This past September, Juniper School teacher Sheri Porth and her Grade 7/8 class were nominated for and received the Peter Henderson Bryce Award for the 2021-22 school year. According to the award notification letter from the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, which bestows the award, Porth and her class had been selected in part because of their “collective advocacy for bringing awareness to MMIWG2S.” Porth herself is very humble about receiving the award.
“It came as a surprise to me,” she says.
Peter Henderson Bryce was a public health physician in Canada from the late 1800s to the early 1900s and, among other professional interests, he advocated for the proper treatment of children in residential schools. In Porth’s words, Henderson Bryce was “a whistleblower; he was brave enough to say children are dying at residential schools, their living conditions are horrible … everything about this is wrong. He was brave enough to step up when nobody else was.”
Porth’s teaching career spans 14 years and she admits she is still learning the history of Canada which she then passes along to her students. She is passionate about educating her students on the history of residential schools, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and two-spirited people, Orange Shirt Day, the Secret Path and the Downie Wenjack Fund and the ‘60s scoop. Porth says her students are very receptive to learning these very dark pieces of Canadian history but she feels that teaching them “the truth” is what’s important. She ensures her class participates in Orange Shirt Day ad the Wenjack Walk. As well, they walk to the bridge to tie ribbons for MMIWG2S and twice a year visit the plane at the bridge “to talk about what that symbolizes and what that means”.
Porth and her class received the award that comes with a $500 cash prize thanks to the nominations by two of her Juniper coworkers. Porth says she will let the class decide what they will spend it on.