Pauline McKay: Role model for positive cultural practices

Transcription – Pauline McKay, Prime Minister's Award recipient

[Black screen fades up to a white background, with the following words appearing, line by line: Prime Minister's Awards. Music playing. Fade to black and then up white and grey screen with medium shot of woman, smiling, on the left side of the screen, with the following words appearing, line by line, on the right and voice over: Pauline McKay, Makonsag Aboriginal Head Start Inc., Ottawa, Ontario.]

[Cut to photos, with voice over. Photos: Pauline on the floor at her centre talking to children with a puppet on her hand; a child looking at Pauline smiling; a child and Pauline looking a book and making hand gestures; a child looking at Pauline who has a drum in her hand and is looking back; Pauline reading a book to a young boy, who is looking at it with interest; two young girls looking a Pauline who has a drum in her hand and is looking back; Pauline showing something to a young boy, who is looking at it with interest, Pauline showing something to a young girl, who is looking at it with interest, Pauline standing outside in front of a tree;.]

"Working at a growing Makonsag Aboriginal Head Start, Pauline McKay is building a strong and healthy community for Indigenous children and their families. She connects them to their Indigenous heritage by exploring clan systems, teaching traditional forms of dance and song, and sharing traditional teachings. She encourages staff to speak their Indigenous language with the children. Elders are regular visitors to the centre. And, children learn to think and act as future stewards of Mother Earth. For example, she combines traditional perspectives on caring for the Land with contemporary practices of recycling and composting."

[Fade to black and then up white and grey screen with medium shot of woman, smiling, on the left side of the screen, with the following words appearing, line by line, on the right: Pauline McKay, Makonsag Aboriginal Head Start Inc., Ottawa, Ontario. Voice over: Pauline McKay]

[Fade to white, with the Government of Canada FIP and then the Canada Wordmark appearing in black.]

Year: 2019 — Province: Ontario
Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Pauline McKay

Makonsag Aboriginal Head Start Inc.
Indigenous child care centre for children 2.5 to 6.5 years
Ottawa, Ontario

"Her engagement in the lives of all those she has come into contact with has created a strong sense of community engagement and cross-cultural understanding within the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities."
— Nominator

With dedication and passion for Indigenous education, Pauline McKay manages the delivery of Indigenous child care services at a growing Aboriginal Head Start, advocating for opportunities to build a strong and healthy community for Indigenous children and their families.

Philosophy of care

Pauline sees herself as a publicly significant role model for positive cultural practices and healthy living. She ensures students and families can strengthen their connection to their culture through the use of Indigenous languages and cultural programming, and by having access to elders at the centre.

Support of child development

  • Supports children's physical development: invites the local nurse practitioner to the centre for well-being check-ups, and a dental hygienist to support oral health; works closely with the cook to develop nutritious snacks and lunch; plans daily gross motor activities and outdoor play.
  • Supports children's cognitive development through Indigenous early learning pedagogy: teaches children to think and act as future stewards of Mother Earth; combines traditional perspectives of caring for the Land with contemporary practices of recycling and composting.
  • Connects children and their families to their Indigenous heritage by exploring clan systems, teaching traditional forms of dance and song, and sharing traditional teachings, such as why boys, men and Elders wear braids; encourages staff to speak their Indigenous language with the children.
  • Identifies and implements the best-suited supports for children, within the context of trauma fed by poverty and colonialism, and intergenerational impacts, as well as the empowerment, well-being and healing that is emerging within Indigenous communities and Nations.

Involvement with parents, families and the community

  • Encourages families to participate and share their knowledge in the classroom, such as by teaching traditional dances; goes to great lengths to procure resources to support such activities.
  • Makes classroom accessible for parents to learn how to sew traditional regalia, preparing their children to participate in the powwow season, an important coming-of-age activity.
  • Considers every family's circumstances and gives them support where they need it (e.g. transportation, navigation, housing), using her community contacts to make referrals.
Transcription – Pauline McKay - 2019 Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education

 [Black screen fades up to medium shot of woman in interview setting against a white background. Music playing.]

"If you love children, then this is the field for you. You need to have that love and that passion to be able to work in this field."

[Fade to black and then up to white screen with medium shot of woman, smiling, on the right side of the screen, with the following words appearing, line by line, on the left: Pauline McKay, Makonsag Aboriginal Head Start Inc., Ottawa, Ontario. Fade to black and then up to medium shot of Pauline in interview setting.]

"I feel that the number one factor that contributes to a child's success is giving them a sense of belonging …"

[Cut to photos, with voice over. Photos: Pauline on the floor at her centre talking to children with a puppet on her hand; two children looking at Pauline, who has a drum in her hand and is looking back; Pauline showing something to a young boy, who is looking at it with interest.]

"… and knowing that they're loved and cared for. As soon as they have that feeling that they're in a safe environment …"

[Cut back to Pauline in the interview setting.]

"…then they're able to learn and grow and develop."

[Fade to black and then back to Pauline in the interview setting.]

"I wanted to become an early childhood educator because I've always had a love for children. I grew up with lots of younger cousins and siblings, and it was just my natural way of being. I was always drawn to children."

[Fade to black and then back to Pauline in the interview setting.]

"Something that I am really proud of, since I do work in an Aboriginal Head Start program, is having seasonal feasts where the entire community is invited to come and participate, to just really celebrate that time of year with the children and staff and families. It really develops a sense of community."

[Fade to black and then back to Pauline in the interview setting.]

"If I could create the perfect space for children to learn, it would be outside. No walls. I find that when children are outside, they don't have the same boundaries as when they're inside. Even children that have different struggles, they let down those boundaries and those walls, and they're able to be who they want to be, and explore and just be in the natural environment."

[Fade to black and then to photos, with voice over. Photos: Pauline in a cape and hat beside a podium during her presentation to fellow recipients on best practices at her centre; other recipients reacting during a best practices presentation; Pauline singing a traditional song during her presentation, accompanying herself on a drum; Pauline with her children and a Mountie on Parliament Hill.]

"It's a really a big honour. I feel very humbled to have been a recipient. You can really make a positive influence …
[Cut back to Pauline in the interview setting.]

"…on the children's lives and that's the biggest reward for this career."

[Fade to black and then up to Pauline in the interview setting.]

"For my students past or present, I would just say that 'you are doing great, you are strong. You can do anything you want to as long as you believe in yourself, and know who you are and where you come from.'"

[Fade to black, with the Government of Canada FIP and then the Canada Wordmark appearing in white.]

Get in touch!

Makonsag Aboriginal Head Start Inc.
#600-700 Industrial Avenue
Ottawa ON K1G 0Y9

613-724-5844
info@makonsag.ca; www.makonsag.ca
Facebook: @Makonsag Aboriginal Head Start Inc.

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