Hesquiaht’s 1-room school dream assignment for new teacher

For teaching with a challenge, check out a tiny one-room school with 10 students from grades 1 to 7. That’s the ride teacher Rhonda Stark has been on. Stark spent her first year of teaching in the 2013-2014 school year at a one-room school in Hesquiaht.

Next stop, adventure for the Stark family. They’re settled in at Shanghai, China, where Rhonda will teach Grade 2 at Shang Yin Primary School, a Canadian international school. It’s a boarding school for grades K through five, with students mainly from China, Korea and Japan.

The leap from Hesquiaht to Shanghai will be quite a step, said Rhonda’s husband, Keith Stark.

“We’ll go from a population of 45 to a population of 27 million,” he said.

There, he will study exercise physiology, with the goal of becoming a personal trainer.

“It’s a private school with a high fine arts focus,” said Stark. Their oldest son is looking forward to dance instruction at the school’s full dance studio – something he had when the family lived in

Victoria but missed out on at Hesquiaht.

All said, Hesquiaht was a great adventure for the family, said Rhonda Stark, a native of White Rock.

“The kids were amazing and the families were really supportive,” she said. “It was a great experience – we did a lot of hands-on fun activities.”

She took the group to Victoria for two days in a caravan of three vehicles.

The key to success when teaching such a broad spectrum of students?

“You need patience to be able to multi-task and continually be able to pick up where you’ve left off with every student,” she said.

There are 160 First Nations schools in B.C. – not many with as few students as Hesquiaht, she said.

Stark, who holds degrees from the University of Victoria, helped the school get certified by the First Nations Schools Association, which means it is now eligible for reciprocal funding from the B.C. government.

Her husband Keith said Hesquiaht was an amazing community to be part of. “It’s just a very close-knit community, with some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. After knowing them for a year, they became – for want of a better word – family,” he said.

Above, Rhonda Stark, husband Keith and their kids, aboard their sailboat prior to move to China.