South Slave educators recognized for excellence

Fort Smith, NT – The South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC) announced the 2021 winners of the Excellence in Education Awards at its annual staff in-service.


The Program Staff Award winner is Mr. Justin Heron (Fort Smith). Mr. Heron is a Northern-born Indigenous educator who has been critical to the development of the language and culture programs at JBT School in Fort Smith and more recently Deninu School in Fort Resolution. Mr. Heron served in multiple roles of increasing leadership. Most recently, he has been Deninu’s Vice Principal and Instructional Coach, where he spearheaded an initiative to build additional literacy supports at the high school level, which has led to an increase in student reading levels at the school. A long-time member of the SSDEC team, Mr. Heron is an impressive educator who demonstrates a passion for languages and sharing his knowledge and expertise for the benefit of others. He is an expert in research-based instructional practices and cultural integration, and he has just accepted the position as the SSDEC’s new Regional Indigenous Language & Education Coordinator.


The Partner in Education Award is presented to Mr. George Bugghins (K’atlodeeche First Nation). Mr. Bugghins is known throughout Hay River area schools for his frequent volunteering over many years. A trusted and wise elder, Mr. Bugghins has been instrumental in the development of school culture camps and regularly gives of his time to ensure students learn about traditional practices at school-sponsored culture camps and at Sandy Creek, where Chief Sunrise Education Centre students receive weekly on-the-land instruction. Mr. Bugghins is a valued member of the community who continues to make incredible contributions to education through his tireless commitment to sharing traditional knowledge and cultural practices with students and staff in K’atlodeeche and Hay River schools.


The Jill Taylor Above and Beyond Award recipient is Ms. Tara Boudreau (Hay River). Ms. Boudreau has been an educator in Hay River for nearly 20 years. In that time, she has taken on roles of increasing responsibility – from classroom teacher to Literacy Coach to Vice Principal. As Literacy Coach, Ms. Boudreau provides job-embedded professional development to staff and students in both Princess Alexandra School and Harry Camsell Schools. Like the award’s namesake, Ms. Boudreau consistently goes above and beyond, donating her time and resources to extracurricular school activities and coaching sports. She also acts as liaison between the schools and the Parent Action Committee. When help is needed, students, colleagues and the community know that Ms. Boudreau will be there.


The purpose of the Excellence in Education Awards is to publicly recognize the sustained commitments and outstanding contributions made by staff, parents and community members in helping to create the best possible futures for South Slave students. The Excellence in Education Awards are awarded annually to recipients nominated by their peers and selected from the following three categories:

· Program Staff – includes teachers, administrators, consultants and education assistants that service South Slave schools.

· Partners in Education – includes support staff (eg. secretaries and custodians), parents, students, volunteers and other community members, groups, or organizations that work in support of student learning.

Jill Taylor Above and Beyond Award – can be a staff member, parent, student, or partner who has gone above and beyond in volunteering to make positive, impactful contributions that benefit the wellbeing of South Slave children or youth.

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