Botha School is getting a new principal in Mike Fliegel, current principal at the Athabasca Delta Community School (ADCS) in Fort Chipewyan, Alta.
The small town is fly-in only, and Fliegel has access to one gas station and one grocery store.
“This is going to be the equivalent of moving to New York City for us,” he said in a phone interview from Forth Chipewyan.
“Stettler, Botha, I realize they’re not that big of places, but we’re really small town people.”
Fliegel has held teaching positions in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan before becoming principal at ADCS.
He enjoys working in small schools because he can get to know the students and what they need in order to learn effectively.
Botha was his first choice, because he wanted to work with the Clearview school division and be closer to his wife’s family.
He turned down other jobs when he got his first choice.
“I’m really interested in Botha because it’s a small school and it’s a small community, and I think that allows you to build those relationships that enrich learning so that we’ll be able to do some fun stuff,” he said.
He became interested in education when he encountered good teachers when he was in high school, and he wanted to be able to capture the attention of students and make learning fun, like his teachers did for him.
“I think learning can be fun and I think it can be important to everybody, and that’s why Botha kind of excites me, because with 65 kids you really can know their interests and you can work with them to make sure what we’re teaching and how we’re learning is relevant and it’s exciting for them,” he said.
He is still looking in the area for a house and will visit Botha in the first week of July to house hunt. But since he lives in such a remote area, the move is going to be a bit complicated.
“We’re a fly-in community, only accessible by barge, so I’m waiting to get my vehicle on the barge to get it out of here,” he said. “And just moving things that you accumulate over six years in one spot. It’s going to be quite a process.”
He doesn’t have any changes in mind for Botha School yet, and he isn’t expecting to make any radical adjustments.
“Based on everything I hear and what I’ve seen online…everything seems to be pointing in the right direction, so I think probably the first step for me would be to get out in the community, meet with some of the parents, perhaps meet with the school council, see what direction they want to go,” he said. “I really can’t come in and take 65 students and ignore what their wants and needs are and say “Okay, we’re going to do things the way I’m used to doing.” I don’t think that would be right and that’s not how I’m looking to work.”
Fliegel is hoping to be in the school and working by August 7 or 8.