Medicine Hat Media

More Than a Number

As a teacher, I am fond of quotes that inspire or force us to view an issue from another perspective. One of my favorites is credited to Henry Adams, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops”. Forgiving the gender bias in the quote, I read those words and realize that the smallest gesture, word spoken or moment in a classroom may have an impact beyond the walls of my classroom. Bearing the quote in mind, as many readers may be aware already, the University of Alberta is more than likely discontinuing the Collaborative Elementary Education program offered at the MHC campus following the 2010 intake. You may have had the (mis)fortune of being subjected to my letter to the editor where I unashamedly quoted from one of the many teacher-related movies. In any case, here is a brief background: the program began in 2006, with 28 students graduating in 2008. Thirty-three students will graduate this spring, with 65 undergraduate students currently applying for the 32 possible spots for the 2010 program. The program relies upon both local and University of Alberta instructors to provide instruction over the final two years of an Elementary Education degree completion program, with a minor in rural education. Students in the program apply for one of 32 spots, with admission being highly competitive and based on GPA. Students pay University of Alberta tuition and fees and purchase textbooks from the U of A via the MHC bookstore. Several of the courses are compressed courses, meaning that you complete 16 weeks of course work in anywhere from 4-6 weeks, with U of A instructors flown in to offer instruction. Courses taught by local instructors are generally standard length, except for the first and final semesters.

It would be easy for me, as a beneficiary of the program, to say that its potential loss doesn’t affect me, since I am two weeks away from completing my degree. However, as a teacher and member of my community it is a matter of concern. I am sure most people have personal circumstances that make the idea of pursuing postsecondary education difficult at best. Issues such as expense and the time commitment greatly impact the feasibility of any pursuit. For someone who is a parent or needs to work while attending school, the option of being able to complete a degree while learning in your home community, where you have support and decreased expense, is important. With respect to the Collaborative Program, I was able to continue my education, an option not available to me otherwise. I am not alone. Looking at the current cohort, many of us would never be able to proudly say that we are teachers. Just this past weekend, I reserved my graduation apparel and planned my convocation trip to collect my hard-earned degree, only to hear the news on Monday that the program was in jeopardy. What saddens me is the fact that there are students on the MHC campus, writing exams this week, whose future is uncertain; they very likely will not enjoy the same experience that I have had, an experience now relegated to luxury status. They have already invested time and money into courses that will only transfer to the University of Alberta. Having spoken with several of these students recently, I know for a fact that without the U of A/MHC Collaborative program, they will not be able to continue their education.

Beyond the saved expenses or family support is the fact that the Collaborative program offers a learning experience that one would not have on a university campus. As a graduate with a degree from another university, I know from personal experience that an Education degree offered on campus at a university would mean attending classes with literally hundreds of other students. Instead, I enjoyed a class size of only 35 students, which allowed our cohort to develop strong relationships with each other, which facilitates collaboration. We have also developed strong connections to the local schools, across three school districts, as numerous teachers and principals opened their doors to us, as well as offered to serve as guest speakers. These relationships will likely result in greater odds of employment following graduation, as well as encouraging graduates to remain in the community to teach.

Of course, with the current financial climate in our province, many departments, education included, have faced budget restrictions. The MHC/U of A Collaborative program is not the only victim of cutbacks. The loss of this program will be a blow to not only the College, but to the community in general. Ultimately, despite costs and figures, I choose to view people as more than a number. My students and their successes matters to me, but just as importantly, the success of other teachers and students matter too. If you care about Education, and are concerned about the loss of local programs, I urge you to voice your concerns, as is your right as a citizen. Remind our local MLA’s, the MHC and U of A administration and the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology that we are more than a dollar figure. You never know where your influence stops.

Jennifer Karpiuk, B.A.,1998; B.Ed., 2010 (pending)

User Comments

One Response to “More Than a Number”

  1. April 14th, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    Taylor says:

    This is a very unfortunate situation, and as a Education student at the U of L I feel for all the students that will be negatively affected by the programs cuts. But I have to admit I can understand where it is coming from. Sure its a huge advantage to be able to take an entire university degree at the college, but the fact is PSE funding has been cut and the effects have to be felt somewhere. Since you didn’t mention it, I’m going to assume the transfer agreement with U of L Faculty of Education hasn’t been canceled, so many students can still take 2/5 years at the college. Admittedly this isn’t ideal, but at least many students will have the opportunity to get a great start on their PSE at the MHC before moving on to the university costs, class sizes, and other disadvantages.

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