Principal, Maywood Community School
Susan’s years of work have helped make Burnaby and Burnaby schools more inclusive and welcoming. She is a pivotal member of the Youth and Pre-teen Committee of the Metrotown area, and has been instrumental in creating longstanding out-of-school programs for Pre-teen and Youth.
Sue and her staff at Maywood have made the school a sanctuary for students and their families; educators from around the world come to learn about the school’s inclusive practices.
Sue encourages newcomer students and their families to be proud of their cultural heritage as they embrace new lives in Canada. The school staff hosts regular welcome dinners for families new to the school, monthly community events (such as potluck dinners), and cultural celebrations to teach about home cultures, cuisines and traditions. She loves these events. “People come together without judgment. That’s what diversity’s all about.”
She continues, “I love that old saying, ‘You don’t fear someone whose story you know.’”
The community school offers a number of programs for parents, community members and kids afterschool. Parent and community volunteers are a large daily presence in the school. “So many people feel isolated when they first move here. Coming to our community school gives them a chance to meet people and feel connected.”
The physical space is uniquely welcoming and inclusive. Murals cover most of the walls, visitors see welcoming phrases in a myriad of languages, and many areas of the school offer cozy places to sit and gather. Students and their families are welcome in the school early in the morning, well before the school day begins. “We have forty-six languages in our school community. I don’t speak those other languages, but I can smile at the parents and grandparents. When they see me interact with their children they understand how much we care.”
Maywood is now a designated Safe Harbour location. The school had a Safe Harbour celebration, at which families were invited to paint a tile illustrating why Maywood was a safe and welcoming place. The tiles will be installed on the outside of the building for the community to see.
Sue’s encouragement and belief in the staff, students and families of Maywood Community School empower everyone be themselves and do their best. Sue has truly enhanced the lives of so many in Burnaby.
Sue sums up her philosophy in a couple sentences. “Recognize that difference is part of humanity. Live in the middle of it all.”