Nadia M. Khan


Indigenous truth shapes English Language Learning

Raising the impact of Indigenous culture for all English Language Learners.

Nadia M. Khan’s learners were stunned. On $2 Tuesday of last summer’s Calgary Stampede, the ELL instructor took her learners to the grounds, and when they looked at the park map, they noticed the attraction name “Indian Village.”

“Nadia. Why is it still called that?” asked one of the learners. “Why haven’t they changed the name?”

“That’s a very good question,” responded Nadia. “Why don’t we go and ask?”

So Nadia and her 20 learners went to Indian Village, waited for an elder to be available, and when the elder became available, the learners asked her their question. 

“You’re very right,” said the elder. “We should have changed it a long time back.” 

“Let me tell you, come next year, it will not be called the Indian Village."

Elbow River Park

Come Stampede 2019, it will be called Elbow River Camp.   

Nadia has been teaching at Bow Valley College since 2013. In 2017, she introduced Indigenous Awareness for English Language Learners, a module for ELL courses. “Ever since I first learned about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, I was really interested in answering those calls to action in terms of not only how [they] relate to me as a person but also in my professional role,” says Nadia.

After taking the Indigenous Awareness: Engaging Diversity and Inclusion course here at Bow Valley College, Nadia researched resources for ELL learners on the subject, but found most existing materials required a higher level of English. So, she started to design an experiential program to connect her learners with Indigenous teachers and teachings. 

“We were really mindful not to create anything on our own or do any of the teaching by ourselves,” says Nadia, who worked on this project. “For this entire initiative, I don't see myself as a teacher. I see myself as somebody who is connecting the learners with Indigenous resources and knowledge holders and elders.” 

In Fall 2017, the program premiered in Nadia’s Canadian Language Benchmarks 4 class. Throughout the term, she invited Elder Florence Kelly, one of our Cultural Resource Elders, to speak to the class, brought her learners to the Glenbow Museum’s Blackfoot Gallery, and introduced them to their Indigenous peers at the College. They also visited Fort Calgary to see the original Treaty 7 document.  

Elder Florence Kelly


More recently, Nadia has been focusing on developing a course called Inclusive Teaching Practices, which is part of the Post-TESL Certificate, a pilot project designed to deepen subject matter knowledge, enhance instructional skills, and build a professional community of ELL practitioners. Inclusive Teaching Practices will allow these practitioners to address the needs of learners with a variety of backgrounds and learning abilities. 

In Nadia’s research on inclusive education while developing the course, she found the existing courses were limited to focusing on how to make the content more inclusive. What’s unique about her course is it includes a module where participants consider learners’ diverse backgrounds and abilities, such as gender and sexual diversity, cultural backgrounds, and learning styles. The course also addresses the needs of ELL learners. “ELL classrooms are so rich, there's a lot of diversity,” says Nadia. “How do you include all of the learners?” The course also allows ELL practitioners to reflect on their own intercultural awareness and use strategies from the course to create inclusive learning and teaching environments. 

Nadia adds that as an instructor, her main goal is to make a comfortable learning environment for her learners.

To learn more about our ELL courses, visit our School of Global Access page

Posted on December 17, 2018

Story by Julie-Anne Cleyn, photos by Bow Valley College


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