Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Conference & Sports In Iqaluit

Downtown Iqaluit.
At the beginning of the school year, I volunteered to be the school's Professional Development (PD) coordinator.  One week in February is given to teachers for the purpose of completing an activity and/or course of some kind that benefits them as a teacher and their students.  (The week is referred to as PD Week).  My duties are to assist the teaching staff of Inuujaq School in selecting those activities and/or courses, getting the applications approved by the Nunavut Teachers Association (NTA), make sure the teachers receive adequate funding from the NTA, and submit substantiation report after PD Week.  It is possible for Nunavut teachers to complete their PD outside of the territory but the application process is more rigorous and competitive.
Barges. Iqaluit.
Since this was my first time being the PD Coordinator, I was required to attend a training conference in Iqaluit in early October.  This conference would also host training workshops for teachers that were selected as NTA school representatives.  Inuujaq School's NTA Rep is Jean-Francois (JF), the high school math & science teacher.  We prepared five days worth of teaching plans for the supply teachers and wrote up separate lists of things we wanted purchase in the "big city". 
It was a foggy September 30th day when JF & I were driven to the airport by Frank, the former mayor of Arctic Bay.  JF & I were excited to be travelling to Nunavut's capital on a business trip.  The NTA paid for our plane tickets & hotel accommodations.  We were met by two high school female students who were also travelling to Iqaluit for a territorial soccer tournament.  The rest of the girls team would travel with the boys team the next day. 
We were disappointed to hear the announcement from the check in clerk that the First Air plane from Resolute would not be landing in Arctic Bay due to mechanical trouble.  The plane would continue on to Iqaluit.  The next available flight was the following day.  JF & I began to wonder whether it would be worth travelling to Iqaluit at all since that flight was already full.  We held our heads high and went back to work.  At the end of the school day, JF informed me that First Air had flown up a spare turboprop from Iqaluit to transport the stranded passengers.  We immediately said our goodbyes to everyone again and headed back to the airport with our packed belongings.
The packed First Air plane lifted off into the late afternoon sky at 5:30pm and flew towards Iqaluit.  Everyone was relieved that First Air flew up a spare plane.  The stewardess began handing out copies of Nunavut News North as the plane leveled off.  Everyone was surprised to see three members of the girls soccer team on the front page.  Two of them were on the plane.  The photo was taken at the prom fundraiser that the team had organized to raise money to pay for the trip.  The two girls on the plane autographed several newspapers.  JF & I commented to them that they would be celebrities for the next little while. 
Iqaluit Airport.
I met several teachers at the Iqaluit airport while I was waiting for my suitcase.  They had arrived from Igloolik & Hall Beach.  JF & I proceeded to our first order of business, buying a shawarma at the local Yummy Shawarma restaurant.  We then hailed a taxi to give us a lift to the Frobisher Inn.  Hard copies of  Nunavut News North were displayed all over the lobby.  Some teachers were booked at the Hotel Arctic near the Four Corners Intersection.
Iqaluit's new Aquatic Centre under construction.
JF & I woke up on October 1st and headed down to the movie theatre for the start of the conference.  The NTA had booked the movie theatre for the first half of the conference.  Surprisingly, this was my first time seeing the inside of the only movie theatre in Iqaluit.  I never went to see a movie when I lived in Iqaluit in 2012.  There is a ticket booth, concession stand, and two viewing rooms.  All the teachers attending the conference came from communities in the Qikiqtani Region.  We were welcomed by Terry Young, NTA President, and several PD coordinators based in Iqaluit.  Everyone broke off into two groups: the NTA Reps stayed in the movie theatre while all the PD teachers moved to one of the newly built conference rooms.  To build the two conference rooms, the Frobisher Inn had to get rid of the old swimming pool.
Around this time, I heard that a large snowstorm had arrived in Arctic Bay, forcing the cancellation of the morning flight out of the community.  The boys soccer team and remainder of the girls team could not make it to Iqaluit.  JF & I were surprised to hear that school had been cancelled for the first day of October.  We were glad that we flew out the day before.  
By the end of the day, news emerged that teams from Kugluktuk, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, and Igloolik could also not send their teams down to Iqaluit because of a lack of flights and weather.  CBC News North published an article about the difficulties on its website on October 2.
Houses on a hill. Iqaluit.
The training conference lasted for two days (Oct 1 - 2) and was very informative.  I could spend one or two blog posts writing about every detail but I'll keep this post short & to the point.  I learned everything that I needed to know about being a school PD Coordinator, including how to work the registration website.  I also got to network with teachers from across the Qikiqtani Region.  Snacks were provided by the Frobisher's Inn catering service.  We were served fruit, muffins, coffee, water, and tea. 
ARB soccer team.
On the evening of October 2, JF & I went to the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) Arena to watch the girls soccer match between Arctic Bay & the Iqaluit high school.  Since there were only two girls from Arctic Bay, the remaining roster was filled by the girls soccer team from Aqsaarnit Middle School.  The two teams played on the arena's hockey rink which had been converted into a temporary soccer field using turf.  I found a seat in the middle of the bleachers, took out my digital camera and filmed the entire match.  Only one goal was scored and it was done by the two girls from Arctic Bay.  When the referee blew the final whistle, the Arctic Bay team celebrated their win in the middle of the field.  It would be the only game we could see because the tournament schedule conflicted with our training schedules.  In the end, the Arctic Bay team did not win the tournament. 
Everyone assembled in one of the conference rooms on October 3 for a two-day workshop organized by the Red Cross.  The focus of the workshop was anti-bullying, suicide prevention, and how to deal with trauma in students & teachers.  The workshop was delivered in the form of lectures, group activities, and videos.  There was a part where teachers were allowed to share any personal stories of their struggles with the topics mentioned above.  Some of the stories that were shared were quite shocking.  We were also given free resources to take back to our schools.  What I liked about the resources was that they were Nunavut oriented.  Even the anti-bullying videos were filmed in Iqaluit. 

