When thinking about the setting in which our teachers teach, I have always hoped it will be a place where they will grow and thrive as our students do. Teaching should be a learning experience, which means that woven into the fabric of your chosen profession – your calling, in a school like ours – is the continual inclination toward renewal, self-examination, and fulfillment. Life, having the complicated texture it has, never allows it to be that simple, but underneath that texture I have always hoped that this pattern of renewal and fulfillment will surface.
At different points in their careers, teachers whom one has come to recognize in familiar skins sometimes shed that skin and emerge in new colours, spreading the wings they have been silently growing.
Such is the case with some of our staff at the moment.
Most notably, our Director of Academics, John Liggett, has just been appointed the new Head of School at the Country Day School, an established, thriving school of six hundred students in King City, Ontario, north of Toronto. Director of Academics is a great jumping off point for John’s next move, given the responsibilities of that role at SMUS. During his six years as Director of Academics at St. Michaels University School John has worked remarkably effectively at ensuring the coherence and strength of our curriculum from Kindergarten to Grade Twelve, and at building a commendable and enviable Professional Growth program for our staff, a program that includes extensive professional development opportunities. He has overseen the evolution of our approach to learning, working with all staff to meet the needs of all learners by making use of current practices in assessment and differentiation, and in overseeing the pedagogical implications of recent significant brain research. In addition, he has solidified and strengthened our Advanced Placement program to the point where it is unparalleled in breadth and quality in Canada. This past year twenty-five of our grads were National Merit Scholars – there were only 200 of these scholars across Canada, and our school produced one-eighth of them. Finally, John himself has been an outstanding teacher, setting an excellent classroom example. I ask everyone at SMUS to join me in wishing John, Teresa, and their two boys all the best in their move to Ontario as he takes up the reins of Country Day School next September.
On a slightly different note, our Head of Mathematics, Linda Rajotte, has decided to retire at the end of this year. Linda came to us nine years ago from Georges Vanier Secondary School in Courtney, BC. During her tenure the department has remained strong, and evolved effectively as it has expanded and fulfilled the School’s Mission of “seeking the excellence in all of us”. She is respected both inside the School and outside the School. Her colleagues in the department will miss her guidance, wisdom and expertise, along with her love of Mathematics. Outside the School, Linda is recognized as contributor to the Provincial Mathematics curriculum, provincial examinations, and mathematics textbooks. Throughout her tenure as Head of Mathematics Linda has worked diligently and collaboratively with her colleagues to nurture a spirit of excellence and commitment to students that is exemplary. I thank her deeply for her work here at SMUS.
Although he won’t be leaving us permanently, Greg Marchand will be taking one year’s leave next year and has decided to return in only one portfolio upon his return, that of Grade Advisor for Grade 12. Greg’s two roles of Grade Advisor and Director of University Counselling have expanded significantly since he took over both positions, and it no longer makes sense for one person to occupy both roles. During Greg’s tenure the University Counselling department has expanded its tasks and its personnel, fulfilling the goal of providing unparalleled guidance and advice to our students and their families, increasing the success of our students’ applications for scholarships and financial awards, and extending awareness of our School into the universities to which our students apply. It is safe to say that there is not a School in Canada that has a more effective or more comprehensive University Counselling office than SMUS, and Greg can take considerable credit for the successful evolution of this department.
We have two other staff who will be pursuing their own paths of renewal. Kay Weber, Senior School English teacher, has decided, after two years at SMUS, to pursue her career in Ontario next year. Kay has done professional and committed work over the past two years, and is recognized for her dedication to the students in her classes. Similarly, Susan Anderson, Senior Spanish teacher, has decided to return to further academic work next year, embarking on doctoral studies, and will therefore be leaving the teaching ranks here at SMUS. Bon voyage to them both.
These are just a few of the “passages” that are occurring this year. They occur every year. How appropriate, as I look out my office window onto a sunny field, with some of this year’s flowers starting to blossom, and the row of ornamental cherry trees starting to bud, suggesting spring – renewal is a good thing.