July 24, 2015

Community-based BEd cohort takes first steps into history

In innovative Werklund program, Class of 2019 will study remotely for majority of their course
communtiy-based cohort
communtiy-based cohort

Marsha Larson is a single mother of six who lives in Barnwell, a town on the Crowsnest Highway between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat in southeastern Alberta. She’s a teacher’s aide at the community school, and while she enjoys it, she longs to lead the class.

But for Larson, taking part in a full-time education program is out of the question — it simply doesn’t fit into her life.

In the past, because of geographic, financial, or personal constraints, people like Larson didn’t have the option of earning a teaching degree while remaining in their own communities, as nothing existed that allowed them to do so.

Today, because of an innovative program launched at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education, Larson — along with 19 others — is a new student taking the first step to becoming a teacher.

The inaugural class of Werklund’s Community-Based Bachelor of Education program came together this month for orientation and their first introductory class into the realm of education. 

Following a two-week period on main campus, the students return to their communities throughout Alberta to continue their course work online. They also undertake their classroom experience in their own communities, which means they don’t have to abandon their current home or professional situations — a crucial piece of the puzzle that many of the students say was missing in other programs.

Throughout the program, the students will receive continual support from the Undergraduate Programs in Education office, where Dave Scott, director of student experiences, and Patricia Danyluk, director of field experience, will lead a team to keep the students connected to the campus. 

Approved by Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education late last year, this first cohort was accepted in the spring. The four-year degree program, while designed to support students not in close proximity to a college or university, also enables others who may face challenges in participating in a standard post-secondary teacher education program to attend classes and learn along with a close-knit group who share a common experience.

The Class of 2019 is reflective of the type of students for which the program has been designed: some are stay-at-home or working parents and others are just out of high school; some are currently employed as support personnel in schools, and others have different careers. They come from all over Alberta — from small communities and large centres.

No matter what their differences, they have one thing in common: every student wants to go to the head of their own class as teachers in their own communities, and the Werklund Community-Based Bachelor of Education program is in place to help them achieve their goals.