New High School Brings out Extra Care, Student Leadership
Teacher Pattie Reasor brimmed with excitement as she arranged equipment in the new Howard and Judy Gimble Science Lab before opening day. Lunch supervision hadn’t even seemed like a chore, sitting in the new lounge area of the school’s entrance where students can enjoy each other’s company or take in a nature video during lunch.
“It’s really great to get everyone together here rather than in six portables,” Reasor says. School spirit is strong, and students openly talk about the things they love about their new school.
Since the Ground Breaking in May 2015, groups of students trekked over at every opportunity to observe progress on the new high school, which celebrated its Grand Opening on September 28, 2018.
“I’ve never seen anything like it at other schools I’ve built,” said project manager William Piersanti. “I think it helped give them a sense of ownership.”
Principal Gail Wilton is pleased with the protective attitude and owner’s sense of pride that she’s observed. “The older students are very protective of the new space,” she says. “They’ll get after the younger ones if they think they’re not taking enough care.”
Even students who exhibit the scepticism typical of teens are impressed. “I didn’t think it would make much of a difference,” reflects Shaneek, Grade 11. “But I think I was wrong. It makes a difference.”
The impact of dedicated space and incorporating cultural activities is already evident. When Principal Gail Wilton gathered male students interested in traditional singing and drumming to move the school’s drum into the Ptarmigan Cree Cultural Centre, she told the group that leadership would have to come from within their circle; she had no skills to pass on. Then something unexpected happened.
The group became serious. This wasn’t about spending spare time or an excuse to horse around.
This was about respect, being Cree, and growing up. “When we come to drum,” said one student, “we are men.”
What happened in the next 20 minutes was, in Wilton’s words, “jaw-dropping.” A new grade 9 student who’d been on the fringes socially emerged as the most knowledgeable and experienced in singing and drumming. He began directing the others, teaching them what he’d learned from community elders.
They were focussed. They knew they wanted to continue meeting and drumming, and they told Wilton what they needed to become better at drumming and singing in their tradition. Then they carefully put away the drum, making sure it was stored safely.
“The transformation was so fast,” says Wilton. “To watch the leadership emerge so quickly was incredible. They know what needs to be done, and they do it. There’s no question: the drumming space needs to be a permanent part of the Cultural Centre room.”