Saint Mary’s Academy (SMA), established in 1991, sits high atop one of the many hills in Canada’s Appalachian range in the far northwest corner of the Anglophone West School District. Located in Edmundston, New Brunswick, it is the first school, geographically speaking, east of the Quebec border—a scant 18 kilometers away—and serves 300 students in Grades K-12.

The city of Edmundston is located at the confluence of the Saint John and Madawaska Rivers. It boasts a large hospital, Mont Farlagne ski resort, world-renowned biking trails, a sports complex complete with an eight-lane pool, a climbing wall and an indoor track, several rivers for canoeing and kayaking, an 18-hole golf course, cross-country ski trail, dance studios, spin classes, gymnastics, a large hockey arena (Home of the Blizzards), a provincial park with botanical gardens, Université de Moncton and CCNB campuses… the list is extensive. These amenities make Edmundston an attractive option for those looking to settle in New Brunswick, be they immigrants or from elsewhere in Canada. To help ease the transition, the city has an active newcomer/multicultural association with two SWIS (Settlement Workers in Schools) employees who work together with SMA to acclimate newcomers to the city.

In the past two years the student population at Saint Mary’s has increased by more than 30 per cent, the majority of this increase being newcomers to Canada. SMA has always had a diverse student body, and it is common to hear many languages spoken in the hallways. However, with the war in Ukraine and conflict in other parts of the world, the 2022-23 school year has seen an even greater influx of families into the city; our student population has increased in diversity, needs, and numbers.

To assist with our newcomers, Saint Mary’s is proud to boast an EAL (English as an Additional Language) team with more than 85 years of combined teaching experience. Three incredible teachers work quietly, deliberately, and diligently with patience and acceptance. These teachers work with small student groups, as well as one-on-one with students of varying levels of fluency. And they celebrate many small victories daily.

These dedicated teachers lead an active Student Welcoming Committee, as well as a Culture Club which allows students to learn about different traditions, lets them sample food and drink from other parts of the world, and encourages curiosity and acceptance. The club hosts scavenger hunts, escape rooms, student appreciation days, outdoor learning activities, quinzee (a simple snow shelter) building, snow sculptures, bonfires, hot dog roasts, sliding parties, and much more. Evening activities are open to all parents and guardians to allow them an opportunity to meet others and make connections.

The school has always prided itself on its family environment. Friendly greetings in the hallways by both students and staff are common—everyone knows everyone—but that is not what makes it unique. It is the feeling that, despite being small, SMA is a part of something larger. Inclusivity, respect, tolerance, and the recognition that the world is far larger than any of us may realize, are practices encouraged for new and old students alike.

Saint Mary’s works hard to make certain our students and their families are not alone. But it would not be possible without the commitment and enthusiasm of the EAL and Administrative teams.

Thanks to our EAL team members: Bethany Toner, EAL lead teacher; Kathy Soucy, tutor; Susan Hansen, tutor; and the administrative team of Principal Julie Michaud: Vice-Principal Heather Dexter and Gina Topolniski, school administrative assistant. They are a vital part of what makes SMA “the small school with the big heart.”

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