It’s almost time for University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Community Field Experience participants to head to the School District #91. Every spring and early summer UBC brings students from the Faculty of Education to the area for the EDUC 430 course, to show them what teaching and living in a rural community is really like.
The program has been a success each year, according to Mike Skinner, assistant superintendent of School District #91, including sometimes even convincing students to stay for longer terms, or come back after graduation.
“This is not a practicum. This is a unique program that UBC has come up with. It’s an optional program,” said Skinner.
“This is about coming to a rural location and coming to our communities. It’s rural living for a three-week short immersion, and we generally have them staying in homes of staff members, but there’s also community members who host them,” he said.
The students who participate in the program have already completed their teaching practicums by the time they head to School District #91, so the program really is about enrichment for them. And there’s also the flexibility aspect, said Skinner. Practicum students have to stay in one school and one area, while students in the field experience program can move around if they’d like to. In the past, they’ve even gone between elementary and secondary school, he said.
The first cohort of students, who will work in secondary schools (high schools) will be here April 27-May 15, while the second cohort, who will be in elementary schools, will be here June 8-26.
Right now, it looks like in the first cohort there will be a student in Burns Lake, as well as potentially two in Vanderhoof, and two in Fort St. James, said Skinner. No one has been assigned yet for Fraser Lake, but all the details are still being finalized.
While they hope to retain students who do come for the program, the schools often find one common barrier. Students from UBC often live in the Vancouver area, so generally want to go back to that.
“Though the feedback has always been great… They love our area and find the staff very accommodating…. Some of them go, ‘I’m still living at home with my parents in Vancouver, so I don’t want to teach yet,'” said Skinner.
“But we’ve always said, ‘Keep the door opened. You’ve seen our communities, you’ve met out staff, you know our principals, and we hope to see your resume down the road, as well,” he added.
The school district is currently running their University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) practicum program, with six students being in the area at this time. And School District #91 has also formed a new partnership with Lakehead University in Ontario, bringing two students from there to the Vanderhoof region, said Skinner. The students were placed there because they both wanted the “small town” experience, he said.