Saskatoon Multilingual School

In the late 1970s there was very little government or public recognition of the importance of heritage language schools. Finally, in 1982 Saskatoon school board officials, the Department of Education, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (McoS), and the Regina Multilingual Association (MLAR) met with Saskatchewan Intercultural Association (SIA) (formerly Saskatoon Multicultural Council) members and appointed a committee to establish and promote a Multilingual School. Under the leadership of Avra Watson and the late Mile Kindrachuk, arrangements were made with the Catholic school system to house the Saskatoon Multilingual School (SMS). Eleven member associations joined together to form the new school, and classes officially began in September 1983 at Holy Cross High School. In 1986, the Saskatoon Public School Board approved offering classroom space for heritage language classes without rental fees. At this time, the creation of a part-time position for a heritage language coordinator provided for SMS teachers professional development opportunities such as in-service training, workshops, and class visits.

In 1989, Avra Watson worked with the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan to arrange for a certificate program to be offered in Methods of Teaching Heritage Languages for SMS instructors. This program has been crucial for developing a core of well-trained teachers and improving the quality of heritage language instruction available to Saskatchewan youth. In 2004, with the support of the Saskatchewan Intercultural Association (SIA), there are 28 heritage language schools united under the SMS title, offering 24 languages to approximately 940 students. Seventy-two of these students are enrolled in high school credit courses through the SMS. These students spend many hours of their personal time studying one or more heritage languages. There are about 130 heritage language instructors, and hundreds of volunteer parents who donate their time and energy to provide educational opportunities for children and to nurture a truly diverse and inclusive community.

Eleanor Shia