A Belief in the Impossible
By: Carol Grant-Watt, Head of School
“It took a shared commitment to excellence and a belief in the impossible, and this is a belief that has transcended generations.”
Celebrating the Past, Creating our Future. The theme of this year’s special 50th Anniversary edition of Optimum magazine perfectly captures both the momentous nature of this historical milestone and the vision, values, and spirit that continue to buoy us through the challenges and successes of each academic year.
Belief in the impossible has become a key part of the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS) ethos. I’ve often wondered what it must have felt like as a founder to be sailing into uncharted territory for the first time. After all, who would have thought it made sense to amalgamate two independent schools, boy’s and girl’s schools no less, and place them in such a remote location? It required a group of brave visionaries who stepped forward to make this impossible dream a reality, and I believe that this is a value that is instilled in every member of the STS family to this day.
The 2021-2022 school year was both the longest and fastest that I’ve experienced as an educator. The return and subsequent lifting of some COVID-19 restrictions were followed by a hopeful return to in-person classes, and we endeavoured to adapt our day-to-day protocols, as well as our 50th Anniversary events, to allow everyone to safely attend.
One question became the focus of all of our policies — ‘What has changed?’ We examined all of the steps taken over a two-year period to ensure the health and safety of our students, teachers, staff, and families, and we built our new framework on these successes. We didn’t back away from our responsibility at the first opportunity; rather we forged ahead with what I believe is the same spirit that inspired our founders to first set foot upon our campus over 50 years ago.
The decisions that I’m most proud of are the ones we made when all official guidance appeared to cease this past spring. Whereas we had previously aligned our actions to those outlined by the provincial government, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded with endless questions and very few answers. Rather than enact and enforce a series of new or arbitrary rules, we took an entirely different approach — we let respect lead the way.
The subject of masks became a brilliant metaphor for this sense of respect. When student masking was no longer deemed mandatory by the provincial government, we wanted our students to still have that choice. In true International Baccalaureate (IB) tradition, we put forward a clear and consistent message: It’s okay to have different views, and we are going to support your personal decisions. I couldn’t be more pleased with the overwhelmingly positive and inclusive response we’ve received from our students, parents, guardians, and employees in return.
Our 50th Anniversary Founder’s Luncheon in June provided another opportunity to reflect on the deeper meanings behind our legacy. As I gazed around the room, I knew that I was in the presence of every single living individual or family who had played a role in the creation of STS. I realized, more than ever before, that our School is bigger than any one individual. It took a shared commitment to excellence and a belief in the impossible, and this is a belief that has transcended generations.
Our use of the word create in this year’s theme is very much by design. There is nothing idle about Strathcona- Tweedsmuir School. Where others may wait quietly for the future to arrive, the STS community has always moved forward to meet it. Our Flourish 2031 Strategic Plan is the summation of this. Based on the foundation of this inspiring and innovative plan, we are presently engaging professionals to help us determine exactly what is possible as we chart the course for the next ten years. This Plan anchors the School back to the immediate and future needs of our campus, and will help to establish STS as a global hub in a natural setting, not just for students, but for educators and thought leaders as well.
Our Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School of today is a living testament to the incredible bravery of our founders, and the vision and values that led them. To paraphrase the great Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to those actually in the arena…who strive valiantly; who err, and come short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming… those who, if they fail, at least fail while daring greatly.”