Learning is as much about being as it is about doing – that’s the essence of the teaching philosophy touted by Geoff Suderman-Gladwell, Linwood Public School’s new principal.
As such, teaching is as much about sharing time and space and knowledge concerning how to be better to others as it is imparting knowledge about specific subjects.
“The education piece is very important,” said Suderman-Gladwell, stressing the importance of a strong curriculum.
“But so is the social learning ‘to be’ and ‘learning to be together’: it’s not just about learning the traditional learning pieces,” he said in an interview. “It’s about both – we have to put them all together.”
Whether dealing with school kids or young offenders – both are part of his experience – teaching is about learning to be together.
“For me, looking at school, absolutely it’s about education. But when you look at education there is learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, and then the fourth sort of pillar, which is learning to be together. All four become pillars of our education pieces,” he said, noting that a teacher cannot teach math for an hour and then delve into another one-hour session on ‘being kind.’ The latter is a character quality that teachers should espouse always and at all times.
Though he is new to the Linwood school, Suderman-Gladwell feels his background will help him prepare for its rural setting. Born and raised during his formative years in Jamaica, Suderman-Gladwell also spent time in England before coming to Canada as a nine-year-old boy. He was raised in Elmira where he studied at a number of schools including Park Manor, Riverside, John Mahood, and Elmira District Secondary School. He feels a connection with the community and is sensitive to the uniqueness of the area’s thriving Mennonite communities.
“It’s kind of like close to home,” he said, noting that while he and his family live in Kitchener, his parents continue to live in Elmira.
“That’s just home; the horse and buggies went past our house every day. It’s not a novelty in that sense. That’s part of it as well. It’s familiar.”
As well, Suderman-Gladwell chose the religion of his Russian Mennonite wife, whom he met in a seminary in Indiana while studying to obtain a master’s in divinity. While he never became a pastor, Suderman-Gladwell’s wife did and now serves as a chaplain at a long-term care facility.
In addition to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Waterloo, Suderman-Gladwell worked at the Friendship Centre in Kitchener, in Kirkland Lake with the Mennonite Central Committee, as a volunteer with a native friendship centre, and has also worked with young offenders at Hope Manor, a facility west of Kitchener. A social conscience has always been top of mind for Suderman-Gladwell.
After a few years between these jobs and a stint at the food bank, Suderman-Gladwell returned to school to obtain his bachelor’s of education at the University of Western Ontario and eventually his masters of education at Brock University.
Before being appointed principal at Linwood P.S., Suderman-Gladwell acted as principal of Central Public School in Cambridge and as vice-principal at Lincoln Avenue in Cambridge.
Though fairly new to the administration side of education, now entering his fifth year, he continues to see himself as a teacher adding more years to his 14 year career.
“I would say that I’m still a teacher: principal is just short form for principal teacher,” he said. “My job is to help students learn.”