Queen Elizabeth Visits Rankin Inlet in August, 1994.

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Since Queen Elizabeth’s birthday is top-of-mind right now, here’s a short story…

I was covering Queen Elizabeth’s arrival at the airport in Rankin Inlet in August of 1994 when I see our son, Anoee, in my camera’s viewfinder along with The Queen! As she walks along the tarmac, she pauses, looks down at our son and says, “Are those flowers for me, little boy?” Anoee is too shy to reply. My wife Helene encourages, “Give your flowers to The Queen, Anoee!” Her Majesty looks at Helene for a brief moment to see who had spoken, she then returns her gaze to the shy little boy with curly blonde hair. Ever-so-slightly, Anoee shyly raises the little bouquet of plastic flowers Helene had put together for him to offer.

Anoee is wearing a parka made for him by Martina Anoee, just for this special occasion. Martina wanted “her husband” (our son’s namesake) to look his best because her husband had often talked about meeting the Queen, and well, THIS was the day his wish might finally come true!

Her Majesty picks up the flowers, says, “Thank you SO much”. She then proceeds to walk with the flowers for quite some time as if they were a VERY expensive arrangement of fresh flowers flown in for the occasion.

Prior to Her Majesty’s visit, Helene feigned indifference about this event. Can you make out her expression? ūüėČ The whole sequence was also captured and aired on both the CBC and CTV National News that night, much to the delight of our family and friends.

Finally, Anoee had his dream come true through our son, thanks to a very special lady, who took the time to stop and care.

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Best Friends

I want to wish a most heartfelt Happy Birthday to my dear friend David “Fitz” Fitzpatrick. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know him. We’ve been friends since childhood. We grew up in the same neighbourhood, went to the same schools.

Fitz, you’re just about the only person who can call me “Ned” and know what that means.

We played football together for the better part of a decade. We cheered on the Ottawa Rough Riders (then) and the Calgary Stampeders now. We’ve shared the joys of Grey Cups having WAY more fun than we could ever divulge. THANK YOU Tom Clements, Tony Gabriel (and Kahlua)!

We worked our butts off to pay for school trips to Europe, conquered the Acropolis and Ouzo in Greece and saw Agent 99 in Italy!

At Laurentian High School there were lots of City Football Championships. We had Key Club dinners at the Capri. We ate lunch under the “Cone of Silence”, modelled the “Strap de Bordeau”, streaked at initiation and danced ’till we dropped with live bands in our gym.
Then there was the Stones’ concert. How did our parents EVER let us go to T.O. alone? ….

We sweated together, bled together, laughed and cried together, pushed and supported one another proudly through Queen’s University. Do you remember what a blast we had when Queen’s won the College Bowl in our senior year?!

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Thank you for being my Best Man when Helene Belsey and I were wed. In fact, Fitz, you knew I was going to ask Helene to marry me before she did! Oh ya, thanks for throwing that stag party for me Fitzy, it was really “NEAT”…

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We’ve shared the pride and joy of watching our kids grow up, one day sitting on Santa’s knee and in what seemed like a blink-of-an-eye, graduate from University the next.

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We shared grief at the loss of our dads. Your dad, Mr. Mike Fitzpatrick, the “Mayor of Belair”, was a second father to me. Our fathers didn’t hesitate to give us both hell when we deserved it and were always there for both of us when we needed them. I will never forget him. I still have your father’s picture beside my dad’s in my classroom to this day.

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David, my life has been so much richer with you in it; in fact, I can’t imagine it without you. Along with my wife and sister, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had and the brother I never had. Every man should be so lucky to have a friend like you.

Happy birthday Fitzy, “You’re simply the best!” Luv ya bud!

In Memoriam: The Honourable Flora MacDonald

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In 1999 I had the honour of working with the Honourable Flora MacDonald who was then the Co-Chair of the United Nations International Year of Older Persons initiative in Canada. I’m not impressed by too many politicians, but her intellect, integrity, knowledge and passion soon won me over. As a senior herself then, she often skated down the Rideau Canal into downtown Ottawa. Ms. MacDonald was the first female Secretary of State for External Affairs in Canadian history and almost became our first ever female Prime Minister. She had a great love for Canada and a commitment for social justice and human rights in Canada around the world. May she rest in peace.
FMI, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flora_MacDonald_(politician)

First Computer in Any Canadian Arctic Classroom Was Mine! -1982 (then) Eskimo Point, NWT

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I graduated from the Concurrent Teacher Education Program at Queen’s University in 1981. One of my professors had recently returned from working with Dr. Papert at M.I.T. and subsequently got me excited about the potential of putting computers in the hands of kids, something Dr. Papert advocated for in his modest, yet revolutionary book called “Mindstorms”

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I taught my Inuit students how to code using the LOGO programming that was developed by Dr. Seymour Papert and his team at the M.I.T. Media Centre.

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Linda Pemik: “Northern Educator Extraordinaire!”

