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From preschool to post-secondary
Jane Arychuk brings knowledge of education in the NWT to role as president of Aurora College

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, July 22, 2013

Like many others originally from the south, Jane Arychuk came to the North with the intention of staying for a year. That was more than 30 years ago.

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Jane Arychuk was named president of Aurora College last year, after more than 30 years as an educator in the NWT. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Arychuk, now president of Aurora College, arrived in Fort Providence fresh out of the University of Toronto with a bachelor of education degree to teach at Deh Gah School, when it was still known as Elizabeth Ward School.

"I loved the North. I loved Fort Providence. I thought I would live my life in Fort Providence," she said while sitting in her office in Fort Smith earlier this month.

She said she built a relationship with the people of the hamlet and since then, with the people of the North.

"It's just been home to me," she said.

In all, Arychuk, who is originally from Ontario, worked in Fort Providence for 23 years - four as a teacher and 19 as principal. She then worked with the Yellowknife District 1 School Board for two years as a counsellor in N'Dilo and Dettah.

Next, she became the director of Aurora College's Yellowknife North Slave Campus for seven years.

Arychuk has always found education a challenging career.

"I loved working with the kids. I loved seeing that the children were successful," she said. "I think that's what kept me. Every year was a new challenge, working on something new that would make it better for the children of Fort Providence and hopefully the children of the North as I was able to share my experience with other educators."

She said her plan was to never be a principal, and had no aspirations to become part of the college system.

"It just happened. A position opened up and I thought I would take a chance on an interview for something different."

With her experience, Arychuk has knowledge about all aspects of education in the North, from kindergarten to post-secondary. She was even involved in setting up the preschool in Fort Providence.

Arychuk officially became president of Aurora College in December, after being named interim president a year ago.

"The college is extremely important to the NWT to provide an opportunity for Northern students to get a post-secondary education at an institute that understands them, understands where they come from, and will provide an education with the perspective of Northerners," she said, adding the college offers education close to home and with smaller classes than at most southern institutions.

She said students can use Aurora College as a stepping-stone to bigger institutions in the south by first getting some of the academic skills they need.

The 55-year-old said she is still working on her goals as president, and they will be better determined by a strategic plan for the college that is starting this year.

"The board is just getting ready to start the process. We hope by June 2014 to have a draft plan."

The strategic plan, which will set a road map for the college over its next 10 years, will seek the input of communities, various levels of government and industries.

"We need to be able to focus on what are we good at, what can we be good at, and, once we know what those are, then let's get to work on those things and start offering the things we're successful at and not trying to be everything to everybody," Arychuk said.

Aurora College covers the NWT with three campuses in Fort Smith, Yellowknife and Inuvik, along with 23 community learning centres and the Aurora Research Institute.

Arychuk said the vast area covered by the college and the need for funding are among the two continuing challenges as president.

Over the past year, Arychuk had another challenge. As she was settling into the role of college president, she was also a student herself - completing an online master's of educational administration degree from Saint Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

She said she has finished two courses since she became president.

"My last paper is in the computer."

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