Indigenous Excellence

Renée McGurry

January 2013

Renée McGurry photo

  • Home Community:
    Winnipeg, member of Pinaymootang First Nation
  • Cultural Identity: Métis/Ojibway
  • Current Position:
    Aboriginal Education Teacher for St. James-Assiniboia School Division and Chair of the Aboriginal Circle of Educators
  • Education/Training: Bachelor of Education at
    U of W /McGill., one-year
    of Bachelor of Arts at l'Université Laval, and two Post-Baccalaureate Diplomas from the University of Manitoba,
    (7 years of post-secondary)
  • Roles/Responsibilty: Aboriginal Education Teacher, St. James-Assiniboia School Division
“Identity is very important and should be part of everyone’s education.”

As the Aboriginal Education Teacher for St. James-Assiniboia School Division, I am responsible for overseeing the Aboriginal programming for our twenty-six schools. My focus is on integrating Aboriginal perspectives into the curriculum and increasing the number of Aboriginal graduates. This is done through curricular and cultural programming with schools and individual teachers. In addition, I am responsible for the planning and implementing of divisional workshops.

What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Poverty was a major obstacle. My parents weren’t in a position to help me financially, so I was forced to work throughout my studies. This taught me about the value of hard work and determination. The real achievement however, was breaking the cycle of poverty within my family.  I wanted my children to have a better life, and to have opportunities that I didn’t have. Education has been key to the many successes in the lives of my brothers, nephews, nieces and my children. We have broken the cycle of poverty.

What or who inspired you to really go after the profession you are in now?
I owe a lot to the High School teachers who encouraged me to go to University. It wasn’t something that I had thought about until that point, as post-secondary education wasn’t a part of my family history or family discussions. Prior to that teacher’s suggestion, I had never given any thought to my future or a career choice. The only professionals that I knew were teachers so I chose to enter into Education. As educators, I don’t think that we realize how much we can positively affect our students. Sometimes it just takes a little encouragement, a suggestion, or just a tap on the shoulder to change the life of one child. 

What critical choices or decisions did you make that helped you get where you are today?
My journey to reclaim my culture started with an Aboriginal Education summer institute with Elder Myra Laramee. It opened my world and gave me a new purpose in life and started me on a journey of self-discovery. While learning more about the teachings and ceremony I began to integrate Aboriginal perspectives into my classroom. It was several years later that my present job as the Aboriginal Education teacher for my school division opened up. This journey has not only given me professional satisfaction but has also instilled a great sense of pride in my work and in my family. 

Message of Encouragement:
Identity is very important and should be part of everyone’s education. As Aboriginal peoples, we should all recognize the power and importance of our history, our culture, our ceremonies, and our gifts. We need to ensure that our children are proud of who they are. The teachings of the Elders are gifts that must be shared with others.