Tatla Lake School part of the community

The Tatla Lake Elementary, Junior, Secondary School’s location is perfect for a winter playground. (Photo submitted)The Tatla Lake Elementary, Junior, Secondary School’s location is perfect for a winter playground. (Photo submitted)
Amy Grieve is part-time education assistant at the school at Tatla Lake.Amy Grieve is part-time education assistant at the school at Tatla Lake.
Judan Whitehead works part-time as an education assistant and part-time as the school secretary. (Photo submitted)Judan Whitehead works part-time as an education assistant and part-time as the school secretary. (Photo submitted)
Leanne Iverson is a full-time education assistant at the school in Tatla Lake.Leanne Iverson is a full-time education assistant at the school in Tatla Lake.
Through the school’s community connections once a month, people from the community visit to interact with the students. (Photo submitted)Through the school’s community connections once a month, people from the community visit to interact with the students. (Photo submitted)
A chess game is underway during the school’s most recent community connections day. (Photo submitted)A chess game is underway during the school’s most recent community connections day. (Photo submitted)
Playing a board game is one of the popular activities during a community connections afternoon at the Tatla Lake School.Playing a board game is one of the popular activities during a community connections afternoon at the Tatla Lake School.
Crokinole means there’s enough room for several players during a community connections afternoon at the school in Tatla Lake. (Photo submitted)Crokinole means there’s enough room for several players during a community connections afternoon at the school in Tatla Lake. (Photo submitted)
A game of Headbands is underway during one of the community connections afternoons at Tatla Lake School. (Photo submitted)A game of Headbands is underway during one of the community connections afternoons at Tatla Lake School. (Photo submitted)
Three community members enjoy a game of Monopoly with two students in the Tatla Lake Elementary and Junior Secondary School. (Photos submitted)Three community members enjoy a game of Monopoly with two students in the Tatla Lake Elementary and Junior Secondary School. (Photos submitted)
Snowshoeing is a popular outdoor activity for students at Tatla Lake Elementary, Junior, Secondary School. (Photo submitted)Snowshoeing is a popular outdoor activity for students at Tatla Lake Elementary, Junior, Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Every December the Tatla Lake Elementary and Junior Secondary School students make cookies to share with their community.Every December the Tatla Lake Elementary and Junior Secondary School students make cookies to share with their community.
Students add blue icing to cookies they will share with the community. (Photo submitted)Students add blue icing to cookies they will share with the community. (Photo submitted)
Students created a fall-themed mural for the outdoor storage shed under the mentorship of local author Chris Czajkowski. (Photo submitted)Students created a fall-themed mural for the outdoor storage shed under the mentorship of local author Chris Czajkowski. (Photo submitted)
Kimberley Ikebuchi is in her second year being the principal at Tatla Lake Elementary Junior Secondary School.Kimberley Ikebuchi is in her second year being the principal at Tatla Lake Elementary Junior Secondary School.
Audra Peterson was born and raised in the Tatlayoko Valley and has been teaching at the Tatla Lake school since 2014.Audra Peterson was born and raised in the Tatlayoko Valley and has been teaching at the Tatla Lake school since 2014.

Tatla Lake Elementary Junior Secondary School has one of the most picturesque locations in School District 27.

Looking out the windows is a view of the mountains, with the prominent peaks being White Saddle and Black Horn.

“You can go out the back door and look at the mountains and see the valleys,” said Kimberley Ikebuchi who is in her second year as the school’s principal. “The sunsets and sunrises here are absolutely amazing.”

Students have an outdoor classroom the school district provided a couple of years ago that is utilized often.

Physical education classes are held outside where the students sled, snowshoe and ski in the winter, and in the summer hike up the ridge behind the school.

At least once a year the students take field trips to the Tatlayoko Lake Bird Observatory, about a 40-minute drive, and participate in the bird banding program sponsored by the Tatlayoko field station.

Ikebuchi said the school has embarked on a three-year program toward being designated a wild school with facilitator Martin Kruus, the education program coordinator for Scout Island Nature Centre and a longtime board member of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.

They just completed the first session with Martin a couple of weeks ago.

“We are looking forward to it,” Ikebuchi said. “We have at least three sessions with him this year.”

There are presently 24 students enrolled at the school ranging from Kindergarten through to Grade 10, which is on par with previous years.

