General News · 25th June 2009
When Donna Bracewell told us last September that she was planning on leaving Linnaea School and Farm to pursue a dream of teaching overseas, the School and Farm Boards immediately put together a transition team to steward the school through the process of locating and securing a new principal to lead the school into the next chapter
of its story. At first the task seemed daunting, but the members of the team sensed that somewhere in the wider world was the ideal candidate and it was just a matter of connecting with the right individual.
Those initial hopes for our new leader were met in our chosen candidate, Marlene Heitland. Her global awareness, teaching experiences with the Virtues Programme, belief in relationship based
learning and a strong connection between school and home, and her history as a committed student advocate make her an excellent fit for Linnaea School.
She comes to us most recently from the Copenhagen International School, where she spent two years coordinating the primary school resource program, taught special ed. students and provided teacher training in assessment and other areas.
Her administrative experience includes serving as an elementary school principal for School District #79 on Vancouver Island, serving as Primary School Administrator at the International School of Havana, Cuba and serving as a team leader for the Canadian Teacher’s Federation in its overseas project in Guyana.
She believes that working directly with students gives an administrator an essential connection to the realities of the classroom. In her words, she is passionate about student learning and it is important for her to teach as well as administrate because it creates meaningful dialogue and collaborative work with teachers regarding the common goal of keeping student achievement at the center of the school.
Marlene has taught nearly every grade from K through 8. Her subjects include math, remedial math, English, health sciences and special education. She has managed a programme for children with severe emotional and behavioural challenges and has taught teachers seeking advanced qualifications on assessing and working with exceptional students. Her early years teaching on a First Nation Reserve in Northern Ontario strongly influenced her philosophy of education. In her words:
"My early teaching experiences greatly influenced my philosophy of education. I believe the cognitive process is only one part of the learning process and we must always be aware of the emotional component. It is important that we connect the learner to the material being taught, and that it be made relevant to their life. In addition, it has been my experience that when a student develops a relationship with the teacher, the student becomes a more eager learner. In order to facilitate this process, I, as a teacher and administrator, must be willing to learn from my students and become interested in what is important in their lives."
Linnaea School creates a strong bridge between the home and school for a more meaningful education. This is part of Marlene’s philosophy as well:
"I believe that educating a child must be an on-going partnership between the school, the family and the community. There are many advantages to be gained from a collaborative home-school partnership, and this has continued to be a focus of my educational practice. It is important to nurture and continually strengthen this relationship to ensure that students’ best interests are always at the forefront."
Marlene’s references gave her high praise. She was described as a strong student advocate who provided excellent academics to her students. As an administrator, she effectively addressed parental concerns. She led a reading group for professional development with her peers in Copenhagen. She improved systems and brought a high degree of professionalism to her work. “She’s a jewel,” one colleague told us. “Any school would be lucky to have her.”
There was a power outage the day of Marlene’s Skype interview. As her image and voice faded in and out, Jason heroically ran new cords and adjusted settings. The Transition Team felt grateful that Marlene took it all in stride and with humour. Once the technical issues were resolved, the team was further impressed by the way Marlene’s deep and broad experience informed her answers. The team appreciated how she went back to previous questions to refine or clarify her answers and how thoroughly she had studied the School website. The team liked her love of adventure as well. Marlene appreciated the unique setting of the school and described to us some projects she had spearheaded that combined art and ecological values. By the end of the interview, the Transition Team felt she had excellent judgment and that Linnaea School would thrive with Marlene as principal.
Marlene’s home base is Cowichan Bay, where she has raised three children with her husband Holger. Her family will be happy to have her closer to home!