Posted by Nick Aroutzidis on Aug 10, 2018
August 9, 2018: Bob Malcolmson, “Classification”, Kevin Silver will introduce, and John Wright will thank our speaker.

Head Table:  Our President Paul Roulston, invites, Kevin Silver, Gord Steed, Fritz Steigmeier, Debra Swan, Doug Thompson, Rheo Thompson and Chris Tomson, to join him at the head table.
 
Today at Rotary – Starting a new job, especially your first after graduating, is always a emotional challenge.  That first day, meeting new people, learning the ropes and then going home to relax and realize that everything is going to be ok.  For Melissa Black, her first day as a teacher in the classroom had been preceded by a whole series of firsts, all of them challenging and often bewildering.
 
Speaker Melissa Black talking about her experience teaching in First Nation Communities.
 
Ms Black has taught for 9 years at schools in First Nations communities in the Far North.  So even to get to her job meant travelling seven hours north of Thunder Bay to a small Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Poplar Hill, accessible only by winter road and air.  Indeed, she had the excitement of renting a plane and pilot to transport her personal goods and a supply of groceries to what was to be her new home.  Upon arrival she helped unload the plane and was taken by truck to a rather well-used trailer with boarded up windows, holes in the walls and a lot of dog hair.
 
With only a population of about 400+ people, her first class had just three students attending, and she realized that most of the materials that she had were dated or irrelevant – so she organized a book burning to get rid of it all.  From there she began to teach and learn at the same time.
 
In such a tight-knit community, Ms Black quickly realized that you are never off-duty and that the transition for her would be enormous.  And she also came to realize that what one took for granted in larger southern Ontario centres – health care, seniors care, mental health and addiction treatment programmes among others – were major and often disruptive challenges in a place like Poplar Hill.
 
Over time, Ms Black honed her teaching practices, curricula, and expectations to the needs of the community and her students.  She had to deal with extraordinary youth suicide rates, the legacy of residential schools (she made the very interesting point that the residential schools were closed, they were not replaced by any organized school program), and real gaps in student’s perceptions of their own abilities, confidence in themselves and trust.  She became known as the “hot chocolate lady” for providing that drink once a week along with board games and a place to feel safe and respected. 
 
Ms Black began to innovate with online learning – linking “mentors” (teachers) with students through computers, helping parents to increase their level of education – as a way to encourage youth to persevere and take responsibility and pride in their achievements. And her and her colleagues success is perhaps best illustrated by the recent graduation of seven students from high school when there had been none for ages and that one of her most challenging students not only graduated but was also his class valedictorian and a Governor-General Award winner for Community Service, despite a perceived learning disability, lack of any confidence and a pronounced stutter which he has now largely tamed.
 
To assist individual students to gain skills, knowledge, confidence and belief in themselves and their heritage and communities, Ms Black believes, will lead to small First Nation communities to more strongly self-advocate for what they need.
 
Now Ms Black is focusing on innovative curricula development and teaching practices.  Teachers such as her make a real difference and it was a pleasure and a humbling experience for Rotarians to listen to someone who truly puts service above self.
 
Scribe cum humilitate
 
Scribe: Guy Chadsey
 
Former NGE student Karina talking about her re visit to Canada and what she has done since returning to Denmark
 
 
 
Melissa’s fan club Mom and Dad and Uncle Roger and Aunt Carolyn
 
Guests:  Today we welcomed: Ray Black – Stratford, Mary Black - Stratford , Valerie Black – Stratford, Melissa Black – Stratford, Karina Rasmussen - Denmark
 
 
 
Draw: The draw prizes today was donated by Bob Lightfoot , won by Dave Hunt.
 
Make-ups: no report
 
August’s Attendance Committee: Bob Gulliford (I/C), Nick Aroutzidis, Mike Gruszcynski, Bryan Lapier, Arlene Pol, Steve Monteith, Dan Scarborough, Josef Frank, Norm Bird
 
September’s Attendance Committee: Steve Rae (I/C), John Hood Tidman, Ken Nesbitt, Berny Nymeyer, Gordon Sherwin, Harry Brightwell, Ian Fisher, John Fisher.