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Michelle Baikie, Lucy Cavendish alumna, celebrates learning and her lifetime achievements

I am Michelle Baikie: deaf/hearing impaired teacher, artist, Inuk descendent, and an alumni of the University of Cambridge.

My Community Work

I was recently appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as a board member of Memorial University’s Board of Regents. I also represent the Happy Valley-Goose Bay region as a board member with the Labrador Grenfell Health Authority Region. As well, I am a board member with The Rooms Corporation, the museum system in NL. These three boards are merit-based, independent, non-partisan appointments. As a member of the provincial boards, I bring particular perspectives that reflect my life experiences as an Indigenous person, a deaf/hard of hearing person, and a woman from an isolated, northern region. I am the only Labrador board member on both the Board of Regents and The Rooms. I am passionate about MUN addressing the post-secondary education needs of northerners and acknowledging the intellectual contributions Labradorians have made to post-secondary education in the province. Similarly, as a board member of The Rooms, I am committed to Labrador culture and heritage having a central place in the focus of the museum.

As an elected Councillor for the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL, I currently sit on three committees: as the Chair of the Finance, Administration and Policy Committee; as a member of the Community Services & Recreation Committee; and as a member of the Municipal Services Committee. This is exciting and rewarding work as I can contribute my expertise for the benefit of others. However, it is also challenging as I juggle teaching and other community work. 

My Teaching

I teach grade four at the Sheshatshiu Innu School, with the Mamu Tshishkutamashutau Innu School Board, Sheshatshiu, NL. My Mother was a teacher and I decided to also become a teacher. She and my Dad were understandably concerned that university would be difficult for me as a deaf/hard of hearing person. It was the late 1980’s and my biggest challenge was that some professors would not agree to wear the FM System that was required in order for me to hear during class time. I was frustrated but refused to give up. The Guidance Counsellor at a local K-12 School for the Deaf, where I was working as a Residential Advisor, suggested that I attend Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) as I would be better supported.  I applied and was accepted into the Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Photographic Communications) degree. I learned a great deal about medical photography and specialized in ophthalmic photography.

After I graduated from RIT in 1994, I started a photography business that included general, digital, and medical photography services.  At the same time, I used my photography skills in a telemedicine position with the Labrador Health Centre. I love to learn so in 2001, I returned to Memorial University to complete my Bachelor of Education degree.  Then, while I taught during the day, I went on to complete my Master of Education in Literacy online from Mount Saint Vincent University.  For one semester I also had the opportunity to teach Black and White photography at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University.

In 2008 I began studies in the Master of Philosophy in Educational Research at the University of Cambridge. I wanted to study at this highly respected institution where, in spite of my disability, I was able to succeed. I received four degrees in ten years of studying, which speaks to my commitment to lifelong learning. I always advise students to follow the directions in which life takes them and to celebrate learning, no matter how long it takes.

Since graduating from the University of Cambridge, I have worked with the Innu, one of the three Indigenous groups in Labrador. The Innu took control of their education system in 2009 and I worked at the Sheshatshiu Innu School as both a Resource Teacher and Vice-Principal. I took a three-year break to work as the Nunatsiavut Government’s Cultural Consultant and Counsellor in the Inuit Bachelor of Education Degree Program (IBED) from 2015 to 2018. This position gave me insights into Indigenous teacher education.  Since then, I returned to the Sheshatshiu Innu School to take up the grade four position in which I currently teach.  

My Art

Even with all the community work and teaching, I still have time to be an artist. My preferred medium is photography. I became interested in photography when my parents gave me a camera as a gift during Christmas of 1985. It was from there that I developed a great interest to taking photographs of people, landscape, abstract art, and the world.  People such as Dr. Bill Gushue, my Philosophy of Education professor, saw my work and claimed that I have an artistic eye to capture the elements of composition and style in my photographs. When I asked his advice about going to RIT, he said I should go, “...and don’t stop.” In the program, even my instructors said that I should follow my heart and to continue what I do best. As my skills developed, I wanted to bring my art to the next level of exhibiting my photography. While studying in my last year at RIT I took a course called “Adobe Photoshop.” I was intrigued to be able to enhance my traditional photographs (negatives and slides) to a digital perspective in a surreal format of different colours and image presentation.

My art has benefitted me in many ways.  I had an opportunity to present my work with other well-known artists such as David Blackwood and Christopher Pratt, Ann Meredith Barry, and Manfred Buchheit from the exhibition, “Merchants, Mariners and the Northern Seas” at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Art Gallery in Corner Brook, NL. This exhibition gave me great exposure and recognition in my style of digital surreal photography and I have continued to exhibit my art. 

In the last three years I had two art prints, The Spirit Drummer (1996) and The Hunter (1998), exhibited along with other Labrador Artists in a show called SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut on Labrador Artists. It was on display at The Rooms, St. John's, NL; Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, NS; MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, SK; Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, MB and the Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, ON. I have also had my work showcased across Canada, Russia, England, Scotland, and the USA. 

Through photos of people, landscape, and culture, my art educates others about the Inuit way of life. I encourage aspiring artists to follow their dreams and to really believe in their work in whatever medium they chose.  “And don’t stop,” as my former professor advised me as I began my spiritual journey through the creation of surreal photographs. 

Some of my photos can be seen in my book Spiritual Journey: A Collection of Limited Edition Surreal Photographs. To check out my artwork, please visit my website

You can check out my past exhibitions here and also the Inuit Art Quarterly website

 

Michelle Baikie:  Matriculated 2008, MPhil. Educational Research 2010.