About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Monday, December 12, 2016

School leadership in Haiti: Reflections and predictions

What a location for a course!
Last week, I taught a Master of Education course in Fermathe, Haiti in the mountains above Port au Prince. This is the fifth Masters course I have taught in Haiti and I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the 41 students in my course.

One item that struck me was the growth in the number of female participants in the Masters courses I have taught. There were only two females (out of 60) in the first course I taught ten years ago in Haiti. In last week's course, 11 of the participants were female. And they were very strong leaders within the course! This certainly gives me hope that many more women will pursue educational leadership in Haiti.
Marie Paule and Berline - two amazing leaders!
Rodia is dynamic and has a powerful vision!
Another issue that impressed me was the high level of engagement of the students. We covered a wide variety of topics, including transformational and transactional leadership, teacher evaluation, and teacher professional development. We did a lot of active learning in all of these areas and the course participants were always eager for more.

Characteristics of a leader
Inside-Outside activity was a big hit!
Finally, I tried to model effective teaching practices for the participants. We had readings that included chapters from both North American as well as Haitian scholars. Each day, we determined the criteria that would be used to assess their work for the day. We incorporated mini-lectures led by me with small group seminars that participants led. We completed activities that reflected different learning styles. I was really pleased to see that in the learning activities that the students led, they too did not simply rely on traditional teaching methods (i.e., lectures) but tried to utilize different means to communicate the key ideas they were focused on.

Individual vision statements
After teaching this Masters course, I am even more convinced that there is tremendous opportunity for the future of education in Haiti. These are strong and capable leaders whose vision is to lead effective schools and to impact educational outcomes across the country. Last week was only a snapshot into this potential but I am optimistic that over the next 20 years, these leaders will be some of the key change agents in Haiti.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Who has influenced you in your leadership abilities? Insights from Haitian principals

This week I am teaching a Masters-level course in school leadership in Haiti. There are 45 participants who are progressing toward a Master of Education degree.

In my work in different contexts, whether Canada, Haiti, Ghana, or Thailand, I have always been impressed with the dedication that principals have to leading effective schools. I have never met a school leader who said, "Oh, I really just want to lead a mediocre school." Even with limited resources, as is the case for many of the participants in the current course, principals often find innovative ways to address the needs of their students and teachers.

Yesterday, I gave each principal a picture of a tree and asked them to write onto the leaves all of the leadership qualities, skills, and dispositions that they think they have. I then asked them to consider the roots of the tree and to identify the various people, activities, or events that contributed to these qualities. Tonight, as I reviewed the products of this simple assignment, I have been amazed at the qualities these leaders have identified. I am even more impressed at what (or who) they have identified as having contributed to these abilities.

It reminds me that none of us become a leader by simply reading a book or following a specific formula. Most of my leadership abilities I can directly tie to people who have invested in me and mentored me. It is a good reminder for me to be deliberate and intentional in speaking into the lives of "emerging leaders" to encourage them, challenge them, and to model for them what it means to be an effective leader.

Who has influenced you as a leader? Who have you influenced?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Building school leadership capacity through Master of Education courses in Haiti

This week, I am returning to the Port au Prince area of Haiti to teach a Master of Education (M.Ed.) course in school leadership. I have taught a number of M.Ed. courses in school leadership in Haiti before, however, it has been three years since I last did so. There are 45 school leaders registered for this week's course.

I continue to teach Master of Education courses in Haiti because it provides a focused  opportunity to engage those in strategic positions of educational leadership in the country. Haiti will change through the leadership of those who know it best, not external people such as myself. I continue to see my role as a catalyst for change, fostering the capacity of those who already have a vision for change but perhaps who need some support.

