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From the Desk of Ms. Cheryl Boughton, Head of School

List of 20 news stories.

  • Love is in the Air

    There’s no mistaking it, love is definitely in the air at SJK! All around the school, everyone is dressed in red, white and pink in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. There is a wonderful energy and warmth in our hallways and classrooms.

    I had the opportunity to show a visitor around our school this morning. As we popped our heads into various classrooms we were greeted by warm smiles and friendly hellos. I was so proud of our students as they introduced themselves to our guest in a confident manner and graciously welcomed him to their classrooms.

    There is so much to a good education. We certainly expect exceptional teachers who create personalized and engaging learning experiences. But beyond that, I want to ensure we give our students social skills, confidence and high degrees of emotional intelligence. I want them to know how to reach out to others and to make them feel welcome. Today, I saw so many great examples of students doing just that.

    As the great Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I think my guest will never forget how our students made him feel today—most welcome. 

    I hope you have a wonderful Family Day weekend and that your homes are filled with the same positive energy and warmth that we saw at school today.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Celebrating SJK’s Golden Jubilee

    As you may be aware, SJK’s 50th Anniversary—our Golden Jubilee—is on the horizon. St. John’s, a school for boys, was founded in Elora in 1972. Three years later, St. Margaret’s, a sister school for St. John’s, was established nearby. In 1985, the schools were amalgamated and in 1989, the School moved here to our present site. Since those early days, we have accomplished a lot, chief of which has been to have produced many outstanding graduates.

    As we have been preparing for these celebrations, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a number of our alumni to speak to them about helping us celebrate. I have been so amazed by the calibre of these people and the extent of their accomplishments. What I have enjoyed the most has been hearing about the impact SJK has had on their lives. As an educator, it is so fulfilling to hear about how this school has shaped them.

    We have established an initial mission for the celebrations: To honour and celebrate the extraordinary past, present and future of St. John’s-Kilmarnock School.

    We have also established some proposed Anniversary Objectives. They are:
    • Strengthen the relationship of all constituencies to the School
    • Build pride in school history
    • Recognize faculty, staff and community member service
    • Fundraise for unique projects and broaden our donor base
    • Create even greater awareness of the School in the local community
    Our next step is to create a steering committee to guide our planning process. We are celebrating our milestone in 2022, so we need to start planning this spring!

    We look forward to keeping you updated on our plans and hope that you will be able to join us for the celebrations. We have a lot to be proud about and even more to look forward to in the years ahead.

    Have a wonderful weekend,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • The Power of Telling Two Friends

    Do you remember the Fabergé Organics ad campaign? (I may be dating myself here!) It is the well-quoted and often spoofed “and they told two friends” ad campaign.

    In the ad, a young woman explains how wonderful this new shampoo is and then proceeds to talk about how she liked it so much that she told a friend. That friend in turn told another friend and, well, you can see how that could keep going. They drive the point home by dividing the screen up and multiplying the actor, showing how quickly the message about how amazing this shampoo is can spread.

    It may be a simple concept, but I think that the same is true for anything. If I had a really good experience buying a product or service, I tend to tell other people about it. We are really seeing this concept at work this year. As we are meeting prospective families, it is amazing how often someone we know, either a current or past parent, has spoken well about the School. That is what brought the family to our door.

    So I wanted to say a huge thank you to the many people in our community who continue to spread the word about St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. By “telling two friends” you are certainly keeping us busy in the Admissions Office! Those positive words to families considering a new school for their children helps us all. Healthy enrolment means a strong and stable school that ensures that every student reaches his or her potential.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Maintaining a Safe and Healthy School

    Dear SJK families, 

    For this Friday’s message, I thought I would share some information about what has been on many people’s minds this week: cold and flu season and an increased concern about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus being featured on the news.

    As you would expect, at SJK we take our lead from the experts. During the winter when coughs, colds, sore throats and influenza are more likely to strike, we ensure that we follow best practice. Our cleaning staff at the school are vigilant about maintaining the highest standards of cleaning, including disinfecting all contact surfaces throughout the school day to prevent the spread of germs. We encourage parents to keep children at home if they are exhibiting symptoms of a flu-like illness or a fever. We expect the same of our faculty and staff.

