In June, we celebrated Janet England’s contribution to the York House School community over the past 39 years with a special tea and a retirement dinner. Complete with mini-cakes and finger sandwiches, floral displays and a chess-themed cake featuring Ms. England herself, the tea was fit for royalty. Both events were well attended by parents, faculty, staff and students who came together to recount fond memories from over the years in honour of Ms. Janet England.
Janet graduated from England’s Kenton Lodge College of Education in June 1971. She taught in England and Germany before coming to Canada where she began teaching Grade 1 at York House School in 1976. Since 1980, Janet has been teaching kindergarten (otherwise known as, the Oranges’ class).
Janet has made many valuable contributions to York House School over the years. In 1994, with the help from parent, Anders Sperlin, Janet brought chess to the kindergarten program. Janet spearheaded our first chess club in 1996 and has devoted herself tirelessly to promoting chess amongst the girls at YHS. In 1996, York House School became one of only two independent schools in Vancouver with a chess team. Janet England has both hosted and attended chess tournaments, and travelled across Canada with students to attend numerous tournaments.
Janet has been a strong advocate for young children and early learning. In 1990, she made a proposal to move the Kindergarten classes into a house on 26th Avenue with a team-teaching focus. This innovative and creative idea was finally realized in 2008 when York House purchased our current Little School. After attending a Reggio conference, Janet reflected on her learning and shared a quote that resonated with her, “A child is as bright as the person to whom they are talking.” Janet has always viewed children as capable and bright. I am sure that those of you who were in Janet’s class, or have a daughter who was in Janet’s class, will remember her saying, “You will do it when your body is ready, sunshine”.
Janet has been a dedicated teacher – and a lifelong learner – always willing to try a new method, but at the same time keeping a strong sense of tradition – she knows what works and stands firm in her beliefs. About 10 years ago, in an effort to ensure our kindergarten had good literature for learning to read, Janet did some detective work and contacted the estate of the author of her favourite reading scheme, Nelson Open Door Readers. Through her perseverance, she was given permission to reproduce the books so that our girls could continue to learn to read while enjoying the beloved characters in Elizabeth Lawrence’s books.
In speaking to parents, Janet is consistently described with the following words: nurturing, consistent, dedicated, enthusiastic, cheerful, imaginative and creative. In fact, this year when I was showing Ms. Gionet around the Little School, Ms. England was reading a story about castles and princesses to her students. She and her students were all wearing custom-made crowns while she told the story using her most royal voice.
Janet will always be remembered for her creative ideas and special activities that she brought to kindergarten. I’m sure many of you remember the spring tea party and who can forget girls in party dresses and hats, politely sipping tea and saying, “I tried it but it is not to my liking” – or the mother’s day sewing project – Ms. England brought special fabric back from England for this project for decades. I’m sure many father’s in the theatre today still have their father’s day thumb pots, and those of you who were Oranges’ in kindergarten still have your self-published kindergarten story book.
One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
Janet – thank you for all that you do and have done for the children, parents and your colleagues at York House School.
Principal, Little School