Samuel House: a pioneering new boarding house for Grade 8 students

On Tuesday, March 1, 2022 the Shawnigan Lake School community came together for a very special St. David’s Day Chapel service full of powerful songs, stories, and poetry. The service, which celebrates the patron saint of Wales, was not only a wonderful way to learn more about Welsh culture and history, but it was also the perfect opportunity to honour two Shawnigan legends (and proud Welsh nationals), Gaynor and Rhodri Samuel, through the announcement of Samuel House, a new co-educational Grade 8 boarding house named in their honour.
The standing ovation said it all.

Although it is something they would never ask for or expect, this honour is much deserved – Gaynor and Rhodri have dedicated their lives to the School for nearly 30 years and have come to embody the true soul of Shawnigan. Universally admired within and beyond the School, they have provided leadership and trusted mentorship in a variety of roles. From Gaynor’s roles as Renfrew House Director, self-proclaimed “House Mother” of Ripley’s House, and her current role as Executive Director of Admissions, to Rhod’s roles as biology teacher, Ripley’s House Director, 1st XV boys’ rugby coach, and his current roles as Senior Master and Director of Alumni Engagement, they have been an inspiration to the Shawnigan family for decades.

Gaynor and Rhod have also been staunch supporters of the Grade 8 experience at Shawnigan and have contributed to the design of the current program as well as the direction in which it is heading.

Samuel House marks the next phase in the evolution of Shawnigan’s carefully crafted Grade 8 program. The School has worked hard to create a nurturing environment for our youngest students as part of their first step in the Shawnigan Journey – a path that intentionally takes students through their five years at the School. The foundational Grade 8 year has been designed as a safe landing pad as they find their way in a new environment as well as a supportive springboard into the wider Shawnigan community.
Rather than being immersed in senior Houses from the beginning, our Grade 8 students currently start their Shawnigan Journey in dedicated Grade 8 Houses with their peers: Stanton for girls and Levien for boys. The success of this approach has been so remarkable that it has fast became apparent that a new Grade 8 boarding house should become Shawnigan’s top priority – and thus Samuel House was born.

Samuel House will bring together Stanton and Levien Houses in a new and pioneering way through the creation of Shawnigan’s first co-educational boarding house – the first of its kind for this grade level in Canada. With one wing for girls and one wing for boys, the House is designed to unify the Grade 8 class to a degree that has not yet been seen at Shawnigan. The design includes intentional gathering spaces in the middle, which will allow students to cook, eat, socialize, and study together – in short, to allow them to come together as a family. The benefits of this family model are diverse and unparalleled. It will foster healthy relationships, instill respect, and ultimately it will create a strong grade culture, leading to friendships that are sure to last the whole Shawnigan Journey – and probably a lifetime.
Supportive staff have been key to the success of Stanton and Levien Houses, and they will remain at the heart of Samuel House. Each wing will have three dedicated staff families, for a total of six staff families in the House – an unprecedented number for Shawnigan and one that ensures that the appropriate care, guidance and supervision are delivered. The Grade 8s will have further support from live-in Grade 11 students who will act as mentors, building off the model already implemented in Stanton that has seen such great success.
The House will have many ties to Welsh culture and history as part of its celebration of the Samuel legacy. Gaynor and Rhod have chosen a one word motto for the House: Cartref (pronounced “cat-rev”), which is Welsh for “A Loving Community” – representing the nurturing home-away-from-home that the Grade 8 students will experience. The House symbol will be a dragon, steeped in Welsh history and literature, and the House hymn will be Calon Lan, the chorus of which is traditionally sung in Welsh at Shawnigan. The Stanton and Levien colours of pink and brown will combine to form the Samuel House colours.

The emergence of Stanton and Levien in recent years has generated nothing but positive responses from parents, students, and staff, and the School has been overwhelmed by the elated reactions of our entire Shawnigan community upon the announcement of Samuel House. We are thrilled to be entering this new era at Shawnigan.
To learn more about Samuel House, our Grade 8 program, the legacy of the Samuels, or how to support this exciting initiative, please visit the Samuel House webpage.
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.