Earlier this month the IOE hosted a hugely inspiring lecture by the 2017 Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize winner, Maggie MacDonnell.
Maggie has spent the last six years teaching in a fly-in Inuit village called Salluit, nestled in the Canadian Arctic, home to the second northernmost Inuit community in Quebec. With a population of just over 1,300, Salluit cannot be reached by road, only by air. In winter temperatures are minus 25c. There are very high levels of deprivation, substance abuse and self-harm and poor graduation rates, not helped by high rates of teacher turnover. Girls face particular challenges in engaging with their education as they take on the burden of domestic duties and high levels of teenage pregnancy.
In her lecture Maggie sets out the roots of these challenges in the historical traumas faced by Canadian Indigenous people, and how she has sought to address these, in the process turning-around Salluit’s engagement with education and dramatically improving school attendance.
In Maggie’s hands, authentic project-based learning linked to the local context has proved extremely powerful. Examples include running a community kitchen and environmental stewardship. A physical education teacher by training, Maggie has made particular use of health and fitness, and establishing a fitness centre and running club has had a dramatic impact on the lives of the young people she works with – bringing to life the lesson embodied in the title for the lecture. In the round, the effects have been to empower girls, improve school perseverance, build resilience, and drive down suicide rates.
Listen to Maggie’s lecture below.