Sylvia Harper

What education have you taken?

I graduated in 2010 form Brandon University with my three-year Bachelor of Arts with a major in English and a minor in Native Studies.  I am currently a first-year student in Brandon University’s Bachelor of Education Program with a concentration in the senior year’s stream.  M y goal is to become a high-school English teacher.  I hope to be able to touch the students with my love of literature and learning and hope that I can help the students realize their full potentials.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

As a wife and mother, I am very proud of the fact that I was able to obtain my degree in Arts. It was very hard to juggle assignments, classes, and time with my children and husband.  I took several Creative Writing courses with Dale Lakevold, and as a result of some of my work in his class, was asked to read at the student readings for both times the OGAMAS Brandon Aboriginal Literary Festival was held.  In one course, Aboriginal Literature for Children and Youth with Dr. Helen Armstrong, I collaborated with a local artist John Stepplar, for our final project, which is currently being considered for publication at Loon Publications in Winnipeg, MB.  I am also the Social Coordinator for the Brandon University Aboriginal Student Council and have helped plan a successful fundraising social in December and hope that we’ll be doing more to raise money for the 2011 graduation powwow.

Tell me about yourself / your background / your history.

I am from Wasagamack First Nation, which is one of four reserves in the Island Lake area.  My great-uncle was J.J. Harper.  I am a wife of nine years and a mother to two boys.  In grade two one of my stories was published in a book compiled by Manitoba First Nation Education Resource Centre. In high school, I interned at Grassroots News for two weeks and was published in an article I wrote for the paper.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

I graduated from high school in 1999 and spent five years working at various jobs in my community until I started work as an educational assistant at the local school.  I was at this job that I realized that I wanted to be a teacher.  I spent two years in P.E.N.T. (Program for the Education of Native Teachers) before I enrolled as a full-time student at Brandon University in 2006.  I am the first person to graduate from a University in my immediate family.

What is your philosophy in life?

My philosophy on life is to learn and play as much as you can.  I believe that in order for all native people to rise above their circumstances, they must learn as much as they can.  However as the saying goes “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy”,; you must take time to play.  My children teach me this valuable lesson every day.  Because of this, I also believe that we must learn from our children.  I plan to write a book in the near future, and I have recently started writing poems.  I haven’t submitted anything anywhere yet, just because I feel like I need to practice more.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

After a few years of teaching, I’m hoping to come back to Brandon University and hopefully obtain a Master’s in English.  Maybe I’ll come back sooner by taking some Creative Writing courses during the springs and summers.

Nominator’s Comments:

In 2009 Sylvia was chosen to perform some of her masterful creative writing pieces at the OGAMAS Brandon Aboriginal Literary Festival, to an audience of professional writers and the general public.   She was a great hit with the OGAMAS audience.

Sylvia’s collaboration with local professional Aboriginal artist John Steppler created an illustrated children’s book written in both English and Oji-Cree.    This manuscript is currently being considered for publication at Loon Publications of Winnipeg.

Sylvia Harper also writes poetry, and completed a poetry sequence for an assignment in Canadian Poetry with Dr. Di Brandt last year.  Even though she hasn’t been writing it for very long, her poetry is very sophisticated, witty, eloquent and insightful.

As a high-school English teacher, Sylvia hopes to be able to touch the students with her love of literature and learning, and hopes that she can help students realize their full potentials.

Sylvia Harper has consistently earned very high grades in her undergraduate studies.  She is exceptionally intelligent and articulate, and is an eloquent writer, who possesses the talent to become a professional published author in the near future and beyond.