MY FAITH JOURNEY
When I reflect on my own faith journey I am grateful for the sustenance and spiritual guidance I received from a unified, communal triad made up of the Parish, school and my family. The cultivation and development of my conscience and my values began at St. Anne's Parish. I was very fortunate to attend a school that was in walking distance from my home, and was also a hop, skip and a jump from the church. Mass was always celebrated at the church. Fr. Leo Coughlin and Fr. Seabrook visited our classrooms regularly to say hello, support us in our study of scripture and assist with the preparation of the sacraments. I received the sacraments of Baptism, Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation and Marriage at St. Anne's Parish. This close knit community of parents, teachers and priests helped to provide a sense of certainty and security. My faith development continually evolved as I was able to observe it in the lives of others. This influenced me to continue my faith journey at St. Peter Catholic Secondary School. My faith was further renewed when I returned to the Separate School System as a teacher. The Catholic school culture continues to nurture my values through liturgy and prayers with staff and students.
Catholic School Leaders will:
- Build a shared vision
- Identify specific, shared short-term goals
- Create high expectations
- Communicate the vision and goals
My experience as an art teacher and Lead for the Specialist High Skills Major Arts and Culture Program at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School has provided me with the opportunity to support the Student Success Strategy and the Catholic Graduate Expectations. It has allowed me to establish, in collaboration with staff, students and other stakeholders, a commitment to purpose and vision. By working with the Guidance Department, other SHSM Leads, the Ministry and community partners, such as Fleming College and the City of Lindsay, we supported the relationship between the school's vision and board and provincial policy initiatives and priorities. As a committee, we developed a Creed for the Specialist High Skills Major Program. This helped to ensure that our Catholic vision was maintained. The success of the program was shared with school board during a District School Visit in 2011.
During my time at St. Thomas Aquinas, I was also exploring the use of video conferencing technology in order to take virtual field trips to various art museums in the United States. This experience has taught me that as a leader I need to create high expectations for our school by encouraging staff to be innovative in engaging students and helping them meet those expectations. Please find a link to my thesis below.
The Catholic Leader will:
- Provide support and demonstrate consideration for individual staff members
- Stimulate growth in the professional capacities of staff
- Model the school's values and practices
- Build trusting relationships with and among staff, students and parents
Again, my experience as Lead for the Specialist High Skills Major Arts and Culture Program at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School has provided me with the opportunity to build relationships and develop people. Certification and training sessions that are necessary for the completion of this program require collaborating with community partners. The Dual Credit program with Fleming College is an example of this. Students had the privilege of working with professional artists at the Haliburton School of the Arts. Connections with local businesses were also established to provide meaningful work experiences. By initiating the first ever Arts Banquet, we were able to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of our arts students.
As Consultant for the Special Education Services, I assisted with stimulating growth in the professional capacities of staff. I facilitated opportunities for Special Education Curriculum Chairs to reflect upon their practices and share and learn from each other. I acted to build trusting relationships by demonstrating respect for staff, students and parents, listening to their ideas, being open and genuinely considering their value, especially during difficult decision making processes related to student transition, SIP claims and E.A. allocation.
My experience as a teacher at the elementary level allowed the opportunity to actively engage with my students through the preparation of liturgies and prayers. Visitation by Volunteers from The Rosary Apostalate at Immaculate Conception School allowed students to bear witness to their faith by teaching them to love Jesus with the Heart of Mary by praying the Rosary and the Act of Consecration. This helped to foster the relationship with the parish and the Catholic community, and to support students' faith development. Connecting with the broader community through school trips, reminds school leaders to create school environments where parents are welcome, valued and respected as partners in their children's learning. These experiences will contribute to my role as a leader. I will continue to model the school's values and practices by evangelizing and committing to life-long faith formation and encourage staff to adopt a broad view of parental engagement and encourage more parents to be involved.
DEVELOPING THE ORGANIZATION
The Catholic Leader will:
- Build collaborative cultures and distribute leadership
- Structure the organization to facilitate collaboration
- Maintain a safe and healthy environment
My recent involvement in assisting with our Catholic School Improvement Plan at St. Peter Secondary School led to the creation of a joint arts steering committee. Our goal is to establish greater visual representation of our Catholicity in the school environment. This experience is a good example of developing the organization. As a leader, I need to involve staff in the design and implementation of school decisions and policies and provide staff with leadership opportunities and support them as they take on these roles. It is also important to develop an agreed upon evaluation tool to measure outcomes of initiatives, develop a long term funding stream to ensure longevity of initiatives and develop partnership protocols that address issues of governance, information sharing and ethics in working with young people.
My involvement as Lead for Specialist High Skills Major Program at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School is also an example of developing the organization, in particular, allocating resources in support of the school's vision and goals. With a start up budget from the Ministry of Education in the amount of $30,000, I was responsible for managing budgetary processes, distributing resources that are closely aligned to expenditure categories set out by the Ministry, revisiting and adjusting as needed the amount, and alignment of resources, and ensuring effective oversight and accountability of resources. As a leader, I need to work collaboratively with all parties involved to ensure attainment of goals within budgetary limitations.
Improving the Instructional Program
The Catholic Leader will:
- Staff the instructional program
- Provide instructional support
- Monitor progress in student learning and school improvement
I have had many unique experiences that have prepared me for my role as leader as it pertains to improving the instructional program. These include completing a professional learning cycle in Assessment for Learning, researching and exploring the use of video conferencing in the art classroom, being part of a collaborative inquiry for the improvement of math learning at the elementary level, participating in a District School Visit to Holy Cross, initiating the first school-wide Live Painting Competition at St. Peter Catholic Secondary School and my recent involvement in the NPDL committee.
As a leader in improving the instructional program it would be my priority to collect and share data with staff to better understand the school climate as it pertains to student learning and school improvement. This would require working collaboratively with staff to examine trends in student achievement. We would collect and use data to inform us about the status of learning and school conditions that are the focus of the school improvement plans. I would support teachers by providing opportunities for them to observe effective instructional practices among colleagues. It would be important for me to coordinate what is taught across subjects and grades to avoid unnecessary overlap and identify gaps in the curriculum. I would also encourage and support creative use of technology in the classroom.
The Catholic Leader will:
- Building staff members' sense of internal accountability
- Meeting the demands for external accountability
My roles in SHSM, Advisor to Student Council and as a Consultant in Special Education Services required internal and external accountability. As a Lead for the Arts and Culture program, I drafted a budget proposal and was responsible for compliance within 7 expenditure categories. Furthermore, there was ongoing monitoring and reporting to the Ministry through a yearly planning chart. This assisted the SHSM programs to coordinate and share costs of certifications and training. In addition, I was responsible for completing a Dual Credit Data Report for the School College Work Initiative (SCWI).
As Consultant for Special Education Services I was involved in the Special Incidence Portion (SIP) application process for our school board. I collaborated with Special Education departments at the secondary level to complete claims to meet the eligibility requirements of our high needs students. It required accurate calculations of staff support level per activity and collection of supporting documentation.
Such practices reinforce the importance of securing data that is reliable and valid not only for the purpose of informing the internal instructional program but for securing necessary resources from external entities, such as the Ministry of Education.