Former high school principal Martin Sacher knew something just wasn’t right when he visited a reserve in northern Saskatchewan 14 years ago.
Sacher said even though there were wonderful teachers on the reserves, the student were not receiving anywhere near the opportunities his students were getting in the public system.
“It just struck me as this is not right,” said Sacher. “We need to build something to help aboriginal kids. … The challenge was how can you bring the best of the best to remote areas where you would never get anywhere near the best instruction?”
The Sunchild E-learning Community, based in Rocky Mountain House, was part of the answer. The virtual learning community was formed about 12 years ago to help marginalized citizens access the best possible education in rural and urban communities.
About 3,000 students have passed through the virtual doors of the school since it went online. They offer roughly 1,000 post-secondary and high school courses. Between 200 to 500 students from Alberta, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories access the courses each semester.
Plans are in the works to expand the programming to Saskatchewan and Ontario.
“With the state of education with aboriginal youth and aboriginal adults, we thought that really was where our passion was,” said Sacher, Sunchild E-learning Community CEO.
Sacher was recently announced as a winner of the International Society for Information Technology (SITE) Outstanding Service in Equity Award. The recipient is one who has demonstrated scholarly leadership and service toward increasing digital equity through teacher education, nationally or internationally.
“I was very excited about this one because it recognized a systemic problem in education in rural communities,” he said. “It wasn’t just for me but that the program dealt with a systemic issue in education for First Nations people and marginalized citizens.”
The award will be presented at a ceremony in Texas in March.