The “I” in CFIS: message from the Head of School

The following is a message written by Mme. Margaret Dorrance, the Head of School for The Calgary French & International School, for the School’s Weekly Digest in Spring of 2020. We want to thank Mme. Dorrance for her kind words about our Founder, Donna Finley.

Donna was the President & CEO and Chair of both the CFIS Society and Foundation Boards for six years, leading the school through it’s transformation. The core strategy focused on introducing additional languages (Spanish, Chinese) as well as fostering unique partnerships within the Community (SAIT, University of Calgary). CFIS is consistently ranked in the top ten schools in Alberta on the Fraser Institute Report. As tribute to Donna’s outstanding leadership, the School awards the Donna S. Finley Leadership Award every year to a Grade 12 student who has demonstrated exemplary leadership qualities. 

“I have known Donna Finley, PhD, for many years, and I have always admired her leadership, vision, and knowledge. Dr. Finley is a strategic thinker who was the driving force behind the creation of the CFIS campus, and was the person who “put the ‘I’ in CFIS.” The “International” was added to the Calgary French School’s name in 2003, when our new school in Cougar Ridge was opened, after over three decades of renting premises from the Calgary Board of Education and others.

Many of the initiatives CFIS students and parents now take for granted had their inception in ideas generated by Dr. Finley and others, in the early 2000s. The “I” in CFIS is now as much a part of our school as is our full French immersion programming from preschool through to Grade 12. To ensure that CFIS students are fully bilingual when they graduate, formal English Language Arts programming begins in Grade 3, followed by Spanish instruction in Grade 4. The cognitive, creative, and cultural benefits of this multilingual model cannot be overstated.

In addition to the development of an international mindset through building capacity in languages, I am so proud of the attitudes and worldviews our international programming inspires in CFIS students and helps them to realize the importance of cultural peace and understanding. CFIS is an official United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) associated school, and Calgary’s only independent school to have this status. From preschool through Grade 6, UNESCO’s four pillars of learning – learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be – are infused into our school’s programming and curriculum delivery, via leadership and service opportunities and environmental projects. Focusing on each of these areas helps to develop students with an international mindset, who understand themselves, respect others, and value diversity. UNESCO-themed experiences continue through junior high and are coupled with our school’s vibrant Travel Studies experiences and exposure to Round Square experiences. As a full Global Member of Round Square, CFIS’s Secondary Division students can experience a global landscape and elements of the vast world around them, in ways that spark their imaginations and passions. CFIS is also uniquely positioned to offer a bilingual International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma to our Grade 11 and 12 students. I’m so proud to share with you that even though we are only in our first year of delivering IB diploma programmes, seven of our Grade 11 students will be receiving an IB certificate in either Biology or Chemistry. This achievement is testament to the tremendous work that M. Christian Legault has done in implementing our school’s IB programme.

 In short, the “I” in CFIS allows our graduates to go anywhere, and be and do anything. This year’s fifteen Grade 12 graduates embody the CFIS mission, of being active global citizens with a foundation for lifelong success. I feel certain Dr. Finley will agree that for our school, the achievements and aspirations of these students symbolize her vision for our school. I hope our school’s three “founding mothers” – M. Jane Carrothers, Louise Moore, and Mary Leeds Stapleton – are proud of what has been achieved, on the 50th anniversary of their vision for a French immersion school in Calgary.”

To indicate your interest and learn more, reach out to us today.