Ashley Buck is a Teach For Canada Teacher in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN). She teaches Grade 6 at Otayitiskiwin Kiskinwahamakikamik, which translates to “Footprint House of Learning and Teaching”. Ashley was part of Teach For Canada’s 2020 cohort, and is completing the second year of her two-year teaching commitment in NCN.
This school year, Ashley has been involved in all sorts of activities in the classroom and in the community. From organizing teacher trivia nights and supporting outdoor events, to implementing a classroom economy to educate and engage her students, Ashley has undoubtedly made a positive impact in the lives of her colleagues, neighbours, and students since moving to NCN.
We connected with Ashley to hear more about her school year, and what she’s learned since Going North with Teach For Canada.
As a Teach For Canada Teacher, coming to Nisichawayasihk has allowed me to meet many families and students who show a willingness to learn and enjoy themselves. The more time spent with my students outside of the classroom–on the lake, in the trails, to the granny and grandpa cabins, and in the hallways of the school–the more engaged they become.
There is so much that I have been busy with this school year, including a lot of fishing, ski-dooing, moose hunting, kayaking, and camping out at the cabins. I could write a novel about how amazing my experience has been so far here in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.
Over the past year, I’ve been able to support many parks and recreation activities around the community. I’ve helped with our sledding and tubing party, long distance race, talent shows and chili cook offs, ice fishing derbies, skating parties, community skating track, and food deliveries to families around the community. I have also assisted with other community initiatives, like helping the dog rescue with dog pulls, driving animals into the rescue in Thompson, and delivering food to the veterinarians who fly in to offer spay and neuter clinics.
In my new role as Vice President of the teachers union, I’ve hosted a successful staff trivia event, and teacher awards ceremony. I have also been able to help with the bargaining for a new collective teaching agreement. During March break, I helped graduates and the Assistant Director of the school board, Nic Campbell, to move classroom supplies and equipment into our new high school.
One of the challenges that I have faced this year has been the unstable internet connection. The connection could be spotty at times, which made it difficult to conduct research for lessons. The good news is that we’ve recently had fiber-optic cable installed, as well as an update to our cell tower, which has made the service much faster and more reliable.
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen lower student attendance at school, so I have been offering new classroom initiatives to engage and encourage my kids to come to class. This year, I’ve implemented a classroom economy to teach my students with their budgeting skills and responsibility through classroom jobs. They earn special money that can be used to buy real items from the classroom store, which has been generously filled with donations from around the community.
“I am so proud of my students, and of how hard they have worked this year.”
One of my favourite projects that we’ve worked on has been the creation of a classroom book, called “Our Future in STEAM”, about the jobs that my students would like to pursue in the future. It’s being printed, and each will receive their own copy.
I am also proud of how well my students are taking care of our classroom pet, a crested gecko that I purchased through a class pet grant. Each morning, my students check on her to see where she has hidden for the day. We often have staff and students from other classes drop in to see her amazing tank, which is filled with live plants.
As a teacher, I have learned to always accept the community into my classroom. I have been fortunate to welcome community members and Elders in my class to show my kids how to make bannock, tell stories, and share life experiences.
Everything that I’ve taken part in so far in Nelson House has been amazing, and I look forward to many more experiences to come. I’ve brought two beautiful dogs into my home, and plan to spend a very long time here in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.