Johanna Gordon-Walker - Bella Bella Community School

Year: 2017 – Province: British Columbia

Transcript—Johanna Gordon-Walker Video

[Johanna Gordon-Walker speaks to camera, with the Parliament buildings as a backdrop behind her]

[Photos of Johanna and her students are displayed on screen throughout her interview]

[Upbeat music plays softly in the background]

My name is Johanna Gordon-Walker, and I teach at Bella Bella Community School in Bella Bella, BC.

[Text on screen: Johanna Gordon-Walker, British Columbia]

I started volunteering as a conservation science resource person for summer camps. And through that work with youth and seeing how passionate the kids were about learning out in nature and from community resource people and visiting resource people as well, just got me thinking that maybe working with youth was where I wanted to go.

My presentation today was about the importance of linking education to community and to place, and in the context of our SEAS Program, linking to place is about getting students out on the land and waters of their traditional territory, but also getting them out into the community and bringing the community members into the school to share their knowledge.

I think my advice to aspiring educators would be to know that you can't do it all, and your role as an educator is really a role of a facilitator. And whether that's connecting students to books that they'll find really interesting to read and expand their awareness of something, or whether it's connecting them to mentors in the community, elders in the community, people who are doing really interesting work that they might be interested in, that role of facilitator just brings so many more opportunities to the students.

[Video footage of Johanna receiving her award from Justin Trudeau is intercut]

Winning this award makes me feel really honoured to be upheld that way by my community. My role as the SEAS Coordinator is really about bringing community members and youth together and connecting with the territory, being out on the land and water, and we can only do that because of the fact that that's a community vision, to have programming like this for our youth.

Teacher: Do you think Johanna should get a cool award for being a great teacher?

Student: Yes. Definitely yes.

[Canada wordmark]

[Music ends]

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Johanna Gordon-Walker

Bella Bella Community School
227 Waglisla Street
Bella Bella, British Columbia  V0T 1Z0

Principal: Jan Gladish
School telephone: 250-957-2391
School website:

Subjects and grades taught: Kindergarten to Grade 12

A unique educator who boats to work every day and lives off the grid; Johanna Gordon-Walker facilitates community mentors by teaching food harvesting and preservation to students, and her love for nature translates into the classroom as she empowers youth by showing them the importance of connecting culture and learning to the outdoors. Everyone participates when Johanna Gordon-Walker is teaching.

Teaching approach

Consistently adjusting her program delivery so that each and every student feels engaged, Gordon-Walker uses a hands-on approach to connect local culture with curricula for science, math, language arts, social studies and art, in ways that students do not see as conventional learning.

Outstanding achievements

  • Collaborated on building the Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS) program such that it has received attention from media outlets like the Toronto Star and MacLean's Magazine, and their journalists have travelled to Bella Bella to participate in her field trips. A Toronto Star journalist was even prompted to speculate that this was "probably why this dynamic community [Bella Bella] was chosen to host Prince William and Kate."
  • Brokers strong community relationships with organizations like the Qqs Society that focuses on youth culture and the environment, and allows students to use remote cameras in the Helltsuk territory to broadcast footage of birds and land and sea mammals.
  • Also brokers partnerships with five post-secondary institutions, leveraging opportunities for her students to participate in marine-based and archeological science activities like counting salmon or participating on inter-tidal scavenger hunts.

Rave reviews

"Some teachers explain it on the board, Johanna explains it by going outside and showing us, hands-on, how it works and how to use plant medicine in an actual survival situation."


"What sets Johanna apart is her ability to creatively integrate education that occurs outside the school with what occurs inside the school, engaging our students in exploring their traditional territory and culture, and preparing them to become environmental and resource stewards."