The jump from student to teacher can be an intimidating one for those studying in the Faculty of Education, and yet alumnus Landon Kowalzik (BA ‘03, BEd ‘06, MEd ‘20) is encouraging soon-to-be grads to consider the possibility of taking an even bigger leap than they may have intended. Born and raised in southern Alberta, Kowalzik has now spent nearly two decades in the Northwest Territories after his first full-time teaching job took him to Yellowknife.

“I went in totally blind, the farthest north I had ever been was Fort McMurray,” says Kowalzik, now the assistant superintendent of Yellowknife Education District No. 1.

“In true northern fashion, I planned on coming here for one or two years and then fell in love with the city and the people, and now this is my 18th year in Yellowknife with the same school district.”

Much of the ease of transition was due to the welcoming community Kowalzik says he found immediately upon arrival; making the city feel like home right away.

“Most people up here aren’t originally from Yellowknife – even the long-time Yellowknifers, most moved from somewhere else – and because so many people are here without their large, extended families, they welcome you in and you develop your own different Yellowknife families,” he says.

While he admits the unique daylight hours throughout the year might not be for everyone, Kowalzik says the beauty of the north is another thing that’s kept him in Yellowknife for all these years.

“There’s a beauty here that’s hard to fully appreciate unless you’re actually here and living it.”

“And it’s amazing to experience golfing at midnight, playing slow-pitch on summer nights without any lights; just incredible unique experiences," he says.

Kowalzik says the career opportunities for those living and working in the north are also aplenty, as he’s experienced first-hand.

“When I arrived, I taught high school social studies for two years and became department head in my third year,” he says. “I stayed in that role for 11 years, and then I moved on to be a principal at an elementary school for three years, and then I moved over to the district office. So being able to move up very quickly has been a real bonus for me, and it’s not just in education, there’s a lot of opportunities in all fields.”

Those opportunities will bring Kowalzik back to the University of Lethbridge in February on a recruitment tour. He says Yellowknife Education District No. 1 has a history of employing ULethbridge grads, and they would love to add to that history.

“U of L grads are ready to control their classrooms from day one. The practical component of the program at the University of Lethbridge is, I would say, the best in Western Canada,” he says. “The four months students spend for their Professional Semester III really gives them a step up on most everybody else.”

Kowalzik will be presenting to Faculty of Education students on Wednesday, February 1 at 5:00 p.m. in Turcotte hall, before representing his school division at the Spring Career Fair on Thursday, February 2.