These First Nations students are getting a leg up on literacy

Incentive program is helping Tsi Snaihne School to be ‘known as a school that produces great readers’

What can you “read” into a transformation like this?

A lot, actually—starting with hard work, pride and accomplishment.

During the 2012-13 school year, just 33 percent of students at Tsi Snaihne School in Akwesasne, Quebec, were reading at or above grade level. Five years later, that number had jumped to 75 percent.

Principal Lynda Brown credits incentive programs as an important factor in that success.

“We know incentives are very motivating for students. They encourage students to work to the best of their ability, and research has shown that incentive-based programs are effective for schools that have a large number of students below the poverty line,” says Brown.

Children who make the Tsi Snaihne School honor roll earn rewards like movie tickets and bowling-and-pizza vouchers. Those showing good behavior—demonstrating specific character traits, listening actively in class, finishing homework, having effective team discussions—can earn “treasure box” picks, like fidget spinners, balls and other novelty items.

Brown notes with pride that 73 percent of Tsi Snaihne School students earned honor roll status during the first term of this 2017-18 scholastic year.

“It’s a lot of hard work by our staff, by the children, by our parents. Everything our students achieve, we put in the local newspaper (the Indian Time). The children are very proud. They can tell you what they scored on their latest reading test, and they are excited share their scores down the hall to the teachers and me,” she says.

“We beat most provincial standards last year for reading and writing. When I read our scores over the school PA, I literally cried. I still cry when I think about it.”

In 2017-18, Tsi Snaihne School is running academically focused reward programs such as:

  • A reading incentive program, with children asked to read for 20 minutes at home each day;
  • A character education program, with students encouraged to demonstrate character traits that are taught each month;
  • Attendance and honor roll programs, with rates last year reaching 93% and 74%, respectively.

“Our students (ranging from Head Start to Grade 6) now have a good foundation in literacy. We’re known as a school that produces great readers,” says Brown.

Enbridge believes in enhancing quality of life in the communities where we operate. Over the years, we’ve supported Tsi Snaihne School, and others operated by the Cornwall, Ontario-based Ahkwesahsne Mohawk Board of Education, in various initiatives—including a language development and immersion program, and a music enrichment class.

Enbridge’s donation of $10,000 is supporting Tsi Snaihne School’s incentive programs for 2017-18.

With literacy levels in a good place—and the school shooting for an 80% rate of students reading at or above grade level in 2017-18—Brown and her staff are now focusing on math initiatives to support STEM subjects.

That includes a robotics course that’s being facilitated by the Aboriginal Access to Engineering program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

“Enbridge has supported so many of our programs over the years,” says Brown. “We want to meet or exceed provincial standards every year. We believe in our children’s potential.”

(TOP PHOTO: Tsi Snaihne School students Lila Arquette and Julia Jackson enjoy a recent well-earned movie and Burger King lunch after making the school's honour roll.)