The Keeseekoose Chief’s Education Centre (KCEC) has welcomed a new principal and nine new teachers to its staff for the 2019-20 school year.
Crystal Whitehawk has assumed the role of principal, replacing Richard Fiddler. The school has an enrollment of around 170 students with a complement of 32 teaching and support staff.
Whitehawk, who was born and raised on Keeseekoose First Nation (FN), had returned to the area last year to act as facilitator for the Following Their Voices Program at KCEC.
“I received my bachelor of education degree from the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) in Regina in 2009,” she said. “I taught pre-K and kindergarten at Cowessess FN for three years, before coming to Cote FN to teach Adult Basic Education (ABE) through the Parkland College.”
In addition she has been the learning resource teacher at KCEC, as well as a high school teacher.
Her husband is Mark Whitehawk, a councillor with Keeseekoose FN, and the couple have two grandsons, Micah (6) and Carter (4) who live with them.
“My grandsons are my hobbies and interests,” she said with a smile, and added, “I also enjoy selling Mary Kay cosmetics with a sales unit led by Kathy Handzuik of Kamsack.”
Whitehawk continues to acquire educational credentials, having completed a First Nations Leadership course and a fitness certificate.
“Keeseekoose is my community, it’s my home,” she said. “We are going to have a great year at Keeseekoose Chief’s school,” she concluded.
A new addition to the school this year is the half-time prekindergarten class, led by Flora Clara Burns, learning resource teacher and assisted by Karlee Allen, educational assistant (EA).
Burns is of the James Smith FN and Cree is her first language. She received a bachelor of education degree from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) in 1992. “Prior to teaching, I worked as an EA in special education, nursery, kindergarten and Grade 1,” she said. “I taught kindergarten for 26 years at the Bernard Constant Community School.”
Burns has completed training in the areas of life skills, speech and articulation and fetal alcohol syndrome. Her hobbies and interests include sewing, knitting, playing the guitar and keyboard, singing and dancing.
“I feel content living in this area,” she said. “My colleagues at the school are very kind and supportive. I am going to have a good year here,” she concluded.
Angela Powder is of LaRonge and has been teaching for the past seven years after having received her teaching degree through NORTEP (Northern Teacher Education Program). She also has a Level 3 certificate in Early Childhood Education (ECE).
At KCEC, Powder is teaching Adult Basic Education (ABE) through the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT).
“I taught here once before, but am glad to be back in this area which I find to be inviting, friendly and respectful,” she said.
Powder lives in and commutes from Melville, and is the mother of three children: Allison (18), in Grade 12 and Jazmine (10), (both daughters attend school in Melville), and son Aaron (13) who commutes with his mother and is in Grade 8 at KCEC.
In her spare time, Powder practices Kung Fu, Praying Mantis style, which is notable for speed and complex footwork. “It helps me to relieve stress,” she said.
“I really look forward to seeing all my students graduate. It is such a great feeling to be there during the ceremony, and know what they have accomplished.”
Teaching Grade 11 and 12 students, Theresa Desnomie-Fiddler is married to Richard Fiddler, past principal of KCEC, who is now teaching Grade 10. “The classes I teach include English Language Arts, Native Studies, Life Transitions, Law and Psychology.”
Originally from Keeseekoose, she spent time at the Peepeekisis FN, and has four children, Tina Savea, Elton Keshane Jr., David Keshane and Dion Shingoose, as well as eight grandchildren.
Desnomie-Fiddler received her bachelor of education degree from FNUniv of Regina, and her teaching career has spanned three decades. She has life skill training and received the Mental Health Worker designation through SIIT in Yorkton.
At KCEC she is in charge of both the Leadership Club and golf program. “I’m very excited to be heading the Leadership Club,” she said. “My goal is to also get a dance program started.”
Born and raised at Keeseekoose, Kristen Keshane-Tawpisim has been teaching for 10-plus years. Married to Alexander Tawpisim, a teacher at Muskeg FN outside of Saskatoon, the couple reside in Saskatoon, and Kristen commutes to Keeseekoose with the couple’s two-year-old son, Karter.
“Keeseekoose is my home community and I feel blessed to be the facilitator for the Following Their Voices Program at the school,” she said, adding that this will be the final year of the program.
Following Their Voices focuses on enhancing relationships between students and teachers, creating structures and supports for teachers and school administrators. “What I hope to do is the best job I can for the teachers at this school, supporting them and helping the teachers create a learning environment for the students where learning is joyful, culture is affirmed and students are given a choice for their future.”
