Manitoba’s Ukrainian language programs recently celebrated a 40 year anniversary in the national spotlight.
From May 23 to 25, over 100 teachers and administrators from across Canada and Ukraine were in Winnipeg for the National Conference for Ukrainian Educators.
"We wanted to make it a real Manitoba experience," said Nancy Lovenjak, principal at Happy Thoughts School in East Selkirk and member of the organizing committee. "We’re so proud of this program. We tried to do every detail, right down to the last, to really celebrate the great program here in Manitoba."
"We wanted to host it to show the depth of the programming that we have in Manitoba," added conference co-chair Susan Zuk. "We have bilingual programs in seven school divisions in Manitoba, in 12 public schools, as well as Saturday schools that teach language and culture."
Following a wine and cheese night at Oseredok (184 Alexander Ave.) on May 23, the conference sessions were hosted at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights at the Forks. Organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress National Education Committee and the Manitoba Parents for Ukrainian Education in collaboration with the Manitoba English-Ukrainian Bilingual Program and heritage language schools, and the Ukrainian National Foundation Ukrainian Schools Initiatives Committee, the conference featured 21 interactive workshops, two keynote addresses, and opportunities for networking.
"We broke the workshops into grade level," explained Zuk, whose two adult daughters were students in the River East Transcona School Division’s program when they were younger. "We had everything from the dynamics of how do you teach children of today to how to teach them about language, culture, community and the difficult topics they should understand and know about at their level."
"Many of us share the same challenges," Lovenjak said. "And it validated some of our best practices for second language acquisition."
At the gala dinner Saturday night, organizers took time to honour the 142 teachers who have worked within the program provincially over the past 40 years.
In Manitoba, there are approximately 700 students in Ukrainian language programs, 129 of whom are in the River East Transcona School Division’s K-8 program. Provincially, Ukrainian language educators get together once a year for a professional development day, this was the first time the national conference was held in Winnipeg.
"How often do you get to hear these speakers from all over the country?" Lovenjak said. "It was interesting to see what was out there."
As an educator, Lovenjak said it was refreshing to be reminded how important learning a second language can be for students.
"We’re in a global fish bowl," she said. "If you’re a second language learner, learning your third or fourth language is easier. It’s all about patterns. It’s pretty neat."
Finally, visiting some of Winnipeg’s unique Ukrainian cultural sites. Students from Chief Peguis Junior High School, for example, conducted tours of Leo Mol’s stained glass work and his sculpture garden in Assiniboine Park.
"The locations we chose really allowed us to showcase what we have here, to be proud of the educators we have here and across Canada," Zuk said.
Community journalist — The Herald
Sheldon Birnie is the community journalist for The Herald Email him at email@example.com Call him at 204-697-7112