By: Sam Calio, Community Journalism Trainer
Teachers and students of Peetabeck Academy have welcomed me into their community and school with open arms. Since arriving, I have been invited into numerous classrooms to talk about journalism, photography and writing. It has been a great resource. The school allows me to interact and engage with students. Now when the students see me walking they yell “Hi Sam!” or “I know you.” That has been really rewarding!
Unfortunately, over the last two months I have noticed some systematic issues. For example, the school is under-resourced, there are currently no substitute teachers available for when teachers are away. This results in classes being cancelled for the day. There are also a limited number of teacher assistants which can be challenging for both teachers and students.
This can also affect my programming. If students aren’t in school because a teacher is away they don’t come to my programs. I’m always excited to work with students and disappointed when I don’t get that opportunity.
As much as it’s a frustration for me, this really affects the students. During a writing program I asked the class to write about their interests or what they’re looking forward to in the future. A few of the students shared their work. Some wrote about playing basketball or their friends but one really stood out. The student wrote, “I can’t wait to graduate so I can move and get a better education.”
It is common for students in remote northern communities to move far from their families to cities such as Timmins and North Bay in order to access high school education.
Beyond this, I have met some amazing kids. I hold a weekly after-school program called Junior Journalists for the elementary school. So far, we have gone over what journalism is, played with some equipment and had a photography scavenger hunt. I have one student that shows up every week, no matter what. He always has a smile on his face and loves to take pictures with my camera.
I’m excited to continue my work with the school, meeting more students and building relationships. There is one month left of school, so hopefully I’ll be able to do as much programming as I can before summer starts. I know all of the students at Peetabeck Academy have great potential. I’m hoping I can help them flourish.