For the last few months, Brenda Myran has graced Portage la Prairie's La Verendrye School with her presence as the school elder, and hopes this will continue in this capacity next year as well.
"I've been meeting with students, and I'm connecting with some of the students who just need some little chats and whatnot," says Myran. "I do do traditional teachings as well. I have my skirt and all my stuff in my car, but I haven't had to bring it in yet."
Principal Michelle Laidlaw says the role is evolving.
"At this time, we're just kind of seeing the needs that our students are having and where Brenda can fit in some traditional knowledge in order to address those needs," says Laidlaw.
Myran says the kids' reaction so far has been great.
"There are some really sweet kids here, " notes Myran. "Oh my goodness, yes! I'm enjoying it. I like being back at the school. I'm a retired teacher."
It's a pilot project and run by Manitoba Education.
"We're really hoping that this continues, and I believe there was a recent announcement that said that they plan on continuing it, that they're putting some money behind it," adds Laidlaw. "Which is awesome so that we can continue the programming for our students."
Myran says referrals come from a school counselor or classroom teacher to arrange chats with students.
"I've gone outside with the kids and some kids just want to come and connect, and say. 'Who are you and what are you doing here?' because they've seen me around. I'm up and down the hallways visiting classrooms. I'm enjoying being here. It's a wonderful school," says Myran.
"Brenda is a wonderful role model for our students," adds Laidlaw. "Not only does she have the elder knowledge that she's willing to share, but she also has the educational side of things so that she can help our kids -- really help them aspire to see themselves as students and see themselves in their learning. So to me, that's the best part of having our elder in our school. She's available to us on a regular basis. It's not just somebody coming in, but to have Brenda in our school two or three times a week and just being around in hallways and over time, those relationships develop. Students see her as somebody they can go to if they're struggling if they need it a little bit of extra help. Also she carries the knowledge that we don't have. So, that's super important to us and we don't want that knowledge to be lost, so we need her to impart that."
Myran says she never dreamed that opportunities like this would ever arise for Indigenous elders in our schools.
"It's interesting, though, because I remember my very first teaching job way back in the 80s," continues Myran. "I was at Brandon School Division, and when I went out for my very first recess duty, a group of First Nations kids surrounded me and they said, 'Are you really a teacher here?' You know, it was unbelievable to have a face like mine as part of the staff."
She adds her experience as a teacher has well-equipped her as she returns to the school as an elder this time.