Tabobandung named recipient of Elsie Macgill Education Award
Jo-Anne Tabobandung (middle) is pictured with her Elsie Macgill Education Award at the Northern Lights Aero Foundation Gala for Women in Aviation Saturday in Toronto. She is joined by her family members (from left) including husband Victor Tabobandung, sister Debra Reid, mother Marilyn Maracle, daughter Raven Tabobandung, bother Gary Maracle, sister in-law Brandi Maracle, and daughter Taylor-Rain Tabobandung. Daughter Kendall Tabobandung was unable to attend. SUBMITTED PHOTO PHOTO BY GUSTAVO & CLARA CORUJO /http://www.gusair.com
The Dean of the First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) flight school was the recipient of a prestigious award at the Northern Lights Aero Foundation Gala for Women in Aviation Saturday in Toronto.
Jo-Anne Tabobandung, dean of aviation at FNTI, was named the 2021 winner of the Elsie Macgill Education Award
The mother of three daughters — all university students — was actually named the 2020 recipient, but because of COVID-19, last year’s gala was cancelled and held off until this year.
Tabobandung admits to being caught off guard when she received the news her nomination had been successful.
“A colleague and a student nominated me and that in itself was a huge process,” she said. “But I’ve been to the gala before and usually the recipients are doctors or aerospace engineers, so I didn’t think I would be selected from a group like that. It was just so nice that they would take the time and make such a huge effort to nominate me. I was so excited when I was told I was going to receive the award.”
A short video of her contributions to aviation was shown prior to receiving her award.
“I’ve been contributing to indigenous education for almost 30 years and that is an honour and a privilege,” she said. “As i said in my speech, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in that time, but also knowing how far we need to go.
Raised in Toronto by her parents who hailed from Tyendinaga, Tabobandung fist came into contact with FNTI in 1990 as a student at the encouragement of her father.
“I always wanted to fly but was never really encouraged when I was in high school,” she said. “But my dad found out FNTI was launching this flight training program for indigenous people and encouraged me to apply.”
Her life would forever change when she walked into the world of aviation more than three decades ago – in some ways she never anticipated.
“The first day of school I met this guy Victor, with a long last name I couldn’t pronounce,” she recalled with a laugh. “I always say I am married to a pilot — we’ve been married 27 years but together for about 20.”
More than three decades after that first encounter, to say aviation is major part of their lives would be an understatement.
Her brother Gary is also a graduate of the program and now serves as the superintendent commander of the Indigenous Policing Bureau for the Ontario Provincial Police.
While Jo-Anne tends to students and faculty at FNTI, Victor is a pilot with Air Canada, flying mostly long-haul routes between Canada, Europe and Asia.
Their three daughters are now pursuing post-secondary schooling with the Kendall, the youngest, playing NCAA lacrosse in New York.
After graduating from FNTI, Tabobandung pursued the different classifications of flight instruction and spent 14 years at FNTI as Chief Flight Instructor. Along the way she found time to pursue additional education at Ryerson University and has spent the last three years as dean of aviation.
“It’s been a remarkable journey for both of us but as I said earlier, we still have a long way to go, so there’s still a lot of work to do.”