Another school year has started, and, while each year has its own unique challenges, this year is particularly challenging with the addition of COVID-19 protocols. Bezanson School Principal, Elizabeth Linfield, is definitely up to the challenge of guiding the students and teachers through this school year.
Ms. Linfield has been a teacher since 2002, starting with the Grande Prairie Public School division until 2012. When she came to Peace Wapiti School division in 2012, she was an Inclusion Coach for many different schools in Peace Wapiti, and to Bezanson specifically for 20106-2017. She began as Bezanson’s principal 5 years ago, and has been going strong ever since.
Although the 2019-2020 school year ended abruptly back in March, students and staff have returned to the classroom again, both happy to be back together once again. COVID-19, as we all know, has brought in many changes, not the least of which are mandatory masks in certain conditions and constant hand washing/sanitizing. According to Ms. Linfield, though, the students are handling the changes easily and the adults are settling in to their new routines, too. As Ms. Linfield points out, “The fundamentals of why we come to school each day are still the same. We are a community and we come together to laugh, grow and learn and it has always been this way. After the extended break from routine “in school classes” the most noticeable difference is we all need to build our stamina again but that is already improving.”
Enrollment is down slightly this year, according to Ms. Linfield, with 166 students in the school itself and 12 more doing remote learning. Last year, enrollment was 185 students. The students at Bezanson do have a new teacher this year. Devin Johnson has come to Bezanson, following his grandmother’s teaching footsteps in the school. While Devin has only recently become a teacher, he brings a wealth of knowledge in several service industries before joining the Bulldog ranks. He is teaching grade 6 Math, 7/8 Science, Leadership and Health as well as 6-9 Physical Education.
As we all know, the new playground equipment the Booster Club has recently raised funds for has now been installed. When asked about how the children are enjoying the playground, Ms. Linfield said, “The students are loving the new playground! We are so lucky to be in such a supportive community. It is amazing our booster club was able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time. I have learned there is nothing this community can’t accomplish together.” Ms. Linfield is grateful to the Booster Club for all they do for the school. The playground appeals to everyone and is safe and entertaining for the students, both young and old.
Bezanson students are often active in many school sports, and the community support the Bulldogs all year long. With COVID, there are limited afterschool activities; however, it is Volleyball season and the teams are working hard with their coaches to improve their skill levels at practice. There are no games going at the moment, but Ms. Linfield hopes to have a couple of games with Ridgevalley School before the season is over. Bezanson will follow the school district’s and Alberta Schools Athletic Association’s leads regarding games and spectators.
When Ms. Linfield was asked what she saw as the biggest challenge facing her as principal, she felt it “is always allowing myself the time to focus on the positives, such as the individual student, the fun activities happening in the classrooms or the new teacher who is so ready for mentorship, as much as I would like.” She explained how a principal has many different tasks pulling at their attention and needs to decide if the email, building maintenance, daily human resources tasks, and many other daily chores are not as important as giving time to the people who need an encouraging word, help with a difficult assignment or who just had a rotten day or night and need to talk it through.
Ms. Linfield wishes she could do more to help support each and every student. What she finds is one of her biggest challenges this year is the COVID pandemic. She and her staff find it challenging to ensure all safety protocols are followed while providing the safest learning environment possible. They work hard to not lose sight of the needs and care of individuals. The protocols are taken seriously but so are individual needs and considerations.
This is Ms. Linfield’s fifth year leading the students at Bezanson School. When she was asked where she would like to see the school in five years, her response was enlightening. She replied, “This is an interesting question. I am in my fifth year at the school now and I feel I have accomplished so many of the goals I had with the facilities and programming so it is interesting to look ahead. I am definitely looking forward to getting back into some of our long-held traditions of travel and sport tournaments and welcoming the community into our hallways after COVID restrictions can be relaxed. As for five years from now, I see us continuing to improve and learn and grow together. I see us as a vibrant part of this Bezanson community which is filled with pride and accomplishment.”
It is clear the students of Bezanson School will continue to learn in a safe, welcoming and challenging environment, lead by teachers such as Devin Johnson, with Ms. Linfield at the helm. Good luck to all the teachers, support staff and students as they work through the 2020-2021 school year.