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2014 Canada's Outstanding Principals Biographies


Sarah Ayaruak
Leo Ussak School
Kivillaq School Operations
Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

Sarah Ayaruak began her career as an Inuktitut kindergarten teacher and has worked tirelessly as a principal to ensure that her school maintains culturally responsive traditions:  elders teach courses in culture and traditional life skills; certificates and awards reflect Inuktitut culture and language; and the school doors are always open. As a member of the Certificate in Educational Leadership in Nunavut (CELN) team that delivers leadership programs to administrators throughout the territories, Sarah models the type of leadership she wants others to master. She has also forged and solidified relationships with parents/guardians and the broader community and is highly visible in her school. One supporter wrote that Sarah’s interest in her students, past and present, “inspires in them a deep desire to stay in school and to succeed in whatever career choice they make in the future.” Sarah’s impact extends beyond her school to the community of Rankin Inlet.
 
Sheldon Barry
Holy Heart of Mary High School
Newfoundland Labrador English School District
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

Sheldon Barry has served in many leadership positions at both the school and system levels. He has applied his expertise as an instructional leader to improve learning at Holy Heart of Mary High School which offers credit recovery and a variety of other programs targeting at-risk students and early leavers.  With a student population from 50 different countries,  the school employs a settlement worker for students new to Canada and programs for ESL, and LEARN (Literacy Enhancement and Academic Readiness for Newcomers). Sheldon has partnered with community organizations, businesses and agencies to provide all the support his students need. The McCain Foundation’s $45,000 donation led to the establishment of the school’s Credit Recovery Centre, and a grant from the Future Shop Generation Tech Lab refurbished the language labs. Under Sheldon’s innovative leadership, collaboration matters and students are excited to attend Holy Heart of Mary High School.
 
Tracy Beaulieu
Elm Street Elementary School
English Language School Board
Summerside, Prince Edward Island

As principal of Elm Street Elementary since 2008, Tracy Beaulieu has focused consistently on targeted school improvement. Her colleagues say she “is an exemplary instructional leader who embraces collaborative practices and partnerships that enhance student achievement and lifelong learning.” Tracy and her staff have used Fountas and Pinnell’s The Continuum of Literacy Learning successfully to build students’ fundamental literacy skills. Tracy is a committed lifelong learner and effectively models the benefits of this strategy to her staff and students. Her ability to build effective partnerships is rooted in Tracy’s willingness to volunteer widely in her community. Parents feel connected to the school and value her “open door policy” and her “warm and welcoming smile.” These qualities have allowed her to lead her school effectively through the challenges of building renovations and air quality issues. Elm Street’s success under Tracy’s outstanding leadership is recognized across the province.
 
Rene Bibaud
Adult High School
Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
Ottawa, Ontario

In over 35 years as a bilingual educator, Rene Bibaud has served admirably as, “a coach, mentor, role model and inspiring instructional leader” to staff, parents and students. At the Adult High School Rene serves students transitioning to post-secondary, apprenticeships, trades and the workplace. Supporting his own core message of “serving students so they can succeed,” Rene has built partnerships with community agencies, colleges and universities, businesses and organizations.  He uses Prior Learning Assessment Recognition (PLAR) and other strategies to guide members of the highly diverse Adult High School student body along individual pathways to success. The school hosts a Global Village Festival that affirms the over 50 cultures at the school. In 2007, Rene was recognized as ‘Child-friendly Man of the Village.’ Colleagues say Rene is “a person of energy, initiative and dedication” with a strong reputation for managing deep change.
 
Jean-François Boulanger
École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Anne
Conseil des Écoles catholiques du Centre-Est
Ottawa, Ontario

Situated in a low socio-economic district, École Sainte-Anne faces challenges of underachievement, poor attendance and aggressive behaviour, yet Jean-François Boulanger saw it as “a treasure-box yet to be revealed.” Many of its students were new Canadians from regions of conflict where regular schooling was not an option. Jean-François forged partnerships to provide extra supports such as a nutrition program and free francophone pre-school for three-year-olds, and collaborated with staff to create a supportive learning environment focused on developing self-efficacy, pride and a sense of responsibility. Jean-François also encouraged the effective use of data and assessments for learning. As a result, EQAO results rose from 38% in 2009 to 76% in 2013 in reading and from 62% to 89% in writing for Grade 3. Jean-François collaborates with his staff to create a “safe, stimulating, respectful multicultural franco-Ontarian community.”
 
