Mistissini’s Voyageur Memorial School may soon have a Harvard-educated teacher on staff. Teacher Kim Quinn has been accepted by the prestigious Ivy League school this fall.
Quinn will be pursuing her Masters of Education in language and literacy with some heavy support from the Cree School Board. They agreed to pay for her tuition, which totaled $29,000 U.S. for the year she’ll be in Boston.
“The program focuses on language and literacy but it also focuses a lot on reading,” Quinn explained. “I find there is a need for it because our kids lack a lot of literacy skills.”
She has helped to set up a reading program in the school, and hopes to start a literacy program when she gets back. “I talk to [the class] all the time about higher education and how I want them to go higher than high school and I explained to them what they have to do.”
Quinn, 28, says education has always been important in her family. “I was always interested in teaching because my mom was a teacher,” she said. “I have a couple aunts as well that were teachers along with my younger sister.”
Her mother, Beverly Quinn, also served as Vice Principal for many years before becoming a commissioner on the School Board.
Kim’s academic resume is quite impressive. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree and in 2001 completed her Bachelor of Education, both at McGill University in Montreal, where she also made the Dean’s honour list.
Single and without children, Kim has been working in Mistissini teaching cycle three – Grades 5 and 6 – for the past three years. But something was missing and a year and a half ago she started thinking about getting her Masters degree. Her eyes became firmly set on one of the most sought-after universities in North America.
“I’ve always enjoyed school,” said Kim, who graduated from McGill with a grade point average of 3.92, good enough for the top 10 per cent of her class.
That’s when she did an extensive search of schools across Canada and the U.S. that she’d like to attend. She decided to apply to five schools, four of which accepted her.
The news was almost too much to bear; she had to share it with someone so she turned to her class. “When I found out via email that I was accepted, there were no adults around so I told my kids that I got in and they were all excited for me. My family was really excited as well, and we went out to dinner and celebrated the same day,” said Kim, who will be the first Eenouch to attend Harvard in the Fall.
Part of the requirements to prove she was worthy of attending Harvard was to pass a Graduate Record Exam. It consists of a test on reading and comprehension, her analytical abilities, mathematics and two essays.
“It was hard work because I was teaching at the same time and I was working on different applications at different times in the evening and trying to have a life,” she noted.
“I love to be around my nieces and nephew and parents, and I found that I didn’t have as much time to spend on special activities with my students as I would have liked to.”
In the past couple of years, she helped to set up a reading program in the school.
Her cousin Don Nicholls has been very instrumental in helping to pave the way. “I would ask him a lot of stuff. He read over one of my personal statements for advice. He also helped me out with my visa and housing. I have him to lean on for that kind of advice. He was like a role model growing up, a second older brother.”