Seaway’s new vice principal, Ann Blackburn, is already impressed.
“Everyone has been very warm, very friendly,” she said. “Seaway has a very welcoming staff, dedicated and professional, but also very welcoming.”
While she has not yet had the opportunity to meet many Seaway students, she is definitely looking forward to it. “I plan to attend the grade seven orientation event, and hopefully, I may even get to meet some parents and members of the school council. So far, I have gained a great impression of this school.”
Ann Blackburn has assumed the role of vice principal in the administration of Seaway, but she will also be doing some classroom teaching. Her extensive educational background in the classroom, in administration and in board related assignments, gives her a unique perspective on all levels of education.
Blackburn, who grew up in Ottawa, is no stranger to the Upper Canada Board. When she began her career in education in 1989, her first jobs were with the old SD&G board. A graduate of Queen’s University with a B.A., and a B.Ed. from the University of Ottawa, she served a year in Cornwall, then was two years at Stampville School and five years at Dixon’s Corners. Her field was special education.
“When I first began, we used to have more self-contained special education classes than is common now,” Blackburn explained. “When I came to Seaway, I was delighted to find that Nicole Hummel, who was my first EA at Dixon’s, is now an Educational Assistant at Seaway. It was great to see a familiar, welcome face at my new school.”
Following her time at Dixon’s, Blackburn accepted a position at the board as a Special Education Resource teacher. Her job was to go to all schools, providing support in programming and assessment for teachers, as well as professional development.
“I worked with autistic, and learning difference students, anyone with special needs,” Blackburn explained. “Since this was my job for six years, I feel that I gained much practical training, and gained a wider perspective ahout how schools were coping and working with these students.”
She further increased her experience in special education when she returned to teaching, this time in a Section 23 school.
Section 23 schools, which are operated in partnership with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Services, are designed for students with strong behavioural needs. Their emotional issues, sometimes coupled with learning problems, make it impossible for these children to function in traditional classrooms. Again, Blackburn views the experience as broadening, an opportunity to learn about often challenging children.
She spent time at Winchester Public School as an LRC (Learning Resource Coach), a consultant to other educators. This was followed by a position as vice principal at Morewood, twinned with Chesterville Public School. In 2010-11, Blackburn served as VP at South Grenville High School, and from January to June in 2012, became principal of all five Section 23 programs.
“Now I’m at Seaway,” Blackburn said, laughing. “You could say I have been around, bouncing to many places. However, I enjoy the challenges, and not being stuck in an educational rut. Mixing it up, for me, really works.”
The mother of a 16-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son ensures, Blackburn said, that “you really stay current with the teenage world.”
While she will take some time to immerse herself in Seaway’s culture, Blackburn does have some projects in mind.
“My background in Special Education keeps me interested in programs in that field. I also have a deep interest in visual arts, and I hope we might get some new murals here at Seaway, art that is both a source of beauty and pride, but also serves an educational purpose. I must let Heather Lauder, the art teacher, know about that one,” she added, laughing.
Also interested in environmental issues, the new vice principal was impressed with the greenhouse at Seaway, and looks forward to the next school “Farm Day.”
“With my background, I truly believe all students need the opportunity to become successful. Success can assume many forms, but we need to create the ideal conditions for learning to occur,” said Seaway’s new vice principal, Ann Blackburn.
“We have to start by building a positive relationship with our students. When we know them well, we can better meet their needs. It is also critical to involve families and the community to build the future of our students.”