For the new principal of Revelstoke Secondary School, coming to Revelstoke is like coming back home. “I worked for 20 years in Kelowna so B.C. is home,” Greg Kenyon told me during his second week at his new job. “My wife and I we really enjoy this area of the world. We’ve been to many places but this is home for us.”
Kenyon comes to Revelstoke with a wealth of experience as a teacher in the Okanagan, a volleyball coach, and as a principal in Sweden and Saskatchewan.
He showed up to Revelstoke on the Friday before school started up for 2013, had a weekend to get his household items organized, and started work on the Monday. He described his reception in town as “fantastic.”
“Everyone has been incredibly friendly and gracious and patient and all those things,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”
I met Kenyon at RSS last Tuesday morning; he had already switched offices in order to have a better view of students coming and leaving from the school’s main office. His desk was decorated with a photo of his family, and a drawing by one of his children.
Kenyon, who grew up in Northern Saskatchewan, took the long road to arrive in Revelstoke. He started off by receiving a major in history and minors in English and geography at Okanagan University College (now UBC Okanagan). It was there that one of his teachers suggested he become a teacher, saying, ‘You teach the students my class.’ and noting many study sessions were held at Kenyon’s home. He had been accepted to a Masters program at Carlton University in Ottawa, but instead he enrolled in teacher’s college at UBC.
“Once I started my practicum I do remember stopping in my first lesson and going ‘This is so fun,’ he said. “Round peg, round hole. I found something I really enjoy, and I like to think, something I’m really good at.
“Of course, you’ll have to talk to my former students about that.”
Over the next 10 years, Kenyon taught a variety of subjects – social studies, history, English, math, and psychology – in the Okanagan, mostly at Kelowna Secondary School. He also coached volleyball, which brought him contact with some coaches in Revelstoke, including Terry Beitel and Kathy Hoshizaki, and he came up here several times to take part in the Last Spike tournament.
One year a friend asked him to be his assistant volleyball coach for a professional team in Sweden. He jumped at the offer, but the pay wasn’t enough, so he also took a teaching job at the international school in Orebro. While there he met his wife Asa.
After a year in Sweden he came back to Canada. That spring, he was asked if he wanted to become a principal at another international school. “It was home for my wife and a very intriguing opportunity to become a principal,” he said.
Kenyon spent a year at a school in Gavle, before going back to Orebro. In Sweden, he had to deal with the challenges of working in a different educational system, particularly the way students were marked. “It’s all criteria based assessment and evaluation,” he said. “If you got 28 out of 30, that didn’t matter. What mattered was, did you demonstrate this objective and to what level did you demonstrate it.”
As an example, he said that if in math, a student did really well with decimals but poorly with fractions, his grade would indicate that, rather than provide an overall number for the test.
“I personally, having taught in this system and taught and administrated in that system, you start asking yourself the question, ‘What do parents and students want to know?’” he said. “I think it’s going to be the wave of education going forward, so already having experience it Sweden, I’m comfortable with that idea.
“It’s an interesting pedagogic discussion. That was a very interesting shift in thinking I had to undertake when I was there.”
After several years in Sweden, Kenyon and his family decided to move back to Canada. With jobs in the B.C. Interior harder to come by, he took a position as principal of Kerrobert Composite School, a kindergarten to grade 12 school in a small town in Saskatchewan.
He spent two years there before applying for the principalship of Revelstoke Secondary School. The position had been advertised several times, and he said he felt honoured to be offered the post.
“I know that they didn’t want to settle, is what they kept saying to me,” he said. “They wanted to make sure they had the right person, that’s what they kept saying and for them to say that I’m that person, I was so honoured to be offered the position.”
Since arriving in Revelstoke, Kenyon has spent his time getting to know the students and staff at his new school. He credited vice-principal Andy Pfeiffer with helping get going, as well as the office staff. He said he wants to continue the good work that’s been at the school, but also hopes to provide a fresh set of eyes to see what can be done better.
“It’s a good opportunity to examine what we do here and if we need to change anything,” he said. “I’ve asked all the staff to stop in and tell me what they like about the school and tell me if there’s anything they’ve identified that we can work.”
He added that he will be reaching out to parents and students as well to see what they think can be improved. He said he doesn’t intend on imposing his own beliefs on the school, but that they might show themselves in the way he conducts strategic planning and in the day-to-day operations.
“I do not believe in punishing students, I believe in teaching students,” he said. “I believe in helping students learn and to grow. If a student ends up in my office for a bad choice, there might be a consequence for that choice, but I don’t want to punish them for that choice, I want them to learn from that choice. It’s how you approach people and how you approach education.”
And he also might do a little volleyball coaching.