Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

E.G. Wahlstrom Elementary School in Slave Lake has three new teachers. One is from Slave Lake and the other from much further away. (The third may be interviewed at a later time).

“I grew up in Slave Lake,” says Taylor Halbert. “I’m thrilled to be back.”

“I grew up in Peru,” says Jessica Vargas. She is from the Andes. Peru also has coast and rainforest.

Asked why she became a teacher, Halbert says “I’m from a family full of educators.”

Halbert is the fourth generation of her family to teach in Slave Lake. Her great-grandmother Ann Bartlett, her grandfather Harry Bartlett, and her aunt Vicki LaFrance all taught (or teach) at public schools in Slave Lake.

In answer to the same question, Vargas says, “I am the second sister of five,” and she spent a lot of time helping her younger brother with school.

Vargas’ mom didn’t finish elementary school. Her dad didn’t finish high school. Both encouraged her and her siblings to work hard at their education.

“I liked school,” Vargas adds. She was good at it and have very encouraging teachers throughout.

One of her teachers told her ‘you have a lot of patience, you should be a teacher.’

Vargas’ teachers seemed to have a good life and a “very rewarding career,” she says.

“I cannot see doing another thing, and I love my job,” Vargas says.

“It almost doesn’t feel like a job,” adds Halbert.

Both of them enjoy teaching elementary aged children.

“They give you a lot of feeling,” says Vargas.

“They’re so honest,” says Halbert.

Halbert teaches Grade 4. Vargas teaches French to Grades 4 to 6 and Grade 4 science.

Halbert volunteered in her aunts class and at Dancin’ Kids Slave Lake.

Halbert went to university right after high school. She started her degree at Grant MacEwan.

“It’s little which makes it very personal,” she says. She finished her degree at the University of Alberta.

Halbert graduated with a bachelor of education from the University of Alberta in 2020.

“It all seems like a blur now that I look back,” says Halbert.

Vargas also volunteered before starting teaching, but she did her university several years before Halbert. She finished her teaching degree in Peru in 2008.

This didn’t transfer straight across. Vargas recently re certified as a teacher in Alberta.

Vargas taught in Peru for five years. Before she started a masters, she decided to come to Canada for a year or two.
“I like Canada,” says Vargas. “I fell in love with this country.”

Vargas also met her fiance in Canada. He works in this part of the world, so she moved from Calgary to Slave Lake.

Vargas is working on a masters at the University of Lethbridge. She is studying multiple literacies in Canadian schools.

This is Halbert’s first full-time position, but not her first year teaching in Slave Lake. Last year, she covered a maternity leave at EGW from September to March. She then subbed at C.J. Schurter Elementary School.

Taylor Halbert
Jessica Vargas
Topics #featured