By Bradley Turcotte –
Students might not be excited the new school year is upon us, but Notre Dame High School’s new principal, Michael Curry, says he is looking forward to building community in his new position.
Growing the already established campus is part of Curry’s vision for Notre Dame. The Broadview Avenue school has the facilities to increase enrollment, Curry says, and he would like to enhance Notre Dame’s successful programs, which netted an Ontario Premier’s Award for Accepting Schools last year.
An educator for over two decades, Curry taught at Kanata’s Holy Trinity High School for 12 years, mainly the subjects of math and science, before making the transition to vice-principal at St. Patrick’s High School. Curry then accepted the challenge of opening St. Francis Xavier High School as its first principal.
As St. Francis Xavier’s inaugural principal, Curry says building a community from scratch was a challenge he gladly accepted. When the time came to move on, Curry says he felt confident leaving his legacy for a new adventure and Notre Dame was at the top of his list.
“I visited the school on a couple of occasions and I found the students and staff so welcoming and friendly. It’s a nice, established school with great facilities,” Curry says. “I really like the people that I’ve met. One of the things that we are going to push is even stronger ties to the community.”
Much like the leaves that will soon transform from green to gold, change can be a good thing, Curry maintains, and in his years as an educator, he says the role of a teacher has evolved to better serve pupils. Where once teachers were simply a “sage on a stage” reciting facts, the modern instructor needs to act as a facilitator who recognizes today’s youth come to class with individual demands. Critical thinking and creativity need to be fostered, Curry adds.
“The educator is valuable in terms of supporting the whole kid,” Curry says. “Teachers are more attuned to helping support the needs of the kids in their classes and that’s been a great change as far as I’m concerned. We’re not just worried about their academics; we are worried about the whole kid.”
Physical activity is an essential component to developing a fully formed youth and Curry is a self-described sports aficionado, coaching volleyball and basketball.
There are constant headlines telling us advances in technology are detracting from young people’s physicality and Notre Dame was one of the first institutions in Ottawa to ban phones and MP3 players. Although this ban has since been lifted, it’s worth noting that Curry disagrees with the notion that technology and physical activity are in conflict.
“My sense of technology is if used properly it is a necessity. To tell kids they shouldn’t have access to technology and can’t use it in their classes is something that is completely foreign to me. Sometimes it is considered negative and there are aspects, like online trouble that can be caused, but in my opinion the benefits of technology far outweigh the problems.”
As Curry develops his vision for Notre Dame, he is cognisant that this current crop of students faces a reality that differs from generations past.
“There’s not as much stability in long term jobs. People will go through more than one career. We’re already seeing that. As opposed to just training for a job and that’s what you are going to do the rest of your life, it’s about skills so that kids can go with the flow, go where jobs are and be adaptable. That’s a big change for kids and for us in our teaching; to work with them to make them ready for the job market.”
Now that the students are filing into class to learn and train for their adaptable futures, Curry admits he himself is in the “learning phase” in his new position but is excited for what the semester will bring.
“I’m proud of this school and excited to be here. There’s so much this school has to offer.”