Forest Hill Collegiate Institute’s principal Peggy Aitchison has been named as one of Canada’s best.
“It is an honour to receive this award,” Aitchison says of the Learning Partnership’s recognition. “It is truly humbling to have my name associated with people I look up to and admire.”
School superintendent Ian Allison nominated her for the award citing that Aitchison has always made it her responsibility to make her school an effective one.
“What sets [her] apart from her colleagues is her genuine, ongoing efforts to learn about the school communities she is serving,” Allison wrote in his nomination letter. “She has consistently focused her efforts towards identifying disadvantages and intervening appropriately and effectively.”
Aitchison says she is keen on building relationships with the parents of her students and has frequent contact with them.
She says one of her most gratifying things she did last year was go to dinner with a group of parents of Filipino students who were not doing as well as their peers in school.
“We wanted to have a better understanding why this is, and how we, the students, and parents could help,” Aitchison says. “We [came out of the meeting] with a better understanding and more sympathy toward [these students].”
Ed Arroyo, who attended that dinner, says he appreciates Aitchison’s efforts toward helping all of her students succeed.
“It was a very thoughtful meeting,” he says. “She does not wait until the problem is out of hand.”
Arroyo’s daughter Christina suffered a brain injury last year that resulted in the loss of sight in one eye.
He says Aitchison has helped his daughter by working with staff from Bloorview Rehab Centre to establish an appropriate learning system for her.
He says Aitchison has also made seating arrangements for his daughter in class, assigned a note taker to assist her and has a hall monitor walking her to classes.
“That school is special, and it starts with the principal,” Arroyo says. “[Aitchison’s] thinking is like that of a parent.”
Aitchison has also focused on improving the grades of her students.
“We have increased average school marks [from 76 to 77 percent] by the end of the last report card,” she says. “Our goal is to reach 78 percent [by the end of the year].”
Aitchison says she is confident her students will accomplish the goal and will do whatever it takes to guide them.
“The school motto here is not for ourselves alone, and we live by that,” she says. “I’m optimistic that we have great times ahead of us.”
Aitchison is one of eight Toronto principals who will receive the award out of a group of 51 principals from across the country.
Principals are nominated for the award by students and peers and receive consideration based on their body of work in schools and communities.
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