Sharon Brinsmead
Father Doucet Elementary School
Calgary Catholic School District
Calgary, Alberta

Sharon Brinsmead is a hands-on, visible principal who believes that each of the 350 students from various backgrounds at Father Doucet Elementary School must feel joy and security in their environment to be successful. She uses the Arts to build a caring community by involving all students—regardless of skills, abilities and special needs—in “dramatic play.”  Under her vision, the school is actively building student voice and leadership. Sharon also integrated effective strategies in literacy and numeracy into the program at both Father Doucet and her previous school, and significantly increased their scores on the Alberta Education Achievement Exams. She teaches students to give back to their communities, through a variety of environmental stewardship activities. Sharon has been recognized by her peers, the district and the province, for excellence in teaching and leadership—something she calls “a labour of love.”
 
Kimberley Campbell
Regent Park Public School
Simcoe Country District School Board
Orillia, Ontario

Two years ago, having successfully applied her Fine Arts expertise extensively in Alberta and Ontario, Kimberley Campbell brought her talents and enviable record of success in leadership training to Regent Park Public School in Orillia. When Kimberley arrived, Regent Park’s provincial assessment scores (EQAO) were the lowest in the district. Kimberley and her staff committed themselves to making a difference. They integrated the Arts, initiated restorative justice practices and set ambitious goals for achievement. Suspensions decreased and student scores on EQAO and attendance increased. Under her principalship, reading and writing scores increased by over 25%. Kimberley works hard to connect parents with the community and has succeeded in obtaining free dental care and eyeglasses for students in need, nutrition programs, and supportive health care. Kimberley demonstrates enthusiasm and a “smiling, visible presence” as she “empowers students to make a bigger impact,” or as Kimberley says, “cross the line for greater good.”
 
Wayne Davies
École Selkirk Junior High School
Lord Selkirk School Division
Selkirk, Manitoba

When Wayne Davies joined École Selkirk he inherited a number of challenges, including a turnover of six principals and six vice-principals in 10 years. Wayne seized this opportunity to create a new environment of trust and build a team of committed teachers. He revitalized the school’s physical environment and created a climate for change. Wayne worked with staff to monitor, counsel and support students creating a 20% gain in credits. Wayne tackled bullying and made École Selkirk an “inviting place for students to envision future possibilities.” The Arts became a focus; the student-led Filmfest is now institutionalized and The BOSS (Building on Student Success) Guitar Works has attracted national attention. École Selkirk has gone from a school that was not seen as the first choice for students to one with a positive, caring culture and a learning stance, a difference that supporters attribute to Wayne’s tireless efforts.  
 
Arlene Dobson
Haig School
South East Cornerstone School Division 
Weyburn, Saskatchewan

Arlene Dobson has worked at Haig School as a teacher, vice-principal and principal and is keenly aware of the inner-city school’s strengths and weaknesses. Nine of the 16 staff at this pre-Kindergarten to Grade 6 school have less than two years' teaching experience, so Arlene lends instructional leadership, maintaining that student learning requires staff learning. Haig is a ‘Lighthouse School’ for supporting students at risk and uses a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. Arlene solicited grants for a family room to re-engage parents/guardians in their children’s learning. Local businesses and community agencies provide supports that inner-city students often cannot afford, including a breakfast program, parent fun nights and Arts events. Weyburn’s police and fire department spend time mentoring Haig’s students. Her staff nominated her for a municipal ‘woman of the year’ award and the true measure of her success: one of her student supporters described her as “an awesome principal.”
 
John-Paul Elliott
St. Joseph Catholic School
Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario
Gananoque, Ontario

Under John-Paul Elliott’s stewardship, St. Joseph has moved from a school labelled as under-achieving to a ‘school on the move.’ John-Paul recognized and analyzed the needs of students and their families and built strategic partnerships to provide additional supports. John-Paul and his team initiated an intensive French program for Grade 5 students and pioneered the full-day kindergarten program in the district. He has developed a reputation for collaboration and transformational leadership by consistently “involving staff in key instructional decisions” and providing opportunities for teachers to develop their own leadership skills and share their skills with others. John-Paul works to “create confidence, optimism, hope, resiliency and trust among staff members and, in turn, among students.” He involves students in fundraising activities and engages them in such initiatives as Compass Champions, Restorative Justice, and student leadership.  “When in doubt,” John–Paul says, “we do what is best for kids.”  
 
