École Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys in Merrickville has a new Principal, and she has deeps roots in the local French community and the school itself. Lisa Samrai was one of 32 students at École Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys when it first opened in Merrickville in 1992. The school was housed in Merrickville’s old Town Hall, which is now occupied by the Merrickville Legion on Main Street. “The Principal’s office was in the jail cell,” Lisa remembers. “We were always afraid to go there.”

The opening of Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys was spearheaded by local parents who saw the need for a French school in the area. Lisa says that, prior to the opening of the school, her mother was driving her and her siblings to a school in Kars for the French immersion program. When Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys first opened, they offered classes from kindergarten to Grade 3. In 1995 the current building was built at the end of Read Street and, in 1996, they began offering classes up to Grade 8.

Lisa did most of her primary education at Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys, and then continued her education at a French high school in Ottawa. She began supply teaching at Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys at the age of 18, and went on to get a teaching degree at the University of Ottawa. “I did my first placement here and my second in Ottawa,” Lisa says.

Most recently, Lisa was a Vice-Principal in the Conseil des Écoles Catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) at École élémentaire catholique Bernard-Grandmaître in Riverside South. She had a daughter last year and, upon returning from her maternity leave, was offered the position of Principal at the Merrickville campus of Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys. “My heart has always been at this school, so it is good to be back,” Lisa says. “I love being part of such a great team.”

Lisa is also excited to have a hand in growing the school, which lost a few students when the campus at the Kemptville College opened two years ago. There was some worry in Merrickville that the school would be closing, but Lisa says there is no danger of this happening. Since June 2018, the school has seen a twenty per cent jump in enrollment, growing from 65 to 81 students from kindergarten to Grade 6. “It is a viable school that is doing really well,” Lisa says.

Lisa is excited to announce a new French-language playgroup, which will be starting on Saturday, November 3, at the school. The group is completely free and open to all pre-school aged kids and their parents. The hope is that there will be enough interest to run the group at the school once a month, to get younger kids immersed in French early. “I think French language is the best gift you can give your kids,” Lisa says. “It has really opened doors for me and my siblings. Why not offer that? There is lots of research out there showing that learning a second language improves cognitive ability and problem solving. In today’s world, these skills are crucial.”

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