Learning and Teaching with Passion

Learning and Teaching with Passion by: Heather Doraty
Posted on 09/30/2020
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I have worked as an elementary teacher for many years and the last 17 years were with Foundations For the Future Charter Academy. I have recently retired but my learning has not stopped, largely due to the Professional Growth Plans that I worked on during the last three years of my teaching, an encouraging Principal and some pretty fabulous team teachers.

When Professional Growth Plans (PGP) first came out I had the attitude that it was just another task to complete but as year after year rolled around I realized I was not always using my PGPs to their full advantage. When the opportunity to incorporate teaching about Indigenous peoples into the curriculum arose, I realized that here was something I could be passionate about! Why? Because it was not just an academic interest but a personal interest. What I found was something I never expected. Suddenly, learning about the Metis peoples, their history, their customs, their struggles and their triumphs became an exciting adventure rather than that PGP task that I struggled to complete each year!

This is my Metis Grandmother (Koohkoom)

Growing up, my Father would tell me stories of our Metis relatives and events around Batoche, Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and the Metis people. I was also curious about many of the Metis customs because we lived on a farm that was not close by any of the Metis settlements. Three years ago I decided to focus my PGP on the prairie Metis. But first I had to figure out if this would actually fit into the grade two curriculum that I was teaching at the time. With help from my principal, we discovered that the grade two curriculum called for study of a prairie community but it did not specifically identify which prairie community to study. I decided to use the Metis settlement at Batoche as my prairie community.


My PGP was structured around building a curriculum plan that fit into the program of studies for grade two social studies and language arts. I wanted to build my unit of work around language and stories because so much of Indigenous peoples history is story based and because I anticipated that the children would respond to stories better than a lecture or experiment based learning in this particular case.

In my research for stories and information of the history and culture of the prairie Metis people I came across the Gabriel Dumont Institute website. They had a rich resource list of materials for me to learn from and stories that I could read to the children and have them read themselves. The stories were written by elders in the Metis community. These elders had lived through or heard their ancestors talk about events in the past and present and had taken the time to record their memories and stories. I was thrilled by how involved the students became in the learning. They couldn’t wait to record things in their Metis Journals and would even beg to stay in at recess to do extra work. I was even more amazed to see how they remained engaged in the Metis activities throughout the year. They were not satisfied to leave the Metis learning for other projects and would beg to return to the stories and activities that they could record in their journals.


At the beginning of the year, I gave the students a piece of paper and asked them to write what they knew about the word Metis. Almost every paper returned with comments like, “I don’t know anything about this word” or “I have never seen this word before.” By the middle and the end of the year the students were able to fill both sides of an 8.5 x 11 paper with writing and pictures about the Metis people. My enthusiasm and interest had transferred over to them and we were fully engaged in finding out as much as we could about the Metis people- not because we had to but because we wanted to!

The following year I decided to fine tune the lessons and invite my team teachers (Jenn Sheldon and Margaret Arden) to help me pilot the unit I had created. They were amazing co workers, making suggestions and giving me feed back on how a lesson or story went! Both of these ladies, plus my principal (Mr. Preston Lowther) were so encouraging and helpful while I stumbled my way through the process. I don’t think I would have worked so hard to make a unit which was sharable if they had not helped and encouraged me along the way. 2

At the end of the third year I retired from FFCA but I continued on to work with the Gabriel Dumont Institute to fine tune my unit even more. David Morin at the Institute was amazing as he worked with me to check accuracy and prepare the unit for the Gabriel Dumont website. I am so grateful that this work will now be published online, free of charge, for teachers to use as an elementary resource about the Metis People. Stories and books that go along with the unit are also available online at the Gabriel Dumont Institute. Please note that there is material for all elementary grades within the “Who Are the Metis” unit but it has been titled grade two and shows the specific curriculum alignments for grade two according to the Alberta Program of Studies.

In closing, I would like to challenge you to rethink your PGP for the upcoming year. Find something that you are genuinely interested in and that you know you will enjoy. Then take it on with a passion. Have fun with it, dig in and learn it for your own interest. The children will follow your lead and you will find there is a little extra bounce in your step each day. Your task will become an adventure…

If you would like to contact me with questions or comments my email is [email protected].

The unit has been promoted on Facebook here.

The direct link to the “Who Are the Metis” unit plan is here.

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