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SCDSB Native Language Teacher Shares Gifts of Song and Culture

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Sudbury Catholic Native Language Teacher Verna Hardwick shares her gifts of song and culture with her new C.D. entitled "Aanaii".

March 3, 2010 - Over the years, many of the staff at the Sudbury Catholic District School Board have had the opportunity to meet Verna Hardwick. Hardwick has been a Native Language teacher with the board for 17 years and often travels from school to school with her students singing in her native language of Ojibwe. A quiet, reserved woman, she often surprises people when she begins to sing. Instead of the soft-spoken voice one would expect, Hardwick sings with a voice seemingly from deep within her and the result is a beautiful, strong, clear sound.
Before her career as a teacher began, she had many different jobs including driving different kinds of buses including transit and school buses. When she joined the Sudbury Catholic Board, it was as for a pilot project with Native Language at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School. The singing didn’t begin until approximately 10 years ago when she was at the Friendship Centre and she was listening and observing others sing in Ojibwe. At first she learned how to communicate with a drum but had never attempted singing on her own. Only out of circumstance did Hardwick undertake singing solo when she attended one event and found out that she was the only one who showed up. That was the beginning of Hardwick sharing her gift of song. She soon began to introduce drumming and singing to her students. One of the reasons for this came from her students as Hardwick explains, “the students wanted to learn to share their culture and it comes from the heart - whatever you are feeling inside, it is going to come out.” Singing with her students eventually inspired Hardwick to begin contemplating the creation of her own C.D. as people kept asking her for one when she sang at workshops and different events. Working with another Sudbury Catholic teacher, Teddy Bubbalo, Hardwick finally produced the C.D. this past year. The C.D. entitled “Aanii”, includes some of her favourite songs, songs “that the Creator has given us.” said Hardwick. She hopes that others can use her C.D. so that those that don’t have music in their classrooms or lives, can now share in her culture and music. The C.D. is a very personal project as each of the songs have great meaning to her and even the graphic on the cover is her own drum, photographed by her daughter. She chose these songs because some of them are healing, and some give guidance for the students. Shkakimi Kwe is an original song that Hardwick wrote that means Mother Earth and was inspired to write it after an earth day presentation.
Upon reflection of her career with the Board, Hardwick feels that Sudbury Catholic has been very supportive of her and her sharing of her culture. Administration and staff at the Board feel that Hardwick has been absolutely instrumental in moving the Board forward in regard to aboriginal education and enlightenment. All of the Sudbury Catholic Schools are constantly requesting Verna and her students to visit their classrooms and show off their vocal and drumming skills for their students. When asked about any more C.D.’s in her future, Hardwick replied, “Never say never... it was a stressful process and a lot of work, but the end result really made it all worth while!”

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