Four York grads named outstanding school principals

Four York grads have been named Canada’s Outstanding Principals this year by the The Learning Partnership, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to championing a strong public education system.

Wendy Harrison, Dan Koenig, Anita Tonsend and Marleen Warne were among 32 principals from across the country to be recognized as dynamic education leaders in publicly funded schools.

"Our heartiest congratulations to each of them for making unique and significant contributions to the educational lives of the communities in which they work," said Paul Axelrod, dean of York’s Faculty of Education, following the Jan. 10 announcement. "The awards are a sterling indication of the respect they have earned from their peers, and I look forward to their continued successes."

Now in its third year, Canada’s Outstanding Principals program was developed by The Learning Partnership in association with the Canadian Association of Principals and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business. Since being launched, 59 principals have won the title.

From Feb. 25 to March 1, the winning principals will participate in a five-day executive leadership training program at Rotman. On Feb. 27, they will be honoured for their contributions at a gala in Toronto. They will also be inducted into the National Academy of Principals.

Here are the four York grads named among Canada’s Outstanding Principals in 2007.

Wendy Harrison (BEd ’87) has been a principal for almost 10 years. After being appointed principal at Park School Elementary in Georgetown five years ago, she opened Silver Creek Public School, where she continues to work. As well, Harrison puts her leadership skills to use by training teachers in schools across York region. Harrison was a guidance counselor and teacher for 18 years in elementary and secondary schools. Her experience in education also includes four years as a vice-principal and three years as special education coordinator with the Halton District School Board. Recognizing that students should be connected to care and trust before they can learn, she has a commitment to providing a safe environment to her students.

Dan Koenig (BEd ’83) has spent four years as principal of St. Brendan Catholic School. Prior to his appointment, he was program coordinator for health, physical and outdoor education with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. As well, Koenig has written curriculum documents and designed lesson plans for health and physical education for the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA) and the Toronto Catholic board. He is also the lead principal for the school board in working with the numeracy and literacy secretariat and striving to help students improve such skills .

Anita Townsend (BEd ’81) is the Simcoe County School Board’s principal of curriculum services. She has been a principal of three elementary schools in the county, most recently of William H. Day Elementary School in Bradford. Before becoming a principal, she was a teacher at elementary and secondary schools and a special education consultant. Townsend has also worked for the Toronto and York Region school boards.

Marleen Warne (BA ’72) celebrates her fifth year as principal of West Oaks Public School. A graduate of York’s honours French program, Warne taught French for many years for various schools boards in Ontario before becoming a principal. She has also won the 2005 Celebration of Life Award for West Oak’s involvement in the Living School program. Promoting physical activity, emotional well-being and healthy eating among her students, Warne is committed to ensuring balance in her students’ lives.

This story was submitted to YFile by Bethany Hansraj, a student assistant in the Publications unit of York’s Marketing & Communications Division.