Division News

Division News

New Principal at Mistassiniy School

Posted on July 13

Northland School Division No.61 (NSD61) is pleased to announce the appointment of Debra Empson as Principal of Mistassiniy School in Wabasca-Desmarais. Debra, who is originally from Edmonton, brings a wealth of experience in First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education, literacy, special needs and English as a Second Language (ESL).

“I am pleased to join the staff of Mistassiniy High School through a journey of change,” said Empson. “It is time for students, teachers, parents and the community to roll up our sleeves and begin the hard work of school improvement. Many individuals, Elders, community leaders, school representatives and agencies have participated in meaningful and honest discussions to identify priorities for our school. Because of that work five priorities have been identified. Now is the time for Mistassiniy to take the steps necessary to fully embrace and develop those priorities.”

Early on in her teaching career, Debra started the first storefront alternative school at Ma-Me-O Beach, Alberta. As the only teacher/principal of the school, she was able to develop meaningful relationships with the First Nation bands and the children of each nation. While serving as Vice-Principal at Wetaskiwin Composite High School, Debra worked directly with Elders to increase success for Aboriginal students. This work eventually lead to the development of an Elder in Residence program to support education goals for Aboriginal students.

While Principal of a large high school in Cranbrook, she worked with the St. Mary’s Band, Elders and support workers to implement a similar program. In addition to the success of the Elder in Residence program, Debra worked with staff to change the school culture into a “Neighbourhood of Learning” environment. With these changes and a discipline model of Restorative Justice, Mount Baker Senior Secondary enjoyed improvements in attendance, course completions, graduation rates and of course a decline in discipline issues. Empson, who embraces the “Kids First” vision chronicled in the Northland Community Engagement Team Report, says she is committed to working with students, parents, Elders and community members to attain specific goals.

“What does that vision look like in our homes, in our school and in our larger community,” said Empson. “For the home; supporting youth in their journey to a successful and healthy future where they can celebrate who they are and who they have become. For the school; it is time to build on the strengths of best practice, advance programs that include culturally relevant content teamed with rigorous academic challenges that will prepare our youth for a future that begins now. For the community; advancing meaningful partnerships where youth work side by side with adults. Adults willing and able to support our youth and provide opportunities for the development of their future. It is my belief that we can work together, like family, with our youth as active partners, and through that process we will all see and celebrate success.”

Debra holds a Master’s Degree in Administration from San Diego State, a Bachelor of Education Degree from the University of Alberta, with a major in English and special education as well as extensive professional development and certification in the areas of literacy, ESL and Restorative Justice.