The recent Supreme Court decision to restore class size and composition limits means that a record number of teachers are needed throughout the province, especially in rural and remote BC school districts.
UBC’s West Kootenay Rural Teacher Education Program (WKTEP), located in and around Nelson, BC, provides opportunities for elementary and secondary teacher candidates to develop the professional qualities and practices for teaching in today’s complex learning environments, with a strong focus on rural and small school settings. This year, in response to the growing demand for rural BC educators, WKTEP expanded its program and learning centre to double the capacity of previous years. Demand exceeded expectations, meaning that the program is now completely full, and applications for next year’s BEd Program will begin in October.
These themes are woven throughout the program as teacher candidates connect with local schools and communities to explore and create opportunities for their students to do the same. Whether it is a winter recreation and safety workshop high in the Monashee Mountains, an overnight camping trip at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park to explore wildlife habitat, or a visit to a traditional pit house to better understand Aboriginal ways of knowing with a local Elder, WKTEP’s teacher candidates have many opportunities to connect with and experience the communities and cultures that surround them.
The program started in 1989 and was based at the Ootischenia Elementary School in Castlegar. Some of the coursework was delivered in other schools in Castlegar, Nelson, Trail and Grand Forks, and the summer courses were offered on the Selkirk College campus. In 1995 the entire program moved to the Selkirk College campus, with some courses offered in local schools. In August 2015, the program relocated to the UBC Learning Centre in Nelson, with many of the learning activities occurring in schools within the region.
Over WKTEP’s history, more than 650 students have graduated from the program and received their Bachelor of Education degree from the University of British Columbia. These graduates have found employment in over 80 different communities within BC, as well as in many other provinces and countries. The program maintains a high employment record, and many graduates work in the local school districts as both teachers and administrators.
“I have been thoroughly impressed by the calibre of WKTEP candidates and graduates. Their understanding of rural and remote schools and communities and their readiness to enter the teaching profession really speaks to the quality of UBC’s rural teacher education program.”
— Kevin Argue, Superintendent, SD51 (Boundary)
In addition to the BEd Program, UBC’s Nelson Learning Centre is now home to a graduate program in Inquiry and Place-Conscious Pedagogies for Rural Educators. Local educators and educational leaders have enthusiastically engaged with this professional learning opportunity, and information sessions for the next cohort, beginning in 2018, will be held in Nelson this fall. If interested, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We can see how powerfully the fates of rural communities are tied to the success of their schools and to students who can take on the challenges of our increasingly fragile planet. The environmental, socio-cultural, and economic sustainability of these rural communities, their vitality and viability, partly depends on what and how well our children are taught, and what and how well their teachers are taught before them.”
— Linda Farr-Darling, UBC Emerita, Former Eleanor Rix Professor of Rural Education and dedicated WKTEP educator and leader