Laryne Gamble went to school to know how to be a teacher, but what she learned in community was far more valuable. “Once you get to know these kids as people, as Tsimshian, once you get to know them, and respect them, and you get to love them. To me, the best part about being a teacher is loving students, supporting them, encouraging them, and getting them ready for the world after high school,” she reflected.
Gamble, whose traditional name is Nox hlgu smax (which means Mother of the Little Bear) is a Nisga’a citizen raised in Kincolith. She moved away to attend the University of Saskatchewan’s ITEP program, which she says completely changed her life. Gamble started her year teaching in Metlakatla but relocated to Lasgalt'ap.
She always wanted to be a teacher. She first went to university after graduating from high school but dropped out in her second year. She didn’t feel ready and was distracted by her first taste of freedom. Gamble became a community support worker and a few years later went to Coast Mountain College in Smithers. She transferred to University of Saskatchewan and found her teacher training brought a great deal of personal growth.
ITEP brought a lot of good things out of me, but they also really, really empowered me to be the person I am right now. I credit ITEP to have raised a powerful, Indigenous woman who is very proud of who she is and where she came from.
Prior to the program she felt unsure and struggled with her identity, despite growing up in Nisga’a Nation with people she described as “very powerful and magical”. While Gamble went to school, she was working two jobs. Her husband was working from home and she was feeling socially isolated. She had never been to Saskatchewan and she found the transition challenging at times. Her educational journey took ten years from high school graduation to university convocation.
Sometimes you just need a little bit of a break, or a breakdown, and honour that. Honour those feelings, and then get back to it.
She has words of understanding for youth considering leaving home to pursue opportunities like she did, “It's scary. It's nerve-wracking. Especially when we're leaving our families behind. Our culture, our land, where we feel comfortable, and where we feel safe. But, you can do it,” she counsels.
I have no regrets from where I started, and where I am now. It was a lot of learning experiences and growth.
She suggests youth take time to think about what they are going through and what matters to them. “Give yourself the time to process what you're doing. What is your purpose? What is your goal? Honour those. Sit down with it, and think about what you envisioned for your life. What do you want to give back to your people? Finish what you started, but also be patient with yourself,” she recommends.
Gamble dealt with feelings of loneliness by creating a supportive community for herself with her connections from ITEP and from their student council. She hosted gatherings, went on outings and built strong friendships to get her through tough times.
Looking back, she has advice for her younger self she wishes she could give. “That you are stronger than you think that you are. You're going to go through some really tough times, but you are resilient. Don't lose hope for one second. It doesn't matter how dark things get, always reach out to somebody. You are special and don't dim your light for anyone else. Be yourself. And don't listen to criticism unless it's constructive, unless it helps who you want to be. But don't listen to criticism that comes from a place of hate or anger. That's not the energy you want to put out in your world. Don't accept that into your heart. Don't let anyone make you feel that you are not capable, or that you're not powerful, or that you're not anything worthy because you are strong, and you just need to realize that. Sometimes it'll take a while, but you'll get there,” she suggests.
The pandemic has left Gamble doing a lot of self-reflection and becoming more aware of her self-talk and tendency to compare herself to others in a critical way. She has spent time jogging, reading, watching Netflix and trying to keep herself busy.
She’s drawn inspiration from her students and from Indigenous youth. “I'm so proud to see the Indigenous youth, and how they represent themselves. They're asking questions. They are learning who they are, and they are so smart,” she remarked, contemplating what an honour it is to witness their rise. She admires their resilience and their ability to communicate and navigate challenging systems.
My heart feels that it's going to explode of how much love I have in there for these human beings…they don't know yet just how special they truly are. I can't wait to see them succeed.
“I'm so honoured to be a Nisga'a teacher in Tsimshian territory, teaching these children. And that their parents trust me to see these kids day in and day out. I'm just really proud of the communities, of the families, of the students that are going to do amazing things. I know that from the bottom of my heart, I know that they're going to achieve every goal,” Gamble beamed.
From British Columbia to Saskatchewan, from loneliness to community, Laryne Gamble has been on a journey of learning. She learned in school how to teach people, but in community, and from the front of the class, she learned how to truly know people (and herself!).
Thanks to Alison Tedford for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.