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Yellowknife principal wins national award

A Yellowknife principal has been recognized as one of the country’s top educators.

William McDonald Middle School principal Jeff Seabrook has been named one of The Learning Partnership Canada’s Outstanding Principals of 2019. The outstanding principals program recognizes the contributions of principals of publicly funded schools from coast to coast.

William McDonald Middle School principal Jeff Seabrook has been named one of Canada's Outstanding Principals. Meaghan Richens/NNSL photo

Seabrook is one of 30 principals from across Canada who were nominated by parents, colleagues and community members and then chosen by a national selection committee to recognize them for their work.

Rod Thompson, director of Executive Leadership Programs at the Learning Partnership said Seabrook was nominated because people in the community felt he was an exceptional leader at his school.

“The nomination that was put forward on Jeff’s behalf was pretty representative of a principal who goes the extra mile, is very committed, very hardworking and has all kinds of enthusiasm and energy in what he does.”

Although previous principals from public schools in Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (YK1) have been nominated for the award, this year Seabrook was the only winner from the Northwest Territories.
“We’ve had a fairly long-term commitment from Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories in this program,” said Thompson, adding that the outstanding principals program has been around for 15 years.
Thompson has also been an administrator at a middle school and said he understands it is a special age for educators to reach.

“His commitment to the middle school philosophy, in terms of being a nurturing administrator and also challenging these adolescent learners, really helps the school to realize the goals of not only improved achievement but also their well-being,” Thompson explained.

Thompson said this is an impressive feat for any school, but particularly so in a triple-stream school like William McDonald, which has English, French immersion and intensive French.

“It’s not a large school, but he still manages to pull that off,” said Thompson. “He’s the architect behind the school’s unique programming.”

Seabrook said in December he found out that he had been nominated by the school’s board of trustees and heard in early January that he was one of this year’s winners.

“That was humbling, needless to say,” said Seabrook.

Seabrook has been an educator with YK1 for 25 years and has been the principal at William McDonald since 2015.
“It is truly an honour,” he said of the award. “I know it might be a little cliche to say that it’s about the team that you put around you, but when it comes to education, I think it’s about the team that you put around that buy into what your philosophy and your goals are,” he said.

This is especially important at his school, which is the only middle school in the territories, said Seabrook.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I’m very passionate about middle school philosophy,” said Seabrook.

“But what keeps me going are the things that bother us, either as parents or as teachers in this age group, are the things that I love so much about these students,” he said. “The belief that our students at this age can do more than what people give them credit for and having those high expectations of students.”

Seabrook and other award winners will attend the annual awards gala reception in Toronto on Feb. 26, as well as a four-day “executive leadership training program at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management,” a press release from the Learning Partnership states. The program will introduce the principals to management practices presented by leaders in business, government and education.

Seabrook described the opportunity to take the leadership course as “an extraordinary gift” and said he’s looking forward to meeting the other principals.

“I’m really excited to meet all the other educators across the country and see what’s happening with them,” he said.