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ITEP Leads Way in Teacher Training

Erin Taman

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      FALL 2001      v30 n03 p06  
The leading Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP) long housed at the University of Saskatchewan is now helping a northern college develop a program of its own. As part of an agreement with ITEP, approximately 20 students per year from a college in the Northwest Territories attend their third and fourth years of Education at the U of S campus.

"We have an agreement with Aurora College in N.W.T., which covers the central and Western Arctic," explains ITEP Director Orest Murawsky. "This broadens the scope of the University of Saskatchewan to the western Arctic Ocean - and we have done this for the last 17 years," Murawsky says.

"ITEP has been here (at the U of S) since 1973," says Murawsky. "We are a foundational program for First Nations/Aboriginal students," he adds. The ITEP program is four years in length and is run out of the College of Education.

With graduates receiving a Bachelor of Education degree, "ITEP has become a flagship program for Aboriginal Education in this country," said Dean of Education Ken Jacknicke. "It is arguably one of the most successful Aboriginal Teacher Education Programs in Canada". "Not only do the students from Aurora come down for their third and fourth years, but we are also helping (their Administrators) to develop a program which will be similar to ITEP," says Jacknicke.

"The Aurora College program is not large," Jacknicke said. "But one of the advantages is that most of the graduates return to teach in the North." They usually remain in the community for quite some time.

Murawsky says, "We are funded year by year, for the last 28 years. There is not an other program like this. We are an anomaly."

The ITEP program runs on a budget granted annually by the federal government. There is no direct funding from the provincial government, the U of S or the First Nations community.

"For the last 15 years, we have received the same amount. There hasn't been an increase and we still have enough money to operate a good program - we pride ourselves on that" Murawsky says.

ITEP has a staff of eight, and the program took in 75 students this year. To date, there have been 700 Bachelor of Education degrees conferred upon ITEP graduates and "most have stayed in the province and moved to First Nation controlled institutions" adds Murawsky.

The four-year teacher education program has seen its graduates take on a variety of jobs. "Most will return to a band to teach," states Murawsky. It's not only for the tax break. "We have students that have given up prominent positions to come to school here. Some were directors or high-level executives, but they have made a commitment to their own people - I'm convinced of that," says Murawsky.

Dean of Education, University of Saskatchewan, Ken Jacknicke
Top: Dean of Education,
University of Saskatchewan,
Ken Jacknicke
Right: Orest Murawsky
Orest Murawsky

So how has the success of a program that is annually funded measured? Murawsky is proud' to declare that it is "based on our graduates. If our grads are successful that means that we have been successful in training and educating them" he surmises. The number of (band) chiefs that are graduates of the program is phenomenal and education is always their emphasis. We feel that we have been very supportive of that," says Murawsky. "We don't measure our success in research dollars attained but in successful graduates."

"The graduates are in great demand because as the demographics of the province are changing, the need for Aboriginal teachers throughout the province continues to grow," adds Jacknicke.

"ITEP began with a director and councilors who were all Aboriginal and this trend has continued today, as six of the eight staff are Aboriginal.

"We are a low key, low profile program," emphasizes Murawsky. "We are not political, we don't get involved in University, provincial or First Nations politics or research, because our focus is on teacher education and preparation. We follow a triangle model - the program, the teacher, and the child - that is all."

Some of ITEP's goals include tripling the intake of students, expanding the secondary program, having a stronger elder-in-residence program and building onto the Native Resource Center.

College of Education and ITEP staff will continue to assist Aurora College in setting up a program and will also lend a hand to the University of Alberta as it too looks towards the U of S as a role model for the future.

Visit the ITEP website at http://www.usask.ca/education/itep/i/index.htm