Darlene DeMerchant’s role has evolved in scope and intention over her 13 years with the school, but is still very much grounded by her background (and first love) teaching in the classroom. As Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Darlene helps ensure continuity in the school’s academic approach, from Junior Kindergarten right through to Grade 12.This involves working with – and providing resources to – the principals, teachers, and educational assistants on both curricular (traditional class-based subjects areas including STEM-based initiatives ) and co-curricular (like leadership and wellness) programming to align with both the BC Ministry of Education’s required outcomes, and the school’s goals laid out by the strategic plan.
Though there are many initiatives that Darlene oversees to help fulfill these broad goals, the activity that brings her the greatest joy is supporting professional development at the school. She loves connecting with teachers about their areas of passion, finding or creating opportunities to help them pursue their personal professional goals, while also tying in skills that will result in positive long-term growth for the school in keeping with its strategic vision. Darlene has also been instrumental in spearheading the Parent Lecture Series that has brought in international experts to speak to the whole community – not just parents, but teachers and students too. She sees this kind of holistic investment in growing knowledge (subjects have varied from understanding girls’ brains and strategies for optimal learning, anxiety and breaking the worry cycle, and more) as having huge potential to benefit an entire community.
Darlene has been particularly influenced by the many years she spent teaching and leading in the arctic: to embrace multi-age/multi-generational/multi-cultural opportunity; to honor that not just teachers but many people are the “holders of knowledge” – children, elders, parents; and to take full advantage of the educational opportunities of one’s environment by considering the fourth wall of your classroom is the land.
Why SMS? “Because I come from a very different background (teaching co-ed and leading at the Board and District levels), I was curious about the opportunities afforded by an all-girls environment. I thought that maybe I could have some positive influence to share. If I can change attitudes that girls have towards math and science in particular, if I can build a little confidence, even dispel some myths, I believe that influence can be really powerful in creating change.”