Hazel Dobersheck

Lessons Learned and Gifts Given: Hazel Dobersheck Lives Life as Teacher and Student

“Indigenous people are finding themselves and they're using their gifts, because everybody has a gift, no matter who you are. You may not see it, but other people do and sharing that with other people is empowering as well,” Hazel Dobersheck says wistfully. Education is her gift that she shares freely.. 

"Indigenous people are finding themselves and they're using their gifts, because everybody has a gift, no matter who you are."

Prince Albert, Saskatchewan is where she was raised and now lives. She graduated from high school a couple years late and then worked for a few years before having a child. Later, she attended the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program and she’s currently working on a community based Master's degree in education through the University of Regina.

Ever since Kindergarten Dobersheck knew she was going to be a teacher. A kind and loving teacher made her feel wanted as part of her first year in school and she knew that’s what she wanted to do as well. In grade 12, when she was going through hard times, another amazing teacher helped her believe in herself enough to graduate. It took her a while to get into the program because she was working but eventually she was able to make it happen for herself. 

These days, Dobersheck teaches grade five, after teaching high school for ten years. Both have been really positive experiences but grade five feels like an opportunity to reach kids while they are still deciding on the path they want to take.  

Thinking back to her own experiences in her senior year, she has advice for students thinking about leaving their home community to chase their dreams. “Go after your dreams because they can come true. I set some goals for myself and it came true for me. It's been a rewarding career, teaching, and going into my Master's. I am getting a new perspective on education and what students go through, along with my own experience and the experience of my siblings. It makes me feel good that I'm going to be able to try and make a change in education for Indigenous students,” Dobersheck asserts. 

"We have to remind ourselves that we can do it. We're smart."

Over the course of her life, Dobersheck has had to face challenges head on. From racism and bullying in the classroom as a student and as an educator, she still faces stereotypes. Now, she doesn’t let it get to her too much but she does feel the impact on her self confidence at times. “You have to pick yourself up and you have to look for people who are going to support you. Rely on your family, especially, your parents and your siblings, your grandparents, whoever you're surrounded with, because those are your true supports that will be there with you right till the very end of your education and going on into your adulthood,” she urges. 

Outside of the classroom, Dobersheck has learned a lot as well. When she would visit her grandparents on the land, with no running water and electricity, she hauled water from the creek and spent time fishing. She learned to snare rabbits and to gather berries and medicine. “Relying on your parents and your grandparents and your family for education as well is super important,” she reflects. 

Illustration by Shaikara David

Balancing her work, parenting, relationships, caregiving for her elderly father and going to school can be tough so Dobersheck has found ways to keep herself mentally healthy. She spends time in prayer and outside in nature by the water, smudging, and leaning into her community support. “That connection to the land is huge for me, because that's where I find my peace and I go there quite often,” she beams. Her sister and husband help her a lot and encourage her when she’s feeling stretched too thin. She practices gratitude for them, her health and who she is as an Indigenous woman.

If she could give a message to her younger self it would be to learn her traditions, her identity and her language. Every summer, she learned from her grandparents but after they passed away she lost her connection to those practices. Learning one’s language is something she considers important and she urges Indigenous youth to find the support they need to learn for themselves. 

Dobersheck is looking to learn Michif herself through apps and classes and she integrates it into her classroom as much as she can, empowering herself and her students at the same time. With local schools beginning Cree language immersion classes, she’s excited to see so many young kids thriving in language learning. 

“It's so empowering to see so many people taking back their culture because of the movement of Indigenous people who are learning their language and learning their traditions. The ribbon skirt movement, and the powwow, it's just so empowering to see all those people out there… it's just really heartwarming to see that because that's what we need,” she elaborates, thinking about the twenty and thirty year olds who are revitalizing traditional practices. 

That resurgence inspires her. She encourages. 

If she could share a message with youth it would be, “Just go for your goals and learn about your identity, learn who you are, and where you come from, and be proud of it. Don't ever let anybody make you feel that you are not worthy. Because you are worthy. Look for the people who you can trust and people who are genuine, and want to help you because those are the people who are going to get you through those tough times.”

In closing, she wants to say, “I believe in you. Don't give up on yourselves because you have a gift. You're important, and we need you to bring back our traditions. We need you to share your gifts and I wish everybody the best of luck in their education.”

As an Indigenous person, Hazel Dobersheck found herself and her gift of education. She’s sharing it with the world so everyone can see it, empowering herself and others at home and at school. With the land as her classroom, comfort and strength, she’s rooted in community and savouring time spent watching youth blossom into capable Indigenous people with so much to offer the world.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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  • Career
  • Identity
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  • Province/Territory
    Saskatchewan
  • Date
    April 2, 2024
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