'It became clear that this place was special, and I would never get this experience anywhere else' – UBC Education graduate on living in the North.
Born and raised in Lake Country, BC, UBC grad Ellie McCarthy is now teaching in Nisga'a, a rural community in the gorgeous Nass Valley. Ellie shares her experience as a first-year teacher in an area home to the Nisga'a Nation. The community provides a rich cultural backdrop and is a special place, offering an experience unlike any other.
Why did you take a teaching role in the North? What drew you there?
I had an opportunity to volunteer in SD92 through UBC's Community Field Experience. Someone from the district spoke at an information session and invited us to visit the district and "bring an open heart."
I immediately knew I had to find out more about the district and ended up being selected to go up for three weeks. During those three weeks, we moved from class to class and got to work one one-on-one with students. It became clear that this place was special, and I would never get this experience anywhere else.
The community was extremely welcoming, and the teaching staff were amazing to learn from. However, it truly was the students that made it impossible not to come back after completing my teaching degree. In the three weeks, we were able to connect with them, learn from them, and I knew I had to come back.
Did you always plan to start your career in a remote or small community?
Definitely not. I originally planned to start my career in Kelowna but changed my mind when I came up to the Nass Valley.
What do you love about working in a small community?
I love the small classes and tight-knit community. I have the time to connect with each student individually, differentiate their needs, get to know them, and work closely with my coworkers.
What are the challenges (if any) about teaching in Northern BC?
It can be challenging at times to work in a remote community. I miss my family and my friends, but the community is very welcoming. There are always feasts and events going on with open invites, and the community encourages attendance and participation in events.
What is the thing you love the most about teaching in general?
I love connecting with students, getting to know them, and finding ways to help them find success.
Is there anything specific that you like about teaching the BC curriculum?
I love the freedom to choose the content that is most relevant to students. For example, I can use texts and examples from the community I am in and create lessons that are interesting and engaging for students.
Do you have a story or an example that shows what makes it unique to teach in a small community?
I could tell you a million stories of the little wins I get every day. I get to build strong, positive relationships with my students and see every success they have. I laugh and learn every day.
Is there anything else you want to say about teaching in the North that I have yet to ask?
It is worth it! Despite its challenges, it is a unique opportunity to make a difference in school, and I have so many opportunities for my own personal growth and learning. It is an incredible adventure and the best decision I have made.
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