Owen Fortosky
St. Mark Community School
Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Owen Fortosky worked as a reporter, presenter and negotiator in Saskatoon and Nunavut before becoming principal of St. Mark in Saskatoon. He brings a unique perspective to the job and under his leadership, St. Mark is personalizing learning. He is integrating Brain Rules, Multiple Intelligences, technology, literacy strategies and math into the 21st century learning approach. The school has acquired SMART Boards, SMART tables, a digital camera for every classroom, a document camera and four mobile labs. Levels of engagement have risen as student voice and choice have increased. A Home and School Liaison serves St. Mark’s diverse population by assisting with language and acculturation for newcomers and culturally responsive programming for Aboriginal students. Colleagues say “Owen encourages teachers to use their skill sets to help the school grow.” One supporter aptly described what makes him outstanding: “Owen sees a need and fills it… He is proactive not reactive.”
 
Simone Gessler
Weledeh Catholic School
Yellowknife Catholic Schools
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

At Weledeh Catholic School Simone Gessler accepted the challenge of improving the literacy skills of the school’s 400 inner-city students and creating a climate for learning. Understanding the school’s accountability to the community, Simone helped her staff to appreciate the intergenerational trauma of the Residential School experiences as the appropriate context for the sustained and targeted work that was needed. Simone adapted the Response to Intervention (RTI) approach providing tiered interventions for specific deficiencies and intense intervention for students at risk. As a result, 100% of students demonstrated significant improvement in reading, sense of confidence and self-efficacy, and 70% currently read at or above grade level. Simone presented the Weledeh program at the International Reading Association and her success was recognized with a Ministerial Award for Literacy. Under Simone’s leadership, teachers and students work purposefully and her school is a place for learning premised on success for all.
 
Roger Gillingham
Baccalieu Collegiate
Newfoundland Labrador English School District
Old Perlican, Newfoundland and Labrador

Roger Gillingham “goes above and beyond what is required” to “make learning visible” at Baccalieu Collegiate by fostering a climate of continuous improvement for both students and staff. Teachers participate in “Leadership at Work” to enhance their classroom effectiveness and Roger initiated a Teacher Leadership Team that meets monthly to sharpen interventions and responses to changes in student achievement. To support the learning environment, Roger established a breakfast program, a remedial assistance program and involved parents in fundraising to support these initiatives. Roger forged new corporate and community partnerships to increase opportunities in the Arts. His teachers lead teams and clubs in a vibrant program of extracurricular activities. Roger understands that students need to feel their unique strengths and talents are recognized and that they can each be active members of a welcoming school community. His students excel provincially in athletics and Arts competitions as well as academic performance.
 
Marj Hlady
Christ the King Elementary School
Yukon Department of Education
Whitehorse, Yukon

Marj Hlady is an experienced educator who constantly explores and employs innovative practices to build her staff’s capacity. Striving constantly to fulfil the school’s motto “every child matters, every child succeeds,” Marj actively tracks the progress of each of more than 300 students. She fosters collaboration among the teachers on her staff and inspires achievement by asking: “What is best for the students in your care?” Marj ensures that character building is integrated into the curriculum and challenges students to embrace their responsibility as caring and respectful citizens. She recognizes the value of effective communication with students and staff, parents and the broader community and ensures that the various communication tools—committees, newsletters, the school’s website—are used to engage and consolidate community input. Marj’s strong personal commitment to her craft and the outstanding results of her efforts are an inspiration to both her staff and the larger community.
 
Terry Kharyati
Hadley Junior High School and Philemon Wright High Schools
Western Québec School Board
Gatineau, Québec

Terry Kharyati’s personal experiences as a student equipped him with the perseverance to become an inspiring administrator. As a principal facing the challenges of under-achievement and erratic attendance, Terry steeled himself to manage deep change. He facilitated capacity building for teachers and tracked student progress “from month to month and from year to year” using interventions modelled on the successes at Ravens Wood Academy in the U.K. Terry encourages staff to share their expertise and passions with each other and connects with students by sharing his own story with them. Believing all students can succeed, Terry invests heavily in students who are at-risk. As a result, Terry has raised assessment scores, decreased drop-out and truancy rates, and increased teacher retention.  Colleagues say Terry’s practical application of his motto, “Work hard, be yourself and do the right thing” has positively transformed the school for students, parents and staff.
 
