Special to the Westerly
The beginning of a new school year is often a fresh start for many students.
This year in Ahousaht, two new principals bring a fresh start for students, staff and the community alike.
Director of Education at the Ahousaht Education Authority Rebecca Atleo introduced the principals as Patrick Callow, the elementary principal, who is coming from Bella Bella where he has “worked for a number of years,” and Kate Drexler, “an enthusiastic educator” who will be leading the secondary school.
Patrick Callow is a University of Victoria graduate who started his career teaching “Grade 1 at an international school in the heart of Kuwait City.”
From Kuwait he worked in plane-access-only Deer Lake First Nation in the “far North-West of Ontario.” Not deterred by Deer Lake’s remoteness, his next teaching position was in the “scenic and lively community of Bella Bella,” where he taught Grades 6-8.
His connections to the land, water and culture in Bella Bella led him to the administrator job posting for Ahousaht’s Maaqtusiis Elementary School.
Finding the right staff who are prepared and eager to live in a remote community, such as Ahousaht, can be challenging. When Callow was asked why he was drawn to Ahousaht, he responded by saying, “When I walk down the street, each and every person waves with a smile on their face. People walk up to shake your hand and welcome you to their community… The land is beautiful. In a matter of minutes, you can be walking down a sand beach, staring across the ocean up to beautiful snow-capped peaks, having eagles fly overhead and whales in the waters directly in front. After all, how much do people spend and invest to take a few days of their year to come out this way? Why not have it in your front yard?”
Callow’s vision for Maaqtusiis Elementary School is “to be a reflection of the local values [and] traditions, and to be a place in which students and community work together.” Callow aims to have a hands-on approach as he gets to know students and staff.
“All educators—myself included—must mingle with the kids, have meaningful conversations, join in on activities, provide opportunities for community building, and much more”.
Kate Drexler has a Bachelors Degree in Health Science, Graduate Diploma in Education, Masters in Education and a Post Graduate Certificate in Special Education. She has worked in multiple fields, giving her a variety of experiences to bring with her to Maaqtusiis Secondary School.
Drexler’s first teaching position was in a remote community in Queensland, Australia. One of her experiences there reaffirmed her personal values of working towards reconciliation through education.
Drexler and her class learned and performed the Paul Kelly song, ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow.’
“As students learned the melody, we deconstructed the lyrics that told the story of the Gurindji people’s fight for land rights in Australia. Hearing students both Indigenous and non-Indigenous sing about reconciliation made me realize that this is my life’s work.”
First Nation’s culture is an integral part of Drexler’s beliefs surrounding education.
“Culture is identity. Culture is healing. Culture is connection. The Nuu-chah-nulth’s Pathway to Success document states that education should ‘[encourage] a strong sense of self and pride in [students’] heritage.’…I too believe in creating a culturally enriching learning environment.”
Drexler and the Maaqtusiis Secondary staff have spent time over the past week revisiting and rewriting the schools Vision, Mission and Values. Culture is a core part of what the staff at Maaqtusiis School are promoting and encouraging through daily interactions and lessons.
The Maaqtusiis Secondary Mission reflects that by stating: “high-level learning for all students in an engaging and culturally connected environment” is to be expected and it is clear that both new principals will bring their passion for culture and community in to their schools.
As the new school year begins, Atleo wants to “wish all of our students a great year and to our staff, have an awesome year and enjoy the children.”