John Polanyi Collegiate Institute’s principal Aiman Flahat remembers the day someone inspired him to believe in himself.
He was in his mid 20s, coaching wrestling and soccer at his old high school while he worked in the construction industry.
A friend noticed his ease in interacting with youth and suggested he become a teacher. Flahat took the advice and 18 years later hasn’t looked back.
It seems it was a good decision, as he was recently recognized as one of Canada’s outstanding principals for 2012. He attributes at least part of his success to the person who painted a better picture of him.
“Somebody really saw something in me, and took the time to tell me this is what I’d be good at, even when I didn’t think I could be that,” he said.
Now Flahat strives to deliver that same sense of confidence to the kids he oversees.
“This is always what I’ve been about,” he said. “Trying to make students see something in themselves that they may not see, to make them believe in themselves.”
Flahat has only been at John Polanyi since mid-January. Previously, he was principal at Greenwood Secondary School and the School of Life Experience, two specialized schools that cater to newcomers and students who face challenges in traditional learning environments.
Apart from winning awards for being one of the top principals in Canada, he says he’s been very busy with listening, learning and building relationships with students and staff.
“That’s my goal for the next little while here, developing those real strong relationships so we can make meaningful changes together,” he said.
The ever-humble Flahat was pleasantly surprised when he was told he was being recognized by The Learning Partnership as one of Canada’s most outstanding principals. He formally received the award at a gala on Feb. 28.
“It really was overwhelming and quite the honour,” he said. “It boils down to the commitment of the kids and the teachers in this school to make the place wonderful … to be a part of that is really wonderful.”
He credited the recognition to his proactive approach to administration.
Flahat has three main principles when it comes to education: tailor learning to every individual student, look for great teachers who want to make a difference in children’s lives, and most importantly, inspire kids to see a better tomorrow.
“From the moment I got into teaching that’s always been my commitment,” Flahat said. “To ensure that kids and their needs are really looked after, as opposed to waiting for the kids to meet our needs.”
It’s also a priority to integrate new media and technology into the classroom; with a background in information technology, Flahat recognizes its potential for learning.
“This has been my huge focus in education, to try and integrate technology into the teaching to inspire and motivate those kids that really are not engaging in the regular mainstream type of learning,” he said.
It would seem Flahat has many focuses in his career: inspiring children, catering to kids’ individual needs, integrating technology into the classroom, among others.
So with so many commitments, how does Flahat retain his own focus?
“If I have a tough day, I just go for a walk in the halls,” he said. “And I can tell you, it makes for a much better day when you connect with the kids.”
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