June 30 is the last day of school for Mr. Tom Zariski, principal of Drumheller Composite High School (DCHS), Madame Anne Morgan, Greentree School principal, and Mr. Don Ewing, DCHS associate principal, as all three are retiring.
The Mail sat down on two occasions, with Mr. Zariski and Mme. Morgan, then with Mr. Ewing, to interview them.
With a combined schooling experience of 99 years, they had a lot to say about their careers, so The Mail is running a two-part series, with part two to be published in next week’s edition.
The Mail asked...
Have you always wanted to be a teacher?
Tom Zariski (TZ): I have been a teacher for 35 years and a principal for 10 years. I started teaching Art and English…I guess I have always been a teacher.
When I look back on my life, I have always coached many many different sports at different times, I have been involved in all sorts of organizations where I’ve kind of been a teacher before I ever became a teacher and then I became a teacher.
Anne Morgan (AM): Actually that wasn’t my original plan at all. I started going to university and was taking general arts and my parents asked me ‘So what’s your plan?’ I said ‘I don’t know that I have one’, they said maybe I should get one so I thought maybe I’d try education.
So it wasn’t a long held dream like it is for so many people.
When I started teaching, I really enjoyed it, and felt it was the career that had the most impact in society that you could possibly have, I find it really rewarding, but it certainly wasn’t my dream job or anything.
Don Ewing (DE): No. I went into engineering out of high school and that didn’t work out very well so I went back to university when I was 20 to become a teacher.
I discovered I didn’t mind working outside when it was nice and warm outside but I’d rather be inside when it was cold outside, so the ideal job was teaching, where you are basically inside all winter and you get the summer months off!
So I don’t think the original thoughts were to save mankind by any stretch of the imagination! But as it turned out, I guess I was suited for teaching and I enjoyed it, and the kids seemed to like me as a teacher.
What made you want to be a principal?
AM: I had been the coordinator for the French immersion program here and I really liked the leadership aspect in that, and then, I was at Central School at that time as a teacher and our principal and our associate principal (AP) retired. So I talked to the AP and I said ‘So was that a good job?’ He said ‘It depends on the principal’, I said 'what do you do as an AP?', he said ‘it depends on the principal!’
It sounded like an interesting position, I like leadership positions so I applied for the vice principal job. I got that for a year and the next year the principal transferred to another school at the end of September so I was acting principal for a year and then became the full fledge principal after passing the competition, and have been there ever since!
I find leadership positions very interesting. You are working with so many people, parents, staff and students and you try to develop a common vision amongst all those people and facilitate people moving towards that vision, so ensuring you are providing the appropriate professional development for staff and resources, working with the parents to make sure they understand what we are doing and why, and to get their input on it, and then to work with students as well.
To be able to help move a school community towards what I see as a positive goal is a very rewarding thing to do.
TZ: I have always had ideas about what to do and how to do it. I guess that comes from my fine arts background, a little bit of creativity.
So as a classroom teacher, I would have very creative things going on in my classes, learning different ways of doing things and I guess I found as an administrator, I would have more impact on the whole school. As a teacher I’d have impact on a classroom of kids, but as an associate principal and a principal, I could kind of impact a larger group.
So I think that’s one of the main things for me, I had some definite ideas about what we should be doing in the school and I couldn’t do much about that as a teacher. As an associate principal, I started to do a lot of it and as a principal I could continue to do that.
An associate principal?
DE: I just thought that I would like to try administration, so I applied when the position came open.
There were two of us at that time, as they decided to split the position into two, one to take care of Junior High students, which I did. I started to administer the High School students a few years back when the other associate principal retired.
I never aspired to be a principal, I was quite content to be where I was at.
Has being a principal lived up to your expectations?
AM: Yes. There is certainly a lot of demands, I found it a very tiring job, it is a very consuming job but I certainly have enjoyed it very much.
I found it complex, always interesting, there’s always something new going on, the relationships with the various people in the school community I have found very rewarding and enjoyable.
TZ: I guess I look at some of the accomplishments our school has done over the last number of years that have been very satisfying for me.
One of the things has been seniors dinner.
For the last 17 years, except for the last year as we just didn’t have the facility, we'd invite all the senior citizens from town to come and have Christmas dinner at the school and the students cook, serve and do the set up and the decorating.
One of the frustrating things I got into when I first was in administration was kind of a negative perception the community had about schools, and particularly our school. So I tried to think of ways and means to change that perception and the best thing that I could think of was to invite people into our school and show them who we are, what we did etc.
It was a very significant project we undertook and we’ve won numerous provincial awards for that activity and our seniors are absolutely thrilled about it.
That’s what I mean by an idea that I was able to get going in the school.
The other one of course is the international program that we have.
To be continued next week...