    In terms of the recent news about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus we have taken our lead from Dr. Hsiu Li Wang, Acting Medical Officer of Health, Region of Waterloo. As you may know, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus is a virus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019. As of January 21, 2020, 314 confirmed cases have been identified, most from Wuhan, China. There have been no confirmed cases identified in Canada at this time. One confirmed case was identified in the United States. Dr. Wang explains that the primary risk is for those who have travelled to Wuhan, China.

    Our school and boarding nurse, Angela Vandenberg RPN, has been in contact with the staff at Waterloo Public Health and is following the usual everyday preventive actions to impede the spread of any cold or flu-like infections. According to the Waterloo Public Health guidelines, there are no students at SJK boarding in the category of concern for infection and no students even in the category to suspect concern. SJK Students who visited China during the holidays have by now exceeded the mean incubation period observed in the current outbreak which is a range between 2-12 days.

    As a reminder, Waterloo Public Health always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Stay home when you are sick.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    At all times we are monitoring information and advice from Waterloo Public Health and responding to their qualified advice.

    Thank you for your help in continuing to keep SJK a safe and healthy environment.

    Kind regards,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton

    Head of School
  • 5 Benefits of an IB Education

    The other day I was speaking with a prospective parent. She asked me a question that I am often asked, "Why should my child study at an International Baccalaureate school when she's likely to stay in the Waterloo Region?" This parent focused on the word 'international' and made the assumption that the IB is only for children interested in studying abroad. In my answer, I focused on five key reasons, which I thought I would also share with you.

    1. IB students perform better – Recent studies on IB Diploma Programme graduates in university confirm that they perform well and have significantly higher grade point averages and graduation rates than students who did not complete the IB Diploma Programme. Scores on IB assessments are also a significant predictor of performance in university.

    2. IB students are more engaged learners – In 2009, the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) by Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy surveyed some 40,000 high school students across three broad dimensions of student engagement: academic, social/behavioural and emotional. Responding to questions about the amount of time spent studying, engagement in classroom discussions and the types of academic tasks they do inside and outside of the classroom, IB students showed significantly higher levels of academic engagement compared to students within the same school and to those in the larger survey population.

    3. IB students learn how to learn – Through IB programmes, students are encouraged to think independently and critically, try different approaches to learning and to take responsibility for their own educational progress. IB students learn to ask challenging questions, develop research skills proven to help them in higher education, and are encouraged to be active in their communities.

    4. IB students are globally-minded – The IB aims to do more than other curricula by developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed. We expect that our students will help to build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.

    5. IB is based on best practice in education – Unlike a national curriculum, IB programmes reflect the best practice of a range of different educational frameworks and curricula. It is based in research on how children learn best.

    SJK School is the only institution in the region with all three IB programmes—what is known as a "Continuum School". Students from Junior Kindergarten all the way through to Grade 12 are challenged through the IB to excel in their studies and in their personal development. 

    As our Upper School students enter their January exam period, I know that they are owning their educational journey as they prepare for these assessments. I wish our students the best of luck in studying for and writing exams over the next week.

    Have a wonderful weekend,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Getting into the Zone

    Happy New Year! I hope you and your family had a wonderful break. It is great to have everyone back at school, ready to take on the challenges of 2020!
    On Monday, our faculty and staff started off the New Year with a professional development day. I took the opportunity to share with everyone one of my favourite TED Talks, ‘How to get better at the things you care about’ by Eduardo Briceño, the leader of Mindset Works. 

    This talk explores the two different zones in our professional and personal lives that we can utilise to achieve our potential: the Performance Zone and the Learning Zone. Briceño explains that our lives are so busy that we can be constantly in the Performance Zone and may not be spending enough time in our Learning Zone. This means that we can end up stagnating and not reaching our full potential. We feel frustrated and disappointed in ourselves.

    Our expectation when we are in the Performance Zone is that we will do our very best. We focus on what we have mastered and try to demonstrate our skills to the best of our ability. We make mistakes because we are unprepared or we lost focus. Mistakes are to be avoided because the stakes are so high. It’s clear, we can’t spend all of our time here.

    In order to truly improve, we need to spend time in the Learning Zone when we can develop our expertise, skills and experience, and be able to make mistakes to learn from them in a low stakes environment. Our goal in the Learning Zone is to improve. We focus on what we don’t know yet or cannot do yet. We expect to make mistakes because we are challenging ourselves. And, most importantly, we learn when we make mistakes.

