New principal at Kakisa Lake
The life and times of a teacher and students in small Northern community

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

NNSL (May 31/99) - The territorial school at Kakisa Lake has a new principal.

Karen Carleton, originally from Saskatoon, Sask., has been working on and off in the North for last 10 years as a teacher and adult educator for English as a second language.

Carleton never imagined that she would be teaching in a one-room school after finishing a bachelor of arts degree in English and bachelor of education at the University of Saskatchewan several years ago, but apparently it suits her just fine.

"I ring a bell when class starts," said Carleton. "Just like in Road to Avonlea."

Carleton came to the Kakisa Lake Territorial school from Yellowknife late last September to share teaching duties with principal John Doherty. She became principal on April 1, after Doherty decided to go back home to New Brunswick to be with a family member who became ill. Since then, it has been just her and classroom assistant Margaret Lacorne to attend to the needs of the school's eight students.

"We have our minor crisis," Carleton said. "Our photocopier broke down and our fax machine is very temperamental, but we did receive four brand-new IMAC computers, so the kids are becoming quite computer literate."

"In a lot of ways it's just like in the old days because we are so isolated and it's hard to get things for our school up here. The local band recreational committee has been very generous, however, in giving out money for field trips, so in a way it all balances out."

Last February the students enjoyed taking in the Western Canadian Cross-Country Skiing Championships in Edmonton, which included a day's fun-filled trip to the West Edmonton Mall. In March, skiing was once again on the agenda, this time in Nahanni Butte, where students from several other Northern communities took part in the activities. The same month, the students were treated to a seminar in wilderness survival from Kakisa Lake Chief Lloyd Chicot.

"We wanted to include some traditional aboriginal education along with the regular curriculum," said Carleton. "Chief Chicot was only too glad to help."

According to Carleton, the rivers and lands around Kakisa Lake provide an excellent source of educational material for the students.

"There's lots of great fossils around Lady Evelyn Falls. There are all sorts of brachiopods (ancient clams) to find and the students have been having lots of fun collecting them for show and tell."

At the moment, the school is housed in a portable trailer with an extra extension room for the kindergarten. A new school is being built, which will hopefully be ready for use by the next school year.

"It's a very neat building," said Carleton. "It's octagon shaped with large windows going all away around the building, so there will be lots of natural light coming in. We haven't figured out a name yet, but it will probably be named after one of the local elders."

As for right now, Carleton has some more pressing concerns on her agenda.

"We're getting ready for a track and field event in Hay River next week and the kids are really excited," Carleton said. "Wesclean Northern Sales are even going to sponsor us for free T-shirts and track suits with our school name on them, so we'll try and be as ready as we can be."

All in the day and life of a principal in a Northern community.