Mykola Swarnyk for NP-UN.
In the new 2022-23 school year, the UNF West Toronto Ukrainian School joined forces with Tsiopa Palijiw Ukrainian school, creating the Paul Yuzyk Academy of Toronto (PYAT). The aim of this new school is to create an enjoyable and inspiring for the kids Ukrainian School environment. For the new school year, the teachers prepared lessons and teaching materials for the students, focusing on creativity and involvement, keeping in mind academic standards and demands of the Ontario Ministry of Education and the Schoolboard.
The school remains in the core a Ukrainian language school and will offer Ontario High School Language Credits. For students who are not full Ukrainian speakers, but still wish to keep touch with their Ukrainian heritage, the school offers a separate cultural program, in addition to the regular school day, after 1:00 pm. At PYAT (http://pyat.ca/), the organizers created an all-new learning environment – engaging, student-centered and proactive.
PYAT’s new quarterly newspaper “Our Harvest” will provide a reader with clearer idea about what is happening in the classes and corridors of the school. The newspaper’s first issue presents the school’s special bonus program. Kids are rewarded for cooperation, good class citizenship, and effort, with “bonus marks.” Children can select a prize for their bonus points. But it’s not just bonus marks for toys. Students can donate their bonus points for buying medical aid for Ukraine. It became possible thanks to Mr. George Strohyj and Ms. Halyna Zwirchowsky pledge of $1,000 to support Ukrainian Surgical aid program, and by “playing” charity, children already collected over $600.
In the time of traditional commemoration of Holodomor on November 26th, PYAT’s children were engaged in Memorial Service and the ceremony with the wheat sheaf, learning about Ukraine’s sufferings. The sheaf of wheat was draped in black cloth, symbolizing the millions of lives that where stolen. It was carried on the shoulders of two students and followed by a column of mourners, as is proper for a funeral. Father Slipyj and Father Hemon presided over the service as a choir made of maturanty students and staff sang. Poems were read by students and a minute of silence was held to honour the millions of dead.
In November, students were involved in the webinar about leadership with Ihor Michalchyshyn, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress about how the politics works and how to prepare and participate in study programs in Ottawa, which will have open days for students to visit.
At PYAT, the students are engaged in active learning. From webinars with community leaders, to in-class Bandura demonstrations, to theatre skits and arts and crafts, our school has been busy creating engaging opportunities for its students. Children interact with vinyl records, signed by famous Ukrainian musicians, learn about the important link between music and Ukrainian patriotism. The school’s literature classes got a chance to play a game designed to test their knowledge about authors, Ivan Franko and Bohdan Lepkyi. Grades 4, 6, and JK have been engaging in theatre pieces. The SK class is learning about the alphabet using tactile toys. These creative approaches help our students enjoy the process of Ukrainian schooling. PYAT believes that learning can be fun, and the more joy it brings, the more a lesson is retained.
To motivate children who do not want to go to a Ukrainian School because of a language barrier, PYAT created a Culture Club. The Club is a hands-on creative program, the class is lead in English with a focus on learning about Ukrainian culture and traditional skills. So far, the class has learned about weaving and textiles, embroidery, beadwork, motanka dolls and importance of bread in our culture. This way PYAT is engaging students for greater variety of classes and activities, teaches them to be active participants of the community despite the level of the language proficiency and creates opportunities to develop friendship, have joy and feeling of the belonging to the Ukrainian community.
The school's Director is Anastasia Baczynskyj, a person of countless talents – an artist, a historian, a writer, a tireless organizer with thousands of ideas and good heart. Putting up the new school in the turbulent environment of the last years is a big challenge, but without challenge there is no progress.
The editorial team of New Pathway – Ukrainian News is wishing the creative team of the PYAT School lots of success in the new 2023 year!
This article is written under the Local Journalism Initiative agreement