Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 24, 2008
Principal emphasized riches of Polish bilingual program
Jan Pawel School wishes fond farewell to Sandy Gillis
By ZYGMUNT CYNAR
Special to the WCR
The Jan Pawel II Polish Bilingual Program at St. Basil School recently bid farewell to Sandy Gillis, the school's principal for seven years.
Parents, staff and members of the Polish community gathered at the Polish Hall in Edmonton on Jan. 19 to pay tribute to Gillis, who is now principal at St. James School.
Gillis leaves St. Basil Catholic School with a reputation as a strong manager to staff and dearly loved teacher to his students. He is also a respected member of the Polish community in Edmonton.
Almost seven years ago, Gillis, a native of Newfoundland, become the principal of the Jan Pawel II Polish Bilingual Program, the only one of its kind in North America.
Focus on the positive
His positive influence was reflected in the attitudes and relationships of students, staff and teachers. The children loved him; the parents admired him and the teachers appreciated his leadership that had inspired them.
He encouraged students to take time every day to pursue their passions. He wanted all the children to do positive things, focusing on activities like sports and music. He always strove to be a good influence on the students.
As the principal of the Polish bilingual program, Gillis discussed the value of Catholic education with parents. He knew that neighbourhood Catholic schools provide the same high calibre of education available at Jan Pawel II.
He encouraged children to attend this school because, not only does it provide a first rate English core program, but it also teaches the Polish language and celebrates Polish culture and traditions.
Building the future
Gillis believed that the program was a vital part of ensuring a strong and vibrant Polish community in the future. The students will become leaders in a few years, and as they grow in a community at school, they will build on their friendships to encourage and support Polish life and culture later in life.
The school community is growing stronger all the time and the turnout at school special events has been tremendous. For example, every year more than 400 people attend Christmas celebrations.
Gillis believed that as word spread about the school and the plans we have for the future, more and more people would want to have their children attend the bilingual program.
He had a great appreciation of his strong, professional and dedicated staff. He felt blessed to be surrounded by a dedicated parent group who want the best for their children.
According to Gillis, the parents were supportive of the staff and the administration and would do anything to make the program a success. The school has a vibrant and enthusiastic parent council that takes its job seriously.
They advocate strongly for their children and support staff initiatives in every way they can. Parents feel welcome in the school. Their daily presence does wonders for the program because their children see that the parent's interest in them is genuine.
Parents provide impetus
Gillis believed that the strongest advertisement for the program is the children's parents and their attendance at all the children's performances.
He believes that being bilingual today gives people advantages in business and can provide other opportunities. Facility in another language opens doors.
Gillis maintained that students' careers will be enhanced by their language ability, as will their capacity for taking on leadership roles.
He was proud of his students saying, "They are a wonderful group that embodies the values and strong work ethic of their families. Their parents place a high value on education and are terrific partners to us in our work with the students. Discipline is not an issue here because our children are very respectful of themselves, each other and property. They are a joy to be with."
Program's future bright
He left the school with the belief that the future of the Polish bilingual program at the Jan Pawel II is bright. The program has experienced growing student numbers and waiting lists have already begun for the fall. With the addition of a junior high, this school is a high-energy place in which to work and play.
Gillis remains a member of the Polish community. He continues to learn Polish despite leaving the program.
He has always reminded us that we should be proud of our Polish heritage and of the great son of the Polish nation, Pope John Paul II, the patron of our program.
Life of prayer
Sandy Gillis is a special person. Prayer is his source of strength. He believes that since our work occupies most of our time, it must be the main means of drawing closer to a personal relationship with God.
Many times, he has said he has the good fortune to be in a career that affords him the daily opportunity to reflect on his vocation. He takes time every day to reflect on his relationship with his family, coworkers, students and their families. These relationships are important to him and he does his best to keep them healthy and intact.
He will be missed at our school, but we are proud to have and hold him in our community.