Kirsten Receiving Indspire Award from Governor General-Photo Credit IndspireKirsten Barnes, an educator and curriculum developer from Gitanmaax, British Columbia has been recognized with a Guiding the Journey: Indigenous Educator Award as a Role Model by Indspire (formally the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation).

The award was presented by Indspire Patron His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at the inaugural Awards at the National Gathering for Indigenous Education in Calgary.

Ms. Barnes is one of twelve educators from across Canada honoured for their work and the only recipient from British Columbia. Roberta L. Jamieson, President and CEO of Indspire said, “The contributions of all of the award recipients honoured here, can be an inspiration to all Canadians. These are people who day in, day out are there for our students, helping them realize their potential.”

In recognizing Ms. Barnes the citation noted:
“Kirsten Barnes, an educator and curriculum developer, seeks out innovative solutions to the educational, social, and health issues that Indigenous youth face today. Barnes is a First Nations High School teacher and a Gitksan Wet’suwet’en Education Society (GWES) research department administrator in British Columbia. Her passion for education is only surpassed by her belief in the ability of every student to succeed.

Barnes is in the final stages of completing Nurturing the Spirit: Social, Emotional, and Physical Well-Being, a curriculum project she co-authored with Virginia Morgan, an Indigenous educator. They are creating the culturally relevant and holistic curriculum in response to low high school completion rates and high suicide rates among Indigenous youth in the North.

Educator Awards Group Photo-Photo Credit Indspire

Although not yet a fluent speaker, Barnes recognizes the importance of Gitxsan language preservation and revitalization for her home community. Barnes and the GWES Multimedia Lab are in the midst of creating phase one for The Gitxsan Interactive Language Kit. Once complete, the kit will be tested in local pre-schools regarding the effectiveness of modern technology combined with visual, auditory, and interactive learning methods for teaching the language to children and parents.

Last year, Barnes was recognized for “Leading by Example” as a mentor for the First Nations High School E-Spirit team in the national competition. Her team, Grease Trail Arts, created an Indigenous business plan that took them to the national finals at the University of Manitoba in May 2012.
Rounding out her career development, Barnes writes academic research and policy papers related to the improvement of First Nation health and education.”

For information about all recipients, please visit

UPDATE: Ms. Barnes took a leave from her teaching duties after she was accepted to the University of British Columbia Law School in 2014. Ms. Barnes is set to graduate in May of 2017 with her Juris Doctor Degree with a dual specialization in Aboriginal Law and Social Justice. Upon her completion of Law School, she hopes to use her knowledge of education and law to tackle critical Indigenous issues such as education and child welfare reform.

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