Pal­liser shines a light on Hut­terite colony schools

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Alberta - BY CRAIG AL­BRECHT PAL­LISER SCHOOLS

Tours of­fered for first time to in­crease sub­sti­tute teach­ing ranks

As a re­cent univer­sity grad, Jean Brochu is look­ing to get his foot in the door on a ca­reer in teach­ing.

That means gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and mak­ing con­tacts as a sub­sti­tute teacher. He re­cently had his eyes opened to an­other op­por­tu­nity dur­ing a ride-along to a hand­ful of Pal­liser’s Hut­terite colony schools.

Brochu says he’d have no hes­i­ta­tion in an­swer­ing a call for a sub­bing job at a colony school af­ter the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I don’t think it’s par­tic­u­larly new, it’s just dif­fer­ent,” he says of the colony class­rooms the tour vis­ited. “And I don’t think as teach­ers we should be afraid of dif­fer­ent.”

Dan Ry­der, Pal­liser Re­gional Schools’ Prin­ci­pal of Colony Schools, says the fa­mil­iar­iza­tion tours are be­ing of­fered for the first time this school year af­ter his staff brain­stormed ways to in­crease the sub­sti­tute teacher ranks avail­able to them.

He went down the sub list and of­fered a vol­un­tary ride-along to those new names noted. This par­tic­u­lar tour fea­tured Brochu, from Leth­bridge, and two oth­ers from High River and Cal­gary re­spec­tively.

One of the po­ten­tial bar­ri­ers in bol­ster­ing sub ranks is lack of fa­mil­iar­ity with the lo­ca­tion of Pal­liser’s colony schools. Pal­liser has 17 colony schools serv­ing more than 365 stu­dents, with River Bend the fur­thest north and Hof­mann the deep­est south.

Each ride-along be­gins with Ry­der, act­ing as chauf­feur, pro­vid­ing a map of Pal­liser’s colony schools and direc­tions on how to get to those be­ing toured. Brochu says hav­ing that in­for­ma­tion can be a big plus when sub work is of­fered.

“If you get that call you go ‘hm­mmm. I can prob­a­bly make that (sub­bing job) now that I know where it is,’ ” he says.

Each ride-along stops at sev­eral colony schools – ei­ther north or south – with par­tic­i­pants get­ting a chance to view class­rooms as well as meet teach­ers and stu­dents. Each ends with a hardy, home­made lunch at one of the colonies vis­ited.

Brochu was eager to learn about the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of a one-room school, with the colony teacher re­spon­si­ble for all grades and sub­jects.

Greet­ing them on the first stop of the ride-along was Re­becca Hol­gate, now in her 13th year of teach­ing.

Be­fore she took the Wild Rose Colony School job a year and a half ago, Hol­gate says her most press­ing ques­tion was whether she’d have enough plan­ning time to en­sure she met the needs of all the grades. She’s since learned the value of be­ing flex­i­ble, and stray­ing from rigid plans.

“It’s an evolv­ing process. You meet the kids and see what works,” says Hol­gate. “You’re just try­ing to find dif­fer­ent ways to meet dif­fer­ent stu­dents’ needs.”

The drive time be­tween schools al­lows for plenty of ques­tions and an­swers. Among those Ry­der com­monly fields in­clude ques­tions about how they will be con­tacted for sub­bing jobs, cul­tural dif­fer­ences, dress code and in­ter­ac­tion with the Ger­man teacher at each colony school.

Brochu found tips pro­vided by the colony school teach­ers dur­ing the visit were par­tic­u­larly help­ful in the area of class­room man­age­ment and the cul­tural nu­ances of Hut­terite colonies.

He was also im­pressed by some of the pro­gres­sive class­room prac­tices he wit­nessed. Among those was younger stu­dents learn­ing vo­cab­u­lary by us­ing words to de­scribe a pic­ture – in this case a man rid­ing a trac­tor. At univer­sity he learned about cur­ricu­lum de­vel­op­ment and fo­cus­ing on mean­ing, more than form.

“I thought it was very for­ward think­ing in that they were mak­ing it mean­ing­ful and im­pact­ful and that’s ex­actly what ed­u­ca­tion is do­ing right now,” says Brochu. Sub op­por­tu­ni­ties not only fill the pantry, they can lead to per­ma­nent po­si­tions at colony schools. While the job has its chal­lenges, Ry­der thinks the ben­e­fits are worth it.

“It’s tough but it’s re­ward­ing, be­cause the kids love the teacher and the colony shows ap­pre­ci­a­tion in so many ways of their English teacher,” he says.

One of the job ben­e­fits Hol­gate ap­pre­ci­ates comes from the small class size, in her case six stu­dents in to­tal.

“You just re­ally get to know your stu­dents, which you don’t get as much in other schools be­cause you have a dif­fer­ent class each year,” she says. “It just feels more like a fam­ily to me.”

Sub­sti­tute teach­ers look­ing for in­for­ma­tion on Pal­liser’s Hut­terite colony school ride-alongs can con­tact Ry­der at dan.ry­der@pal­lis­ersd.ab.ca

Pal­liser School pho­tos

Dan Ry­der, at far right, looks over a map of Hut­terite colony schools in Pal­liser Re­gional Schools with par­tic­i­pants of a re­cent ride-along, in­clud­ing sub­sti­tute teacher Jean Brochu, at right.

Colony school teacher Re­becca Hol­gate, at left, shows ride-along par­tic­i­pants her class­room.

Pal­liser Schools photo

Teacher Re­becca Hol­gate works with a stu­dent at one of Hut­terite colony schools within Pal­liser.

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