St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School Principal Karan Leal has found herself in some prestigious company, having been selected by The Learning Partnership as one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals of 2017.
A group of staff, students, parents, clergy and fellow educators nominated Mrs. Leal for the award, which is among the highest honours for a principal in public education.
Principal Karan Leal with school prime minister and Grade 8 student Jodi Overwijk.
“I was extremely touched by the nomination,” Mrs. Leal says about hearing she had been selected. “When I found out, it warmed my heart deeply.”
Now celebrating its 13th year, The Learning Partnership’s Canada’s Outstanding Principals program recognizes the unique and vital contribution of principals in publicly funded schools. The 40 principals, nominated by parents, colleagues, and community members, and chosen by a national selection committee, are being celebrated for demonstrating innovation, leadership and for employing creativity in finding solutions and opportunities within their school communities.
They will be awarded for their accomplishments at the annual Canada’s Outstanding Principals gala on February 28th at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.
Mrs. Leal has been an educator in the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board for more than 31 years and has been principal at St. Patrick CES for five years.
“The staff here at St. Patrick are incredible—they all have special gifts, so my role in many ways is to empower them to go out and explore their gifts to the fullest,” Mrs. Leal says. “And because of that, we have the ability to offer an incredible wide range of opportunities for our students.”
Under Mrs. Leal’s leadership, St. Patrick has been recognized as a gold-level Ontario EcoSchool and the school offers a wide-range of extracurricular activities for students such as a robotics club, math and problem-solving teams, school musicals, talent shows, spelling bees, public speaking competitions, Skills Ontario teams (robotics, videography and cardboard boats) and an array of sporting opportunities.
Mrs. Leal also helps organize the school’s annual Christmas hamper campaign, where gifts and food are collected and hand-delivered to underprivileged families in the community.
Those who nominated Mrs. Leal talked about her ability to inspire students and staff alike, her collaboration with the local parish and parent communities, and her strive to create a welcoming, inclusive school environment where students have ample access to technology.
St. Patrick CES hosted the first ever Board-wide Robotics Competition in November 2016. Principal Karan Leal said her role as a Principal is to empower her staff to take chances and to embrace their talents and interests. Students at the school benefit from an array of extracurricular activities as a result.
“Karan has a strong commitment to the growth and wellbeing of her staff and students, which makes her an outstanding educator and leader," says Maria Kennedy, Parent Council Chair 2011-2016. "She takes time to celebrate student and staff achievements and she creates a school environment in which parents are welcomed and respected."
“Perhaps the greatest testament to Karan Leal as an outstanding principal is found among the students of the school," says Rev. Msgr. Michael Heffernan, of Our Lady of the Assumption in Keene. "One finds a great love and respect for Mrs. Leal by the pupils. And…I have found her to be supportive in my role as pastor as we work together, educating and strengthening the students in their faith and moral development."
The winners of the Canada’s Outstanding Principals program will benefit from an exclusive five-day executive leadership training program at one of Canada’s top business schools, the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. The program will introduce them to leadership and management practices presented by business, government and education leaders as well as Rotman faculty.
The 2017 winners will join the prestigious ranks of the National Academy of Canada’s Outstanding Principals, which now boasts over 400 members. The National Academy offers principals ongoing networking, mentoring and professional development opportunities so they can enhance their leadership skills.