Marianne Ignace wins 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award

March 06, 2024

Congratulations to Marianne Ignace for adding Excellence in Teaching to her many accolades. As an SFU faculty member for three decades, Ignace has gained respect and admiration among her students for her dedication to preserve, teach, and restore Indigenous languages within Indigenous communities.

A Distinguished Professor in SFU’s Departments of Indigenous Studies and Linguistics, Ignace is also Director of SFU’s Indigenous Languages Program as well as SFU’s First Nations Language Centre.

Ignace teaches intermediate courses in Secwepemctsín and North Haida, languages of unrelated linguistic families with very few speakers left, and graduate courses at the intersection of language, culture, and ethnobotany.

In addition to teaching the language, Ignace also guides her students to forge deeper cultural connections. She engages her students to reclaim their Indigenous languages by encouraging reflection on their experiences, decolonizing from the harms wrought by a traumatic past, and finding joy in discovering the traditional knowledges of their elders.

She enables her students to pursue mentorship with the remaining few fluent speakers, effectively working with archival materials, and co-creating pedagogical materials that include bodies of oral traditions and practical grammars. She challenges her students to improve their proficiency in their languages, learn about important connections between Indigenous languages, cultures and cognition, re-claim and practice the art of storytelling in their languages, and to adapt linguistic field methods to new contexts faced by critically endangered languages.

Teaching in and with Indigenous communities require an instructor’s openness to respecting the legacy of the education system’s failure towards Indigenous peoples. Ignace understands and respects the crucial importance of community teaching, including understanding that learners have multiple ceremonial (e.g. longhouse, potlatch) and social obligations that often intersect with their eagerness and commitment to complete coursework.

Teaching in-person and online, at SFU and within communities, Ignace truly brings the classroom to the community. By empowering students to maintain cultural and social connection to kin and community, Ignace plays an important part in SFU’s reconciliation and decolonization.

Congratulations again to Marianne Ignace on this well-deserved recognition.

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