AHSABC Annual Awards

Every year since 2007, the AHSABC presents the following two Awards at our Annual Spring Cultural Gathering. Nominations are encouraged from all AHS programs in BC. Award recipients are sponsored to attend and participate in the Gathering, where they are given gifts and honoured by the AHS community.


This award is for those who volunteer their time and energy at the AHS sites.


This award is for Excellence in Aboriginal Early Childhood Education.

Call For Nominations


What is a Volunteer?
For the purpose of the Soaring Eagle award, ‘volunteer’ refers to any person not being paid to work in an AHS site who contributes their own time to the program.

The Soaring Eagle Award
One Volunteer will be selected and honoured at our annual Spring Cultural Gathering. Their personal story of volunteering with AHS will be told at the event.

Award Candidates
The Soaring Eagle Award recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of individuals who offer their time in an AHS project in BC. This includes those who work directly with the children, and those who contribute in other ways (e.g., organizing events, fundraising etc.). Nominees will have given their own time, talent and energy to enhance the AHS program. Nominees can be parents and family members, Elders, or community members.

The Nomination Process
To nominate a volunteer, a staff member from an AHS program must complete a nomination form. These will be reviewed by the Award Selection Committee. Please download and complete the Nomination Form to find out what information is required. Remember, you may nominate more than one volunteer. Feel free to attach as much additional information as you wish to share. The more detail that you provide for the selection committee the better! Return your nomination form(s) to Joan Gignac at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The Ruth Henkel Memorial Award
This award is in honour of Ruth Henkel, who was very involved in the initial growth of AHSABC and of the AHS site in Campbell River. Ruth was the Coordinator of the Campbell River site and was instrumental in building the cultural curriculum for the site. Ruth passed away in July of 2005, and her presence continues to be missed. Nominations can be forwarded for anyone on your AHS staff team. One AHS Staff member will be selected and honoured at the opening ceremonies of our annual Spring Cultural Gathering. Their personal story of contributing to their program will be told at the event.

Award Candidates
The Ruth Henkel Memorial Award recognizes an AHS staff member who exemplifies Excellence in Aboriginal Early Childhood Education, as well as those who, through their work, nurture Ruth’s dream (see below). Nominations can be received from AHS Staff, Parents, Elders, and Host Agencies.

The Nomination Process
To nominate a staff member, please download and complete a Nomination Form. Remember, you may nominate more than one staff member. Also you can nominate someone from another site, if you would like. Feel free to attach as much additional information as you wish to share. The more detail that you provide for the selection committee the better! Return your nomination form(s) to Joan Gignac at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ruth Henkel’s Dream
My dream is to be a Kindergarten teacher.
My vision is to create stories in our language for our children.
To have our own school where children will have a clear understanding of one’s self.
A school where all the positive teachings of our mind, body and spirit is a priority.
A school where values such as respect are taught modeled and implemented daily.
A school where children are immersed in our language and culture.
A safe place to nurture the innocence and true spirit of each child.
My vision is to help build a new generation of children where there is no negativity,
no unhealthiness and no hate or fear.
Instead, a school where we can celebrate life and love through a sense of belonging and pride.
My dream is to see our children’s dreams come true.

RUTH HENKEL (JULY 14, 1962 – JULY 19, 2005)

Award Recipients

Congratulations and thank you to all our Award Recipients!



Elysia Fox
Parent at Kermode AHS

Elysia has not hesitated to lend a helping hand since she came aboard as our parent representative. She involves her whole family to get things done in a timely manner. In addition, Elysia has been very helpful with the fundraising part of AHS for the year-end grad celebration and the purchase of the children’s hoodies. Thrown into a position of leadership when our FIW took a leave of absence, Elysia has dedicated her own time and energy into making sure all the decorations were purchased or homemade. By taking responsibility for the grad ceremony and banquet, Elysia has made our work load easier and helped ensure our well-being.


