“We, [Anishinaabeg], are very visual people. This is how we learn things. We must see, we must touch, we must repeat. That’s the method I used with my groups of students. I wish that young people would try to speak a little bit of our language every day.”
Virginia studied to become a teacher in Rouyn-Noranda. In the summertime, she completed training in education delivered in her community by the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. She soon developed great interest in teaching and participated in various upgrading workshops throughout her career. In her opinion, every teacher of young Aboriginals must understand the mechanisms of linguistics and the basics of language didactics.
When she started school, Virginia could only speak her native language. The start of her schooling years came as a shock to her: she did not understand a single word of what was being said in class and the lessons taught did not value the learning mechanisms she had been accustomed to since birth. She nevertheless completed her studies, stressing that she has never had what it takes to go to school. Of course, Virginia is not one to sit behind a desk; she needs action. Throughout her career, she has instigated many initiatives and reforms.
Virginia completed two mandates as principals in primary and secondary schools in Lac-Simon. In 2010, she was appointed to the newly-created position of Language and Culture Coordinator. She developed an alphabetical list of vocabulary in the Anishinaabe language and several pedagogical tools to support teachers. Virginia wished to invite teachers to adapt their teaching method to the Anishinaabe culture and ways of doing things. She hopes that the young Anishinaabe people now starting their schooling experience can have the kind of pedagogical and human support they need to succeed.
Anishinaabe language and culture still have a predominant place in Virginia’s life. She toys with the idea of publishing her first literary work. With a note of humor, Virginia sums up her remarkable career as follows:
“I’ve been a teacher, a school principal and a language and culture coordinator. I try and work as much as possible to keep the language alive. I would like to be a writer, but I’m too much of a short and sweet kind of person