What Tracy Tait loves about visiting Cuba (aside from the warmth – she’s not a fan of winter) is the way Cuban people value children.
“They place a very, very high value on children. They call them babies until they’re much, much older, which I find very endearing.”
The new principal at John Mahood P.S. values children in a similar way. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher, and her love for the little ones drew her into primary classrooms.
“I had some fabulous teachers growing up and they served to be wonderful role models and of course I’ve always loved children, so it was a good fit.”
Tait moved into the principal’s office in mid-February, taking over from Paul Wettlaufer. It’s a busy time of year because staffing for the next school year is being settled, but even on her first day she found time to get into a classroom.
“I really enjoy that personal connection with kids, and I’ve been in classrooms as much as I can,” she said. “I told the kids my goal is to know all of their names by June. They get a kick out of it when I go through the class and remember their names. It’s quite a lofty goal, but I’m hoping to get there.”
Tait said her first priority is to get to know the staff, students and wider community. She’s sent out surveys to teachers and parents asking what they want preserved and what they feel should be addressed.
“I certainly don’t want to come in and change something that is viewed to be sacred. I want to maintain what is beloved here at John Mahood.”
Born in Burlington, Tait majored in English and history before heading to teacher’s college. She’s very interested in primary literacy, and teaches additional qualification courses in reading at Wilfrid Laurier during the summer.
Tait has a nine-year-old daughter, Tatiana, who she calls Annie.
“All of a sudden she’s decided this year she’s a big girl now. She insisted [on being called Tatiana] at school, much to the chagrin of the office staff who had to change all of the paperwork. But she’ll always be Annie to me.”
Along with reading and knitting, the petite former dancer enjoys do-it-yourself home renovation and landscaping projects. She laid flagstone in her backyard and shoveled out 10 cubic metres of soil to make the gardens.
Inside the house, she retiled the bathroom, reworked the plumbing and replaced the existing vanity with one converted from a mahogany nightstand.
“I’m someone who’s willing to try just about anything. And if it looks interesting, I always think it’s worth a try,” she said. “I did over-tighten the screws on the toilet tank when I was putting it in back in and it exploded. That was bad. But that was kind of funny. Everything is a learning experience.”
Before moving to John Mahood, Tait was principal at Franklin Public School in Kitchener for a year and a half, and at Wellesley Public School for two years before that.
Tait said Wellesley differs in its large population of David Martin Mennonites, but Elmira has much the same small-town feel and core values.
“I’m very happy to be here and so far the children have been fantastic. They’re very welcoming, very warm, very well-mannered … I’ve always said the lens through which I make any decision is what’s best for kids, and this is certainly a dedicated [staff] that cares deeply about the group that they teach.”