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Retirement from the district normally comes with a big celebration in November, but as 2020 has been anything but normal, Surrey Schools is recognizing our 2020 retirees remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year there are 166 district employees who retired during the 2019-20 school year, ranging from principals, teachers and secretaries, to education assistants, custodians and facilities staff – and every role in between. Under the provincial health officer’s guidelines and in the interest of health and safety, the district is honouring these retirees at a distance in place of the typical retirement dinner.
“Although we are unable to celebrate in-person and personally thank each retiree for their years of service with the Surrey School District, we hope they know how much the Board of Education appreciates their dedication and commitment to student learning. We are grateful for your contributions in helping the district provide quality education for our community," said Surrey Board of Education Chair Laurie Larsen.
“To each of our retirees, thank you for your hard work in and out of the classroom, preparing our students for the future,” said Superintendent Dr. Jordan Tinney. “Your tireless efforts have set generations of students on paths to do great things, thanks to your guidance and commitment to learning.”
In lieu of the dinner, all 2020 retirees will be sent a gift in the mail. Retirees were also invited to share their favourite memories or stories about their time with the district. Submissions are below.
While we still wish we could thank you all in person, the district would like to take this opportunity to recognize your important contributions to our district.
Congratulations on your retirement and thank you once again for everything you’ve done for Surrey Schools!
Nov 23, 2020: Surrey Schools Community Update from Surrey Schools on Vimeo.
In his latest video message, Supt. Jordan Tinney outlines measures being taken to protect schools and reminds parents and secondary students of crucial steps they can take to keep our community safe.
For secondary students:
"All of our staff are making adjustments and we're wanting to make sure we're all part of the puzzle," says Tinney, noting that while the district has issued 220 notices of COVID-19 exposure, there have been fewer than five cases of in-school transmission.
"Schools matter, we all care, and it's important that we all are doing whatever we can to protect our schools," Tinney says. "Being in school means a chance to play and connect, a chance to receive a meal, a chance to get the social and emotional support that our children need, a chance to continue to pursue your dreams of life beyond Grade 12."
The health and safety of all students, staff and school communities is our top priority. In consultation with public health officials and the provincial government, Surrey Schools is closely monitoring the situation with regard to COVID-19 and its impact on schools. We provide ongoing, updated information as it becomes available.
A Surrey teacher-on-call has written a gripping new novel
that challenges sexism and racism, based on current events and her upbringing
as an Afghan immigrant being raised in Canada.
Rahela Nayebzadah’s latest book is Monster Child, a
story through the eyes of three immigrant children from Afghanistan – Beh,
Shabnam and Alif – trying to find their way in an often uncaring society.
“What inspired me to write it is my own experience as an
immigrant being raised in Canada,” said Nayebzadah. “A lot of my own
experiences were put into it and just hearing stories from my own Afghan
The book is her second novel, following her autobiographical
story Jeegareh Ma, also based on her family’s migration to Canada from
Afghanistan. Though Monster Child touches on some mature subject matter,
Nayebzadah said it is suitable for teens and adults.
In reference to social movements such as Me Too, the themes
of Monster Child include sexual abuse and racism that are relevant to
the current social climate. Through the course of the book, the siblings’
experiences cause them to wonder who the “monster child” really is: Beh, who
says she is called a disease; Shabnam, who cried tears of blood; or Alif, who
says they are a family of monsters.
Ultimately, the answer is up to the reader’s interpretation.
“All these family secrets are revealed,” said Nayebzadah.
“The reader is supposed to be questioning as to who’s the monster, but they’re
all pretty much monsters in their own way. There isn’t just one monster,
they’re surrounded by it and they themselves are monsters and they’re trying to
deal with it.”
The book has been in the making for quite some time,
starting as a title and steadily coming together over the last seven years.
“It was actually supposed to be out two years ago – the
first year, it didn’t work out, and the second year, COVID happened,” said
Nayebzadah. “It feels really great to put this out, especially now more than
ever. During this pandemic, I’m hoping that people are reading more. Reading is
so important and now is the time to start reading and keep reading.”
Nayebzadah noted she hopes to turn Monster Child into
a trilogy, and has finished another manuscript for a fantasy novel.
Monster Child comes out in May 2021 and is available
for pre-order through her publisher, Wolsak & Wynn. Closer to the
publication date, it will be available at Chapters and Amazon as well.
With Diwali celebrations starting up throughout Surrey this week, the district wants to remind parents and students to stay safe during the festival of lights as the number of active COVID-19 cases continues to increase locally.
It is important that everyone follow the new provincial health guidelines for the Fraser Health region while celebrating Diwali, namely limiting social interactions to your immediate household. Fraser Health defines immediate household as immediate family members, people who live in the same house and co-parents who live outside of your household.
Social gatherings of any size are not permitted with anyone other than your immediate household, such as friends or extended family. This includes gathering outdoors and at restaurants.