Lorraine Kinsman
Cranston School
Calgary Board of Education
Calgary, Alberta

Four years ago, Lorraine Kinsman opened Cranston School with a 21st century mandate to foster a culture of creativity, innovation and inspiration. Today, Cranston is a “kid-friendly, inviting and colourful place” with more than 570 students including many second language learners and 104 with identified learning needs. At Cranston, the arts, environmental stewardship, peace education and an emphasis on technology are woven throughout the curriculum. Lorraine established a ‘wiki space’ for online discussion; learning studios, a green screen with video-making equipment. Cranston’s Discovery Centres offer stimulating inquiry learning environments to support students with special needs. Cranston also has several programs in place to further support students, including a Rainbow program for those experiencing stress and crisis, Roots of Empathy to help build caring and Calgary Reads for at-risk readers. Lorraine is a co-author of Math Makes Sense and her achievements as a distinctively forward-looking educator have been recognized provincially.

 
Kathleen Kostuik
Our Lady of the Assumption School
Calgary Catholic School District
Calgary, Alberta

On her first day at Our Lady of the Assumption Elementary and Junior High School (OLOA), Kathleen Kostuik declared, “We want to do better for each other.” The school was a challenging mix of diverse groups with a variety of specialized needs. Enrolment was rapidly declining. Kathleen began by engaging all partners in improvement process. She made the building more inviting, instilling a renewed pride of place. She provided supports for students from impoverished homes and insisted that OLOA become culturally responsive to the growing Aboriginal population. Kathleen developed Community Action Plans, emphasized science and technology in the classroom and carefully monitored progress. Achievement and attendance have risen remarkably and in 2012 Kathleen was nominated for a Shepard Leadership Award for modelling care, respect and dignity. Today OLOA is a safe and caring environment where academics matter and enrolment has increased by 30 per cent.
 
Leslie Lee
George Jay Elementary School
Greater Victoria School District No. 61
Victoria, British Columbia

When Leslie Lee inherited George Jay Elementary School it was high on the provincial vulnerability index—not an ideal learning environment for students. Facing such challenges as a 35% transient rate and 45% English Language Learners population, Leslie committed herself to establishing a safe, caring and inviting learning space. First, she established community partnerships to ensure that students were healthy and well-fed at school. Then she initiated positive behaviour support programs, engaging a youth and family counsellor to support at-risk students. As a result, behavioural incidents decreased from 900 per year to 100. Leslie’s school-wide focus on improving writing, math skills and problem-solving and effective use of enabling technologies increased the number of students meeting provincial grade level expectations from 66 per cent in 2010 to 92 per cent in 2012. Leslie’s talent for leveraging strategic partnerships has transformed her school into an oasis of inspiration and forward-thinking for her students.
 
Amy MacLeod
Ash Lee Jefferson Elementary School
Halifax Regional School Board
Fall River, Nova Scotia

Inspired by her Superintendent’s philosophy “all students can learn and all schools will improve” Amy MacLeod has applied her considerable instructional leadership skills to her third principal role at Ash Lee Jefferson school. With a focus on continuous improvement on literacy and numeracy, Amy and her staff team use achievement data to track student progress and target interventions as precisely as possible. Amy also uses positive relationships and trust to build capacity. Amy shared her expertise on Positive Effect Behaviourial Supports and created a Mental Health and Wellness committee composed of parents/guardians and staff. Amy’s colleagues value her as a visible leader and administrator. She “involves city councilors, Members of the Legislative Assembly and local celebrities in school-wide events” to motivate students and connect them to the world beyond the school, earning the respect of her students, staff and community.
 
Wayne Marche
Oscar Blackburn School
Frontier School Division
South Indian Lake, Manitoba

When Wayne Marche arrived at Oscar Blackburn School he introduced himself to the Elders and Chief of the O-Pinon-Na-Piwin (OPCN) Nation, and promised to raise the visibility and use of the Cree language and make the curriculum more culturally responsive. Today, the school uses Band members to teach Cree, local artists to teach art and woodworking, and incorporates traditional cooking into the home economics curriculum. Wayne also established nutrition programs to meet students’ needs and partnered with the University of Winnipeg to help local educational assistants become qualified teachers who could support at-risk Aboriginal learners. Wayne has engaged his staff in raising funds to allow students to enjoy eye-opening field trips and other novel experiences. The OPCN and the community see Oscar Blackburn as an inviting environment for adult learning. Wayne is now widely recognized and celebrated as a principal “committed to excellence.”
 
