Teaching with Kindness: Robert Cote Became the Teacher He Wanted to Have

Robert Cote

When Robert Cote was a child in Residential school, he was told he would be nothing but a “ditch digger.”

Fortunately his parents, Tony and Sadie Cote, encouraged him to work hard, never give up, and helped him overcome such negative influences.

“If I really want to do something I want to be a teacher,” is what Robert remembers thinking.

Robert wanted to become not just a teacher, but a kind teacher as well. Inspired by role models, discrimination, and life lessons, he enrolled in the First Nations University of Canada.

In 2006, he received a Bachelor of Indigenous Education degree.

Ironically, he now teaches beside his former critic. This equality wasn’t there in his former jobs.

Robert worked for numerous organizations such as the Royal Bank of Canada, Saskatchewan Science Center, and Human Resource Development Canada.

“Each place I worked at, I won awards but I couldn’t advance on the corporate ladder and I looked around, all these young guys were passing me,” says Robert. “The only difference between me and them was a piece of paper. They had a degree.”

Throughout his studies, Robert developed a positive attitude. Having to deal with alcohol addiction and marital problems, he felt that he had no sense of belonging.

“I believed I had to be true to myself in order to be a true teacher,” says Robert. Through his perseverance of education he, “found himself and wanted to succeed.”

Robert attributes his success and overcoming addictions to his cultural and traditional way of life.

“The biggest lesson I ever learned from the Elders [is] education is lifelong learning,” says Robert.

Robert took what he learned back home to his community.

Robert’s teaching style brings Elders, culture, traditions, and protocol right in to his classroom. He even got creative and developed a game called “Cree bingo” and brought in a pineapple as a prize.

When he saw the winner split the pineapple into equal parts and share with everyone else, Robert realized he reached his goal of teaching students kindness and sharing and had become the one-of-a-kind teacher he set out to become.

by Kristy Stonechild