Career educator may be the principal we all wished we’d had in grade school
BY JENNIFER CHORNLEY
Special to the VOICE
Pam Voth believes she has the best job in the world.
Her dedication to ensuring the success of staff and students at Glynn A. Green Public School is the fuel that drives her passion for education.
Having a career in education that is entering its 33rd year, she shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Voth’s first year as principal brought a fresh approach to the school’s educational environment with one of the key elements being communication.
She believes communication between the school’s administration and families is key to a student’s success.
With that, Voth believes every student has and can achieve the success within them at the right time no matter the challenges they face.
To ensure this, Voth explains she has three jobs as principal.
“They are to keep everybody safe, ensure everyone is learning and provide opportunities.”
She noted that this year’s student population increased more than she anticipated.
“There are 380 students, plus a staff of 30, including support staff. That’s a lot of people. So, when I work to ensure safety, it’s only natural that it will make for a great learning environment,” Voth says. “You can’t learn if you aren’t safe.”
The safety aspect encompasses not only within the school walls but also the community.
Voth explains that everyone follows Safe School Policies, and has routines and rules that ensure that students are safe (such as not leaving school property). In addition, the school has social skills programs to support children in making good choices (including on-line safety programs).
Last year, they hosted a parent night about internet safety for the community and had a presentation for students as well.
Students are also active in ensuring a safe educational environment.
“Students feel safe when they feel connected and that they have someone they can go to for help,” Voth said.
With that in mind, there is a Buddy Program across grades that helps older students connect with younger students. To boost the program, Voth says a new mentorship program will be introduced to help ensure students feel more connected.
She also has an “open door policy” for students and parents, allowing them to voice concerns at anytime and establish solutions as a team.
Voth noted that regarding opportunities, “They are important in the fact that they are memorable, whether it be a Terry Fox Run, a monthly celebration assembly, sporting event or creative arts show. They may not necessarily remember history,” she said with a laugh, “but they will remember an opportunity.”
Jennifer McGregor, vice-chair of the school’s parent council, praised Voth’s Principal-for-the-Day concept. This is a campaign in which students can win and help be “principal for the day.”
“This really helps motivate students and assists them with understanding how the school environment is run and maintained,” said McGregor.
In Voth’s view, success is a ripple effect that is for everyone, students and adults alike.
“I especially love to help the adults, both parents and staff, be successful because, in the end, the kids will be too.”
Communication fuels Voth’s success philosophy in a big way. In her first year on the job, she began maintaining the school’s private virtual community blog, which consisted of shared photos, news and school updates. Voth also sends out a weekly Communications Tuesday newsletter to the families through e-mail made up of reminders and what’s ahead in upcoming weeks.
Not only is communication important between the school and families, but also the school staff. Voth says she and the staff have weekly formal meetings to strategize how to work student challenges and incorporate new learning styles to ensure every student gets the education they need.
Voth is a learner herself and always keeps updated with research on the behaviours and challenges of today’s students. She said that this information is expansive compared to when she began her educational career 33 years ago.
“There is so much information out there on how to help the kids who are struggling and that makes me happy,” she says.
Voth credits the staff and the school council for assisting her in achieving a positive educational environment for the students.
McGregor describes Voth as committed, resourceful and engaging during the meetings.
“She is also a great negotiator with our fund-raising events, to ensure our money was spent wisely and we got the most we could,” McGregor says.
“That shows she truly cares about the money that parents donate to the school to make it a better place for their kids. Mrs. Voth has been a totally positive influence on the school in every way. She is tough but in a fair way, understands and has great empathy. McGregor said that Voth supports education in a serious but fun and inviting way, where students want to get involved and help run events and social activities.
“She supports our ideas, advice and needs.”
One example is implementing a snack program every Monday and Wednesday that the parent council had been wanting for some time.
With the collaboration of a parent who is a nutritionist, a local community group and student and parent volunteers, the program was launched.
“She helped find a room to dedicate to this and was able to get a fridge donated to assist,” said McGregor.
Voth said this year they are starting a weekly breakfast program on Fridays and automatically had parents wanting to volunteer their time to implement the program immediately.
McGregor says that she encourages parents to be involved in any way.
“Even if they can’t attend every parent council meeting, perhaps they can offer assistance on a committee or just offer their talents or resources for one event, or item.”
One of Voth’s goals for the upcoming years is to expand on the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Mathematics Maker Space program. Also, she and the staff are exploring new teaching resources to enhance students’ literacy and math skills.
Voth is very much involved in the students’ everyday activities.
“I just love kids,” she says with a big smile. She enjoys carrying her birthday bucket and singing happy birthday to the students on their special day, rooting for the Gators at sporting events, accompanying students on field trips and even helping settle a playground dispute.
Voth also loves presenting students with a CLAW reward, where a student’s name is entered into a draw when they make good choices, show kindness and follow expectations around the school.
“When it all comes down to it, at the end of the day, those moments are my favourite part of the day,” she says.
McGregor lauds Voth’s beliefs in engagement and communication.
“She truly allows the kids to set the stage and be proud of their school,” McGregor says.
“She encourages them and lets them lead the way for the type of school they want, the clubs, activities; so they can be proud of what they created and how they created it versus, being told when, how and what to do.”
With this, McGregor also praises the teachers with their efforts to help lead the clubs and activities the students want.
In efforts to engage and celebrate the creativity of the students, the school held a Culture Fair and Arts Festival.
The Culture Fair presented workshops on variety of countries that helped students widen their understanding of other people and become more tolerant and accepting.
The Arts Festival embraced the students’ creative side through performances such as dance, music and theatre and the visual arts.
Another model that adds to Voth’s role is the fact that she is mom too.
“I know my kids are grown now, but what I wanted for them growing up is how I would like to put into the school environment as principal.”
For Voth, it’s important to provide students with the best possible educational experience.
“They are our future. We need them to be good citizens, work together and be problem-solvers.”
Another element vital to a successful educational environment is a teacher’s ability to “focus on the fun stuff.”
“I like being the big picture, this allows teachers to focus on what they do best—teach,” Voth said. “No need for them to focus on certain administrative details such as scheduling breaks supervisions or ordering supplies.”
Voth knows she can’t do the job on her own and credits the teachers and the school council for supporting her initiatives and the school itself.
She also commends the students and the fact they contribute by providing positive sense of community. One example is last year’s effort that supported nine local families in need during the holiday season.
Moving forward, improving ways on how to better a student’s literacy and math skills, equity inclusion, improving the kindergarten playground and enhancing the school’s physical branding are on Voth’s to-do list.
Voth explained she has already helped the school council get a new digital sign for the front of the school, brand new sports uniforms, and begin clearing outdated clutter for more effective use of space.
She will be working towards having the school’s interior freshened up to reflect the Gators branding. Voth said that students connect better in a learning environment with what they want to see around them.
“I like change,” Voth said. “Some people may not, but I look at it in such way to question how I can help make students’ lives better.”
“I think of my students and staff as clients. I have a client-based model as though I am running a boutique shop. If I want my shop to stay open, I must meet the people’s needs and, in this case, it’s the kids’ lifelong learning.”