Decolonization Journey March 15, 2023

The Story of Gakino’amaage, Teach For Canada’s Anishinaabemowin Name

The Beginning of Teach For Canada


Teach For Canada was established in 2015 with the vision of ensuring that every child could have access to high-quality education in their community. 


In its early days, conversations between Teach For Canada and First Nations Community Partners established a shared goal of First Nations education equity. The organization required a distinct model and approach to address the twin challenges of teacher supply and turnover, compounding historical injustice and systemic inequities that produce a statistical education gap between First Nations and non-First Nations students.


Teach For Canada began collaborating with First Nations Community Partners, recruiting certified teachers to fill roles in northern schools. The organization provided community-led training and support to these teachers in an effort to improve student outcomes. This approach was based on the belief that by connecting talented, motivated teachers with opportunities in First Nations schools and providing individualized preparation and support to them throughout their first two years, the organization could complement the work of First Nations, peer organizations, and many others in a movement towards equity in First Nations education.


Since its founding, Teach For Canada has partnered with 23 First Nations Community Partners in Northern Ontario and Manitoba. Its programs have adapted based on the needs of these First Nations to include teacher recruitment, development and support. Additionally, Teach For Canada offers leadership development programs and advocacy efforts aimed at supporting First Nations community capacity building, and addressing the root causes of educational inequality in Indigenous communities.


Founding Bodies


Teach For Canada was established under the guidance of First Nations community members and a Circle of Advisors that included Indigenous professionals from various fields. The Circle of Advisors played a critical role in the foundation of Teach For Canada. Together, they brought national experience in rural, remote, and Indigenous education, having served as teachers, principals, superintendents, education directors, professors, and in other leadership positions nationwide. 


Members of Teach For Canada’s Circle of Advisors (2015).


The Advisory Council, made up of representatives from First Nations Community Partners, played a critical role in ensuring that Teach For Canada was established as culturally responsive, accountable, and effective in addressing educational inequality in First Nations communities. Today, the Council’s input and guidance continue to ensure that Teach For Canada’s approach to partnerships and programming remains respectful, collaborative, and impactful.


Teach For Canada recognizes the historical and ongoing impacts of colonialism on Indigenous peoples in Canada and understands education’s role in perpetuating these injustices. The organization, under Executive Director, Ken Sanderson’s leadership, has been on an organization-wide decolonization journey. As part of this journey, Teach For Canada sought a traditional name obtained through ceremony.


Receiving a Traditional Name


In December 2022, Ken Sanderson was introduced to Elder Wally Swain of Keeseekoowenin Ojibway Nation (Treaty 2), who he approached with tobacco to request a name. Elder Swain is part of a group of Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers working to protect and share traditional knowledge and teachings. 


Executive Director Ken Sanderson is leading Gakino’amaage: Teach For Canada’s decolonization journey.


The name given to Teach For Canada through ceremony is Gakinaamaage, Anishinaabemowin for “one who teaches”. The meaning behind the name extends beyond literal translation. It speaks to the fact that we are all teachers and that both teaching and learning are lifelong processes. It encompasses the reciprocal nature of teaching and learning and how teachers learn as much from their students as their students learn from them. 


Moving Forward as Gakino’amaage


You might ask yourself, what does this change mean for Teach For Canada? We are still the same team, working towards our mission to support student success by recruiting and developing committed educators in partnership with First Nations, teachers and supporters.


Going forward, you will hear us refer to our organization less as Teach For Canada and more as Gakino’amaage. We hope to become increasingly identified by our Anishinaabemowin name, and we understand that this process takes time. 


We had a ceremony to unveil the name Gakino’amaage at our 2023 Summer Enrichment program, together with Advisory Council members, Community Partners, teachers, and our team. The annual Summer Enrichment Program, which prepares and supports teachers to succeed and stay in Northern classrooms, took place at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay from Sunday, July 16th – Saturday, July 22nd, 2023.


Please join us in celebrating the gift of receiving our new name: Gakino’amaage.



Elder Wally Swain, who conducted the naming ceremony. Photo via Chief Derek Nepinak of Pine Creek First Nation.


Visit the Our Name page to learn more about Gakino’amaage.