Appolina Makkigak, a Grade 1 Inuktitut teacher at Leo Ussak School in Rankin Inlet, is a recipient of a 2022 Inuit Language Award. (Photo courtesy of Appolina Makkigak)

Grade 1 Inuktitut teacher wins language award

Appolina Makkigak says she’s humbled and grateful to receive honour

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Appolina Makkigak’s Grade 1 classroom has an Inuktitut word wall, with letters, shapes, colours and numbers spelled out.

Every year, the teacher at Rankin Inlet’s Leo Ussak School works to make her material culturally relevant and fresh, by doing things like speaking to her students about Inuit traditions.

Makkigak has been teaching at the school for the past five years, and it’s her work there that has earned her a 2022 Inuit Language Award. She was named as one of three recipients Tuesday.

Nunavummiut who speak Inuktut can be nominated for the awards by colleagues. Then, the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit board, which puts on the award, chooses winners from the pool of nominees.

Makkigak said she is humbled that she won the award and grateful for the nomination, and took some time to reminisce about her teaching career.

“There’s one [memory] that sticks out every single year — there’s actually two — oh my gosh, now they’re flooding,” Makkigak said, laughing.

She remembers one student who was learning numbers in Inuktitut, and the smile on his face when he learned how to write the number nine. There was another student who didn’t know any Inuktitut at the beginning of the year, then became the best reader in the class.

“That growth there, for the both of them, is what inspired me to keep going, keep doing what I’m doing but improving it,” she said.

When she began teaching, Makkigak noticed many words related to learning topics in specific subjects weren’t translated to Inuktitut. For example, she translated the “living and non-living” section in her science class to “uumajut amma uumanngittut.”

“That took a lot [of work],” she said, adding she still goes back to improve her translations.

Three years later, she’s done nearly 30 of them.

Growing up, everyone in Makkigak’s house spoke Inuktitut; the only English in her household came from the television, she said.

“Part of the inspiration comes from my family, my grandmother teaching me Inuktitut from birth, my mom for supporting the Inuktitut language at home,” she said.

“It comes from many places. The past educators struggled to strengthen Inuktitut and up to today we are still working very hard to strengthen it.”

Makkigak was honoured with the award alongside Cambridge Bay resident Attima Naalungiaqq Hadlari and Alexina Kublu, of Iqaluit, a former Nunavut language commissioner and current Inuktitut instructor at the Canadian Studies Center Arctic and International Relations at the University of Washington.

“Many excellent Inuktut language leaders were nominated for the [awards], making the selection process quite exciting and highly rewarding,” said the board’s chairperson, Louis Tapardjuk, in a recent news release.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by articrick on

    Nice to see an article on the bright side on NN

  2. Posted by Barry on

    Congratulations Appolina Makkigak

  3. Posted by 867 on

    Nunavut needs more of this and less blaming others. Graduate, go to college, sign up for NTEP, make Nunavut a better place FOR Nunavummiut BY Nunavummiut, and make the next generation hopeful. This is how real change occurs, from the ground up.

  4. Posted by Linda on

    We are so proud of Appolina! She was my child’s teacher and I have to admit. She had shown great results in teaching. Keep up the great work. Ajungi

  5. Posted by Ashley on

    Appolina also uses a great deal of Inuktitut with technology and developing resources to share with educators through an online teaching resource, so any educator worldwide could access Inuktitut Resources she developed!

  6. Posted by Putting this out there on

    Way to go Appolina, sound like she is adding to her community in a positive way. It is great she is working on building a vocabulary for students and that Reading in Inuktitut is done as well. So good for her to do what she can in a system that does not support teachers enough.

    Department of Education should be ashamed that a grade one student is just learning to write the number 9? shouldn’t this be learnt in Kindergarten. In grade one the kids should be learning how to at least add and subtract 9 to/from other numbers.

  7. Posted by Charlotte on

    Congratulations Appolina! You are a true professional teacher – passionate, committed, resourceful, solution-focused.

  8. Posted by Ally on

    Appolina teaches Inuktitut classes in evenings. For free!

  9. Posted by Evie Thordarson on

    Congratulations Appolina I am so proud of you I remember you as a little bitty baby and now you are a Inuktitut teacher you have come a long way in your educational journey you have done your family and friends proud.

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