Voiceover

My‘second biggest challenge’

JEFF HARRIS August 23 2004
Voiceover

My‘second biggest challenge’

JEFF HARRIS August 23 2004

Principal power

PORTER CREEK WHITEHORSE

Cover

Despite his 29 years as an educator, Kerry Huff, principal of Porter Creek Secondary School in Whitehorse, has never completely grown up. And he’s proud of it. His office is filled with photos of his legendary antics, such as being duct-taped to a wall or wearing a tutu. “My stunts,” says Huff, 52, “make students feel good about being here.” KATHY GATES, MOM OF MEGAN, GRADE 12: “He’s known for his ties—he figures he has 140 or 150, from the sublime to the ridiculous. When we went to England a couple of summers back, Megan insisted on rooting out a tie that had London on it for him. My daughter was in a car accident a day after her eighth birthday and was in a coma for two weeks. After that, she’s had some physical and learning disabilities. When we first registered Megan at the school, I remember Kerry saying, ‘Whatever she needs, we will do our best to help her.’ He’s held true to that promise—Megan has made the honour roll in each of her high school years.” LINDSAY BIRSS, 20, 2001 GRAD:

“At my grad, we were allowed to pick our guest speaker, and we picked him. All the students were so close with him, especially my class. When he went up there, he told little stories about all of us.”

GYM TEACHER PAUL MACDONALD, 30:

“He challenged kids this year that for each

gold medal we won in volleyball he would eat a worm. At the end of the season he ended up eating five of them. He was going to get a tattoo of the school’s mascot if we could get the last one too, but we didn’t. I think secretly he really wanted that tattoo and wanted an excuse to get it.”

TEACHER LYNDA PETERSON, 40:

“This year was the first I was teaching entrepreneurship, and we had the idea of creating a school store. We even created a

Mr. Huff bobble-head doll, which speaks to the extent that the student body loves him.” STEPHANIE JOHNSON, 18, 2004 GRAD:

“I’ve had a pretty rough time in high school. When my parents split town, I wanted to drop out and get a job. Mr. Huff came and showed me all my grades and was like, ‘You’ve worked so hard, you can’t give up.’ He’s given me more than $600 for plane tickets for basketball trips, my jerseys—all out of his own pocket.” K. MARLEY

GOV. GEN. ADRIENNE CLARKSON, 65

WALTER B. MANN, ENGLISH TEACHER,

LISGAR COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE, OTTAWA ‘The person who influenced me most in my life, besides my father, was my English teacher for three years. Mr. Mann was a most extraordinarily humane person who loved books and loved writing. He is a person I will always be grateful to. I owe to him

the fact that I can speak publicly without being tongue-tied. He picked me out as somebody he would help train to enter the Rotary public speaking contest. I carried the school’s banner to the Ottawa area and was No. 2 in 1954.

‘When I was on TV he used to send me occasional notes that were very funny and yet very accurate. The note would begin, “We spent a lot of time studying gerunds. The other day you said...” The note would explain the error and then conclude with, “The gerund is a noun, as you, of course, certainly, will remember.”

‘He died five or six ago. He was around for the 150th anniversary of the school. We were all asked whether we wanted to have a barbecue, cocktail party or somesuch. And I wrote back and said, “What I would come back for is for Mr. Mann to give us another English class.” And that Saturday morning they had to move more than 800 of us to the cafeteria. Mr. Mann walked in with his tweed coat, and very highly shined wingtip shoes. He then gave a lesson on the poetry of D.H. Lawrence.’

OTHER STELLAR SCHOOL LEADERS

FRANCES KELSEY SECONDARY SCHOOL

MILL BAY, B.C.

Allan MacLeod, 64, has been involved with the school of 1,200 from its inception. When the local board decided to build a new school in 1988, he campaigned for a self-paced learning environment, and then helped choose everything from staff to architecture. So when the board threatened to transfer MacLeod this year, parents and students mounted a protest. And they succeeded-MacLeod will finish his career next year at the school he loves, nine years after he was supposed to retire.

MCNALLY HIGH SCHOOL

EDMONTON

Principal George Rice, 56, is convinced one of the keys to school excellence is focusing on marks. “I believe in having the courage to deal with results in an open and constructive manner,” he says. Since he started as principal 11 years ago, all teachers, including himself, have had their anonymous classroom results-grades, attendance, course completion-made available throughout the school, and to parents. He also writes detailed annual reports for all 63 teachers at the

1,330-student institution. Results-and school pride-have improved.

SIMCOE COMPOSITE SCHOOL

SIMCOE, ONT.

Watching his school’s gym burn down last Thanksgiving was “a surreal experience,” says principal Bob Foster, 53. But instead of just rebuilding the lost facility, he launched a campaign to raise funds for construction this fall and winter of a $2.5-million triple gym. He even agreed to work half a year for free after he retires in three years to help with financing.

K. MARLEY