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On the Job with… Joe Tice, Itinerant Teacher, Indigenous Engagement and Support

A teacher works with a student at a computer

Even though he wears many hats at Grand Erie in his role as Itinerant Teacher, Indigenous Engagement and Support, Joe Tice prefers a simple title that seems to cover all of it: Coach Joe.

It’s a fitting title since the word ‘coach’ means to give instruction or advice. Today, he’s in many places, imparting his knowledge and experience to support student success.

In the morning, he was at Paris District High School before travelling to North Park Collegiate and Vocational School. Both visits were to help senior students plan next steps after graduation. After that, it was off to a lunch meeting at Grand Erie Learning Alternatives to meet with the school’s new Indigenous Student Club, brainstorming potential awareness-raising activities and helping the club access additional resources.

The afternoon was spent at Tollgate Technological Skills Centre, working with Grade 9 students beginning to chart out course selections as they explored possible career paths.

‘Coach’ is also a familiar title for Tice considering his long history of coaching in Grand Erie. He got his start at Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School in 1999, teaching physical education, math, and geography. During this time, he coached several teams, including football, basketball, track, and curling.

“Sports have always been a huge part of my life – they helped me choose a post-secondary program, and shaped my career,” says Tice. “Basically, I knew I liked sports and school, so I decided to become a phys ed teacher.”

‘Coach’ is also a humble title for his current position, a big part of which involves helping Indigenous students envision their own potential. The role sees him implementing culturally responsive projects and initiatives, supporting teachers in providing cross-curricular lessons, and empowering and serving the needs of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students in reaching success.

Tice is Ojibway, Marten clan, and grew up in Garden River First Nation, just outside Sault Ste. Marie. He moved to Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Quebec for his first teaching job, and lived in Ottawa for a time before making the move to Southern Ontario.

A man works on a laptop at a desk

After many years teaching, he was ready for a new challenge, and last year accepted a role with the Indigenous Education team in Grand Erie, working with secondary students navigating post-graduation options. His current role in Engagement and Support with Indigenous Education sees him travelling across the board on a regular basis, meeting with staff and students, working with Indigenous student clubs to plan and implement school-wide projects and activities, and supporting success strategies to ensure students can access resources, build skill sets, graduate and thrive.

“I don’t want to be another voice telling students, ‘What are you going to do with your life?’” says Tice. “I’m here to show them that the path is not linear, and that you don’t have to go in the same direction as everybody else.”

Tice remembers his Grade 7 teacher telling him that he had the potential to go on to post-secondary school, and he did just that, becoming the first member of his family to graduate university.

“My dad was fond of saying, ‘there’s always tomorrow,’ and it’s very true when it comes to education,” says Tice. “There are always options, there’s always potential.”

Tice’s work supports Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan and its Equity indicator, which works to promote safe, inclusive spaces where all students are welcomed and feel a sense of belonging. At the secondary level, Indigenous Clubs, which are open to any student, help carry out many of these goals. At the Board level, dates of significance are observed to bring into focus collective histories, and to foster understanding, cooperation, and meaningful action.

“A big part of it is raising awareness, and initiatives like Orange Shirt Day and Treaties Week – initiatives that didn’t exist until recently – these help build mutual understanding,” says Tice. “We are all treaty people, and having the Board recognize these kinds of initiatives makes an impact.”

For staff and students working to carry out these goals, Tice’s knowledge is invaluable.

“Joe’s support is what makes it happen,” says Heather Vogt, English Department Head and staff advisor for Tollgate’s Indigenous Club. “Whether it’s generating ideas or gaining access to resources, we needed Joe’s leadership to help us get started and to keep going.”

By the time the bell rings and the career cruising activity wraps up at Tollgate, Tice is on a first-name basis with the group of Grade 9 students. It’s a little thing, but it’s the first step in building relationships that will last the next four years, and help guide the students on their own authentic paths.