An educator from Hay River and an elder from the Hay River Reserve have been recognized for their exemplary contributions to education.
Lynne Beck, the vice-principal and guidance counsellor at Diamond Jenness Secondary School, and Joe Tambour, a traditional drummer and elder from K’atlodeeche First Nation on the Hay River Reserve, received the Excellence in Education Award 2015 from the South Slave Divisional Education Council.
Yet both were surprised by the honour during the annual pre-school conference in Hay River on Sept. 1.
“I have no idea how they managed for me not to know this,” said Beck.
As is tradition for the award, the recipients don’t know they have been chosen until they are introduced in front of principals, teachers and education council staff.
“It’s an honour and privilege to work with such great kids at DJ and with such a great staff,” said Beck, who has not actually taught a class in probably two or three years having left the classroom to play more of a leadership role.
She said working at Diamond Jenness is like being part of a family, and others are also deserving of the award.
“It could have been any of us,” she said.
Beck, who is originally from Prince Edward Island, started working at Diamond Jenness in 1998.
As vice-principal, she helps decide whether to suspend students — something she said she had a tough time with in the beginning.
“I was not the ideal student, so I knew how easy it could be to sort of be disengaged and not kind of feel a part of the family,” she said, adding she believes students can learn from their mistakes.
The award also took Tambour for a surprise.
“I thought I was just here to drum,” he said. “It was really amazing.”
Tambour was invited to perform an opening prayer song and talk about the traditional drum at the conference, and in fact did perform a prayer song as the meeting began.
“I was sure shocked when they called me up for this,” he said of the award.
Asked what he believes the award means, Tambour replied, “It tells you that you’re a role model. You are a real leader in your own way and that people appreciate what you do for them.”
The elder said he picked up the drum in 1988 and later was instrumental in forming the K’atlodeeche Drummers.
Tambour is occasionally hired by the school board to impart traditional knowledge onto students and volunteers.
The elder said he enjoys talking to young people and teaching.
“It’s very important because, whether you’re a native or not, everybody has a culture, and everyone should practise what they believe in,” he said.
Some elders have passed on without sharing their knowledge, Tambour said. “They don’t get a chance to give it. Me, I don’t want to do that. I want to give it to everybody.”
The Excellence in Education Award is presented annually to a recipient or recipients nominated by their peers. One category includes program staff such as teachers, administrators, consultants and education assistants. The other category is partners in education, including support staff, parents, students, volunteers and other community members, groups or organizations that work in support of student learning.
In announcing this year’s winners, education council superintendent Curtis Brown praised Beck for helping to create a supportive atmosphere at Diamond Jenness as a diligent, thoughtful and kind-hearted leader in her school.
“She balances the big picture and the tiny minutiae as she helps students earn their diploma,” Brown said.
The superintendent said Beck has implemented and supported numerous programs and initiatives to keep students in school and guided them towards graduation, and has ushered in new approaches and programs to improve student behaviour, increase social responsibility and reduce suspensions.
Plus, he said Beck contributes to her school by supporting a social-skills program, an in-school health centre for students and the leadership and resiliency program.
Student suspensions have been reduced significantly in the wake of her restorative justice initiative, which asks students to take ownership and responsibility for their actions.
Brown praised Tambour for his unwavering commitment to his culture, language and Dene traditions, and for his willingness to share his culture with students and staff.
“Through his sustained efforts and active involvement in multiple South Slave schools – storytelling and teaching Dene values through handgames and drumming – he has helped strengthen our schools and enrich the lives of students throughout our region,” he said.
Brown added that, as South Slave Divisional Education Council schools seek to embrace local traditions and broaden cultural programming, community ambassadors like Tambour are valued.