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National program recognizes Alberta principals

February 28, 2017 ATA News Staff

Five Albertans are among 40 principals who have recently been named to Canada’s Outstanding Principals program by The Learning Partnership. In its 13th year, the program recognizes principals in publicly funded schools who demonstrate leadership, innovation and creativity in finding solutions and opportunities within their school communities.

The 40 principals were nominated by parents, colleagues and community members, and chosen by a national selection committee made up of leaders from government, business and education. They will each have an opportunity to receive an award at the annual Canada’s Outstanding Principals gala, on Feb. 28 in Toronto.

Alberta winners

Rita Dickson
Louise Dean School, Calgary Board of Education

Rita Dickson is a visionary leader at Louise Dean School for expectant and parenting teens. She has created a secure, safe, welcoming learning environment for her students to work toward a high school diploma or certificate, while affording them flexible scheduling for maternity leaves, counselling or lifestyle challenges.

Dickson and the school’s multidisciplinary staff include teachers, social workers and psychologists who interact as teacher mentors and trusted adults throughout each student’s high school journey. Collaboration is strong with community and health partners, corporations and government. Dickson instituted more flexible and personalized programs in careers, technology, childcare, parenting, legal and indigenous education, as well as credit recovery courses.

Targeted assemblies are driven by students’ input and needs. Learner bursaries for financial assistance are offered and partnerships are established with post-secondary institutions for more effective transitions. Louise Dean School is a success, with credit accumulation and graduation rates increasing.

Christine Gannon
St. Philip School, Calgary Catholic School District

Christine Gannon is an educational leader who instils a passion for the arts and social studies at St. Philip School. Gannon blends arts with a Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy of inquiry, discovery and exploration to complement the range of arts options at the school. She also introduced the Unthinkables program, allowing students to express their frustrations, anxiety and fears through art. Using animal therapy and human-animal companionship, Gannon partnered with a community organization to spearhead an animal-assisted literacy program and self-esteem group involving Gizmo, the school’s therapy dog. The program has created a safe and nurturing environment to help reduce stress, improve attention and inspire students to become lifelong readers and achievers. Through the school’s Champion program, every student has an identified trusted adult in the school, supporting students’ risk-taking and their ability to feel valued. Such innovative leadership has the school consistently ranked as a top-performing school.

Alison Hancox
Palliser Beyond Borders, Palliser Regional Schools, Lethbridge

Alison Hancox is an award-winning leader of Palliser Beyond Borders, a unique learning community that bridges a new online school with three existing outreach schools representing small, rural communities. The school offers flexibility, personalization and hybrid learning. A culturally sensitive model allows selected students to work off campus and attend outreach for instruction. Materials are available in Spanish and German to accommodate student language needs. Collaboration with community partners is integral to Hancox’s work. Family community liaison counsellors provide support to high-risk youth who are able to learn at their own pace. The school is visible on social media, and Hancox blogs and tweets about students’ achievements. Under Hancox’s leadership, the school has grown from 27 students to 671 (as of June 2016), and high school completion rates soared from 65 per cent to 97 per cent in three years.

Lynn Leslie
St. Martha School, Calgary Catholic School District

Lynn Leslie has been a trustee, a teacher and an administrator for the Calgary Catholic School District, dedicating her professional life to improving outcomes for all students.
St. Martha is a diverse school in which 70 per cent of the students are English-
language learners. Leslie began by building teachers’ capacity and providing time for collaboration. Teachers are encouraged to apply a range of strategies to differentiate the learning and meet the diverse needs of St. Martha’s students, while continuously monitoring and refining their teaching practices. To increase academic achievement, Lynn and her team implemented a student wellness program, and a series of innovative and engaging math programs. Student and parent engagement are encouraged, thanks to Leslie’s integration of technology in the school’s new learning commons, as well as digital communications platforms to keep parents connected.

Cheryl McInnes
St. Joan of Arc School, Calgary Catholic School District

Cheryl McInnes brings broad national and international experience to her current position. She focused on effecting “deep cultural change” at St. Joan of Arc, gathering input from all stakeholders and drawing upon data from previous teachers’ surveys to systematically plan improvements that would address the diverse learning needs of students. McInnes’s efforts have resulted in improved collaboration among teachers and improved engagement among parents, who are seen as partners in the learning process. Technology has been effectively integrated into classroom learning, including online resources, green screens, gaming platforms and document cameras. As a result of the cultural change, student outcomes have improved, and student volunteering and input have increased. ❚

— Information supplied by The Learning Partnership.

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