Student Stories: Meet Dana Mack

Dana Mack

NITEP Bella Coola field centre
Nation: Nuxalk Nation
Home: Bella Coola, B.C.

Please introduce yourself.

Yaw Smatmc! Hello Friend! My name is Dana Mack, I am from the Nuxalk Nation, where I was born and raised. I work at Acwsalcta School as the librarian since 1999, but I started as a substitute teacher. My cousin, Kathleen King, encourage me to sub for her in 1997, she said for me to put my name in at the school, and from that suggestion is where I am today. I am at the Nuxalk NITEP campus in Bella Coola, B.C. This is my first year (again). I started 10 years ago here in my home territory, but due to unfortunate circumstances, I wasn’t able to finish here. My situation is unique as I have the core courses and some electives. I am just so happy that I am able to continue what I started, and I am determined to finish this time around.

Who/what inspired you to go into teaching?

At the beginning of my career, my inspiration started with my cousin Kat telling me to come and sub for her, and now everyday I’m here at Acwsalcta School working in the library so I’m also inspired by the students themselves. When the students are learning about something and the questions they ask or how they absorb what they are learning, I have a “I’m lucky to be here” moment.

Why is Indigenous education important to you?

Our grandparents dreamt of having a school for our people, taught by our people to carry on our culture, our traditions, and our language. In the late 1970’s, our community came together to meet and discuss about our community’s future because the Elders were worried about the future of the next generations to come. My grandparents were a part of the pedestal that had the foresight of the future for our people. At that time, we were fighting for our land, our river and our education, but they were also at the forefront of their movement, struggling and fighting for, praying and uniting our people. Today, we carry their legacy, teaching our students, their inherit right through song, dance, storytelling which we practice during our school potlatching, teaching them our river, marina and our land because of our ancestors quest. I would like to instill our traditions, our culture, and our language through education for our children.

How would you describe your NITEP expereince thus far? 

I am enjoying and challenging myself through our LLED 336 and Education courses. This is just the beginning so I know that there will be more to learn in the next 4 years. I have been hosting Scholastic book fairs for some time now at our school. Before the book fair, I usually plan a reading contest for the students, and when the contest is over, the prize for the students that read the most books get to choose books from the book fair. I love when the students come and they know what books they want to choose out of the book fair. I enjoy watching the students read, develop to another level and the older students that I had before I am happy to see how well they have progressed as learners. I am a full-time student and I am also still working full-time (if that’s even possible), but I’ll make it work and I will have make sure that I don’t get overwhelmed by it all.I am very fortunate with all the support I get from colleagues at work and my family.

What are your aspirations for becoming an educator?

I am both Nuxalkmc (mother’s side) and Tlingit/Tagish Kwan (father’s side). I hope and pray that I will be working at Acwsalcta school because I believe our ancestors have done a wonderful job of securing our heritage. I have had the opportunity to visit my father’s home in Whitehorse and feel at home with my family there, which would be another option for teaching. Bella Coola has been my home all my life, and I still today believe that it’s the best place on earth – it can’t get any better than what we have. One of my other dreams is to continue with getting my librarian certificate and to become a teacher librarian.

I started my journey with the NITEP program 10 years ago here at Nuxalk nation. I have done 2.5 years of the program. I did eventually move to UBC to finish the program, but it wasn’t the same for me. I didn’t have the cohort that I started with as they were both my moral support and my study partners. When I moved down to Vancouver, I had to learn the area, find out where I could get support, and find study partners and not be so lonely for home. Being so overwhelmed and longing for home, I couldn’t do it. Since I started up NITEP again,  I learnt that I could’ve challenged the teachers about my grades, but I didn’t know that at the time. When I heard that NITEP was been offered here in Bella Coola again, I was ecstatic, but I wasn’t sure if NITEP would even consider my application, but when I got an acceptance letter I was beyond happy! I do want to mention that I have to retake all the education and LLED course. The challenges so far have been reapplying, getting into the habit of studying hard and reading lots, but it’s worth it. I enjoy learning new techniques about teaching the most, and the challenges that we have to overcome and learn from. So here I am again, learning and studying to be a certified teacher, and hopefully a certified teacher librarian.

After travelling north to my father’s homeland on my own on, I learned that I am able to be a traveller on my own. This might sound easy, but when you don’t know anyone and your unfamiliar with the area, this challenge can be scary and lonely, but I was able to embrace been a traveller and make loads of memories from this expereince.I would want to travel again, especially for my practicum if it’s possible saaayyyy….like Hawaii or New Zealand! I would love to do this, it would be a once in a life time experience.

Any mentors you look up to?

When I first started the NITEP 10 years ago, Petrina Schooner was my coordinator. She is a good mentor and I have many educator mentors that I could go to and ask for advice: Kathleen King, Karen Milanese, my uncle Peter Tallio, his wife Beatrice Silver, and Lela Walkus – just to name a few.

If you were to describe NITEP in one word, what would that be?

If I was to give one word to describe NITEP it would be “stupendous” only because I am taking the program again, which I never thought that was possible!