While working with children as a swimming instructor at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex in Williams Lake, Lauren Neufeld realized she wanted to become a school teacher.
In the spring of 2022, the 23-year-old will complete her education degree at the University of Victoria and fulfill that desire.
Neufeld comes from a long line of teachers.
Her grandmother Bette McLennan was a teacher, as well as her mother Cory Neufeld, and her aunt and uncle, she said.
“They all told me, ‘don’t be a teacher,’ but working with the children in the pool as a teenager is when I decided I like to see the growth and the whole process of learning.”
Neufeld was born in Terrace, B.C. , but
calls Williams Lake her hometown.
“Most of my family lives here,” she said.
She has a younger sister, Megan, and her father, Kevin Neufeld, is an RCMP officer.
Growing up she played many sports, was involved with 4-H and horseback riding, but credits being part of the Cariboo Chilcotin Youth Fiddlers as something that had the greatest impact on her.
“It was a life changing and character-developing experience being part of the music community,” she said.
“I’d played with the Old Time Fiddlers, then went to live in Smithers because of the Bulkley Valley Youth Fiddlers. Then when I came back to Williams Lake I was lucky that Ingrid Johnston was doing a lot more things with the youth fiddlers here in the community.”
Neufeld also taught fiddle lessons while in secondary school.
After graduating from Lake City Secondary Williams Lake Campus in 2016, she travelled with her close friend Chloe Storoschuk to Southeast Asia and Europe.
“Chloe’s mom Laura had passed. Her mom had travelled to Southeast Asia, so it was kind of a tribute to her,” Neufeld recalled. “We were actually on this island in Thailand when we both wrote our admission essays for the teaching program at UVIC.”
This summer Neufeld is working as the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex summer camp and day camp co-ordinator.
It is her fourth year working with the program, but the first time as the co-ordinator.
“I started working at the pool when I was 16 when I got my first job as a lifeguard. I have worked here many years.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Neufeld returned home to live with her parents and continued her UVIC courses online.
While it was difficult at times, she said it was a good experience because the students she will be teaching in the future will have also had to do some remote learning.
For the last three years she has worked as a non-certified substitute teacher in School District 27, which has been a ‘great way’ to get a feel for schools and what grades she would like to teach.
“I am Métis, from my dad, and I want to learn more about my ancestors,” she added, noting she hopes to do more Indigenous studies.
She did her practicum at Nesika Elementary School this year and said it was wonderful.
“That’s another perk of a small town. You get these great opportunities.”
Neufeld had thought she wanted to leave Williams Lake after she completes her degree, however, that has changed.
“Over COVID I’ve realized that Williams Lake gives you a quality of life that the big city doesn’t really let you have. You get to find your group of people that allow you to have that quality of life.”
Being able to access lakes easily, she also appreciates how quieter the traffic is in the Cariboo Chilcotin.
“The hometown feel is nice too and as a young person, I’m realizing it will be a really nice to start off my career here.”