A Hay River school principal has been awarded the prestigious Polar Medal.
Carolyn Carroll – the principal of both Harry Camsell School and Princess Alexandra School – received the medal on Aug. 29.
The medal from the Chancellery of Honours in the Governor General’s office recognizes people who render extraordinary services in Canada’s North.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Carroll after receiving the Polar Medal. “It’s an honour. It’s an absolute honour.”
She is only the third resident of the NWT to receive the Polar Medal since its inception in 2015. It was created to replace the equally prestigious Governor General’s Northern Medal, which was awarded from 2005-2015
Carroll was selected to receive the Polar Medal for 2017 to recognize her three decades as an NWT educator.
It was appropriately awarded at one of her schools – Princess Alexandra School – during the annual conference of educators from the South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC).
The medal was presented by SSDEC superintendent Curtis Brown on behalf of Commissioner of the NWT Margaret Thom.
Brown read a citation from Thom, which stated that Carroll has been a catalyst for significant positive change and improvements among students.
“Her sustained efforts have thereby created an inclusive learning environment that is representative of the broader community within which the students are now thriving,” the citation reads.
Following the presentation ceremony, Carroll noted she has had the privilege of spending her entire 31-year career in education in the NWT.
“So it’s an honour to receive recognition for something you just absolutely love doing,” she said.
Carroll said receiving the medal made her think back to the first day 31 years ago when she got off a plane in Wekweeti, then called Snare Lake.
“My husband and I had just married,” she recalled. “We moved north and took over a little tiny school with two teachers. He was principal, I was the teacher. It was the most beautiful place in the world and we were welcomed with open arms.”
Carroll said being an educator in the NWT has been her life’s work.
“From the day I landed in Snare Lake, I knew I was home,” she said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Carroll, who is originally from Newfoundland, was also named in 2017 as one of Canada’s outstanding principals.
In a news release, the SSDEC noted some of her other accomplishments in Hay River.
Even before data collection and analysis was ingrained in educational practice, Carroll instituted a system for collecting student data and placing it all in easy-to-read classroom assessment records. That system—which has since been adopted for use in all South Slave schools—has helped teachers identify students’ strengths and challenges, and target instruction and interventions.
Carroll also implemented new programs, like intensive French, and set high expectations for both staff and students that have served to increase student engagement and achievement.
“I am so very proud of Ms. Carroll. She is very deserving of this national honour to join a select group of individuals who have given so much to our territory,” said Brown in a news release. “She is an exemplary leader and visionary: effective, responsive, courageous and inspiring.”