School district 51 program making real difference

Sarah Heimbecker is dedicated to improving education, and through innovation, she’s teaching beyond a textbook. As lead teacher of the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit programs at school district 51, Heimbecker strives to make her programs a success every day.

“The reward is building that sense of belonging in the school, allowing our kids to be leaders in the district in terms on any type of fmni programming.”

Every school in district 51 has “FNMI” programming. It includes high school literacy intervention, aboriginal studies, mentorship groups, and a program called “career quest” which focuses on extensive career preparation.

But the “FNMI” program is not just about future careers, or grades. The primary objective is to help students gain confidence, and appreciate themselves.

One student who has benefitted greatly from the program is Heddy-Jo Good Rider.  Before entering the “FNMI” program in grade nine, Good rider was not in a good place.

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“At one point I honestly felt bad about my skin color because I didn’t feel like I fit in.”

After enrolling in Aboriginal studies and participating in mentorship groups, Good Rider flourished.

“To be able to be around people who knew who they were, and to know more about my culture, it was just so great.”

Heimbecker taught Good Rider in grade seven.  She has noticed a big change in her former student, most notably when she attended Chinook’s annual rock show.  She saw the usually reserved Good Rider in a whole new light.

“Heddy-Jo came out and she was such a quiet student in the class and I got a little emotional because she came out and she was just so amazing. She’s grown up into a beautiful young women and she has done amazing things in the school.”

Good Rider attributes her new outlook on life to the “FMNI” program.

“I was able to accept myself more because of this and I was able to meet so many great people.”

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