From its very foundation, the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada has been involved in establishing various affiliated organizations and programs. Among these are schools teaching Ukrainian language and history, known as Ridni shkoly, and they have a special place in the Ukrainian Community.
Traditionally offering lessons on Saturdays, over time the teaching curriculum in these schools has expanded from Ukrainian language and literature to courses in Ukrainian history, geography, religion as well as studies about the Ukrainian culture. Children have an opportunity to sing in a choir and learn to play the bandura, while some schools encourage the growth of talented youth in an artistic direction through additional enrichments. To date, a number of these schools give students in grades 9 through 11 an opportunity to earn 1 high school credit per school year.
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The Ukrainian Heritage Schools Ridni Shkoly Initiative
There is a network of Ukrainian heritage schools Ridni Shkoly located in various regions of Canada. Most heritage schools are examples of schools with split or multi-level classes – where students of different ages are taught together. Teachers allocate time to organize events outside the classroom. Concerts, plays and evening gatherings represent only a partial list of events that serve to interest children in the school, as well as encourage the Ukrainian language.
The oldest Saturday school – Ridna Shkola & Secondary Level Studies UNF Toronto West Branch was founded 80 years ago and is now attended by some 140 students, ranging from kindergarten to grade 11, with a teaching staff of fifteen. The Montessori Program Ukrainian Kindergarten based on the elements of Montessori’s philosophy is in its second year of operation at the school. With great enthusiasm children from 2.5 to 5 years old solve basic math problems and develop their spoken Ukrainian language skills along with art and music lessons. Students from grades 8 through 11 earn 4 high school credits (unique to this school), adding to their overall academic achievement. A branch of the Ukrainian National Youth Federation (UNYF) of Canada was established at the school, encouraging students to become active in the broader organized Ukrainian Canadian community.
Principal- Michael Luchkiw
In September 2012, the Ukrainian Language School of UNF in Regina “Ridna Shkola” entered its fourth school year of operation. The faculty consists of four teachers working with 23 children. The classes run on Saturdays – focusing on language and literature, as well as on music lessons and Ukrainian cultural traditions. Ukrainian as a second language classes and traditional arts and crafts lessons are part of the school program. The children take part in Christmas carolling and other community events. An educational committee has been established to support the school. In addition, the school has been supported by various community organizations: it has received educational grants from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Regina Branch and the UCC Saskatchewan Provincial Council; it is also a member of the Educational Program of Saskatchewan as well as other programs; financial support has also been received from the Ukrainian Women’s Organization (UWO), Prosvita (Regina) and SOHL (Saskatchewan Organization of Heritage Languages). A High School Provincial Credit Program is scheduled to start in September 2013.
Initiator and Executive Director – Wayne Hydeman Program Chairman – Mark Dumanski Main Teacher – Olena Andrusiak
Another school that has been revived is the UNF Ukrainian Language Evening School in Sudbury. This school is made up of students of varied ages – adults and teenagers. As a result, different types of approaches are used to introduce the Ukrainian language to these students. The main focus of the evening course is on spoken and written Ukrainian using materials about Ukrainian and Ukrainian Canadian history, geography and the cultural heritage of Ukraine.
Teacher – Luba Bozhyk
A “Ukrainian Club” at the UNF Windsor Branch gathers adults and teenagers for Adult Ukrainian language evening classes once a week from September to June. Numbers of students attending vary from week to week and knowledge of Ukrainian language varies as well. Beginners along with fluent students join the club. The hardest part for beginners is learning the alphabet and then it gets easier! The atmosphere is fun and social. For those who are more fluent, the focus is on practicing Ukrainian. The focus is on enhancing knowledge of Ukrainian at any level. During the first part of the class students work on improving Ukrainian grammar and conversational skills. In the second part the teachers cover materials on Ukrainian history and its heritage and traditions. All are welcome to join the UNF Vivtorok Club! Beginners always welcome!
Teaching staff: Andrew Stebelsky and Lesia Zacerkowny-Truppe
The Ukrainian Saturday School at Sts Vladimir and Olga Ukrainian Catholic Church in Windsor welcomes students between the ages of 6 to 12 from September to May. The classes use the “Nova” language program (by Prof. Olenka Bilash, University of Alberta) and the “Tyt i Tam” readers’ series. Children play games and learn language skills in a fun and interactive way. The focus is on learning basic language skills and developing a sense of pride in Ukrainian Heritage. Ukrainian history and geography are emphasised along with Ukrainian Canadian history. Children learn about various cultural traditions and participate in St. Nicholas and Taras Shevchenko concerts during the school year. As part of their involvement in the community the students attend the annual Holodomor commemoration and lay a wreath at the Holodomor monument at Jackson Park.
Teacher Lesia Zacerkowny-Truppe
The I. Kotliarevsky Ukrainian School in St. Catharines is currently attended by 20 students and functions in cooperation with the UNF National Ukrainian School Initiatives Committee. There are classes from kindergarten to grade 8. The faculty consists of four teachers offering one session a week. The teachers of the St. Catharines heritage school use programs according to the students’ needs: differentiated teaching approaches show positive results when addressed to different level language learners. The teaching staff constantly looks for new ways to inspire students to learn. Examples of this are educational computer games in Ukrainian and learning modules as well as lessons where older students read to younger ones. Teachers actively involve the students in participating in school celebrations and the wider local Ukrainian community.
Principal- Natalie Babycky
Ukrainian Saturday School in honour of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky in Montreal has existed for 63 years and works in cooperation with the UNF National Ukrainian School Initiatives Committee. It is attended by 100 students with a teaching staff of fourteen. Ukrainian language is taught through play, arts and crafts beginning with children as young as 3 to 4 years old in the pre-kindergarten program and then in the Bukvarna class. More advanced topics such as Ukrainian language and grammar, literature, poetry, religion, culture, history and geography of Ukraine are taught at the elementary (grades 1 to 7) and high school levels (grades 8 to 11). Music classes offer an opportunity to explore a variety of modern and traditional Ukrainian songs. After finishing the first levels of the school program the students proceed to the Academy of Ukrainian Studies (Ukrainian as a first language) or the Ukrainian Language Course (Ukrainian as a second language). Students of the Secondary Level Studies from grades 8 through 11 earn 4 high school credits, adding to their overall academic achievement. The school concerts and Ukrainian local community events are an addition to the learning process that provides students the opportunity to cultivate new friendships, be aware of their heritage traditions and leave them with memories that will last a lifetime.
Principal – Irena Pawliw
A new project, the UNF Ukrainian Daycare Program in Saskatoon, serves as a good example for other provinces that have the opportunity to work with and receive support and help from the government. Sources for financing were targetted with the assistance of the UCC Saskatoon Branch, the Saskatoon school board, government and immigration programs and the Department of Education. The Saskatoon UNF Ukrainian “Sonechko” Daycare project is in the development stages. Currently the initiator of the Ukrainian Daycare Program Dr. Roy Papish along with the local UNF branch members is working on the establishment of a Ukrainian kindergarten in cooperation with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Saskatoon Branch. The Board of Directors and Committee members have been engaged in developing the documentation required by the Saskatoon School Board and by the Government Department of Education of Saskatchewan in order to proceed with the project. The continued efforts, persistence and determination of the Branch leaders and members play a big role in maintaining the Ukrainian language amongst Ukrainian Canadians and have been key to the successful development of this project.
UNF “Sonechko” Daycare Board of Directors, Chair – Dr. Roy Papish DC