School is back Tuesday

  • Aug. 29, 2013 6:00 a.m.

Schools on the islands are getting ready to welcome students back Tuesday, Sept. 3 with everything from newly-polished floors to new international students. At G.M. Dawson Secondary in Masset, principal Lorrie Joron said she is looking forward to an exciting year. Teacher Derek Seifert has exchanged jobs and homes with Niels Christensen from Denmark. Mr. Seifert has started work in Denmark already and his sons Jesse and Gus are fully immersed in learning Danish and playing soccer. Mr. Christensen has come with his wife Heidi and their two children, Sille, 8, and Hjalte, 5 (the hj is a “y” sound). Sille and Hjalte will be attending Tahayghen and learning English. Mr. Christensen is an English teacher back in his school in Denmark and will assume some of the English classes at GMD, Ms Joron said. It is a big change for both teachers as Mr. Seifert adjusts to a school that has as many staff as GMD has students and Mr. Christensen adjusts to a small school. GMD is also anticipating the arrival of two foreign students, one from France and one from Denmark. “We are all set for a year of cultural exploration,” Ms Joron said. At the south end of the islands, Queen Charlotte Secondary has three new staff members. Jo-Anne MacMullin joins as an educational assistant, Norm Wagner will be teaching junior Math and Science and tutoring students in the Learning Center taking on-line courses; and Jason Coomber, who is new to Haida Gwaii, will be teaching Social Studies, P.E. and Math. Principal Kevin May said the school focused last year on improving its Learning Centre, and thanked the School Planning Council for its work on this. The Learning Centre has been expanded over the summer and now offers 16 computer terminals for student use. “We are also very excited to offer two courses to grade ten students in a “blended” delivery model,” Mr. May said. “This means that students will be using on-line learning methods mixed with traditional classroom teaching in a scheduled class.” The School Planning Council will meet throughout the year in order to continue thinking about the future of the Learning Center, he said, and would like to invite more people to be involved. If you would like to participate, please contact the school and speak to Mr. May or Mr. Bradley. Within a week of school starting the Grade 11 class will travel to Vancouver Island (Sept. 11 – 15) to visit VIU in Nanaimo and UVic in Victoria. A tour of the Parliament Buildings and a tour of Camosun College is also included, as well as the Royal BC Museum and the IMAX theatre. School will be dismissed at 11:35 am on Sept. 19 for a “meet the teachers” event, Mr. May said. Families are invited to the school for a parent assembly, coffee, tea and snacks and to informally meet the teachers. The month of September ends with the Grade 11s travelling to Moresby Adventure Camp. Outdoor education and environmental studies are an integral part of the vision and philosophy of QCSS, Mr. May said, as the school is located in one of the most pristine, natural habitats on the planet. This opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the natural environment of Haida Gwaii is unparalled in most other school districts in our province. “We’re a small school but we do big things,” Mr. May said. At Port Clements elementary, the garden has been growing all summer, tended by parent volunteers, and students will be harvesting the bounty, said principal Verena Gibbs. Students planted potatoes, garlic, herbs, peas and beans, and will be using the veggies in their school lunches. The school is welcoming one new staff member, educational assistant Lisa Gyorgy. The school year will be starting off with an assembly at 9 am on Tuesday, and parents are welcome to attend, Ms Gibbs said. Sk’aadgaa Naaay elementary has new kitchen appliances for its Farm to School program, said principal Vicki Ives, and a new playground is underway. Teacher Joel Lagasse is returning and will be teaching the grade 4-5-6 French Immersion class, while Martin Favreau teaches a new French Immersion cohort of grade 1-2-3s. The school also has a Haida Immersion program for kindergarten and grade 1 and 2. This year, Erica Ryan-Gagne and Herb Jones will be working together to teach the class, Ms Ives said. Sk’aadgaa Naay will be holding its traditional welcome back pancake breakfast on the morning of Sept. 5, Ms Ives said. The school is also looking forward to an open house and barbecue Sept. 20 from 5 to 7:30 pm, where parents are welcome to drop in and meet the teachers. Students are Tahayghen elementary are in for a big surprise, said principal Bernadette Ouellet – the school’s climbing wall has more than doubled in height over the summer, going from 15 feet tall to 25 feet, thanks to a contribution from the Parent Advisory Council. The climbing wall is in the gym and students have been enjoying it. “It was good but it wasn’t challenging enough,” Ms Ouellet said. “We’ll have a really excellent start this year with that.” Northwest Community College has moved its offices into the school over the summer, and the school has changed the location of its Haida language room to near the front entrance, so elders won’t have to walk so far, she said. The maintenance crew has done amazing work over the summer, she said, and the school has been completely cleaned and polished. Returning to the teaching staff this year are kindergarten-grade 1 teacher Allison Kozak and grade 4-5 teacher Christine Cunningham. Tahayghen has recently acquired $5,000 worth of new musical equipment, Ms Ouellet said, and the school is making a big effort to give students some musical opportunities. If there are any adult volunteers out there who would like to share their skills over the coming year, please contact the school.

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