USask celebrates longest running Indigenous teacher education program in North America

ITEP has been running at USask for 50 years. Global News/ Easton Hamm

The University of Saskatchewan celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Indian Teacher Education Program which aims to increase the number of First Nations teachers across Canada.

The program was also created to contribute to school systems where Indigenous and non-Indigenous children make up the school population.

“ITEP (Indian Teacher Education Program) was built because it was what our Elders wanted: to strengthen identity and culture and provide opportunities to build strong Indigenous people and communities through education,” Yvette Arcand, director of ITEP and a 1997 graduate of the program said.

“Today, Indigenous teachings and ways of knowing are embedded not only in our schools and provincial curriculum, but that desire to engage with and learn about Indigenous culture is throughout larger society as well. ITEP was a part of that.”

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Click to play video: 'Pow wows celebrate Indigenous culture at Saskatoon Public Schools'
Pow wows celebrate Indigenous culture at Saskatoon Public Schools

USask said this is the longest-running Indigenous teacher education program in North America, adding that at least 3,000 alumni have graduated from ITEP.

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“The impact of the program extends far beyond the classroom, and has now shaped the lives and careers of individuals across three generations who are making a positive difference throughout Indigenous communities,” Julia Paulson, dean of the College of Education said.

“The fact that ITEP is the longest-running Indigenous teacher education program in North America is a testament to its success. The University of Saskatchewan has learned so much through its ongoing work with ITEP and is honoured to support Indigenous education.”

Marnie Ross, principal of Aden Bowman Collegiate, was a 2005 graduate from ITEP, noting she was the second one in her family to go through the program.

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“When I was growing up I’d sometimes get to come and follow my dad for the day, and be in the classes, have lunch with him downstairs and have some granola bars, just hang out with my dad.”

Ross said she got to watch both her mom and her dad teach, and it played a large part in her childhood memories.

Mika Lafond is an instructor for ITEP who graduated from the program in 2006, noting that once you are a part of ITEP, you stay a part of it.

“The 50 years just, to me, has been a big family that’s growing and growing and growing,” Lafond said.

She said ITEP is the root of many other programs that alumni end up creating.


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