Elementary teacher Linda Frank is wrapping up over two decades of work in the West Boundary and is heading to Hutton Elementary in Grand Forks for her approaching retirement years.
Her first teaching job was in Canal Flats in the ’70s in a two-room schoolhouse. She had 38 students— she would have had 44, but she insisted there wasn’t enough room for that many desks in the classroom.
Her husband worked for the Ministry of Forests and, when he was transferred to Beaverdell, while she was still unpacking boxes at their new home, the local principal came knocking on her door to offer her a job. After that kitchen table interview, she taught at Beaverdell and Westbridge for two years. From there she took a temporary position at Hutton Elementary in Grand Forks in 1982 and then stayed home to raise her children.
When the opportunity came to move back to what was then School District 13 (Kettle Valley), she began what would be 15 years in Greenwood and another 12 in Midway. “So I am going full circle.”
By then her family had moved to Christina Lake, so she’s spent the past 27 winters driving over the Eholt Summit. “I now have an opportunity to drive only 20 minutes to work for the next year,” she observed. “I’ll get an automatic raise and I won’t have to pay those awful gas prices.”
When you’ve put that much teaching time in one community you inevitably wind up teaching kids of children you taught in prior years. “You know it’s time to leave when you start teaching their children,” she said with a chuckle.
Frank did the interview while sitting on the picket line last week. Over her career Frank had taught the children of two of the other women on the line that morning; and will be teaching the grandchild of a third.
They recalled that they always knew how their kids were doing because of the phone calls Frank made. They also remember that her arms were always open with hugs for the kids and the assemblies she had the kids put on for their parents.
“It gave the kids recognition,” Frank said, “but it also gave them a chance to perform in front of a group.”
She’s taught every grade from Kindergarten to Grade 6—often teaching multiple-grade classrooms— and was designated as the head teacher for many years at Midway Elementary.
When asked to comment on the current job action, Frank said, “I have been in job action since we became a union. A lot of people get upset that our union is fighting and they don’t understand. They think that we are just out to get money, and that’s not true. I have taught for a long time and I have seen how the system works and when we have extra help it just makes all the difference for our children—especially children with special needs. The government needs to stop being a bully and return us to fair class sizes and class composition that they had stripped from us 12 years ago.”
Frank’s daughter is now a teacher in School District 51 too and she says that’s another reason she is out on the picket line now. “We want to help those new young teachers coming through, because we know what it was like before we had all those supports. I don’t want to see them having poor working conditions because the government is not putting enough money into the system.”
She sees definite advantages to smaller rural schools. “When you have smaller classes you have a closer relationship with your students. For those who have problems, you can make that difference because you have touched base with someone. Someone has actually had a conversation with them and given them that little bit of attention. That is why it is critical to have smaller class sizes just because it is like a human touch.”
“I have enjoyed my years teaching here and the support I have from the community and parents,” she said in closing. “Because the community and the parents can make a huge difference with the children.”
West Boundary Elementary Teacher Judy Harpur is retiring. We will contact her over the next few days and will next week run a story of her reflections on her years of service to the parents and children of the West Boundary.