The Shannon Sharp Learning Circle is now ready to fulfill its namesake’s legacy, to teach and to love.
Family, friends, co-workers, members of the Secwe̓pemc First Nation and representatives from the Armstrong Regional Co-op gathered to officially open the learning circle built in Shannon Sharp’s memory.
The ceremony took place Friday, Sept. 28, behind Salmon Arm West Elementary, on the steps of the learning circle.
Shannon Sharp was a well-loved School District 83 teacher who spent more than 30 years in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District and died due to cancer on Jan. 8 at 56 years of age.
The circle was completed after nine months of construction, half the time than what was expected.
The structure would not have been built without community donations, including $30,000 from the Armstrong Regional Co-op.
The shape of 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 Secwe̓pemc heritage, and the design of the structure reflects Indigenous traditions.
Soon after the ceremony started, there were few dry eyes in the crowd.
Sharon Langlois, Shannon’s co-worker and best friend, was the master-of-ceremonies for the event.
Her voice cracked with emotion as she mentioned those who helped make the dream a reality.
“All of Shannon’s family have been extremely supportive financially and emotionally,” Langlois said.
Kim Rasilainen, Shannon’s sister, read a passage from Embers, a book written by one of Shannon’s favourite authors Richard Wagamese.
Jennifer went on to say that the building of the circle has helped the family heal and has eased their collective grief.
“Building the Shannon Sharp learning circle has allowed all of us to reunite with our spirit and rejoice in the life that she had that has left us with so many beautiful memories,” Kim said.
“We as a family are deeply grateful and eternally thankful for the many people and working hands that have so generously, not only from their pockets but their hearts, given to see this amazing project to completion.
“Shannon would have been so pleased and overwhelmed at such a feat of people fundraising and people caring so deeply about this circle.”
Next, the crowd listened to one of Shannon’s favourite songs, Wonderland. This song choice was especially meaningful to those who knew Shannon well as she often referred to the Shuswap as her wonderland.