Sandra Ipana

Year: 2010-2011 – Province: Northwest Territories

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Sandra Ipana

Sir Alexander Mackenzie School
PO Box 1470
Inuvik, NT X0E 0T0

Principal: Janette Vlanich
School Tel.: 867-777-7180
School Fax: 867-777-2261
School Email:
School Website:

Video Profile

Subjects and grades taught: All subjects in Kindergarten

At the tender age of five, Sandra Ipana left her mother behind to attend Sir Alexander Mackenzie School when it was still a residential school in the 1960s. At the time she spoke no English and wasn't allowed to speak her native language of Inuvialuktun in class. As she longed for the traditions and lifestyle of home, Mrs. Ipana continued to speak Inuvialuktun in the residential hostel and quickly became a model student. Today and since 1991, she continues to pass on the traditions of her language and culture and works as an Inuvialuktun immersion Illihari (teacher) at Sir Alexander Mackenzie School.

Teaching Approach

Walk into Mrs. Ipana's classroom and you never know what you'll find. With half the time spread between English and Inuvialuktun, students regularly work with a local elder, drum dance, and learn new words, phrases and expressions in Inuvialuktun.

Quyanainni, Illihari!

Outstanding Achievements

  • Mrs. Ipana created several hours' worth of content for the Phraselator hand-held devices that she uses with her Kindergarten students. The devices are also used by instructors who do not have complete fluency in the Inuvialuktun language.
  • Although at the Kindergarten level, Mrs. Ipana's students also learn about computers, internet safety, math and language arts. Mrs. Ipana makes regular use of online activities, the SMART Board and shares her resources with other language teachers in the region.
  • Mrs. Ipana is seen as a leader in her community. She has sat on the Northern Games committee and has traveled as an ambassador to the Canada Games.
  • Mrs. Ipana has also often brought children out to her whaling camp on an annual basis to teach the language, culture and traditions of the Inuvialuit people.

Rave Reviews

"Mrs. Ipana's teaching is culture based and integrates culture and language across all subject areas. My son would come home from school and teach me the language and I really appreciated that."


"In the many years I have known Sandra, she has always presented herself with the highest level of integrity, dedication and commitment to preserving her language and her culture through her teaching. (…) Sandra is a respected leader in the many initiations she is involved with, perfection is her trademark."

Chair/CEO, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation