“Belonging is a core value at the school and seeking for each child to feel that they belong and they are valued is important here.” From the way students are greeted every day to the way teachers listen to children and seek to know each child as an individual, each student is made to feel valued. This culture of belonging has helped MacDonald herself feel a sense of belonging. “It’s been a very warm welcome. People approach me and introduce themselves to me every day.”
MacDonald began her career in education in the public school system. She then moved to New York and became founding faculty at The School at Columbia University. She returned to Canada and entered the independent school system, first as vice-principal and then as principal of Bishop Strachan School. For the past five years, MacDonald has served as the executive director of Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS). “I had the opportunity to spend time with school leaders from across Canada and see the full range of what those leaders are trying to realize within their unique educational contexts.”
After spending the past five years at CAIS, MacDonald says she loves being back in a school environment. “I love being in a school. I love being with students.” MacDonald prioritizes spending as much time as possible with students: from greeting students and families in the morning and saying goodbye when they leave to being out at recess to get to know the students and learn their names.
MacDonald is a life-long learner and is currently working on her Ph.D. “Fundamentally, I believe that we are all learners. The students are learning. The teachers are learning and the school leaders are also learning.”
She is also a firm believer that each learner is different and that a school needs to be able to personalize the learning experience to meet the learner where they are and take them to where they want to go next, which is one of the things she loves about Montcrest. “The school is not designed to meet the needs of one type of learner but a variety of learners. Our children are each unique individuals. For parents, to know you can come to a school that the approach to teaching and learning will be personalized to meet the needs of all of your children [is very important].”