In September of 2020, Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute welcomed Ms. Sawh, the new Grade 10 vice principal, into the school. For this edition, Anne Liu interviewed her.
Q: What was your path to becoming vice principal like? Were you faced with any obstacles or difficult decisions?
A: I started my journey getting my undergraduate degree in neuroscience, then my master’s in laboratory medicine and pathobiology. Following this, I went into the classroom as a tutor where I was able to teach two-hundred hours in a Grade 3 class. At this point, I fell in love with education, and so, I completed my teaching degree, and joined the Toronto District School Board’s team, becoming a science teacher, Science Instructional Leader, Coordinator for Science & STEM K-12, and then vice-principal. Working with the education system as a whole, administrators, educators, and students, I was able to foster a unique lens on K-12 education, understanding that while fundamental knowledge is important, students also need to learn how to think critically, collaborate, and innovate in the modern world. These are critical transferable skills across all disciplines.
Mentors in the TDSB encouraged me to go into administration, but I feared becoming a vice principal would hinder my creativity. I was wrong. I learned that I was able to change my path’s trajectory based on my passion and ability to listen to the students, the staff, and the community. I could incorporate my own creativity into this position. As a vice-principal, I could make impactful change. So, I applied and became a vice principal at Westview Centennial Secondary School. I was able to see students and staff regularly, watching their growth over time, how different opportunities gave students and staff chances to grow.
I transferred from Westview Centennial SS to MGCI after two years to be closer to my home. Though I missed my former school community, I was still able to keep in contact with many staff, families and students. I realized that I could still connect via social media platforms such as Twitter, so the MGCI Twitter account was created where updates from MGCI’s students, events, and more are posted.
Q: What attracted you to the position of Grade 10 VP here at MGCI? What are your favourite parts about this role?
A: I still keep in contact with the staff, students, and families at Westview Centennial, but was ready to face this new opportunity, being Grade 10 VP here at MGCI. I’ve always loved working with students; as the TDSB Coordinator for Science & STEM K-12, I had a unique opportunity to work with K-12 educators, post-secondary institutions and collectively we were able to implement STEM pedagogy across many grades and disciplines.
I’m excited to learn with the Grade 10s, moving with them as they enter Grade 11 and Grade 12, prepared to watch them grow and learn on their path. My favourite parts of this role include being able to ignite students’ passion in various subjects, co-learning with both them and teachers, and getting excited about fun opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.
Q: What are some of your hobbies and favourite pastimes?
A: I love to spend time with family, eat food, listen to and share stories, and meet new people. I enjoy trying to understand others’ experiences and stories, to listen to all they have to say. I’m also passionate about equity and anti-oppression, eager to find creative ways to amplify the voices of those unheard in oppressed groups. Additionally, I enjoy making lesson ideas and activities, implementing more hands-on experiences for teachers and students to grow and improve.
Q: What message would you want to give to students during these challenging times?
A: I hope students are staying calm and collected. I understand that connections to the school might look a little different this year because relationships are now virtual. I urge students and families to focus on the things that make them happy, the things that they’re grateful for. Whether that would be family, friends, reading a book, or watching a television show, focusing on these things would ease the stress and anxiety during these difficult times.
I think the pandemic has proven as an opportunity for the possible exploration of career pathways. Typically, in a busy school life, students don’t have the opportunity to research career paths with the school. Now though, you have the chance to perhaps interview someone in a profession you’re interested in, and go further along this path to prepare for the future.
Lastly, I want to reassure students that their teachers and administrators are always there for them. Don’t be afraid to reach out to any of us for questions you might have, whether that would be about academics or your well-being. We’re always here to support all students and families in our community.