“I still wander through the halls at least once a day and find it a bit surreal when I realize that this is my school and these are my kids,” says Leana Howard, principal at the Trochu Valley school.
Howard became the principal of Trochu Valley School the beginning of last year, not long after she began master of education degree.
She was the associate principal (AP) for a year before that. Then when the former principal, Debbie Barkman, had a family emergency and took a leave of absence early in the next school year following becoming AP, Howard became the acting principal.
When the Barkman retired, Howard applied and was appointed principal.
“All of the circumstances fell into place at the right time.”
It was her passion for education and her passion for the school that helped make her decision that she wanted to become the principal.
“I want our students to be the most successful students they can be. I hope, as their principal, I am helping them get there.”
“I never realized how absolutely busy some days can be,” exclaimed Howard.
She recalls this one day where she had about 35 emails that needed immediate attention, another 20 emails that could wait a while, and five phone calls and numerous students who needed her.
“I guess the big change from back when I was just a teacher – to associate, to principal – is just how many irons are in the stove.”
Before becoming the principal or even the AP, Howard spent more than 12 years teaching grade six. She also taught junior high language arts, and a variety of other grades, including grades four to twelve at a Hutterite colony.
“I unfortunately teach less than before, which I do miss.”
She became a teacher to work with students, but becoming the principal, Howard now only teaches two classes, because she is too busy running the school.
“This has been one of the most challenging, rewarding, stressful, and affirming jobs I have ever done,” said Howard.
Other teachers who work with Howard spoke about her leadership on Trochu Valley School.
“She places a strong importance on academics but also encouraging and seeing that each student excels in other areas of their lives,” said Chantalle Van Otterloo, the associate principal at Trochu Valley school, who works with Howard to best support and lead their school so that the students are able to learn and to be successful.
“I believe Mrs. Howard was a great addition to administration in our school.”
She promotes lifelong learning and powerful learning. She is not afraid to have difficult and meaningful conversations “that push our school to the next level,” said Van Otterloo.
“In the last three years, Trochu Valley School has changed in many positive ways.”
The school’s academic results are higher than they have been in years, and this is because Howard and Van Otterloo push the teachers to provide the best education to their students and place an importance on becoming critical thinkers and responsible citizens in the world.
During Howard’s year and a bit at as principal has been productive; they have started a hockey academy and have started other new options such as video production, high school foods and financial management, Howard explained.
Howard has adjusted schedules to allow longer classes and to maximize learning by rotating.
She has also started a leadership group to allow the students to “have a say,” in how they want their school to be as well.
The Trochu Valley staff has re-written their school’s mission and vision, and are using it to focus on their daily work.
“Maximizing individual learning and possibilities.”
Howard and Van Otterloo say that it is important to work together to help all students as well as all staff.
“I am a teacher through and through, and I find that my interactions with students to be the most rewarding part of my job,” said Howard.
“I love having her as principal,” exclaimed Erin Benedict, a grade 12 student attending Trochu Valley School and was in Howard’s grade six class.
She remembers how Howard was always finding new ways to teach the students. She always did everything she could to help everyone learn in the classroom, she wanted everyone to succeed, remembered Benedict.
“She really is an amazing role model. I hope to at least be half the woman she is,”
“When I was a teacher and things outside my classroom got chaotic I would often say, ‘not my circus, not my monkeys.’
“Now it is my circus and they are my monkeys.
“Truthfully, I would not want to change that even on the craziest of days,” Howard said smiling.