The Chilliwack Progress is honoured to profile four ‘Heroes in Education’ from a long and amazing list of nominees sent to us from the Chilliwack community.
Kindergarten teacher Shalane Dirven adored playing “school” with her siblings when she was growing up.
She always wanted the lead role as “teacher,” which held her in good stead on the way to becoming the Kindergarten teacher at Little Mountain Elementary (LME) School after completing her practicum there.
“Teaching Kindergarten for 12 years has been such a huge love and passion in my life,” Dirven explained.
There isn’t another job she’d rather do.
“The early years are so important and I am truly grateful to be a part of these learning years with my students.”
Providing “rich learning experiences” is her goal, at the very outset of a student’s educational journey.
“It’s a very special time.”
She loves seeing the pure joy in the kids’ eyes when they see and experience their own successes.
“My classroom is also a space where we show kindness, compassion and care for one another while learning together,” Dirven said.
She’s out to create a welcoming and engaging environment, where her young charges can feel they truly “belong” and have a place carved out just for them in the classroom community.
That decided emphasis on creating an inclusive classroom was not lost on Dirven’s nominator, Sidrah Ahmad.
On the family’s very first visit to Dirven’s classroom, they were asked about their family traditions, holidays and customs, and the teacher encouraged the sharing of them.
“My son started Kindergarten in September 2021,” Ahmad wrote in her nomination letter for Dirven. “Like most parents, I was nervous. He is my eldest and I had many questions – will he adjust? Will he make friends? Will he enjoy it? Thankfully, my son loved Kindergarten from day one.”
The Ahmads are Muslims, she continued, and she hoped her son would have an opportunity to share some of their customs and holidays with his classmates, as well as learning about holidays like Christmas and Easter.
What a difference a few decades can make.
Ahmad keenly remembers what it was like growing up in the 1990s. There simply wasn’t the awareness, and the more open approach to inclusion, and diversity that one might expect to find today in schools across the Fraser Valley.
“My son came home one day in December and said excitedly, ‘Mama – my teacher asked about Ramadan!’ with a big smile on his face.”
It wasn’t just that the teacher had asked. Dirven had managed to gently and respectfully acknowledge that he was different, with unique celebrations, and her son felt very much included as a result.
“My heart melted and I had to hold back tears,” Ahmad wrote.
“Thank you so much Mrs Dirven! And thank you to the school and school district for ensuring all kids are included.”
Dirven said at the end of the day it’s about making the students feel inherently valued.
“They understand that differences are OK. We all bring something special to the classroom.”
Go to theprogress.com/community to read about Chilliwack’s other Heroes in Education. All four features will be published April 30 and May 1, 2022.