Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation
Submit Search
MARY ANN TRUDEAU Primary School Educator retires with legacy of inspiring new generations to live their language 
Posted: Aug 13, 2018


Looking Back on 43 years of teaching excellence in service to her community
Primary School Educator retires with legacy of inspiring new generations to live their language 

Robert Porter     Sagamok Anishnawbek News

After a career that has spanned across five decades, Mary Ann Trudeau, has decided that the time has come to take more time for herself and her family, to pursue new opportunities and continue nurturing the vitality of Anishinaabemowin in all Sagamok community members.  
Mary Ann has walked alongside the educational journeys of countless Sagamok primary school students.  Her passion has been in ensuring that our language is not only learned by community members, but used in their day to day lives as their first personal language.    
She plans to keep a presence at Biidaaban Kinoomaagegamik, going back to her start at the Old River Road School as a subsitute teacher.  She also wants to volunteer in classrooms so that she can continue inspiring new language learners to love their language enough to live their language too.  

It’s a pleasure to be able to share a few words to honour Mary Ann Trudeau for the 43 years she’s devoted to our community, our next generations.  

Our community has been in good hands.  Mary Ann’s commitment to education, and especially the advancement of Anishinaabemowin not only in the classroom, but in the ways our members live their lives on a day-to-day basis.  

Her work has brought vibrancy beyond measure to Sagamok life, the lives of our members now and into the future.  It’s because of the lifelong commitment of educators like Mary Ann that we can see the fires of our nation burn brightly tomorrow.   

I didn’t have the privilege to have walked through my early years here in Sagamok with Mary Ann, but I’ve come to know her from seeing her kindness and love in my children’s classrooms and pride during celebrations of student achievements at our community school.  I’ve seen her as a community leader in Council chambers and working within committees, listening and speaking at community conversations and forums, and supporting Anishinaabemowin initiatives in our community.  

My children have always spoken with warmth and the highest of regard for Mary Ann.  They share memories of her in their early years all the way up to their grade eight graduations and beyond.  As have their friends, my friends and so many others.  

There are families in Sagamok that have three generations that have been taught by Mary Ann over the years.  These last years, she found herself teaching the grandchildren of those she who she taught at the beginning of her career.  Each of those generations can tell you stories of their time with Mary Ann, recalling their memories fondly.    

"All it took was the one year for her to get my son to fall in love with the language, and fall in love with her as an educator and peer. It is because of Mary-Anne why my son can sing these amazing songs, and say these phrases that make me so proud that he knows the language.”   
- Brooke Eshkakogan 

Some know her as a classroom teacher.  Some know her pushing her cart around from classroom to classroom.   Some know her from further back as a teacher assistant. Many remember her on their first days of school and at their grade eight graduations too.  And at the Anishinaabemowin Teg scholarships each year, watching her speakers with pride deliver their speeches to the auditorium of language champions.  Others know her as a peer, a friend, a family member and community leader.  

“I am also grateful to have had her teach my children and my nieces and nephew. My nieces have an interest in speaking at the Native Language Conference and all 4 nieces have received awards. Now working with Mary Ann during my teaching placements I talked to her about my interest in going to Algoma University Anishnabemowin. She asked me so what’s stopping you Amanda? Here I am all signed up for Anishnabemowin at Algoma. Talk about a good influence and role model. I had no idea what the future had in store...”
- Amanda Hardisty

We all know her for her love of our community; she’s given 43 years to our next generations.  She’s impacted the lives of thousands of students and hundreds of other educators.

They say there are teachers and then there are educators.  

A teacher, is “one that teaches; especially one whose occupation is to instruct”.  I know because I looked it up in the dictionary.  An Educator, on the other hand, is one who is “one skilled in teaching.”

To me, a teacher is someone who shows up for a teaching job every day, knowing the content but likely teaching like it’s a job.  A teacher grades, placing checkmarks and x’s on tests and assignments, thinking nothing of working with students to figure out where to improve.  

An educator, on the other hand, is one of those people who goes further than is expected of them.  It’s a teacher who makes relationships with their students more important than the content, viewing students as people, our children, on a journey that is uniquely their own.  Because of their choice to make and maintain relationships with children, the content comes alive.  

Teaching isn’t just a job to an educator, it’s a calling. It’s a passion and commitment and a desire to amplify the voices and dreams of the many children whose lives touch them as much as the educator touches theirs.

An educator walks with their students as they travel along their educational journey.  Mary Ann has walked a long way, with numerous learners, for a long time.  

I had an opportunity recently to sit down with Mary Ann Trudeau to talk about her experiences as an educator and plans for retirement.  
It’s this conversation that I’d like to share with you.    


Mary Ann’s career began in 1974 at the Old River School.

