A share of the $1.5-million Arctic Inspiration Prize was awarded to a team of audiologists, educators and community members from Ontario and Nunavut that includes York U Faculty of Education Professor Pam Millett.
The $300,000 prize was awarded in Ottawa recently for the work Millett and her colleagues did on their Better Hearing in Education for Northern Youth (BHENY) project that demonstrates their knowledge to action plans that advance the health, wellness and quality of life of Canada’s Northern peoples and communities.
The project addresses the issue of hearing loss in 13 communities in Nunavut’s Qikiqtani region through the provision of technology, education and professional development for teachers and parents, and the enhancement of inter-agency and community partnerships.
“Part of the funding will go directly towards outfitting classrooms with microphones for teachers and students, and speakers which enhance their voices, so students can hear no matter where the teacher is, and can hear each other better during classroom discussions,” said Millett.
At least 40 per cent of children in Nunavut have hearing loss, she said, many due to complications from ear infections that are rarely seen in the south. Access to timely healthcare, as well as geography, make it difficult for families to seek out consistent treatment to prevent these complications.
“For students who have them, hearing aid use can be inconsistent, even accessing batteries for hearing aids can be a problem,” said Millett. “Children sometimes stay home from school for days or weeks at a time while waiting for their hearing aids to be fixed.”
Teacher education, professional development and community partnerships are also an important part of the project, so that use of the technology is sustainable, and so teachers learn strategies for language and literacy development in deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
The project includes partnerships with teachers and administrators from Qikiqtani School Operations, and the team’s long-term goal is to expand the project across the entire Nunavut region.
“We are very proud of Professor Millett and her colleagues for winning this prestigious prize,” said Ron Owston, dean of York University’s Faculty of Education. “The project is a further example of the Faculty’s leadership in advocacy, education, and programming for the deaf and hard of hearing community in Canada.”
About the Arctic Inspiration Prize
Founded in 2012 by Arnold Witzig and Sima Sharifi, the Arctic Inspiration Prize recognizes and promotes the extraordinary contribution made by diverse teams in the gathering of Arctic knowledge, and their plans to implement this knowledge to real world applications for the benefit of the Canadian Arctic, Arctic Peoples, and therefore Canada as a whole. To date, 11 teams have been awarded prizes totaling $4.5 million.