York University announces new Indigenous teacher education degree

York University’s Faculty of Education, in partnership with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), has created a new degree program rooted in Indigenous thought. The Bachelor of Education (BEd) – Wabaan Indigenous Teacher Education has been developed to address the persistent need for more Indigenous educators and education across Ontario. Wabaan will be grounded in Indigenous knowledge and pedagogy and will include teachings from Indigenous Elders, educators, and community leaders.

In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, York University’s Faculty of Education, in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Indigenous Education Centre, will offer admission to a cohort of students for the first time in 2019. The students will complete the BEd degree with a focus on Indigenous worldviews. Wabaan aims to educate a new generation of teachers prepared to address the needs of First Nation, Métis and Inuit students, families and communities.

“Wabaan, which is an Anishinabe (Ojibwa) word meaning ‘it is tomorrow’, draws on the wisdom of ancestral teachings and contemporary leaders to put Indigenous futures into Indigenous hands,” said Faculty of Education Professor Susan Dion, who designed the program. “The curriculum includes attention to contemporary urban, rural and reserve perspectives, and teachings from a diversity of nations.”

“I’m deeply proud that the Faculty of Education has been able to play a key role in creating this new academic partnership as a very important step on the path toward reconciliation,” said Lyndon Martin, dean of the Faculty of Education. “Wabaan addresses the need for Indigenous students to be taught by Indigenous educators and will produce a new generation of passionate teachers.”

Culture camps that include learning on the land from Indigenous artists and scholars, engaging families, centering Indigenous student voices and revitalization of Indigenous languages, will be part of the program. Candidates will help to shape the curriculum, creating resources and contributing to Indigenous education publications.

“Many Indigenous educators bring lived experience and knowledge into the education system and we want more educators who can do this,” said Tanya Senk, centrally assigned principal, Indigenous Education at the TDSB. “Given the troubled history that the Indigenous people have had, with institutions of formal schooling, this program was proposed to contribute to change,” said Senk, who is also the Indigenous lead for the TDSB. “Because of the tenacity of our Ancestors we’re still here and drawing on their teaching. We are able to rethink and reconceptualize ourselves as Indigenous Peoples,” she adds.

Applications are now being accepted for the program, which will be offered at the Urban Indigenous Education Centre located in downtown Toronto.