“It’s all about building awareness in our student body,” explains SABS Founder and Director Stephanie Kane. Awareness pertaining to social, international and environmental stewardship drives the curriculum and culture of the school. The level of academic excellence represented by SABS sets a standard to which any school around the world should aspire. A show of hands in a Comparative Government class showed students from the US, Senegal, Zambia, Nigeria, Gambia, Congo, the United Kingdom and The Ivory Coast. A show of hands in a Computer Science class revealed that each student speaks at least two languages and several of them speak as many as seven languages! In addition to traditional subject matter, classes of 20-25 students are privy to an academic program filled with opportunity for hands-on learning about relevant global issues such as human rights and equality, agriculture, coastal erosion, saving mangrove forests and more.
The diverse staff at the school provides the necessary structure and support for the unique cultural needs of its student body. One Senegalese-born 9th grader named Aminata attended grade school in Massachusetts and returned to SABS for high school. She described her experience with schooling in the US as less than satisfactory. “SABS is a place where I finally feel like I belong,” she explains, “When you come to Africa from America, you’re labeled as an American- and when you come to America from Africa, you’re labeled as an African. I used to feel like I could never fit in…” Students like Aminata, who have lived in different continents and cultures are normal kids here. The fact that so many of SABS’ teachers received degrees from institutions abroad offers students great support and makes the concept of “being global” a reality.
Many teachers here are former SABS students themselves, who returned after college graduation to give back to the institution. The once student-now teacher return is seen as the best way to pay back a debt of charity. SABS graduates don’t come back to teach for big paychecks- they come back out of personal obligation- and are passing on their global views to the next generation.
The grassroots development of SABS over past two decades is largely due to the tenacity and optimism of founder Stephanie Kane. Born in America, Stephanie arrived in Senegal with her husband almost 30 years ago and began looking for a good school for her youngest daughter. It was the combination of her daughter refusing to separate from mama to attend school (she laughs when she describes the tantrums which sealed her fate) and the fact that she was unable to find a good bilingual program, which conceived Kane’s next baby, named SABS. “I don’t come from a teaching background,” explains Kane, “so this is truly my mother’s mission- she was a teacher who really, really loved education. She worked at SABS for 15 years.”
Part of Kane’s administrative philosophy is that funds must always be reinvested back into the school and into professional development for her staff. A warm, synergistic and collaborative working environment with high employee retention is a direct result of this philosophy. Today, 20 years later, Kane’s daughter who inspired her mother to found SABS now works alongside her mother, giving back as a bilingual teacher for the high school. Kane has four daughters and each of them has come back to the school to work for at least one full school year between their undergraduate studies and Master’s programs.
Bilingual education transcends cultural and geographical barriers and it creates understanding, awareness, and global citizenship. At B.I.G. our goal is to highlight those people and organizations that share our values and mission. The Senegalese American Bilingual School and their dedication to excellence in education have made them leaders in our international black community. We see the founder, Stephanie Kane, her staff and students as the embodiment of our goals.