HWDSB Principal of Organizational Leadership John Leyzer will receive top honours in his field as one of the exceptional leaders named Canada’s Outstanding Principals for 2013.
The Learning Partnership, a national charitable organization that champions public education, named Leyzer among the 51 principals across Canada to be honoured this year for their unique and crucial contributions to K-12 public education. It means he has made a measurable difference in the lives of students and communities.
“This prestigious award recognizes the work that John does for our schools and our system, to increase student achievement and to engage our students, staff and communities,” said Associate Director of Education Ken Bain, who nominated Leyzer. “As a Board, we are so proud of John for receiving this honour.”
In its nine-year history, the Canada’s Outstanding Principals program has given 260 recipients the honour. Leyzer joins a growing list of HWDSB winners that also includes Judy Langsner and Rick Hart (2012), Elaine Pilgrim-Susi (2011), Wes Hahn (2010), Bob Morrallee (2008), Peter Joshua (2007), Pat Rocco (2006), Scott Sincerbox (2006) and Scott Lowrey (2005).
“We are thrilled to be recognizing these individuals as examples of excellence in public education,” said Akela Peoples, President and CEO of The Learning Partnership. “These school CEOs communicate compelling visions, engage their communities, mentor their staff and, most importantly, create safe and nurturing learning environments for students.”
Originally from Brantford, Leyzer is proud of a career in HWDSB that saw him spend 15 years in the classroom before entering administration. After two years as a vice-principal, he worked for seven years as principal at Lawfield elementary and Queen Mary elementary. In 2009, Queen Mary received attention for having increased its EQAO scores by 25 to 45 per cent in reading, writing and math assessments over a five-year period. Leyzer remains grateful for the skills that he learned working with staff in his schools.
“It’s very flattering when somebody recognizes the work you are doing,” said Leyzer. “It’s also quite humbling because this work depends on the commitment of many other stakeholders, without whom the work wouldn’t come to fruition.”
In Leyzer’s current role, he works with North Cluster schools on school self-assessment, supporting them as they look at data and implement Ministry of Education programs related to numeracy, collaborative inquiry and more. “Most of my work is about building capacity with coaches who deal with math and literacy,” he said of his expanding role. “We help schools determine what their focus should be.”
Like the other winners, Leyzer was nominated by his peers. His nomination was then chosen by a National Selection Committee of distinguished leaders in education, business and the community. A winner must demonstrate partnerships with parents and community, as well as successful change and innovation that resulted in improved student achievement.
As a Superintendent of Student Achievement for the North Cluster, Pam Reinholdt helped prepare the nomination package. She said that much of Leyzer’s success as a principal is due to his abilities to build relationships, to motivate himself for his own learning, and to help people develop as professionals.
“He stands out for his ability to listen, learn from others, provide leadership and resources, and to collaborate with teams across our schools and departments,” Reinholdt said.
“John brings a good sense of humour to his job, takes the time to interact in a meaningful way with people, questions the status quo with an aim to improve, and is supportive of staff and students,” Reinholdt added. “He is always eager to learn new approaches and pursue evidence-based practices. This is a great benefit to our Board, as we implement our strategic directions.”
Leyzer will join past winners in the National Academy of Canada’s Outstanding Principals, which offers principals ongoing networking, mentoring and professional development opportunities so that they can continually enhance their leadership skills.
He will also attend the gala awards dinner Feb. 26, 2013 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto and participate in a five-day executive leadership training program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
Receiving the honour also gave Leyzer an opportunity to reflect on the advice he would pass on to a young administration entering the career.
“So much of the work that we do depends on having an open, honest, trusting relationship with students, staff, parents and the community,” said Leyzer. A team has to know that it is OK to take risks, to try new things and, if necessary, make mistakes along the way.
“A principal needs to sit alongside his or her staff and co-learn with them. And, as they say, we must try to lead from the side, not the top.”
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