Golden Hills School Division (GHSD) Superintendent Bevan Daverne was named the Canadian Superintendent of the Year at the Canadian Association of School System Administrators (CASSA) annual conference! The conference took place on July 7 in St. Andrews By-The-Sea, New Brunswick.

Daverne said it's really special to win the award, and it's about the entire school division staff.

"It is quite an honor to receive this award. This really says more about our system, our school leaders, about our staff, about our teachers, about our senior office staff, that's really what this is recognizing. It really is a humbling honor and I sure appreciate the wonderful people I have an opportunity to work with," he said.

"I can't say enough good things about our teaching staff, they truly are outstanding."

Daverne believes that the GHSD's mentality to be the best they can be played a big role in receiving the reward.

"We've really been working on 'school of choice' for all of our schools. We want to offer programming and options and a connection with families and parents and the community, such that each one of our schools is the number one choice within the community."

To achieve this 'school of choice' goal, Daverne says it takes the entire school division working hard to make it happen. Excellence must be at all levels.

"Our staff is very important to us. In order to do an excellent job, excellent work with students and have students achieve their very best, it's really important that our staff are also the very best, and we want to be an employer of choice."

While receiving the award is a sure sign that things are working, Daverne added that there's always room for improvement, and they're looking for ways to get better.

So how does the GHSD achieve their 'school of choice' goal? A big focus of Daverne's is 'powerful learning', which he explains is a student centered approach to learning to focus on their experiences.

"We want students to be able to learn not just in shallow ways but more deeply. Learning that sticks, learning that makes a difference to them, learning in a way that matters to their everyday lives as well."

There are a lot of factors that go into powerful learning to help students grow, discover, and change.

"Part of it is sometimes you're giving students a little more choice in their learning. Sometimes it's more experiential learning, sometimes it's connected with a project, sometimes it's connected with something that has more meaning for them specifically. It's less about sitting in your desk and taking notes and it's more about working with others, collaborating with other students, working on projects that matter, doing things that make a difference in our world today and bringing in experts outside of the classroom. You would see examples from that all across our schools."

The emphasis on deep learning is something Daverne believes is important. While it's key that students understand basic concepts and have a mastery of basic skills, powerful learning hopes to apply these concepts in a way that will be memorable to students.

"There's lots of things that you can do that may start out in a textbook, but the application or the project or the learning that's associated with it... there may be a hands on component to it, it might also be taking students in a direction with their research or other factors. So we're trying to deepen the learning, so that it's not just about memorizing a date or memorizing an approach to math, but there's an application of it and a deeper understanding and a level of engagement where students want to learn, and they're finding that their learning is more exciting."

Daverne also mentioned the GHSD's relationship with Siksika nation when discussing what makes the GHSD stand out from the rest.

"We've really appreciated the partnership work we've done with Siksika  First Nation, we have lots of cultural activities, Blackfoot culture across our schools. We have programs with Blackfoot language, Indigenous ways of knowing, land based learning, those have been exciting paths forward to us. We've seen our graduation rate for our first nations students jump significantly the last number of years."

The results speak to the success of Daverne and the GHSD's vision to improve learning.

"We continue to see our achievement results and our provincial test results improve overtime, so we know that not only is this making a difference as far as how engaged a student is within their own learning, it's also making a difference in how they're doing on provincial exams."

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