October 4th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 40
Getting to know the Crowsnest Pass’ new educators
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Wilhelmenia ‘Meipsy’ Shackleford, assistant principal at ISS
Pass Herald Reporter
Wilhelmenia ‘Meipsy’ Shackleford, assistant principal at ISS

Meipsy Shackleford transitioned straight from a long, exciting year of traveling the world to being the new assistant principal at Isabelle Sellon School (ISS). She moved here from Fort McMurray near the beginning of the school year with her husband Derek and their two children, Cameron, 7 and Freya, 6. Teaching isn’t foreign in the Shackleford household; Meipsy’s husband is a teacher at Canyon Elementary School in Pincher Creek, and his mother is also a retired teacher from the area.

On wanting to become a teacher…

Shackleford first graduated from university with a BSc in Environmental Studies, but didn’t feel it was a career field that she wanted to pursue. “I always enjoyed working with children,” she says, a passion that pushed her to complete a teaching degree.

On her teaching experience…

Shackleford started her career teaching English in Taiwan for a couple of years and upon returning to Canada, taught Grade 3 at Fort McMurray’s Greely Road School. She was also an Understanding by Design coach at her school, which involved mentoring teachers not only in her school but also the school district. This position allowed her to assist in developing units and lesson plans that were geared towards diversifying student learning in all grade levels.

Her penchant for travel led to her then taking a year off to travel around the world with her husband. When her travel bug was cured - for a time - she returned to work as a vice principal at Timberlea Public School in Fort McMurray, a position she held for just under a decade.

When the fires in Fort McMurray broke out and forced the Shacklefords, by that time a family of four, to leave their home, it was turning point where they decided it was time to move closer to relatives in Southern Alberta and B.C. “It’s kind of the silver lining. It was one of those feelings where it was like, ‘Is this what we want?’” But before doing so, they were inspired to take one more year-long trip around the world, this time with their children.
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On her current position…

Shackleford is the assistant principal and learning support teacher at ISS. She teaches a Grade 4/5 science class and a Grade 6 physical education class. As assistant principal, along with principal Marnie Davidson, she is responsible for student discipline and liaising with parents.

On her travel bug…

“I think as a kid growing up, I always wanted to go and see places but we didn’t really do a lot of travelling,” says Shackleford. It wasn’t until after she graduated from university that she and Derek decided to go overseas. Derek had already previously taught in New Zealand before they decided to go to Taiwan. They had some friends who were teaching in Taiwan, so they went over to try it out as well for a couple years. “We loved it and that, I think, is where we really got the travel bug.”

The Shacklefords have done two year-long trips around the world, the first time as a couple in 2007/2008, and the second time as parents with their two kids in 2016/2017. “We really wanted to take the kids and let them have that experience as well, so the fires in Fort McMurray were the push to make us think that maybe it was time to leave and make a change.”

On the effect of travel on children…

“It definitely broadens their horizons. They see that everyone lives differently around the world and they have a stronger connection with identifying where places are. They got to see a lot of areas where people aren’t as privileged as in North America. They know that they have a lot more access to technology, video games and toys plus fresh food and clean drinking water than some other children that they would see around the world.”
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On her nickname…

Shackleford is named after her Oma Wilhelmina who grew up in Holland. Oma’s nickname was “Meipsy”, which she says means “little angel” in Dutch. Her Oma’s name Wilhelmina as well as the nickname “Meipsy” were given to her as a baby and the nickname was the name she has always used.

On what she loves about teaching…

“I love being with the children and seeing them learn and make connections. That’s one thing I missed even when we were traveling. I missed being at school, being with the kids and seeing those connections and their growth.”

Christine McKie, principal at CCHS

Each school morning, Christine McKie gets her game face on and sets herself up for a great day on her drive to Coleman, where she works as the new principal at Crowsnest Consolidated High School (CCHS). McKie comes with almost 15 years working in school administration as a principal or vice principal. She lives in Sparwood, her hometown, with her twin boys Carter and Charlie, age 6.

On her teaching experience…

McKie grew up in Sparwood and then completed her teaching degree at the University of Calgary. She went on to do two teaching practicums in Crowsnest Pass, one at ISS and one at CCHS. She worked a short contract at the high school replacing a teacher who was off for a surgery. Once that was up, she entered into the Elk Valley school district and worked in Fernie as a phys-ed and social studies teacher. After three years in the Valley, she moved to Invermere, where she spent the bulk of her career as a high school teacher at David Thompson Secondary.

McKie first went into school administration in 2003 as vice principal at David Thompson Secondary and then took on another vice principalship at Southern Okanagan Secondary School in the Okanagan. Missing the Kootenays and her family, McKie moved to Calgary and worked as a VP with Rocky View Schools in Cochrane. After her twin boys were born in 2011, she decided it was time to return to the mountains and raise her boys near family. She ended up getting a job as a principal with School District #5, in Cranbrook and then Sparwood, where she has been working for the past five years.
On teaching high school…
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Missing teaching in a high school setting and favouring the Alberta educational system, she applied for the principal position at CCHS. “I missed having the conversations that you have with kids as they’re growing into young adults and talking about their goals and their future. Being involved in helping them achieve some of those goals was something I always enjoyed. It just feels like I’m back in my natural environment. My personality is such that I like to cajole and use humour with kids and that usually works better in a high school kind of environment.”

Her time spent as a principal in elementary schools helped her see the “bigger picture” of the educational system that McKie finds helpful working at the high school. “I learned about the early literacy/numeracy/social skills that happened in the primary and intermediate educational setting and how those skills really set the foundation for student success at the high school level, an understanding I didn’t have before when I only had high school experience.”

On her first month as principal at CCHS…

“I’ve enjoyed my time so far. There’s obviously a steep learning curve in getting to know the students, parents, and staff and the differences and nuances between districts. The staff has been fantastic. My admin partner, Deanna Fidelak, is excellent and has really helped in terms of understanding what admin looked like here. They are a very connected staff and truly look out and take care of one another, so that feels really nice. They’ve been really supportive of me coming in and wanting me to be successful so that our school, staff and team can be successful.”

On her goals for the school…

This is McKie’s third school coming in as a new principal, so she brings her own ideas and objectives for CCHS, but experience has taught her to take her time and collaborate with the school community. “You have lots of ideas in your head, but you don’t want to push them all out. There is a lot to learn in terms of culture and tradition at CCHS. If I had to point out a specific goal I’d like to work on this year... I am a really big advocate for inclusion, for all students in the school being a member of their school community in a meaningful way. Another goal I want to achieve is getting to know the kids, the parent community and the staff to see what their needs are and what they want to see enhanced, continued or discontinued.”
October 4th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 40
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