    Check out the video to see if it resonates with you as much as it did our faculty and staff. See if you or your children or even your colleagues can learn how to recognize and move between these two zones. If you can, I am confident that you will be able to perform at your best in any high stakes environment – when it really matters.

    Speaking of the Performance Zone, a special shout out to two great recent performances—our students' Math Contest results and our Lower School Choir. Scroll down for more information on how these two groups performed at their best and made us all very proud.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

    The last week of 2019 at SJK has shown me that it really is the most wonderful time of the year. Highlights for me have included our beautiful and moving Upper School Carol Service, the excitement on everyone’s faces as Santa visited our Lower School classrooms, our Student Council kindness calendar that reminded us each day of ways to make others happy, our fun faculty Christmas skit and our wonderful and delicious Christmas Lunch put on by our Parents’ Association. It was a special and memorable week, especially for me as I experience these SJK traditions for the first time. 

    There are so many things that make SJK special, but the most important element are the people who make up this community. We are fortunate to have such exceptional faculty and staff who work so hard to inspire and encourage our students to reach their goals. We have amazing students who try their best each day. We have a strong and supportive parent community who work tirelessly to help ensure that we have special things to look forward to all year long. We have a Board of Governors that safeguards our School and charts the course for the future. We have a Foundation that supports our ambitious vision. We are very proud of our alumni community who maintain their connections to us long after they have graduated and gone on to new heights.

    To everyone who made a contribution to our School—faculty, staff, students, parents, Board of Governors, Foundation and alumni—thank you for all you have done in 2019 to make our school such a special place. Enjoy the holidays as we look forward to 2020 and to a bright future for the School we love.

    Happy holidays,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Leadership: A Common Thread

    As I write this message, I have been reflecting on an amazing week at SJK. We had our Christmas Cookie Walk in support of the SJK Nepal Fund, Fair Noël in support of Wyndham House Guelph, Lower School’s Ten Day of Giving, two Lower School holiday concerts and the Upper School drama production. I have so many wonderful memories from this past week. It is an inspiring time of year.

    It strikes me that one of the things that these different events have in common is leadership. We are so fortunate to have so many excellent leaders in our school. A simple definition of leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. Every one of the activities that I witnessed this week involved doing just that. Whether inspiring bakers to make cookies, creating fun fundraising activities, conducting our young musicians or directing our thespians, all these involve being able to inspire others and being prepared to do so. 

    Effective leadership is based upon ideas, but won't happen unless those ideas can be communicated to others in a way that engages them enough to act as the leader wants them to act. Thank you to all our faculty and staff for the way you motivate and engage others towards our goals. We saw and heard the fruits of your labour this week and we are grateful to you for the impact you make on our school. We are able to go beyond because of you.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and returns ready for the final week of school before the break.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • The Season of Giving

    Things are looking decidedly festive around SJK! The Lower School is celebrating the Ten Days of Giving with different activities each day to provide our youngest students with the opportunity to give back. Each day I see some of our Grade 6 leaders carefully arranging the non-perishable cans and other goods that will be donated to local food banks. It is wonderful to see our Lower School students learning how to make a difference in their local community.

    Our Parents’ Association also got into the spirit of the season last month when they worked together to create 155 shoebox gifts for women in need. They were delivered to local women’s shelters in the Waterloo and Guelph/Wellington regions. Special thanks to Jennifer Maddock for organizing this year's Shoebox Project initiative at SJK and to all the parent volunteers for helping us kick off the holiday season with such a generous project.

    On Monday our Trek Nepal group is hosting a Christmas Cookie Walk in Founders’ Hall with all funds going towards our SJK Nepal Fund. Our SJK bakers will be busy this weekend preparing all those tasty treats. The event begins at 4:45 p.m. and will last until we run out of cookies. We hope you will join us.

    On Tuesday our Grade 7 and 8 students will be hosting Fair Noël to fundraise for Wyndham House, a charity that supports important work with homeless and at-risk youth in the Guelph area. There will be holiday baking along with fun games. Everyone is looking forward to this event. This is certainly a season of giving at SJK!

