Saint Patrick's head given national award

There for a short time, John Shanahan has had a big impact

He’s an A+ principal who refuses to take all the credit.

John Shanahan, of Saint Patrick Catholic Secondary School, has received a Canada’s Outstanding Principal of the Year Award, but prefers to think of his prize as a group achievement.

“It’s a very, very nice thing to have,” he says. “But it’s not just about me. It’s about the people around you, who support you and help you.”

Shanahan, who says his leadership centres on relationships, gets more than just a passing grade from Sara Oliveira-Nobre.

“Mr. Shanahan is the most sensitive, loyal, supportive principal that we have had in my opinion in many years,” says Nobre, who teaches English as a Second Language. “He’s always very supportive of teamwork and he’s always willing to give you feedback so it’s easy to put your love into what you do.”

Shanahan has created such a connection with the staff and students that he says they are constantly coming in to his office to discuss their accomplishments and ideas.

“They want interaction,” he says. “I see myself as a facilitator. The principal’s role, it’s kind of like a gardener. You’ve got to create an environment where things can grow.”

Shanahan has overseen a number of renovations to the school including planting and upgrading the greenery, creating a courtyard and remodelling the basketball courts, despite being in his position for only a year and a half.

In that short amount of time, Nobre says Shanahan has turned the school around.

“Before (the renovations) we had less spirit in the school,” she says. “With his advice and his knowledge, he has really made any workers in the school really want to make the school physically, and in other ways, a better place.”

Shanahan not only calls Saint Patrick Catholic Secondary School a community, but preaches the importance of school members reaching out into the surrounding Greenwood and Coxwell area.

“Looking out for others, that’s what we’re trying to promote,” he says. “The idea of relationships. If we look at this as a community where we’re trying to treat each other with respect, we’re all looking out for each other, we’re all trying to support each other, then it’s a microcosm of how the bigger community should be.”

Two phone calls Shanahan received about his students reassured him that some are listening to his message. In one, a woman called to say Saint Patrick students helped her when she fell down and walked her home, and in the other a person called about a student who gave his lunch to a homeless man on the subway.

“That’s why the award is a little awkward for me,” Shanahan says. “Because it’s not about ‘am I the best leader?’ It’s about ‘how’s our community the best community and how do we service?’ ”

Ultimately, Shanahan says he’s fortunate to be a principal and he wants his students to find their passion in life.

“That’s what drives me,” he says. “It’s not about winning awards.”

About this article:

By: Nadia Hussein
Posted: Feb 24 2012 1:59 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto