With long-standing involvement connecting students and staff with Indigenous culture, traditions and teachings, Upper Canada District School Board Indigenous Education System Support Teacher Bill Montgomery has received national recognition.
Montgomery was recently honoured with the Indspire Guiding the Journey: Indigenous Education Award in Leadership. The national award recognizes educators who have made valuable contributions to community-based education and honour the principles of Indigenous knowledge.
A member of the First Nation of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Montgomery has worked in this role with the school board for the past decade. His leadership qualities are felt by over 300 First Nations, Métis and Inuit students involved in the UCDSB iLead (Indigenous Leadership Program), which encourages a reclamation of their Indigenous cultures. Educators also benefit from Bill’s leadership as he supports the integration of Indigenous themes into the curriculum.
“It was very humbling to hear that I had been selected for this award,” he said. “It certainly would not have been a consideration without the incredible people I have the fortune to work with daily. As we often stress, it’s all about relationships and community.”
Montgomery was presented with the award on Nov. 25 at a virtual ceremony where UCDSB colleague Nancy Clow spoke of his impact within our schools.
“He has a special gift in making Indigenous education learning come alive, relevant and meaningful. Bill’s ability to present difficult concepts using simple-language and impactful images or activities is extremely impressive. He is passionate and patient in the way he teaches and shares his personal experiences and gift of story,” Clow said. “His quiet wisdom and guidance assist all who are on the path of reconciliation.”
When it comes to sharing his knowledge with students, Montgomery turns to his own experiences and says he knows what it’s like to grow up confused with how to feel about his heritage.
“My family is such an incredibly strong people and admired throughout the world for our Art,” he explains, adding he’s enjoyed continually learning about himself and so many Indigenous peoples in his current role. “It is a privilege to participate in our Indigenous students’ journey of self-discovery. We are more than art; our beliefs and traditions have value. It is so heartwarming to see this sentiment growing so rapidly within our board.”
He says he is grateful for the open and positive stance the Upper Canada District School Board has always taken in Indigenous Education and hopes that one day, his job will become redundant.
“This growth is bringing us closer to a personal goal that I would love to see realized: that people in my role be considered redundant or outdated,” Montgomery said. “We are developing such an incredible group of accomplices within our area, and it would be wonderful to see it become self-sustaining and become as commonplace as any other subject matter we deliver to our students.”