    Speaking of giving, over the course of the fall, I have heard from a number of parents who would like to support the school as one of their chosen charities. We have been touched by this show of philanthropic support and appreciate such kindness. To assist us with the growth of our advancement program, I am delighted to announce that we will be welcoming Ms. Amelia Canto Ellis as our Director of Advancement in January 2020. Ms. Canto Ellis is a Guelph native and has held a variety of advancement roles in both healthcare and educational settings. She has particular strengths in engagement and relationship building, collaborative leadership and innovative strategy development. We are excited to welcome her to SJK in the New Year.

    Thank you for continuing to support SJK and our efforts to give back to the local communities.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton

    Head of School
  • From Start to Finish

    One of the things I love most about SJK is how our School goes from Junior Kindergarten all the way to Grade 12. We have the opportunity to support our students’ learning and personal development from the earliest years of school to their graduation. As an educator, I enjoy nothing more than seeing children make this exciting journey and appreciate them as they move through each age and stage.

    This week I had two special moments when I was able to reflect on this journey. On Wednesday I had the opportunity to read a story to our Junior Kindergarten students. They then gave me a gift, as it was a special birthday for me, as well as a card. When I opened it, they gathered all around me to point out each of their signatures. To be able to write your own name when you are that age is an important milestone. I was so touched to see their pride in their achievements.

    The next day I had the opportunity to meet with our two student editors of the Aquiline magazine, Grace and Manuela. They are Grade 11 students and the Aquiline is Grace’s CAS project for this year. In chatting with them I learned that they are both ‘lifers’, which means they have been at SJK since Kindergarten. As I spoke to them about their dreams and ambitions, I reflected upon how far they have come since they were in Mrs. Baird’s Junior Kindergarten class learning to write their names. They are now confident student leaders getting ready to embark on their next educational journey in a little over a year’s time. What a transformation!

    Fourteen years, Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12, sometimes feels like a very long time, but it goes faster than we think. Parents and families play the most important role in helping a young child become an independent and successful young person. After parents, a child’s school plays the next most important role in this process. Together we take these young people from their first days of school to the final walk across the stage to receive their diploma.

    Today you will be able to access your child’s report card which gives you some important information on where they are at today. This is helpful information for you and a way of measuring where they are at on their journey towards independence and success. Thank you for partnering with us in this process. We are proud of what your children have achieved this fall and look forward to continuing to work with you to help your child reach his/her full potential.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton

    Head of School
  • Paying Tribute to our Founders

    Today we celebrated the founders of St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. Forty-seven years ago a visionary group in Elora had a dream—to create a school that would have a rigorous curriculum in a supportive learning environment. They had the courage and the tenacity to do something different. They took risks, they made bold decisions and the school we have today is the result of their determination. There isn’t a single aspect of today’s school that we don’t owe to our founders. Today we had the opportunity to pay tribute to their vision and to give our thanks for all that they have done.

    Sadly, we lost three significant members of the SJK community over the past year — Isobel Chalmers, Malcolm Rombach and John Thompson. Isobel Chalmers was the wife of Jim Chalmers, the first Head of School. Together they were the driving force of the school’s creation. If it were not for Isobel’s and Jim’s vision, SJK would not exist. Malcolm Rombach was one of the first teachers at St. John’s (Elora) as it was known then. He is remembered for his understanding of the needs of boys as they are coming of age. He commanded a great deal of respect from his students. John Thompson began teaching physics at the school in 1983 and spent 24 years at the school, retiring as Head of Operations in 2007. He is remembered for being a wonderful teacher and a great sport. We thank them all for their service to the school and feel grateful to be members of the school they created.

    Today we also had the opportunity to award the Order of St. John’s-Kilmarnock School to Joe Matell who served on our Board of Governors for 13 years, six of those as Chair. His tenure coincided with a transformational period for the school—he was involved with the decision to strengthen our commitment to IB to make SJK a full IB Continuum school; he served on not one but two Head of School Selection Committees—Mr. Norman Southward and Dr. Jeff Aitken; and was the Chair when the plans to build Newton House went from being an idea to a shovel in the ground and then a full reality. We recognized that his thoughtful leadership at key junctions in our school’s recent history has made a tremendous impact on the school we enjoy today.

