A Grade 2 teacher from Olds is one of 25 finalists across the country for the 2009 Governor General’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History.
Hélène Fisher has taught at Olds Elementary School for all of the 28 years of her teaching career.
“What can I say other than it is relatively humbling, isn’t it,” Fisher said.
Over the last two years, Fisher has worked with a variety of partners to bring hands-on learning experiences about First Nations culture to students in her classroom and other classes in the Chinook’s Edge School Division. Olds Elementary students were linked with Ermineskin Elementary School students through videoconferencing to learn about traditional First Nation’s culture and drumming. Eventually the students shared in a pow wow and a feast together. Grade 2 and Grade 4 students at Olds Elementary also took a trip to Dry Island Buffalo Jump, learning about the buffalo, storytelling, plants and smudging ceremonies.
“It’s like all learning experiences, if you live it then it becomes part of you,” Fisher said.
Fisher said she worked with her mentor Iris Loewen, the First Nation, Métis and Inuit co-ordinator for Chinook’s Edge School Division, along with cultural advisors at Ermineskin Elementary School, Glenbow Museum Outreach Program staff and other presenters to bring the multi-faceted learning project to her students.
“I’m really just in kindergarten when it comes to First Nations and understanding the depth of the culture that exists,” Fisher said. “We have an amazingly vibrant First Nations culture in Alberta and I’m not sure most of us are even aware of that.”
Judges will determine six recipients from the group of 25 within the next month, with those chosen receiving a trip to Ottawa for an awards ceremony with the Governor General on Nov. 20. The awards, organized by Canada’s National History Society, recognize outstanding contributions by elementary and secondary school history teachers.
“It is very gratifying to be recognized at this level, and it is because of the contribution of many people along the way. I have learned from every one of the people who are involved in this project, and I am continually learning from every one of my students,” Fisher said. “This is about experiencing that we all have a story and to recognize how special each of our stories are.”