As a special education teacher in a remote corner of Northern Saskatchewan, Kara Kohle longed to do more for her students.
“I was teaching in a Grade 8 classroom and I noticed that there was a lot of social and psychological problems with my students,” Kohle said. “It was causing them to not be able to learn.”
So Kohle took a step back from the situation and started to think about how she could address the barriers she and her students were facing in their learning journey.
“I started working with some of the students in identifying who they truly are and their personality,” Kohle said. “But I wondered if I was doing it right or if I was possibly doing more harm than good.”
So now the 25-year-old teacher by day is herself a student by night as she works to complete her Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology (MACP) the online graduate program offered through Yorkville University’s Faculty of Behavioral Science. Her aim is to augment her role as a special education teacher with the counselling psychology skills she is learning through Yorkville for the betterment of her own life, the lives of her students and the communities she works in.
Kohle lives with her fiancé, who is also a teacher, in the tiny Northern Saskatchewan hamlet of Jans Bay. She is an itinerant resource teacher and splits her time between four small schools in the area. The largest of the schools she works in has just 42 students between pre-kindergarten and Grade 9 and the smallest has just six students.
“In Northern Saskatchewan the communities are so spread out that I think they try to keep these (schools) open,” Kohle said.
Surrounded by trees and lakes, Jans Bay is literally one unpaved street with a school, a village hall and a village office and that is about it, Kohle said. Located almost 700 kilometres north west of Regina, the village has a population of fewer than 200 people; there are no stores and definitely nobody practicing counselling psychology, Kohle said.
She knew she wanted to get the training in order to better help her students, but because of her remote location the learning had to be through distance education. That led her to Yorkville University and the Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program.
She started her masters in the fall of 2013 and entered her third term this past March.
Kohle said the schooling has fit into her life and career in her small town even better than she imagined it would.
She has been able to manage taking courses online while working full time and planning her upcoming wedding. All while raising her two dogs Buddy and Bandit.
“It has been easy to find the time and access the courses,” Kohle said. “The only challenge I have is that my internet is very slow in the evenings.”
She has advisors and professors with whom she communicates largely though email.
“They are always really quick to respond,” she said, adding that they are helpful and understanding.
The extent of the compassion shown by Yorkville University staff really came to light for Kohle when, this past winter, her family tragically lost her 29-year-old, soon to be brother-in-law, leaving her family devastated.
“Yorkville staff helped me defer a course, gave gracious extensions where needed and helped me rearrange courses so I could actually complete my program faster,” she explained
“I would definitely recommend the courses,” Kohle said. “And I am actually encouraging my fiancé to take the Master of Education in Adult Education through Yorkville University.”
Kohle is aiming to finish her masters at the end of August 2015, but already, Kohle said, she has seen the impact of her learning in the lives of the students and in guiding them in figuring out who they are, learning self-regulation and positive self-regard.
“It has been really helpful and a really positive professional development,” Kohle said. “It has really helped me to understand the students and how their brains might be ticking.”