Andrea McAuley
R.H. Cornish Public School
Durham District School Board
Port Perry, Ontario

Andrea McAuley has served Durham Region with distinction, particularly in special education and the Arts. Today, she uses those experiences to drive the quest for excellence at R.H. Cornish, a school of over 800 students following English, French Immersion or Gifted streams. The school has developed a ‘minds-on’ approach to developing high quality learning experiences and the staff works hard to personalize education. Andrea brings learning opportunities to her school and supports teachers wanting to become vice-principals. Consistent with her commitment to continuous growth, Andrea teaches special education, Additional Qualification and Principal Leadership Qualification courses. She also co-chairs the Family and Community Engagement Strategy for the district and sits on The Learning Partnership’s National Advisory Committee for Welcome to Kindergarten. Andrea aims to create “a broader environment to support children’s optimal growth and development” and is known as a principal “who treats every student and parent with kindness, respect and dignity.”
 
Sandy McInnes
South Grenville District High School
Upper Canada District School Board
Prescott, Ontario

As a seasoned leader in his sixth principalship, Sandy McInnes brought a wealth of expertise to South Grenville High School. Sandy decided to revitalize the school compound to instil a sense of pride in the students. He invited all staff “to reflect on what they value within both their personal and professional lives” and commit themselves to three primary goals: improved attendance, creating a culture of care and implementing 21st century learning. Today, South Grenville is well on its way to achieving these and other goals. Sandy also focused on improving literacy skills through cross-curricular professional development integrating new technologies to engage students and push their thinking. Leveraging his community engagement skills, Sandy established partnerships with mental health and social service agencies and increased the extracurricular opportunities available to students. Colleagues say they are always inspired by Sandy’s favourite saying: “leadership is choosing character over convenience.”
 
Jeff McKibbon
Lasalle Secondary School
Rainbow District School Board
Sudbury, Ontario

Jeff McKibbon brought a sterling reputation as an instructional leader focused on improving student achievement to his fourth appointment as principal at Lasalle Secondary School. Jeff is often visible in classrooms and halls working collaboratively with staff setting goals that link to student achievement and using feedback to improve teaching and learning. Jeff is widely respected for building relational trust and has mentored many colleagues into administrative and system roles. He urges his staff to “demonstrate care, hope and optimism with students” and be available for students. Jeff created a Saturday School, staffed with volunteer student teachers, for students with poor attendance or difficulty completing assignments. At Lasalle, the achievement gap has narrowed and EQAO results for Applied Math students increased from 36% to 42%. Jeff maintains open communication with parents and one parent notes Jeff “provides a safe learning environment and pushes the limit for causes he believes in.”
 
John McMahon
École George Pringle Elementary School
Central Okanagan School District No. 23
West Kelowna, British Columbia

John McMahon brought to École George Pringle a strong reputation and track record of managing change and engaging staff, parents and community partners in producing strategically desirable results. Challenged with a history of rapid administration turnover and a significant student population with health, learning, behavioural and nutritional needs, John began the process of transformation by building trust with parents and community partners and forging collaborative relationships with teachers. As guided reading and evidence-based strategies were instituted, extracurricular opportunities increased. John pursued grants to enrich the curriculum and partnerships were forged with the Aboriginal community, the RCMP and social services to create additional supports for students. John’s change strategy produced enviable academic results and dramatically improved the sense of self-efficacy among students and their families. John’s “central belief that all students can achieve” has inspired his strength and inspires the wider community as well.
 
Paul McNaughton
CABE Secondary School
Coquitlam School District No. 43
Coquitlam, British Columbia

Paul McNaughton’s experience in counselling, athletics, science and math equipped him to transform Coquitlam Alternate Basic Education (CABE) into a positive learning environment. When Paul arrived, very few of CABE’s 300 students were graduating. Using his skills in forging connections with disengaged learners, Paul led students, staff and parents in reinventing CABE. Paul and his team designed personalized support for each student, which has made all the difference. Graduation rates rose from 33 students in 2007, to 88 in 2013. Despite the complex social and emotional needs of CABE students, Paul emphasizes learning and accountability. Restorative justice and technology enable learning and engagement. Corporate and organizational partnerships help students transition from high school to post-secondary pathways and deal with substance abuse issues. Paul’s belief that “past experiences do not define us; we all need a second chance at finding personal success” has succeeded in changing the culture at CABE.
 
