Brianna Thorne thinks Canadian history has reached a turning point in regards to relations with aboriginal communities, and one for the better.
Thorne, who is of mixed Indigenous ancestry, is a second-year education student at the Cowichan campus of Vancouver Island University.
At a ceremony at the campus on Dec. 6, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced that the province will fund 15 new Indigenous teacher-training seats there that will see more traditional knowledge and culture of aboriginal people brought into B.C.’s classrooms.
Thorne said the new Indigenous teacher education curriculum that is planned at VIU, in collaboration with Cowichan Tribes and other local bands, that will result from the addition of the new seats is another step in the ongoing efforts to have more aboriginal culture and knowledge taught in schools.
“I believe that incorporating Indigenous perspectives in teacher training is essential because it encourages future educators to think outside the traditional box of teaching,” she said.
“Indigenous knowledge offers students the opportunity to explore the world around them in terms of their relationship to everything on our planet. It teaches about respect, forgiveness, humility and reciprocity. Indigenous knowledge has so much to offer for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.”
The Ministry of Education funded $65,000 for the 15 new additional Indigenous teacher education seats at VIU.
The program will be available for students by fall 2019.
The total government funding in 2018 for developing Indigenous teacher programs and expanding seats was $400,000.
Fleming said the province is committed to the call for action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which included changes to the K-12 curriculum to reflect indigenous perspectives in all subjects taught in the schools, from math and science to literature.
“A true and lasting reconciliation is at the heart of everything we do, and there’s no question Indigenous students thrive when their culture is reflected in classrooms and they have a connection to what they are learning,” he said.
“Teachers can be incredible role models for change. They have the power to show kids we all benefit from understanding the diversity of Indigenous perspectives and world views.”
In the 2017-18 school year, there were 65,269 Indigenous students enrolled in the province’s public schools, comprising 11.6 per cent of the public school student population.
David Paterson, dean of education at VIU’s Cowichan campus, added that with the funding for the seats, VIU will be able to expand its teacher education program in a way that furthers the critical process of reconciliation, allowing the university to equip future teachers with the knowledge of how to bring culturally relevant practices into their classrooms and support Indigenous learners.
“This type of education is important for all teachers, as is the approach we are taking to develop this curriculum; through a community of practice founded on strong partnerships and collaboration with Indigenous communities,” he said.