REGINA — James Wahl, principal of Regina’s St. Francis Community School, and Nevin Halyk, principal of Wadena Elementary School, used the same words when informed they are members of the cohort of 40 from across Canada selected as this year’s top school principals.
“Shocked, surprised, pleased, excited and humbled,” said the two.
Wahl is the third principal in the Regina Roman Catholic School District to receive the award in the 11 years the award has been given. The others were Starla Grebinski, principal at Sacred Heart elementary school, and Jamie Bresciani, principal at Miller Catholic High School.
The award is presented annually by the Learning Partnership formed in 1993 by a group of Canadian businesses and several Ontario universities. Its motto is Public Education: Canada’s Future.
Halyk has been a principal and vice-principal for 11 years. He, like Wahl, isn’t sure why he received the award but believes it’s the totality of his experience as a principal. “I’m always willing to share,” said Halyk.
He coaches in several sports and is always trying new things “and trying them out myself. We’re really like children,” referring to himself and all teachers and principals, “always learning, only we’re a little further down the road,” he said laughing.
Wahl, too, said he didn’t know exactly why he was selected for the honour. “I’ve worked with good people and good people can make things work and look good. I’ve always worked with teams and that comes through with everything I do, and when you have that team you can achieve the stars.”
Wahl has been a principal for eight of his 19 years as a teacher. “I work with kids a lot. I coach in everything (football, basketball, track, touch football). I’m in the classroom and doing stuff but really my job as a principal is to facilitate the teachers to make it the best they can do in the classroom.”
You lead by example, said Wahl. “If you’re doing the stuff it’s easier for me to say to someone, ‘This needs to be filled. Can you do it and I’ll help you with it.’ ”
The award comes with an all-expense paid trip to Toronto for a gala presentation Feb. 24 and a week of professional development with management and leadership experts at the Rotman School of Management. Wahl said he is really excited about the week at the Rotman School. “Starla (Grebinski, one of the other previous recipients) told me it was the best professional development she’s taken and ever will take, so I’m really excited about that.”
Wahl and Halyk will join 350 other members of the National Academy of Canada’s Outstanding Principals and will have access to ongoing networking, mentoring and professional development opportunities.