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An honour to work with students

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, April 2, 2012

Angie Fabien is into her third year teaching the Chipewyan language at Deninu School in Fort Resolution.

NNSL photo/graphic

Angie Fabien says it is a big responsibility to teach Chipewyan language at Deninu School in Fort Resolution. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Fabien teaches all the students at the school in kindergarten to Grade 12.

"I'm honoured to work with these students," she said.

Each student attends the Chipewyan language class for 30 minutes every school day.

"They make me want to work more by hearing them speak the language," said Fabien, adding that, when students enter her class, they have to exchange greetings in Chipewyan, and repetition is a big part of how she teaches the language.

The students enjoy learning the language, she said. "They love it."

Fabien feels she is doing very important work teaching young people the Chipewyan language.

"It's a big responsibility," she said.

Her goal is to give the opportunity to students to learn to speak the language.

"By the time they get to Grade 12, hopefully they'll be fluent in the language, even if it's one student," she said. "On the other hand, you've got to understand that not all people would speak the language."

Fabien also teaches the students how to write Chipewyan, and some use it to communicate via the Internet.

"All students like being on the computer," she noted. "All students like modern technology."

Either by speaking or writing, she said the students are taking part in the language, and that's the bottom line.

Fabien describes her classroom as an "open dictionary."

There are Chipewyan words, accompanied by appropriate drawings or photos, all over the walls showing how to say common words and phrases, such as dishes, food, clothing, household furniture, weather, shapes, time, money, colours, expressions of emotions, and pictures of places in Fort Resolution such as the church, store, arena and youth centre. Fabien developed the learning material.

She will now have a new resource to help teach students - the Chipewyan Dictionary of the Fort Resolution dialect of the language. The dictionary has just been launched by the South Slave Divisional Education Council.

"It's not going to collect dust, I tell you," she said of the new book.

Fabien said the dictionary will be a very important tool in her work with the students.

"It's going to make us stronger speakers," she said, adding the dictionary will "definitely" help preserve the language.

"It's going to change the way I teach," she said, noting the dictionary will help provide the proper spelling and the proper pronunciation of words through an audio component.

Fabien helped with the creation of the dictionary by finding eight elders - including her brother Lawrence Fabien - to work on the project and she co-ordinated their meetings.

She said before the new dictionary, she used a 41-page topical dictionary which had "very basic" information on the language.

Fabien grew up in Fort Resolution speaking Chipewyan.

"It was always spoken at home," she recalled.

In 2007, while working as a special needs and culture co-ordinator at Deninu School, Fabien was named the recipient of the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association Aboriginal Education Award.

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