In one of the world’s most remote regions, surrounded by snow and ice, Maggie is changing the lives of her students and transforming her community.
Just 1,300 people live in the community – the second northernmost Inuit settlement in Canada – but every resident is benefiting from Maggie’s work, determination and talent.
There are tremendous gender issues in the Inuit region of Nunavik where teenage pregnancies are common, high levels of sexual abuse exist, and gender roles often burden young girls with large domestic duties. Maggie therefore created a life skills programme specifically for girls which has seen a 500 per cent improvement in girls’ registration in life skills programmes that were formerly dominated by boys. This includes securing over $30,000 in funding to prepare hot meals for the community. She also created a partnership with the daycare centre where her students would work in the classrooms with experienced day care workers. They would gain valuable on the job mentorship and improve their understanding of early childhood education. Maggie also secured over $20,000 for an in-school nutrition program where students prepare healthy snacks for their fellow students.
One of the biggest myths about teaching is that the school day ends at 3pm, says Maggie:
“I think as a teacher in a small Arctic community, your day never ends. The school doors may close – but the relationship with your students is continuous as you share the community with them.”
It takes a remarkable teacher just to work in such an environment. But, to do what Maggie has done requires something quite extraordinary, something very special.
The success of her Life Skills program has been three-pronged:
- It’s motivated young people to return to school, by engaging them in projects that interest them – from cookery to mechanics.
- These talents and interests are used to tackle and address issues in the community.
- Her students then receive praise and acknowledgment. They have low confidence, and are viewed negatively by the community. But “giving them a new positive platform to stand upon while contributing to the community is transformative for both my students and the community,” writes Maggie.
Maggie McDonnell has made an outstanding contribution to the lives of her students and everyone in Salluit. She is a deserving winner of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for 2017 – money she’ll use to set up an NGO.
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