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2015 CEA Pat Clifford Award Winner: Teaching Sideways To Shift The Stories

Toronto – October 1, 2015 – The Canadian Education Association (CEA) is proud to recognize Dr. Sean Lessard – Assistant Professor of Indigenous Education and Core Studies at the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education – as the recipient of its 2015 Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Research in Education for his work in redefining the ways in which Indigenous learners and their teachers can engage in traditional and non-traditional educational spaces.

Dr. Lessard’s home community is the Montreal Lake Cree Nation of Northern Saskatchewan, but a non-Aboriginal rural family in North Battleford adopted him as a child. Frequent trips between both worlds allowed him to develop strong attachments to both communities, which shaped his sense of self. He came to realize that there isn’t one singular story of identity, which now makes up the heart of his research. 

Dr. Lessard unpacks his personal experiences of place by teaching “sideways”, or narratively, using inquiry to provoke dialogue and counteract the strong stereotypes of Indigenous peoples that exist among many young teacher-candidates.

As co-founder of the Growing Young Movers Youth Program, Dr. Lessard is working alongside community as a pedagogical space. This program forms an inter-generational living space in North-Central Regina, integrating the teachings of Indigenous families and Elders to deliver wellness activities outside of school for Indigenous youth – many or whom are transitioning from Treaty home communities and experiencing many institutional challenges and barriers as they adjust to urban living. Six Indigenous high school students serve as mentors to the younger students while Dr. Lessard’s teacher-candidates challenge their assumptions and contribute their observations to the ongoing research each week during the school year. Changes made from their findings include the use of different teaching spaces and physical movement activities to foster an environment of positivity and inclusion.

“I don’t want to stay in the office – I need my research work to stay close to what I believe in,” explains Dr. Lessard. “We need to be intentional about how we support Indigenous youth in Regina and in other urban centres across Canada. We can’t make monolithic assumptions where every Indigenous student has the same story. The identity of each learner is crucial – there’s difference and that’s beautiful.” 

Dr. Lessard is building an impressive research agenda that aims to support classroom teachers in pedagogical considerations of what it means to engage meaningfully in fostering success for Indigenous learners with significant socio-economic and socio-cultural challenges in formal and informal learning spaces. His work has the potential to transform education for Indigenous learners in Canada and internationally.

“Dr. Lessard’s focus on Indigenous student engagement by integrating community members, Elders and researchers is a way to build powerful connections for young people in at-risk situations and is already transforming learning environments in Regina’s inner city neighbourhoods,” says Dr. Michele Jacobsen, Chair of the Pat Clifford Award Nominations Committee.

 Dr. Lessard will receive the 2015 Pat Clifford Award at CEA’s CEOs Forum at the Elk Ridge Resort in Waskesiu, Saskatchewan on October 1st at 1:00pm CST.

To access a Q & A article with Dr. Lessard, and for a bibliography of his work, please visit:


About the Pat Clifford Award

This Award is named after Dr. Pat Clifford, one of the co-founders of The Galileo Educational Network. Pat had an extensive teaching background from primary through graduate level, and was the recipient of numerous awards for both research and teaching practice. Pat passed away in August of 2008 but she left a gift to us in her teaching, scholarly writing, poetry and stories.   


About the Canadian Education Association (CEA)

Celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2016, CEA is a not-for-profit research and action centre advancing ideas for greater student and teacher engagement in public education. With members representing the entire spectrum of stakeholder groupings in education, CEA’s endurance reflects a sophisticated understanding of critical and timely educational issues. With a mandate of promoting and supporting courageous changemakers, CEA’s strength lies in the strategic roles it plays in the Canadian education scene: as a thought and action leader, a connector, and a knowledge mobilizer.

For more information:

Max Cooke
CEA Director of Communications (bilingual)
Twitter: @max_cooke