Classroom Experience May 9, 2023

From Transition to Transformation: A Gakino’amaage: Teach For Canada Teacher’s First Year in Deer Lake

Elsa Rey

Elsa Rey is a Teach For Canada–Gakinaamage Teacher in Deer Lake First Nation. She joined Gakino’amaage: Teach For Canada’s 2022 Cohort and is completing her first year of teaching Grade 7 at Deer Lake School. This Teacher Appreciation Week, Gakino’amaage: Teach For Canada is highlighting educators like Elsa, who have demonstrated outstanding and continued dedication to their students.


Despite the challenges of adapting to a new environment and teaching role, Elsa has embraced new opportunities, learned from her colleagues and community, and found great joy in teaching and living in the North. She encourages other teachers to take the leap and experience the rewards of making a real difference in the lives of students. Read on to learn more about Elsa’s positive and fulfilling experience teaching Grade 7 in the North.



Elsa Rey is a Gakino’amaage: Teach For Canada Teacher who teaches Grade 7 in Deer Lake First Nation. She is pictured at the community’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Walk for a Cause.


My name is Elsa Rey, and I am a Gakino’amaage: Teach For Canada Teacher in Deer Lake First Nation. My journey this school year began with a transition to teaching Grade 7–a shift in my role that I was not anticipating but have very much enjoyed. As long as I have the skills and passion to teach, I believe any classroom role will challenge and fulfill me as an educator.


I have learned so much since moving to Deer Lake. Adapting to the school norms has inspired me to learn and try new things. Every day is a learning experience for me–from connecting with my community members, co-workers, staff, administrators, and especially the students. Learning and adapting to teach in the North is like testing the waters. I will never know everything, so it’s important that I stay adaptable and eager to learn. I am open to adjustments, changes, and new ideas–as long as they benefit my students.


I am proud of achieving many goals this school year. As a new teacher, my enthusiasm and zealous heart have helped me to succeed in my classroom. I like to share my values and wisdom with my Grade 7 class. I embrace diversity and honour my students’ culture, incorporating local knowledge and resources within our curriculum whenever possible. I’ve also introduced routines to my class, like maintaining a tidy classroom, filing tests and worksheets in a binder, and building good habits like washing our bowls and utensils.


Even though I am far away from my loved ones and simple pleasures like eating out, shopping, and drinking my favourite coffee, I have learned to enjoy the peace, serenity, and beauty of Deer Lake. I was not used to the northern cold and severe weather, and I persevered!


Apart from teaching, I have accomplished several milestones in the community, including fishing, eating moose meat, and spotting a big black bear for the first time. I have enjoyed the breathtaking lakes, sky, clouds, stars, sunrises, sunsets, wild plants and flowers. I like spending time on the land, hiking and going on long walks, including one on a frozen lake. Nothing beats having a warm piece of bannock–best with butter and jam–and listening to folk songs. 


Many of these are experiences I would not have had outside of Deer Lake, and I am fortunate and grateful for them.



Elsa has enjoyed spending time on the land and making connections with fellow educators and community members.


In addition to these activities, I have participated in community events, including the fishing derby, Deer Lake Community Revival Church Meeting and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Walk for a Cause. On this four-hour walk, I joined teachers, students, and community members to honour the lives lost and affected by Canadian Indian Residential Schools.


I have learned a lot from my colleagues, some of whom are also Gakino’amaage: Teach For Canada teachers. We often share ideas, strategies, and resources to improve our teaching skills and help our students succeed. It’s inspiring to see how committed and passionate they are about their work, which motivates me to do better.


My experience teaching in Deer Lake has been one of my life’s most rewarding and fulfilling experiences. It’s not always easy, but the challenges make it so worthwhile. The students, the community, and my fellow teachers have all taught me so much. Together, they have helped me grow both personally and professionally.



Elsa teaching her Grade 7 at Deer Lake School in Deer Lake First Nation.


To any teacher considering joining Gakino’amaage: Teach For Canada and teaching in the North, I would encourage you to take the leap. It may be outside your comfort zone, but the rewards are amazing. You will have the opportunity to make a real difference in students’ lives, and you will learn so much about yourself and the world around you in the process. Don’t be afraid to take the chance and see where it takes you–I promise it will be worth it.


Are you a certified teacher interested in going North with Gakino’amaage: Teach For Canada? Learn more and apply.