During a time when our administrators have the added responsibility of keeping our students and staff safe during a pandemic, Amanpreet Dhaul, Vice-Principal at Elgin Street Public School in Cambridge, has continued to make her school a welcoming place for all. Her kind demeanour, professional leadership and personal connection caught the attention of newly welcomed Kindergarten teacher and WRDSB staff member Monisha Randhawa, who nominated her to be a WRDSB 2020 Champion.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Dhaul of her nomination. “I saw the email and had to reread it. It made my day!”
“I felt so overjoyed and honoured because this has been an exceptionally challenging year,” shared Dhaul. Amidst the steep learning curve involved with being a new administrator, Dhaul has been recovering from a serious ACL injury while managing her responsibilities in various committees and initiatives.
But as a new educator entering the world of teaching in a less than normal environment, it was Randhawa who felt the impact of her administrator the most, even before the school year began.
“I haven’t known her for very long because she hired over the summer for my current Long-Term Occasional (LTO) Teacher position,” Randhawa explained. “When I first came to the school, she right away gave me the support I needed and made me feel very much part of the school.”
When Randhawa was going through the summer interview process for the first time, Dhaul had the opportunity to interview her. Unsuccessful at her first attempt, Dhaul connected with Randhawa to provide her with interview feedback and advice for professional growth.
“She made sure we had a Google Meet about how to improve my interview skills. She has so much faith in me for my future,” said Randhawa. Dhaul’s commitment to supporting new teachers, such as Randhawa, is part of her commitment to the mentorship of Indigenous and racialized educators.
“She is always asking me, ‘how are you doing,’” shared Randhawa. “‘How are you feeling fitting in?’ and ‘are you seeing anything that needs to be changed?’ She values my opinion.”
During their conversations, they both felt the noticeable absence of Indigenous, Black and racialized staff within our board and representation in our system’s events and activities. When they saw the call-out for students and staff to submit user-generated content for the board’s Remembrance Day initiative, Dhaul saw an opportunity to contribute a piece and asked Randhawa to join her. This led to the co-creation of their documentary piece on Private Bukkan Singh, one of the first Sikh soldiers to serve Canada in WW1. Inspired by the incredible work from The Sikh Heritage Museum, Dhaul and Randhawa used their positions of power to honour this historical figure missing from the history books and conversations.
“This is what anti-racism and anti-oppression work looks like at WRDSB,” explained Dhaul. “We all need to do the hard work. Dig deep to find and share the life stories and contributions of marginalized people with our students.”
As Randhawa, too, reflects on the project, she shared that she would have never stepped out of her comfort zone, if it wasn’t for the encouragement and confidence her administrator gave her. “She has made me feel like I could be a leader. I can make change!”
It is obvious that Dhaul is passionate about anti-racism work at WRDSB. Since becoming an administrator in 2019, she has led the Equity Team and Truth & Reconciliation Committee at Elgin Street PS.
Randhawa recounts, “from the time I started, she encouraged me to get involved in different things that [were] going on around the school, and has made me feel very much part of this school community. She asked me to join the Truth and Reconciliation committee because she valued my past experience with the Simcoe County DSB.”
As a young minority leader, Dhaul has big plans for the future! The work she is doing to challenge the status-quo is inspiring not only to her staff, but her peers around the board.
“I believe that our purpose as educational leaders is to ensure that our students see all facets of their intersectional identities reflected in their learning and within their learning environment,” Dhaul shares.
For the past three years, she has been working closely with other WRDSB minority leaders on a project called Aspiring Teachers Camp. The goal is to inspire Indigenous, Black and racialized youth to pursue a career in the educational workforce with the WRDSB.
Randhawa hasn’t told her this yet, but “being around her makes me want to be a vice-principal, too! She has given me so much confidence to strive for bigger things.”
“She cares so deeply about her school, her students, and her staff.” Randhawa adds, “and that is why I nominated her as a WRDSB champion.”