Saint John educator named one of Canada’s outstanding principals
The role of educator is often seen as a vocation by those who devote their lives to teaching the next generation. Glen Falls School Principal Colleen Sullivan was born into it.
“I am actually a third generation educator, so it’s been in family genes for quite a while,” Sullivan said.
“My grandmother started in a one-room schoolhouse and heard her stories from the time I was little and then both of my parents were educators as well so I guess I just kinda followed in the family footsteps.”
Sullivan has just been announced on of the 30 Outstanding Principals in Canada by the Learning Partnership, an organization committed to improving public education.
Sullivan says she is honoured and humbled to receive the accolade, but is quick to direct credit towards the rest of her team.
“I’m very fortunate to work with an amazing group of educators and support staff and without them none of this would happen. It takes a team and I just happen to be the leader of a really great team,” she said.
“I was really very surprised. It’s quite an exciting thing. It’s always nice to be acknowledged when you put a lot of hard work into something.”
Sullivan will be honoured along with the other 29 recipients at a gala in Toronto this February and will also participate in a leadership workshop.
Rod Thompson, the Director of Executive Leadership Programs for the Learning Partnership, says Sullivan was selected after being nominated by a support teacher at Glen Falls. He says her commitment to a data-based approach to improving learning outcomes was particularly impressive.
“She’s provided a significant impact in the school in terms of improving student outcomes, their academic achievement and also ensuring student well being in the school,” Thompson told Global News via phone from Toronto.
“The way she’s done that is she’s brought an approach to the school and to the staff which took the opportunity to use data and a number of innovative strategies to just engage students.”
Sullivan has created a learning commons in the school’s library, complete with a Lego wall, Lite Brite wall, air hockey table, an improved computer lab, and a multitude of STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) activities for the kids.
But at its core the commons tries to teach kids soft skills, like conflict-resolution.
“One of the things we found is some of our students struggled with being able to cope with conflict with other students, and we wanted to create an environment where they could learn to play together co-operatively and learn to overcome challenges when they face them,” she said.
“Whenever you’re playing with a group of other kids conflicts are going to arise and we wanted to bring in an environment where they could work out those conflicts in a really well supervised area with lots of fun toys and things for them to explore.”
Each class gets a slot in the learning commons during the week and kids are given access to the space during recess and lunch hour. The space also welcomes volunteers, something Sullivan says is a boon for the kids.
“One of the big benefits to creating the space is that we have a lot of volunteers that come into the school,” she said.
“The volunteers get to interact with the kids as well, so the kids get introduced to positive adult role models that they might not normally get to see on a regular basis. So because the space exists those volunteers come in and they interact with the kids and they talk about their jobs, so the kids have those role models that they can then take back with them.”
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