Haida immersion coming to Tahayghen

  • Jun. 10, 2011 11:00 a.m.

It looks like kindergarten students at Tahayghen will get the chance to learn much more Haida next year. School trustees voted last week (May 31) to go ahead with a partial Haida immersion program at Tahayghen for 2011-12. The program will see the kindergarten class conducted in Haida for two afternoons a week, allowing students to hear and speak much more of the Haida language than they would otherwise. Superintendent Angus Wilson told trustees he received a small but positive response when he asked parents whether they were interested in a Haida immersion program. He also heard some concerns from the Skidegate Band Council education administration. There is no curriculum for a Haida kindergarten program, he said, and SHIP was concerned about how the program would be followed up in the future. Mr. Wilson said the school district is committed to helping preserve the Haida language, and that goal is too important to spend years trying to get the program perfect. “This would be, effectively, a pilot program,” he said. Trustees had some concerns about whether starting an immersion program at Tahayghen would be perceived as stepping on the toes of nearby Chief Matthews school in Old Massett, a band-run elementary school with a strong Haida language program. Masset trustee Sharon Matthews said she liked the idea, but wanted to be careful to get everything right. Chief Matthews school has offered to share its curriculum and should be contacted, she said. The school district should emphasize that it’s putting an immersion program in place because it cares about the future of the Haida language, and not for any other reason. “This has potential, I am excited about it to be at Tahayghen,” she said. Mr. Wilson told trustees that the kindergarten class at Tahayghen is a split kindergarten-grade 1 class. The immersion program would have the additional benefit of allowing the regular classroom teacher two afternoons a week of working just with the grade 1s, while the kindergarteners learn Haida. Whether the program goes ahead now depends on if the school district can hire a suitable teacher. Mr. Wilson told trustees he will start advertising, adding that the person doesn’t necessarily have to be in place right at the beginning of the school year. In response to questions from Evelyn von Almassy of the Haida Gwaii Teachers’ Association, Mr. Wilson said the district will try to hire a certified teacher who is also fluent in Haida for the position. If that is not possible, the district may have to hire someone who is not a certified teacher.

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