Nunavut Teachers’ Association

Teaching Excellence Award Winners Announced

The Nunavut Teachers’ Association (NTA) held its annual Meeting of Central Council and in Iqaluit, April 9-10.    During the President’s Banquet on Saturday, April 9,  NTA President, Terry Young, presented the NTA Teaching Excellence Awards to Mary Piercey-Lewis,  a teacher from Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit and to Rebecca Hainnu, a Principal from Clyde River.

NTA Vice President Jim Kreuger introduced Rebecca Hainnu, and  Barb Young, introduced Mary Piercey-Lewis.

Rebecca Hainnu was nominated by her colleague, Adam Bassett, who describes her as “an exemplar for all of the criteria of teaching excellence including professionalism, knowledge, leadership, passion, courage, and creativity.  Adam goes on to define Rebecca as  “a champion for her students, her school, community and her Teachers Association.”  Excerpts from Rebecca Hainnu’s nomination package are given below.

Program and Instruction/ Language and Culture

Rebecca has always been an advocate for Inuktitut Language and Culture and this began to appear in the form of programs and curricula when she was a student at the Nunavut Teachers Education Program. Her projects were of such high quality that many of them are published and still used today in Nunavut classrooms. Good examples of this include the bilingual science resources Classifying Vertibraes and Walking with Aalasi: an introduction to Edible and Medicinal Arctic Plants, and the bilingual Math Resource Math Activities for Nunavut Students Grades 1,2, & 3.

Since becoming a teacher, her talents as a program developer became fully realized. Her classrooms are active and alive (with science this was literally true) with the excitement of her students’ learning. Rebecca models the joy of learning effortlessly because the joy is real. As a teacher, her books found a much wider audience as Inhabit Media became her publisher. Today, Rebecca Hainnu’s books are available in Inuktitut and English and are a mainstay in Nunavut and Canadian classrooms and homes.

Extra—Curricular Leadership

Rebecca Hainnu’s extra—curricular leadership could be described with one word; community. Quluaq School and Clyde River are examples of two of the communities that Rebecca supports with her tenacious service, while and the NTA is yet another. She has served on many professional committees and has been a recognized leader throughout her entire career. In fact, as one colleague recounts in his letter, she actually began her NTA leadership and advocacy role while she was still a student in NTEP and found the courage to question both the NTA President and Minister of Education about Inuit equity issues. A sample of her leadership over the past ten years includes:

  • NTA Bargaining Committee Member
  • NTA Central Council Member (Inuit Member at Large)
  • NTA Central Executive Member
  • NTA Inuit Educators Advisory Committee Chair

As a Teacher, she has inspired students (and teachers) to experience the joy of learning. As an Author and program developer, she has helped guide instruction in math, science, and Inuktitut and English language arts throughout Nunavut while her books have also helped southern classrooms to better understand Nunavut and the Inuit culture. As an Advocate for Teachers, she has helped to negotiate our collective agreements, guide our Central Executive, and articulate the collective voice of our Inuit Educators. As an Advocate for her school, community and the youth they support, she has worked tirelessly to coordinate, facilitate, lead and give service.

—Adam Bassett, Nominator


Rebecca Hainnu could not attend the banquet due to blizzard in her home community of Clyde River.  The award was accepted on Rebecca’s behalf, by NTA President, Terry Young.

Mary Piercey-Lewis was nominated and introduced by her colleague, Barb Young. Barb described Mary as a consummate professional, tireless student advocate, excellent staff member, and life-long learner.  Barb saw Mary as an indomitable force that “got the best out of students and inspired teachers to be better.”

Excerpts from Mary Piercey-Lewis’ nomination package are given below.

Mary is an exceptionally dedicated, skillful professional who works tirelessly to develop her music program in Nunavut. Mary’s passion for music education creates the perfect environment for the development of skills in her students and contributes to the personal growth and sense of “I can do this” and accomplishment in the young people with whom she works.

I am continually impressed by the quality of Mary’s work. Mary established the school choir, the Inuksuk Drum Dancers, in 2008. The mandate of the choir is to represent Inuit culture from rural Nunavut within the Inuit-Anglo-Franco urban context of Iqaluit. The group’s members choose to present traditional symbols of their Inuit culture with aspirations of making it visible to a wider audience. Her music students are always well prepared and she has been able to train her students to reflect the diversity of Nunavut by performing in Inuktitut, English and French. Her students have performed for their peers, for community members, on Parliament Hill, for the Governor General and at Canada Games and at the international Arctic Winter Games. These opportunities were made possible not only because of participation in Mary’s classes but because of Mary’s volunteerism of hundreds of hours at lunchtimes, after school and on the weekends. Under Mary’s direction, the students in Iqaluit have had amazing opportunities.

Mary’s music program is oriented toward the teaching and learning of a variety of musical styles (Jazz, Classical, Folk, Country, Broadway Musical, etc.), and the rich tradition of Nunavut music is a legacy that is also honored in her music curriculum. She teaches courses in traditional Inuit drum dancing and throat singing, Inuktitut singing and song writing, and guitar. She collaborates with community musicians and Heather Daley, CEO of the Alianait Arts Festival, to ensure that students interact with, and are taught by, tradition-bearers from the professional Inuit music community. Mary uses technology to connect with the National Arts Center.

Mary also teaches Aulajaaqtut and does so with the same enthusiasm as she teaches her music classes. Her classes are more than just about teaching curriculum. Her students learn to work together to improve their social skills and build self-esteem while improving academically. Her groups always have a sense of family. Mary has the ability to connect with each of her students. She is inclusive and concerned for each of them. By getting to know her students outside the classroom, she understands their realities and does what she can to ensure that each student has access to a rich and appropriate educational experience. Not all students are ready to learn when they come to Mary but she engages them, gets them motivated and brings out the best in each student.

Mary is a team player at Inuksuk High School and she works collaboratively with other professional staff throughout the city and the territory. She holds an executive position with the Iqaluit Music Society and regularly plans workshops, festivals and musicals.

–Barb Young, Nominator

Mary was in attendance to receive the award from NTA President, Terry Young.  Mary graciously accepted the award and credited her collegial staff and motivated students for any success that she has had.



This is the second year that the NTA has presented this award and is honoured to have Rebecca Hainnu and Mary Peircey-Lewis as recipients.  As part of the award, Rebecca and Mary received a plaque, a ring, and a $1,000 professional development bursary.

For more information on this campaign or the Nunavut Teachers’ Association, contact NTA President, Terry Young ( or 867-222-6030)