When Lynda Koe was in school years ago, she said she faced a choice between a career in teaching, nursing or office administration.

Since graduating with a nursing degree in 1969, she hasn’t looked back.

“It’s rewarding,” said Koe, who has worked as the care supervisor at Aven Manor for nearly 30 years. “I don’t know if it’s fair to say that it’s uncommon for somebody to be happy to go to work every day but I do really enjoy going to work every day and that’s remarkable.”

Koe is one of three Yellowknife residents to receive the Order of the NWT this year, the highest honour bestowed upon residents of the territory.

The award recognizes the recipients’ excellence in their field and the benefits their work has had for others.

Koe, whose job is to make sure residents are looked after at the seniors home, said she was shocked and stunned to learn she had received the award, adding she couldn’t do what she does on her own.

“We work as a team there,” she said of the staff at Avens, stressing they all deserve recognition. “It’s a small nursing home compared to some of the places down south and we like to call everybody part of our family.”

Many staff at Avens have worked there for five to 20 years, according to Koe.

“That has to tell you something,” she said.

SSI founder recognized

Jeff Phillip, another Yellowknife recipient of this year’s Order of the NWT, is also insistent his success is a team effort.

The SSI Micro founder and CEO was “pleasantly surprised” to learn he would be receiving one of this year’s awards, but said “it’s about the company more than me.”

SSI Micro provides Internet service to remote Northern communities across Nunavut and the NWT.

While it’s his main focus now, Phillip has been developing his entrepreneurial imagination since he was a young child growing up in Fort Providence.

By the time he was in Grade 9, Phillip was deeply interested in computers and thinking about opening a computer store in his hometown.

He credits part of his success to being able to travel the world from a young age and to the encouragement of his entrepreneurial parents, who he said supported his ideas.

Now Phillip says he’s in the “isolation removal” business. Without communication, he explained, teachers, nurses and all kinds of people who move to live in the North are isolated from the rest of the world and don’t have an opportunity to share “their interests, frustrations, passions” with others.

That’s why Phillip is focused on making Internet accessible to residents in small, remote communities.

Paul Andrew, elder representative on Aurora College’s board of governors at signing ceremony of Indigenous Education Protocol for Colleges and Institutes Document created by national organization called Colleges and Institutes Canada. Paul Bickford/NNSL Photo

Paul Andrew focuses on reconciliation

Paul Andrew, the third Yellowknife recipient of the Order of the NWT, is passionate about helping youth see their potential and making Canada a better place.

“I really do believe that in order for us to become even a better country, even a greater country than we are, then we have to understand each other,” said Andrew, who is originally from Tulita and spent time at residential school when he was young.

He said the relationship between Canada and indigenous people has grown better over the years, as has the education system. But his focus remains on healing and reconciliation.

He said he has been working to better understand what it means to be Dene, and in turn help the rest of Canada understand the Dene are “really amazing people.”

As a former Chief of Tulita who went on to work for the CBC and has sat on the boards of a number of different organizations, Andrew has advice for youth.

“The potential for young people is pretty amazing and I really do believe – and I tell them – that you guys can do anything,” he said.

While he was happy to be up for this year’s Order of the NWT, Andrew said he didn’t think he would be chosen as a recipient.

“That was the last thing I expected,” he said. “When they nominated me I thought that was good to get the nomination, but to get the actual award was a bit of a surprise.”

A ceremony for this year’s recipients was held yesterday morning at the legislative assembly.

Three other NWT residents were recognized with the distinction: Fred Carmichael of Inuvik, Russell King of Hay River and Tom Zubko of Inuvik.