When Derek Lea looks for inspiration, he refers to a woodchip and a rock that sits on his dresser.
Both are symbols, given to him by students, of the role he plays as an educator to help young people mature into adults and find their way in the world.
“We are shaping the minds of kids today who will shape our world in the future,” Lea said.
Lea was one of four principals talking via zoom at the Central Okanagan Board of Education meeting on Oct. 15 in recognition of October being declared by local trustees as Principal and Vice-Principal Month in the Central Okanagan School District.
Lea, current principal of Okanagan-Mission Secondary who has held similar positions at Spring Valley Middle and A.S. Matheson Elementary, told two stories about where those sources of inspiration came from.
The first involved the woodchip and a young Matheson student who had been sitting by himself on the playground, sifting through the ground surface woodchips.
Lea approached the six-year-old boy and asked him what he was doing. The youth replied he was looking for the largest woodchip.
After spending a few minutes with him, Lea moved on with his school ground supervisory duties, leaving the youngster to carry on his quest.
Later that day, the boy showed up at the school office and presented Lea with the largest woodchip he could find, telling the principal he wanted him to have it.
The second story involved a student service project Lea was part of in Nicaragua, where Grade 12 students were building a rock wall for a school.
“One of the students came up to me after and gave me a piece of the rock we used, as a good reminder of how hard we all had worked and how the trip was our small way to make a positive difference in the world,” Lea recanted.
Scott Sieben, principal of Mount Boucherie Secondary, also spoke to the trustees, saying local principals face challenging jobs but feel positive about the “exceptional support” they receive from within the school district.
“We all feel and realize we are part of a team that helps set the groundwork for us to do the work we feel is valuable for our students,” Sieben said.
Michelle Relova, principal of Ellison Elementary, added schools play a leading role in the growth of students and the community they live in.
“I feel we help them to develop a sense of belonging which is very important today,” she said.
Ashley Ragoonaden, principal of Ecole KLO Middle School, said humour also plays an an important role in providing some levity to the learning experience of students.
National Principals’ Month is recognized across Canada in October to recognize and raise awareness about the vital role of principals in public schools and their communities.