By Ryan Dahlman
Alta Newspaper Group
Sharon Skretting has been part of the community of Vauxhall for the last 33 years.
Now it appears she has very good reason to be there a while longer.
In mid-March, it was announced by the Horizon School Division that Skretting would be the new Vauxhall Elementary School (VES) principal as she takes over from Dale Cummings who is retiring. Skretting is quite excited, but still a little nervous and anxious about the opportunity.
“I am following excellent leadership, in Dale, and I have big shoes to fill. It is an immense responsibility and not one I take lightly. I know the school and it’s culture well.
I love this school, I love the kids, I love the staff and the community,” stated Skretting. “I am doing this because I feel it is my way to give back to the community who has done so much for me. I’m dedicated to serving the students, the parents and my staff to the best of my ability.”
Skretting will be extra busy this summer. Her official training as a principal will begin in the first week of July as she is off to Olds for a week. She booked a couple of weeks of vacation throughout the summer that will be her down time to “renew her energy”. It will be a challenge she looks forward to attack.
“I believe I am ready to build upon the success of Vauxhall Elementary School because my classroom experience of more than 22 years, as well as my jurisdictional role as an assessment coach for the last three years, have provided me with a well rounded understanding of the educational issues, educational research, perspectives, and challenges at every level. I approach every new endeavour with an open-mind, a willingness to learn, and a belief that all challenges can be overcome with collaboration and trust that we all want to move forward with the best interests of our students at heart,” explained Skretting. “Developing that trust on every level, with students, with staff, and with parents, will be central to my work and leadership role at VES. As a learning coach, I’ve been able to develop trust relationships on a larger scale with teachers throughout the division. Returning home to VES means returning to a staff for whom I have great respect and admiration. A culture of caring and excellence is already established at our school and I have every confidence that together we will build on that to develop even greater levels of success for our students as well as strong relationships with the community.”
Skretting brings to the job over 25 years of experience and two degrees: Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education. Having taught in a variety of elementary grade positions at the school and was as assessment and technology coach since August 2016. She welcomed the opportunity to come back to where she had spent a lot of time as a teacher and of course as a resident. From a professional point of view, she worked herself into the role which took time.
“This was totally something I grew into. Throughout my career I have naturally gravitated toward leadership roles. Early on, I was approached to be a vice-principal, which I enjoyed for a few years, but felt I had to leave because my own family was young at the time and I needed to devote more of “me” to them,” explained Skretting.
She said that recently she had taken on “various leadership roles in VES as AISI team leader, and professional learning team leader for literacy, numeracy and collaborative team meetings.”
She said when she was in the classroom, staff would often approach her as a trusted mentor to ask questions, clarify, and help them further develop their own teaching practices.
“This kind of mentorship and coaching has always felt natural to me. Being a principal, however, was not really on my radar until I decided to take on a bigger jurisdictional leadership role as a learning coach,“explained Skretting. “There, it felt like a natural fit to now use my skills try to make a difference on a larger scale. Since then, I’ve had many administrators and teachers approach me about considering taking on an administrative role should the opportunity ever present. With the retirement of Dale Cummings, the current Vauxhall Elementary School principal,I welcomed the opportunity to return to my “home” school, bringing everything I’ve learned to this exciting new phase of helping students further their learning.”
Skretting has three children, Matthew, Brock and Tristan who have gone through the educational system. Education has changed and she knows educational administrators and teachers need to be willing to expand their horizons. She said one major shift is teachers today follow a more inclusive model of instruction.
“We are here for all our learners and our classrooms strive to be a welcoming and safe learning place that honours all learners, irrespective of their circumstances, learning needs, or background,” said Skretting. “Many years of educational research now informs us about what is best practice and what makes the most difference to student learning and success. We have to get our classroom practices right because we are dealing with the futures of our youth. Because we know that it is not effective for all of our students, we no longer stand and deliver one lesson to a whole group and then expect them all to learn it at the same time.”
“We also do not remove our learners from the classroom if they do not conform to the learning pace established by a classroom setting. Instead, we now acknowledge that our learners come to us at many different stages of readiness to learn. Teachers are adapting to this shift by adopting instructional practices such as administering pre-assessments at the beginning of a learning cycle. These pre-assessments help to pinpoint where students are on the journey, who is ready to learn, and where the gaps in foundational knowledge lie.”
Analyzing the results of this pre-testing allows teachers to provide flexible groupings of students to address needs and teach directly to those targeted areas. This approach allows for kids who are ready to move on to do so without holding them back. It also allows those who need more basic skills to get ready for the new content with the extra support that they need. Throughout the learning process, teachers are gathering evidence of learning and using that information to change groupings and drive the instruction moving forward. Providing constant feedback during the learning process really helps kids solidify their learning.
“Is it more challenging on the part of teachers to provide this level of instruction? Yes, but it is necessary to meet the needs of all learners. We are constantly trying to improve our methods to meet the needs of all.”