Thomas Doherty - Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education

Year: 2017 – Province: Ontario

Transcript—Thomas Doherty Video

[Thomas Doherty speaks to camera, with the Parliament buildings as a backdrop behind him]

[Photos of Thomas and his students are displayed on screen throughout his interview]

[Upbeat music plays softly in the background]

I'm Tom Doherty, and I am the Student Retention Lead in Red Lake, Ontario for the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education.

[Text on screen: Tom Doherty, Ontario]

As a Métis, community is – is huge within our culture and within our traditions. So when I looked at what I could do to contribute to my community, I thought what best to take my – my talents and my aspirations into the classroom and to give back to the community by giving back to the students and facilitating the learning that takes place within the classroom.

I'm particularly proud of my Books of Life project that the Ontario Teachers Federation ended up in 2010 bringing province wide, and it allowed me to take all of my 70 native language students into an environment where they were able to write their own stories and tell their own stories about who they are, what it's like to live in north-western Ontario, and what it is to them to be aboriginal.

[Video footage of Thomas receiving his award from Justin Trudeau is intercut]

Winning the top teacher award in Canada makes me feel very satisfied in the fact that, as a Catholic teacher, we take teaching more of a vocation. So for me, knowing that I'm doing what is naturally given to me as a talent and giving that to the students is fulfilling within not only a spiritual means but as a professional and as a individualized means as well.

Student 1: Congratulations, Tom.

Student 2: Congratulations.

Student 3: Congratulations.

Student 4: Congratulations.

Student 5: Congratulations for receiving your reward.

[Canada wordmark]

[Music ends]

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Thomas Doherty

Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education
P.O. Box 340
Balmertown, Ontario  P0V 1C0

Principal: Adrian Lawrence
School telephone: 807-735-1381
School email:
School website:

Subjects and grades taught: Kindergarten to Grade 9, Student Retention Lead Teacher

A strong enthusiasm to share his Métis heritage with his students, a respect for the land and a regard for the Ojibwa culture and language inspires Thomas Doherty to show students how to think outside the box. Encouraging collaborative and independent online learning, Doherty creates a stimulating learning environment and engages his students in projects that broaden their global perspective and enhance their understanding.

Teaching approach

Doherty embraces a cross-curricular approach that is consistently tied back to Indigenous teachings – an example of this is how after a presentation from a local police officer about ice safety, Doherty had his students apply their knowledge on an ice fishing expedition with local Elders, bringing their catch to the local homeless shelter at the end of the day.

Outstanding achievements

  • Partnered with ImagineAction as his students researched diabetes and exercise, and produced a presentation that they gave as they sold bouquets of daisies door to door to raise funds for a new community playground.
  • Drew from Ojibwa traditions in a project where his students worked with an artist to create Woodland art, auctioned it off and used the funds to purchase supplies to volunteer at the local community gardens that provide food to the local homeless shelters.
  • Developed a collaborative digital "Book of Life" project with his students that allowed them to bring their stories to life – with some books being highlighted on local television.
  • Developed and disseminated curricula and learning materials to the James Bay Coastal Education Authorities based on the traditions of the Peetabeck.

Rave reviews

"Our excursion on the Muskeg was one of the coolest things that I had done in my teaching career. It was something that had not been done before in that community thanks to Tom."

Former colleague

"Thomas Doherty has a passion for his people and the vision to bring forth greatness through his action. An Anishinaabe teacher at St. John, Thomas has adapted his teaching to meet the needs of his students in the modern world, as well as the traditional Anishinaabe world."

President, Ontario Teachers Federation