Student at desk in box: a history of the School District 57 logo
Plus some alternative scenarios for the l'il guy
Hello, Andrew here. Today, I’m excited to share the second-ever guest post here on Northern Capital News — and it’s a fun one! After School District 57 announced and subsequently scrapped plans to update its name and visual identity, I remembered educator Glen Thielmann posting about his efforts to learn about the history of the little stickman logo that currently represents the district. You know, this guy:
As it turns out, he’s not only been continuing the investigation but also coming up with all sorts of adventures for this logo to get into. So that’s the subject of today’s post, but first the news:
Hey, it’s cold
A 98-year-old weather record was broken yesterday and so were a lot of water pipes. It was chaos at the Vancouver airport which means people are organizing rides and even trying to charter a bus to get get home for the holidays. The cold can be deadly so drop-in shelters are extending their hours. Don’t do this. Maybe do this? Stay warm. Be good to each other.
No more jokes about flying high as a proposed cannabis shop at the Prince George airport has been called off.
RCMP are investigating the sexual assault of a teenager.
A stray puppy is expected to survive after being found in the woods.
Alright, that’s it for me: Over to Glen.
Student at desk in box: a history of the School District 57 logo
By: Glen Thielmann
Some time around 2005, when I was teaching at D.P. Todd Secondary, I was in a meeting for school-based leaders in Sschool District 57 (SD57) Prince George. We were discussing how learning at all levels was supported in the school district, and what our ideas were for transformative changes to our collective approaches.
Our meeting facilitator and the district’s Director of Instruction at the time, Bonnie Chappell, made a comment that stuck with me: “I wonder if it is hard for students, staff, and the public to take any efforts at transformation seriously when our logo is a little fellow sitting alone, with bad posture, at a desk, in a box.”
She thought we should break the little fellow out of the box.
It brought back memories of my own experience as a student in SD57 schools from Grades 1 through 12, seeing the logo from time to time and identifying with their frustration and sense of containment.
At that meeting in 2005, we joked about the little fellow re-arranging the furniture, breaking out of the box, and so on. In years that followed, I would doodle some alternatives, and often send them around on letterhead in replace of the classic Student at Desk in Box.
I asked my father, who was a teacher in SD57 for most of his career, what he knew about the logo. His recollection was that a member of the Curriculum & Instruction staff was sent to a conference in the United States in the late 1960s and came across the classic logo in use by the local school jurisdiction, admiring its simplicity and direct message. He took a copy back to Prince George and turned it over to the draftsperson (yes, the district had one back then) to render into a useable copy for SD57, and it has been the district’s logo ever since.
With its clean lines, the everyman qualities of a Mr. PG, and ability to conjure all of our memories of desk-bound boredom in our Grade 3 class, it could be argued that Student at Desk at Box is in fact a suiting symbol for public schooling of days gone by.
SD57 has not really attempted to replace the logo in the many years that have passed since they apparently pilfered the original design from some long-forgotten source in the U.S.
However, they stopped using the little fellow for most communications, notably online, about ten years ago. In its place they have used a representation of an evergreen tree – perhaps this was a mighty spruce in what we used to call the Spruce Capital of the World?
When the tree first appeared on the district website, I thought, for a moment, that they had finally redesigned the logo, but this was too good to be true. I did a quick image search, “conifer tree logo” or such, and did not see it at first. But when I added “free,” sure enough, it was the first result that popped up: downloadable clip-art. Once again, an origin story that leaves much to be desired.
I’ve heard that the district was in discussions with its own Indigenous Education Department about taking up their logo as the logo for the whole district, but that does not seem to have had traction as it never came to be, and we are still stuck with the little tree or the kid in a box.
Too bad, because the Indigenous Education logo is fantastic and carries an abundance of meaning. More recently, SD57 has launched a survey with the intended outcome of a new logo, and indeed a new name for the entire school district that moves beyond “Prince George” to include a broader identity that references other communities such as Mackenzie, McBride, and Valemount, and the Indigenous nations of Lheidli T’enneh, McLeod Lake Indian Band, and Simpcw First Nation.
On Dec 13th, 2022, however, the school board trustees voted 4-3 to abandon the rebranding campaign.
While the politics going on with this decision are fascinating, and even disturbing, I’ll leave that analysis to someone else. I will, however, leave off with an array of some satirical interpretations of the Student at Desk at Box, as well as the other logos mentioned above. I should also point to this webpage that provides a look at ALL of the school district logos in BC: https://www.thielmann.ca/bcschooldistricts.html.
School districts rebrand all the time, and while it is uncommon for them to change their name, there are many directions to take in terms of logos.
SD57, like other school districts, is a place of diversity and depth; A past, present, and future home of learning that is increasingly inclusive and responsive to the needs of society.
Each of us can likely look back on our time in schools with a mix of what could have been and what it actually was, with a full spectrum of emotions such as boredom to challenge, tears to laughter, loneliness to friendship, abstract to practical, and fear to belonging. We need a logo that reflects a better journey, an aspiration for “learning that enriches the life of each student,” which, last I checked, was the school district’s motto.
Let us hope that someday soon, SD57 can break open the box and let the little fellow out.
There are so many places they could go!
Glen Thielmann is a multi-generational teacher, Sasquatch impersonator, and life-long resident of Prince George.
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Well put, Glen...
This TED Talk could maybe also teach us some lessons about identity... https://youtube.com/watch?v=pnv5iKB2hl4&feature=share