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Voices of AHCOTE: Donna Hedges 

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Donna Hedges always knew she wanted to be a teacher. 

From the time she was a child, she always wanted to help people and was always willing to help her fellow students if they were stuck on a problem or dealing with trouble on the playground. 

Now, as a teacher at Anne Roberts Young Elementary School in Fort St. John, she credits the Alaska Highway Consortium on Teacher Education (AHCOTE) with helping her achieve that goal. 

“I learned that I could accomplish what I set my sights on,” she said. “It just empowered me to do more.” 

Donna started AHCOTE in 1990 and was impressed that instructors from Simon Fraser University (SFU) were brought up to Northern Lights College (NLC) to do some of the courses. It made it much easier for her to get her Bachelor of Education. 

“That it’s offered at Northern Lights College in conjunction with SFU makes it so much easier to take those higher-level distance education courses, because they brought the instructors up here to us, which was huge cost and time saving, you don’t have to spent time away from your family because it’s all taken in town,” she says. 

Donna’s favorite part of the program was being able to get into the classroom and get hands-on experience with teaching. She had three practicums that she did during that time, one at Clearview Elementary Junior Secondary, one at Robert Ogilvie Elementary, and another doing tutoring sessions at NLC. 

“The practicums were awesome,” she says, “Because it was hands on and actually getting into it . . . and putting into action everything you’ve been studying and learning about.” 

Upon completion of the program in 1996, Donna worked as a Teacher on Call (TOC) all over School District 60 while she raised her three children. Once her youngest child was in Grade 1 in 2008, she decided to return to teaching full time and got a job working at Upper Pine Elementary Junior Secondary School in Rose Prairie. 

One significant thing about AHCOTE is that it greatly prepares a new teacher to work in a more rural environment, Donna says. Rural schools like Upper Pine are much different than the schools in town, which are different from schools in much larger centers. 

“[AHCOTE] offers such a wonderful insight into teaching in a rural community, learning in a rural community,” she says. 

She spent 10 years at Upper Pine before coming back into town to teach at Alwin Holland Elementary prior to going on to Anne Roberts Young, which officially opened in 2020. Donna says it was a bit of a culture shock going from rural to in-town school. 

Donna is currently working towards her Master’s of Education through the University of Alberta. She strongly encourages anyone in the north, or elsewhere for that matter, that’s thinking of getting into the education field to sign up for AHCOTE. 

“It’s valuable and it’s something you won’t regret. It will benefit you your whole life.”