Recipients of the NWT Ministerial Literacy Awards were honoured virtually Tuesday for their achievements in learning, employment, education and personal advancement. 

While being recognized is always nice, Jim Stauffer, recipient of the Ministerial Supporting Literacy Through Technology Award, said the bigger thrill was seeing that his contribution became widespread and valued to government and education workers throughout the NWT. 

While Jim Stauffer is pleased to be recognized as this year’s recipient of the Ministerial Supporting Literacy Through Technology Award, he said the bigger thrill is knowing that he’s contributed something that other educators can exploit. Photo courtesy of Jim Stauffer.

Stauffer is the community adult educator for Aurora College in Whati and a long-time advocate of the use of technology to support English and Dene languages. Since the ’90s, Stauffer has been facilitating the use of Dene Fonts through the Unicode system.  

He said a tool allowing users to produce and disseminate translations is important for sharing information. 

“I can’t speak highly enough of the importance of languages used in every way possible,” Stauffer said. 

While pleased by the recognition, he said “it’s the Tlicho people that taught me the importance of the language.

“The people who took me out in the bush and taught me trapping and taught me how the world works in their frame of reference, that’s part of what drives me and motivates me,” he said.

Cassidy Lennie-Ipana and Mataya Gillis of Nipaturuq magazine were named recipients of the Ministerial Youth Learner Literacy Award. 

The duo, aged 18 and 17, respectively, started the free magazine in 2019 as a way of elevating Inuvialuit youth. The magazine’s fourth issue, dedicated to raising awareness of racism, comes out in March. While Lennie-Ipana wasn’t certain of the funding that accompanies the accolade, she said every little bit helps for a free publication produced by volunteers. 

The Inuvik-based duo are often congratulated within their community, but being recognized territorially was a nice surprise and “a stepping stone” to being able to continue producing the magazine, Lennie-Ipana said.

She said the award is a lesson in persistence and dreaming big.

“I never thought we’d get this far,” she said. “A lot of it is just applying. I’m still surprised at how far we’ve come just by being motivated.” 

Nipaturuq recently recruited a third teammate for the magazine, Alexis McDonald, who focuses on art and graphics. 

Mataya Gillis, 17, Alexis McDonald ,18, Cassidy Lennie-Ipana, 18, are the Nipaturuq magazine team, recipients of the 2020 Ministerial Youth Learner Literacy Award. photo courtesy of Cassidy Lennie-Ipana.

Lennie-Ipana said she’s proud to know there are other youth interested in joining the team so that the publication can thrive. 

The six other awards distributed this year are as follows:

Delores Vittrekwa – Council of the Federation Literacy Award for the Northwest Territories

Dwayne Drescher “Adjgaliaq” – Ministerial Outstanding NWT Educator Literacy Award

Susan Chaffee – Ministerial Adult Learner Literacy Award

Javaroma Gourmet Coffee & Tea – Ministerial Outstanding Support for Literacy Development NWT Business Award

William Maltus – Ministerial Second Language Learner Award

Deninu Kųę́ First Nation – Ministerial Outstanding Support for Literacy/Language Development Award

R.J. Simpson, minister of Education, Culture and Employment, stated, “It is an honour to celebrate the excellence of our winners and all they have achieved. Literacy skills in any and all of our official languages are crucial to daily living, employment, citizenship, personal advancement and life enjoyment. I offer my sincere congratulations to all of this year’s recipients.”

The awards, founded in 2002, employ a selection committee of GNWT and territorial non-governmental organization representatives to name winners from the pool of nominees.

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