P.E.I.'s Terry MacIsaac among Canada's Outstanding Principals

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 6, 2013
Prince Street School principal Terry MacIsaac, pictured with Grade 4 students Kenny Doucette and Jordan Knockwood, says being flexible, adaptable and approachable are keys to succeeding as a principal. MacIsaac was named by The Learning Partnership as one of Canada's Outstanding Principals.
Guardian photo

Entering the school system with a focus on physical education, Terry MacIsaac never thought in his "wildest dreams'' that he would go on to become a principal.

Others thought otherwise.

After just four years of teaching (two at L.M. Montgomery Elementary and one each at Parkdale Elementary and West Royalty Elementary), MacIsaac was put on the administrative fast track.

MacIsaac, 41, was viewed as being flexible and adaptable. He is also approachable and he has a great sense of humour. All are considered strong traits of a good principal.

So he was nudged onwards and upwards.

His first stint in school administration was a two-year run as vice principal at Spring Park Elementary. He followed that posting with four years at St. Peters Consolidated in his first job as principal.

For the past eight years, he has been head of Prince Street Elementary in Charlottetown.

"Certainly I wouldn't trade it in right now,'' he said of his ongoing career as a principal.

"It all comes down to caring and compassion for kids.''

The position has proven to fit him well. More importantly, students are really benefitting from Principal MacIsaac, who is among Canada's Outstanding Principals for 2013 that were announced earlier this week by The Learning Partnership.

Under his leadership, MacIsaac and the school's staff have worked tirelessly to expand opportunities for students and their families. They work with business and community partners, including the McCain Foundation, to begin initiatives such as Smart Start.

An Indigo Love of Reading grant transformed the school's library with murals, a listening centre and needed resources. Volunteers for Literacy, Family Literacy and Book Buddies allow for one-to-one reading opportunities and students can access further help through homework clubs.

In 2008, 67 percent of Grade 3 students met provincial expectations and by 2010 that had increased to 92 percent. Results for Grade 6 students increased from 58 percent to 74 percent.

MacIsaac says he saw his role early on at Prince Street Elementary as creating a vision that would move the school in a positive direction.

He says the teachers at Prince Street buy into his philosophy of doing whatever is needed to make students successful, often requiring educators to go the proverbial extra mile.

In return, he says, the students are "very grateful'' for all the efforts made to help them perform to their best.

"We approach each student individually,'' he said.

"We have a lot of kids who struggle but they are capable in their own way.''

He says getting the nod as one of this year's Canada's Outstanding Principals is not just acknowledgement of his good work but serves as recognition of the dedicated efforts of all school staff at Prince Street as well as offering praise in general for the public school system.

On a personal and professional note, MacIsaac is looking forward to one outcome in particular to being among a prestigious group of 51 educators that will attend an awards presentation and gala in Toronto later this month as part of being selected as this year's crop of Canada's Outstanding Principals.

No, it is not receiving a plaque as one of the country's outstanding principals that has MacIsaac eager to fly to Toronto.

He is most looking forward to participating in an executive leadership-training program at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. Because he wants to be the best principal he can possibly be.

As one parent notes, he is pretty darn good right now: "Mr. MacIsaac has already received the most important award any educator can receive, that is the love and respect of every one of his students and their families.''