Having recently completed her doctorate, Roxanne Banguis of the Sechelt Indian Band said she intends to continue her work extolling the virtues of her people’s learning style.
“We have already seen some schools in my research that are non-Native and they have the highest scores because they epitomize Coast Salish education,” Banguis said. “It works.”
Born in Seattle to Dora (Paul) Crockett, the 54-year-old’s Sechelt roots are a source of pride. Her mother, a cousin of Chief Garry Feschuk, is a descendent of William Pinchbeck.
Banguis also inherited from her family a community-based approach to learning, one she said has proven its worth, despite a level of neglect amongst mainstream scholars.
As part of her research, Banguis found herself studying middle and upper class schools in Washington, ones where the Caucasian demographic was firmly represented. She examined institutions that applied certain holistic approaches to education and compared the results.
“They got the highest scores, one of the highest scores using the same kind of teaching styles and learning styles that we use,” she explained, referencing a school in her dissertation. “The people who founded this school would attest to that, that they used Native American style teaching. It’s what’s made them so successful.”
A community-based approach to learning requires the participation of those outside the school system, she said, especially family members.
From there, the path is a co-operative one, with lessons being taught using a hands-on, active methodology. She offered a field trip to a salmon habitat as one example.
Students might work together to analyze a river, testing the water for contaminants and identifying prime spawning locations. They could also use their knowledge of science to make improvements, such as planting trees to provide shade for salmon roe.
“When they get back to class they have something to write about, so they’re integrating their writing, they’re integrating science,” she explained. “They’re helping each other. It’s co-operative learning.”
Banguis’ own students have included kindergarten children, college students and even educators themselves.
But the ideas contained in her research are ones that have not been frequently discussed, she said. That made the work difficult because as far as scholarly research into First Nations educational culture is concerned, “not too many people really care about us anymore.
“I would love very much to exchange our culture so that more people will understand our way of teaching and learning,” she offered as an ongoing motivation. “We’re different … we have a sub-culture and we learn more with hands-on, co-operative learning and with the whole community.”
That motivation had her heart fixated north of the border in British Columbia, where she hopes to land in the near future and continue her work.
She also offered a bit of advice for anyone considering a future that includes writing a doctoral dissertation.
“People who really want to pursue a higher degree, they should really consider living the most simple life,” she said. “You really have to focus to persevere. You have to take it easy on yourself.”
Banguis’ achievement was celebrated July 14 along with the Sechelt Indian Band’s 2012 graduates.
This year, Melody and Gertie Pierre completed their degrees in social work at the University of British Columbia. Jamie Ackley-Pillers also received a social work degree, from Texas A&R.
Kylee Mayers graduated from the University of Victoria with a degree in political science and Kari Dixon, Jessika John and Alydia Joe received post-secondary certifications.