In the spirit of competition to which he’s become accustomed, soccer player-turned-North York school principal Domenic Giorgi was recently named one of the country’s best educators.
Only six years on the job, Giorgi was one of 30 principals to receive Canada’s Outstanding Principal Award. The annual distinction is awarded by the Learning Partnership, a charitable institution focused on improving the quality of public education in Canada.
Before becoming the principal of Cummer Valley Middle School, Giorgi was a member of Canada’s national soccer seam.
“I played on our national soccer team for three years,” Giorgi said. “I guess the leadership that came from my soccer skills I was able to transfer into my work.”
Despite having coached the school’s soccer team, Giorgi has found he is a more effective leader in an administrative role. Under his guiding hand, the school has undergone a number of changes with positive results. One of his priorities coming in was to make the grade 6-8 Cummer Valley a healthy school.
“By a healthy school I’m not just talking about academically, but for me it’s about the body and the mind and the soul,” Giorgi said.
He encouraged the creation of new clubs and sports teams to get the student body more active and engaged.
“Playing on a team sport I think is very significant as well because you need others to be successful,” Giorgi said.
Giorgi also started a free breakfast program available for all students, and pushed for students to choose healthier food. French fries, a school favourite when Giorgi arrived, are now served only once a week and the school has been officially recognized as an Eat-Smart school. Eat-Smart is a nutrition promotion initiative for schools and workplaces in Toronto.
“Our school was one of the first middle schools in Toronto to have such an award given to us,” Giorgi said.
The school’s environmental initiatives have also earned them platinum status as an eco-school. During his tenure, Giorgi has made a conscious effort to educate students about stewardship and conservation and to apply those concepts in their daily lives. In addition to changing to energy efficient light bulbs, Cummer Valley was also one of the first to schools to begin an organic waste program.
Giorgi, like most great leaders, is quick to pass off the credit to his team.
“I really am blessed to have good people all around me,” he said. “I think it makes a big difference when you can go to work every day and there are people who have your back.”
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