by Regan Treewater-Lipes
(EJNews) – Talmud Torah youngsters – both past and present – greet her with boisterous exuberance and warm hugs. She never misses a Rikud Academy dance recital, or a kindergarten holiday pageant. She advocates relentlessly for our children and our community. To borrow a timeless cliché — she puts the ‘pal’ back in ‘principal’. She is none other than our own, Judith Boyle.
Recently the Province of Alberta recognized something that TT families have known for years – that we have an extraordinary captain steering our children’s scholastic voyages. In a ceremony that acknowledged the work of eight other Edmonton principals, Ms. Boyle was presented with one of the highest honours an educator can receive, the designation as one of Alberta’s Distinguished Principals.
Hailing from the California Bay Area, Judith Boyle has been with the Edmonton Public School system for nineteen years, the last four spent at the TT helm. Under her watch enrolment numbers have increased significantly, allowing for greater availability of classroom resources and EPSB funding. She’s charismatic and engaging, but extremely humble when asked about her achievements, stating:
“What I do is support our teachers, if I can make it possible for them to succeed in the classroom then I’ve accomplished my goal.”
But the TT teachers feel so much more than just supported by her efforts – they feel motivated and inspired. Testament to this fact is that Ms. Boyle was first nominated for the Distinguished Principal Award by her own staff. “I was so touched by the incredible things they wrote about in the nomination that it instantly brought tears to my eyes,” said Ms. Boyle when describing the criteria for selection.
Based on the Alberta wide ‘Principal Quality Practice Standard’ Rachel Miller and Gaylene Soifer began the nomination process several months ago. “She sets very high expectations for herself and those around her,” commented Ms. Miller when asked about Ms. Boyle’s leadership, “When embarking on a new initiative, Judith leads by example and is an inspiration to all.”
But, as often is the case, the proof is in the pudding! Since Ms. Boyle assumed her position, TT has adopted the newest and most cutting-edge pedagogical techniques — and our children continue to benefit. “One of the first things that the staff and I looked at when I came on board was how we give feedback to students. There really is an art to this. For example, if you give a student an ‘A’ then they see the grade, they’re pleased with the outcome, and they move on. With this model, the student doesn’t reflect on what it was about their work that warranted the ‘A’ to begin with. By re-evaluating how we give feedback, I really think that our teachers are doing a lot to foster ongoing growth in the students,” explained Ms. Boyle. “We also worked on what educators call the ‘Triangulation of Evidence’ which is to say, we worked on directing the evaluation of student progress in a more multi-disciplinary direction. The Alberta wide curriculum mandates certain bench-marks, and to meet these standards there are a multitude of approaches. I really encourage the staff to keep that in mind when lesson-planning. Since everyone learns differently the emphasis should not be on the rigid approaches we used to take in order to get our students to where they need to be. But on the contrary, we need to emphasize that there are many different paths, all leading to the same goal of meeting (and surpassing) the Alberta curriculum.”
You would be hard pressed to find such a hands-on principal – Ms. Boyle not only knows all her students personally, but also stays informed on how they are progressing throughout the school year. This is one of the key contributors to making the TT environment a community, and not just a place to send our kids to school. “I go into the classrooms as much as possible,” explained Ms. Boyle.
“Yes, it’s to get to know the students, of course, but I also want to give my teachers the opportunity to improve upon their own approaches to learning by going and observing other instructors at TT and throughout EPSB.”
It is this dedication that sets Ms. Boyle apart. But, as her staff would attest, she seldom goes home on time, and if you happen to drive by the school in the evenings hours you’re almost guaranteed to see a single office light aglow. And what is next on her agenda for school improvement? “Right now I’m working hard to facilitate the promotion of mental wellness in the classroom. We’ve begun incorporating ‘wellness’ at all levels K-9, and we’re seeing some promising results.”
But where does this passion for community-building come from? As most parents know, Ms. Boyle is not Jewish. “I went to Catholic school up until college,” she explained with a smile. “But I have a Masters in religious studies, so coming in I like to think I knew a bit more than the average bear.” Ms. Boyle and her husband are huge supporters of the Edmonton Jewish community, and can always be spotted at Jewish events, fundraisers, and celebrations. “I have a deep love of the rituals and the traditions,” said Ms. Boyle, “maybe it’s because of so many years of Catholic school. But I really found a home here at Talmud Torah.”
One thing is abundantly clear to TT parents, staff, and to those around her – for Judith Boyle, her position as principal at Talmud Torah School goes far deeper than a job. “This was my first placement as a principle,” a role she seems destined to fulfil. If you stop by Ms. Boyle’s office you can see her Distinguished Principal Award hanging along-side numerous other certificates of recognition, smiling photographs and pictures drawn by adoring students. What you will never see is a closed door – students and parents are always welcome to drop-in, even just to say hi.
“We have an outstanding community here, I just feel fortunate to be a part of it,” adds Ms. Boyle. Talmud Torah’s partnership with the Edmonton Public School Board has brought our children tremendous resources and opportunities, not to mention a cheerleader for life, because for Judith Boyle her investment in our children doesn’t end at graduation.
“A lot of my students from my teaching days are all grown-up now. They’ve gone in so many incredible directions. And that’s so rewarding, seeing them succeed, I really am so proud to see what they’re doing with their lives.”
With so many transformations underway at Talmud Torah the passion and dedication of Ms. Boyle has given us all confidence that our not-so-conventional EPSB school will continue to reach new and distinguished heights.