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A Canadian pioneer in French Immersion education since 1969, the Calgary French & International School established its French language program prior to the Royal Commission that led to the federal policy of official bilingualism.
The school was spearheaded by three parents looking for a French immersion education in Calgary. These women developed and directed the school and its programs during a time when educational and neurological research was only beginning to show the benefits of early second language development. Deeply connected to the national movement towards bilingualism, each has continued to support the school and build on their impactful history as innovators, educators and volunteers.
Having left the school in the hands of very committed parents and professional staff, over 40 years later the Calgary French & International School continues to stay ahead of the curve in its dedication to a progressive multilingual and international education.
More about our founding mothers
In the 1970s, Jane Caruthers served as a commissioner on the Bilingual Districts Advisory Board, which took her all over Canada and made her an expert on the state of French language communities across the country. As an active participant in Canada’s movement towards official bilingualism and with a view to her own children’s education, she helped establish French Immersion programs in London (ON), Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver. Through her work teaching English as a second language to Canadian immigrants and internationally, Jane continues to believe in the power of language and education to broaden horizons, particularly in the context of the Canadian mosaic.
In later years, Louise Moore resumed teaching in immersion programs at the junior and senior high levels. Observing CFIS as a leader and a model in educational excellence, Louise is very satisfied to have been part of the initial idea to establish such a school. Now retired from the classroom, she continues to hold an interest in the further growth and expansion at CFIS.
Mary Leeds Stapleton also continues her involvement in leading edge research and education as a research associate at the Arctic Institute of North America, University of Calgary. She is the Founder and Managing Director of the Arctic Circumpolar Route and has been President of InterFacts Consulting Ltd. for over 25 years. Mary has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History and Secondary Teaching, graduate study in Museum Management from Harvard University, and a Master’s Degree in Architecture from the Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary. In addition to having two alumni children, she is the grandmother of a CFIS alumna who attended the school for four years.
The early years
Started by a group of dedicated parents, the early classrooms of the Calgary French School took place in church basements, eventually moving into shared space at Sacred Heart School in 1974.
The 80's and 90's: Sharing space
With a growing student population and demand for expansion, the 80s and 90s saw the school moving and overtaking classrooms throughout Calgary. Eventually, the writing was on the wall--the Calgary French School was here to stay. Plans for a beautiful new school of our own took form.
From 2000 to 2008: A period of great change
What began as an eviction notice in late 1999 led to a $20-million capital campaign for a new facility and expanded programs. CFIS achieved several significant milestones under Donna Finley's leadership from 1999 to 2004:
- CFIS was acknowledged at the provincial level as strategically important to language education in Western Canada
- The school's program expanded from an elementary school to include junior and senior high school programs.
- Intensive Spanish was added to the language curriculum.
- Developed the initial LEAD strategy that promoted the school as an active research site with 10 demonstration classrooms and a distributed resource centre.
- Achieved distinguished status as a successful Public Private Partnership model at both municipal and provincial levels.
- Forged new and innovative community and educational partnerships, including the marquee program for junior high students at SAIT Polytechnic.
- Hosted more than 1,000 students, parents and special guests including Premier Klein and Dr. Lyle Oberg (Minister of Education) at the grand opening of the new campus in Cougar Ridge.
- Moved into new 120,000 sq.ft Cougar Ridge facility in 2003 and changed our name to the Calgary French & International School. This new branding and image included a new name, logo, colors and uniform to reflect additional languages, expanded programming, new facility and cultural exchanges.
From 2009 to the present: Steady growth
The school continues to experience strong growth, with increased demand and retention in all grades. The Calgary French & International School celebrated 45 years in the 2014-15 school year.
- First Grade 12 graduating class - Class of '10!
- Increased number of preschool, kindergarten and Grade 1 classes
- Our graduating class of 2014 was the largest ever with students attending universities throughout Canada and the US to study business, law, engineering, journalism, science, education, the culinary arts and music.