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G R E AT T E A C H I N G 29 September 2017 | Professionally Speaking The OCT featured in this profile has been recognized with a national teaching award and exemplifies the high standards of practice to which the College holds the teaching profession . Stephanie Clapham, OCT, the CPP Lead Teacher, was one of those hires. Clapham says that, from day one, Taylor set an inclusive, welcoming tone for the school. "Andrea's leadership helped shape respect and acceptance for our students." Taylor continues to uphold those values, which she preaches daily. "It is about getting everyone to understand that everybody has ability within a dis- ability," she says. "Nobody is perfect." CPP students are invited to all school assemblies and expected at each. "Andrea has never said that we can't attend because people need to be quiet," Clapham says. "She knows our world isn't quiet." Neither is it easy, although Taylor does what she can to smooth the bumps. In an effort to prepare CPP students before they venture out into the com- munity, the team helps to develop some skills for individual independence and the workplace. Taylor has supported an effort by Clapham and other teachers to create what they call "Robinson's Closet." Located in a third-floor classroom, the CPP students have created a thrift store that offers free clothing, school supplies, hygiene and other items to students. Open two times per week, Robinson's Closet teaches CPP students how to do everything from taking and replenishing stock to folding clothes and organizing community donations. But setting it up — and getting the appropriate board clearances — has taken more than a year. Taylor has steadily backed the cause despite its experimental status. "As a principal, you've got to trust your staff," she says. That mindset serves to both inspire and fuel Taylor's team. "She allows us to run with our ideas," Clapham says. "She never says 'No' if [our ideas] are in some way beneficial. She gives us the freedom and support ... then stands behind us to make it work." Try these five approaches that award-winning principal Andrea Taylor, OCT, uses to drive positive change that inspires, motivates and can transform a struggling school into one that is successful and brimming with spirit: 1 Trust your people. It's so important to create a safe space. If your staff feel that you trust them, then they will trust the students and you will inevitably get good work out of everyone. 2 Gear it up. Equip your teachers with instruc- tional strategies that they can put to use in their classrooms. These tools will help them build relationships and empower their students to attain their goals. 3 Shift it up. The goals are to move students up within the board's four levels of achieve- ment. It goes without saying that a teacher's job is to increase the achieve- ment of a child. This is the ultimate goal. 4 Stay the course. Every year, when I have new staff, I give a history of what we've done. They see what we've accomplished as a community, where they fit in and where we're going. 5 Track it and celebrate it. Track changes, including credit accumulation and sense of belonging, with data; then celebrate the successes individually (for instance, with personal notes to teachers), or as a school. Andrea allows us to run with our ideas. She gives us the freedom and support ... then stands behind us to make it work. Taylor is also a supreme motivator. "She wants you to do more to achieve your potential," explains Clapham. "You can spin your wheels, sometimes, with that old typical curriculum. Here, you never spin your wheels. Andrea is always pushing people to do their best." Students also get that message and there is data to prove it. The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) scores have gone up eight per cent over the past two years; visits to the school library — which has been revamped into what Taylor calls the "Learning Commons," complete with a cozy electric fireplace and bistro-style tables — recently logged a remarkable 10,000 visits (the student population is about 700). Inside the school, Taylor makes sure students see her day in and day out, leading by example. "She is the type of principal who will go outside with the Eco Club and clean up the courtyard or plant flowers in the front of the school. She will stop by the music room to tell the band how great they played at yesterday's performance," says Caroline Mahut, a Grade 12 student. "She stops students in the hall to congratulate them on a personal achievement, compliment them about something they have done. As a principal, she is a person we all look up to, respect and thank for her hard work." For Taylor, that is more than enough validation for her approach. "If staff are feeling energized and honoured for what they're doing, it trickles down to your students," she says, adding: "If the kids believe that you believe in them, they will do their best. They don't want to fail." PS Five Ways to Create Community

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