A man who left Nunavut richer in education and in images is being fondly remembered.
Nick Newbery died of prostate cancer on Feb. 19.
He had lived in Nunavut for 30 years, moving north in 1976. He resided in Taloyoak – where he met his wife Terry, a nurse – Pangnirtung, Qikiqtarjuaq and Iqaluit. In addition to being a teacher, he was author of the trilingual book Iqaluit, which featured his photography; the autobiographical Never a Dull Moment: Forty Years in Education in Canada’s North; and A Potpourri of Poems and Photographs.
Newbery’s friend Ed Picco described him as an “outstanding educator, teacher and educational innovator.”
“His love of the North and dedication to his students were two attributes he was well known for,” said Picco. “He will be missed.”
Iqaluit MLA and friend Pat Angnakak devoted her member’s statement to Newbery in the legislative assembly on Tuesday, extolling him for his teaching at Inukshuk High School, where he also launched the Terry Fox program for at-risk Inuit teenagers.
Newbery retired a moved to Nova Scotia in 2005, but never lost touch.
“Even after moving to Halifax, Nick continued to visit Baffin Island every year, visiting and catching up with people he had gotten to know so well,” Angnakak said. “Nick always said that every day of the 30 years he lived in the Arctic was an adventure and he felt privileged to have lived and worked here.”
In an interview with Nunavut News last year, as his autobiography was being published, Newbery reflected on life North of 60.
“You get so much freedom as an individual,” he said. “Professionally you’re allowed to try out a whole bunch of things you wouldn’t normally get to do down south – whether you’re in health, journalism or education, or whatever – and I was able to do things in education I found rewarding.”
However, he pulled no punches when assessing what he perceived as Nunavut’s education shortfalls.
“I was also appalled by the system which was not serving the needs of many kids I met. It was either disorganized and/or more recently trying to impose a foreign – Alberta – curriculum on a bunch of rural native children,” Newbery told Nunavut News last March.
He strove to leave a legacy in the field of education. He wrote 30 junior high resource manuals to guide Northern teachers and in 2004 he travelled to every Nunavut community to instruct teachers on his approach to teaching. As well, he raised funds for a Northern orientation for students interested in teaching in Nunavut.
Newbery also left behind his vast photo collection, donating it to the Government of Nunavut in 2015.
“He was captivated by the Inuit culture and by the kindness of the people he encountered and was always proud to say that he was from Nunavut,” his obituary reads. “Nunavut and its people captured Nick’s soul.”