WIIKWEMKOONG—The line-up at the Friday, October 20 meet and greet barbecue for the new education director at the Wiikwemkoong Board of Education extended through the building and out onto the parking lot as community members stopped by to visit.
“If you want to get people out, you can’t go wrong with food,” laughed Faye Zaccole, who hails originally from the Aroland First Nation, but who is a band member of the Lac Seul First Nation. “I moved there when I was very young.”
The new education director comes across at first greeting as a very personable Anishinabe-kwe with a soft spoken manner.
Ms. Zoccole has worked as a teacher and administrator since graduating from Lakehead University 17 years ago. “I went back for a masters of education and then worked as a principal at Martin Falls First Nation.” She described her time at Martin Falls as “an excellent learning opportunity.”
When the opportunity came up to come and work in Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories “everything seemed to align,” she said.
All joking aside, Ms. Zoccole said the meet and greet barbecue was “a great opportunity to meet community members in an informal setting.” She has had the opportunity to meet a lot of those community members since her arrival in the community at the end of August, but the barbecue was an ideal venue for meeting many of the family members of the students.
There was plenty of meeting and greeting to do too. The Wiikwemkoong Board of Education has more than 700 students and staff under its many roofs.
“I think it is very important to get to know the staff, students and community members that we serve,” she said. Building solid relationships with the community is critical to effectively fulfilling her role, she said. People need to be able to put a face to the voice and feel comfortable bringing forward any issues they may face in furthering their education at every level.
Ms. Zoccole is flying anything but blind as she assumes her new role, especially for the first 100 days. “When I was applying for the job they wanted to see a 100-day plan,” she said. In addition to a strategic plan, there are a host of details that she is absorbing, so a lot of change isn’t in the works right away.
In fact, Ms. Zoccole said that she was very impressed with the work that has already been completed by her predecessor in her role. “I really appreciate the work that has gone on before,” she said. “I am looking forward to continuing on that work.”
Part of recognizing the important legacy of that work would take place later that evening, as the community was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Wiikemkoong High School.