Janet Kochon never let go of her dream to become an educator, and even though the path has been full of twists and turns, she’s fulfilling that aspiration in Colville Lake.

“I always wished to be a teacher,” she said.

Most of her own early education came on the land in Fort Good Hope, where she grew up in the 1970s.

Her father was a trapper. She and her eight siblings would accompany their parents on lengthy expeditions into the bush “and learn the ways of our ancestors on the land,” she recalled.

In the 1990s, she upgraded her academic education in Yellowknife and then began working as a classroom assistant at the Aboriginal Head Start preschool in Ndilo.

In the early 2000s, she continued moving toward a teaching career by enrolling in the Teacher Education Program through Aurora College. But as a single mother with three children and bills to pay, she also saw the allure of a steady income at the Ekati diamond mine, where she accepted a job and quickly climbed the ladder to become supervisor of housekeeping services.

Sixteen years went by, along with shorter stints at Snap Lake and Diavik diamond mines.

Then a conversation with her cousin in Colville Lake changed her perspective, and Kochon decided to relocate to that small Sahtu community, population close to 150. She didn’t have a job lined up, but the preschool co-ordinator eventually approached her and offered her a position.

She later was hired at Colville Lake School as a student support assistant.

Last September, she jumped at the chance to be the junior kindergarten to Grade 1 teacher. Although she’s in a mentoring role, she still had much to learn, she admitted, citing report cards and correcting the youngsters’ misbehaviour as examples.

She was eager to decorate her classroom and introduce numerous educational toys to make her nine students feel comfortable, but another teacher who observed her in action later explained that it was too much stimulation.

“He said, ‘You’re a really good teacher. You’re really connected with the students,’ but he said, ‘You have too much stuff in your classroom. There’s too much distraction.’”

Kochon scaled back and she said it has made a difference.

Another helpful resource has been going online.

“I’m so thankful for the internet, where I get lots of information,” she said, adding that a colleague who teaches Grades 2-4 also gives her helpful advice.

When it comes to keeping the energetic youngsters in line, Kochon has introduced a “three strike” approach to discipline and, in worst cases, makes offenders sit out gym class, which is one of the most popular activities.

She also makes a point of rewarding good behaviour.

“By giving them stars, they go home and tell their parents they got a star today for cleaning up,” she said.

Her students are learning numbers, shapes and a sense of self, among other lessons.

“I have two eyes and one nose,” she said of a typical exclamation from her students.

They love making art too, she added.

“They’re very creative. It just surprises me, all the things I’ve seen and the change from when I started to what I’m seeing now,” she said.

Still possessing a thirst for higher-level credentials, Kochon registered in a couple of courses through NorQuest College in Edmonton a few years ago, passing both.

“So I did all kinds of stuff just to be where I’m at right now,” she said.

She’s also determined to be accepted at a university and attain her masters.

“I have a passion for teaching,” she said. “It’s all coming together now.”

For more stories from Degrees of Success, click here: https://www.nnsl.com/special-feature-publications/special-feature-pdfs/degrees-of-success-2023/

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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