Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 02, 2012 - 5:43 pm

Taloyoak principal wins national honour

“The school has become a cultural centre”

DEAN MORRISON
Netsilik School principal Gina Pizzo has been named as one of Canada’s 40 outstanding principals for 2012. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Netsilik School principal Gina Pizzo has been named as one of Canada’s 40 outstanding principals for 2012. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Retired teacher Sarah Takolik often returns to school to make Inuktitut materials for the Department of Education and to share her knowledge with students. She is pictured here with Anna Wolki, Gail Poodlat and Junette Kingmeaqtuq. (FILE PHOTO)
Retired teacher Sarah Takolik often returns to school to make Inuktitut materials for the Department of Education and to share her knowledge with students. She is pictured here with Anna Wolki, Gail Poodlat and Junette Kingmeaqtuq. (FILE PHOTO)

What makes an outstanding principal?

You can ask Gina Pizzo, the veteran principal of Netsilik School in Taloyoak, recently named one of Canada’s outstanding principals for the year 2012.

Pizzo received the award for her ability to bring the community into the classroom and instill cultural pride among her students.

“I think it is really important in the education of any child that they have a strong sense of where they come from,” Pizzo said. “My role is to prepare them for the future so they become happy, well adjusted individuals in the community.”

Pizzo, now in her 23rd year as Netsilik’s principal,  is being honoured for her ability to forge partnerships with the staff, parents, elders, and other people in the community.

Netsilik School serves 300 students from kindergarten to Grade 12, as well as a pre-school program funded by the Aboriginal Head Start program.

Pizzo, along with the other honorees, will receive their awards from the Learning Partnership at a gala dinner event and awards ceremony which will take place Feb. 28 at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto.

Recognizing the importance of culture and language is what really sets Pizzo apart, said Veronica Lacey, president and chief executive officer of the Learning Partnership, a national charitable organization which has championed a strong public education system in Canada since 1993.

“Pizzo has actually worked to implement the old adage that “it takes a community to raise a child” and the school has become a little bit of a cultural centre,” Lacey said. “We believe that a strong publicly funded education system is the corner stone of a prosperous, civil, democratic Canada.”

The common theme that has singled out the honorees for 2012 is that they all share a greater vision for their schools and their communities, Lacey said.

In reacting to the award, Pizzo said, “I hope it is my investment in the community, and my faith in the students and my attempt to create a welcoming inclusive place, where kids can spread their wings and work towards a good future for themselves.”

“I am happy about the award, but I have to attribute it to the great people I have worked with over the years.”

Pizzo’s school offers a range of intramural sports, instrumental music, a breakfast program, a fall caribou hunt and a spring seal hunt.

Netsilik has also offered Inuktitut immersion courses for 18 years, one of the first in the territory to do so. The pre-school and primary grades are taught entirely in Inuktitut.
Since she started work at the school in 1985, Pizzo has witnessed huge changes among her students, especially in their pride in culture, language and where they come from.

Pizzo said she would eventually like to see the school staffed entirely by Inuit teachers and administrators.

She even has her eye on a couple of former students who have returned as teachers to replace her when she retires.

“But I still have a few more years under my belt and they are going to have to drag me out kicking and screaming,” Pizzo said.

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