Kelly Ryan has been teaching grade 4 in Deer Lake First Nation since September 2015. Originally from Keswick, ON, Kelly completed a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Bachelor of Education at Laurentian University before applying to go North through Teach For Canada.
I came to Deer Lake First Nation with my now husband, Myles Ryan in September of 2015. We were both members Teach For Canada’s first cohort of teachers. Our time at the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) prepared us to live and teach in Deer Lake First Nation. It helped us by teaching us more about First Nation traditions, teachings, and some of the language. It prepared us for different challenges that we might face both inside and outside of the classroom. We also met so many good friends and made connections with fellow teachers who we still contact to share resources and to offer each other support.
In my first year of teaching I relied heavily on what I learned at the Summer Enrichment Program. The knowledge and connections that I gained from my time at SEP is one of the main reasons why I am still teaching here in Deer Lake. Now, looking back on my very first year as the grade 4 teacher in Deer Lake, I can see how much I’ve grown, both as a teacher and as a person. Each new group of students that I have taught has in turn taught me something new. I’ve learned how to laugh at myself, the value of patience, and to never underestimate anyone.
It is a really amazing to continue to see my former students grow and mature. For each additional year of teaching that we have spent in Deer Lake, I have had the chance to see them grow even more. I too have grown. Compared to my first year, I am now more relaxed and comfortable in my role as a teacher in Deer Lake. I have gained amazing friendships, both with the teachers and with local community members. It is such a fantastic feeling to get a hug and hear “Welcome home!” as you get off the plane in Deer Lake. You truly feel part of the community.
My biggest piece of advice for prospective Teach For Canada teachers is to jump into this experience with both feet. As soon as you can, start to learn about the community and language, and then never stop learning. Get out and do different activities that might be outside of your comfort zone; make connections with people in the community. Students and community members will trust and respect you when they realize you are committed, involved, and there for the long term. Deer Lake is now not just the place where I work, it has become home.