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Educator's 24 years of service honoured

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 25, 2012

Seamus Quigg has worked in education for 24 years and on June 1 he was awarded the 2012 Distinguished Service Award by the NWT Superintendents' Association for his contributions to the field.

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Seamus Quigg, left, superintendent of the Sahtu Education District, accepts the NWT Superintendent's Association 2012 Distinguished Service Award from the association's president, Metro Huculak. - photo courtesy of Terry Jaffray

Quigg and his wife Wanda turned to teaching in the North after the two struggled to find teaching jobs together in Alberta, where they had met and completed their schooling. Quigg said they had first considered teaching overseas, but an advertisement for teaching in the Canadian North convinced Quigg to apply a little closer to home.

"In those days, jobs in Alberta were scarce," said Quigg. "I thought, (teaching in the North) would be quite different without going overseas and still in the same country. So I applied to, I think there was at that time eight or nine boards, I applied to all of them anyway. Three of them sent me responses, three of them I got interviews. The first one that made an offer was the Baffin School Board so I took that one."

The job brought Quigg and Wanda to Cape Dorset in 1988, where Quigg worked as a Grade 7/8 and a Grade 8/9 teacher at Pitseolak School.

"It's very different from teaching in the south," he said. "Both the lifestyle was different and the size of the community was very different ... People socialized in each other's houses to a great degree because there was little else to do. There were no restaurants, no movie theatres, none of the other things people in the south take for granted.

"You feel more a part of the community than you would down in the south."

Quigg calls the two years he spent in Cape Dorset "a good learning experience" and particularly values the hunting and fishing skills he picked up from living in the community. He also said the experience he gained in Dorset contributed to his success in his first job as principal at Attagoyuk High School in Pangnirtung.

"I really enjoyed (Pangnirtung) because I'd learned a lot of stuff in Dorset that was useful for me in Pangnirtung," he said.

Quigg also said the tight-knit community in Pangnirtung was something he and his wife really enjoyed.

"People didn't lock their doors," he said. "It was possible to go to somebody's house without making an appointment. Just wander in, sit down, and have a chat."

Among his accomplishments in the Baffin Region is a general hunting licence from the Pangnirtung Hunters and Trappers Committee, a licence, Quigg says, is very uncommon for southerners to receive, and his election to the Pangnirtung hamlet council.

It was also in these two communities where Quigg began his foray into the administrative side of education.

"I liked the (administrative work) ... in that you could control the direction things were going in the school," said Quigg. "If you had ideas you could implement them. You could experiment and not worry too much about the fear of failure because you had enough distance between you and the board office ...and you'd probably wind up with a better grasp of your community than anybody outside of the community would, so you'd become a bit of an expert in that community and what was needed there.

"Mind you, things look a little different when you're the superintendent and you remember all that. You sit in your board office and think of those guys in Fort Good Hope and Deline, they probably think the way I did in Pangnirtung."

Quigg took his current job as superintendent of the Sahtu Educational Council in 1998 and has served on boards and committees with both the NWT Teachers' Association and the GNWT. The culmination of this experience has given Quigg a valuable and unique perspective in his current job, he said.

Regardless of the limited classroom time these days, as superintendent he is still committed to what he believes is the very basics of education: that every child has something to gain from school.

"Every kid can learn," he said. "They don't all learn the same way, in the same style, but every kid has something to offer ... Sometimes the methods you learn in the south are not appropriate and you have to adapt and adjust them, but they can all learn."

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