Children have the right to determine the course of their own lives, according to Diane Swiatek, founder and director of Banbury Crossroads School, a private self-directed learning school that allows students to work at their own pace and uses a tutorial method rather than lectures.
Born in Taber, Swiatek grew up in Calgary. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and English, a Bachelor of Education degree, and an Early Childhood Services diploma, all from the University of Calgary. She established Banbury Crossroads School 35 years ago.
In 2010, Swiatek received a Woman of Vision Award from the YWCA of Calgary and Global Calgary.
Q How would you describe yourself?
A I’ve always been known as an idealist. I’m a person who is driven by a dream, who will sacrifice for that vision.
Q What was your first job?
A A singer. I was in a folk group called the Bonnie Folk, in Calgary. My first teaching job was working with the Edmonton Catholic School District.
Q What attracted you to working in education?
A I love being with children.
Q Why did you decide to establish Banbury Crossroads School?
A When I read Summerhill, by Scottish educator A.S. Neill, I realized that adults choose how they treat children and how they design schools. It means that parenting and mentoring children is a matter of choosing philosophy and principles, and acting so as to live out those principles. A.S. Neill said that children have a right to be happy. He also said that children should have the right to determine the course of their own lives, as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others. That is the basis of democracy and also mutual respect.
That’s why I wanted a school where kids could live that way. I wanted to give them an opportunity for a different type of education, where they could be happy, engrossed in what they were doing and visible as individuals.
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