BY SUSAN WONG
Lord Beaconsfield Annex before it expanded and became Nootka Elementary. Photos courtesy of Susan Wong
The Nootka Rose, a rare native plant, can be found at Renfrew-Collingwood’s Still Creek just a few steps from the busy bustling sounds of Grandview Highway. A few blocks south you will also find another treasure in our community, Nootka Elementary.
This year Nootka will celebrate its 50th golden anniversary. Nootka is a small but vibrant school located on Renfrew and 17th Avenue, just north of the soft trees and tranquil ravine of the Renfrew Park Community Centre. Originally known as Lord Beaconsfield Annex in 1959, the school expanded and became Nootka Elementary a few years later.
Today the school is comprised of almost 500 students. Nootka is unique in that it holds three programs in one school: Thrive for students with special needs, the classic and the fine arts, programs that have attracted many families in the immediate area and from all corners of the city.
Student from first graduation class gives back
With more than 50 years of history, Nootka’s evolution has truly come full circle. Former student Randy Schisler was one of the original students of the first grade 7 graduation class in 1966. Randy is not only a Nootka alumni but also currently a dedicated volunteer for the school’s One to One literacy program! Most Wednesday and Thursday mornings you will find Randy in the school’s library reading books with the students.
Glenn Dennis and Randy Schisler, two students from the first graduating class of 1966, remember the good ol’ days at Nootka Elementary. Above them is the war canoe carved by Mr. Krisky.
Randy, currently retired, picked Nootka as his first choice to spend his invaluable volunteer hours. How lucky for those at Nootka to have such a wonderful and caring volunteer and with such a real connection to Nootka’s history and the Renfrew-Collingwood community where he grew up.
As Randy takes a stroll down the halls of his childhood school, he arrives at the entrance of the teachers’ staff room which was the original part of Lord Beaconsfield Annex. He looks at the staffroom door and chuckles, “You see this room, I will never go in, even now. It’s totally off limits and I don’t care how old I am!”
Lord Beaconsfield Annex originally only taught grades 1 to 3. The school only consisted of the east-facing side of the school that runs along Nootka. The north wing wasn’t added until 1963/64, which is when it became Nootka Elementary. During the years while the addition was being built, students had to temporarily branch off to other schools in the area such as Lord Beaconsfield, Renfrew and Graham Bruce. Not until approximately 1999 was the south wing finally completed.
One of the first graduating classes at Nootka, 1966. Second row from the bottom, fourth student from the left is Glenn Dennis.
School to new generations
And speaking of coming full circle, Glenn Dennis, also a former classmate of Randy’s, is now residing in Renfrew-Collingwood where his daughter Jessica is also student at Nootka! Like Randy, Glenn is a student from the graduating class of 1966. Glenn sentimentally points out how his first classroom was also the same room Jessica began her journey at Nootka. It is the furthest classroom at the south end of the hallway just down from the office.
Although a relatively “young” school Nootka is rich in history and culture. A visually enticing mural welcomes you as you approach the school’s front entrance. The multi-coloured mural was a collaboration of the Nootka’s Fine Arts students with Langara College.
Inside, located to the right of the main entrance are the original display cases, which proudly showcase many of the students’ wonderful creations. Above the display cases you will find the Nootka War Canoe originally hand carved in 1966 by Mr. Krisky, a parent of one of the students graduating in 1966. The graduating class presented it at the graduation ceremony as a gift to the school and to honour the area’s native heritage.
Grade 1 class, 1959. Front row centre is Randy Schisler.
As Randy and Glenn go over the many old school photos of fellow classmates and adored teachers, a rush of memories come back and for a second it really felt like it was just yesterday. Nostalgia was high as names, dates and events are reminisced and maybe even missed. And as life should have it, there were probably ups and downs but it seems like only the good memories resonated in the two gentlemen minds. All in all, sounds like they had lots of fun.
And just like the good ol’ days, there’s always something fun and interesting happening at Nootka. The school’s events are beautifully coordinated and planned. Parents, teachers, students and even secondary school volunteers all collaborate together to ensure a wonderful and successful experience for all.
Last year Nootka held their first Earth Day, where the all the students spent a full day in workshops and activities learning about sustainability and Mother Earth. In the fall and winter, the Fine Arts students display their wonderful creations at the Children’s Art Exhibition held at the Vandusen Botanical Garden. And to welcome the Lunar New Year a Lion Dance Celebration is held annually to wish Nootka a happy and healthy new year!
So as the students, teachers, parent advisory committee and families of Nootka Elementary roll up their sleeves again to plan and carry out their Spring Carnival, we invite you, your friends and family members to come join us Saturday, May 3, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at our beloved school, 3375 Nootka Street near Renfrew Street. Come celebrate and commemorate our 50th Golden Anniversary together. It will no doubt be fun, eventful, lively, creative, rich in history and all about community.
Copyright (c) 2014 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News