Suwilaawks pays tribute to former staff member with lasting legacy

Christine Foster's passion for literacy lives on at Terrace elementary school

Suwilaawks Community School drummers

A former staff member at Suwilaawks Community School will be remembered and known for her passion for literacy by students for years to come.

The school library was renovated to be a warm welcoming place for students, parents and the community thanks to money left to the school from former teacher Christine Foster, who passed away nearly two years ago.

Christine’s Cottage is located just inside the library doors and is open for students to use for a quiet place to read.

The money was also used to install shelves on one wall so books could be displayed with their front covers facing out and the library was painted a warm shade of red, which staff found out later was Foster’s favourite colour.

“We knew her passion was engaging early learners in reading and we brainstormed and made the library a warm place to cuddle up and read,” says principal Pam Kawinsky.

“Everybody loves it all the way to Grade 6.”

Foster was principal at the school from 2000 to 2003 and taught at the school as well before moving on to be assistant superintendent in the school board office here.

Her focus was always on literacy.

The idea was to make the library a more welcoming place where students, and adults too, can curl up and read a book and to become the hub of the school.

The library and Christine’s Cottage were unveiled at a mini grand opening December 1 with the school’s drummers drumming it in, and some of Christine’s closest friends and her husband were there too.

Classes from kindergarten to Grade 6 get their own special times to enjoy the cottage, sit inside it and talk or read.

The library was also opened up to make more space by removing some tables.

So now students who like to read in a closed area can sit in the cottage to read and those who like to be out in the open can sit on a couch or the floor and read, says Clarke.

“Yesterday at lunch, one child was over on a chair and another was on the stands sitting in the corner by a stack of books,” says Clarke, adding it was so quiet in there you could hear a pin drop.

Another child was laying upside down and reading, she adds.

Also with the addition of a few risers, a story pit can be formed for storytelling, says Kawinsky.

The school’s Christmas concerts were held in the library plus choir practice and music programs have moved in too. Strong Start, a program for kids from birth to age five, also takes place in the library now.

And some girls asked if they could start a Polly Pocket club after several of the toys were donated to the school.

The Lego Lab right off the library is a big hit with girls and boys too.

It’s been placed in what was a prep room and then a storage room before being cleaned out for the lab.

Students’ literacy skills are improved just by following instructions and talking about what they’re putting together in the lab, says Kawinsky.

In the future, a mural will be added on a wall and more of these bookshelves will be added in future so more books can be displayed by their front covers.

“We hope we captured the spirit of Christine.  She was an amazing lady and will be remembered every time a child flips through the pages of a book in the warmth and comfort of Christine’s Cottage,” says Kawinsky.