‘I’m hoping it will be an amazing thing for the school,’ says Mary Jansen
Willowdale Christian School (WCS) in North York surprised retiring principal Mary Jansen with a farewell gift of a peace garden, to honour her work over the years to make peace a priority at the elementary school.
Students, teachers, volunteers, alumni and parents gathered for a farewell assembly followed by the peace garden groundbreaking ceremony June 12th.
All the students participated in the assembly. The kindergarten class and Grades 1-4 sang, and the Grade 5 class wrote a song. The Grade 7 class sang Peace, I Give To You and Grade 8 performed a humorous skit about the principal’s time at the school.
Ray Hendriks from the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) and Jasper Hoogendam from the Ontario Christian School Administrators Association (OCSAA) spoke at the event.
When they gathered outside for the groundbreaking, vice-principal and Grade 8 teacher Cathy Sallows said the Willowdale school community thought the peace garden would be a fitting gift for Jansen, as she cares about peace between students, students and teachers, and the school and community.
“You want nothing more than for this small part of God’s kingdom to reflect His love for us in the way we treat each other. It is one of the stamps you will leave on this school. A peace garden — a place to read, meditate, resolve differences and pray has always been something you wanted to see here at WCS,” said Sallows.
Jansen says having a peaceful environment was really important to her as principal and she often thought of putting in a peace garden, but there never seemed to be finances available for the project.
She says she was “blown away” by the surprise gift of a peace garden in her name.
“I’m hoping it will be an amazing thing for the school,” says Jansen.
The peace garden comprises of a 12-foot circle planted with perennials and landscaped with rocks for the students to sit on.
Jansen has been principal at the school for nine years and on the staff for 21 years. She says she has felt privileged to hear the stories of students, staff members and parents, and has found that they all have the same stories of the Bible to relate to each other.
“That’s one of the highlights — the ability to talk to students and staff about their lives and about how God can make a difference in those lives when they are in trouble, so it’s not just discipline and punishment but it’s discipline to learn to follow God,” says Jansen.
During her career Jansen says she loved seeing teachers use their creative energy in new ways in the classroom.
“It’s been an amazing job, an amazing career,” she says.
Among her hopes for the future of WCS is a continued excellence in education.
“I hope that it continues with the philosophy that it has — that it is very open, that it is a place where all Christians are welcome and celebrated, that life in Christ is celebrated,” says Jansen.