Beyond the commotion of the first weeks back at school, Christina Steen said she plans to stay the course as the new principal of Chief Sunrise Education Centre on the Hay River Reserve.
“We have a fantastic team of teachers,” she told The Hub. “That makes for a great dynamic atmosphere for the kids, and they really excel.”
Steen has taught at Chief Sunrise for six years and was the program support teacher and vice principal for three of them. She said stepping into the role of principal was fairly simple.
“One of the advantages of having such a small school is that we know our kids and families really well,” she said, adding that she will sorely miss being in the classroom most of the day. “I still get to see them, obviously, but I will miss that time with the students.”
Steen said the school will continue to roll out self-regulation tools and programs, which allow students the physical space and flexibility to learn in whatever manner suits them best. It can be as simple as sitting backwards in a chair or lying down to read, or – at the other end of the scale – can involve specialized equipment like child-sized chairs that spin. Chief Sunrise was ahead of the curve in the South Slave in its implementation of these techniques, but Steen said there is still work to be done.
“Our attendance was good, the kids were here, but we weren’t getting the learning to go with it,” she said. “We explored self-regulation and now it’s spreading to other schools, as well.”
This year, teachers and students will focus on metacognition – put simply, thinking about how a student learns and thinks – in order to help children identify what they need for themselves and what it is they require to learn best.
“It means we have the kids experimenting with different things,” said Steen. “We have some new resources and we’re developing new strategies, including introducing self-regulation in the Head Start program.”
Scheduling at Chief Sunrise has also been changed a bit, with the introduction of a time for teachers to meet to collaborate on Monday mornings as opposed to having early dismissal or professional development days scattered throughout the year. The new schedule also means staff and students start at 9 a.m. and finish at 4 p.m., and have at least 45 minutes of physical activity every day.
“We’re focusing more on health and fitness and less on sports,” said Steen. “We want to move away from gym class being soccer or basketball and more towards overall health. The high school kids are setting fitness goals and learning how to manage them over the course of the school year.”
New program support teacher Ruth Stadelmayer teaches gym in the afternoons and said the boost of activity at the end of the day helps her maintain energy levels throughout. Though she has taught in Northern Ontario, this is Stadelmayer’s first year in the Northwest Territories.
“I’m loving it so far,” she said. “It’s such a small school, but so supportive. We get lots of one-on-one time with the kids and that’s great.”
Stadelmayer is not the only one to enjoy daily gym time.
Grade 2 student Albert Jensen is happy to be back to school.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “I like playing tag, and green light red light, and just having fun in gym.”
— Sarah Ladik