Guiding the Journey: Indigenous Educator Awards

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Calgary, Alberta, Friday, March 15, 2013


Thank you for inviting me to address this gathering of outstanding educators. I am delighted to be here.

When I gave my installation address as governor general two-and-a-half years ago, my hope was that if Canadians were to take away just one message from my remarks, it would be the following:

We must cherish our teachers. 

I have always had great admiration for our teachers—whether they serve as educators in our schools and classrooms, or as elders, role models or mentors in our homes and communities. Great teachers have the ability and the passion to help and inspire our learning, and learning is perhaps the single most effective means by which we can improve our lives and realize our potential—as individuals and as a society.

That is why I am so pleased to be here today, among so many great teachers.

Prior to becoming governor general, I spent the bulk of my career as a teacher and university administrator. In fact, I think it’s fair to say I have devoted the better part of my life to teaching and to learning—and this continues in my present-day role.

In a country as vast and diverse as Canada, the learning never ends—and nor should it.

Throughout my experiences, I have time and again seen how the line between student and teacher is always shifting, and never fixed. I often say that I learned all of the important things in life from my five daughters, and while that statement frequently draws a smile or a laugh, I do not mean it as a joke.

In truth, we are all students and teachers, whose greatest potential lies in what we have yet to learn. That you are attending this national gathering on education, either as award recipients or conference participants, is in fact more than a testament to your dedication to excellence in teaching.

It is a testament to your dedication to learning. 

The reason you are such wonderful teachers is in no small part because you are such great students of the world, of your communities and of the people you serve. You know the all-important context in which learning takes place. And you appreciate the incredible talent and potential of your students. You have been part of their successes, and you grasp the nature of the challenges that impede learning in too many of our classrooms and communities.

Without a doubt, education is a complex task, but when I look across this room, I am inspired with hope for our students, and thus for the future of this country. I am hopeful because you are representative of the great diversity of Canada, which gives us a tremendous advantage in solving problems and creating opportunities—if only we can seize the moment.

Diversity strengthens our learning by giving us a range of perspectives to draw from. It means, for example, that we don’t have to choose between modern science and traditional knowledge; instead, we can combine the best elements of both. Diversity means sharing ideas and experiences and celebrating our successes at gatherings such as this one. It means working together on behalf of students and families.

I know the obstacles to learning can be significant, but your talent and dedication as teachers and the energy and creative potential of students give us many reasons to be optimistic.

And I know we are not alone in our belief in the power of learning.

As the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples states:

“Despite the painful experiences Aboriginal people carry with them from formal education systems, they still see education as the hope for the future and they are determined to see education fulfill its promise.”

When I look across this room, I see that determination in your faces.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend Indspire and its many supporters for broadening your focus to include students from kindergarten through grade 12. I also offer my congratulations on the launch of the online Indspire Institute, which promises to be an important resource for learners and educators alike.

On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my congratulations to the recipients of these awards. The impact of your teaching has been felt in your communities and right across Canada. Thank you for helping our students and this country to fulfill their great promise.