The course I am teaching provides an overview of school leadership in countries around the world. It includes some significant opportunity to consider the "lessons learned" in other contexts and how these might (or might not) intersect with the Haitian context. I model the course after similar graduate courses I teach at Laurier. It is important for my Haitian colleagues to recognize that the same standards and expectations apply; they are not getting a "second class" graduate education. More updates to follow!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Strong partnerships support success in Haiti: 1,000 teachers + 100 principals reaching 100,000 students

Last week, we held an awareness event in Kitchener to bring attention to the work that Laurier is doing in Haiti. Guests from local businesses, universities, and K-12 education systems were treated to an overview of the Educator and Leadership Institute as well as beautiful Haitian art and music. We shared successes we have already seen as well as our vision to improve the learning outcomes of 100,000 Haitian students by supporting the professional capacity of 1,000 teachers and 100 principals.


These outcomes will only be realized through strong partnerships. We have amazing partners on the ground in Haiti like College Notre Dame and College Regina Assumpta. We have also been fortunate to have great Canadian partners like Desire2Learn and the Hacienda Sarria who have supported the work we have done and who have provided expertise of their own. There are many others who have worked collaboratively toward this goal including our partners from the United States, such as personnel from Northeastern State University and REC Foundation.

It was a great evening with many commenting on how it was refreshing to hear a story that focused on an "asset model" for Haiti i.e., building on strengths rather than focusing on deficits.

At the awareness event, we launched our new 3 minute video (click here to view) that highlights activities from this past summer's Educator and Leadership Institute. Click here to watch a longer video (5 minutes) that provides an overview of all of our activities in Haiti.  Thanks to the very talented Lydia Frey for her continued outstanding work in documenting what we have been engaged with in Haiti.

The videos capture the great work that is being done and which will continue to be done in Haiti because of a focus on sustainability through strong partnerships.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Critical incidents in informing our teaching and leadership practices

Over the past three years, I have completed a research study that has examined how critical incidents influence school principals. The study has specifically focused on those critical experiences that impact a principal's perspective of students with special education needs. I was delighted earlier this year to receive funding from SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) to extend the study on a national scale.

Critical incidents are significant emotional events that effect one’s practice and perspective (Yamamoto et al, 2014). They can be either negative or positive and have significant impact on one’s current and future work (Scott, 2004). As well, critical incidents lead to ethical reflection on one’s practice (Hanhimäki & Tirri, 2009). As a result, critical incidents can provide an authentic tool to make meaning from these experiences. For more on critical incidents, consider reading this blog post by Daniel Ayres.

Before reading further, can you think of an incident that has significantly impacted your leadership practices? In what ways?

Critical incidents do not have to be major catastrophes. They can be seemingly simple things that happen in the midst of a regular day but which significantly causes us to reflect on what and how we do what we do.

One critical incident that informed my own leadership was a short conversation with a student after teaching a Grade 11 class 20 years ago. I had made a comment in class regarding poverty and made a broad generalization that those who came from privileged backgrounds would not understand the challenges of "living without." A student approached me after class and commented that, although coming from a fairly well off family, she experienced "living without" in other ways that had to deal more with emotional well-being than financial well-being. 

That short conversation was a critical incident for me; it made me re-think my preconceived ideas. It also helped shape me into a more reflective leader.

The research study I have led has led to some interesting findings, one of the most interesting of which is the profound way in which critical incidents shape leadership practices. For the participants, it was often not workshops or courses that significantly shaped their leadership dispositions. Instead, it was often critical incidents.

As you reflect on your career, what critical incidents can you identify that shaped your leadership style and perspective?


Ayres, D. (2013) Critical Incidents. Available at: http://danieljayres.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/critical-incidents.html (Accessed: November 8, 2016).

Hanhimäki, E., & Tirri, K. (2009). Education for ethically sensitive teaching in critical incidents at school. Journal of Education for Teaching, 35(2), 107-121.

Scott, A. E. (2004). Counselor development through critical incidents: A qualitative study of intern experiences during the predoctoral internship. Dissertation Abstracts International, 65, 1681A.

Yamamoto, J. K., Gardiner, M. E., & Tenuto, P. L. (2014). Emotion in leadership Secondary school administrators’ perceptions of critical incidents. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 42(2), 165-183.