by: MAYGAN BECKERS - Heritage Elementary students and parents gather and serve a plate of Russian food after presenting individual presentations.Heritage Elementary School fifth-graders and supporting parents gathered at their first Russian Culture Celebration Friday evening to perform presentations and eat two tables full of Russian food.

After one month of Russian history and literature lessons, Heritage students in the bilingual Russian strand fully engaged themselves into the culture. From poets to artists, each student presented their Russian character while clothed in costumes included with paper hats, glasses and paintbrushes.

“They did a really beautiful job and really made a connection,” said Irene Novichihin, principal at Heritage.

Fifth-grade teacher, Liliya Zaltsman, who has taught at Heritage Elementary for 14 years, provided students with books and articles on Russian culture in preparation to create a biographical presentation on their choice of historical figure.

Sherrilynn Rawson, co-principal, mentions that not every student who gave a presentation was a native speaker and admits she wasn’t able to hear the difference between which students had Russian as their first language, and which had it as their heritage MAYGAN BECKERS - Fifth grade Jonathan Swenson plays guitar, as Alejandra Clemens, Swenson's mother, holds the microphone for parents and students to listen while they fill their plates with Russian food.

“I think that speaks well for the program, and for the kids, that they did such a nice job putting on a presentation, you really wouldn’t have known,” she said.

According to Novichihin, Heritage Elementary is the only elementary school that offers a Russian program. Because of the community’s desire, Heritage staff encourages and emphasizes the importance of parent to student connections.

“By seeing how many parents came, it’s a big reward for me,” said Zaltsman.

Tina Frolov, mother of Heritage student Alla Anfilofieff, said she is very proud her daughter can speak fluently in Russian, even though they live in an English world, and that her and her daughter’s work have paid off.

“She loved it, I sort of went all out on her costume,” Frolov said. “She’s having fun. I took half the day off work to come here and it was awesome.”

Zaltsman mentions that she enjoys teaching Russian culture to her students and encourages them to continue as they further their education.

“If we don’t do Russian culture, they will not take Russian classes once they go to middle school or high school,” says Zaltsman. “I want them to know a little bit of history so they can continue.”

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