Piercey-Lewis holds a PhD in ethnomusicology and her commitment to the Inuit music community has spanned over two decades.The majority of students at Inuksuk High School are Inuit, and many of those students are third generation residential school survivors. By using music as a means to explore culture, heritage, and identity, Piercey-Lewis' education practice is dedicated towards building a stronger community.
Piercey-Lewis has published a text of Inuit choral music – the first of its kind - and is working on a second book. She prioritizes collaboration, and encourages students to explore new opportunities through performance. Ensembles from Inuksuk High School have performed at Qaggiavuut Centre for the Performing Arts in Nunavut and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and have counted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau amongst their audiences.
“Dr. Mary Piercey-Lewis exemplifies excellence in music education,” said Kristy Fletcher, Executive Director of MusiCounts. “She is committed to students and expertly delivers culturally-relevant music programming to her community. It is not hyperbole to say that she has changed the landscape of music education in the territory of Nunavut for generations to come. MusiCounts is honoured to recognize such an exceptional teacher with this award”
Each year, the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award recognizes an inspirational Canadian music educator's impact on students and music education. For the first time in the history of the award, the charity selected and highlighted five teacher nominees from across Canada. The winner was announced on the 50th JUNO Awards broadcast. Mary Piercey-Lewis is the recipient of a $10,000 cash prize, a significant contribution towards the music program of Inuksuk High School, as well as a JUNO statuette.
“I am thrilled to be chosen as MusiCounts 2021 Music Teacher of the Year. It is an honour to be recognized as a dedicated, hard-working teacher, yet this award would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment from the students and staff at Inuksuk High School” said Dr. Mary Piercey-Lewis. “This award, in fact, is shared with the hundreds of amazingly musical students who have gone through the program over the past 13 years. It is because of their dedication, sharing, and resilience that the music program has been such a success. Qujannamiik (thank you) to all of my music students over the years. They have brought so much joy, learning, and gratification to the classroom and my life!”
Piercey-Lewis’ commitment to delivering culturally-relevant programming to students and her impact on the landscape of music education in the territory figured largely in the panel of educators’ decision to award her the title. “In the music program at Inuksuk High School, music is used as a portal to Inuit culture, language, and identity,” she said. “Through collaboration with Inuit elders, tradition bearers, singer-songwriters, and teachers, this program serves to bridge or break down the many barriers our students face. Together we aim to provide a music education program that fosters Inuit identity, promotes Inuktitut, is mindful of mental health and trauma-informed teaching practices, and produces engaged, musical, motivated, proud, and confident students. I hope that this award inspires others to build more music education programs throughout Nunavut that honour contemporary and traditional Inuit music.”
The MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award presented by the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation, was established in 2005 to recognize and honour an exceptional Canadian music teacher each year. To date, this award has celebrated the accomplishments of fifteen music educators across Canada who strive to preserve the livelihood of music education in their school and community.
“We are thrilled to present this award alongside MusiCounts to Mary Piercey-Lewis, recognizing her inspirational work promoting music education in Nunavut,” said Peter Lewis, Vice President of CST Foundation. “For over 60 years, the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation has focused on helping to make education possible, and recognize the vital role that teachers play in igniting dreams and preparing young Canadians to achieve their goals. Dr. Piercey-Lewis is a remarkable example of the incredible impact music educators have not just on their students, but on their community at large.”
Nominees for the 2021 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, presented by the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation:
Mary Piercey-Lewis (2021 Award Winner) School: Inuksuk High School Iqaluit NU
Sophie Jalbert School: École Roy et Joly, Rivière-du-Loup QC
Nicholas Pettipas School: Bicentennial School, Dartmouth NS
Bruce Millerd School: Charles H. Best Elementary and Middle School, Toronto ON
Stephen Richardson School: École St. Joseph, Yellowknife NT