Two student teachers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) have said their rural placements at area schools have broadened their horizons — and that Burns Lake locals offered them a warm welcome.
Rachel Vukovich and Cassie Tagseth, two students specializing in physical education, spent three weeks in the Burns Lake area as part of their community field placement in the university’s education program. Both praised the welcoming atmosphere of Burns Lake.
“Not only in the school but in the town and just everywhere, everyone’s so friendly,” said Vukovich, who hails from Toronto.
The two students — who drove together to Burns Lake from the Lower Mainland — were sitting in on courses at Lakes District Secondary School when they spoke to the Lakes District News, but they also spent time at William Konkin Elementary, helped out at schools in Granisle and Grassy Plains, and participated in the sturgeon release in Vanderhoof during their placements.
They also explored outdoor opportunities, including the trails on Boer Mountain. “We did everything we could considering the weather,” said Tagseth.
As well as shadowing teachers, they provided students with one-on-one support in courses including math and led gym courses as part of their time at the various schools.
“We had a lot of fun at all of them,” Tagseth said. Both said the experience in the Burns Lake area gave them a better sense of the opportunities available in remote locations.
The field placement program brought six UBC students to the region for a three-week period, with postings at Burns Lake, Vanderhoof and Fort St. James between April 23 and May 11.
The student teachers were billeted at local households, which received a $500 stipend from School District 91. The billeting program is meant to reduce expenses for the UBC students, who share the cost of travel with the university.
Both students said the housing arrangements worked well and that they felt at home in Burns Lake. “We’ve been welcomed so warmly,” said Tagseth, who is originally from Saskatoon.
For four years in a row, School District 91 has reached out to community members to help accommodate student-teachers as the district struggles to recruit teachers to permanent jobs. There are currently 10 job openings listed for the school district online.
The billeting program has been a success, said Manu Madhok, assistant superintendent of the Nechako Lakes School District. The district has recruited four teachers through the program over the past three years, and another cohort of elementary school student teachers from UBC is expected in June.