Dan Miles
J.V. Humphries Elementary and Secondary School
Kootenay Lake School District No. 8
Kaslo, British Columbia

Challenged by student misbehaviour, vandalism, low staff morale and community disengagement, Dan Miles’ six-year commitment to transforming J.V. Humphries Elementary/Secondary School has earned him the respect of students, staff, parents and the broader community. Building on the school’s motto ‘Be safe, be kind, be respectful and be a learner,’ Dan began by motivating students to value their physical environment. He instituted a clear consequence approach and rewarded students with celebratory phone calls when positive results were achieved. He inspired staff to value continuous professional development, used a ‘Harvest Happening BBQ Open House Scavenger Hunt’ to re-engage parents, created supports for struggling learners and created a Flex Bloc Community Service program in which students performed a variety of physical tasks which connected them with the community. Dan’s colleagues say his leadership has made J.V. Humphries “a 21st century school, organized around student need, connected to community expertise—a thriving learning environment.”
 
Deneen Nolan
St. Elizabeth Seton School
Calgary Catholic School District
Calgary, Alberta

Three years ago when Deneen Nolan accepted the challenge of leadership at St. Elizabeth Seton Elementary and Junior High School, her vision was “a safe and caring environment where all stakeholders felt valued and trusted.” Deneen engaged by asking stakeholders: “What would it look like at St. Elizabeth Seton if the best happened?” She reorganized the physical space creating collaborative learning communities for teachers and students, educated her staff on inclusion and integrated a group of marginalized students seamlessly into the school. She placed an emphasis on improving students' self-image, decreasing anxiety, and helping students give back. Consistent with her longstanding reputation for transformative change and ‘innate’ sense of leadership, Deneen also re-vitalized the school council and leveraged renewed parental involvement to stimulate student achievement and engage the broader community. Deneen’s supporters attest enthusiastically to her success as “the driving force behind the culture and community investment of our school.”   
 
Melody Northrop
Andrew Hunter Elementary School
Simcoe County District School Board
Barrie, Ontario

Melody Northrop is a broadly experienced teacher in her second principalship. Melody’s focus is on the whole child and she has made character building, student engagement and well-being a way of life at Andrew Hunter. Melody is a visible, hands-on principal, coaching teachers and students and generously sharing her expertise. Melody developed a portable garden initiative growing herbs and vegetables in pots and has leveraged local business partnerships to support nutrition programs. Melody understands the moral imperative of ensuring all students succeed and uses collaborative inquiry to re-adjust instructional strategies and interventions. In 2011-2012, just 34% of students met the provincial standard in reading, in 2012-2013, that rose to 72%. Similar gains were experienced in writing from 34% to 69% and math. Students and the community have benefited from Melody’s transformational leadership with one parent saying Melody’s work showed her “how meaningful a principal was to the life of the school.”
 
Sean Nosek
Thomas Haney Secondary School
Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows School District No. 42
Maple Ridge, British Columbia

When Sean Nosek accepted the challenge of reinventing Thomas Haney Secondary School he committed himself to implementing a model of “fully self-directed learning.” He created unstructured classes, allowing students to choose when and where to study and emphasized strong teacher-student relationships. Collective meeting time diminished as students moved from Grade 8 to Grade 12. Students were divided into pods of 30 allowing them to establish strong peer relationships and share teachers for core academic subjects. Sean encouraged everyone “to step outside the box,” stretch thinking and consider new possibilities for learning. As a result of his creativity and vision, student engagement and academic performance, attendance and assignment completion increased. Enrolment continues to increase. Under Sean’s leadership “the school has gained international attention and recognition,” causing Sean’s supporters to describe him as “charismatic, visionary, inspiring and dedicated.”
 
Janice O’Neil
Emily Follensbee School
Calgary Board of Education
Calgary, Alberta

Janice O’Neil is a model of instructional leadership, accessibility, visibility, hope and caring. Every day Janice inspires her staff to make a tangible difference at Emily Follensbee School–a community of students with exceptional needs. The 70 plus students range in age from two and a half to 14 years of age and have a combination of intellectual, sensory, ambulatory, communication, medical and behavioural challenges. Teachers work with other professionals in cross-functional teams to engage students and acknowledge their strengths and needs in a caring environment. Janice uses inquiry to inspire her staff to reflect on their practice and support parents in their role as caregivers. She also engages agencies to provide assistive and adaptive technologies for her students. Each student has individual communication goals which serve as a measure of achievement. Janice’s creativity and success in accommodating specialized needs is a source of inspiration and celebration in her community.
 
