Cohen Corbiere, Karen McColman, Rowyn Kasunich, Ethan Ense, Dr. Doug Willms, Aurora Hare, Kristin Farquhar, Joanne Corbiere, Tanya Schut, Wanda Debassige, Cher Panamick-Ense, Robert Beaudin, Lewis Debassige, Carmen Debassige, Nicole Fox, Jaxon Panamick, Neil Debassige, Savannah Panamick, Gnaajwi Migwans and Summer Lyn Migwans at the Dec. 9 Confident Learners Program launch.

Cohen Corbiere, Karen McColman, Rowyn Kasunich, Ethan Ense, Dr. Doug Willms, Aurora Hare, Kristin Farquhar, Joanne Corbiere, Tanya Schut, Wanda Debassige, Cher Panamick-Ense, Robert Beaudin, Lewis Debassige, Carmen Debassige, Nicole Fox, Jaxon Panamick, Neil Debassige, Savannah Panamick, Gnaajwi Migwans and Summer Lyn Migwans at the Dec. 9 Confident Learners Program launch.

By Kelly Crawford
M’CHIGEENG FIRST NATION – Kenjgewin-Teg Educational Institute’s First Nation Student Success Program launched Ontario’s only ‘Confident Learners’ at Lakeview School on December 9, 2015.

“Early reading leads to good students which is a measurement of a good school,” explains Lewis Debassige at the launch of the Confident Learners’ program. “It is renewal that is taking place.”

“It is an accountability measure for teachers and parents to know exactly where their students/children are on the literacy pathway in kindergarten to grade three,” explains Neil Debassige, Principal, Lakeview School. ”In the short-term it is going to give us an accurate placement of what are next cohort graduation rate will be based on data.”

Debassige explained the importance of supporting students to become confident in their ability to solve problems. “In today’s education system a big component of this confidence stems from the ability to read, write and comprehend. Research has shown that reading AT grade 3 by the end of grade 3 will allow our students to continue into the junior, intermediate and senior grades with a “reading to learn” mentality.”

Confident Learners is a scalable school-based program designed to increase the literacy skills of children in First Nations communities. It entails a ‘pathway approach’ to instruction and assessment that is based on the science of literacy and linked to teaching activities that support First Nations language and culture.

“I am so pleased to be here for the launch of Confident Learners at Lakeview School, M’Chigeeng First Nation. Witnessing the success of its students in developing their reading skills is especially rewarding. The students and staff at Lakeview School have been a key partner in the development of Confident Learners. They have been working with the researchers in developing the program and at the same time working with the Elders and parents of the Lakeview community to ensure their children are exposed to many and varied learning opportunities that are grounded in their local culture and based on the science of literacy and learning,” explains Douglas Willms, Canada Research Chair in Literacy and Human Development at the University of New Brunswick.

Confident Learners also includes a professional development program for teachers aimed at increasing their professional knowledge of the science of literacy skill development and its application in First Nations settings; a family and community literacy program that strives to strengthen families’ contributions to their children’s skill development; and a training program for aides and volunteers who are supporting children’s literacy development.

Willms explained that Confident Learners focuses on the development of literacy skills during the primary school years, because learning to read fluently and with confidence opens up many learning opportunities for learning through their school career and thereafter. “To become a confident learner, First Nations children need many and varied learning opportunities for increasing their literacy skills that are grounded in their culture. Culture is important because it is related to the processes of learning, or what is sometimes called “ways of knowing”. During the early years it is the songs, the art, the stories, and the games of one’s culture that build pride and create a foundation for learning. But at the same time, there is a well-developed science of literacy skill development that transcends cultures. There is also a strong science on the kinds of teaching strategies that are effective for most students.”

“As the FNSSP Program Manager, I am extremely excited to see the official launch of the Confident Learners, as we are extremely grateful for being selected as the Ontario aggregate representative. Confident Learners has been the first ever initiative that we have been involved in building, with and for our learners, which will benefit our learners nation to nation. We are also benefitting from creating lesson plans to support developing language revitalization efforts in Ojibwe. I am excited to see this initiative unfold in our nine participating elementary schools,” concluded Debbie Debassige, Director of School Services.

For more information on the Confident Learners, you can visit the website at http://confidentlearners.com or www.ktei.net

Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute is located on Mnidoo Mnising (Manitoulin Island, ON) is one of eight members within the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium in Ontario. KTEI and its AIC members are dedicated to providing relevant, community based education for Aboriginal students of all ages. For more information on KTEI services, programs and events go to www.ktei.net or facebook.com/Kenjgewin-Teg-Educational-Institute.