Eliza Archie Memorial School is on the hunt for a new principal after Janice Frank retired at the end of December 2018. She’d been helming the Canim Lake Band’s school for five years.
“I have anticipation. I have anxiety and I know what I want to do for my future plans,” said Frank, who will apply for her counselling licence and work on replenishing her herbs and medicine collection. She also plans on becoming a substitute teacher for School District 27 (SD27).
She already has her counselling degree, in connection with her masters of education that she obtained in 2001.
Frank said she became an educator by accident. She was originally enrolled in a business program through Gonzaga University.
“Algebra wasn’t my best suit,” she said with a laugh. “So I got out of the business one and moved into education because the credits were pretty similar.”
She started working for the Canim Lake Band as a teacher’s aid, along with Sister Mary Alice Danaher. Once she got her bachelors in teaching, she applied to the 100 Mile House Junior School, where she also went to as a student. She was hired and didn’t leave there for around 27 years.
After that, she went she moved on to teach in an isolated community in northern Alberta. The school was three hours into Wood Buffalo National Park and only accessible by dirt road.
Following a couple of years in Alberta, she moved on to teach in at the Nisga’a School District (SD93) in 1993.
“I think my favourite place was working for the Nisga’a School District in 1992 because they had such belief in me. I got a vice-principal job and they moved me to principal and then I became district principal. I looked after all the principals and what they were doing with their schools and with a huge component on special education,” she said. “Up there I got most of my experience regarding best practices in schools for teachers and principals.”
While working for the district, she became very sick and also was at the stage where she was feeling very lonely from the isolation and being away from home for almost thirteen years.
She decided to go back to Canim Lake for eight weeks to recuperate from the sickness and during that time, an opening for the principal position at Eliza Archie Memorial School became open.
Frank said she jumped at the chance after she was told by the superintendent of the of SD93 that it was open. Despite signing another contract to stay in the Nisga’a District for another year, the superintendent released her from her contract.
“It was a learning curve and I think that I got to use a lot of my expertise. I changed someways to that teachers can manage on their own, but I changed the special education format,” she said.
With her experience in SD92, she taught teachers at Eliza Archie Memorial new strategies to help the students in special education programs who struggled with speech and learning but also those who need a lot of one-on-one time or have intensive behaviour (ADHD, autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc.), she says. She also helped teachers with how to apply for grants and funding to make sure the school received the education assistance they were eligible to receive.
If a student is struggling, a school-wide meeting is held to address concerns and for the staff to figure out they can all work together to make sure that student can get the best education, according to Frank. School-wide interventions were also in place for the students who displayed intensive behaviour.
Frank says she taught the staff the best practices to handle these situations, like how to restrain the students until they calm down and how to talk to them, either soothe talking or normally.
“I tell teachers to give the students two choices; you need to do the work or you need to go home,” she said. “I used to get all the F-bombs and everything and I just keep saying that. A lot of the times the students want to stay in school.”
One of her biggest achievements she said, was bringing up the parent and legal guardian participation up to 100 per cent.
When she first started at the school, it was at 60 per cent.
“60 per cent is not acceptable, you need 100 per cent. You only give report cards to the legal guardian, nobody else, and have a discussion with them. If they don’t come [to school], you go visit their home. Some of them [parents] were leery at first but you go visit them and then you’ll watch them start to come into the school,” she explained. “In the last two years, we have had 100 per cent participation from parents at all reporting periods.”
In retirement, Frank hopes to do counselling with adults one-on-one. She will also contact the First Nations School Association (which, Eliza Archie is part of) to say she is open to any kind of opening they have regarding district support.
“I’ve worked since I was 17 and the majority of it has been in schools and over the years I do feel accomplished, I do feel like I’ve made a difference”, she said. “It’s just time for me to do other things.”