In her spare time she says her son Karter is both her “hobby and interest.”
RYAN GORDON BRASS
Born and raised on The Key FN, Ryan Gordon Brass is teaching Grade 8 and 9.
“I worked with youngsters in the church school at The Key, and it made me realize I wanted to be a teacher, so in 2014 I started my studies and received a bachelor of Indigenous education degree from FNUniv through Parkland College in Yorkton,” he said.
“This is my first teaching position and I’m excited to be a part of this school, a part of the bigger picture. I grew up in this area, I know the area, and I feel all three First Nations, The Key, Keeseekoose and Cote are all intertwined.”
Brass enjoys watching basketball and is hoping to get a basketball team started at Keeseekoose. His favorite team is the Toronto Raptors.
“I am proud to say I have my teaching degree, and I’m excited to be teaching here. I’m already looking forward to next year,” he said.
Crystal Keshane is teaching Grade 4 and 5 this year. Born in Kamsack, and of the Cote FN, she graduated from KCI (Kamsack Comprehensive Institute) and received her bachelor of Indigenous education from FNUniv through the Yorkton Parkland College.
“I worked at Cote FN as the essential registry clerk, but decided to get my teaching degree,” she said. “This is my first year teaching. I made the Dean’s List in my first year at FNUniv, and graduated with distinction.”
Married to Justice Keshane, they live in Yorkton and have three cats, Bubbs, Buddy and Bailey. The couple enjoy spending time together, and Crystal likes going to watch her husband play fastball, one of his favorite sports. He’s an automotive technician at Key Chevrolet in Yorkton and also enjoys playing video games.
“I grew up here, and I love coming home,” she said. “I like the staff at the school. Everyone has been very supportive and welcoming of the new staff. I know a lot of the kids at this school, so there is a comfortable relationship with the students.
“I’m excited to be here, and feel I have already learned so much in the new school year. I’m hoping to stay here for many years,” she concluded.
From Kawacatoose FN. north of Regina, Jarrin Musqua is teaching Grade 2 and 3, in her first teaching position since getting a bachelor of Indigenous education from FNUniv. Her husband is Alvin Musqua Jr. II, a Keeseekoose councillor, working at the Mosaic mine in Esterhazy.
“I’m very comfortable here,” she said. “My kids have attended this school since day one, so I know the school well.”
The couple’s children are twin girls Avery and Olivia (14), Alvin Jr. III (12) and daughter Zoe (6).
“I’ve worked as a CCA (continuing care aid) and at the Head Start Daycare before getting my teaching degree,” she said. “I have also baked custom cakes for special occasions for around six years and enjoy sewing and beading.”
Kristara Shingoose is of Cote FN, living in Yorkton and commuting to KCEC. She received her bachelor of Indigenous education degree from the FNUniv through the Yorkton Parkland College earlier in the spring, and is now teaching Grade 1.
“I have always like to work with infants from age 0 to 18-months,” she said. “Before I received my teaching degree, I worked at a daycare and as an EA at Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex. I feel like I have been an educator since I was eight years old.”
A mother of six children, she worked as a child care worker in a group home while attending school. She has three young siblings, a sister and twin brothers.
“My Dad taught me a lot about how to raise kids,” she said. “He was really good with kids. Once in a while I love to get together with my younger siblings and hang out like the old times.”
Her spouse is Michael T. Cote, who is a child care worker at the group home they both still work at, and he is currently in his first year of taking an Indigenous education degree. The couple’s children are sons Ashton (13), Marshall (12), Micah (6) and Miki (1), and daughters Angel-Lee (11) and Nani (3).
In their spare time, the couple enjoy relaxing by going shopping, to movies and just spending time together.
This year KCEC has a half-time physical education instructor. Shelley Gunn of Yorkton is filling this position.
Gunn is a fitness instructor with a diploma in recreation management, a degree in religious studies and a diploma in addictions counselling. Born in Vancouver and raised in Vernon, B.C., she has lived in Yorkton for the past five years and this is her first year of teaching.
As a triathlete, Gunn enters triathlon competitions three or four times each year, she said. A triathlon is a multisport race with three continuous and sequential endurance races for swimming, biking and running.
Her husband, Mike Gunn, is a mental health therapist who works for the New Beginnings Outreach centre in Kamsack. “I work with the youth in this area as well,” she said.
“This school is good, although there hasn’t been a physical education program here for the past four years. The students are starting to get used to having a phys ed teacher, and are becoming more motivated to run laps,” she concluded.