Josiah Cardinal: A Student Creating Teaching Moments

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Many think of the more traditional model of education being the adult teacher leading a classroom, but sometimes that learning is more powerful when the student is teaching the class.

Josiah Cardinal entered Grade 4 at St Martha School for the 2022/23 school year as a student, but he already has plenty of teaching experience. Over the past year Josiah noticed more and more kids asking questions or making comments about his braids. Josiah and the Indigenous Liaison at St Martha school Robin Elson sat down and discussed how they could explain to others how important these braids are in indigenous culture.

Cardinal says there are several reasons why it’s important to share his story, but mostly so what happened to him doesn’t happen to anyone else, “So they can understand that both boys and girls can have long hair. So they don’t make fun of boys. It happened to my brother too, they made fun of him and he eventually decided to cut it. He was younger and he didn’t know what to do.”


Cardinal says the idea to make a presentation and share his story was a collaboration with the Indigenous Liaison at St Martha School, “My teacher Ms. Robin helped me with the idea. We did it so people can understand and know my culture. So people can understand the stories of my people and understand that Residential schools took away a lot of understanding.” Andrew: please make the green highlighted portion a pull-quote

Fort McMurray Catholic Board of Education Chair Cathie Langmead says what Josiah has been sharing within our Fort McMurray Catholic Schools family and beyond is a testament to his strength, “Josiah was able to take a negative experience and with the help of his mother and the school’s Indigenous Liaison, was able to turn it around. Instead of succumbing to negativity, Josiah empowered himself by turning it into a teaching moment to explain why he keeps his hair long and the importance of it within his culture. Not only did he teach his classmates/peers, but he also went to various schools within the community to teach this lesson. We are in the business of education, and when that education is taught by a child, it is a powerful experience. Josiah is proud to share his heritage and is a leader in the Indigenous community in our region. We can’t wait to see what his future holds! Way to go, Josiah!”

“We have so much we can learn from the experiences of our own students,” says Fort McMurray Catholic Schools Superintendent Natasha MacArthur-Poole. “We are beyond proud of Josiah for showing these leadership skills and sharing his story with us all. And we are also appreciative of our staff who saw, honoured, and then facilitated this opportunity for Josiah. Together we can all continue to take steps towards reconciliation.”

Josiah says he may continue to do presentations going forward, “I could do it in Ontario, California, Edmonton. I could do it anywhere. But maybe not anywhere with different languages like Russia, or South America or China.”

When it comes to the reaction of so many people seeing his story and reaching out to him, Josiah says he feels pride, “I am grateful and happy. It’s really good that they know, and it makes me feel good that they know.”

For the latest information on the Fort McMurray Catholic School Division please visit our web page at, search for the Fort McMurray Catholic Division on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@FMCSD), or find us on Instagram @fortmcmurraycatholicschools.

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