Strawberry Hill Elementary School’s inspiring murals steeped in story of being an immigrant

All photos by Chandra Bodalia
All photos by Chandra Bodalia


Strawberry Hill Elementary School



STRAWBERRY Hill Elementary School had undertaken a Social Responsibility Goal of Respect yourself, others and property two years ago. Part of this goal was to create places and spaces for kids to respect. Thus, began a Beautification Project that included creating murals to depict the life of a typical immigrant to this Newton neighbourhood.

The school mascot, the Jaguar, was used as a metaphor to show this journey.  Each mural shows the struggles and the triumphs of that immigrant family which goes through the process of an extended family and then back to the nuclear family. As kids (the Jaguar Cubs) become full-fledged citizens of this beautiful land, they take part in the cultural norms and the established traditions while maintaining their own identity and culture.

Each mural was given two words that guide and shape the students’ character as they make sense of their life. So, in five murals the 10 words selected were: Courage, Challenges, Compassion, Commitment, Pride, Perseverance, Loyalty, Leadership, Respect and Responsibility. Each word was selected, described and expected to be part of each child’s makeup.
Needless to say, the murals have added much to the outside appearance of the school and have become a great discussion piece for passers-by.


VOICE adds:


STRAWBERRY Hill school at 7633 124th Street is the Surrey School District’s elementary school with the highest proportion of students from families where Punjabi is the language spoken at home (94 per cent of the school population). The school murals, steeped in the story of being an immigrant, were unveiled on Wednesday.

With the help of an artist and students, five murals were created for the outside walls.


PRINCIPAL Randhawa was one of the 51 educators selected as Canada’s Outstanding Principals for 2013 by The Learning Partnership. He was the only South Asian among the 51 principals from across Canada, and one of only three chosen from B.C. for this prestigious award.
Randhawa came to Canada in 1970 from Punjab’s Nawanshahr.
His grandfather came to Canada in 1938 and his father followed in 1950. He arrived in Canada in 1970 with his mother and brother. The family lived in Tahsis, a village on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where he attended Captain Meares High School.

Raminder Randhawa Photo submitted
Raminder Randhawa
Photo submitted

After graduation, he went to UBC where he earned his Bachelor’s in International Relations. He was keen to work with Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department. But after many unsuccessful attempts, he started to work with children who had learning difficulties and disabilities.

After five years of working with those kids, he went back to UBC to complete his teacher training degree and graduated with a B. Ed. in 1990. Since then, he has been working with the Surrey School District, at the elementary level. In 1998, he went back to UBC to complete his Master’s in Administration and Leadership. He took courses throughout the year while teaching and in the summer.

Randhawa became a vice principal in 2000. When he became a principal three years later, his first assignment was to open the Traditional Program at the Cloverdale Traditional School. Then he was transferred to Cougar Creek in Newton where he was principal from 2006 to 2011. Since 2011, he’s been at Strawberry Hill Elementary School.


  1. Unveiling of the First Mural

Shawn Wilson (School Board Chairperson) and Rick Ryan (Deputy Superintendent). Paahul (grade 7 student) spoke about Courage and Challenges and Mrs. Chhabra, a Kindergarten parent and PAC Vice Chair, spoke about immigrating to Canada.


  1. Unveiling of the Second Mural

Mrs. Atwal (PAC Treasurer), Mrs. Mann (PAC President), together with Joban and Shayna (Kindergarten students). Saad (grade 7 student) spoke on Compassion and Commitment.


  1. Unveiling of the Third Mural

Laurae McNally (School Trustee) and Karen Steffensen (Assistant Superintendent). Harman (grade 7 student) spoke on Pride and Perseverance. Deqa, Fouad and Juliet from the Welcome Centre shared the perspective of our African families.


  1. Unveiling of the Fourth Mural

Mrs. Bogress (grade 3 teacher), Mrs. Teranishi (LST teacher) and Mr. Sandhu (grade 7 teacher). Taljit (grade 7 student) spoke on Loyalty and Leadership.


  1. Unveiling of the Fifth Mural

Grade 7 students who have been here since pre-school days. Khadija (grade 7 student) spoke on Respect and Responsibility.