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IQ principles in action
Peter Pitseolak proves to be more than just a high school

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 1, 2014

A call to find out about the "Big Breakfast" staff at Peter Pitseolak High School in Cape Dorset held for their students Nov. 21 turned into a lesson on a breakfast program, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit guiding principles, the importance of a stellar and dedicated school staff and how one man's career is ending on the highest note possible.

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Don Pryzner and Heather Penny help prepare the monthly "Big Breakfast" at Peter Pitseolak High School in Cape Dorset Nov. 21. - photo courtesy of Michael Soares

School principal Michael Soares retires in June.

"For me, not having spent my career in Nunavut but ending my career in Nunavut, being in a place like this harkens back to when I had the energy when I started my career," he said.

"I feel as enthusiastic about being here in Cape Dorset right now in the twilight of my career as I did when I started teaching back in the 1970s. And it's because Cape Dorset is such a great place to be."

He adds that Cape Dorset gets a bum rap in the media and elsewhere "but there are a lot of wonderful things about Cape Dorset."

The "Big Breakfast" in question is a monthly event, and part of the school's breakfast program. The menu consists of pancakes, sausage, eggs and toast. During the school week the program - mostly funded through Health Canada's Brighter Futures Program - offers students fresh fruit at least twice a week, juices three times a week, toast, waffles, and peanut butter and whole-grain cereal bars. Country foods also make their way on the menu. Offerings follow Health Canada's dietary guidelines.

"Peanut butter is very popular," said Soares. "Fortunately, we don't have peanut allergies in the building."

The local Northern store passes on all the surplus bananas. These would normally get thrown out and instead find their way into smoothies, muffins and bread.

"Our Co-op is very co-operative, as well."

The staff also occasionally offer hot lunches.

"And on Saturdays, thanks to the breakfast program and locally raised funds, we have a hot lunch program."

The Saturday offering is an incentive for students to attend during the week.

"They're invited to come back on Saturday morning and play table tennis or soccer or judo or wrestling. Some come just to work out in our fitness room. We've even added sewing as an activity on Saturdays."

The high school and Sam Pudlat School together receive $80,000.

"We're able to make our limited dollars stretch quite far. Because we don't have paid people to prepare breakfast, that gives us a little more money for other meals."

This is where the stellar staff comes in.

"The backbone of the volunteers for the Saturday program is the teachers, such as Andre Samson, vice principal of the school. He's been in Cape Dorset for eight years. He's a very generous man. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have him here.

"Another strong person this year is Heather Penny - she's a go-to person. What I mean by that is if I need something done I just say the magic word: 'Heather.' It gets done. And that's really wonderful."

A new recruit to the staff team is Gordie DeCoste.

"He has a regular Saturday program for badminton. He's also a table tennis coach. He fits in well with Heather and Andre as far as getting stuff done here at the school."

And, finally, community school counsellor Mukshowya Niviaqsi provides Soares with his conscience. "like Jiminy Cricket.

"She sits on my shoulder. She's my Inuit conscience, as far as what I do in the school. She does not give up on anyone. She cares about all the kids and the community. She liaises between the school and the community. Her being in the school is part of the reason our school is such a great school."

Soares says all his staff behaves in keeping with the guiding principles of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.

"Those people all live those IQ guiding principles. At four o'clock a lot of schools lock their doors and turn out the lights, but in Cape Dorset it's very busy at the end of the school day here, as it is on Saturday.

"We have a very good team, a team I am very proud of as the principal of the school."

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