‘Bit of a change:’ new principal takes the reins at St. Mary’s School

Gord Fortin
Lakeside Leader

St. Mary of the Lake Catholic School has a new principal in Jon Jette, who took over at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.
Jette says he got to Slave Lake on Aug. 19 and had his first meeting at the school on Aug. 21. He comes to St. Mary’s after spending 12 years teaching in a British school in London.
“It’s a bit of a change,” he says.
Jette was born in Edmonton and went to school in Calgary. His parents are from southern Alberta. His first teaching job was in Edmonton, where he would stay for six years. He was a band teacher. From there he decided to take the opportunity to teach in the U.K. This was at an inner city secondary school of about 1,300 students. That encompassed Grades 7 and up.
Jette explains that he took the job in Europe because he wanted a change. He figured at the time that he was still young enough to pull of a major change.
“It was a great experience overall,” he says. “I don’t regret moving to England at all.”
While in the U.K. he remained a music teacher and eventually took the position of “head of year.” This meant he was in charge of all students in a particular year in school. This equated into 180 students. He also became the head of music. Seven out of his 12 years were spent as the head of year.
Jette explains that there were a few things that made him want to come back home. His mother died around a year ago. He had to make the trip for the funeral and spent time with family. During this visit it made him realize that it was time to move back for good.
Jette had no family in the U.K. He moved there he was alone. That said, he did make some good friends that he remains in contact with.
“When I went there I didn’t know anyone,” he says.
Jette jokes that it was weird to be hearing Canadian accents again but overall there has not been a challenge in his readjustment.
The desire to come home was part of the reason St. Mary’s caught his attention. Jette adds that he was also looking for a change. He likes the idea of going from a secondary school to now working in an elementary school. He was looking to go to a smaller school as well. He went from being responsible for 180 students to 120 students.
This is his first role in an elementary school setting as well as a principal. The only other experience he has at that level was from when he was training to be a teacher. This is fine with Jette, as he feels that you need experience at all levels to be a well-rounded educator.
“That’s what attracted me to St. Mary’s,” Jette says.
The transition from head of year to principal has been smooth since there are some similarities. A principal has more responsibilities, such as dealing with budgets and choosing staff.
“The role of a principal is a little more encompassing,” he says.
The only real challenge Jette has endured is getting used to the Alberta education system. That said, since he transitioned from an English secondary school to a Canadian elementary school, he does not feel he can give a proper comparison of both systems.
What’s new at St. Mary’s
Jette highlighted some of changes this year at the school.
The structured music program has been re-introduced. Grade 1 and 2 students take part in choir and percussion. Grade 3 and 4 students will be doing a guitar and ukulele ensemble. Grade 5 and 6 students will take part in concert band.
St. Mary’s also has kicked off a nutrition program. This means a healthy nutritional breakfast will be served every morning. Jette says he has noticed a difference in his students, as they can concentrate better since they are not hungry in the morning. This opens the student to healthy eating education, portion control and gives students a chance to take charge of their nutrition.
The last program Jette makes reference was the mindfulness program. This helps students regulate their emotions and behaviour. The school now has a sensory room. This should help high-energy students calm down and get centered.
Jette feels that these new programs will bring positive results. He is confident he will see some progress from students at the end of the year.

St. Mary of the Lake Catholic School has a new principal in Jon Jette, who took over at the beginning of the school year. Jette brings his experience from teaching in Edmonton as well as in the U.K. to the Slave Lake school.

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