Meet our new houseparents for Victoria House: Kim Meredith & Madu Suzuki. Whenever you speak to either one of them you can’t help but notice their deep connection to the College, their love for each other and their passion for languages, dance and supporting students each in their individual ways.
With a smile in her eye, Kim once put it like this: “Imagine this circle is the world. It is pretty awesome in itself. Within this circle is Pearson College, which is even more awesome. This circle are the students, who support each other, being friends, language buddies, roommates and faculty members, staff and residents. The inner circle transforms themselves through their experience here and when Pearson College UWC students and alumni go back home to their communities, they transform the world.”
Madu adds, “I love to connect with students. Especially the ones who struggle with English. They come to our home and we talk, laugh, cook and share Japanese meals together. I am amazed at how they figure out how to live together; Four students to a room, from four different countries with four completely different backgrounds.”
Kim’s tenure with Pearson College started in 2008 as a Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership (PSYL) coordinator as she has been coming back to this program ever since. In 2014 Kim jumped at the opportunity to be even more involved with students when she became a faculty member, teaching English and subsequently moved onto campus with her partner Madu.
While Calgary House was being renovated in 2014, Kim and Madu lived in the houseparent suite. After completion they moved over to the pool house. When the opportunity came up to become houseparents for Victoria House in 2017, it only seemed to be the logical next step for them. “Through my involvement with PSYL, I knew that some of the most meaningful learning happened in the residences and I felt the urge to be involved with students learning experience outside of the classroom”, Kim explains.
“Being houseparents brings this whole new level of interaction with the students for us. It is simply inspiring”, Madu states. “You don’t just show up to be a houseparent. Students make you a houseparent!”
“Students are allowed to make their own decisions. At the beginning of the academic year, they created a room manifesto together, where they sketched out what kind of room they wanted, what the rules where etc. They have so much more freedom than I was given growing up in the Japanese school system. Students at Pearson are supported by teachers and the adult community, not led by them.”
According to Kim and Madu, the most crucial piece to this education is that it helps students to form their own identity through the decisions they make. They experience independence within a framework that cares for their security and wellbeing.
And how did Kim and Madu meet?
Madu and Kim met on the Peace Boat, a Japanese NGO that circumnavigates the globe to learn and teach about peace. Onboard, Madu, with her extensive background in professional dance, was teaching hip hop and learning about the origins and role of dance in each port; Kim was teaching English and learning about communication beyond words.
Beyond Pearson, Madu is the owner and instructor at Movement Dance Studio in Metchosin where she teaches about 8 classes per week. In addition to that, she has taken up teaching dance at a local high school. Kim enjoys sharing the results of her PhD research on creating linguistically inclusive communities at conferences.
And amidst all the teaching, and being houseparents to about 35 teenagers, how do they juggle having time to themselves?
“In general, our door is open. Every day. When it is closed, it means we are either not here or need some time to ourselves”, Kim explains.
Juggling two jobs is crazy in a very joyous way, she adds. It gives both women the opportunity to be so uniquely integrated into the Pearson life.
“Being a teacher and a houseparent gives me the bigger picture. I can see the full flow of this student-centered education model and I am very grateful for that.”