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, 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.