On August 30, teachers and staff at Routhier School were busy getting prepared for the first day of the new school year on August 31.
“We are excited for all the kids to come through the doors,” says Routhier Principal Diane Benoit. “I know that all the teachers have been planning in their classrooms since earlier in the month and counting the days to getting started.”
Benoit says she wants to put greater emphasizes on the school’s open door policy and encourage greater community and parental involvement, which she sees as an integral part of the educational process.
“We would like, for instance, to have some sports activities that involve the community,” she says.
Routhier, which has approximately 250 students, is a dual track school with a French stream and English stream that goes from K to six.
There is almost an equal number of French and English students with the different in enrolement between the two streams usually being approximately ten students.
“Students on the French side take their first year of English Language Arts in Grade 3,” says Benoit. “ The English students begin French as a second language in Grade 4,”
Routhier is also planning to challenge its students with STEM projects, focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.
There are also plans for some outdoor education activities and lunchtime clubs related to music, art, tech and participating in Native hand games.
“Again this year, we have the options for Grades 4, 5 and 6 that will encompass the fine arts and there will be an overlap between the fine arts and technology.
There will be a strong focus on the fine arts and we have some cultural events coming up starting with an interactive dance workshop September 21 and 22 that will run K to six.”
Benoit points out that Routhier is a culturally diverse school that celebrates different cultural traditions such as French, FNMI and English.
On the eve of beginning the 2016 – 2017 school year, the principal, teachers and staff at Routhier were busy doing some final organizing and clearly enthusiastic to see the kids come through the doors.
“We are excited to welcome our students back to school,” says Benoit. “We know that through our programming and community outreach our students will be provided with a variety of educational opportunities. We will continue to focus on academics, arts, and athletics as well as building relationships within our community.”
Routhier School also welcomed three new staff this year: two new Grade 1 teachers one teaching English and one French. There is also a new teacher covering maternity leave for Grade 6 until March.
Taryn Aucoin is originally from Red Deer and studied teaching at the University of Alberta.
Aucoin worked as a substitute teacher at Routhier School towards the end of last year but this is her first fulltime position. She will be teaching Grade 1 English.
Though she worked as a substitute teacher in May and June 2016, and is by now familiar with the school environment and the staff, Aucoin says she is excited about beginning her first fulltime position since finishing university and that she enjoyed getting her classroom prepared to welcome the students.
“I am a new teacher and the students are in Grade 1 so I am excited for us to grow together,” says Aucoin. “I have heard that it is really rewarding teaching Grade 1, because from September to June you see a huge change in your students.”
Patsy Cloutier, whose parents are from Quebec, was born in Falher and while she has visited “La belle province” many times she says she only feels truly at home in northern Alberta.
Cloutier studied teaching through a collaboration program with Northern Lakes College and University of Alberta.
She studies for two years with Northern Lakes College and the rest with U of A, under the Aboriginal Teaching Education Program.
Cloutier was lucky that she did not have to leave the area to pursue her studies as the furthest she had to travel was to attend classes was Slave Lake.
Like Taryn Aucoin, Cloutier, is also starting her first full-time teaching position teaching Grade 1 French
“I am very excited, I can’t wait,” she says. “I am a little bit nervous but I get to teach children my native language, French. It is going to be a challenge for sure, but the excitement overrules the rest of it.”
Although she is non-Aboriginal, the Aboriginal Teaching Education Program was something that really interested Cloutier so she decided to pursue it.
“My vision and hope is that by the end of the year my students are more fluent in French, that they can actually read in French,” says Cloutier. “I hope that they develop a love for the French language.”
Heather O’Neill has three years experience teaching in very diverse environments, having taught for a year in Gamèti Northwest Territories and two years in Kuwait.
Originally from St. Mary’s in southwestern Ontario, O’Neill, arrived in Falher a week before school started.
She will be covering maternity leave at Routhier teaching Grade 6 until March, but she says given the opportunity she would like to stick around longer than that.
O’Neill sees getting back into the Canadian curriculum as a bit of an adjustment as she taught everything through the American curriculum in Kuwait. However, she sees developing a connection with the student as something that is of the greatest importance.
She believes her role as a Grade 6 teacher is to have a positive influence on the kids and sees Grade 6 as an important year for learning about responsibility and expectations as the kids prepare for the transition to a different school next year.
“I think the big thing is building a relationship with the students,” says O’Neill.
“Especially not knowing how long I am going to be here, having only a certain amount of time to get to know the students and build quality relationships with mutual trust, I will always try to have a conversation with the student no matter what it is.”