Janna Garrett is a grade 8 teacher in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation, Treaty 9 territory. Janna is Métis and a member of Teach For Canada’s 2018 cohort. She completed her two-year teaching commitment at Aglace Chapman Education Centre, making her an alumnus of Teach For Canada.
Janna has lived and worked in KI since 2018, and has been working hard to make a difference in her community throughout COVID-19.
After KI announced a school closure and community lockdown last year, I missed seeing my students each day. I struggled with feeling like I no longer made a difference in my community. When local staff invited me to sit in on a Pandemic Committee meeting, I was eager to attend and find some ways to get involved.
From then on, I became part of the Pandemic Committee crew, acting as unofficial secretary. As COVID persisted, I helped distribute packages of caribou meat to each home in our community. Once school reopened in October, I was able to return to teaching, but I continue to support the Pandemic Committee whenever possible.
I’ve been fortunate to take part in helping community members and out-of-town staff register for their vaccines. I was able to support Operation Remote Immunity, an initiative launched to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to residents of Indigenous communities in remote areas, who face a disproportionate risk from the virus.
Through Operation Remote Immunity, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside a talented team of medical professionals, kind Independent First Nations Alliance volunteers and local members of the Canadian Rangers.
Health Services team members are off to Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug! They will be administering 100 more doses of the Moderna vaccine today in partnership with the KI Pandemic Committee. pic.twitter.com/0LixysrFcW
— Independent First Nations Alliance (@ifnalliance) April 20, 2021
This year, some of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as an educator have been maintaining connections with students throughout repeat closures and promoting a positive atmosphere in school. When our classes resume, I do my best to communicate to my students how much I missed them.
“I want my students to know how much I appreciate them and our time together, and how much better my life is with them in it.”
Our school has succeeded in organizing some school-wide activities and events to lift students’ spirits, including Crazy Hair Day, Decades Day, and my personal favourite, Pajama Day. Laughter has helped me stay positive throughout the pandemic. I try to find ways to laugh and smile with my students each day.
“Even though COVID-19 has presented unique challenges in our school and community, I have found lots worth celebrating.”
I’m most proud of the resilience that my students have displayed throughout the last year. They approach every day with compassion and optimism. While KI has seen some challenging days, when I look back on the beginning of the year, I realize how far each of my students has come. Their individual growth, strength and abilities to adapt motivate me to be the best teacher and person I can be.
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