She says that she was lucky and fortunate to have been given the opportunity to begin working as an educator.  As a young woman in her early 20s, she was a stay- at- home mom with children and a working husband. She didn’t think that working was really a possibility at that point.  

Early one weekday morning, she heard a knock on her door.  It startled her.  When she opened the door, she found Nelson Toulouse who told her, “Dorothy needs someone to take her place for today.  Are you interested?”  

She started subbing in that 1974 school year and by the beginning of the 1975 school year, Mary Ann was teaching full time at the Old River School.  It had three classrooms, teaching Junior Kindergarten downstairs and Senior Kindergarten and Grade Ones upstairs.  

It was at this time that Mary Ann’s passion for teaching her language took hold and began to grow.  

She says that shortly after starting at the Old River School, the principal, Ms. Ernestine Buzwa, pulled her aside privately and asked if she could teach Anishinaabemowin to the children.  Back in 1975 it was forbidden to teach Anishinaabemowin to our children in school.

She had the courage to teach Anishinaabemowin in secret 

“We taught the children Anishinaabemowin for 10 - 15 minutes each day.  Ms. Buswa had been doing this on her own for a while and now we were doing it together.  We had to keep it secret though, it wasn’t allowed.  We had to watch what we were doing even around the other teacher, who would tell the Superintendent of the school, Mr. Shadd and we’d have been in trouble.”   

Ten years after starting at the Old River School, Mary Ann moved over to the new Biidaaban Kinoomaagegamik that taught students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade Three.  

One thing I’ve learned from Mary Ann is to take advantage of the opportunities that come our way in life.  She says she’s been fortunate in life to have had the opportunities she has had and that she’s known to grasp them when they present themselves.  

Dominic Eshkakogan first came to her to see if she was interested in taking a teacher assistant course at Laurentian University.  

She says that she spoke with her husband Joe about the opportunity.  The school was close, allowing her to travel, with little inconvenience their family would have to cope with.  “Sure,” he told her.  “We can do this.”  

Over three years and summers, while also continuing to substitute teach during the school years, Mary Ann completed her degree in Native Studies.  Her accomplishment made her “happy and proud of myself.”  

Dominic came to see her again a few years later to see if she was interested in pursuing Anishinaabemowin studies.  

Again she spoke with Joe.  This time, the school was quite far from home, necessitating her to stay away from home for long periods.

Though they knew there would be some adjustment for their family, Joe supported Mary Ann, telling her to go and grasp the opportunity.  

When the time came to bring Mary Ann to school, Joe’s employer hadn’t provided him with an approval for the leave he requested to bring Mary Ann to school.  Wanting to support his wife in all the ways that he could, he took the time off to bring Mary Ann anyway and lost his job.  

Joe didn’t tell Mary Ann until they were settled into Mary Ann’s new residence.  

“I felt bad,” recalls Mary Ann.  “I told him I’ll come home tomorrow, but he told me to stay and make the most of the opportunity.”

They made it work.  Mary Ann completed the Native Language Certificate at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.  

She says that when she graduated, the ladies she became close with during her studies all joked with her that they were done school and had no plans to return for further studies in the future.  They were all satisfied with achieving their educational goals up to that point.  None of them had any intentions of going back to school at all.

Mary Ann laughs as they would all eventually find themselves together once again at Nipissing University.  

One final time, Dominic came knocking on Mary Ann’s door with opportunity, this time asking if she was interested in obtaining her Ontario Teachers Certification.  

This was an opportunity she shouldn’t pass up so she says she went to talk with Joe, once again.  “Go for it,” he said.

After a couple of years and three summers of work, Mary Ann graduated from Nipissing University in North Bay with her Ontario Teachers Certification.  

Mary Ann says the happiest moment that comes to mind when she thinks of her years teaching is the day when she watched her students compete for the first time in Anishinaabemowin Teg’s scholarships.  She got to see her students walk away with awards for their work and hear them showcase their language to Anishinaabemowin speakers from across Anishinaabek territory.  

She says that the moment she felt the proudest occurred a couple years back when she interacted with a former student at a highway stop and saw that students really held onto what she had taught them.  She saw how a spark from years ago grew into a fire for a young kwe.  

“I was at a restaurant on the highway,” she says, “and a young woman who was a student of mine greeted me in our language.  At first she said, ‘Aanii’ and I greeted her too, the next thing she asked about was the weather and I answered, and we took it from there in our language.  She had kept the language she had learned, and continued to learn it and she was using it in her life.  

Mary Ann wasn’t planning on retiring, but early this past winter, her doctor told her he thought it was time for her to start taking it easier on herself.  

