Governor General Addresses the Qikiqtani Regional Teachers’ Conference via Virtual Keynote

Over 400 Teachers across Nunavut Connect for the First Time at Inuksuk High School through TelePresence

I don’t know if many of you have had the great privilege of meeting His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. On February 19, I had that distinct pleasure. His Excellency joined us along with Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiirit Kanatami at Cisco’s office in Ottawa to address over 400 guests located in Iqaluit including the Honourable Peter Taptuna, Premier of Nunavut, the Honourable Paul Quassa the Minister of Education, as well as many teachers and administrators.  This was part of Cisco’s support of the Qikiqtani Regional Teachers Conference taking place in Iqaluit. We were happy not only to invite His Excellency to join us, but to have him participate in the virtual portion of the event, which brought experts and special guests from across Canada to the teachers in Iqaluit over the course of the week-long conference. And let me tell you – he had me at “cherish our teachers”.  Having been in several schools across Nunavut, I can tell you first hand that these teachers are doing incredible work on the front lines of some of Canada’s most remote communities. In the winter it’s dark. And cold. Some of these teachers are dealing with challenging social issues and children with unique needs. And yet, the teachers I have met show such commitment, resilience and a real passion for what they do. It was moving and fitting to hear them recognized by none other than our extraordinary Governor General.  Every teacher in this country does us all a great service in the support of Canada’s students. And the teachers in Nunavut are exceptional examples of teachers can have such a meaningful influence in the lives of their students. They are mentors, coaches, sounding boards, advocates.  And they are to be celebrated!

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Cisco has put so much of our Connected North focus on supporting the teachers of Nunavut. For those of you unfamiliar with Connected North, it is a program that uses Cisco’s TelePresence and high-definition video collaboration technology, along with satellite bandwidth provided by SSi Micro to enable two-way video communications of high quality that connects people in real time. It allows students and teachers in Aboriginal communities to inspire Canadians by sharing their culture and their stories, as well as having experts located around the globe visit them via video in their classrooms. Together with our partners at Sick Kids and the Royal Bank Foundation the program has also been extended to include a youth telepsychiatry program. The conference is just one example of how we are leveraging this virtual network to get the teachers the support and services they need to help them become even more effective.

Organized by the Nunavut Teacher’s Association, the goal of the event was to provide professional growth opportunities for teachers in the far North and deliver customized training – like how to teach math better, how to be a better mentor, and how to use literacy games to make learning more fun!  Let me tell you, there are too many students in Nunavut not completing high school. And yet, there are so many talented kids with great potential that need support and encouragement to make it all the way. And that’s why the Nunavut teachers are so important in their students’ lives. And that’s why it’s important that these teachers get the training and support they deserve – to be transformational in the lives of their students.  And that’s the point that the Governor General drove home.

“When I was asked to say a few words of encouragement to this gathering, I gladly accepted. And for one simple reason – I believe in what you do every day as educators. Behind every individual or group success, there is usually a teacher, mentor, or elder, someone who served to guide, inform or inspire us in a significant way,” said Johnston.

Commenting on  his recent visit to The Canadian Forces Station in Alert, Nunavut, the Governor General shared how he witnessed the reality and majesty of Canada’s far North. He summed up his experience in four S’s that remind him of the significance of the work being done there. The first one is ‘Sovereignty’ – helping us to recognize that we truly are a country from sea to sea to sea, and the third sea is so important and vast, it makes us the country with the largest coastline! The second S is ‘Signals’ – allowing us to gather all kinds of information from the Canadian Forces Station, including security, military and environmental. The third is ‘Science’ – giving us the immense opportunity to learn about the North and exchange lessons about the territory, through the tireless work of the teachers. And lastly ‘Stewardship’ – reminding us of our responsibility towards the land and the people who have inhabited it for thousands of years.

“Collaborative technologies can help to facilitate learning, and of course we are witnessing one today with this great partnership with Cisco and others to bring this broadcast to you and strengthen our virtual connection throughout the vast North,” commented Johnston. “Such technologies provide a window on the world and equally, they provide the world a window to Northern Canada – it works both ways.”

In his closing remarks, His Excellency also talked about the importance of the north.  “Canada’s overall success is closely linked to the success of The North and education is critical to both. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that your success as teachers is directly linked to the success of Canada itself. Canada can only succeed if the Far North succeeds in reaching its fullest potential.” I will add to His Excellency’s comments by saying that we at Cisco firmly believe that our knowledge of our peoples of the north, and their great traditions, inform us all as Canadians.

This is the heart and soul of the Connected North program. The learning goes both ways. And on February 19th we saw that in spades. Looking forward to next year!

About Willa Black

As Vice-President, Corporate Affairs for Cisco Canada, Willa Black is responsible for strategies designed to promote Cisco's external brand awareness and relevance across key constituencies. She also leads programming in support of Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, reinforcing the company’s role as an organization committed to social advancement across governments, nongovernmental organizations, and communities of all kinds. Since joining Cisco in 1999, she has developed and led groundbreaking, award-winning programming including the Globe and Mail Business Incubator and most recently, the One Million Acts of Green campaign in partnership with the CBC. Black holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Williams College in Massachusetts, USA.
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