sinclair is exceedingly aware of both the impact she has on young minds and impact they have on her.
“I’ve actually bawled my face off because a kid (I was teaching) went up three reading levels,” said Sinclair. “It’s that ‘I‘m so proud of you’ moment, which is funny, because they’re not even your own kid.”
But treating every kid like her own is the sort of approach Sinclair takes to teaching. Sinclair, a Metis woman, grew up influenced by the culture and experiences of her grandparents and parents, and after learning more about cross-cultural education at SUNTEP, was excited to apply these influences and knowledge in the classroom.
“I’ve been able to apply a lot of the things I learned at SUNTEP, like picking sage with an elder on a Medicine Walk, or things I’ve learned from my childhood with my grandparents,” she said. “I really try to go beyond the classroom and look for people who can bring insights into things I can teach my kids.”
Every morning in her classroom, Sinclair does the daily weather in the Metis language of Michif, teaching her students a new weather-related word a day. She also reads Indigenous literature with her students rather than reading a less relevant mainstream book, and prides herself on incorporating elements of nature into her classroom.
Sinclair also brought Elders into her classroom to speak, which she said is always met with excitement from her kids.
“I think this all is so important because all of this knowledge was lost. To bring that information back into our schools and have our little people learn about both the good and bad things that happened, as well as the traditional teachings, it really gives meaning to what we’re trying to work towards,” she said.
Sinclair recalled an eye-opening experience on Remembrance Day, when a student of hers became upset when he noticed during the ceremony that Metis veterans were being excluded – a part of history Sinclair had shared with her students. She realized then just how much her words resonate with her students.
“They take everything you say and run with it. I realized then that what I do is important, and I need to continue to do it,” she said. “The challenge is that sometimes you need to be a nurse, a therapist, a friend, a parent (to my students) on top of being a teacher.”
Unlike most schoolchildren around this time of year (and probably some of her colleagues), Sinclair uses phrases like “super excited” when talking about returning to the classroom. She’s working on a yet-to-be announced project with Regina Catholic Schools, as well as working with elders, to bring Indigenous education to more schools and classrooms in the province.
“I think it’s important to give that provide a voice to Indigenous people, because that voice was taken away,” she said. “It’s my job as a teacher to help get that voice back.”