A SMART and outstanding principal

Embracing new technology, encouraging teacher collaboration and professional development and supporting student skills and creativity are some of the many reasons that David Brook, principal of David Livingstone Elementary school has been named one of Canada's Outstanding PrincipalsTM for 2011.

The Canada's Outstanding PrincipalsTM program, which was developed by The Learning Partnership is now in its seventh year. This year 32 principals were recognized for demonstrating exceptional leadership, creating professional learning teams at their schools, and developing meaningful partnerships with families and communities.

Among the many letters of support from students, parents, and educators, Brook is noted for demonstrating educational leadership and supporting the use of technology in changing teaching practice. His vision in transforming Livingstone school into the District's first Technology Inquiry School serves as a model for other schools in Vancouver and across BC. During the past 11 years, Brook has worked diligently to enlist support from the district, facilitate teacher collaboration and training, and encourage leadership within his staff and among students to make his unique vision a reality.

As a result of Brook's leadership and resourcefulness, Livingstone currently has SMART Board interactive whiteboards in every classroom and the school is a demonstration site for teachers and administrators across the district, as well as across the province.

"SMART Boards ARE the teaching space in our school. We don't use white boards or chalk boards. Our gym is the only room at our school without a SMART Board," Brook adds with a laugh.

Brook acknowledges that being recognized by The Learning Partnership is an honour but he stresses that he cannot take all the applause himself. "I'm not a visionary leader.  I find visionary people and help them make things happen," he said. "I have some fantastic teachers and the role I play is to support what they are doing. I have an ability to find out what teachers are passionate about and support them.

As demonstrated by the many letters of support from district officials, students, teachers and parents, Brook's open door policy has fostered a school climate where communication and collaboration are encouraged.

During his tenure at the school, he was instrumental in improving enrollment by starting a before and after school care program which was eventually replaced by the Spare Time program which is now attended by 40 kids each day.

Another major event that is popular with the school community is the Multicultural Night, one of the highlights of the year where families gather, bringing foods from their homeland to share with each other, while student volunteers entertain with song and dance from around the world.

But it is Brook's support of SMART Boards which has made an indelible mark on the students and teachers at Livingstone school. Students at the school begin using the interactive digital board and its Notebook software in Kindergarten. All students use the SMART Board to present their projects, participate in lessons and quizzes and make exciting educational presentations.

A professional learning program with Special Education Technology-BC (SET-BC) and SMART ensures all Livingstone students, regardless of abilities, utilize the technology and that teachers and support workers can assist and support special needs students learning with technology.

In October 2010, as in past years, the school led a professional development day with 220 teachers from across the province and from local private schools to gain hands-on experience with SMART Boards.

Eleven teachers from Livingstone and two other Vancouver schools led the session groups and they were assisted by 35 grade 7/8 students. "Our students often know more about SMART Boards than our teachers since they are continually trying new things with the software," said Brook. "Students are invaluable in demonstrating and teaching the nuances of the software."

"Emphasis during the workshops is on acquiring hands-on skills so that at the end of the day teachers go home with information on a memory stick that they can use in their class the next day," said Brook.

Brook sites an example of how SMART Boards are utilized for personalized learning during the grade 6/7 student's recent 'Passion Caf�.' "Each student was given a general theme, for example: 'famous people".   Students researched and created their own SMART Board presentations integrating text, graphics, video and other online content.

At the caf� the students gathered with tea and cookies to share their "passion" topic with fellow classmates. "It was interesting to see what intrigues the students," said Brook. Under the theme of "famous people" Brook saw diverse presentations on famous baseball player Jackie Robinson, entertainer Hannah Montana and Uganda's fearsome leader, Idi Amin.

In language arts, SMART Boards and the Notebook software help students to develop interactive presentations on curriculum-related topics ranging from slavery and world religions. "SMART Boards are PowerPoint on steroids'" said Brook. "The Notebook software allows the curriculum to become engaging - students or the teacher can write on the board or move elements around with a touch of the hand. Educational video can be played and quizzes can become more interactive and exciting.

Brook will join colleagues from across Canada in the National Academy of Canada's Outstanding Principals. They will be treated to a Gala Awards ceremony at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Toronto on February 8, 2011, in addition to participating in an exclusive five-day management course at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, where they will gain valuable knowledge and learn strategies to help them enhance public education at their school and in their community.

Read Janet Steffenhagen's article on David Brook in the Vancouver Sun, Jan 6, 2011

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