Teaching in the Arctic: Karah Kushnir

Our #FeatureFriday Series serves to honour educators and stakeholders of education in their ongoing hard work. Creating a more mindful, trauma-informed practice through an anti-oppression framework is not easy, but the work IS being done. Every day folk are not getting the recognition they deserve, so inevitably, we feel isolated in our grind. Our hope is that this series can be a reminder to you that we are NOT alone. Let’s connect and do this together.

So, this is Karah Kushnir (they/them). They were one of the panelists in our very first Discussion Panel in April. Everyone, say hello to my friend in the Arctic!

I’ve known Karah for a long time. We met during the early to mid-2010s when I was hosting YorkSlam, York Region’s Slam Poetry Show, and they were just a teen searching for community. I remember them sharing their poetry through the stage name Wallflower; I remember them creating and sustaining the York Region Rainbow Umbrella nonprofit for a while; I remember them going through school to become a teacher; and I remember when they decided to dedicate their life to working in and supporting Canada’s northern communities. Throughout the years, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing Karah develop into a remarkable individual who is confident, yet humble, in their approach to life. So when I launched the Educator’s Coaching Network through our first Discussion Panel in April, I knew I wanted them involved.

Also, it helps that Karah lived with me the summer of 2020 between contracts up north, and I got to meet their doggo: Zack! How majestic is he??


Karah’s Work

Karah has been teaching Inuit and First Nations students in Nunavut and Northern Ontario for the last few years, and is soon moving to the Northwest Territories. As we’ve mentioned, prior to being a teacher, they founded the York Region Rainbow Umbrella (YRRU) in 2014, a nonprofit support and social group for LGBTQ+ people in York Region. During this time, they also used spoken word as a platform to talk about love, mental health struggles, and social justice issues.

Karah has always put in the work to support those who felt unseen, and to challenge destructive social norms that alienate and hurt young people. Now as a teacher, Karah works alongside students to advocate around current issues and empower marginalized voices. Make no mistake, this is no “white saviour” trope; Karah makes a point to centre student voices so that students themselves can create space for their needs to be heard – as should be our priority.

As Karah says, “We all have a story inside of us, and as a teacher I hope to help my students express it proudly.

They truly enjoy facilitating learning, and is relentless in providing empowering educational opportunities for their students – even when it seems like the country has given up on these kids in the north (more on this later). They’re a gem of a human ❤

By the way, check out Zack’s derp face. While quite obviously majestic, this is Zack at his core. A derpy boopy shmoopy boy and we love him 🙂


Karah’s Writing

Karah is also a blogger! Here are a couple of pieces from them that they wanted to share. The articles highlight wisdom nuggets from Canada’s north, and Karah really wants the world to see the beauty of it all.

  1. 5 Things I Learned From Teaching Up North | Humans (vocal.media) – “The incredible spirit, perseverance, and connection to the land and those around, have blessed the lens in which I’ve seen my students. I’ve never felt more honoured to share spaces with folks than when I’ve taught in Igloolik, Kimmirut, and Poplar Hill First Nation. These kids are superheroes, and I dedicate this piece to all those I’ve crossed paths with.”  
  1. The Modern Inuk | Wander (vocal.media) – “It is important to teach one’s culture and celebrate it. It gives individuals a sense of place and community. Our identities matter, especially when they are presented from our own personal narratives.

Thank you Karah for being a part of the Educator’s Coaching Network! Sending good vibes and blessings to you and your family as you make your way further north to settle in the Northwest Territories.

Stay tuned for more #FeatureFridays! Our other panelist from our first Discussion Panel, Nelson Lew, is up next 🙋🏻‍♂️

Until then, don’t forget to join our mailing list for updates, as well as RSVP to our next Discussion Panel in August!

Poster featuring one of our panelists, Gabriel Malquisto from Manila, Philipines.

Humbly yours in Love, Peace, and Justice,

– Karen and the Educator’s Coaching Network




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