By Vivian Moreau
Sharon Broatch has seen a lot of changes in Whistler elementary schools since she started teaching in the area in 1982. Then working as a learning disabilities teacher, there was only one small school and most students’ first language was English. Now as she steps into the position of principal at Myrtle Philip Community School there are two schools and English as a second language classes are a given.
Despite the growth Broatch says the heart of Whistler remains the same.
“Whistler is a very caring place to live,” Broatch said. “People have connections that run deep in this town and I don’t see that having changed even though we’re bigger.”
Broatch is replacing departing principal Ron Albertin, who retired this spring after 30 years. She says the biggest challenge to her job is meeting parents’ high expectations.
She hopes to do that by increasing parent involvement in the school and fostering student leadership opportunities. A numeracy program similar to the literacy program already in place will be introduced where adult community volunteers can work one on one with students who need a boost with math skills. She’d also like a student council to be formed.
“We haven’t had a student council in the past and I’d like to see opportunities for kids to take on leadership roles, so we’ll be looking at programs to do that,” she said.
Broatch studied at the University of Manitoba and Western Washington and taught in that province for six years before moving to B.C. to teach in Burnaby. Both avid skiers, she and her husband bought a home in Whistler in 1982. She has twice held the position of vice-principal at Myrtle Philip.
Spring Creek Community School also has a new principal. Gerri Galloway replaces outgoing principal Linda Watson, who moved to the Interior. Galloway has also worked in Whistler schools for many years.
Raised in Squamish, Galloway completed her Bachelor in Education at UBC and has taught in the Squamish area for 26 years as a primary, intermediate and technology teacher, as well as librarian. Encouraged by a retiring principal in 1997 she pursued a masters in education at San Diego State University over three summers and has worked as a vice-principal at Squamish, Brackendale and Myrtle Philip elementary schools. She says the challenge to her new position is that she is the only administrator in the school. With 250 students Spring Creek does not qualify for a vice-principal.
“But I have a wonderful secretary who has brought me up to speed very quickly about what works and what doesn’t work,” Galloway said.
Spring Creek has two late immersion French classes, i.e. Grades 5-7, and leases four classrooms to B.C. francophone school authority.
Galloway says other than being the lone administrator challenges for her will include fostering literacy and social responsibility programs not only in Spring Creek, but throughout the district. Initiated by concerned legislature members four years ago the social responsibility program Galloway coordinates for the district teaches children values needed to work cooperatively within society.
“That is a big part of what primary teachers particularly focus on: how do we behave in school and what does that behaviour look like in the hallway, in the classroom or on the playground,” she said.
Galloway has three children, lives in West Vancouver, and commutes to Whistler. A principal who prefers to be on the playground at recess and checking in on classrooms she leaves paperwork until students leave, making for 12-hour workdays. But she says the community makes the effort worthwhile. Working in Squamish for many years she didn’t realize what a unique community Whistler is, she says.
“When I came here I realized that parents are so involved in the schools, much more than I had experienced in the south…. At any time of day you’ll find parents in the building helping out. Anything you want a parent to do you just need to ask.”
Galloway said her previous tenure at Myrtle Philip has proven to have unexpected bonuses. Encountering some wall graffiti on the first day, a student she’d known from Whistler’s other elementary gave memorable proof that he was not the perpetrator.
“His comment to me was, ‘you know my writing is messy and this isn’t my writing,’” she said.