Zelda Williams
ECE at Future 4 Nations AHS

Zelda has been the ECE Manager with Future 4 Nations AHS since its inception in 1997. Her strongest gift is sharing her passion and dedication to her culture openly and generously with staff, children and families. Zelda carries herself with pride and respect in all walks of her life and she always demonstrates respect for the cultures of others. Zelda truly cares about all the children that come through our program and she leaves a piece of her love, nurturing and respect in their hearts. She has a natural way of ensuring that children feel nurtured, accepted and comfortable to be here and away from home. When past graduates come to visit , we often hear them say: “I just love Zelda. She was my best teacher ever. I miss her.” Her brief involvement in their lives leaves a feeling of love and connection that lasts a lifetime.


Donna Ziner and Phil Umpherville


Phil Umpherville
Elder at Comox Valley AHS

Uncle Phil has been a dedicated Elder volunteer with our program for the past 16 years. The children are always very excited when they know he is coming to tell a story at circle time. Uncle Phil enriches the children’s cultural, language, and sensory development through sharing his traditional items with them and also through his knowledge about the land, traditional foods, hunting, trapping, and fishing and the importance of family. He also teaches them Cree. Uncle Phil’s welcoming and calming presence and his vivid storytelling bring about a sense of belonging to all. He has become well known in our community and also volunteers with several other organizations.


Donna Ziner
ECE at Comox Valley AHS

Donna is learning the Kwak’wala language herself, and models respect for the sacredness of the Kwakwaka’wakw traditions. She is an inspiration to the other educators by continually learning and providing language, cultural, spiritual, and other teachings in a manner that is always creative, fun, positive, challenging and rewarding for all that are involved. She honours everyone’s capacity with her kind and gentle approach to teaching and guiding the children.



Joe Brent
Bus Driver at Awahsuk AHS

Joe Brent has been a part of Awahsuk since 2003 as our Bus driver, our Cook, our Elder, and a Grandparent to all. He is the heart of our center, and he brings our Awahsuk family together over food and laughter, giving selflessly to our children, staff and families. Joe sees this center not just as a Preschool, but as a place to protect, teach and value our culture and to honour each child’s personal spirit and journey ahead.

Joe is a fantastic example of the kind of person Ruth described in her dream. He is positive, uplifting and he wants you to be a better person and get more involved with the school. His teachings show on the children. They always have such good things to say about Joe after each school day. ~ Awahsuk Parent

Joe is retiring after having dedicated 9 years to AHSABC. His commitment to our program has been felt by everyone in our Awahsuk community and he will be greatly missed. We hope he drops by to visit us often.



Nikki Redcrow
Parent at Power of Friendship AHS

Nikki Redcrow is a single Mom who coordinates the Parent Advisory Council at Power of Friendship. Her four children have all been involved with AHS and attended over the years. Nikki has been a leader in the PAC for five years or more. She always goes above and beyond the expected roles and takes on extra responsibilities for making things happen for our program. In this way, Nikki is a role model for other parents and members of our Head Start community.


Yves L’Archeveque
Bus Driver at Qwallayuw AHS

If you ever met Yves, you would remember him! His calm voice, friendly smile, positive attitude and gently spirit are just a few of his many wonderful attributes. Yves has the amazing ability to stay patient under pressure and is always professional. Yves exemplifies the qualities of Ruth’s dream – he continues to work towards providing a safe, healthy and culturally strong place for all children to thrive in, while nurturing their true spirits.



River Hill and Alison Chrysler-Hill
Parents at Singing Frog AHS

During their time in the AHS program, River and Alison have shown care and attention to all who are present. They warmly greet children and adults alike to our Singing Frog family. Thanks to their example, we are reminded of the importance of the work being done with such precious people.


Eugene Harry
Culture & Language Teacher at Eagles Nest and Singing Frog AHS

Eugene Harry is our culture and language teacher. He was born Cowichan, raised Malahat and resides on Squamish territory. He is a very active member of the community and teases that he comes to preschool for a rest! Eugene has been with Eagles Nest and Singing Frog since 2009 and we are very honored and thankful for him and his teachings.



