The feeling of care and inclusiveness that is always at the heart of Burnaby Schools is clearly evident as we close 2014. This December more than 100 holiday performances have taken place in school gymnasiums, theatres, seniors’ residences, shopping centres and downtown hotels. It has been a privilege to attend a number of these. I’ve enjoyed kindergarten students singing in their first public concerts – their earnest efforts warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face. And I listened with joy to Paul Wang, a grade 5 virtuoso, play the piano – a student who recently performed at Carnegie Hall. I know I haven’t been the only one impacted emotionally. I’ve talked to staff and parents alike and the common denominator is that each performance fills the heart and lifts the spirits of each audience member – including those of their preschool siblings dancing in the aisles and singing right along.
A parent said it best, as quoted by the Vice-Chair of the Burnaby Board of Education, Trustee Harman Pander in his December 17 letter to the Burnaby Now
“Exhale … yesterday was the happiest day of my life since I became a mommy. Yesterday was Jayna’s first Christmas concert at school. Those that know Jayna understand how challenging social interaction and social environments have been for her and know how extremely overwhelming they have been in the past. Yesterday she completely overcame those challenges and sparkled like a bright star. She walked up on the stage with her class, looked for me in the crowd, waved with the hugest smile, our eyes connected and so did our hearts. She resisted every urge to come running down to hug me, instead remained in place and blew me at least 20 kisses. She clutched her heart necklace that I gave her to wear and waited for the music to start. I was so thrilled that she had made it on stage! Yay! “Then the music started. She sang her little heart out, actions and all. I was snapping photos, singing along and my heart was gushing. Not for the fact that she was ‘performing’ well but because she had finally arrived in a place of joy in her life. Her anxiety was no longer preventing her from living a life of heartfelt joy. For a spirited young girl to spend the first five years struggling with feeling connected and at peace with anything or anyone, she had finally experienced true bliss. “Trusting her teacher’s lead, trusting her little friends around her, feeling their nervous energy surrounding her, managing her own nervousness and anchoring her eyes and heart with mine as she looked out into the audience. So there I was snapping photos, singing, waving, blowing kisses and bawling my eyes out because I was witnessing my daughter’s first blissful and joyful moment. One that she let go of all her fear, grounded herself and sang the hell out of “I wanna hippopotamus for Christmas!” She sang with confidence, with pride and pure happiness. I witnessed that. I have longed for this day. For her to just let go and shine bright in her own light. Yesterday she sparkled more radiantly than ever. She felt it. She felt pride. She felt joy. She felt peace. She felt connection with self. Finally.”
Beyond the performances, students and staff at schools and District sites have initiated toy drives, food campaigns, clothing donations and holiday meals in an effort to help make lives in our community brighter. I know that these caring actions will continue beyond the holiday season into 2015. Throughout the District and City of Burnaby, ongoing programs and initiatives will provide support, improving the quality of life for citizens in need. Each year, thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services are donated by students and staff through a variety of fund-raising events.
On behalf of the senior staff, I would like to thank you for the role you play in creating safe, caring and inclusive schools and workplaces. You make the difference in Burnaby schools.
I wish you all peace, joy and happiness during this holiday season!