Educational excellence exalted

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Misty Pynten, left, a student counsellor at Chief Sunrise Education Centre on the Hay River, receives the Partner in Education Award from Curtis Brown, superintendent of the South Slave Divisional Education Council.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Misty Pynten, left, a student counsellor at Chief Sunrise Education Centre on the Hay River, receives the Partner in Education Award from Curtis Brown, superintendent of the South Slave Divisional Education Council.

An employee of K’atlodeeche First Nation has been named one of the winners of an Excellence in Education Award from the South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC).

The Partner in Education Award was presented to Misty Pynten, who serves as a student counsellor at Chief Sunrise Education Centre.

She received the honour on Aug. 25 at Princess Alexandra School at the beginning of the school board’s annual two-day gathering of educators from around South Slave.

In announcing Pynten as the winner, superintendent Curtis Brown said she is an extraordinary asset to Chief Sunrise Education Centre.

“She works with students, as well as parents and staff, to support the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of all,” he said, noting she often helps children overcome unimaginable trauma.

Brown said Pynten radiates kindness and positivity, making everyone around her feel that they matter.

“She has likely impacted most people in this school community,” he said. “She not only provides one-on-one counselling in the school but also provides school programming, sits on the student wellness committee, prepares daily breakfasts and snacks for the students, runs the community library, co-facilitates the Fourth R social responsibility program, and assists with the development of student self-regulation in the classroom. She also works beyond the normal school day, facilitating a parent group and offering her counselling services to families.”

Pynten said the award was a complete surprise.

“I was sitting in there and, when I was hearing things that were kind of like describing me, I was like, ‘Oh, my God,'” she said. “And I was kind of shaking. It’s an honour to be nominated.”

It was surreal to win, she said. “I never expected something like that.”

Pynten, who has worked with K’atlodeeche First Nation since early 2013, said the award is a validation of the work she does as a school/community counsellor, and a sign of appreciation for her efforts.

The Program Staff Award winner is assistant superintendent Brent Kaulback who is planning to retire in October after 40 years as an educator in B.C., Ontario and the NWT.

That includes two stints as principal of Chief Sunrise Education Centre.

For the past 11 years, he has worked at the regional office of the council, first as an inclusive school co-ordinator and the last eight years as assistant superintendent.

In presenting the award, Brown said Kaulback has worked diligently to build the capacity of the council’s educational system by constructing mutually beneficial and positive working relations with everyone he meets.

“Over the years, Mr. Kaulback has developed a passion for preserving and reinvigorating otherwise endangered Aboriginal languages,” Brown said. “He has been the driving force behind the SSDEC publishing over 285 books – and counting – many of which have been translated into nearly a dozen aboriginal languages.”

Among those publications are Chipewyan and South Slavey dictionaries.

“While there are many challenges that our small isolated communities face, Mr. Kaulback sees past the obstacles to opportunities,” said Brown. “His initiatives have increased attendance, homework completion, aboriginal language fluency, and both staff and student achievement. This humble award-winning educator has also quietly and successfully supported schools to develop traditional on-the-land skills programs, and has been instrumental in the direction of aboriginal language and culture initiatives at the territorial level.”

Kaulback is an inaugural inductee into the NWT Education Hall of Fame, an Indspire Aboriginal Education Partner Award winner, and the first assistant superintendent to be named the Canadian Superintendent of the Year by the Canadian Association of School System Administrators.

Kaulback was also a little shocked by the Excellence in Education Award, especially since he helps select the winners.

“One of my roles is to participate in the award selection and so I thought we had some other names,” he said. “So this was a bit of a surprise, for sure.”

Kaulback said he is very honoured to be recognized by his colleagues.

The assistant superintendent said the council has been a wonderful place to work.

“I’m hoping to still stay connected in one way or another with the aboriginal language programming here in the South Slave and perhaps territorial, as well,” he said. “That’s been my passion. But it is a matter of reconnecting with my family, as well. Because I have been up here without them for the last 16 years. So it’s really important for me to reconnect.”

Upon his retirement, he will be moving to B.C.

“I don’t like saying good-bye,” said Kaulback. “So I try to figure out ways to not say good-bye.”

–Paul Bickford