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Paul Ong starts new duties at Meadows West School

School pilots Filipino bilingual program for Winnipeg School Division 

Paul Ong 2023

by Lucillle Nolasco-Garrido

Winnipeg educator and local singer, Paul Ong will be going back to a different school this month. Ong will be starting his new duties as vice principal for Meadows West School, commencing on September 5, 2023.

Pilipino Express spoke to Ong about the school’s preparation for the new school year, in the midst of new challenges, including those with regards to COVID-19, as well as the Filipino bilingual program in Meadows West.

PE: How has the transition been for you from Garden Grove to your new school?

PO: I am very happy about my appointment at Meadows West School and being able to continue serving the Northwest community. Garden Grove and Meadows West are neighbouring schools that work together with our larger community.

I expect the transition will be smooth as we launch the 2023-2024 school year. Principal Wayne Wyke, school staff, and the school community have been very welcoming with the appointment. I am looking forward to collaboratively working with the school community to make sure we deliver the best learning experiences for all our students that we serve. I am also excited to be back working with a Junior High, as Meadows West is an N-8 school, and to be part of launching the Filipino Bilingual Program.

PE: How is the school preparing for the students’ return to class?

PO: Just like any other year, we prepare the school to be at its best for our students and staff when school re-opens. Our custodial staff has worked tirelessly all summer to ensure that everything is in tip top shape and that the school is physically ready for everyone. We’ve had teachers coming in since the week of August 21st to start setting up classrooms and getting ready to start the school year. We look forward to seeing all the students when school re-opens.

PE: COVID-19 is starting to make a comeback with new variants, are there any policies in place regarding this?

PO: Every year we make sure to remind students and families about staying healthy and following the basics such as good hygiene and staying home when sick. We’ll continue that this year with regard to COVID-19 (or any other health-related issues), the school and the Winnipeg School Division follow directions from Manitoba Health.

PE: Your new school is one of only two schools in Winnipeg offering Filipino bilingual classes. Tell us more about it.

PO: Meadows West School is piloting the Filipino Bilingual Program for the Winnipeg School Division. The other school is with the Seven Oaks School Division. As we start the program this September 2023, we are beginning with a combined Kindergarten and Grade 1 class, and slowly building up the program each year, and expanding the grade level that it is being offered in the years to come.

Kindergarten and Grade 1 students registered in the Filipino Bilingual Program will be taught Filipino language (Tagalog) during the school day. The plan for this school year is to use Filipino as the medium of instruction for elective courses. The core subjects will be taught in English.

PE: Is the program open to other students from other schools? Has registration closed or are you still taking in more students.

PO: Yes, absolutely. Students from anywhere in the Winnipeg School Division can attend the program, which is part of the WSD Bilingual Languages Program. As of last count, we have 13 students registered in the Kindergarten/Grade 1 class and anticipate more registrations will come in next week when school staff returns from summer break. One important aspect of the Bilingual Language Programs is that transportation is provided free of charge for students who live outside the school catchment area when attending one of these bilingual programs.

Meadows West School is currently accepting registrations for Kindergarten and Grade 1 students for the Filipino Bilingual Program.

PE: Did the instructors undergo special training to teach this class?

PO: The Filipino Bilingual Program is taught by a certified teacher whose first language is Filipino (Tagalog).

PE: Arthur E. Wright started the bilingual program, any feedback or evaluation as to its effectiveness or has it reached the objectives of the program?

PO: I am not able to comment about the effectiveness and outcomes of the Filipino Bilingual Program at Arthur E. Wright (Seven Oaks School Division) as I am not involved with their program.

However, I would like to point out that research has shown time and time again that there are several benefits to having children learn two or more languages simultaneously. Studies have shown evidence that children who learn two or more languages in childhood have better cognitive development. Because they are able to switch between languages, they develop more flexible approaches to thinking through problems. The ability to read and think in two or more languages promotes higher levels of abstract thought, which is important in learning.

Aside from academic benefits of learning languages, being bilingual supports children in maintaining strong ties with their family, culture, and community. All of these are key parts of a child’s developing identity. Bilingual children are also able to make new friends and create strong relationships using their second language – an important skill in our increasingly diverse society.

PE: You’re also from the Philippines. What is your personal view of the bilingual program?

PO: As an immigrant from the Philippines myself, I am very excited about my appointment at Meadows West School to help spearhead, develop, and implement the Filipino Bilingual Program within the Winnipeg School Division. With the many academic, social, and cultural benefits of being bilingual, I encourage our Filipino families with children in Kindergarten and Grade 1 to consider registering their children to be part of the Filipino Bilingual Program.

It is my firm belief that every child deserves a quality education that will allow them to flourish as well-rounded individuals. Students must always be the centre of all school-related decisions. As an educator, I think that we should not only aim to teach minds, but more important, we should aim to touch hearts and transform lives. It is very important to me that everyone in the school feels a sense of community and are excited to come to school. This school environment will allow opportunities to work collaboratively and achieve academic excellence in a positive, fun, and nurturing environment. Education is a life-long process and I look forward to being part of your child’s learning journey – and learning with them in the process.

Meadows West School is currently accepting registrations for Kindergarten and Grade 1 students for the Filipino Bilingual Program. Contact Meadows West School located at 150 Inkster Garden Drive. Call 204-694-6755 or e-mail, if you would like to register your Kindergarten/ Grade 1 children, or for any other inquiries.