Dianne Parwicki, from Toronto's Fr. John Redmond High School, was one of the principals honoured for her leadership with a Principal of Excellence Award by the Toronto Association of Parents in Catholic Education. Photo by Sheila Dabu Nonato

Toronto parent group honours excellent principals

  • December 1, 2011

TORONTO - The key to a successful school, says principal Dianne Parwicki, is a strong partnership between parents, the school and the community,

“Leadership means building trust between parents and the school,” said Parwicki, who was honoured for her leadership with a Principal of Excellence Award by the Toronto Association of Parents in Catholic Education.

Parwicki, principal at Toronto's Fr. John Redmond High School, was honoured along with Toni Mayer, principal at Toronto's Holy Spirit Elementary School. 

"This award acknowledges principals who have made extraordinary contributions to their school," said a release by TAPCE. "These principals have worked collaboratively with their parent community and combine their passion for education with the ability to lead, challenge and support the dignity of an inclusive environment."

Also that evening, long-time parent volunteer Theresa Pastore was awarded a lifetime achievement award.

In her speech, Parwicki said she reached out to the community by talking to parents, neighbours and politicians and attending all of the Masses at different churches in the neighbourhood. Parwicki said she wanted to learn as much as Mayerpossible about the school and people's perceptions of it.

“A school leader needs to have a pulse on everything that happens in the school,” she said.

Parwicki added that a successful school also means “catching those who are about to fall down and guide them to success” and a commitment to staff professional development.

“A principal of excellence means not only having strong faith and commitment but demonstrating this with all partners and stakeholders in education,” Parwicki said.

Mayer, the winner for elementary Catholic school teachers, said being an authentic witness of faith leads to excellence in education. He saw this early on and credits his Grade 8 teacher for inspiring him to become an educator.

“He convinced me I had a talent for teaching,” Mayer told The Catholic Register. “I have a learning disability. Even with the learning disability, (my teacher told me) I could still succeed.”

On his philosophy on teaching, Mayer said a teacher needs to have a passion for it. Teaching is a vocation and its rewards go beyond the classroom. Teachers also “get the personal gratification when Billy who can't multiply gets it,” he explained.

He also credits parents for being part of a successful school. He told of a Holy Spirit school group aimed at improving girls' self image that could not have been possible without this partnership.

Mayer also believes in the important role faith plays in education. Aside from organizing school Masses, the school also tries to live out their Catholic faith in its day-to-day activities.

Meanwhile, TAPCE lifetime achievement winner Pastore encourages parents to be actively involved in their children's education.

“Why I stay a volunteer is because I believe in the power of the parent. We are our children's advocate,” she told the audience. “Without our voice, our children will languish in the system.”

Pastore, the mother of two graduates of Mary Ward Catholic High School, says the role of parents has evolved from fundraisers to an “advising, active partnership” with school administrators.

“Parents are the first teachers. Without parents representing their children and education and the support of teachers, children can't succeed,” she said.

Pastore has been volunteering at Catholic schools for about 20 years. Her volunteer work has included serving as TAPCE president, Toronto director of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education and as a children's literacy volunteer.

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