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Linking program gives support workers advantage

University offers teacher training at Oceanview
Chris Bolster

A teacher education program offered in Powell River from a Canadian university is giving some aspiring teachers a chance they might not otherwise have been able to receive.

The Professional Linking Program (PLP), a teacher development program offered through Simon Fraser University (SFU)’s Faculty of Education, is for people currently working with children and youth in schools in a support capacity.

The program recognizes the talents that already exist and scaffolds courses and opportunities that build on this experience. Students are eligible for provincial teacher certification after 16 months but may take up to five years to complete all classes to meet the education faculty’s qualifications.

Maureen Mason, SFU faculty associate working with the Powell River module, said that it is not always possible to do a 12-month program in the Lower Mainland. With PLP students stay in Powell River and continue to work in their current positions for all but 12 weeks of practicum near the end of the program, which they can complete in Powell River as well, she added.

“PLP not only makes becoming a teacher more affordable, it supports an underlying need in small districts to build strength and capacity within,” said Mason. “This reflects the changing nature of public education to be more inclusive, collaborative and responsive to community culture.”

Fourteen students are enrolled in the program which began at the beginning of January. They meet twice a week at the recently renovated Oceanview Education Centre for their teacher education component. They must complete their bachelor of arts degrees either online or through distance learning, before they meet the teacher certification qualifications.

Dawn Letkeman, one of the students in the class, is a school district education assistant. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I love it, but I’ve been feeling like it’s time for a new challenge.”

And it is a challenge with juggling full-time jobs and families.

Education assistant Aleicia Vincent has two children with another on the way. She had planned that once her children were all school age she would attend teacher training at Vancouver Island University at the Qualicum campus, but when the opportunity came to stay in Powell River to study she jumped at the chance. “It’s just going to have to work because we’re never going to get this opportunity again,” she said. “As hard as it’s going to be, it’s easier to do it here than go to the island for a year.”

School District 47 superintendent of schools Jay Yule said the school district is pleased to have the program in Powell River. “The program provides a unique opportunity for well-experienced and qualified district support workers and other qualified potential students in our area to transition to professional teaching careers.”

Mason, who moved to Powell River to retire, said the pilot program was such an interesting opportunity it was enough to bring her out of retirement.

“What better way to respond to our local culture than embed teacher development into community life and the realities of Powell River,” said Mason. “This program provides a great opportunity to open dialogue on the roles and responsibility of public education in a diverse and sustainable community. These are exciting times.”