There are two full-time teachers at the school – Ikebuchi and Audra Peterson, one full-time education assistant Leanne Iverson, two part-time education assistants Judan Whitehead and Amy Grieve. Kelly Emke works in the library once a week and Whitehead also works part-time as a secretary.

Ikebuchi teaches Kindergarten to Grade 5. Peterson teaches Grade 6 to 10, while the Grade 5s are with Ikebuchi in the mornings and Peterson in the afternoons.

The school has a ‘very strong’ parent advisory committee (PAC), Ikebuchi said, noting it is supportive of the school and through fundraising provides resources for the students.

Once a month the PAC provides a hot lunch, and before Christmas break some parents will come into the school to do cookie baking with the students.

Last year, due to the COVID pandemic, the students distributed the cookies while they were carolling in the community. This year on Friday, Dec. 16, the community and families will be invited to the school and the cookies will be shared then.

Some of the cookies will be packaged and included in hampers the West Chilcotin Health Unit distributes to families in need in the area.

Ikebuchi said the PAC applies for grants and has provided the school with a new stove, a washer and dryer, dishwasher and new furniture in the library.

Community support of the school is also one of the highlights, Ikebuchi noted.

Local residents donate to the school’s Return-It program which in turn helps support learning opportunities at the school and field trips.

Recently the school received $5,000 from the Tatla Lake Resource Association which is going toward refurbishing the library and to provide new flexible seating options for the students.

The school also received a $5,000 grant from Indigo Love of Reading Foundation for new books for the library.

There has been a school focus on developing more reading resources and Ikebuchi said her hope is with strong instruction early on there won’t be the amount of reading remediation required for students as they get older.

Not all families have access to the internet so books are extremely important, she added.

“Indigo doesn’t usually help schools our size, but after reading our application, they couldn’t say no, they told us. The students are really excited about all the new books we have on our shelves.”

With Tatla Lake School being 30 years old, the library needed upgrading.

A lot of the books were old and tattered, held together with duct tape.

Once the pandemic started to ease up, the school began making an effort to make the community feel more welcome as the school had been closed to visitors.

Typically one Monday of the month is designated for community connections.

Community members are invited in to read with the students, play board games, Crokinole or do puzzles, for example.

Coffee and cookies are provided and it’s an afternoon where the school is open and people can come and get to know the students and be mentors.

There was a great turnout on Oct. 31, which saw lots of community members arrive in Halloween costumes. At the school’s Remembrance Day ceremony, local family nurse practitioner Patrice Gordon spoke and in the fall, author Chris Czajkowski mentored the older students to design a fall-themed mural for the outdoor storage shed.

“It was beautifully done in collaboration with Chris,” Ikebuchi said of the mural, noting over time each side of the shed will have a mural representing each different season.

Laurie Schuk has led sessions on sewing and textiles, she added.

“It feels like a big family here.”

Ikebuchi’s father, his wife, and her stepsister live in the West Chilcotin so Ikebuchi and her husband had been visiting them for about 20 years.

“Every time we came we did not want to leave so we finally made the leap and purchased property on Horn Lake and haven’t looked back. My children are older now and it felt like a good time to follow our dream. We love it here.”

Ikebuchi moved from West Kelowna to the Chilcotin with her husband a few years ago.

Her first year with the school district she worked as a learning assistant teacher in Anahim Lake, Alexis Creek and Tatla Lake, travelling throughout the week.

When Clare Gordon, the previous principal was retiring, Ikebuchi applied for the position.

Her husband has started his own business – Chilcotin Plumbing.

Teacher Aubra Peterson was born and raised in Tatlayoko Valley in the 1960s on a ranch. She left the valley as a young adult and after travelling the world for a few years, settled in Ireland where she lived for 30 years.

In Ireland, Peterson had an organic farm and a health food store.

She then worked in an environmental capacity doing environmental surveys and baseline data collection, before she began teaching.

“I taught high school and university for 15 years,” she said.

In 2013 she moved back to Canada and Tatlayoko Valley to care for her aging parents.

She started teaching at the school in 2014, which she noted was a steep learning curve to teach in a small remote multi-grade school.

“I am so grateful and honoured to be involved in such a great school. I work with an amazing group of women. Everyone is very supportive. It is a wonderful opportunity to watch the kids grow and learn.”

When she is not teaching, she enjoys her passions of being in the outdoors, her animals, garden, travelling and most of all, her family.



monica.lamb-yorski@wltribune.com

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ChilcotinSchool District No 27 (Cariboo-Chilcotin)