To motivate education, normalize education, says Dr. Evelyn Steinhauer

Dr. Evelyn Steinhauer is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta, and Director of the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program.

Born in Alberta and a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Dr. Steinhauer has a Masters of Education degree, a PhD from the University of Alberta, and a passion for Indigenous education.

Her doctoral dissertation entitled, ‘Parental School Choice in First Nations Communities:  Is There Really A Choice?’, was published in 2008. This work addresses the parental school choice on First Nation reserves and the reasons that guide First Nations parents to send their children to off-reserve.

Dr. Steinhauer is also actively engaged in many community-based research initiatives and sits on various committees.

To motivate our children in school we have speak about education as being ‘normal’, says Dr. Steinhauer, as if it’s something that we just do. It’s not something that’s just for other people

“Education is for us as well,” and having such conversations make it easier for students to accept. “Because education has not always been something that has been seen in a favourable light by our people. We’ve had negative experiences in school, so our educational experiences have not always been pleasant.”

The way to normalize education is to makes it sound like it’s exciting.

It’s a normal process and we have to be willing to move from the security of our homes to get education, Steinhauer said, and we can talk about it as something that we can look forward to by sharing with our children the benefits of going to school.

“We make it exciting to leave home and move into a city or move into a town where the education is accessible.”

Supports need to be there though, she said. “Students who move away from home are going to have to make many adjustments. It’s important for us as parents, grandparents to ensure that we are there to support them in any way that we can.”

As an example, she said when her granddaughter first went to school that support included riding with her on the train to make sure she knew how to correctly transfer.

Every child has different needs, of course. Some children are just a little bit more independent than others.

“It’s a supportive role that we are playing, Steinhauer said. She said children can also be aligned with extended family to ensure the supports are there for them.