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I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Linda Pemik recently.

Linda was many things to many people, so I will leave it to others to share their stories, when and if they are able, but I wanted to take some time to reflect upon the ways that her life touched mine.

I first came to know Linda when my wife Hélène and I began our teaching careers in (then) Eskimo Point, Northwest Territories in 1982.

As Linda had done before us, we left the familiar confines of southern Canada and journeyed North to live and learn in this predominantly Inuit community of less than a thousand souls whose homes seemed to fervently cling to the Western shores of Hudson Bay.

 

This time in our lives was both exciting and daunting. We wanted to fit into this traditional, dry community. We desperately wanted to make a difference in the lives of the children we had come to serve, but with so much to learn, we needed a someone to help us find our way, to be that bridge between the world we knew and a world we wanted to know better. Thankfully for us, Linda Pemik was just such a person.

Linda had begun her northern learning journey years before us. She fell in love and married Paul. She and Paul would raise four children; Kathleen, Pauline, Paul Jr. and Evan, who, along with future grandchildren, were the loves of her life. But I will let others tell those tales.

H√©l√®ne¬†and I taught her daughter Kathleen at Kreterklerk School and I became “Uncle Beelo”¬†away from school.

We shared stories and laughed so many times that often our sides hurt. During one meal together I remember Linda recounting the time when her daughter Kathleen innocently wandered into a local church and soon thereafter found herself being immersed in a tub of water as she was unwittingly being baptised. Kathleen eventually came home, soaked to the skin, still wondering what had just happened to her! I can still hear Linda’s heartfelt laughter ringing in my ears as she regaled us with¬†this tale.

Linda loved to sing, which was lucky for us, as she had a beautiful, resplendent voice that interpreted¬†a song’s lyrics with a joyous clarion call.

Linda, H√©l√®ne¬†and I all shared the proud academic roots of being graduates of Queen’s University. I’m pretty sure that we did a few “Oil Thighs” in sealskin and caribou kamiks (boots), much to the amusement of local Inuit friends and neighbours.

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Linda advised Hélène about sewing parkas so they would be Arctic winter-ready, while remaining stylish. She invited us to her home for caribou stew and fresh Arctic Char. She loved to cook and bake on her large, warm black wood burning cook stove. The wonderful aromas that wafted from her home welcomed all and sundry.

Linda was far more than a domestic godess. ¬†She was a thoughtful, strong-willed woman who knew her own mind and didn’t suffer fools gladly.

As a new teacher in 1982, I had brought a computer into my grade four classroom and was teaching my students how to code using a programming language call LOGO that was created for children by Dr. Seymour Papert and his colleagues at the world-renowned M.I.T. Media Lab. While my own Superintendent was questioning the use of a computer with my young students, which I have been often told was the first computer in the North, Linda’s natural curiosity and sharp intellect had her regularly asking me questions as to the pedagogical validity of using this tool with her daughter and the other children. She kept me on my toes and I’m so glad she did. By thinking through my responses to her thoughtful questions, I was able to clarify why I had brought a computer to my classroom and what benefits it brought in support of teaching and learning.

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After her children were older, Linda began to work for Arctic College. This same sharp mind and ability to professionally seek important answers through critical thinking and analytical questioning skills, laid a strong foundation for her journey as a lifelong learner. In time, Linda became Senior Academic Officer at Nunavut Arctic College.

In 2000, Linda completed a Master’s degree in Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching from the University of Calgary.

She took the¬†EC&I 831:¬†Social Media & Open Education course from Alec Couros at the University of Regina. In no small part due to this course, Linda became active on social media and started her own professional blog, “Learning Out in the Open” ¬†to which I contributed form time to time.

In 2013 she completed a Professional Certificate in Online Teaching, Higher Education/Higher Education Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

I was deeply honoured and humbled when Linda once told me that I was one of Canada’s “Ed-Tech” pioneers¬†and¬†that I was one of her “Ed-Tech” heroes going back to our early days in (then) Eskimo Point.

Linda walked-the-walk of a true, lifelong learner. Her curiosity about the world kept her always looking to the future, her passion for life ensured she was always present with those in her company, her love for family and community kept her grounded with a moral compass that pointed straight and true. Truth be told, Linda was a hero of MINE!

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(left to right) Pauline, Linda and Kathleen Pemik

 

To Paul, Kathleen, Pauline and Paul Jr., Evan and the rest of Linda’s family; no words can heal the deep sense of loss you are feeling, but perhaps it may help a little to know that you are NOT alone in your sorrow. Your mom ¬†deeply touched SO many other lives. If it’s true that, “Teachers plant seeds for trees whose shade they will never see“, there are entire forests providing shade because of your mother!

When you are confronted with one of life’s many challenges, take a moment to reflect upon the question, “What would mom do?” The answer will guide you well as you go forward on your own journeys. Please know that she will never be truly gone as long as you hold her in your heart.

TAIMA,

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