A new school year is set to begin on September 4, and it marks the start of a time of change for the Revelstoke School District.
There’s a new superintendent, two new principals, new district staff and a number of long-time teachers and staff have retired in recent years.
At Revelstoke Secondary School, Greg Kenyon is starting his first full year as principal, having started there last January. He replaced Hooker, and at graduation in June, he made a point of noting how the school was still very much his predecessor’s.
At Begbie View Elementary, Yanping Wang takes the reigns as principal, replacing Shan Jorgensen-Adam, who left last year for personal reasons. Wang’s husband Nian Zhu is the new district principal of support services.
Leading the way is Mike Hooker, who is entering his first full year as superintendent, replacing Anne Cooper, who will be officially retired as of the end of this month. Hooker is no stranger to the district, having spent more than a decade here as a principal, first at Arrow Heights Elementary and since 2004, at RSS.
He called the personnel changes “exciting.”
“Having people from out of Revelstoke come join us is always healthy for all of us,” he said. “People bring new ideas with them and a different focus. That creates good discussion and allows us an opportunity to look critically at what we do. Revelstoke has been a successful district in a whole variety of measures but that’s something that has to be growing and changing.”
There are two big challenges Hooker said he will be facing as superintendent. One will be to continue the district’s success in education established over the past decade. The other will be broadening the district’s focus on less traditional educational matters like social and emotional well-being, and physical health.
“I think that’s one of the challenges of public education, of education in general, is to be able to broaden it,” Hooker said. “More and more we’re finding there’s a level of importance of developing healthy people, healthy citizens, and that has to be the main priority.”
Students’ social and emotional well being started as a focus last year and continues as one of the districts main goals. Research indicates that students who have good mental health do better in school. It helps students become more confident learners, said Hooker, and helps them better deal with adversity.
He said one key piece is making sure students feel connected to two or more adults in school. This helps because it means students will feel comfortable talking to staff about issues they are having.
“To have that ability to have conversations about social and emotional learning, you need to have a relationship there and a level of trust to open up and talk about what you’re thinking about,” he said. “It’s deeper than talking about your learning and your understanding of multiplication. It’s more talking about feelings and interactions and thoughts. To have that you need to have level of trust and without the trust the conversation can’t happen, and if the conversation doesn’t happen, that social and emotional learning won’t take place.”
Physical health is a new focus the district would like to look at too – issues like fitness levels and healthy eating habits.
“We’ve begun that work in the last few years and now it need to brought to the forefront,” said Hooker.
The new school year begins on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and about to 1,000 students will be marching through the doors at Revelstoke’s five schools (including the growing French school, Ecole des Glaciers).
It’s an exciting time of year, said Hooker, “Because summer’s ending and that September energy hits.”