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UBC recognizes Richmond Indigenous educator as 'teacher of the year'

She went into education to fight for equity and bring Indigenous culture and knowledge into the classroom
Lynn Wainwright, a Richmond educator, was recognized as the teacher of the year by the UBC Faculty of Education. Photo submitted

A Richmond teacher went into education to fight for equity and bring Indigenous culture and knowledge into the classroom. After 25 years of pursuing this goal, Lynn Wainwright was recognized as the 2020 alumni teacher of the year by the UBC Faculty of Education.

 Wainwright, whose mother and sister were residential school survivors, said her goal as an educator is to create a more equitable system for everyone.

“Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, being and doing are beneficial for all students,” she said. “If we want to have systemic change and a more equitable education system, it is important to include that diversity and perspective.”

Wainwright said it’s essential for all Canadians to understand the history of colonization and to have an “understanding of knowledge and culture and our shared Canadian history.”

“It’s not just about teaching Indigenous (content), it’s not just about teaching Indigenous perspective, it’s about us understanding our place as Canadians and where we live and the history that has existed here for thousands of years,” she added.

In the announcement for the UBC award, Wainwright is described as “a storyteller, a teacher, a deep thinker, a mentor and an Elder to our young people.”

Wainwright, who is Anishinaabe and whose family is part of the Peguis First Nation in Manitoba, works as a teacher-consultant for Indigenous education, and this means supporting other teachers, sometimes with professional development or co-teaching or, at other times, working for longer periods of time in one classroom.

Many requests for her support come from upper-elementary classroom teachers, but she works with all grades.

She also encourages schools to run courses that are entirely about Indigenous culture, for example, English First Peoples 11/12 and First Nations Studies 12.

“At the end of the day… Indigenous education is everyone’s responsibility,” Wainwright said. “It shouldn’t just always fall on the ‘Aboriginal department.’”

She said she would love to see the day when all students take at least one course in Indigenous studies, and as an instructor at UBC, teaching a fourth-year-level course to teacher candidates, this gap hits home for her.

“It becomes very wearing when I’m teaching at the university level and what I hear repeatedly is that ‘why were we not taught this in school?’” Wainwright said.

Wainwright said she is “really hopeful that change is possible,” especially with the recent Black Lives Matter movement that has pushed the issues of systemic racism to the forefront of public discourse – an issue she’s been working on for more than two decades.

“I’ve been doing this work for 25 years, and now finally everyone is catching up to me,” Wainwright said. “I don’t have to do it in isolation anymore.”

Wainwright received the award in May.

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