Fraser Health has shared
a number of ways to celebrate Diwali at home and stay safe during celebrations, such as:
The district is also reminding parents and students to continue other provincial health and safety recommendations, such as maintaining physical distance of two metres from others and practising good hand hygiene and appropriate cough etiquette.
The safest thing to do is stay home – there are other ways to celebrate, and parents are encouraged to get creative with alternative, at-home Diwali activities.
Stay safe and have a Happy Diwali!
Additional Resources from Fraser Health:
Digital Handout: English | Punjabi
8.5 x 11: English | Punjabi
11 x 17: English | Punjabi
In the weeks before Remembrance Day, a group of École Salish
Secondary students enlisted the help of classmates to write 50 postcards to
mail to veterans in Surrey.
Hold High the
Torch, a student group whose goal is to remember our fallen, honour our
veterans and support the troops, prepared postcards for eight Second World
War and Korean War veterans who live in Surrey in recognition of their service
to Canada. In previous years, the group distributed postcards through local
Legions, but this year mailed them, as COVID-19 has caused some
Legions to close or have reduced hours.
“All of these veterans have some connection with Hold High
the Torch, and some of them have regular phone conversations with myself or
other members to maintain that relationship with them,” said group founder Joon
Sohn. “Honoring veterans isn’t just done one day or one season of the year, we
wanted to do something that’s done all the time, and that’s one of the ways we
While the group would normally run a booth in the cafeteria
for students to write postcards, or present to other classes or schools,
members instead presented to two classes within their cohorts and gathered
postcards from fellow students.
“The entire objective of Hold High the Torch is to connect
veterans with newer generations,” said Grade 12 student Nastasja Ador. “It’s
important to have these messages to create a connection with our students and
“We’ve already made a lot of phone calls this year to check
up on them and they’ve been really happy about it,” added classmate Aryan
Verma. “They appreciate us calling and that makes us feel good too, it’s nice
to know that we’re keeping them company.”
The group said they hope initiatives like this will motivate
other students to reach out to veterans and continue building that connection
between students and soldiers.
“It helps us maintain that connection, to have that
appreciation and be thankful for their sacrifice and honouring them,” said
“For me personally, as a Korean-Canadian, a lot of Korean
soldiers fought in the Korean War, and I’m indebted to their sacrifice for what
they’ve done,” said Sohn. “It’s why I’m here today, why my family’s here today,
why so many people around the world have liberty, freedom, opportunity and prosperity.
That’s a huge part of why we are inspired.”
Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek with Fraser Heights Secondary teacher Ali Hasan, who competed on four episodes of the gameshow in 2018. Following the passing of Trebek, Hasan shared a few stories about his time on the show and Trebek's influence on his life.
For Fraser Heights Secondary teacher Ali Hasan, being on Jeopardy!
in 2018 was the culmination of a lifelong interest in the gameshow.
Now, following the passing of host Alex Trebek on Sunday at
the age of 80 after an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer, Hasan recalls
meeting one of his long-time idols and the impact it had on his life to date.
“Several different parts of my life have been influenced by
Alex Trebek,” said Hasan. “It’s almost like the passing of a family member.
It’s both sad but I also get to know he lived a full life, and I can honour him
and appreciate him for that.”
Hasan described Trebek as a down to earth, intelligent
family man who “didn’t act like a star” and was proud of his Canadian heritage.
While the rules for American gameshows limit interactions between hosts and
contestants, Hasan said Trebek took a little extra time getting to know him on
“He was very funny and very quick on his feet, coming up
with these zingers,” he said. “He was interested that I was from Canada, he
wanted to know where I lived in New West – he had worked in B.C. early in his
career and he was really interested in learning about that.
“I didn’t know until I heard it on the news that he pushed
for every episode to have a little bit of Canadian trivia in it.”
Hasan started watching Jeopardy! decades ago, and
noted he’s used the show's format as a teaching tool for students, as well as
for fun with his own family.
“A couple of days before his passing, my family and I had a
Skype get-together,” he said. “Most of my family lives elsewhere, so I made a
quiz for them about the U.S. election to see how much they were paying
attention. I got to play Alex Trebek, and then a few days later, we heard the
news and all my sisters and brothers were commiserating with me.
“It was someone I’d grown up watching and that had been part
of my life with my family, my siblings, my wife and my kids when they got to
see me on TV.”
Though Hasan only got to know Trebek over four episodes, he
said Trebek’s thirst for knowledge stood out, and he is happy to share
the same passion with one of the biggest names in gameshow history.
“He had this passion for knowledge and learning and facts,”
he said. “He was always passionate about teachers when they were on the show –
he would always praise teachers, and he’d praise the students when they had
“He was always saying they were the future and we need good,
smart people to keep our future strong. He knew the importance of knowledge and
Remembrance Day assemblies in schools may not look the same this year, but they’re getting some help from the Surrey City Orchestra.
