Last week, our Thames Valley administrators and senior team members gathered for the first time since August 2019 for our Annual General Meeting, which included recognition of those leaders who about to embark on the exciting world of retirement. Although I was unable to join the celebration in person, I did not want to miss out on the opportunity to celebrate my colleagues ~ many of whom have had such an important impact on my career as both a school and system leader.
I first met Jennifer Ardnt when she was the principal at Cartier. We were implementing a new program to support our multilingual learners whereby they spent the first half of their day in the LEARN program, focusing on literacy and numeracy with a specialized educator. Jennifer was quick to make the necessary facility changes to ensure the best possible learning environment for her students. As we walked the halls of her school, it was evident that her students loved her.
Linda Carswell was the host principal at Woodland Heights when we first met. Although the details of the session have escaped my memory, the passion with which she highlighted the work of her team left an imprint. Years later we came to work together as members of the Learning Supervisor team at the Board office. Linda is retiring from White Oaks school ~ one of our largest and most complex schools in our system. I have watched in awe as she has systematically shifted the culture in her school. Linda has been a wonderful mentor to so many vice principals and the White Oaks school community will miss her dearly.
Ron Duffy and I were partners in one of the many system mentor programs over the years. It was so evident when I first met him, as a VP, that he understood that the role of a leader is to support others and build leadership skills for the next generation of leaders. There have been several VPs who have benefitted from his tremendous mentorship. He is retiring from Wilfrid Jury ~ a school community that holds a very special place in my heart. They will miss his kindness, his vision, and his spirit.
I have been in awe of Colin Milligan from the first time I met him. Back in 2009 as I transitioned in the role of Principal at Wilfrid Jury, Colin and I were members of the OPC mentorship program. It was a very structured program which included lots of meetings and professional readings. Colin is one of those intelligent individuals who can quote chapter and verse of a book or article. Something that I have to master. He not only has a deep understanding of school improvement planning and vision, but he can also teach others how to personalize it for their school communities in a way that is so comprehensive. He is one of the most respected PQP instructors in our system. So many have had the opportunity to learn from this leader. He leaves a tremendous hole in our system.
And finally, the effervescent, long haired, creative, and inspirational Joe Sheik. The person who makes everyone feel like they are his beloved and cherished friend. Joe’s constant advocacy for the Arts and inquiry-based learning are just a few of his signature passions. Years ago, he invited me to join him during a round of interviews. His style is unique, and he has a wonderful way of building team. I continue to admire the lengths to which he will go to engage his community ~ nobody rocks a Cat in the Hat costume like Joe, and no one is better at visioning and building an outdoor learning environment. Never one to shy away from asking the important and thought-provoking questions, there is no doubt that he is going to be tremendously missed within our organization.
School systems are only truly strengthened by the leaders who work tirelessly to embrace, support, and build school communities. These remarkable leaders have selflessly shared their abundance of talents with countless educators, students, and families over the years. Their imprint on each school where they have taught and then led will forever be woven in the tapestry of those school’s history.
I want to thank them for their mentorship, friendship, and endless support. Like so many others, I have learned from their example and will do my best to pay it forward with our future leaders.