Ruth Hamilton is a Teach For Canada teacher living and working in God’s Lake Narrows First Nation in Manitoba. She joined the 2022 cohort of Teach For Canada, and teaches English at God’s Lake Narrows First Nation School. Ruth is accompanied by her husband, Bill, who also works at the school as a teacher assistant.
We connected with Ruth to hear about her experience going North with her husband, settling into her new role, and getting to know the students of God’s Lake Narrows.
I had been teaching in the Philippines and Cambodia for over a decade when a Teach For Canada Facebook post caught my eye. I began researching the organization, digging into all of the information that I could find. I read up on their community partners, watched YouTube videos about living and working in a First Nation, and read many Stories From The North. Once I had an understanding of their teacher recruitment, support, and preparation programming, I spoke with my family and made the decision to apply. I felt nervous, yet excited to be part of this great opportunity.
The process of becoming a Teach For Canada teacher happened rather quickly. I took part in a series of interviews, participated in the two-week virtual Summer Enrichment Program, and before I knew it, me and my husband, Bill, were boarding a flight to God’s Lake Narrows First Nation.
Our flight to God’s Lake Narrows was nerve wracking and exciting. Things started off well at the airport when we weren’t charged for being over the baggage allowance. We landed at night at a small airport overlooking God’s Lake Narrows–our new home.
As we got out of the plane, Bill and I were surprised by the familiar feeling of the land around us. It reminded us both of our lives back in Cambodia–especially at dusk.
At the airport, we were greeted warmly by members of the community, who kindly brought us to our new home. As we walked through the door, we noticed that our unit had been stocked with groceries and essential items. It was a kind, wholesome gesture that made us feel welcomed and excited for the journey ahead.
My husband and I woke up early the next day, eager to begin meeting people, and start our new lives in God’s Lake Narrows. While walking around town, many people waved, smiled, and introduced themselves to us.
The timing of our arrival aligned with the local Sundance Festival, which gave us an opportunity to make new friendships while learning about the community’s culture. Everyone in God’s Lake Narrows gathered together at the Sundance Festival and participated in a ceremony to pray for healing. I am so happy that Bill and I arrived in time to take part. It was an experience that I will never forget.
When I arrived at God’s Lake Narrows First Nation School, I was introduced to the staff team, who were all very friendly and welcoming. They helped me develop lesson plans to fit the kids’ needs, and supported me continuously. My students were a bit shy at first, but they were always respectful, with great manners.
Everyone that I’ve met has been so friendly and welcoming. Even the principal was encouraging, and offered me tips on how to fit in around the community. She made me feel comfortable, and made my family feel that we were already an integral part of God’s Lake Narrows–so much so that my husband, Bill made the decision to become a teacher assistant (TA) at the school. He currently works as a TA for math, and helps out in other areas when he can.
Before we knew it, a month of classes had passed. It has been wonderful to see my students become more communicative and expressive with me. I’ve been enjoying the new school, which was constructed in God’s Lake Narrows in March 2022. It is well equipped with SMART Boards, computers, and state-of-the-art supplies for me to use in my lessons.
This year is the first year that God’s Lake Narrows has been able to offer a high school program in-community for grades ten through twelve. Before the new school was constructed, students would have to leave God’s Lake Narrows to finish their high school education, which was a barrier to graduation. The community is very excited to celebrate their first graduating class in 2023.
Traveling up North to teach was not just a regular job to me–it is a commitment that I made to my students, and a decision that my family and I have taken seriously.
One of my goals as an educator was to inspire students by teaching them about their heritage and culture.
I wanted to show my students that the opportunities for them are vast.
I decided to spend the first 15 minutes of each day highlighting a successful Indigenous individual in the community.
Every morning, I hand out a story for our class to read together. My students love it–we even have kids who are not part of my homeroom drop by to read the articles. While we’re reading, the students ask questions and pick up on new vocabulary.
Since joining Teach For Canada, it has been clear that their organization deeply values teachers. I have been in constant contact with my Teacher Development Manager, who is always helpful and quick to respond when I need to talk through school-related questions, or anything that my family and I need.
Going North has been a great experience for me and my family. Although we are living in a new place, we are at home here. With the connections that Bill and I have made, it already feels like we have been living in God’s Lake Narrows for a long time. I feel welcomed and taken care of by my community, and by Teach For Canada.
Interested in teaching in a northern First Nation? Apply now.