SASKATOON — A professional development school for indigenous educators was made official March 1 when a memorandum of understanding was signed by Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools’ Board of Education chair Diane Boyko, the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education dean Michelle Prytula, and Saskatoon Tribal Council chief Felix Thomas. The new program will be housed at St. Frances Cree Bilingual School in Saskatoon.
At an event hosted by St. Frances to mark the signing, leaders from all three partner groups emphasized that the goal of the of the professional development school (PDS) is to improve student learning by enhancing teacher training in a culturally responsive environment.
“The existing relationships we have with our partners in education are invaluable,” said Boyko. “This agreement is a natural progression to offer the best education we can to our students by offering an enhanced training experience for our future teachers. We’re excited about the opportunities that lie before us.”
The PDS provides a learning environment where students from the College of Education’s Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP) at the U of S, teachers at St. Frances Cree Bilingual School, and ITEP professors and instructors create a collaborative learning environment that enhances the quality of teaching and student learning.
The PDS offers more immersive teacher training than a standard internship and will prepare future teachers with practical skills to teach all students, in particular First Nations and Métis students.
“Through ITEP, the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan is committed to providing the best programming for Saskatchewan students, teachers and communities. This partnership has created a unique opportunity to enhance teaching and learning for aspiring and current teachers, and as such, for each child who attends St. Frances,” said Prytula.
“This program will give new and experienced teachers a deeper understanding of how to navigate complexities and tailor the learning environment for student needs,” added Thomas. “By setting teachers up for success we are ensuring greater success rates among indigenous students.”
Jayce Sutherland, an ITEP student who recently interned at St. Frances and whose children attend St. Frances and Saskatoon Tribal Council’s Early Learning Centre located on the school’s grounds, briefly spoke about how important the PDS is to her own development as a teacher and to the education of her children.
The PDS has been in development for the past year, and the signing of the memorandum of understanding paves the way for more collaboration and routine participation of College of Education students at St. Frances. The Catholic school will welcome the next cohort of ITEP students in the fall of 2017.