Emidio Piccioni
St. Mary Catholic Secondary School
Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board
Hamilton, Ontario

Emidio Piccioni has worked in both elementary and secondary schools and actively supports student well-being. Emidio believes “Catholic principals are leaders of faith, inspiration and compassion” capable of uniting the parish, staff, students and parent communities. At St. Mary Emidio takes a hands-on approach to making each student believe they matter and provides enrichment opportunities for his students. The St. Mary Crusaders’ Drumline recently won the provincial championship twice in a row. The football team participates in pan-Canadian exchanges. Emidio is currently considering acquiring a 3D printer for St. Mary’s. Student achievement scores are above district and provincial averages and 90% of students were successful on the OSSLT. In 2010, St. Mary won the Dr. Bette Stephenson Recognition for Achievement from EQAO for its work on data-driven decision-making. Supporters say Emidio is a “master builder” who demonstrates every day “his faith and conviction that students can make a difference.”
 
Sherri Raymond
Ranchlands School
Calgary Board of Education
Calgary, Alberta

Sherri Raymond transformed Captain John Palliser School from a small community school with declining enrolment and academic achievement into a “vibrant multi-track school” with rising enrolment and achievement. Starting seven years ago, Sherri piloted a Montessori program as another track possibility for students and their parents. Today this program serves about 700 students of varying abilities in a supportive, inclusionary environment. Its popularity has grown because families with children with identified needs knew their children would be welcomed, valued, supported and that, in turn, they would thrive. As an instructional leader, Sherri focused on increasing student achievement, particularly writing. In 2013, Sherri moved to Ranchlands School where she is working to transform the school into an exemplary 21st century learning environment. Sherri’s colleagues say she “has impacted the learning and achievement of students for whom she has been responsible.”
 
Jamie Robinson
Glenrosa Middle School
Central Okanagan School District No. 23
West Kelowna, British Columbia

When Jamie Robinson arrived at Glenrosa Middle School it was one of the lowest performing schools in the district, with a significant achievement gap between Aboriginal students and non-Aboriginal students. The school served 500 students facing significant barriers to learning—health, hunger and poverty. While building strategic partnerships for community support, Jamie emphasized fundamental literacy and numeracy skills and created ‘rigorous classrooms’ reflecting 21st century learning. Today, parents and community members review students’ digital portfolios and listen to their presentations.  Achievement in core subjects has increased substantially. In 2007-2008, 51% of grades were C+ to A. By 2012-2013, that figure rose to 86%.  Jamie’s success reflects his deep conviction that “We can overcome socioeconomic factors if we create learning cultures where staff, parents and students believe that every child can achieve at a high level.”
 
Mirella Rossi 
Precious Blood Catholic School
Toronto Catholic District School Board
Toronto, Ontario

Mirella Rossi has worked at several Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) schools and models distributed leadership and shared accountability. Mirella and staff use rich data to monitor student achievement and make adjustments to strategies and interventions. The school has made an effort to make learning visible and is implementing an improvement plan collaboratively with all stakeholders. Mirella shares her expertise and effective practices through workshops. As a life-long learner currently pursuing her doctorate at OISE, Mirella encourages her teachers to visit other schools and classrooms and share their own learning.  She ensures students demonstrate Catholic values and virtues and give back to their communities, undertaking fundraising activities and recently working with community to create a ‘faith garden’ dedicated to a retired parish priest. Mirella received the Exemplary Practice Award from TCDSB. 
 
Sharon Stevens-Lay
Peel Alternative Programs
Peel District School Board
Mississauga, Ontario

Sharon Stevens-Lay is a first-time principal who has worked in such diverse settings as northern Manitoba and Australia. Peel Alternative Programs consists of three separate school sites each with its own vice-principal and related satellite programs. Sharon draws on her expertise in distributed leadership to oversee this complex operation. She maintains strong community partnerships to support students who were not successful in regular high schools. Sharon understands the challenges Peel Alternative Programs’ students face, and she cares. She tries to balance improvement and innovation, developing a new single database that serves all of Peel Alternative Programs with tracking reliable student achievement data. In the three years since she arrived, graduation rates have improved from 371 students, to 440. In 2011-2012, Peel Alternative Programs received a ‘Premier Award for Safe and Accepting Schools.’ Sharon is a change agent who builds welcoming learning environments where students can learn to respect themselves and take responsibility for their actions.
 
