Jen Maxwell

Recipient of the 2022 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching

November 14, 2022

W.J. Mouat Secondary, Abbotsford, British Columbia

As a settler educator, Jen Maxwell has been a champion of learning through story and seeking connections with Elders and Knowledge Keepers in local Indigenous communities. With the support of her school and colleagues, she created a cross-curricular project that allowed grade twelve students in her large urban high school to earn multiple credits towards social studies, English language arts, and career education. Students began with an Indigenous-focused course where they explored topics in Indigenous history, with a particular focus on the legacy of colonial systems and structures. Maxwell grounded this learning in the First Peoples Principles of Learning, developed by the First Nations Education Steering Committee in British Columbia and centered Indigenous voices, perspectives, and ways of knowing.

Students looked closely at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s ninety-four calls to action and researched the progress that has been made to date. They then considered their individual roles and responsibilities towards reconciliation and selected one call to action to address. Students completed further research on a topic or issue that was introduced through the course and created an original project to showcase their learning and engage their targeted audience in an act of reconciliation. For both Maxwell and her students, reconciliation is at the heart of building stronger communities with critically minded and empathetic people in classrooms, cities, and the country.