Indigenous Excellence

Kateri Phillips

October 2012

Kateri Phillips photo

  • Home Community:
    Hollow Water First Nation
  • Cultural Identity: Anishinaabe
  • Position:
    High School Teacher
  • Education/Training:
    B.A 2008, B.Ed. 2010
  • Roles/Responsibilty:
    Due to my teaching position I am kept very busy both within and outside of the school environment. I teach a variety of courses including History of Canada, Social Studies, Career Studies, Leadership, Native Studies, Current Topics in First Nation, Metis, and Inuit Studies, as well as a Digital Yearbook course. These subjects keep me very busy because a majority of them include out-of class sessions such as organizing activities like Spirit Week, Remembrance Day ceremonies, work experiences weeks (twice a year), weekend workshop sessions in communication, leadership building, and conflict resolution, as well as sessions with community leaders. I am also in the process of fundraising money (for the past year and a half now) to take fifteen grade 12 students on a humanitarian trip to Nicaragua through the Canadian organization,
    Me to We in April 2013. During that time the students will be building a schoolhouse.
“Everyone is capable of realizing their dreams, no matter how far-fetched, and even if you do not always achieve them in the way you envisioned, your life would still be happier for having tried.”

What obstacles did I face and how did I overcome them?
I live, work, and grew up in the small reserve of Hollow Water First Nation but this did not stop me from running into many obstacles during my first years as a teacher. Today, I am starting my third year of teaching. In regards to the fundraising efforts I have undertaken with my students we have met much opposition, especially in the beginning. However this was overcome by relying on the goodness of others who supported us throughout all of it, while encouraging us to keep going. We are nearing the end of reaching our fundraising goal and we have not given up. Personally, it was a struggle that has taught me a lot about my own resilience and the need to be thick-skinned when you work with people of all ages.

Who or what inspired me to make the decision to become a teacher?
Growing up in a rather large family, education was always a top priority. I grew up in a five bedroom house with my parents and twelve other siblings. Our parents instilled in us a love for learning that translated into my aspirations. My parents are and were my initial inspiration to become an educator. I grew up with a strong foundation built upon faith and culture and a connection to my community. I thought that there was no better way to give back than to become an educator.

What critical choices or decisions have I made that helped me get where I am today?
I grew up with a strong sense of family and community so leaving home to attend university was a struggle.  It was hard being away from home. I called my parents many times asking if it was ok to quit school and return. Instead of forcing me to think differently they would reassure me that no matter what I choose to do they would be there to support me. It wasn’t that they wanted their daughter to be a quitter but that they wanted to show me that no matter what, they would love me. Their reassurance helped me make the decision to stay in school an easier one. I could not have made it without my parents.

Message of Encouragement: I always tell my students every single person has a purpose on this earth. Everyone is capable of realizing their dreams, no matter how far-fetched, and even if you do not always achieve them in the way you envisioned, your life would still be happier for having tried. I have always lived by this and no matter what I encounter I believe that I have yet to fully realize my own.