Working with Inuit B.Ed. students

by Michelle Baikie on 8 November 2017


Michelle Baikie
Matriculated 2008
MPhil. Educational Research 2009

When I matriculated in October 2008 to read for my Master of Philosophy degree in Educational Research I was absolutely thrilled and excited to begin my studies at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. During my time there, I learned a great deal from my academic studies, as well as meeting acquaintances and colleagues during the social gatherings at College.  This experience helped to shaped my views about life-long learning, even at a very late time in my life.  Since graduating in July 2010, I have continued to reflect and reminisce about my time there, with pleasant memories. I am immensely excited to share the news of my life since I left the College. 

I am Michelle Baikie: hearing impaired, an artist, an Inuk descendent, and the Cultural Consultant/Counsellor for the Nunatsiavut Government Post-Secondary Student Support Program, based at the Labrador Institute/College of the North Atlantic campus in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada.  I am responsible for 14 undergraduate students who are taking their Inuit Bachelor of Education Degree (IBED) through Memorial University.  I work closely with instructors to incorporate land-based learning into their curriculum courses.  IBED is a community-based teacher education degree program developed in response to the priority goal of the Memorial University Presidential Task Force on Aboriginal Initiatives (2009). This program began in September 2015 and was developed in partnership with the Nunatsiavut Government. It is the first Education degree program offered through Memorial University that connects Inuit language and culture through land-based learning. Through culturally relevant pedagogy, the goal is that graduates of the IBED Program will, in turn, transfer their experiences and knowledge of land-based teaching and learning to the Inuit youth they will teach in the Nunatsiavut region. These future teachers will immerse their young primary/elementary students in cross-curricular activities through land-based learning.

Before receiving my MPhil degree from Cambridge, I already had a Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Photographic Communications) degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York in 1994; a Bachelor of Education (Elementary) degree from Memorial University, St. John’s, NL in 2003 and a Master of Education (Literacy) from Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS in 2007.  So, you can see that life-long learning has always been my interest.  I have been teaching students in our Canadian school system since 2003:  I have substituted and undertaken short-term contracts in Nain, North West River, Mud Lake, Sheshatshiu, Happy Valley-Goose Bay (in all three schools: Peacock Primary School, Queen of Peace Middle School and Mealy Mountain Collegiate) until I had the opportunity to teach Black & White Photography at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College – Memorial University for one semester in 2007.  Early in 2008, I decided to apply to the University of Cambridge. I still pinch myself to think that I got accepted! So off I went to Cambridge and I will say that the whole year studying there was certainly challenging for me, but in the end, I did it!

During my studies in Cambridge, I was very fortunate to secure a permanent teaching position at an Aboriginal school in Sheshatshiu, Newfoundland and Labrador.  I became the resource teacher (Kindergarten to Grade 6) for five years and then I bacame the Vice-principal during my sixth year there.  Sheshatshiu Innu School is an Aboriginal school that accommodates approximately 430 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.  I am proud to say since the new school opened in 2009, the Grade 12 and Kindergarten graduation rates have increased and continue to increase today as the Innus have taken 100% control of their education. The teachers and administration were, and still are, dedicated to ensuring that the students are getting the quality of education that follows the Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Education Curriculum Guidelines. These incorporate the Innu-aimun language, the cultural concepts and land-based learning into their curriculum daily programming. This school is about a 45-minute drive away from my hometown, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL and I used to travel daily back and forth for six years, until I took on the role as Cultural Consultant/ Counsellor with Nunatsiavut Government in October 2015.

The year of 2017 has been busy for me: I was recently appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to sit on Memorial University’s Board of Regents for a three-year term from March 2017.  As well, I also represent Happy Valley-Goose Bay region as a board member with the Labrador Grenfell Health Authority Region for a three-year term since July 2017. These two boards are based on a merit-based independent non-partisan appointment. 

Recently, on September 26th, I was elected as Councillor for the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL.  I currently sit on three committees: as the Chair of the Finance, Administration and Policy Committee; as a member of the Economic Development and Public Engagement Committee; and as a member of the Municipal Services Committee.  The town has a population of roughly 8,109 according to the 2016 Statistics Canada Census. It was developed around 1945 with a few families from the coast of Labrador, after the United States of America built a military base in 1941 during World War II, as a landing and refuelling facility for planes to travel overseas.  The town was incorporated in 1973 and since then it grew to become a strategic military base for NATO’s low-level flying training, for countries like Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, until that was phased out in 2004.    

Life-long learning will always be at the fore-front for me when it comes to learning new ideas and initiating new projects in education, which I love to participate in.  Since being a Fellow of the Royal Arts Society in 2014, I wrote a blog called Virtual Reality on the request of Fellow Lin Grist from Toronto for the RSA’s website.  I was asked to write about the need for long distance connections with other Fellows across Canada through videoconferencing. To say the least, it was a very challenging task to connect people virtually, from remote areas coast to coast, with other Fellow members in major cities across Canada.

Overall, with all the meetings and work in my job, I still have time to be an artist using photography as my medium.  I work with my photographs by incorporating them into Adobe Photoshop and manipulating them into painting effects. In 2008, I produced a book called Spiritual Journey: A Collection of Limited Edition Surreal Photographs. To check out my artwork, please visit my website: www.michellerbaikie.zenfolio.com At the moment, I am proud to say that I have two art prints: The Spirit Drummer (1996) and The Hunter (1998) being exhibited along with other Labrador Artists, in a show called SakKijajuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut on Labrador Artists. It was on display at The Rooms, St. John's, NL and is now at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, NS. The show will go on display in Winnigpeg, MB and in Charlottetown, PEI until 2018.  You can check out the link that covers the exhibition:  www.therooms.ca/exhibits/past-exhibit/sakkijajuk-art-and-craft-from-nunatsiavut

So, from being appointed, to being elected and to doing my present job with Nunatsiavut Government and continuing with my art work, for these past months, I have been kept quite busy! I would like to thank the Alumnae Association for inviting me to submit an update article about my education and employment activities after leaving Lucy in 2009.