Under the direction of former Surrey student Stuart Martin, the Surrey City Orchestra (SCO) has recorded a 48-minute Remembrance Day video for classes in the district to watch as part of their Remembrance Day ceremonies. In following traditional Remembrance Day assemblies, the program includes a reading of “In Flanders Fields,” performances of “The Last Post” and “Rouse,” and a moment of silence.
Arts Education Helping Teacher Tricia Liversidge said the district’s involvement with the video came about after Greg Farrugia, one of the orchestra’s founders and a former Semiahmoo Secondary band teacher, reached out to offer its use for assemblies.
“They were aware that assemblies in recognition of Remembrance Day were going to be challenging this year and so they chose to make their video production available to Surrey Schools,” she said. “We are extremely grateful for their generosity and consideration.”
The project has a number of connections to Surrey Schools, including Ellen Farrugia, a former teacher who coached Semiahmoo's first string orchestra; Kevin Lee, a retired Semiahmoo teacher; Henry Christian, a North Surrey Secondary grad; and Christine Lin, the SCO personnel manager and a violinist in the orchestra, and her brother Steven Lin, who both attended Enver Creek Secondary.
The video has been made available to classes and students to recognize Remembrance Day within their cohorts and at home in the blended learning program.
“Although we have a tradition of holding ceremonies to show our gratitude and respect for veterans, this year, honouring those who gave so much to protect our freedoms will mean doing what we can to protect them,” said Liversidge.
Additionally, some staff have produced their own presentations for Remembrance Day. Guildford Park Secondary music teacher Jonathan Sykes has put together a
30-minute video that includes readings from students, a performance of “Universal Soldier” by Buffy Sainte-Marie, and a speech by a veteran about the parallels between wartime Britain and our combined response to the pandemic.
To support these virtual ceremonies, the district is following
BCCDC guidelines for school ceremonies, including continued protocols for physical distancing, hand washing and hygiene and keeping students within their cohorts.
Nov. 9, 2020: Surrey Schools Update from Surrey Schools on Vimeo.
In his most recent video update, Surrey Schools Supt. Jordan Tinney addresses the new health orders issued by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, what they are designed to do and what we know about our schools and COVID-19 exposures.
Tinney notes there are "no surprises" in the new health orders, which include a reminder about the importance of wearing masks, staying home if you have symptoms or are ill, and for everyone to use caution and limit social gatherings.
"These orders are designed specifically to keep schools open and to protect schools," says Tinney, adding the district will have more information for schools about the new health orders in the coming days.
Tinney points out that though our schools have issued more than 120 notices of COVID-19 exposure, there have been just three classes asked by Fraser Health to self-isolate – indicating transmission is seldom happening within the "controlled environment" of the school setting.
"Each one of us needs to do our part," Tinney says. "In the meantime students are in schools and learning. I watch posts every single day of great things happening in our schools and classrooms around the district. Despite COVID there is joy in schools every day."
Food studies has always been a popular subject, and with
seemingly everyone becoming sourdough artisans during the pandemic, learning in
the kitchen is more in-demand than ever among students.
Madeline Wong, Food Studies teacher at Panorama Ridge
Secondary, said her classes have become more engaged, pitching different ideas
for dishes they want to make.
“I find myself asking the students more for their feedback
and their contributions to what they want to learn in class,” she said. “They’re
more vocal this year because they realize they don’t have a lot of time within
the quarter system.
“It gives them more of a sense of control of what they can
learn, because right now, no one has any control over much.”
Under the K-12 Restart Plan and BCCDC guidelines, Wong said
food studies classes are following health and safety procedures such as wearing
masks during food preparation and having smaller class sizes.
“According to the Ministry, there is no sharing of food
allowed, so students are only allowed to eat what they’ve prepared themselves,”
she said. “We’re very cautious to ensure our students and staff are safe and to
give parents peace of mind.”
With the change in learning models for this school year,
Wong now teaches senior food studies classes in person and online. She said the
changes to online learning and fewer students in person have led to increased
engagement as well, simply by nature.
“There’s more communication between students among
themselves and between myself and the students,” said Wong. ‘There’s a lot of
connection going on and the students seem to be much more relaxed where there
are a fewer students working much more efficiently than in a regular size
In addition to those benefits, Wong said food studies also
teaches students to clean up after themselves, as well as gratitude. The time
during remote learning earlier this year taught some students not to take the
chores their parents and grandparents do for granted.
“During quarantine, students were given an assignment to
help out at home with chores,” she said. “They’re like, ‘I just swept the floor
and I turned around and I had to sweep it again – that’s a lot of work!’ The
students all commented on how much more they appreciated their parents or
grandparents who are always doing those chores. They were actually grateful
they can help out at home.”
Wong runs a YouTube channel
and Instagram account
called Whip It Delicious, where she posts quick recipes for students to try at
home. Additionally, with the smaller class sizes requiring decreased recipe
sizes, she recommends sites like Dessert
for Two, Baking Mischief and Canadian Living for more
recipes – but there’s one at-home resource she recommends above all.
“Students’ families are very resourceful too,” she said. “I
usually tell my students, the first people to ask are the ones in your