From left, Fiona Black, Grade 6 late French Immersion qualifier; Mataya Dorland-Meagher, Grade 7 late French Immersion qualifier; Linnea Sly, Grade 6 early French Immersion qualifier; Shaan Brar, Grade 8 French Immersion qualifier; Emily Priebe, Grade 7 early French Immersion qualifier, show off their medals won during a concours competition. (Photo courtesy of Canadian Parents for French Sooke District Chapter)

French Immersion grows at record pace in Sooke School District

The number of students learning French in SD62 continues to increase in leaps and bounds

Rick Stiebel/News Gazette staff

Two languages take you further than one.

The number of students learning French in this school district is increasing in leaps and bounds, said Cendra Beaton, president of the Sooke School District chapter of Canadian Parents for French B.C. & Yukon.

“When French immersion was first introduced in 1991, we only had two teachers and about 30 students at John Stubbs and Saseenos elementary schools involved in the program,” she noted. “Twenty-seven years later, we have 1,278 students. That represents more than 11 per cent of the district’s total student population.”

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Ecole John Stubbs (now an elementary and middle school) Poirier Elementary, Millstream Elementary, Journey Middle School and Belmont and Edward Milne secondary schools offer French immersion programs on the West Shore and in Sooke.

Program options include Kindergarten, Grade One, Grade Six and late immersion. “We’ve been growing at a steady rate,” Beaton said. “In fact, enrolment has been breaking records for the past six or seven years. We hope the school district continues to maintain the support required even more.”

Beaton believes there are many reasons for the programs dramatic increase in popularity with parents. “There are so many benefits, including travel and employment opportunities, not just with local government, but in countries around the world.”

RELATED: Former SD62 student wins French award

Demand for bilingual employees is increasing in the airline and hospitality industries, as well as in public service and with call centres, she noted. Demand for French immersion teachers in B.C. is another area of increasing demand, she added.

Learning a second language has numerous health benefits, including promoting more development of the social and cognitive parts of the brain, Beaton explained. “Being immersed in multiple cultures simultaneously also develops social tolerance and cultural acceptance,” she said. “It’s like a cardio workout for your brain. It helps make the world a better place one student at a time. And the younger you are the easier it is to learn.”

Beaton cited Andrea Brown, a former Sooke School District French immersion student who works as a teacher on the Lower Mainland, as a shining example of what the program can do to help people achieve their goals. Brown is one of two teachers who recently earned a $2,000 grant from Canadian Parents for French B.C. &Yukon that will go towards French immersion education.

“As a chapter president, it’s a really proud moment to see one of our students receive the award,” Beaton said. “It’s a testament to the quality of our program and the support it receives from the district, teachers and parents.”

For information on how to register for the French immersion program, visit sd62.bc.ca.

Find all of the stories that were in the fall West Shore Family publication online here.

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com

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