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There’s no place like home for homegrown Hinton teachers

Masha Scheele

Nearly 30 teachers from Hinton’s three elementary schools and two high schools are born and raised Hintonites who returned to the community after university to teach.

With more than 40 years of teaching experience in the Hinton area, Deb Bird taught at least 12 of those teachers when they went through Hinton’s school system.

She says that with previously established connections and built-in community support, it’s sometimes easier for teachers to integrate in their own home town schools.

“A lot of them have family here. Hinton is such a nice safe place to raise kids,” said Bird.

“The nice thing about Hinton is that it’s very community minded.”

Bird added that locals bring back their community spirit and they understand what it’s like growing up in the community.

Sarah Marchildon attended Father Gerard Redmond Catholic High School from kindergarten to Grade 12 and just started her full time position this year at the high school as a social studies teacher.

“I know what it’s like to be a kid growing up here. I can relate to the students’ experiences and I have connections with some of their families,” she said.

Marchildon spent nine years teaching in communities in both BC and Saskatchewan before returning to Hinton.

“I was always that kid who wanted to leave and never come back, so I did leave for nine years and eventually I realized that the best opportunities are at home where you have the most connections,” she said.

Her family still lives in the community, which is a huge benefit as her dream position of social studies teachers opened up in time.

“It’s hard sometimes when you come to a brand new community from elsewhere. You think what’s going to keep me here, beyond my job what else is going to make that connection,” said Kurt Scobie, principal of École Mountain View, who is also a product of the local school system.

Locals who return to teach in the community benefit from having their families close by to support them as they deal with the stresses and pressures of teaching, planning, and marking.

“It’s stressful as far as dealing with so many kids. If you have 30 kids in your classroom and you care deeply about them all, that’s going to take a toll on you too,” said Bird.

Another benefit is that returning teachers are also already aware of what the community has to offer, making it easier to decide whether they want to stay and raise their own families in the community.

Scobie added that a recent hire who went through the school system at Mountain View has become a bit of a success story for them. 

“Hunter Young, she came through our french immersion program,” he said. “She’s gone on to university, worked for Parks Canada. All the things we tell kids and has come back as a teacher.”

Bird returned to substitute teach in Hinton after an early retirement in 2011, she believes that if teachers really love to teach, kids will want to go into education.

“It’s nice because we taught [these teachers] and obviously they’ve gleaned some information from some of their teachers to want to go into teaching,” she said.

Marchildon added that as a kid she never wanted to be a teacher, but gave some credit to her former teachers turned current mentors.

Father Gerard vice-principal Barbara Marchant taught Marchildon English in high school where she discovered her love of learning, while another grade twelve teacher showed her how a teacher-student relationship can define somebody’s high school experience.

“Those teachers put the seed in my mind for wanting to teach. In particular high school, because I love the relationships you can have with kids at this age. They’re fascinating,” she said.

Marchildon’s former teachers became her colleagues who she already trusted and relied on for their knowledge and wisdom.

“Since I had [Marchant] as a teacher and knew her, already trusted her, and enjoyed her classes, I felt right away that I could ask her anything,” said Marchildon.

Scobie believes it’s a very natural thing for kids to want to leave the area at 17 and explore what else is out there.

If they decide to return after some years, they often realize that Hinton is a great place to work and live.

For Bird, substitute teaching alongside her former students has been a fun experience.

“It was really fun to watch them come in and get the kids really busy doing things and learn that they do have control of the classroom,” she said “They were such good teachers.”

Bird believes that the entire community of Hinton really sets kids up for success, whether that’s returning to the community with a skill or taking their skills learned in Hinton to succeed elsewhere.

“I think the best thing about being a teacher is watching kids find out who they are or who they want to be or expand on who they already are and be delighted in it and be happy in it,” added Bird.

Bird believes it’s important to be a guide to students and steer them in the right direction to succeed. Scobie added that at least a third of his staff are people who spent some of their former education in Hinton.

“I think it’s a big deal. I think it shows that we have something as a community to offer because people come back,” said Scobie.