This summer, Laurie Tottle, Principal at Paris District High School, had the chance to cross an item off her bucket list while participating in a professional development opportunity half-way around the globe.
Tottle took part in the LEAP program (Leading Educators Around the Planet), a unique exchange which gives administrators the chance to travel to a school in another country and work hands-on shadowing that school’s principal. Tottle ended up at Quirindi High School in New South Wales, Australia, a rural town nearly five hours north of Sydney.
“Australian schools are on a different schedule than we are – they have four terms each year, with a break in between – so classes were in session on my visit,” explains Tottle. “I went to school with the principal each day, and learned how the school operates, from hiring and staffing, to funding and program planning.”
Tottle learned about LEAP from her Grand Erie colleague Jeff Benner, Vice-Principal at Dunnville Secondary School, who took part last year, and highly recommended it. Tottle’s Superintendent David Abbey had also taken part in the past, and saw the value of the learning opportunity.
“I had the chance to sit in and observe classroom learning, and saw a lot of similarities in terms of assessment, feedback, and working towards learning goals,” said Tottle. “It was also interesting to see that students face the same challenges as they do here, and that staff work together in similar ways to help them succeed.”
Tottle also loved the experience of living on a farm while on the exchange.
“They were experiencing the worst draught in 45 years, and dealing with that in the community,” she said. “That’s not something I would have learned about if I’d been a tourist in the cities.”
The LEAP program is also right in step with Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan and its Achievement indicator, which sets high expectations for staff as well as students, and prioritizes the goal of increasing staff understanding of effective instruction and assessment.
Tottle is excited to start the new school year, her second at Paris District High School, and brings new knowledge and insights to the role as a result of her LEAP exchange.
“There are so many great programs at Paris District High School, and I’m really looking forward to working with the team here as we build and implement them this year.”