She says she’s still thinking about what to do with her time now that her life won’t involve going into work five days a week.  “Everyone is giving me ideas,” she says.  “Something will come to me, though.  I give thanks to Creator for always bring opportunities my way.”  

Mary Ann says she remains wholly committed to supporting the educational journeys of Sagamok’s children even in retirement.  “I’ll be there at times to help out.  I still want to be in the classrooms, probably with my puppets and stories and singing songs.”  

She also says she’s happy to have more time now to spend with her eight grandchildren, Lyle, Kyle and Kole, Dylan, Kelly, Julianne, Tanner, Reiley - and one more on the way!- and her four great-grandchildren, Brayson, Miley, Phoenix, Niimiki.  

I asked Mary Ann who has made a difference in her life.  Though there are so many, she says the following have been huge influences on her:  

• Marylou Fox of M’Chigeeng, for giving so much of herself to help Mary Ann’s own journey learning Anishinaabemowin, 
• Dominic Eshkakogan, for his consistent support and encouragement, for the opportunities that were presented through him, 
• Ernestine Buzwa, the principal of the Old River School from whom she “really learned to teach and the courage to teach Anishinaabemowin”
• Dorothy Toulouse, the teacher who was away that day back in 1974, so that Nelson would come knocking on her door to ask her to substitute, 
• Her parents, especially her mom, who spoke with her only in Anishinaabemowin, who encouraged her to always live her life in Anishinaabemowin but to also pursue her education.  Mary Ann says that her mom showed her children to live their lives in Anishinaabemowin by always speaking her language and making sure her children attended school.  Mary Ann teaches the same way that she learned from her mother: from patience, love, warmth and attention.  She says she teaches our children not to make fun of others, watch what they say and to help out.  She encourages them and are their biggest fans – even years after leaving her classes.

Mary Ann’s belief in the need for our people to learn their own language, the one that Creator gave to us, that gives us a sense of community, comes from her mother.  

• She also acknowledge her thanks to Joe, her husband, who sacrificed his job in his support for her dreams.  
Chi-Miigwetch Mary Anne, 
• For the years we may have had her walking beside us from our entry into early education to grade eight and beyond.  
• For the love, caring and dedication she’s shown us all, inside and outside of the classroom, and the kind smiles she had for each day.
• For her courage to teach it in the early days in secret, her instrumental work to bring it into the new classroom curriculum that saw our immersion program begin, and tireless encouragement to everyone - all her relations- to make Anishinaabemowin their first language in life.  
Let’s also thank her husband Joe and her three children - Crystal, Joe and Miles - for the support they gave their wife and mom so that she could grasp the opportunities Creator presented to her, so that she could harness them to bring. 

Let’s wish Mary Ann well so that she enjoys good health, well spaces and relaxation so that she is now able to spend time with her soon-to-be 9 grandchildren and her four great grandchildren.  

Let’s also wish that she never gets bored, finding time to bring new shades of vibrancy into her own life now that she has the time.  

Miigwetch, Mary Ann, for your 43 years of dedication and love for our community.  

Sagamok members express appreciation to an educator and passionate Anishinaabemowin lover.
Mary Ann Trudeau has inspired countless students for over four decades and retires. 

One of the greatest lady’s I know taught me a full 4 years of Anishnaabek language back when I was in middle school. Very thankful I got to witness and be in her class through kindergarten to grade 3. Definitely one of the best teachers I’ve had. Can still count up to a 1000 and back in the language lol even did it by 5’s & 10’s every morning.  ~ Angel Peltier

My fondest memories of Native language class were when we’d all be sitting around in a circle in the classroom waiting for Miss Mary Ann to come in. We’d all be chanting “maadabin Mary Ann, maadabin Mary Ann” as we all patted the empty seats beside us. We all loved Maryann so much and wanted her to sit beside us to teach the lesson of the day.  I owe my knowledge of Anishinaabemowin to her. I wish Mary Ann all the best in her retirement. She will be dearly missed by staff, students, parents and co-workers. Enjoy your time Miss Maryann!   ~ Michelle Toulouse 

Congradulations Mary Ann andn enjoy … Rememberin days wth Marla and Eli in school … Taught them well.   ~ Dominic Toulouse

Happy retirement my favorite teacher. I still remember the old school down the river. That’s where I learned my ABCs. But still have nobody to sing with me. Lol joking.  Have a great retirement.    ~ Adam Solomon 

Aapiji nishin gaabi nunkiiehn Mary Ann.  ~ Paul Trudeau

I think the fact that Maryanne has helped and worked tirelessly with multiple generations of our youth to continue to preserve the language is astounding.  The children that have come and gone through her teaching career would fill a gymnasium and some.  She taught with patience and kindness and this captured her students attention for 40 plus years.  I Thank Mary Ann for teaching my boys and helping preserve the language for generations to come.  She is a cultural warrior in my books and my boys will truly miss her in the fall.  Baamaapii Maryanne and cheers to rest and relaxation.   ~ Tanya Wright- Trudeau