    Schools are more than simply places where students come to learn, they are communities made up of people who share the same values. They are bound together by mutuality, camaraderie and trust. Communities grow in strength when we have committed and tangible leadership. We are fortunate to be members of this community and it is important to have the opportunity to reflect on what we enjoy today and the people whose leadership gave us this wonderful school.

    Happy Founders’ Day,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Spectacular Senior Speeches

    When I met with our Student Council at the start of the school year, one of the things that they really wanted me to know is that I shouldn’t miss Senior Speeches. This tradition was unfamiliar to me, so I asked for some clarification. They explained that each Grade 12 student has the opportunity to deliver a prepared speech to the Upper School on the topic of their choice. They encouraged me to attend because of the high quality of the speeches as well as their personal content. They connected these speeches with their upcoming graduation in May telling me, “if you really want to know us as a grade, make sure you hear us speak.” I have heeded their advice.

    Today was one of the days when we had the privilege of hearing four of those speeches. James, Hannah, Emily and Robin spoke on topics including the value of being multilingual, the challenges of dealing with anxiety, the journey to a student’s birthplace long after she was adopted and the positive impact an SJK teacher had on the life of a student. All the speeches were exceptional, personal and deeply moving. I certainly shed a few tears this afternoon. Our speakers demonstrated great bravery, a willingness to be vulnerable, excellent public speaking skills and visible confidence. We were all so proud of our speakers this afternoon!

    When you enrol your child at SJK, you expect that this decision will have positive outcomes for your son or daughter. You certainly are anticipating positive academic results, as well as the resulting offers to attend choice universities. What you are also expecting is the development of leadership skills, confidence, an ability to be brave, to have a voice and to be able to use it to tell their own story. Judging by the four speeches this afternoon, the Class of 2020 are well on their way to being successful, well-rounded confident citizens of the future.

    I felt so fortunate this afternoon to witness the four students nearing the end of their SJK journey. I left Chapel feeling deeply moved and confident about their futures. I have no doubt that once they leave our walls, they will go far.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Preparing for the Future

    You might recall that a key part of my transition plan includes building relationships through one-on-one meetings with faculty and staff. So far I have had 56 different conversations all of which have been incredibly rewarding and interesting. I have gotten to know so many great people and learned so much through this process.

    One conversation I was keen to have was with our Head of Guidance, Mr. Ian Carswell. I really wanted to understand the profile of our SJK graduates. Mr. Carswell has worked at SJK for the past 12 years and an important part of his role as Head of Guidance is university counselling. What you may not know about Mr. Carswell is that he is a graduate of Harvard University. He was a varsity athlete and received the 1997 Bingham Award presented to the best male athlete at Harvard University. In fact, he still holds the record for the outdoor 5,000m (13:43.78) event, the Distance Medley Relay, was a member of Canada's National Track & Field and Cross Country Teams and is in the Harvard Athletics Hall of Fame. Impressive to say the least! He is certainly well qualified to assist our Grade 12 students at this important point in their lives.

    In our conversation, we touched on a number of facts and figures about SJK graduates that I found very interesting. I thought I would share a few of them with you:
    • 100% of SJK grads earned their way into best fit post-secondary opportunities
    • 88.5% - average of SJK's Class of 2019 top 6 courses, which is used as the primary measure for post-secondary admission in Ontario
    • 66 different post-secondary institutions to which SJK grads have matriculated over the past 10 years (in 7 different countries no less!)
    • 65 first-year university credits were granted to 2019 Grads prior to beginning their studies because of their IB Diploma
    • 41% of students from the three most recent graduating classes entered STEM-related post-secondary fields (46% of males, 35% of females)
      • The national average is 18.6% (combined male & female)
    • 12 SJK grads are currently competing on a varsity athletics team at university
    • The top 5 (in order) post-secondary destinations for SJK Grads: Western, U of T, Waterloo, Laurier, and Queen's
    • 2 SJK grads in the past 7 years have been awarded the prestigious Queen's Chancellor’s Scholarship
    • SJK is the only SAT (& PSAT) test centre located in Waterloo Region
    I found our conversation fascinating and I enjoyed learning about how well-placed our DP2 students are as they prepare for this important transition to post-secondary education. We know that our students, parents and teachers value the learning that goes on every day at SJK but we also know that the end of the journey is always in sight. It’s comforting to know that we have such a great team in place to support our students to ensure that at the end of their time with us, they have exciting opportunities ahead.