NTA President - Terry Young.
We were all treated to an evening banquet on October 3 as a thank-you-for-attending from the NTA.  We had the Gallery Dining Hall all to ourselves.  The buffet tables were set up against the far wall and there even was a cash bar!  Being a Nunavut teacher certainly has its benefits.  The emcee for the evening was NTA President Terry Young.  He began his speech when everyone was seated.  What was most impressive was that he correctly named every teacher in attendance and thanked them for being in Iqaluit.  (There were at least 40 of us.)  He also announced Becky Tootoo as the recipient of the 2015 NTA Award for Teaching Excellence.  She teaches at Jonah Amitnaaq School in Baker Lake.  She received a certificate and a plaque for her tireless efforts in educating Inuit youth.  
Prime Rib dinner.
We filled our plates with vegetables, salads, soups, bread, and the main course, prime rib.  The piece I took occupied half my plate and yes, I did eat all of it.  I was glad I chose to forgo lunch that day.  I still had room to fit in a little dessert.
My trip to Iqaluit was not confined to the conference rooms at the Frobisher Inn.  I used my spare time to photograph the territorial capital and buy school supplies at Arctic Ventures and Tittaq Office Products.  Long gone are the days of Arctic Ventures playing annoying music to keep loiterers away from the main entrance.  I also bought several educational DVDs from the local video store.
New terminal under construction.
Damaged roof section.
I took a stroll down Federal Road one afternoon and took pictures of the town's industrial area and the new airport terminal being constructed.  I wanted to get a good look at the damage done to the terminal's roof.  The section that was damaged by fire in early September looked charred black and the metal tiles were crumpled.  A large Hercules transport aircraft, belonging to the Royal Canadian Air Force, happened to be parked on the tarmac next to the new terminal.  I snapped a picture before walking back to the town centre.
Hercules transport plane.
The last day was October 5th.  I went to NorthMart in the morning and filled a cardboard box with frozen food that are not frequently sold in Arctic Bay.  The prices weren't cheap either.  JF & I took a taxi to the airport from the Frobisher Inn.  The vehicle was packed with our suitcases and extra boxes of food and school supplies.  After checking in our bags, we bought our last shawarmas at the Yummy Shawarma restaurant.                           
Iqaluit Airport Runway.
The flight to Arctic Bay was delayed by an hour.  I passed the time showing teachers pictures of me extreme ironing on King George V Mountain.  The passengers were driven to the awaiting turboprop by bus.  As the plane was taxiing to the runway, we were informed that a Russian airliner had landed in Iqaluit due to a medical emergency.  I was able to snap a clear photo as our plane flew down the runway.

Russian airliner that had to land in Iqaluit due to a medical emergency.
The flight was mostly uneventful until the last few minutes.  The captain informed everyone that there was a chance he wouldn't be able to land in Arctic Bay due to low clouds.  If this was the case, then JF & I would have to spend a night in Resolute.  The plane descended beneath the clouds and then made a wide u-turn to the right.  The plane landed safely on the gravel runway.  The Iqaluit trip was a success.  We were driven into town by Frank.

Cargo Jet in Iqaluit.

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