Aug 5, 2020
Mrs. Deana Kempel graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree from the Gabriel Dumont Institute’s Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) in 2008 and is an educator at the Prairie South School Division in Saskatchewan. In March 2020, Deana started her new role as the Principal at Riverview Collegiate High School (RVCI) in Moose Jaw. We sat down with Deana for a chat.
We asked Deana why she became a teacher and whether she has always been interested in school administration as a part of her career. “I have always wanted to become a teacher. I remember playing school with an old chalkboard and teaching my younger sister how to read when she was only 3 or 4,” said Deana Kempel.
Deana draws on her experience to highlight the importance of cultivating student self-belief, motivation, and encouragement. “As a student at SUNTEP, I was always told by Professor Wilfred Burton that I that I was going to be an administrator,” she reminisced, adding that “I set my goals early in my career to become a school administrator.”
Before taking her current position, Deana spent two years as vice-principal of Empire School in Moose Jaw, where she takes pride in knowing all her students by name, strength, and need. As she puts it, “I love getting out with the students for recess and to their extracurricular activities. In these less structured environments, I found I could really get to know my students.”
We asked Deana how SUNTEP prepared her to be a teacher in this day and age. “SUNTEP really instilled the value of teaching all students about Indigenous history and culture. It also showed me how important it is to ensure that Indigenous students can see themselves within the curriculum.” Deana noted that “when we take the time to build relationships with students they learn better. All students can learn but everyone learns more when they know that they have someone rooting for them.”
Regarding a study out of MacEwan University in Edmonton which found that some teachers have difficulty reaching their Indigenous students or including Indigenous content in the curriculum, Deana said, “I pride myself in being an advocate for professional development opportunities for teachers who are uncomfortable teaching Indigenous content. I also share resources, books, and information whenever I can.” Deana noted that teacher collaboration and collegiality in her school makes it easier for teachers to support one another in their professional growth.
Transitioning from the classroom to the principalship can have its challenges. So how was Deana able to do it? “I was lucky enough to have mentorship from my principals, Kelly Logan and Don Hand, as well as my superintendent Darran Teneycke who I worked closely with. Darran and I completed a formative supervision process over the last two years which involved me working closely with him to learn my new role,” she said. The transition has also led to personal growth for Deana: “Administration is one of those jobs where you learn something new almost every day. Although there are plenty of times when you need to jump in and lead with your gut, being able to pause and reflect is an important part of the role.”
Deana moved to a new school as the principal at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. We asked her about what it is like to be a leader during such challenging times. As she put it, “It has been very interesting leading new staff, new students, in a new building, and establishing a new delivery model.” She added, “My outgoing personality and ability to connect and build relationships with people came in very handy establishing connections quickly with staff and students, from a distance.”
Deana felt that during this uncertain time, a willingness to try new things and not getting it right the first time, every time, is OK. She noted that “Moving to high school as a principal has been a huge learning curve, but I am up to the challenge!”
Asked if there was anything she would to add, Deana said, “SUNTEP was pivotal for me in my education career as it helped to give me a passion for ensuring that all students get what they need to be successful in school. I feel fortunate to have gone through SUNTEP and often think back to my classmates and professors.” She continued, “SUNTEP is a family and really teaches the importance of relationships, community, and culture. In every school that I am in, I can see the value in building those relationships, that community, and that culture. I am so grateful to have learned those lessons from SUNTEP!”