Brent Kaulback

Job Title

Assistant Superintendent

Department

Education, Culture and Employment - 
South Slave Divisional Education Council

Length of service with the GNWT

26 years with the NWT education system

Education

B.A. (Wilfrid Laurier University)
B.Ed. (Brock University)
M.Ed. (Harvard University)

What are your job responsibilities?

Overseeing the programming and curricular implementation in the South Slave region, coordinating consultant support and supervising Principals, as well as coordinating Aboriginal language programming and resource development for our Cree, Chipewyan and South Slavey language programs.

How has the GNWT supported your professional development and advancement?

Isolated as we are geographically from the rest of Canada, I find we are closely connected to the pulse of change in teaching today - and the face of teaching is changing like never before. The NWT, with its commitment to professional development, support for innovation in the classroom and drive towards excellence, has allowed me to become the best that I can be within my profession and I see that in so many others who have met the challenge by embracing change and innovation in the classroom.

How did you end up working with the GNWT?

After a year of teaching in an inner-city school in downtown Toronto, my wife and I sought new adventures and opportunities. She was a nurse and I a teacher and, after attending an Explore the Arctic Job Fair, we were soon headed to Fort Simpson where I began my northern career as a Grade 2-3 teacher in Bompass Hall in 1976. For the next 12 years, my wife and I explored new opportunities in Baker Lake, Iqaluit and Hay River Reserve (now known as the Katl'odehche First Nations Reserve). We bought a house and raised a family in Hay River and I moved into a teaching-Principal role at Chief Sunrise Education Centre.

 My wife and I moved south to reconnect with family in 1988 and I continued to teach in both Ontario and B.C., but the lure of the North was too strong for me .  When an opportunity to return to Chief Sunrise Education Centre presented itself in 1999, I jumped at the chance. In 2005, and after 30 years in the classroom, teaching everything from Kindergarten to Grade 12, I moved to Fort Smith as a Student Support Consultant and later took on the role of Assistant Superintendent of Education for the SSDEC.

Why do you enjoy working for the GNWT?

The NWT has provided me an opportunity to grow and develop as a teacher, perhaps more so than in any other educational system - and I have taught in several. Classroom teaching in the North is challenging, but there are exceptional supports available for all who seek to overcome these challenges. Creativity is encouraged, flexibility is a requirement and opportunities abound to connect with your students, the community and the Aboriginal cultures in real and meaningful ways. That is what makes teaching in the North so energizing and unique. The North has provided me with the opportunity to pursue my own dreams within my profession - an interest in publishing and connecting with Aboriginal cultures. Through my career, I edited a professional journal for four years, worked with elders to produce two Aboriginal language dictionaries and published more than 180 children books ranging from picture books and local legends to graphic novels. Having the opportunity to pursue your interests within your job is a dream come true, and I hear of similar stories from many of my colleagues.

Can you share an interesting story/work experience with the GNWT?

One story that stands out occurred when I was teaching at Chief Sunrise Education Centre (then known as Indian Village School). The students and staff decided to fundraise to purchase a motorized wheelchair for one of our students. As an entire school population, we went jogging almost every day, but being wheelchair-bound, she couldn't participate. We held bake sales, hosted carnival games, collected donations from celebrities for a celebrity auction. Soon the fundraising became a community affair and everyone participated. Little by little, and after more than a year of fundraising, we collected the thousands of dollars needed to purchase the wheelchair. We presented it to the student at our Christmas feast. It was a special moment when she sat in her wheelchair for the first time and motored around the stage - the entire community celebrated and cheered. It was in those moments, seeing her beaming face and hearing the shouts of encouragement from the community, that I fully appreciated the gift that teaching the North offered - the opportunity to connect with people and to share touching and important events with them. For those of us in the community hall at that time, we were more than a school and a community - we were family. These are the memories that can turn a career of work into a lifetime of reward.

What would you recommend to someone applying on a GNWT position?

For anyone contemplating a career as a teacher in the NWT, I would simply say, "What's stopping you?" If you are looking for a place where the journey towards excellence in teaching is fully supported, where opportunities for professional development abound, where every day offers new challenges, new opportunities and new adventures in learning, the North is for you. Teaching in the North is about more than just teaching – it’s about learning -learning about the culture, traditions and heritage of our Aboriginal neighbours, learning about survival in this harsh, but bountiful land, learning about making connections and developing relationships with your students, their families and entire communities. Come North if you have as much passion for learning as you have for teaching.

How do you feel your job makes a difference for Northerners?

Teaching is all about making a difference in the lives of your students. But the North offers so much more because here, in our small communities, the school is often a focal point for community activities, and as teachers we have the opportunity and honour of connecting with families at a much deeper and more personal level -` be it greeting students, their parents and elders at a community feast, joining in community celebrations, participating in a community hunt or chaperoning a school-community trip to some far-off land, the opportunities to connect with families and the community, a make a difference in their lives, abound. Through my role as a teacher and administrator in the NWT, I cannot think of a day where I didn't feel a sense of satisfaction in the job I had done. Every day presented itself with new challenges, but also new opportunities and new reasons to celebrate. It is these small celebrations - a child reads a new book, your basketball team wins a game, a student finishes beading some mitts - that impacts the lives of the students, their families and the entire community in such positive ways.