by Sandy Bexon
Schools in Sylvan Lake, which pioneered the French Immersion program in Chinook’s Edge, are celebrating the division’s first French Immersion graduates.
“I entered the program in Grade 1 at École Steffie Woima School the first year it was offered,” said Kiana McClusky, who is part of this year’s grad class at École H. J. Cody School. “I didn’t fully realize the value of being part of this program until I was on the school trip to France last year. It’s a lot easier to travel and the experience is much more rich when you know the language.
“Graduating from the French Immersion program really opens the doors to travel and it’s easier to obtain a work visa. That’s what I’m going to do next year — I’m spending a year traveling in France because I just love it there. Being there really proved the value of the French Immersion program.”
Another first for French Immersion came June 17, when École Steffie Woima School Grade 3 teacher Mme. Kim Romyn successfully defended her thesis and became the first teacher in Chinook’s Edge to attain her Master’s Degree completely in French while being employed in the division. Her program, delivered through Campus Saint-Jean at the University of Alberta, involved Language, Culture and Identity.
“Many of my courses were based on the cultural components of learning a second language,” said Romyn, who was a French Immersion student growing up north of Edmonton.
“Being a graduate of the program myself, I had some ideas of what was working well. But talking to these grads 10 years later as part of my thesis was very interesting. For me, it confirmed that providing cultural activities is necessary for learning a language successfully. It defines the language more fully and provides language as an experience. Students need opportunities to use language in authentic settings to make it come alive.”
Romyn has been seconded to work in the provincial Ministry of Education for a year, beginning in September. She will be working with a team to revamp the Kindergarten to Grade 6 Mathematics curriculum for French Immersion.
“This is a great opportunity and I’m so appreciative of the support from Chinook’s Edge. I love being a teacher, and to be included in the thought-process of building curriculum will be amazing. It will be challenging, but I will return to Steffie with that new way of looking at the education system and bringing knowledge that can be shared with my co-workers and implemented in our classrooms,” saidRomyn.
“I believe very strongly in French Immersion and what it provides for students. I see them taking risks they might not otherwise have taken. They become very good problem solvers by watching verbal and facial expression intently and putting many other clues into context to determine meaning. They come to have a love of the language and want to know it all in a rich, full depth. Their literacy skills are highly tuned and, once they have both languages going, it’s like a train and you can’t stop its momentum. I so enjoy passing my love of language on to them.”