    On a related note about preparing for the future, we have two admissions events approaching in mid-November. If you know anyone who would be interested in attending our Junior Kindergarten Open House on November 19 or SJK Information Evening on November 21, please let them know and share this invitation with them. We would love to meet them!

    I hope you have a wonderful break,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • The Power of Self-Reflection

    I love the MYP Personal Project! Some of you may be less familiar with this project—this is the capstone of the IB Middle Years Programme that prepares our Grade 10 students for the project management and academic skills they will need in the IB Diploma Programme and other advanced courses. Students select a personal project that allows them to exhibit the connections between traditional subjects and the real world, demonstrating their skills of being inquirers and reflective thinkers. 

    Yesterday’s Personal Project showcase, my first at SJK, was incredibly inspiring. We had so many wonderful products of student learning including books, journals, videos, art, photography, video games, an unseized four-stroke motor and even some examples of forged metal art. It was amazing and I am so proud of our students.

    The most gratifying part for me is always talking to students about what they learned through the process. They learned about practical things, like time management and goal-setting, but more importantly, they learned so much about themselves, what matters to them and what motivates them. There is nothing more powerful than self-reflection and growth.

    Thanks to our Grade 10 students for sharing their learning with us yesterday. Thanks also to our SJK mentors who helped guide our students through this process. I wanted to include a special word of thanks to our Assistant Director of Upper School, Ms. Gallagher, who led the process from start to finish.

    Have a wonderful weekend,

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Harnessing the Power of Feedback

    We all know that feedback is a powerful tool for growth. Our schools are experts in giving feedback to students to ensure that they learn and reach their full potential. Educators will tell you, there would be no learning without feedback. 

    Similarly, schools, and in fact all organizations, improve when they learn how to engage their community to solicit valuable feedback. Just like our students, our organizations thrive when we can receive feedback and use it as a powerful tool to drive organizational growth. This is part of being a learning organization, a term coined by Peter Senge in his 1990 book, The Fifth Discipline.

    As Senge explains, "Learning organizations are where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually exploring how to learn together."

    We have seen excellent examples of harnessing feedback and creating positive change in the first few weeks of the new academic year. Our parents gave us feedback that they would like to be able to communicate effectively with each other. This led to the creation of our new Parent Directory. Our Grade 6 students have thought deeply about the environment and have some initiatives that they are hoping to introduce to the school. Today, our professional development day focused on giving opportunities for teachers and staff members to provide input on the things they care deeply about.

    Thank you for all the feedback we have received. There is a phenomenal community surrounding our school and I feel so grateful that people are so invested in SJK that they are willing to offer their thoughts and suggestions. That’s how we will continue to make this amazing school even better for our students and their families.

    As I begin my first Thanksgiving as Head of SJK, I feel happy to have joined such an outstanding school. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to such an exceptional start to the school year, especially our talented and dedicated faculty and staff.

    Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Thanksgiving!

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton

    Head of School
  • Having an Attitude of Gratitude

    Every day, when I drive onto the campus and walk through the doors of our school, I feel tremendously grateful to have the opportunity to be the leader of this wonderful institution. When our students arrive and the halls of the school reverberate with the sounds of children and teachers, my heart sings. The people who make up the SJK community are very special and I feel grateful to have been so warmly welcomed by everyone.

    An attitude of gratitude is a very powerful mindset. Researchers in the positive psychology movement have determined that expressing appreciation is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Furthermore, expressing appreciation and gratitude not only makes you feel better, but it also has a tremendously positive impact on the people you are thanking. As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club once said, “Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise.”

    Today in Chapel our theme was gratitude. So it made sense for us to recognize the many excellent community leaders who organized last Friday’s Eaglemania. We had some help from Senior Kindergarten who decorated plant pots with our house colours and two Lower School students, Andre and Amelia, spoke on behalf of the student body to express our sincere thanks. 

