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‘A beautiful dedication to a beautiful person’; Kelowna school opens new outdoor space

Pearson Road Elementary opens new space in honour of Isabel Alves-Vicente, currently fighting ALS

Seeing children grow and flourish in the school system has been a passion of a Kelowna teacher for the past 23 years.

It’s fitting then that a beautiful outdoor learning space has been built in honour of her.

For over three years Isabel Alves-Vicente has been fighting ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), a fatal motor neuron disease. However, prior to this her tireless work as a Kindergarten teacher at Pearson Road Elementary School made her beloved by many.

Affectionately known as ‘Miss V’ by most, the new outdoor space was appropriately named Ms. V’s Outdoor Exploration Centre.

Although she couldn’t attend the Nov. 6 opening of the space in person, Alves-Vicente appeared by video and was given a tour of the new space.

She could be heard over the phone thanking everyone for their hard work and dedication, and said she couldn’t wait to see the space when everything is planted in the spring.

READ MORE: Kelowna school to build outdoor exploration centre

Those who graduated from Pearson Road Elementary School years ago fondly remember her as their Kindergarten teacher. And after growing up and sending their children to the same school, they too remembered Alves-Vicente.

“She was beyond loved by the kids. So as they grew through the school, nobody ever forgot her,” said long-time teacher and co-worker, Debbie Dachwitz.

“She always called the kids her family; they were her school family, and they were a family in the classroom.”

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Isabel Alves-Vicente. (Contributed)

Over the years, word of her passion has spread far beyond the students and staff. When the surrounding community first found out about her ALS diagnosis several years ago, they rallied behind her, raising over $35,000 to help cover medical costs.

Due to her disease, Alves-Vicente was forced to leave the school system before she was ready, prior to retirement.

“Ms. V, in my heart, is Pearson (elementary),” said teacher Allison Macafee, who has been friends with Alves-Vicente since she started teaching alongside her 18 years ago.

“(She is the) most loving, passionate, amazing woman you’ll ever meet.”

During the opening, the new space was hailed as a huge win for the school community. It now sits where a run-down playground used to.

Greenhouses, wood planter boxes and an Indigenous garden will be added to the space over time.

Both teachers and students, about 230 K-5 learners at the school, are excited to have an area for outdoor education. It’s well known Alves-Vicente has a green thumb, and believed an outdoor space is something kids would love and enjoy.

“This is an opportunity for learners at Pearson Road for years to come,” said principal Nina Ferguson at the opening.

“Our students are going to have their hands in dirt this year, they’re going to be planting, they’re going to be playing, they’re going to be learning in this space.”

For long time fellow teachers and coworkers of Alves-Vicente, this means a lot.

“I think it’s the perfect thing to dedicate to her, and watch grow, and be beautiful… we made it a beautiful thing, she’s a beautiful person,” said Macafee.

“It’ll be just so nice to come out here and be in the garden, and think of her,” added Dachwitz.

The outdoor centre was budgeted to cost $55,295.36 for construction and site preparation. That cost has been covered by Pearson school funds, parent advisory council support, a grant pending from the Kiwanis Club and volunteer support of labour, expertise and gifts-in-kind.

The project was supported by numerous local companies including Kelowna Ready Mix, Home Hardware, Everlast Greenhouses, BC Fasteners, Pro Source Irrigation, Quality Chain Link Fencing, Nature Works Landscaping, as well as numerous carpenters, and School District 23.

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Phil McLachlan

About the Author: Phil McLachlan

Phil McLachlan is the editor at the Penticton Western News. He served as the reporter, and eventually editor of The Free Press newspaper in Fernie.
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