Challenges & Opportunities to Teaching in Rural Alberta

Teaching in rural PLSD has both benefits and challenges. For a beginning teacher, there are few places better to start your career.

Small class sizes are found in every school. The highest average class size is just over sixteen with the smallest being less than ten. In actuality, these numbers are skewed due to special needs students being counted, but not always participating in their grade level class. The small sizes allow new teachers the opportunity spend more time with individual students and grow with them as you teach material for the first time. Another byproduct of very small class situations is the potential for multi-graded classes. This could mean a class may have grade 5 and 6 students in the same class at the same time, which creates a vibrant and exciting opportunity for exploring different types of delivery and classroom organization. It is not an uncommon phenomenon in the division and there are always experienced teachers willing to give support and guidance.

Distance is a challenge mostly when dealing with supplies and guest speakers, but planning ahead and sharing speakers with other schools in the area are viable ways to make things go smoothly. Distance can also come into play when it comes to social life and shopping. Although some of our schools do not have all the amenities of a large urban center, they are all located within reasonable driving distances of a city center.

Return to Rural is a movement which is seeing former residents returning to raise their families in the relatively safe confines of small town Alberta. People are finding that once they have left their small town for the bright lights, they are not interested in raising their families in areas where the school class sizes are large and the cost of accommodations is significantly higher.

Activities vary from town to town. For example, there is a competitive men’s hockey league which has teams in two of the division towns and it provides great excitement. The majority of the towns have skating and/or curling rinks, slow pitch diamonds, one town in each the north and south have golf courses and amateur theatre, music and art groups can be found in many of the school sites. Our division has worked very hard to the point where we are proud to say that being small does not equate to less opportunities.

Housing varies between towns. Some schools have teacherages available for teachers, while many teachers commute from the nearest larger town, usually a half hour or so away. All of the schools have great communities which support their teachers, both in and out of school. The PLSD board also ensures they support new teachers in whatever ways they can.

Prairie Land students excel on many fronts. Teams within the division consistently challenge for zone and provincial titles in basketball, volleyball, football, girls rugby and curling, with provincial titles in A, 2A and 3A levels being brought home in recent years. Many students excel in individual pursuits such as rodeo and archery with provincial and national champions attending PLSD schools. Teachers always have the opportunity to bring their passions to their schools and share them with the students. Clubs and organizations built on common teacher/student interests can be found across the division.