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School District 91 uses videos to recruit teachers

Burns Lake teachers talk about their experiences living up north
Burns Lake teacher Chris Backhouse says that when he first arrived he was blown away by the scenery and the people in the community. (You Tube image)

School District 91 (Nechako Lakes) is hoping that a new online campaign will help attract more teachers to the region.

Eagle Vision Video Productions Ltd., a company based in Fort St. John, has been producing a series of videos for the school district, highlighting the first impressions and lifestyle of teachers in the region.

“Before I came up here I came for a tour, and I was blown away by the scenery and the people in the community,” describes Burns Lake teacher Chris Backhouse in one of the videos. “People in the community are absolutely amazing; they’ll take care of anybody here and bring them in as their own; and that has helped me to make an easy transition into living here.”

Mike Skinner, director of instruction for School District 91, says the school district started considering this initiative about a year ago, when additional hiring across the province put a further strain on attracting teachers to the region. Last year the provincial government committed $330 million to settle a dispute with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, funding 2600 new teacher positions across B.C.

In addition, Skinner says a large portion of School District 91 teachers is expected to retire over the next decade.

“In the next 10 years probably close to half of our teachers could be in a position to retire,” he said. “When you look at the demographics of our teachers, we got a large number of teachers who are around the age 50; that’s one of our biggest groups right now.”

Although School District 91 was having some difficulties hiring teachers last year, Skinner said hiring has been “fairly stable” in the past few months.

“Since the beginning of December we’ve hired four teachers. We’re in the process of hiring another teacher right now. Overall we’re doing reasonably well, but the fluidity with replacements is hard to predict.”

The online campaign is costing the school district approximately $15,000. The videos started being filmed last August.

“They [Eagle Vision] did some shots of our schools and aerial shots in all of our communities; they came back at the end of September and did some interviews with some of our young teachers in the Burns Lake area,” explained Skinner. “They’ve done some great shots.”

“They’re coming back in the next few weeks to do some winter filming; and then we’re gonna do some other interviews with some new and experienced teachers in other communities,” he continued. “Our overall goal is to film the area in all main seasons; we want a wide range of videos.”

The videos are being distributed through social media, hiring fairs across B.C. through a USB flash drive, and school district websites.

Skinner said that although it’s still too early to assess the impact the videos are having, he’s confident they’ll help with the district’s recruiting efforts.

“It’s good for young teachers - especially from other parts of Canada - to hear firsthand what it’s like [to work in northern B.C.],” he said.