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Principal gets to know community

Christine Kay
Northern News Services

Pelly Bay, NU (Sep 23/02) - Brian Johnson has settled into his second year as principal at Kugaaruk Iliiniavik school.

And to him, this job is the best way of getting to know the community. Johnson said he is constantly being asked to go on whale hunts and fish are dropped off at his doorstep on a regular basis.

"You get to know the kids in the community and through them you get to know the parents, their traditions and culture," said Johnson.

He said the return to classes Aug. 21 was welcomed by all.

"The kids were just pumped for it. They were counting how many sleeps until school starts. I remember when I was young, it was how many sleeps until Christmas," he said.

Kugaaruk Iliiniavik runs a program that involves elders coming in on a regular basis. They teach students Inuktitut, sewing techniques, tool making, and even how to make qamutiks.

Sometimes, Johnson joins in with the students for fun.

"I can understand some Inuktitut but not all. I surprise people sometimes when they say things and I respond," he said.

The principal has a lot of people to help teach him the language. The school goes from kindergarten to Grade 12. Johnson said it is great to have all the students together.

"It brings a different flow into the school. The senior students are always looking out for the younger guys. They are role models," said Johnson.

This year the school has enrolled about 240 students. This is only the fourth year there has been a high school program in Kugaaruk. The school expects to celebrate its first class of Grade 12 next spring.

The Johnson family has lived many Northern communities over the years, and hopes to keep it that way in the future.

"We plan on staying in the North for a long time," said Johnson.