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Preparing kids for success
Doris Tom has dedicated the past 14 years of her life to early childhood education

Andrew Livingstone
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 26, 2015

Doris Tom often thinks about what it will feel like the first time she sees her former students graduate.

NNSL photo/graphic

Doris Tom, an early childhood educator with the Tlicho government in Wekweeti, will soon begin to see her former students begin to graduate. - photo courtesy of Doris Tom

Tom's relationship with these future high school grads goes back to their days in diapers. As Wekweeti's early childhood educator, a position she has held since 2000, Tom has watched her students grow from curious infants and young children into adventurous young adults - and has done her best to set them on a path to a successful future.

Tom likes to think she's played a part in their growth. In many ways, she certainly has. She started as a part-time educator, but in 2000 she was asked to become the full-time pre-school teacher when the job became available.

"I've committed myself to be in the program and continue to teach pre-school," she said. "It's just the kids that keep me staying on the job and most of them that came through pre-school are in high school. When they graduate high school I'll be there."

A normal work day for Tom starts before her kids arrive when she prepares daily schedules and other plans for the day. Once the students arrive at school, the first activity every day is the circle.

"This means we sit and say hi and do our Dogrib prayers," she said, adding she teaches in both languages. "After that, we would go to the gym where they would learn physical skills because they need their exercise to stay healthy. For recess, we'd be outside if the weather is good."

Each week has a specific theme and activities are designed to help the children focus on that topic each day.

"I enjoy the job because I love watching the kids learn and when they're here we're happy to learning together," said Tom.

The most challenging part of working in a pre-school setting is when the child comes for the very first time, she said.

"They take up most of our time to show them around and help them until they are comfortable and get to trust us and used to the other students."

Now in her 15th year on the job, Tom said the early childhood education program has played an integral part in building a strong sense of community and preparing students for their journey into kindergarten, elementary school and beyond.

"In our community, we only have pre-school and we don't have a day care or any other programs for the little ones so it's important for them because children should have the opportunity have education to help them," she said. "It helps them share and interact with other children and helps them get ready for kindergarten.

"There are always new things to learn and I'm very willing to learn because it's important. I learn new things every day."

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