During the school year of 2013 – 2014, the Swedish School of Vancouver had 71 students in the fall and 60 students in the spring. 4 teachers were available on Thursdays and 3 on Saturdays, providing our weekly two-hour lessons about the Swedish language, traditions and culture. Our teachers did a great job in planning classes, activities and goals; in generating academic achievement in an encouraging a motivating setting. Throughout the school year, we had 34 lessons on Thursdays and 34 on Saturdays. The students were divided into 7 classes, from pre-school (age 3) level and up. This year we had no students attending Sofia Distansundervisning. We are very proud to offer classes for such a wide range of ages, and that we had students that stayed with us through grade 8 this year.
The school continued to offer affordable education due to an annual grant (approx. CDN$15,500) paid out from the Swedish Department of Education (Skolverket) for our 26 students aged 6 years and older and at least one parent who is a Swedish citizen. As a non-profit organization run on a volunteer basis by our members, and with member families of varied economic status, this contribution is essential to us. We are a relatively small Swedish community in the Greater Vancouver area, and access to peers, role models and cultural experiences are important supporting factors in the transfer of our Swedish heritage to our children.
The large increase in students in the fall (from 51 the previous year) was largely due to opening a local chapter in Squamish. This was done at the request of our members residing there, which previously had been spending from 1.5h in the car after a full school day, to attend our classes in Burnaby. This is a major undertaking with children who are already tired from a long day or week in school, and we are fully supportive of making access to Swedish language and peers as easy as possible. However, the local chapter turned out to be too much work for two Squamish parents, who took on the work of administrating, planning and teaching. They also felt that it was difficult teaching with their own kids in the class, and that the kids who already had friends from their classes in Burnaby missed those friends too much. All-in-all, between securing grants, teachers and facilities as well as the administration and planning required and limited access to library books and DVDs, not to mention the small number of kids that speak Swedish at home, we are hesitant to recommend satellite groups in this fashion, except possibly Cultural School classes (see below).
This year we decided to offer a new set of classes for kids who do not have access to Swedish language at home. Our regular classes follow a curriculum developed by Skolverket, “Kompletterande Svenska”, which is developed for students who speak Swedish on a regular and frequent basis in the household. It is only classes that follow this curriculum that are eligible for the Skolverket grant mentioned above. This curriculum stipulates that teachers should only use Swedish language in the classroom. Students who do not feel confident in their Swedish comprehension and even expressive ability may feel a sense of failure in this Swedish immersion model, and subsequently distance themselves from the language, possibly even their Swedish heritage. Therefore we hired a teacher with experience teaching ESL students for classes that we call “Cultural School”, which we consider an introduction to Swedish language, children’s literature, traditions and customs. These were taught on four Sundays in April and May, 3-5pm. Nine students attended these classes, typically 3-5 students per class. Many students returned and took a series of classes. Even some of our regular students attended with Canadian friends to introduce them to Swedish culture. The classes received a warm welcome and positive feedback, and we aim to continue these classes on a regular basis, perhaps twice per semester.
The Swedish School organized and also participated in activities that were outside the regular classroom lessons. In November, students and families participated in the school’s own Christmas party. In December, many of the students performed at the Cultural Society’s Lucia celebration. At the Christmas Fair, which was organized by the Cultural Society, we had two fundraising tables: a table with raffle tickets for two great Christmas baskets, and a flea market with children’s toys and clothing. In January we had Pub Night at the Centre, which was organized with generous help from the Cultural Society. A big thank you to them, since the pub night raised $2,500 after all expenses were paid. In the fall we applied for an NHL night, granted by the Sedin Corner, and they generously shared their box on a game night in January with eleven of our students accompanied by three parents. In April, the students sang at the Valborgsmässofirande at Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver. In June, many students and their families participated in the Midsummer celebration at the Centre, and the school had a fish pond and some games to entertain and raise money for the Centre.
May 30 – June 1 the school’s annual camp took place at Evan’s Lake, which was very much appreciated by both children and their parents. A total of 88 children, parents and teachers attended. We had a fun camp thanks to wonderful weather, activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, campfire, other social activities and of course the experiences of the beautiful nature surrounding the camp. The older-ish kids were also offered to participate in climbing off a cliff that has recently been developed for that purpose. This year the teachers had organized lessons with a Troll theme, including a live story session that the kids could actively take part in themselves. This year we got a CDN$1,000 grant from Riksföreningen Sverigekontakt towards the camp, and a write-up of the camp will be published in their September issue, a print magazine circulated to Swedes living abroad around the world.
The board had 8 meetings throughout the year to discuss and coordinate the school year and support the teachers in their school plan. Some of the issues that were discussed this year beyond the curriculum and administration were parent volunteering engagements, library organization and the possibility of parent-teacher meetings. We have also hosted one teacher development session, and we are evaluating how we can continue to offer teacher development on bilingualism methodology. We also offered one of our students, Saige Danyluck, a test which resulted in a recommendation to be accepted for studies with Sofia Distans in the coming year.
Information to the parents during the school year was delivered by a monthly newsletter via e-mail and by communication through the teachers. Occasionally, we sent out separate e-mails with special information. We continued to communicate with parents in English, to allow our non-Swedish parents to better support their children in their Swedish School activities.
We had two new teachers join us, Linda Stenström and Lina Nilsson, teaching our K-2 class on Saturdays and our 2-4 class on Thursdays, respectively. They have both been a great contribution to the students and the school. Linda has taken on a central role at the school as Head Teacher and with a position on the Board. Lina has unfortunately returned to Sweden and although her time with us was short, her fresh eyes on teaching and Swedish culture was valuable. Through the year we also had the wonderful assistance from Kate Rytter, one of our prior students concurrently attending Grade 10, who assisted on Thursdays.
We would further like to acknowledge and to say thank you to our wonderful teacher Ida Axelsson, who has left the school for other endeavors. Naturally our Squamish Campus teachers, Jeanette Lilja-Fietz and Jannicke Kitchen, are not teaching anymore and we thank them for all their energy and effort to make Swedish lessons available in Squamish.
We would like to use this opportunity to thank all our teachers, substitute teachers, volunteers, the Swedish Cultural Society, Sweden House Society and SWEA. Our gratitude further extends to the Scandinavian Centre for administration around rent and facility, as well as the Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Finnish Houses for sharing their Rooms. It takes a village to raise a child, and we could not run this organization without the help and commitment from our supporters. You all made the school year of 2013-2014 into a successful one!
Mia Logie, chair, on behalf of the Board of the Swedish School of Vancouver