They started as classroom teachers in Cardiff in 2004 and 2005, and now Mike Gervais and Lauren Alleway are reunited and taking a leadership role at Archie Stouffer Elementary School.

Gervais has been named principal and Alleway vice principal of the Minden institution.

After Cardiff, they both moved on to other elementary schools in Haliburton County and are well-known educators of both students and colleagues.

They said they are “excited” about taking on their new roles for the 2022-23 school year.

“We know that we’re going to have a lot of fun together,” Alleway said before school broke June 30.

She added there had been a lot of improvements under former principal Dawn Sudsbury. “We both know that with our backgrounds in curriculum and as classroom teachers, we’re confident that we can keep that moving forward and continue to have a positive impact,” she added.

Gervais said both he and Alleway are raising their own children in the Highlands and have a vested interest.

“Having our kids connected to all the different things that happen in the County really ingrains our commitment to giving back, whether it be through our jobs or our involvement in the community,” Gervais added.

As for ASES, he said they are “blessed” to have taken over a school that already has so many “fantastic” people working there, from teachers to educational assistants and custodians. “Top to bottom, they are committed to making Archie an incredible place. We’re honoured to have that opportunity to work with these people and lead these people … it’s a great group, very keen to become involved and provide opportunities for students to advance their learning and their own teaching practice, which is an amazing thing.”

As for what they would like to accomplish, Gervais said while the Leader in Me program is effective and inspires students to become trailblazers, they believe they can achieve the same goals, and seven habits of leadership, without using “a canned program.”

“We believe it’s ingrained in our school improvement plan, the Ontario curriculum and supported through board initiatives. Our focus at this school is a balance of achievement in academics and achievement in equity and inclusivity. So, we want to supply students with a safe place to learn, and we want to promote an environment that fosters the best opportunities to be successful in their learning.”

Alleway said for her the focus is recovering from COVID and tackling issues such as literacy. Sudsbury presented to the board last year, indicating 15 per cent of Gr. 2-8 students were reading at grade level.

The new VP said it’s about “closing some of those gaps.” She said during 2022, staff had done a “really great job of getting started and recognizing what are the best practices to move forward with that … staff spent a lot of time reflecting on the shifts they’ve made in order to have impact on student achievement and taking that information and continuing moving forward.”

Gervais said they had implemented specific and targeted instruction based upon the diagnostics to close the gaps. “Building our understanding of phonemic awareness and phonological awareness [sound structure of words]. We did targeted PD throughout the year, to build our teachers’ capacities to provide for these students based upon these COVID gaps and we’re proud to say over half of our school now has already closed the gap and are reading at level in one year of what we consider a three-year plan.”

He added they are seeing more parents coming onboard to reignite the home-school connection for reading. Materials are again going from school to home and back again.

With math, they are also making strategic moves to close those gaps, he said.

“It’s all about knowing and understanding the needs of our learners, creating programming and connecting with families, whether academic or social.”