by Andru McCracken
Blue River teacher Maymie Tegart is one of three people nominated for a Premier’s Awards for Excellence in Education in the Outstanding New Teacher category.
Tegart’s experience teaching has been a little unusual. Her classroom has 10 kids in it, her school has 10 kids in it and until this year Tegart was the only teacher (and adult) on the premises. But the unusual configuration has allowed her to do some interesting things.
Tegart said she had just finished a practicum in North Vancouver when she was hired at the Blue River school. The community was desperately looking for a teacher.
“They were basically handing out interviews to anyone and everyone,” said Tegart.
Tegart was lured by the promise of Blue River’s outdoor lifestyle and legendary powder snow.
“I met the [interviewer] and she said, ‘If you like the outdoors it would be a good fit.’”
Tegart and her class use a school that compares in physical size to the Valemount Elementary School. With 10 kids, that creates room for improvisation.
With a grant from Whole Foods the kids built an indoor garden.
“We bought some grow lights… a whole bunch of trays and seeds,” she said.
“Last spring we went for it and grew a lot of stuff.”
The school sold starter plants as a fundraiser. Her class has also hatched chickens in the school.
“It would be great to have a full-on hobby farm,” said Tegart.
Tegart said being in a small class helps do great things.
“If I have an idea there is not much stopping me from putting in place,” she said. “I’m the only one.”
Tegart said having a small diverse classroom is good for kids.
“I think the kids are much more self-regulated and independent,” she said. “They get independent, and occupy themselves.”
She said hands-on tangible experience is great for learning.
“In order to teach effectively you need to get your hands dirty and get some experiential learning activities. The reality is some kids might not ever get to do that,” she said.
While being the only teacher allows her freedom, she admits that working on her own can be tough.
“It is very easy to fall in the mindset of being isolated and unsupported. It felt really nice to be recognized,” she said of the nomination.
That her tiny school exists at all is a source of fascination for other people from small communities.
“Everyone asks me all the time, ‘How is your school open?’” she said.
Tegart said that for her principal and school district, they don’t let schooling become a numbers game. And she agrees with that sentiment.
“Kids should have access to school no matter what their postal code is,” she said. “It’s a heart beat for this community.”
“As soon as you start sending kids on the bus they lose the connection of learning in their environment.”
She said she hopes Blue River Elementary School can be an inspiration for other rural schools.