Doris Weislein
Host Agency Rep at Comox Valley AHS

Doris Weislein is a volunteer who is responsible for establishing the Comox Valley AHS. Doris worked very hard with Health Canada to bring this program to the Comox Valley. She was instrumental in opening up a Day Care that eventually became the Aboriginal Head Start in 1996. Doris has supported the program and has taught beading and moccasin-making classes to the parents. As well, her community volunteering helped establish the Wachiay Friendship Centre and the Makola Housing Project that provides low income housing for our Aboriginal families. Doris has truly left a lifelong impact on the AHS project, the staff, and the parents.


Lorraine Kok
Qwallayuw AHS

Qwallayuw Coordinator, Lorraine Kok, was chosen for the Ruth Henkel Memorial Award because she symbolizes the qualities that the award represents. Lorraine is very dedicated to her job as an ECE. She fills many roles at AHS and is very hands-on with the children, constantly working over and above her job description. Lorraine is respectful of all equally, and makes an overall positive impact on the program in so many ways. Our AHS family here really do feel that Lorraine is living and sharing Ruth Henkel’s dream.



Cynthia Ekman
Little Moccasins Learning Centre AHS

Cynthia started volunteering in the kitchen while her daughters were in preschool. She would say, “I am just here until my daughters get used to school”. Weeks and months went by and she was still in the kitchen, helping to serve lunch, prepare snacks and doing dishes. She often brings her mother Shirley or mother-in-law, Iva, to volunteer as well. Parents sometimes confuse her with the preschool staff and ask how long she’s been working here. She smiles and answers, “I am a Volunteer.” Cynthia often talks to other parents about the importance of volunteering and also she tells them about LMLC AHS, green day, hat day, cultural trips, etc. She is an inspiration to the parents and to the staff at Little Moccasins.


Carolyn Reed
Early Childhood Educator at Awahsuk AHS

Carolyn is one of the main reasons that the Surrey AHS site is so successful today. She is definitely an AHS success story. Her journey began as a parent in the program, then as a volunteer, an ECE Assistant, and now she’s an ECE Teacher – working fulltime at Awahsuk and taking night school courses to achieve the title she greatly deserves. We are so proud of her! She constantly supports the PAC and the families of Awahsuk, in and outside of school. She is always encouraging the cultural components, and creating a positive and fun environment in our school. She has an awesome spirit and encourages our children to find their own spirit within themselves.



Irene Knockwood
Prince Rupert AHS

Irene has been an outstanding volunteer for the past 4 years at PRAHS, she has been involved in the PAC, fundraising, and preparations for graduation ceremonies. She attends all fieldtrips and various activities planned for our centre. Irene is considered to be a part of the staff, as she rarely misses a day. She is warm and inviting towards the children and staff, she has spunk and energy, patience. This amazing lady is an important part of our staff and centre.


Jeremy Wilson
Cultural Assistant at Qwallayuw AHS

Jeremy is a fun-spirited, patient young man. He lives a very healthy life style and really connects with the children. Jeremy is very enthusiastic and is culturally strong, not only in the preschool but in the community as well. He is working to fulfill Ruth’s dream by not only being a role model for all the children, but by honoring his own health and culture as well.



Audrey Dobby
Parent at Awahsuk AHS

Audrey loves the AHS preschool and is constantly volunteering her time and energy to help the program be successful in any way she can. She supports the staff with everything from cooking to assisting teachers with the kids, and to helping our bus driver. She has many great ideas as PAC Chair and encourages families to participate if they can. She has a very positive attitude towards getting things done which helps guide parents and families, and also helps teachers so they can spend better quality time with the children.


Leona Nielson
Cultural Teacher at Power of Friendship AHS

Leona is our Cultural teacher and is awesome at her job. She teaches beading, jigging, Cree songs and how to make bannock. Leona helps to fulfill Ruth’s dream by teaching the children their culture and traditions, drumming, smudge ceremonies, and the adults that weren’t brought up with their culture have learned a lot from her too. The children love her because she’s not afraid to be silly.

Theresa Austin
Carrier Language Teacher at PGAHS

Theresa has brought the Carrier language into our program. She ensures that our children know their culture and are proud to be who they are. She does this on a continuous basis through her teachings to the staff, parents and children.