Dueck, Nelson honoured for their contributions to respective roles within teaching profession

Column: 
May 28, 2018

Gwen Dueck (left) and Gina Nelson share a conversation prior to the two educators receiving the prestigious Arbos award later in the evening.

It was hardly surprising that former Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Executive Director Gwen Dueck was awarded with an Arbos Award following her retirement.

Perhaps not as well-known beyond her own jurisdiction, but when you hear words like trust and respect in describing Gina Nelson, there is an undeniable symmetry between these two educators who both received the prestigious award at the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Annual Meeting of Council.

Dueck was the first woman to serve as Executive Director of the STF in 2008. She was in that role for nine years prior to her retirement approximately a year ago in 2017. Dueck broke new ground and served as an inspiration for women in leadership roles throughout the profession.

She received the Arbos Award for Contributions to the Professional Organization.

Throughout her career as an educator and leader, Dueck has always acted with integrity and sincerity in advancing the interests of teachers, students and the publicly funded public education system in Saskatchewan.

Dueck’s leadership skills ensured the STF stayed true to its mandate through principled decision making, often in the face of challenging circumstances.

Dueck began her career in a Grade 2 classroom in what was then the Saskatchewan Valley School Division. She served in a number of roles including as a teacher of a multi-grade class (Grades 1 to 4), a teacher-librarian and a learning resource coordinator before joining the Federation as the Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit Director. She went on to serve as the Assistant General Secretary (now known as the Associate Executive Director) prior to landing the top job.

Dueck has been a strong advocate and a credible voice for publicly funded public education, the teaching profession and teacher organizations in all aspects of her work. She provided successful leadership through challenging deliberations and negotiations with the provincial government, including provincial collective bargaining and the government’s review of teacher regulation in Saskatchewan. She also had a critical role in supporting and advocating for the collaboration of teachers around the world through Project Overseas and the partnership with the All India Primary Teachers Federation.

During her tenure, Dueck oversaw tremendous change in the organization, including the growth of the Federation to approximately $5 billion in assets. The increasing complexity of the organization demanded strong governance and Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) strategies. She demonstrated successful and visionary leadership through governance renewal processes which included the development of The Teachers’ Federation Act, 2006, the subsequent review and adoption of the STF bylaws, and a comprehensive restructuring of the development and renewal process for all Federation policies.

Dueck holds a Bachelor of Education degree and a Masters of Education degree from the University of Saskatchewan and has completed graduate coursework in educational leadership and policy at the University of British Columbia. She has also pursued further learning and professional growth through many avenues, including the Institute of Corporate Directors and Queen’s University.

Since stepping down as Executive Director, Dueck has been enjoying time with her family and friends, including her beautiful grandchildren, while finding new adventures through her travels around the world.

Nelson is the 2018 recipient of the Arbos Award for Distinguished Support of Education and the Teaching Profession.

According to her colleagues, she is a stellar example of someone who demonstrates an abundance of love through her work in supporting children and families as a home-school liaison worker in Lloydminster.

Nelson received her Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work degree from the University of Regina in 1998. After 12 years as a caseworker with Alberta Child and Family Services in the Lloydminster office, Nelson took on her present position in 2010, which she describes as her dream job.

Nelson’s colleagues describe her as a superhero who wears many capes. She is an integral part of the school community who advocates, transports, counsels and connects students to supports such as housing, meals and medical care. She sees her role as building capacity for families so they gain independence, confidence and hope. There are countless stories of the families she has connected with and supported, and the ways their lives have been transformed.

In these stories, the passion and purpose Nelson finds in her work shines through. Her humility and commitment to helping others does as well. As one who has a rich sense of humour, and considerable empathy, Nelson tells of the success of a single father who she connected to the supports he needed to help his son through life’s challenges. In another, she tells of the happiness brought by delivering a birthday cake to a family going through a difficult time. In all of the stories, she focuses on the joys and successes of others and not on her role in getting to that positive result.

Nelson has built her career on the solid foundation of trust and respect. The strong relationships she has with families creates bridges for parents, who did not have a positive school experience themselves, to connect with their child’s school. Her work in this regard is invaluable in creating space for teaching and learning to happen.

Nelson has also been very giving of her time in acting as a Practicum Supervisor for the Child and Youth Care Program at Lakeland College. She imparts a firm belief in the need to take the time to listen to those they are helping and the empowerment people can feel in sharing their story. The students fortunate enough to have her as a mentor gain a deeper understanding of the role of compassion and empathy in their chosen profession.

Beyond her role in schools, Nelson is passionate about her work at the Community Mobilization Hub in Lloydminster where, through a network of community agencies, decisions are made about supporting acute and elevated risk situations for individuals in the community. This role has allowed Nelson and the Lloydminster Hub team to develop relationships that help support the families she works with and those outside the school system.

Nelson loves nature and being outdoors. She considers the beautiful surroundings of Loon Lake as her favourite place to be. She also enjoys fishing and boating in the summer, as well as running and walking.