Darla Rabesca says she has always loved learning and going to school.
She grew up in Whati and fondly recalls her time on the land and lessons from Elders.
As a new faculty member with Aurora College, Rabesca is now sharing that excitement with her students in her home community.
“Being from here and being able to work in the community, that’s a blessing,” she says. “I love going to other places but I decided I needed to be here. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”
Having worked for seven years at the Whati wellness centre, Rabesca says she enjoyed conducting workshops. Instructors like Jim Stauffer, now one of Rabesca’s co-teachers, was often engaging her on projects and encouraging her to volunteer with the college.
In 2012, she decided to go back to school to upgrade her education.
Though she originally enrolled in the University of Lethbridge’s bachelor of fine arts and education program, she eventually decided to move back to the NWT to be closer to her family.
Last year, she completed her bachelor of education with Aurora College and started co-teaching the school’s introduction to office skills course.
Though Stauffer has only been working alongside Rabesca at the college for a short time, he says she “has a real knack for reminding learners of a Northern framing of values.”
“She has a wide base of knowledge and experience she brings to her position as a community adult educator,” he says.
For Rabesca to work with students in the community where she was raised, Stauffer says “is a huge strength.”
“(Rabesca’s) students will not need to explain what it means to have grown up in the local school, or explain any of the other myriad challenges they encounter being Indigneous learners in a still largely colonial system,” he says.
Rabesca admits that she is still finding her footing in the new role but that she is grateful to the staff who have helped to support her and welcomed her into the faculty.
She says she feels fortunate that there is opportunity for her to incorporate her passion for the arts into her teaching and help to develop future courses with the college.
Elaine Harris, Aurora College’s head of programming for the Tlicho and Yellowknife regions, says each adult educator brings a unique set of skills to their respective communities. “As key links between communities and the wider college community,” their knowledge and understanding helps to bring about responsive community programming, she adds.
Rabesca’s “deep knowledge and understanding of her own culture and her community will be strong assets in her journey as a community adult educator,” says Harris, who notes that “the educational value and therapeutic benefits of art as a discipline in its own right are often underestimated.”
The potential for Rabesca to develop further arts-based programming is welcome, according to Harris.
It is still early days for Rabesca’s teaching career, but she’s optimistic about the future of her post and continuing to learn in her new role as an educator.
Though the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has created further challenges, she says, “I’m just excited to work with students and participants who are excited to attend classes online or in person.”