By Jane Hancock
Special to the Tribune
I arrived as a teacher at Dog Creek School in October of 1985, newly married and without a thought in my head. I was to replace the Primary teacher (Kindergarten- Gr. 3) and my biggest concern was not to make an idiot of myself, or get a run in my stocking.
It took me awhile to realize just how remarkably lucky I had been to have landed here, and how it would change and enrich my life.
For the next 35 years the students and parents, the staff, the school and the community that surrounds it welcomed and encouraged my family, supported me and put up with my inexperience and foibles. That’s how it’s done here: these exceptional people are exceptionally kind.
It is also a very beautiful place. Dog Creek is called Xgat’temc in Secweptemct’sin. It means ‘deep valley,’ and you can see from the photographs that the name is apt. Indigenous people of the Secwepemc nation have been living here for millennia, and it is their descendants who make up most of the student body at the school.
A history lesson
The first school at Dog Creek was built in 1925.
Later, during the Second World War, a peaked building was put up further east in the valley, one of the first pre-modular types that was becoming more common during that time. It still stands today, in the grounds of the new modular building that was completed in 1999, complete with electricity and indoor plumbing. It’s a wonderful resource.
Dog Creek Elementary/Rural Secondary now provides Kindergarten to Gr. 10 programming to all students. Everybody is welcome here, no matter where you come from. Students are kind and open, they love to laugh, and they are intelligent and interested in everything. They are inquisitive, funny and respectful of themselves and their elders and traditions. Nobody gets left out. Over the years, many students have graduated from high school and gone on to post-secondary work. So they are successful and intrepid students, as well. They have strong role models in the staff, parents and community members who work with them, who have always put community connection and learning first.
There are many celebrations and traditional activities that are part of the fabric of Dog Creek School, but I’ll focus on Christmas. Like many schools, there is a great deal of decorating, and a holiday Bazaar at the beginning of December. A large gingerbread house is made and brought to school for all the students to decorate with dozens of chocolates and candies. So resilient is this building by the end of the season that it has to be broken up with a hammer in the New Year, and structural chunks are taken home to be gnawed.
The Christmas concert takes place on the last afternoon before school dismisses for Winter Break. The program changes every year, of course, but at the end of the concert we always, school and audience together, sing Silent Night by candlelight. It is a small moment in time, but the hush and quiet that falls over us all, with only the candles lighting up faces, is breathtaking, and so peaceful. Then the lights go up, Santa arrives with ringing bells and a gift for every student, and the holidays are well and truly launched.