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TCDSB and OISE’s Indigenous Education Network partner to foster positive role models for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students

May 19, 2015

OISE’s Indigenous Education Network is partnering with the Toronto Catholic District School Board in a Board (TCDSB) initiative, a pilot program to help students of First Nation, Métis or Inuit (FNMI) background feel safe in self-identifying with their Aboriginal heritage while developing an awareness of their culture among all students.

The program, which fosters positive role-models and helps to dispel stereotypes, had its genesis with Dene Professor Dr. Suzanne L. Stewart of OISE and TCDSB staff member Frank Pio who coordinates First Nation, Métis and Inuit curriculum. 

“Education is now a place of knowledge and healing for Aboriginal students and that begins with making it safe for Aboriginal students to self-identify,” says Dr. Stewart.

“This is a one-of-a-kind program developed in partnership with the Indigenous Education Network at OISE,” says Mr. Pio. “I saw a need for curriculum that helps our FNMI students recognize themselves in our curriculum. It helps encourage a sense of belonging which promotes success.” The program fosters continuous and positive role modelling for Aboriginal youth within education."

The program has OISE Aboriginal graduate and undergraduate students acting as peer mentors with TCDSB students. Working with a Nation Elder, the OISE students provide resources on Aboriginal identity, culture, and education, to TCDSB teachers and students, and relate stories of their own school success that led them to a university education. The project’s goal is to inspire and model to the children and youth what contemporary Indigenous identity can be in an urban area such as Toronto.

“This kind of innovation in our approach to teaching and curriculum design helps students recognize themselves and identify with the curriculum,” says Director of Education Angela Gauthier. “We are appreciative of the support from OISE.”

By the end of May, students in Grades 5 and 11 from 25 TCDSB schools will have gone through the program, which received funding through the Ministry of Education’s Aboriginal Education Department.