Kirk member Ellen Burnett, daughter of Deanne and Robertson Burnett, is spending the 2018-2019 school year teaching Grade Six at the Sam Pudlat School in the hamlet of Cape Dorset, Nunavut. After graduating from St. Francis Xavier with a Bachelor of Science degree and studying Education at Acadia University this past year, Ellen decided to opt for the adventure and better pay checks of a northern Canadian assignment, instead of attempting to get local substitute teaching work. Said Ellen: “If I was to start working in the Maritimes this year, I would establish myself, I would get comfy cozy in my routine, and for the rest of my life, I would probably never leave. If I’m going to do something ‘different’, I figure this year is the year to do it. Good or bad, I know it will be a very interesting experience to look back on.”
Ellen arrived in Nunavut on September 6, “a little nervous and a lot excited.” She soon found that new surroundings were a lot different from PEI. “There are no paved roads here; everything, including the airport runway, is gravelly and dirt, which means everything is either really dusty or really muddy all the time…. Other than that the landscape is mainly either jagged rock or water. All the buildings are built up on stilts a metre or two off the ground. I suspect this is to avoid flooding in the spring but I have not had the opportunity to ask yet. There are no road names here, as there is no need; every apartment has a number and every major building has a name.”
Ellen is sharing a three bedroom apartment that is nice and spacious. It is located right across from the high school and a 4-5 minute walk from her elementary school. Her roommates, Eric, Cale and Cale, are fellow Acadia students. They are getting used to having water delivered – it has already run out on them once during a snow day – and are acclimatizing to the different food prices: a regular box of Cheerios is $14.00 and a large bag of chips for snack time will set you back $8.00.
As for the teaching, Ellen says: “It’s not easy, but I didn’t expect it to be. Education is not viewed in the same light as it is at home, but routines are starting to come together and relationships are being built. Some days are rougher than others but overall things are steadily improving as my students and I continue to understand each other better…. One thing that took some getting used to is that the kids often use faces to say yes or no instead of a nod or shake. The face for yes is eyebrows raised, kind of like a confused face to me, which was tricky at the start! The face for no is (a) scrunched up nose so it almost looks like they are angry with you. Very confusing at first — still takes me a second but I am getting the hang of it now.”
“Last night (for Thanksgiving) we had a potluck with teachers from both the elementary and high school. It was an enjoyable gathering during which we goofed off a bunch and everybody ate lots (let’s be real, way too much) of really delicious food. We scored a turkey carcass and my soup is on the stove as we speak, which I am pumped about.”
As for her experience up north so far, Ellen says: “I am enjoying it up here so far. I do miss fall at home, but as I was saying to someone earlier this week, you know, it’s windy, there’s salt water, there’s quite a bit of sand… it’s basically PEI add mountains, minus trees and minus about 15 degrees of warmth!”