People are starting to take notice of Jane Hill.
In 2012, the principal of St. Gabriel Catholic School in Kanata Lakes was thrilled to see her school win an award for its innovative use of technology from Invest Ottawa.
This year, the Stittsville woman was named one of Canada’s outstanding principals by the Learning Partnership.
“I was very humbled,” said Hill, who will accept the honour at a gala awards ceremony in Toronto on Feb. 26. “It’s starting to sink in, the more I think about it. It’s quite an honour.”
Excitement over the news has spread among the students and staff at the Catholic school.
“It’s just a great school, and (the award) brings attention to the school,” said Hill. “We have an amazing staff. The children are wonderful and the parents are very supportive, which is nice for all of us.”
The Canada’s Outstanding Principals program accepts nominations from a principal’s staff, peers and community members in every province and territory.
Candidates are selected based on partnerships with parents and communities; examples of innovation and change that have improved the academic performance of students and letters of support.
This year, 51 educators were selected across Canada, including three from the greater Ottawa area: Hill, Dave Chaplin of Notre Dame Catholic High School, in Carleton Place and Carole Dufort of Caldwell Street Public School in Carleton Place.
“Behind every great school is a great principal who is not only an outstanding educator, but an excellent manager and leader,” said Akela Peoples, president and CEO of the Learning Partnership in a press release. “We are thrilled to be recognizing these individuals as examples of excellence in public education.”
The award winners will participate in an executive leadership training program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management from Feb. 24 to 28, where they will discuss management issues with other leaders from the educational and business sectors.
Hill credits her award to the school’s innovative teaching style and use of technology as well as the spirit of collaboration between teachers and students.
She has been an elementary school principal for 15 years, two at St. Gabriel’s, six at St. Anne Catholic School in Bridlewood, four at St. Martin de Porres School in Glen Cairn and three at Thomas D’Arcy McGee Catholic School in Gloucester.
“Before that I was vice principal at St. James (in Bridlewood), so I’ve done the rounds in Kanata,” she said.
When St. Gabriel’s, a junior kindergarten to Grade 6 school, first opened its doors in 2011, Hill said she was determined to use an innovative teaching style that promoted the Socratic method, which focuses on the process of solving a problem.
For instance, a Grade 6 teacher might ask her class how they would ensure six chocolate bars were equally distributed among 14 friends.
The children would then be separated into groups and each would come up with a variety of ways to solve the math problem.
“You’re going to have children working on it in different ways,” said Hill. “The children learn from each other. It’s just a really neat way of doing math. They’re going to understand math way better.”
Teachers at St. Gabriel’s use iPads to track students’ problem skills, recording the process so they can be reviewed by both staff and parents.
“That’s the thing, trying to capture their thinking, not just whether they got it right or wrong, but how they get there, she said. “Then you can see where you need to go next.”
Kindergarten teachers videotape children playing so they can observe their creative process and listen to their conversations.
The iPad recording captures the child’s grappling with concepts such as bigger and smaller and the development of early math skills.
One child might be building a tower using toy blocks, and say, “My tower is higher than your tower.”
The teacher can then ask, “Why is it higher?”
St. Gabriel’s encourages students to bring their own personal devices to school, such as tablets and iPods, and Smart Boards have been installed in every classroom.
“It’s a school that definitely embraces 21st century learning,” said Hill.
St. Gabriel’s is an environmentally-friendly school, said Hill.
The school tries to keep use of paper to a minimum, sending emails and email alerts to parents instead of sending flyers home.
The school also offers a number of green initiatives such as compost recycling, solar panels on the roof, and boomerang lunches, where any garbage is brought back home.
Students can monitor the building’s energy use on screens placed near the front office.
With files from Jessica Cunha