A tribute to a well-loved School District 83 teacher will provide students at Salmon Arm West Elementary a place to learn and express themselves under the peaks of the Shuswap mountains she loved so much.
Shannon Sharp, a teacher who spent more than 30 years in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District, died due to cancer on Jan. 8 at 56 years old. To honour her memory and carry forward her passion for the outdoors and education, her co-workers and family are raising funds to install the Shannon Sharp Learning Circle.
Shannon had a vision to enable outdoor learning at Salmon Arm West, a vision that was shared by fellow teacher Sharon Langlois, who is spearheading this tribute.
“When she came here, we were talking about making a little place behind the school where we could hang tarps and use bales of hay for benches, it was nothing to the scale of what this will be … but I think she would be thrilled,” Langlois said.
Shannon’s husband, Troy, and children Jared and Jennifer, were surprised to hear of the memorial project, and feel deeply honoured by the tribute.
“It means a great deal to us, we want to jump on board right now and help make this a reality. We are going to be with it the whole way until this goal is met, until this thing is finished. We are committed to this and it means a lot to us,” Troy said.
Shannon taught for many years at Bastion Elementary, before making the move to Salmon Arm West four years ago. She immediately received a warm welcome, gaining the affectionate nickname Auntie Sharp.
The learning circle is meant to reflect Shannon’s love of the outdoors and her dream of providing an outdoor space where students and teachers can gather to share knowledge, stories and meals. It also symbolizes Shannon’s connection with her Metis and Secwepemc heritage, and the design of the structure will reflect Indigenous traditions. Four posts will mark the four directions and the four mountains surrounding the Shuswap: Larch Hills, Mount Ida, Fly Hills and Bastion Mountain.
Local organizations and volunteers have already been stepping up to offer their help, including a $1,000 contribution from the Salmon Arm Metis Society in Shannon’s name. Troy and the Sharp family have also made their own contribution, and will stand behind the project until completion.
In the coming months, there are plans in the works to host fundraising events such as dances or other community gatherings. For now, there is a GoFundMe page set up for the project, which can be found by visiting gofundme.com and searching for the Shannon Sharp Learning Circle. Donations are also being accepted at Salmon Arm West Elementary.