Apr 11, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Maggie MacDonnell, a teacher at the Ikusik School in Salluit a remote Inuit village in the Canadian Arctic recently won the annual Global Teacher Prize.  Her cause?  Working to improve the health and life chances of a young, deprived community plagued by high levels of youth suicides.  She wants to raise awareness of the issue and to inspire others to embrace the nobility of the teaching profession.

What did she do?  She set up “acts of kindness,” a fitness center, a community kitchen, and a second-hand store.  These benefited the students and the community, which is accessible only by air.  She plans to use the prize money for an environmental stewardship project so that students and residents can feel more connected to their land.  One of her first steps?  A kayak program. 

While certain aspects of teaching in remote areas—like extreme temperatures and devastating social issues—are difficult, the impact you can have as an educator can truly make a difference in people’s lives and inspire others to do the same.  Let’s take a look at five reasons why you should consider becoming a teacher in a remote area.


1. Financial Benefits

Some countries, like Australia, offer financial incentives for teachers to teach in remote or rural areas.  Turnover is typically high.  To encourage teachers to stay, Australia offers its rural and remote teachers any combination of rental subsidies, annual retention benefits, additional personal leave, additional professional development days, and local allowances.  If you teach in a rural or remote area with your family in tow, you’re also eligible for higher annual benefits and allowances. 


2. Unique Experience

Teachers in rural and remote areas are not just teachers—they become enmeshed in the fabric of the community.  Teaching in a remote area offers you the unique chance to become part of a tight-knit community.  Consider the Scoraig Primary School in the Scottish Highlands, one of the most remote places located on the country’s northwest coast.  With no pub, no shop, no post office, and reachable only by water or a 5-mile coastal track, teaching at a place like Scoraig Primary School means that you have no choice but to become part of a rich—and off-the-grid—community. 


3. Smaller Classes

If you’re in a remote area, chances are high that your classes will be small, with a variety of levels and abilities.  What does this mean?  You’ll get to know your students well—and while that’s possible in larger schools with big faculties and student bodies, it’s unlikely just because of sheer volume.  With small classes, you can allow students to pursue individual interests and guide them in the right direction.  You’ll be able to develop meaningful relationships with students—and be a better teacher.


4. New Skills

From new dialects to navigating local countryside, from social customs to community norms, you’ll learn new skills.  Perhaps the biggest ones?  Resilience. Confidence. Humility.  Understanding that a new culture has ways that may be different from yours is one thing—experiencing that difference is something else entirely.  Something well worth doing.


5. Respect

Done right, teaching is one of the most difficult and most rewarding professions.  Too often, it is overlooked.  Too often, teachers are overlooked.  When you teach in a remote area, most folks appreciate the fact that you’re there—not only are you their child’s or neighbor’s or friend’s teacher, but you are a new and respected part of the community.  Students will say hello when they see you outside the classroom.  Their families will say hello and will want to get to know you—after all, you’re spending lots of time with their kids. 

Convinced?  You’ll have the opportunity to teach, travel, and learn about yourself and a new community.  You will become an important part of your students’ lives—and the lives of their families and communities.  You may even encourage others to do the same. 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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