“When I was in school I stayed with the same group of kids and my teachers knew me all the way from Grade 1 to 9,” says Janice Jensen of her early years in a rural school. She credits having teachers who knew her well for her success, despite being a struggling student. As she moved through the grades they knew in advance how to work with her strengths and weaknesses.
I developed learning skills through the patience of my teachers in a small school. That’s when I decided I was going to be a teacher.”
An avid and talented musician (a trait also recognized and nurtured by a local teacher), Jensen obtained her Bachelor of Music from the University of Lethbridge, completed her masters in Vancouver, and returned to Lethbridge for an Education degree. She served all her practicums in rural schools, including Rainier, where in addition to instructing K–6 Music, she started a band program for Grade 7, 8, and 9. “We also formed a community band which included people from Rainier, Scandia, Rolling Hills and Tilley,” she says.
Since graduating with her BEd in 2002, Jensen has taught in the hamlet of Tilley, where she appreciates the opportunity to offer as a teacher the same advantages of a rural education she enjoyed as a student. “We know our students the way my teachers knew me,” she says. “With combined classes we have them for a minimum of two years, so if they don’t understand something the first year we can catch them up in the second.” She notes that older students are role models for younger students. “That’s huge in these small schools.”
In Tilley, Jensen runs a thriving music program, with band instruments supplied by her. “I purchased them myself so I could see kids play,” she says. “I don’t want the lack of an instrument to hinder it.” According to Jensen, such acts are typical of people in rural areas. She cites the farmhand who designed and built a slide extension so her littlest trombone players could reach all the notes. “That’s the joy of being in a small community,” she says. “It’s great!”
SIDEBAR with Grasslands School Division Superintendent Scott Brandt: On Rural Teaching
“Teaching in a rural setting is a wonderful experience,” says Grasslands School Division Superintendent Scott Brandt (MEd’06).
“In Grasslands we have everything from small rural schools, such as Gem, with 20 students in Grades 1–6, to larger urban schools such as Brooks Composite High, with 600 students.”
One strength of the rural division is its cultural diversity.
A wide range of ethnicities in the city of Brooks, Indigenous students from Siksika Nation, Low German-speaking Mennonite students, and students on Hutterite colonies all contribute to the rich cultural mosaic of area schools.
Public education is the great equalizer that will prepare open-minded, accepting and productive citizens for the everchanging future,” says Brandt.
Writer: Elizabeth McLachlan, Photographer: Rob Olson
Other rural-related Faculty of Education stories:
Faculty of Education Dean's Message: "I had the privilege of starting my teaching career at a very small school in central Alberta … "
A Circle is Complete: Nathan Comstock (BA/BEd ’19)
Land of a Hundred One-roomed Schools: Art and Rena Loewen
A Community in the Middle of Nowhere
Teacher Still Learning at 105-years-old: Alma McLachlan
Wellness is Ranching: Danny Balderson
For more information please contact:
Dean's Office • Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
Learn more about the Faculty of Education: Legacy Magazine (2008-2019)
Twitter: @ULethbridgeEdu Website: uleth.ca/education
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