Shawanosowe School launches literacy program

WHITEFISH RIVER FIRST NATION—Shawanosowe School in Whitefish River First Nation (WRFN) has launched the Confident Learner’s program, making it the second school to launch the program in Ontario, following closely behind Lakeview School in M’Chigeeng, which also launched the program recently.

“The Confident Learning Initiative is as successful as the education team’s perseverance to ensure that all students succeed in each school,” said Shawanosowe Principal Cheryl Miller-Martin.  “It is a whole school intervention approach. It is the science of learning how to read and how to teach the components of reading. The Confident Learners Initiative provides our teachers with the tools to help our students learn and re-learn, gain confidence and practice code related and language related skills. Often a child needs to practice the skill needed to complete the task until he/she is successful. ‘Try, try again’ is one of our school’s motto.”

“You can actually see how engaged the students are in the tools they use to build on their skills, whether it is in reinforcing the skills in centres or through guided support with the teacher,” continued Ms. Miller-Martin. “Currently there are 33 First Nations that are partners with the Confident Learning Initiative and we are all working to achieve the same goal. Reading before birth and forward helps form the foundation for success and therefore successful graduation rates. With the help of all our many teachers and educational assistants together we will have put a dent in bridging the gap in education. We will have placed our mark into their academic advancement! We will have built confidence in our students! Therefore, we will have made a pathway for their continuous success in junior high, secondary and post-secondary levels. Their self-esteem will be heightened by opportunities for success.”

During the launch celebration at the school, Ms. Miller-Martin credited Student Success Leader Melanie Manitowabi for helping the school be part of the first wave launch of the program. She also noted the teamwork of Ms. Manitowabi and the teachers in launching the Confident Learner’s program.

Debbie Debassige, Kenjgewin Teg Education Institute director of school services and First Nation  student success program manager, was also on hand for the launch to congratulate the school on their achievement.

“I am so proud of your school,” began Ms. Debassige. “This program is unique as it is the only one built with First Nations for First Nations. It is culturally relevant and we have the opportunity to continue to make it even more so as we move forward. Out of nine schools in Ontario ready to launch, the only two that have done so are here and Lakeview School, so kudos to the teachers, principal and educational team that have made this possible.”

Norma Barron with Confident Learners’ spent the week at Shawanosowe School working with teachers and students leading up to the launch.

“I am so proud to be here,” said Ms. Barron. “Watching the teachers here this week deliver the program has been amazing. It has been an honour to work with your teachers and students. With the dedication, skill and patients of your teachers, your students are well on their way to becoming confident learners.”

Ms. Manitowabi also stressed how unique Confident Learners’ is and how the key to the initiative is how it has been designed with First Nations for First Nations.

She explained that the program was introduced at the school three years ago for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3.

“It really supports individual learning,” said Ms. Manitowabi, noting how important the program is in supporting the growth of literacy at the school.

Shawanosowe School Kindergarten teacher Mary Lester told The Expositor that she has been seeing first hand how the program helps students.

“The students really enjoy the hands on learning,” said Ms. Lester. “Just today, one of my students had an ‘a ha’ moment when they caught on to what rhyming is. Confident Learners’ teaches very specific skills which help the students on their individual literacy paths.”

The launch concluded with a community feast. For more information about the program, visit