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Bernadette Smith

May 2014

Bernadette Smith photo

  • Home Community:
    Born and raised in Winnipeg.
    My mom was born and raised in Camperville and Pine Creek, Manitoba
  • Cultural Identity:
    Anishnaabe, Metis
  • Position:
    Teacher Team Leader of Aboriginal Education at Seven Oaks School Division
  • Education/Training:
    Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education
  • Roles/Responsibilty:
    Support and promote the natural inclusion of Aboriginal education
“Never give up on your dreams or limit yourself to one.”

What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
I have faced many obstacles in my life but they have always been the driving force behind working harder. I left school in grade 11 to have my son, who was the turning point in changing my life around. I decided at the age of 22 to return to school to pursue my grade 12. I had worked many minimum wage jobs and could never make ends meet. At this point I had 2 children whom I wanted to make a better life for. I had grown up in poverty for the majority of my life and had very few positive role models and I wanted to be a positive role model for my children. I went on to Red River Community College where I received my Child and Youth Care Certificate. I was hired by Marymound Inc where I worked for 12 years. I worked with youth who were similar to me growing up. I was truant often from school, left home for long periods of time and hung around negative peers. I could relate on a whole other level with these youth and I made some really good connections with kids, many with whom I am still in contact with today. I left in 2005 after a program I was coordinating lost funding. It was also at this time that the Seven Oaks School Division was advertising for the Community-Based Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (CATEP). At this point I had 3 children, my youngest was just under 2 years old. I applied to the program and was accepted. In my third year of the program my younger sister Claudette Osborne went missing. It was extremely difficult then and now because we have no answers and she remains missing. I almost quit the program because the stress was overwhelming at times, but it was the love and support that I received from my family and friends that carried me through as well as wanting to provide a better life for my children and make my sister Claudette proud.

What or who inspired you to really go after the profession you are in now?
I always wanted to be a teacher because of the influence of a few great teachers, primarily in junior high that I was fortunate enough to cross paths with. Throughout my years in school I never once saw a teacher who was Aboriginal and I wanted to be a person who kids could see themselves reflected in, I wanted to inspire and connect with all kids, but especially our Aboriginal kids. I wanted to help create change through education and to help increase our Aboriginal graduation rates. I grew up with racism and discrimination and with a feeling of not belonging. I wanted to be a part of creating a sense of belonging. I believe this thinking has shifted, but there is still a way to go!

What critical choices or decisions did you make that helped you get where you are today?
My children and growing up in poverty and racism has guided my decision and choices in life. I want a better community where everyone is a member and not excluded because of circumstance, colour or socio economic status. Sometimes choices are out of our control and it is our job as a community to come together and support and not judge. "Be the change that you wish to see in the world" Ghandi

Message of Encouragement:
Never give up on your dreams or limit yourself to one. Surround yourself with positive people who are going to support you especially when times get tough. Be the best you can be!