The unpredictable life of the principal

Photo credit: Wilson Studios

Photo credit: Wilson Studios

As we reach the end of October and National Principals’ Month, we get to know Ryan Sikkes, Principal of Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse, Yukon. Sikkes, one of Canada’s 2016 Outstanding Principals award recipients, opens up about why he became an educator, the unpredictable life of being a principal and what he gets out of it.

Why did you want to become a principal? 

I enjoy working with adolescents and watching and helping them grow and develop in terms of their own skills and abilities, but also in their abilities to be aware of the needs of others – both in their community and globally.

Can you please tell us a bit about your background? How long have you been an educator?  

I grew up in Smithers, British Columbia and earned a B.Ed. in Secondary Education (Music/Chemistry) and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction (Science) from the University of Victoria. I have been a practicing K-12 educator for 12 years, eight of which have been in a vice-principal or principal role.

What’s a typical day like? Has your role shifted or changed at all? 

The school principalship is busy, but exciting. Each day is unpredictable and full of moments of joy and exasperation (and everything in between).  A typical day includes a number of scheduled meetings with students, parents, and staff along with frequent rescheduling of these meetings to deal with emergent concerns.  Although being an instructional and educational leader is still paramount, the job has changed to have more of a management focus that requires constant communication with all involved in the successful operation of the school.

If you can offer a piece of advice to new principals, vice-principals and school administrators, what would it be? 

I was fortunate to spend two years in between my roles as vice-principal and principal where I was fortunate to develop my corporate and management skills, particularly in human resources. These have helped me immensely as principal.

What did you get out of The Learning Partnership’s Executive Leadership Program? How has it helped you in your role?

I enjoyed meeting my principal colleagues from around the country to share ideas and challenges. I feel like I have a great “extended family” of supportive colleagues beyond those whom I work with locally.

Can you tell us an interesting fact about you?

Despite having a degree in music education, I’ve never taught a day of music in my professional career. Despite having a Masters degree in science education, I’ve yet to teach science since I earned it!  One never knows where educational opportunities will lead and where learning will be applied!

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