Chi Miigwech Mary Ann. She was my Native Language Teacher at Biidaaban School. I enjoyed learning the language it was my favorite part of my school days. She wheeled her cart full of her own premade teaching resources into the classroom. All students greeted her “Aanii Mary Ann!“  I am also grateful to have had her teach my children and my nieces and nephew.  My nieces have an interest in speaking at the Native Language Conference and all 4 nieces have received awards.  Now working with Mary Ann during my teaching placements I talked to her about my interest in going to Algoma University Anishnabemowin.  She asked me so what’s stopping you Amanda?  Here I am all signed up for Anishnabemowin at Algoma.  Talk about a good influence and role model. I had no idea what the future had in store but now its time to say Chi Miigwech to my Native Language Teacher Mary Ann Trudeau. I am sure you will continue to be a part of my life and career. Enjoy your retirement. The children are going to miss you.   ~ Amanda Hardisty 
You were my favorite Ojibwe teacher at Biidaban! Such a warm, supportive presence.   ~ Zaagaasige Giizis
Firstly I would like to say Chi-Miigwetch to Mary Ann for all the amazing work she has done over the span of 43 years. She has been my Ojibwa teacher when I was a student at Biidaaban for those 10 years, it was there where the language and wisdom was passed on to me from her. This allowed me a chance to win an award at the Anishnawbemowin Awards in Sault, Michigan with her guidance and help. 
Secondly, it was that last year she had spent at Biidaaban that my son was lucky enough to have her as a teacher as well. All it took was the one year for her to get my son to fall in love with the language, and fall in love with her as an educator and peer. It is because of Mary Ann why my son can sing these amazing songs, and say these phrases that make me so proud that he knows the language. I will always be grateful to her for the knowledge she had shared with us.
Again Chi-Miigwetch Mary Ann and we wish you nothing but the absolute best on your well deserved retirement.   ~ Brooke Eshkakogan

Ahbidek gah kit gehgo nuh. Always looked forward to a class the made sense to me. Alot of good memories in your class. Loved playing verb-O. It was a honour being one of your students. Chi Miigwetch.   ~ Ronald Owl

Miigwetch Mary Ann for the years of service you provided the children in Sagamok. You are truly dedicated teaching the language to all the students that have come through Biidaaban School.   ~ Kenneth Toulouse 

My beautiful auntie! I’m so proud of you, you’re such an inspiration!!   ~ Darla Jones

Buckinaageh    ~ Tracy Jacko 

Aunt Mary Ann is a role model for me. I grew up seeing her attend summer school studies year after year. I learned about the importance of education, sacrifice, dedication and perseverance. On this day I say meegwetch Auntie for all that you have done for the family, the community and Anishinnabemowin! Angus and I love you and wish you a well deserved retirement! Sorry we can’t attend the celebration today as were in Peterborough with family.   ~ Carol Eshkakogan

She’s always brought joy laugher and song with her teachings .. so many great moments to choose from such a great person full of life and love! Chi -miigwetch for you!  Amy Southwind 
Missed it !!!!I took some cold medication and lost my mind. MaryAnne is such a gift to our children and our community. I am saddened when she retires but she has made tremendous contributions.She is an inspiration for the reclaimation of our languages.   ~ Nelson Toulouse

Chii miigwetch Mary Ann.  I remember you as my kindergarten teacher at the river road school and it was just before children were transferred to Massey and Espanola Public and Catholic School.  My l’il snotty nose needed tending to and I was a bit of a shy quiet girl that you nurtured.  Funny my thoughts are this.  You are always caring, nourishing our minds with you genuine gratitude for life.  We all appreciate the matriarch for the language.  I wonder how many students you have influenced through the years! Miigwetch miigwetch miigwetch!  
Enjoy your retirement    ~ Shweet Patty Ann

Congratulations Mary Ann ! now u can say come September first day of school “ to hell with the school bell” as u hang up ur school bag & say “ won’t need this anymore”.  Enjoy ur retirement!    ~ Georgina Nahwegahbo

Miigwetch Marianne, you have reached another milestone in life.. onto a journey of new discoveries. Enjoy sitting back and reflecting on that beautiful life you lead, cherished, and shared the anishnabe language with our fellow anishnabe people. Miigwetch!!!   ~ Jospeen A Toulouse 

Aw sa maamiikwenda-gwit Maniiyan gaabiidoyan nishnabemwin wii piitadamgwit. 
Chi-miigwetch pana!   ~ Eileen Smith

Thanking those among us for their
tremendous contributions to our community