The Beginnings of Ukrainian Education in Cleveland

According to sources, the first immigrant from Ukraine arrived in Cleveland in 1884. Already in 1910, at the parish of Sts. Peter and Paul in Cleveland, the first courses were created to teach children the Ukrainian language. After WWI the so-called “second wave” of Ukrainian immigrants arrived. Political and cultural centers were formed, which in 1928 united into a single community organization called United Ukrainian Organizations (UZO) of Greater Cleveland. The history of Ukrainian education is closely tied to the political, community, and cultural life of Ukrainians.

The third wave of Ukrainian immigrants arrived after WWII and was comprised of many well-educated people, among whom were specialists of various professions, including teachers, who became the organizers of Ukrainian education in Cleveland. In 1949, the head of the organization “Prosvita” Hryhoriy Bobkiv, together with the enthusiast Mykhaylina Stavnycha, proposed the creation of courses in Ukrainian studies.

In October of 1950 the courses in Ukrainian studies officially began. Almost simultaneously a Supplementary school was founded, with classes for children through Grade 4. Classes took place in the parish hall of Sts. Peter & Paul. Beginning with the 1952-53 school year, these two institutions merged under the name Courses of Ukrainian Studies.

Recalling the activities of the association “Ridna Shkola” in Western Ukraine, in 1953 enthusiasts of Ukrainian education adopted the same name and created an association in Cleveland. In 1954 the Courses of Ukrainian Studies came under the auspices of “Ridna Shkola” and the name was officially changed to “School of Ukrainian Studies”.

1953 – 1993

During the 1953-54 school year, under the leadership of the Ukrainian Educational Council — UCCA, designated pedagogues developed academic programs and textbooks which became a model for Ukrainian studies programs across the US. As a result, “Ridna Shkola” in conjunction with the School of Ukrainian Studies in Cleveland joined the Ukrainian Educational Council, and the educational program was reorganized. Initially the lower grades consisted of Grades 1, 2, 3 an 4, while the “middle” consisted of just Grade 5, but gradually over the years a higher level of education was developed. In 1963, the 11-year program was instituted, with three levels of education: the lower level–Grades 1, 2, 3, 4; the middle level– Grades 5, 6, 7, 8; and the upper level–Grades 9, 10, 11. Based on the proposition of the Ukrainian Educational Council, beginning with the 1966-67 school year, a program was started for kindergarten, which functioned as a preparatory program and became, essentially, the foundation of Ridna Shkola.

Through 1960, the School of Ukrainian Studies held classes at the facility of an American public school in Tremont (in Cleveland); in September 1960 the school began utilizing public school buildings in Parma, including Shiloh Middle School, and later Normandy High School.

1993 – 2017

With the advent of Ukraine’s Independence, a fourth wave of Ukrainian immigrants began arriving in Cleveland. Among them were teachers, who expressed a desire to teach at “Ridna Shkola”. Accordingly, many highly qualified educators from Ukraine joined the school’s staff, with degrees in education and familiarity with pedagogy in Ukraine. Eventually teachers from Ukraine assumed the majority of positions at the school. Based on the skills and professional knowledge of the educators from Ukraine, the school focused on improving the quality of education and improving pedagogical methods for teaching various subjects, while taking into consideration the teaching methodology in American schools.

Since September 2010, classes are held at the school building on the premises of St. Josaphat Cathedral in Parma. Modern means of communication, evolving computer technology, closer relations with an independent Ukraine, and varying levels of language training among children in the same class require teachers to constantly update their teaching methods to make education accessible, understandable, and interesting for every student.

In 2006 the school expanded its program to include preschool. Spending the day in a Ukrainian-language environment, children between 3-4 years of age begin to master the language through various games and activities.

On the school premises is also a hall with a stage, which has allowed the school to vastly improve the quality of school holiday celebrations. In 2006 music was added to the academic program, along with the formation of a drama troupe, with classes taking place in the hall.

Continuing established school traditions, Ukrainian national holidays were incorporated into the schedule (Lystopadove sviato, commemorating Western Ukraine’s declaration of Independence in November 1918; Sichnevi rokovyny, commemorating the union of Western Ukraine and Eastern Ukraine in January 1919; Shevchenkivske sviato, commemorating Ukrainian poet and activist Taras Shevchenko), along with Yalynky (Christmas celebrations) and Day of Youth. From the time that a section of State Road was officially designated “Ukrainian Village”, our school participates in the annual parade commemorating Ukraine’s Independence. The school’s website, created in 1998, has become an important resource for the school, allowing a regular exchange of information and resources between teachers and students.

Our teachers are not only continuing the traditions of the school, but are also making a valuable contribution to education and the upbringing of a younger generation, ensuring it always remembers Ukraine and contributes to Ukraine’s continuing rebirth. Thanks to the work of many enthusiasts, teachers, volunteers, parents and our students, the School of Ukrainian Studies “Ridna Shkola” is now its seventh decade of existence.