Karen Bryan, new vice principal at Seaway District High School, was able to come to Iroquois in July, getting to know many of the school’s teaching and support staff and learning how the grades 7-12 school works.
That opportunity has gone a long way towards making her feel comfortable and welcome at SDHS as the 2011-12 term begins.
“Students have been very welcoming, creating a friendly atmosphere,” vice principal Bryan said. “And the staff here is wonderful, student focussed and student centred. Since I arrived, I’ve also had a lot of communications with parents, and I am very pleased with the level of parental involvement at Seaway.”
Mother of three boys, Bryan, who shares administrative duties with Seaway principal Terry Gardiner, enjoys the idea that she is working in a multi-generational high school.
“Many of the parents of our children have also gone to Seaway, and many have played on school teams and worked on projects with the school. As a result the school is a vital part of this entire community.”
A graduate of General Vanier in Cornwall, with an honours degree from Queen’s University and teacher training from the University of Toronto, Bryan began her career with UCDSB, prior to 2004, in the (no longer) capital region.
“I worked with teachers from grades 7-12 on instructional practice and curriculum design in all subject areas. In 2006, this job moved to the board level where I began working with all board members in the areas of literacy and numeracy mandates. The focus was on classroom instruction and success initiatives.”
After 2007, she served as a learning resource coach at St. Lawrence and C.C.V.S. “We worked with teachers in helping students meet I.E.P. requirements by examining learning mod-ifications. We essentially trained teachers to go back to their classrooms and carry on what they learned.”
Before her involvement in these fields, Bryan served as a classroom teacher in Toronto and at North Dundas District High School, in the fields of mathematics and physical education.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Bryan said. “I think it was the influence of some of the awesome teachers I had growing up. I think I experienced early on examples of what a good teacher can be in a child’s life.”
Some time spent teaching at R-O, a kindergarten to grade 12 school, has, Bryan feels, prepared her for the combination of intermediate and high school.
She is getting a feel for the needs and priorities of Seaway. But there are some programs she hopes may be introduced at the school down the line.
“I would like to introduce after school programs, especially for grades 7-9, which combine a literacy and numeracy component, but also offer fitness and nutrition experiences for the students. Many kids wouldn’t mind staying after school for interesting programs they could benefit from.”
She senses a good feeling at Seaway built on strong connections between 7-9 teachers spanning programs and procedures. “I want to keep both high school and intermediate panels working together.
We are working with teachers as ‘instructional leaders’, not as ‘managers’, which is a board wide initiative. I am an authority figure in the school, but I am also a teacher. I see a lot of willingness in this staff to collaborate in this approach.”
Bryan strongly feels that public education must be maintained as accessible to all children. Every child can learn and brings skills to the table. “We must value all the paths our children choose whether they choose to go on to higher education, or to learn in the world of work. Each path must be valued equally.”