Christopher Johnson is a principal and kindergarten teacher living and working in Big Grassy River First Nation. He joined the 2016 Cohort of Teach For Canada and completed his two-year commitment teaching grades 3 and 4 in Big Grassy, making him a Teach For Canada alumnus.
Chris recently took on the role of principal at Pegamigaabo School and is being supported by Teach For Canada’s Administrative Preparation Program (APP), a new initiative offering northern principals wraparound personal, professional, and peer support, including monthly check-ins, bi-annual coaching, and resource support from an experienced practitioner.
On becoming a principal
Since becoming a principal, I think the most significant way in which I have supported Pegamigaabo School is through being present, organized, and looking ahead. I do my best to be as available as possible and make an effort to check in with my staff regularly. The world is uncertain enough as it is right now, so ensuring that my team stays up to date and aware of what is going on at school and in Big Grassy has been something I’ve stayed very mindful of.
So far, my role has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills, which is something that I champion as an educator. I’ve been fortunate to participate in Teach For Canada’s Administrative Preparation Program, where I receive meaningful professional support from Admin Development Manager, Judy Blaney.
I believe that the most important aspect of my job is to ensure that the students and staff of Pegamigaabo feel safe and happy at school.
I sincerely hope that they do. I also want my teachers and staff to recognize how much I appreciate their efforts. Their continued commitment to our students and community has made the transition into my role much easier.
On helping out in the community
It goes without saying that the pandemic has created a variety of stressors for us all, but I feel that as a team, my school has taken them in our stride.
Even when we’ve felt exhausted, we continue to work hard and to the best of our abilities.
COVID-19 has offered several opportunities for my colleagues and me to strengthen our ties to our community. In addition to assembling, delivering, and assisting students with weekly schoolwork packages, we’ve taken shifts staffing community checkpoints, assisting with organizing and storing deliveries for the community food bank, and have dropped off weekly breakfast and lunch hampers to our students.
Being able to take responsibility for the community has provided me with a sense of purpose during a period of ambiguity and constant change. I am very grateful for that, especially while being far away from my family and friends.
On some positive outcomes of COVID-19
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, some wonderful developments are happening in Big Grassy. I’m working with our Economic Development Officer to acquire a new play area for our school’s south playground. We’ve reached out to a few companies and will have some proposed designs to show the community members in the coming weeks. I would like for the students and their families to be involved in the selection process. In addition to the new playground, we’re hoping to install a small outdoor fitness area too!
Outside of school, some of the positive things that have happened this year have been being able to spend more time with my dogs, discovering a love of cycling, and getting way too into hula hooping.
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