When the Vancouver Canucks drafted Daniel Sedin in the first round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, they knew they were getting an all-star caliber player born to score goals and rack up points.
He’s done just that over eight seasons with the Canucks to the tune of 179 goals and 462 points in 642 games.
Daniel has provided more highlights than the TSN Honor Roll over the years – refer to Monday’s game against Calgary for the most recent examples – but for as much of a difference as Daniel has made on the ice, his wife Marinette has accomplished just as much off of it.
When Marinette moved to Canada from Sweden in 2000, she was understandably a bit lost. She felt out of place doing even the most routine things because with a different culture comes a different way of doing things. It didn’t help that Marinette didn’t speak English as fluently as she would have liked, despite learning it back home. She knew enough to get by.
The 29-year-old’s adjustment was difficult to say the least, but she persevered through it and is now helping women who are going through the same experience.
Marinette has been volunteering with the Canucks Family Education Centre (CFEC) for over a year now and she’s already made a world of difference to women in need of help transitioning to the English language.
The Partners in Education family literacy program that Marinette spends time in twice a week doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The free ESL (English as a Second Language) class, which works predominately with Spanish speaking women, starts with the basics and steadily more and more is added to the program.
One of the unique aspects of the program is that those taking part don’t have to find caregivers for their children. Depending on their age, children are either with their mothers in class or they spend the lesson taking part in the StrongStart literacy program.
The classroom inside of Britannia secondary school isn’t big, but what goes on inside of it is.
“I really enjoy helping others and this program gives me that opportunity,” said Marinette, who earned a degree from UBC shortly after moving to Vancouver, but has never taught before.
“Some of the women here come maybe a month after they’ve come to Canada, they come here and they learn and they speak English after a short amount of time and it’s pretty amazing to see.”
It’s clear from the smile on Marinette’s face that working with the women has filled a void in her life. With Daniel traveling all season and Marinette caring for the couple’s two children, their 4-year-old daughter Ronja and 18-month-old son Erik, this soft-spoken mother needed something to herself.
That led her to the Canucks Family Education Centre and to a sense of fulfillment she never expected.
“In the beginning it was actually mostly for myself because having two kids, you just want to have something for your own. Since I’m here because of my husband, I wanted to find my own thing to do to feel important in other ways,” she said, adding that literacy is often overlooked for people transitioning into new places.
“It’s easy just to look at the basics like getting people housing and food and stuff like that, but then you have to look at the education and the literacy. That helps people to start school and to do more things and help others and help their children.”
Fortunately it isn’t just Marinette benefiting from the experience, the women she works with are as well.
Jean Rasmussen is the director of Canucks Family Education Centre, which opened in 2002 after the Canucks recognized a need to improve family literacy in Greater Vancouver.
She speaks of CFEC, which delivers four targeted programs serving over 500 children and families in seven elementary school literacy centres in Vancouver's eastside, with extreme pride. Having seen it grown monumentally over the years, Rasmussen knows the importance of having people like Marinette on board to keep it going strong.
“We love her, she is just fantastic,” gloated Rasmussen. “She’s so unassuming and very sweet and they know it, and she creates an environment that’s really safe for them.
“She has such joy with the families and she wants them to succeed and you can see that in the way that she interacts with them.”
It’s important to note that Marinette’s students love her for her, not her last name, which can be difficult to escape in hockey-crazed Vancouver.
“For the longest time they didn’t know that she was married to one of the twins, because we really wanted to provide an opportunity for her to work with the families in her own right.
“They were all surprised when they found out because they’re all Canucks fans.”
Rasmussen isn’t the only one with nothing but good to say of the work Marinette has done, Daniel is quick to point out that his wife is a natural teacher and that she gave him quite a few lessons when the high-school sweethearts first arrived in Vancouver.
“She was a big help and now she’s really into helping others with their transition and I think it’s great,” said Daniel.
“She really likes it and she did the same thing back in Sweden this summer as well, so it’s something she might think about doing more and more.”
Click here for more information on the Canucks Family Education Centre and its programs.