Never giving up on students

Maternity leave can't keep teacher from working to keep kids in choir and playing soccer

Casey Lessard | IQALUIT
March 23, 2015

Aqsarniit Middle School teacher Joselyn Morrison is on maternity leave this year, taking care of her baby girl. Despite this, she remains committed to the rest of her children, the students at her school.

It’s that type of dedication that has earned her recognition as one of two Outstanding Young Woman award recipients honoured by the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council.

“She’s still here coaching,” said principal Don Peters. “I saw her Sunday. She’s here with the kids. It’s not going to slow her down. She certainly has a great history with putting that extra foot forward and is really there for the children. She always has been. Great teacher.”

Morrison leads the school choir and started the school’s soccer program. Her own mentors paved the way for her approach to teaching and volunteerism.

“I grew up here in Nunavut,” Morrison said. “I’ve been here since 1990. I had many teachers and community members volunteer their time for me in the different music and sports I was involved in. When I came back from university, I thought it would be very important for me to get involved in the community. I really enjoy working with young people outside of school, so this is a way I’m able to do that.”

Morrison volunteers with the choir’s 25 members during evenings and weekends.

She also takes the soccer teams, consisting of 50 students, to Yellowknife annually for the Super Soccer tournament.

She’s the president of the Nunavut Soccer Association, which finds funding for soccer tournaments and camps for teams across Nunavut. Last year, she was a territorial coach at the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“The best thing about what I do is giving as many opportunities as possible to the youth in Nunavut, and allowing them to participate in as many things as possible,” she said.

“I think sports are a great outlet for all kids of different backgrounds. We definitely make a point of involving as many at-risk kids in our soccer program. That encourages them to come to school because they have something outside of the academics.

“We’ve had a number of students from rougher backgrounds that have been able to turn themselves around in the time they are with us.”

Peters is a fan of Morrison’s approach to her work.

“That’s one of the things we look for when we’re hiring at the middle school — people that understand that it’s not an 8 to 4 job,” he said. “A lot of the good work we do starts at 3:30 and at 6:30 at night. We still have teachers here on the weekends, Friday evenings. It’s the extra work these teachers put in that makes such a difference in these kids’ lives.”

Morrison is humble and not seeking recognition, Peters said.

“I didn’t even know that (she received the award),” he said when Nunavut News/North called him. “She didn’t say a word to me. That’s just like her not to tell us, you know.”

He praised her role in improving the lives of her students.

“Providing extra-curricular activities is one of the reasons we are able to keep a high attendance rate at school,” he said. “Joselyn is always there for the kids and works hard. She’s here every day with the soccer and every afternoon with the choir. I’m really thrilled she got that award.”