Supporting students’ education and success
In the quiet hamlet of Paulatuk, N.W.T., Patrick Woodcock has become used to, and enjoys, the wind and cold, and the dark, long days of winter. Grizzly bears circle the small community in the summer, and wolves appear in the winter. Overlooking Darnley Bay in the Beaufort Sea, he can often see spotted seals on his walk to school.
Patrick has spent the past 20 months in Paulatuk, volunteering for Cuso International as an in-class support person at Angik School, where he works with two students in Grade 10 and 11, helping them to meet their educational goals – and create new ones. About 70 students attend Angik School, with six teachers instructing students from kindergarten to Grade 12.
“I am like a second teacher for them, and at the same time, I am also a third student. We do all the assignments together and I evaluate what’s needed to complete the work,” says Patrick, who is originally from Oakville, Ontario, and has worked as an English teacher in more than 20 countries and volunteered in many of them. “I can see the holes in their education and I try to fill these gaps.”
Part of the Northern Distance Learning program, Patrick’s work in the Inuit community focuses on supporting secondary students and preparing them for post-secondary education. His volunteer position is part of Cuso’s Canadian Program, which has sent more than 50 volunteers to communities in the Northwest Territories since 2016.
Providing consistent support within a flexible arrangement is important, says Patrick, who often spends all day with the two boys, working through assignments and taking breaks to play basketball, and on weekends, to watch a movie. He also connects with their families and encourages participation in their children’s education. His own outreach with the families and town mayor has built trust and respect, and in turn, further supports the students’ education and success.
“I push them in their studies, and I think the impact has been immense. When I arrived here, these boys were at the bottom of the class, they hadn’t completed any assignments or tests. They are now at the top of all their classes,” he says.
With Patrick’s support, the two boys have applied to several programs that bolster youth education, including the Northern Youth in Service program, which provides training and resources to develop and deliver a project that benefits participants’ communities. Together, they are also working on a social study project to connect with elders and interview them about the community’s beluga whale harvest. The teenage boys have also applied and been accepted to the Northern Youth Abroad program – an opportunity to foster leadership skills, cross-cultural awareness, and global citizenship through volunteering and travelling abroad.
“I think these results show that this program is important,” says Patrick. “The volunteers from Cuso provide stability and positivity. This work is opening up a myriad of opportunities for my students.”