Patricia Thorne
Woodstock Middle School
Anglophone West School District
Woodstock, New Brunswick

Since 2009, Patricia Thorne has pioneered deep change at Woodstock Middle School and under her leadership, “a revitalized learning and spirit of community has permeated the culture.” Recognizing the pressing need for a warm, friendly inviting space, Pat began by transforming the physical environment: a new gymnasium; positive signage emphasizing respect, hard work and effort; plaques and trophies reflecting all aspects of students’ lives. Student and parent voice and choice have increased. Partnerships have been forged with local business, social services and local First Nations to expand supports for students. Local artists, the police and even the Woodstock Slammers semi-pro hockey team participate, enriching the life of the school. Academic scores are rising as teachers explore effective learning strategies. Pat strikes an effective balance between her management and instructional leadership roles and her community building. Parents and students have come to recognize Pat as a multi-dimensional leader.
 
Dan Vanderburgh
Ardrossan Junior Senior High School
Elk Island Public Schools
Ardrossan, Alberta

Having spent his entire 36-year teaching career at Ardrossan Junior Senior High School, Dan Vanderburgh takes hands-on responsibility as the school’s principal for articulating a vision, motivating staff and students and building a culture. His collaborative style fosters staff participation in creating and executing the school’s Education Plan and the results admirably reflect the effort. An “authentic leader,” Dan puts student success at the centre of his work. His attention to instruction, curriculum and student mastery of learning objectives has paid off, with the Fraser Institute ranking Ardrossan as 25th out of 279 and lists it as “one of the fastest improving schools in the province.” The school has performed well on the Provincial Achievement Results and the Grade 12 diploma exams, significantly outperforming the province in English, Social Studies, Science and Math. Dan has worked tirelessly to initiate special programs and services that make a difference for students, including career and technology facilities and French-language visibility. His vision for the school is that staff, students, parents and the community build an inclusive culture together in which all students know they belong and can be successful.
 
Dorothy White
Holy Spirit Academy
Christ the Redeemer Catholic School Schools
High River, Alberta

As principal at Holy Spirit Academy, Dorothy White engages her staff by insisting on seeing challenges not as obstacles to achievement, but as opportunities to grow. Dorothy’s leadership skills were a source of inspiration to the community in June 2013, when High River faced one of the largest flooding disasters in Canadian history. Despite widespread panic, Dorothy communicated effectively with parents, managed the evacuation, and waited to leave the school until the very last child was safe. When the school’s English Language Learners (ELL) population changed rapidly from two to 23 percent, Dorothy challenged staff to rethink their teaching practice and provided the necessary supports. Today, the school performs in the 95th per centile in the Alberta Accountability Pillar. One student wrote of Dorothy “even under the current circumstances in High River, there hasn’t been an ‘I can’t’ or an ‘I won’t’ moment because there is no obstacle she can’t face.”
 
Paul White
St. Thomas Aquinas High School
Kenora Catholic District School Board
Kenora, Ontario

Paul White understands the importance of maintaining connections with students, parents and staff and insists that his personal accessibility is critical to that process. He nurtures creativity and strives to meet a wide variety of student needs while placing his school on “the cutting edge of education.” His recent initiatives include a physical education course for competitive athletes; a life skills course to help students make successful transitions into the community; and EcoDriven, a student-initiated ecology group.  St. Thomas Aquinas students maintain a 98% credit accumulation though Grades 9 to 12. The success rate for students in Applied Math is the highest in the province. Paul also strives to accommodate Aboriginal students who comprise 45% of the school community. The school offers courses in Drumming, Aboriginal Art, Native Languages and Native Studies and Paul looks for ways to weave Catholicism and the Anishinabe faith. Paul works through empowering leadership in others.
 
Michael Wilson
St. Patrick’s School
Anglophone South School District
Saint John, New Brunswick

Eight years ago Michael Wilson made two commitments to St. Patrick’s School: improve provincial student achievement results and reduce the failure/retention rate. In this designated area of need his approach has been to engage parents collaboratively and provide adequate support for families. Anticipating resistance, Michael established a leadership team to manage change and provided resources to strengthen teachers’ capacity to improve student learning. Michael served as a connector, facilitator and a diplomat, conducting courageous conversations and allowing teachers to plan and work together. Using the Response to Intervention approach, Michael introduced a pyramid of interventions. He established trust with parents, introduced new learning enhancement technologies, established nutrition programs, public health clinics and a vibrant volunteer program. Under Michael's leadership the culture of the school has been transformed to support learning for the 21st century. Michael’s colleagues describe him as a “caring, dedicated professional who epitomizes what a school leader should strive for.”