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Suzanne Robinson, left, Christopher Aitken, Carly Sayers and Diane Brule stand with Minister Caroline Cochrane, after winning literacy awards on Sept. 26. (Submitted by Suzanne Robinson ) Four residents of N.W.T. are being recognized for their excellence in literacy.

At the Adult Learners’ Luncheon, Christopher Aitken, Suzanne Robinson, Carly Sayers and Diane Brule, all received awards for their efforts in the classroom.

The accolades were presented by Minister of Education Caroline Cochrane at Northern United Place on Sept. 26.

Hay River’s Aitken took home the Ministerial Educator Literacy Award.

Aitken has been working in Hay River for 16 years. During his tenure in the North, Aitken started to notice a disturbing pattern — a lot of students weren’t finishing school.

Aitken said he felt his role as an educator transformed into helping students improve their quality of life.

"We don’t know the potential of those people," Aitken said. "We have no idea because they didn’t come to school, and because of their issues in their families going to school was the least of their worries."

Last October, Aitken expanded his role as a teacher by helping residents who were not his students improve their reading and writing skills outside of the classroom.

He’s hoping to take his program to the community’s learning centre next month. Minister of Education Caroline Cochrane, left, and Christopher Aitken during the Adult Learners’ Luncheon at Northern United Place in Yellowknife. (Submitted by Christopher Aitken) Creating an ‘inclusive environment’

During her 20-year career as a teacher, one of Robinson’s goals was to help Indigenous students reach their full potential.

While teaching at Aurora College in Inuvik and Yellowknife, Robinson noticed a lot of Indigenous students were falling behind. She decided to take it upon herself to help them in the classroom.

"You have to create an inclusive environment," she said. "Bridging the gap just made sense. It made my students happy, it made me happy, and then they were [able] to enjoy great success."

Last year, Robinson helped one student get credits in Indigenous languages for his high school diploma — a first in the territory, according to the territorial government.

Outside of the classroom, Robinson volunteered for the NWT Literacy Council. She decided to retire after 16 years with the organization.

Sayers, from Aklavik, N.W.T and Brule were recognized for their accomplishments as adult students. MORE NORTH NEWS | Tlicho author disheartened school board doesn’t recommend his books to student

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