Education
Sahtu

‘My heart belongs to Colville Lake,’ says new principal


There will be almost no staff turnover at Colville Lake’s school this year, says newly promoted principal Louella Arigo. For the community, that’s a welcome change.

Arigo, or Miss Louie to her students, has lived and taught in Colville Lake since January 2018. During her time at the school, she’s been the junior kindergarten to Grade 4 teacher, as well as the program support teacher.

Starting in August, she’ll become the school’s principal. She’s replacing Wayne Dawe – he is retiring to Newfoundland with his wife Ivy, who also teaches at the school.

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“It was unexpected because they just offered me the position,” Arigo said, noting she was originally hoping to keep splitting her time as program support and elementary school teacher.

“I was really excited,” she said of the promotion. “I’m looking forward to it because I know my heart belongs to Colville Lake now, and I never want to move anywhere else.”

Arigo said spending time as the program support teacher gave her an opportunity to build stronger relationships with older students and a good foundation for her upcoming position.

It’s not her first time leading a school. She held a similar role in the Philippines prior to moving to Canada. Before arriving in Colville Lake, she spent time teaching on reserves in northern Manitoba.

Everyone made her feel accepted when she made the move, Arigo recalls.

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“That made me fall in love with them,” she said. She has tried to do her part in return by baking cakes for every student celebrating a birthday and becoming friends with all of the Elders.

‘All the staff are staying for the next school year’

“The kids are starting to trust the staff, because all the staff are staying for the next school year,” Arigo continued, with the exception of the two staff who are retiring.

Superintendent Renee Closs said a new program support teacher will be hired as Arigo moves up and the Dawes move away.

“We are very pleased with how little teacher turnover we are seeing this year in Colville Lake. We have four returning teachers, including Louella,” Closs wrote to Cabin Radio.

“The longevity of a teacher in a school strengthens the relationships with students and families and promotes success.”

Arigo hopes the low turnover rate will improve attendance and result in some high school graduations – which she says the community hasn’t had in a while.

“The high school teacher is also very committed to help out the kids. And that’s our goal: improve our attendance and keep the kids in school, keep the fire burning,” she said.

Students motivated to learn at home

Until her promotion officially kicks in on August 1, Arigo will support her students from a distance in her current roles.

Every two weeks, Colville Lakes’ teachers send out learning packages for students. Every Friday, Arigo calls students and parents to check in.

“[The students] are trying their best,” she said. “We’re not expecting too much from them, because this is a new thing for them to study full-time at home. But we’re getting there, keeping them busy, and at least the motivation is still there.”

Arigo said one silver lining of the pandemic, as students work from home, is that teachers’ relationships with parents have grown stronger.

Previously, she said, parents weren’t always interested in what their kids were doing at school. “Now, they’re excited to report to us that the kids are doing their learning packages.”

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