A Hay River teacher has received a prestigious national award.

Shirley Lamalice, a Slavey language and culture teacher at Princess Alexandra School, was one of seven recipients from across Canada of the 2019 Guiding the Journey: Indigenous Education Awards.

Shirley Lamalice, centre, a teacher at Princess Alexandra School in Hay River, receives one of the 2019 Guiding the Journey: Indigenous Educator Awards, presented on Nov. 21 in Toronto by Indspire, a national Indigenous organization that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis. The award was presented by Conor Poutney, left, vice-president of strategy, integration and development, downstream, with Suncor, and Roberta Jamieson, president and CEO of Indspire.
Photo courtesy of Indspire / Photo by Liz Beddall Photography

They are presented by Indspire, a national Indigenous organization that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Metis.

“It’s an honour to be recognized for the years of work you’ve done within the community and especially in the school,” said Lamalice. “Working with the young children, it makes your day.”

The award is also very significant for Lamalice because of her own experience as a young person.

“Being a residential school survivor, it’s nice to see language and culture in the school because it was taken away from us before,” she said. “It’s kind of like a full circle that it’s back.”

Lamalice’s language and culture survived about six years at Breynat Hall in Fort Smith.

“I spoke the language fluently before I went to residential school,” she explained. “It’s just something you don’t forget or lose. I was raised by my grandparents and taught very well by them.”

The 2019 Guiding the Journey: Indigenous Education Awards were presented on Nov. 21 in Toronto.

Recipients were presented with a framed award from Indspire president and CEO Roberta Jamieson, a gift of $1,000 to be used towards classroom needs, and an expense-paid trip to the awards ceremony.

“These outstanding educators are making a significant difference in the lives of First Nations, Inuit and Metis students across Canada,” said Jamieson in a news release. “We are proud to recognize their contributions to the education of Indigenous students, and we celebrate the many ways in which they work, lead and innovate to help their students achieve success.”

Chief April Martel of K’atlodeeche First Nation said all members of the First Nation are pleased that Lamalice has received the national recognition.

“She’s trying to enhance culture, language, on-the-land programs with children,” said Martel. “So we’re very proud of her and all the accomplishments she’s trying to achieve in those areas of education.”

At Princess Alexandra School where she has worked for over five years, Lamalice spearheaded the creation of a culture camp for outdoor activities by students at her own school and others.

“So it’s very happy,” she said of the culture camp behind Princess Alexandra School. “It’s just a fun, happy place to be.”

Lamalice was also recognized by Indspire as a mentor to future Indigenous language teachers in efforts to preserve language and culture.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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