Sunnyside’s new principal
It’s always interesting when we notice parallels in our own lives or in the lives of others. Before he entered the field of education, Sunnyside Elementary School’s new principal, Steve Weary, ran a trekking business in Nepal, guiding adventurers up the almost 18,000 feet to the Base Camp of Mount Everest, teaching them the basic skills needed to climb great heights, getting them
partway there. That experience should serve him well as the head of two elementary schools, where the students’ journey to ‘base camp’ just takes a little longer.
Besides the fact that both his parents are teachers, Mr. Weary developed an interest and respect for experiential education through his work experiences, eventually opting to become a school teacher. “I felt I could bring a variety of experiences to education. I had a good understanding of learning and knew how important it is to teach people how to be good learners. There are so many opportunities for life-long learning; my outside of school experiences really fortified that. People who are good at learning are successful,” said Mr. Weary with conviction.
Originally from the Laurentians, it was a high school teaching job at Massey Vanier Regional that first brought Mr. Weary to the Eastern Townships about twenty years ago. He also taught at Richmond Regional High School and then transferred to the Eastern Townships School Board where he was the Project Manager of the Enhanced Learning Strategy (ELS) project (laptops). “I have always been interested in technology in education and did my Master’s Thesis on that subject.”
With the ELS project, Mr. Weary had the chance to work with elementary schools, so when the time came for a change, he opted for the elementary school environment, becoming principal of Ayer’s Cliff Elementary School and North Hatley Elementary School.
Although this is only his fourth year as a principal, he’s seen changes. “Every year we have to do more with less, without making it felt in the classroom. It’s figuring out what extra needs to be done and where to get the money for that.” Asked if he feels frustrated by the lack of funds in education, Mr. Weary answered: “We recognize that we are in a time when the government must cut back. We still have a wonderfully funded system compared to other countries.”
“It’s challenging to balance my role as pedagogical leader in the school, wanting to be involved in student learning, what tools and techniques are used, while I have a ton of administrative duties.” Another challenge, given that he goes back and forth between two schools, is getting to know the parents of the students. “It’s important to communicate with parents, to talk with parents,” said the principal. “But we have fabulous teams at both schools, people who are very committed and give more than the required time to the job,” he added.
An outdoor enthusiast who bikes, hikes and cross-country skis when he’s not in school, Mr. Weary is a strong believer in the importance of outdoor activities. “There’s lots of area outside in the schoolyard and we’ll be moving towards a natural playground. I just ordered a big pile of sand,” he mentioned enthusiastically.
Mr. Weary had not visited the town of Stanstead much before getting his new position at Sunnyside, however, he was quick to mention a connection that goes way back. “My grandmother lived for a little while in Stanstead, around 1918. She often spoke about her time there. Although I’m not familiar with Stanstead, I know it has a long and rich history and I’m looking forward to getting to know the town.”
Sunnyside’s new principal, Steve Weary, standing in front of a natural willow tunnel, says the school will move towards a ‘natural playground’.