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Kahnawa’kehró:non makes history in new role

Curran Jacobs is Nova Career Centre’s new First Nations resource teacher. (Jessica Deer, The Eastern Door)


Indigenous students attending the Nova Career Centre can now seek help from a familiar face.

Kahnawa’kehró:non Curran Jacobs was recently hired as the adult education centre’s First Nations resource teacher to primarily assist students with their literacy and numeracy skills.

“I’m trying to be a friendly face that if anybody ever needs anything, any kind of support or resource help, that they have someone they feel comfortable coming to talk to,” said Jacobs.

“Everyone has a different story and everyone has a different reason for coming to adult ed. For me, first and foremost, I’d like to get to know students, learn a bit about why they’re here, and then the work comes afterwards with whatever they need help with.”

Jacobs previously taught grade five/six at Karonhianónhnha Tsi Ionteriwaienstáhkhwa, and is currently working on her Masters of Arts in education and society at McGill University.

“It’s a very different world from elementary school, from where I was. But what I’ve noticed is that there’s similar needs in terms of what kind of support they have,” said Jacobs.

“Often, my role comes in when students miss out in the past or didn’t properly understand concepts or develop their reading skills, so now they need the extra support to finish off their high school or whatever program they’re in.

“That’s a normal thing that occurs in education, all the time. I think adult education is important, and having a resource person is important to help them.”

It’s the first time an Onkwehón:we was hired for the position, which is funded annually through a grant from the ministry of education.

“We’re an adult education centre and a vocational training centre, so when adult students come in here, there’s an expectation that they’re autonomous and are all ready to learn, but in some cases it’s not their situation,” said director Bonnie Mitchell.

“For some, it takes an awful a lot of courage to walk into the door, and that’s for any student regardless of where they come from. Having an extra person here who can actually relate and understand the life situation of a lot of our students who are Indigenous, it adds an extra value to the connections she can make.”

The centre has roughly 100 Indigenous students, with most being Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake, making up about 20 percent of the student body.

“It’s important to have friendly familiar faces, and if you don’t know Curran, she gives off welcoming vibes,” said Kaienteri McGregor, a student taking French and math courses.

Sunshine Stacey, who is enrolled in Nova’s Starting a Business program, expressed similar sentiments.

“I think it’s great, we could always use the help and have someone to talk to who understands,” she said.

“It helps to see a familiar face. Not many people like to ask for help, especially if you don’t know the person. Seeing someone from town gives you the push you need to get help.”

Mitchell said Jacobs’ job would be to either pull students out of class to work one-on-one, in small groups, or to be inside the classroom assisting teachers in both academics or vocational programs to do their trades more effectively.

“It’s a resource model that is both push in and pull out, an inclusive resource model so that the teaching and learning is happening hand-in-hand,” said Mitchell.

“In welding, there’s a whole aspect of welding that involves trigonometry and reading math language. The students have to be very gifted in welding, but they might not necessarily have that academic background, so Curran would be able to go in and work one-on-one with those students or in small groups to brush up their basic skills during a module, before a module, or even preparing for an exam.”

Even though she’s only started the new position in mid-September, Jacobs has already begun making an impact on the student body. Last year, she helped implement Orange Shirt Day to honour residential school survivors among Nova’s staff and spoke to students, and she did the same awareness campaign this year.

“Even something as small as that can make an impact. I would like to do those kinds of things because part of being a support or resource for Native students is that they should feel included in the school. Fostering these situations and events help people feel like they have a place where they’re going,” said Jacobs.

Mitchell agreed.

“Just doing that is the beginning of building bridges and increasing awareness and understanding and appreciation of each other, and that was a piece we were missing.

“That’s why I’m so excited that Curran is actually from Kahnawake. She has that special affinity to make sure we take care and pay attention to what we need to be doing,” she said.

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Jessica Deer was a staff reporter from 2015-2018 who started out in 2008 as a summer student.