    Eaglemania is the epitome of SJK. It is an afternoon of teamwork, house spirit, community, and most of all a great deal of fun. On behalf of all of us, thank you to our Parents’ Association, the Eaglemania Planning Committee (Mrs. Nalisha Sookdeo, Mrs. Jennifer Shingler and Mrs. Joanna Heimbecker), Student Council Advisor, Mrs. Julie George, our House Captains, our entire Upper School Student Council, our Student Council Support Group, Friends of Nepal and all our Grades 11 and 12 team leaders. Eaglemania 2019 was a tremendous success and we are very grateful to you all for your leadership.

    As our House Captains rallied their respective house members in harmonious cheer for the penultimate Eaglemania event, the Cheer Competition, I couldn't help but feel grateful to be a part of this impressive community. Congratulations to Simcoe House on winning Eaglemania 2019!
    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Community Connections

    I am writing this as dawn breaks. In a few short hours, Eaglemania 2019 will be upon us. I for one cannot wait. I know I am not alone in this feeling. I have a school full of excited students and teachers ready for the fun and camaraderie that is Eaglemania.

    I am grateful to our Parents’ Association Eaglemania planning committee and Upper School Student Council leaders who have worked so hard to make this special event happen. I have been hearing from our student leaders for the last few weeks about this school-wide event. As I left school late yesterday, our parent leaders were hard at work setting the scene for the carnival theme. Clearly, this is a significant undertaking that relies on the leadership of our SJK community. Thanks in advance to all involved.

    I’ve enjoyed getting to know our Parents’ Association members in the few short weeks I have been at SJK. They have given me a lot of helpful feedback about the school community. One item that we have discussed is the desire for parents to be able to contact each other easily. After listening to their feedback, we have decided to introduce a Parent Directory.

    This directory will serve as an avenue to facilitate communication in our parent community. Examples of the intended use of this directory would include invitations to birthday parties, play dates and parent-to-parent communications. Information published in the directory will include parent name, parent email address, and child’s or children’s name(s) and grade(s).

    If you would like to participate in the directory, please log in to your onSJK account and submit the Parent Directory form. The directory will be accessible through the onSJK platform and will include the information of all parents who have opted into the directory.

    Communities grow stronger when they can communicate effectively. I am confident that a Parent Directory will enhance the SJK experience and help us to continue to enhance our strong and supportive community.  

    Good luck to all houses as they compete for the Eaglemania championship today. I look forward to seeing the outcome.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Empathy: Echoes of Others in Ourselves

    All week long I have been thinking about the theme for this week’s Chapel: Empathy. As my first Whole School Chapel, I was keen to make a good impression by ensuring that my message hit the right note with my new school community. What should I say?

    I did not have to look far to find inspiration. Ask almost anyone what they love about SJK and more often than not, they will say “community”. When you dig a little deeper into what people mean when they say “community”, they mean being surrounded by empathetic people who genuinely care about them.

    I saw so many examples of empathy around the School this week. From our Kindergarten students helping a friend who had tripped in the playground, to our Upper School Student Council’s Hug and High Five Day, to our boarders in the residence celebrating a friend’s birthday, to our Senior Girls’ Field Hockey team mentoring younger players, it is clear to me that empathy is embedded in our School.

    So why does this really matter? One would expect that schools are empathetic communities, so why would this be the theme of our first Chapel? Why put a focus on it?

    We choose to focus on it because empathy is more than just a “nice to have” soft skill, it’s a key leadership competency. At its core, leadership is ultimately about others. It means inspiring them to take actions beyond their capabilities, leading them in a direction that is compelling and inspiring. Empathy is the foundation of those actions.

    My last example, our Senior Girls’ Field Hockey team, gave me the strongest illustration of empathy as a leadership trait. Our team had just finished a tough match. The opposing team came to the field with something to prove. Last year at a provincial championship game, they were defeated by our SJK Eagles. They were back and determined to win.

    In the aftermath of the game, the girls sat on the ground, exhausted, hot and visibly disheartened. Coach Dietrich did an excellent job providing feedback. She chose the right words and said them at the right time. I saw their immediate effect on the players. In that moment, they found strength in her words. Then, as if on cue, one of the senior players tapped into her empathy, turned to the youngest players and gave them positive feedback. She knew how they were feeling at that exact moment. As if by magic, I saw those tired athletes start to change. Then another senior player spoke up, again with words of praise for the youngest players. Smiles returned to the girls’ faces. Although they were still disappointed by the result, they were no longer disheartened. That is the power of empathy and the essence of great leadership. I was so moved to see this play out before my eyes.

