In Meet the Leader, Grand Erie’s newest principals and vice-principals share their story and leadership philosophy. 

Heidi Schleifer
Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School
Q: What does Learn Lead Inspire mean to you?


A: ‘Learn’ emphasizes the importance of lifelong learning. It suggests a mindset that seeks knowledge, skills, and experiences throughout one's life. ‘Lead’ makes me think of responsibility, which implies a sense of responsibility for our actions and decisions, as well as a commitment to guiding others toward shared goals.

‘Inspire’ points me to motivation, which involves igniting a sense of purpose and passion in myself and others. Together, "learn, lead, and inspire" echoes a holistic approach to success. It’s a chain where continuous learning drives effective leadership, and in turn, becomes a source of inspiration for others. Jack Welch coined it best, and this is something I absolutely believe: “When you were made a leader you weren't given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.”

James Medway
Bellview Public School
Q: What makes your community special?


A: Recently, Bellview has been experiencing a lot of growth and we have received a lot of student enrollments. We are very fortunate to have students join us from a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and experiences.

I feel our community is special because we are given a unique opportunity to both learn and celebrate our rich cultural diversity of all our diverse families and students.

Anh Hoang
Woodman-Cainsville School
Q: Could you tell us about your journey to become a school leader?


A: My journey to become a school leader started with my parents giving up everything they had, including their wedding rings and risking their lives to get on a little boat. We were the lucky ones among the “Vietnamese boat people” who survived and were displaced in various refugee camps in Hong Kong and China. My parents organized starvation protests so that my siblings and I, among other children, could go to school. It was in a classroom with Mrs. Mann, my first English teacher, who ignited the fire of learning in me. She gave me hope and a vision of a better world.

Coming to Canada at the age of 12, schooling was not easy, but I learned to be resilient. I was fortunate to have the support of many educators in my elementary and secondary years in Grand Erie. I am grateful for my colleagues who took the time to get to know me, supported me and continue to be my mentor until today.

Equity and inclusion are key values that guide my education career. It is this belief and passion that motivated me to initiate and maintain the leadership position of the chair of the Social Justice committee for Grand Erie Teachers Federation for 20 years. The common thread throughout my career has been supporting students to reach their full potential while creating a sense of belonging and community for them. Two years ago, while covering an unfilled supply teaching position, my former students reminded me of the importance of representation and that they want me to be their principal. Now that I am a Vice-Principal, I can remind my students that no matter what their situation in life, they must be their authentic selves and to use their voice to advocate for themselves and for those who feel voiceless. This creates an inclusive environment where ideas and perspectives are diverse, and everyone feels valued.

Thomas Ro
Agnes G. Hodge Public School
Q: What role do principals play in helping students find success?


A: I firmly believe that a school culture where staff and students feel safe and included can directly impact how successful students are in their learning and achievement. Principals can help develop a positive school culture by building trusting relationships with the community we serve. The principal should also be a leading learner in a school. This means being an active participant in professional development and modeling high expectations for staff and the belief that all students can be successful with effective instruction, assessment, and reflective practice. 
Jamie Snell
Delhi Public School and Waterford Public School
Q: What makes your community special?


A: I think what makes Grand Erie special is that we have many of the advantages of a large, modern school board but have maintained strong, deeply rooted connections to the communities we serve.

Despite only being in my new role for a short period of time, it’s evident how much Delhi Public School and Waterford Public School mean to families and how dedicated the teaching staff are to meeting the needs of their students.

Andrea Jenkins
Hagersville Secondary School
Q: Who has made the biggest impact on you as a leader?


A: I have two individuals who have made the biggest impact on my leadership journey: Superintendent Julie White and Principal Leader of School Culture and Well-Being, Jessie Hooper.

Previous administrators had discussions with me about going into Administration and about how my strengths fit with the role. While I had given some consideration into taking the path towards Administration, I became more focused on other aspects of my career. It wasn’t until Julie White, when she was Principal Leader of Specialized Services, talked to me about my leadership path that I started to honestly consider Administration. Julie is a phenomenal leader who supports and inspires everyone in her department. She reinspired my leadership path by being an amazing and supportive leader herself.

For the last year, Jessie Hooper has been my mentor, and I wouldn’t have reached the role of Vice-Principal without her encouragement, guidance and leadership. For me, Jessie Hooper embodies Grand Erie District School Board’s motto of Learn, Lead, and Inspire.