Poems Inspired by Vivian Jung, from students at Tecumseh Elementary School4 min read

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Image: WEBIA

Vivian Jung, a trailblazing educator, was born in Merritt, BC, in 1924. Breaking barriers, she became the first Chinese-Canadian teacher hired by the Vancouver School Board. However, her journey was marked by discrimination. In the early 1940s, as part of her teacher training, Vivian needed a “swimming lifesaver certificate,” but Vancouver’s public pools were off-limits to non-white individuals.

The discriminatory practices of the time were evident when Vivian was denied entry to the Crystal Pool in 1945. Refusing to accept this injustice, her instructor and classmates staged a protest, refusing to enter the pool until Vivian was allowed to join them. This act of solidarity marked the beginning of desegregation in Vancouver’s public spaces.

Vivian’s perseverance paid off when she received her swimming certification. This victory not only allowed her to complete her teacher training but also symbolized the triumph over racial discrimination. With her certificate in hand, Vivian embarked on a remarkable 35-year career as a teacher at Tecumseh Elementary School.

Her impact extended beyond the classroom. Vivian proved to be a successful coach and an active member of her community. She volunteered for various local organizations and taught Tai Chi, leaving a lasting impression on those around her.

Image: WEBIA

In 2012, the City of Vancouver recognized Vivian’s contributions by naming a lane in the West End after her—Jung Lane. This honor was part of the city’s initiative to increase the diversity of its street names and celebrate individuals who had significantly contributed to Vancouver’s rich tapestry of history and culture.

Vivian’s story is a testament to resilience and determination in adversity. Despite facing discrimination, she refused to be sidelined. Her courage and activism were pivotal in challenging the status quo and advocating for equality.

Her legacy extends beyond her accomplishments as an educator and community leader. Vivian’s actions sparked change, paving the way for future generations of Chinese-Canadians and inspiring others to stand up against injustice.

The recognition of Vivian Jung’s achievements serves as a reminder of the progress made in the fight against discrimination and the ongoing work needed to create a more inclusive society. Her story resonates not only with the Chinese-Canadian community but with all those who believe in the power of solidarity and the pursuit of justice.

Tecumseh Elementary School is organizing a special commemoration of Vivian Jung this year and next, including commissioning a mural, and setting up a Vivian Jung Award.  The grade 5/6 class of teacher Thomas Aaron Larson will soon be publishing a poetry chapbook with poems generated with the assistance of Vancouver’s 6th Poet Laureate, Fiona Tinwei Lam. Tecumseh Elementary School has set up a Facebook page for more information and wishes to reach out to people who may have known or been taught by Vivian


It all starts small

The pungent smell of chlorine filled the building
Water as shiny as a crystal ball
Everyone wanted to go in, but not everyone could

She was one of many people
Who were barred by racist policies
So hopeless, but she had hope

Witnesses chose to help
Her friends stood up for her
Refused to enter without her

And the coach ready to cancel the lifesaving course

Like a bright star shining in the night sky
With this small act the community grew larger
Voices grew louder

Until the rule was abolished

– Kaiden Campos (Grade 5, Tecumseh Elementary)




Crystal Pool

Crystal Pool was a shimmering,
Shining pool of dreams for those
Of the correct race

Fancy rectangular pool
Only open two hours a week
For those considered unclean

Who weren’t allowed in
To swim in those pristine waters
All other days

We people of colour belong here!
We should be able to swim
In your crystal, clear water

We too are Canadians!

Angel Ma (Grade 5, Tecumseh Elementary)




Our Hero

How she stood there
Standing up for herself and others
Against the colour ban.

That courage to say
“We are equal”
A real hero

Even though she left this earth
We will still remember
Her gift of bravery

This will never be forgotten
The time she said

“We are equal”

– Sei Murata (Grade 6, Tecumseh Elementary)


The City of Vancouver’s Poet Laureate Fiona Lam worked with a class at Tecumseh Elementary School this past Fall and Spring on a commemoration of Vivian Jung, who helped end the segregation policy and colour ban at the former Crystal Pool at Sunset Beach in November 1945.    As Fiona is working on a poem about Vivian Jung, she encouraged  the students to also write poems too about Vivian and the incident.

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