    The best part of developing empathy as a leadership trait is that we all have that ability within us. Admittedly, some of us find it easier than others, but I genuinely believe that we all have the ability to be empathetic. As author Mohsin Hamid once said, “Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” I encourage everyone, as we move into the weekend, to take the opportunity to practice our empathy skills. Look for the echoes and see their power. Who knows what you might achieve?

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Hitting the Ground Learning

    We’ve all heard the phrase to “hit the ground running”. New leaders are often under intense pressure to “do something—and fast”. The moment of job entry always seems rich with the possibility of productive change. Many of us, with the image of the hero front and centre in our minds, are all too ready to rush in and try to make everything better overnight.

    The problem with this approach is that we all too quickly realize that there are no silver bullets. I am sure we have all seen new beginnings go awry because newly appointed leaders fail to address the confusion that is generated by the conflicting demands they face as they start their new job. They stumble all too soon and all the hopes and dreams of the community turn to disappointment.

    The research tells us that a better approach is to have a plan to “hit the ground learning” instead of running. We need to commit ourselves to building relationships and taking charge of the learning process. By collecting the necessary knowledge as we build trust with our new colleagues, we can make sure that we lay the foundation for transformational change.

    That is why I have committed myself to an entry plan which focuses on learning. At the moment, I am concentrating on having as many one on one and small group conversations as possible to learn all I can about SJK. Whenever I meet with people, I have asked the same four questions:
    1. What do you want me to know?
    2. What do you love about SJK and hope never changes?
    3. What positive change would you like to see at SJK?
    4. What is your advice for me?
    The conversations have been fascinating and I have appreciated everyone’s willingness to engage with me in this dialogue. My favourite from the last week was my conversation with our Student Council. Our conversation was rich with insights and ideas and I learned a lot about SJK from them.

    My plan once I have finished gathering information is to then engage in a process of “sense-making”. In order to do this, I will analyze what I have heard from the community to determine where we should go from here.

    If you would like to help me “hit the ground learning”, feel free to book an appointment to speak with me. I would love your help in ensuring that I am prepared to lead our School and create long-term, positive and sustainable improvement.
    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School
  • Starting with Why

    Welcome back and welcome to our new students and families! Our Opening Day was a wonderful day for me and I hope it was the same for all SJK students and their families. It was great to have our students and teachers back in action. SJK is a beautiful and peaceful place in the summer, but I missed the energy our students bring to our school. I am so glad everyone is back and that the work of the school can begin again for another year. I am sure it is going to be a great year for us all.

    I have been spending the summer learning about our School. I am so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to speak to me and to share your thoughts. I will continue to follow this process as the school year begins. My initial priorities are:

    1. Build relationships
    2. Listen and learn
    3. Evaluate and analyze
    4. Formulate a short-term plan
    One of the big questions I have been asking on my listening and learning tour is ‘why’? It is a powerful question because it forces us to unpack our essential purpose. It is the drive behind all that we do. When we know our why, and tap into its power, amazing things happen.

    As a faculty and staff, we explored our individual ‘whys’ as part of our professional development activities last week. I was so impressed by the SJK team and how they embraced this idea. The week ended with each of us creating a small painting with our ‘why’ words in SJK blue and gold. We have created a mosaic which you can see at the start of the Upper School corridor.

    I am also delighted that when I shared this thought in our Opening Ceremonies, our students really embraced this idea. Grades 7-10 did a photo challenge and many of them featured the mosaic in their photos. As their new Head of School, this touched me deeply.

    What this piece of collective art represents to me as the leader of this wonderful school is that each of us has something deeply personal that drives us to do what we do. Whether you are a student, a teacher, a member of staff, a parent or a leader, each of us possesses something powerful inside us that inspires us to do great things. When we bring these individual elements together, we create a strong school community that together will reach new heights. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

    Congratulations on a great first week of school and thank you for making me feel so welcome.

    Ms. Cheryl Boughton
    Head of School

    P.S. Some parents asked me more about how we determined our ‘whys’ as a faculty and staff. You might want to check out the following two videos here and here for some inspiration and use Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle.