A Day in the Life of an Oweekeno School Student
How does your average school day start? You might have your students check in on a SmartBoard when they arrive at class. Then they’re onto a small assignment, maybe writing or math and then snacks and recess and maybe some art and PE in the afternoon. That’s where the similarities end for Oweekeno Elementary, SD49, Central Coast.
This robust, but small community village only have about 60 people and to access it, you’ll need to find a float plane or boat. With a total of 7 students (1 in grade 1, 1 in grade 2, 1 in grade 3, 1 in grade 4, 2 in grade 5 and 1 in grade 11) in various grade levels, the challenge exists of how to teach a multi-level grade class.
But educator, Kevin Gianakos relishes the challenge and thoroughly enjoys his job. “I love the relationships I get to build with the students and their families,” explains Gianakos. “It’s been quite amazing how welcomed my family and I have been.”
But don’t plan on enjoying your morning snack outside! Oweekeno students know well to eat inside so that the local animals don’t get into their food. These animals are not like our familiar racoons, instead they comprise of grizzly bears, cougars, wolves and more. Therefore the reason for the 7 foot tall fence around the outside recess area. But that doesn’t deter these students as they enjoy a lot of outdoor activity.
“I try to make classes active,” explains Gianakos. “We incorporate Math while doing obstacle courses and also walk around the community to check out what our static cameras have captured.
” With wildlife images to enjoy through the camera view, the fun doesn’t stop there for these students. Often Gianakos wife comes to visit class with their new baby and the students enjoy a short visit. Then after lunch at home, students get into their reading program through First Nations Literacy Program. Gianakos expands on the program, explaining the 26 levels they go through, with 10 books in each level. With SETBC providing 2 computers, it allowed access to digital books as well. But it doesn’t stop there. As students’ progress, they can choose a prize from the prize bin! Now that’s a school students can enjoy!
Although the district has purchased the BC Digital Classroom, they are still getting set up and Gianakos is looking forward to the access.
“Resources in this remote community are one of our biggest challenges,” notes Gianakos. “I tend to beg, borrow and scrounge, plus the district is quite accommodating, but they can only do so much when they are a 1 hour flight away.”
Another challenge is the lack of a peer group with such limited students. Now that this small community has internet access, Gianakos has taken it to another level.
“I am looking into incorporating virtual Skype Classrooms,” explains Gianakos. “We had a successful Christmas Play dress rehearsal that we did over Skype for the Board Office so we’re looking at ways to expand its use and benefit from our wifi connectivity.
” When first applying for the teacher job, Gianakos explains that during the interview process and selection, they continually checked in with him and asked “Are you still interested?”. The remote community had experienced high turn-over and wanted to confirm his commitment.
Interested he was! His wife and him quickly moved and with some bumps in the road, eventually found themselves to be a permanent fixture of the community. When asked about his greatest adventure since living there, Gianakos only response is “You want me to pick ONE?”
“Just boating down the river is so beautiful and you see so many eagles,” exclaims Gianakos. “The bottom of the river was literally alive and we even had seals following us. There are also so many amazing cultural events that we feel privileged to be a part of. Overall, it’s just such an amazing place to live and work.”
The District Contact, John Breffitt, from Bella Coola (SD49) will be joining us for IT4K12 so be sure to welcome him as he is travelling quite the distance! Consider connecting further with Kevin Gianakos and maybe your class could enjoy a Skype meeting and see what a true remote community might look like!