The Kahnawake Education Center (KEC) has announced that two of its schools will have new leaders come August. Sarah Phillips has been named the incoming principal of Kahnawake Survival School (KSS), while Kevin Gault will helm Kateri School.
“The possibilities are kind of endless with what we can bring to the school and how we can just keep growing,” said Phillips.
Phillips currently teaches social studies at KSS, as well as a course about film and media. Her favourite part about being an educator is broadening her students’ perspectives and introducing them to new subject matter.
“The students have so much more to offer me as well, I always learn from them,” said Phillips.
“I know that I will miss teaching,” she said. “As long as I get to see the students and I get to be involved within the school and not too busy and stuck in an office, I should be happy.”
When Phillips takes the reins of KSS in August, it won’t be the first time behind a principal’s desk. She was interim principal of Karonhianónhnha Tsi Ionterihwaienstáhkhwa during the 2020-2021 academic year, stewarding the school through a challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A graduate of the Ratiwennahní:rats language program, Phillips wants to continue to ensure that Kanien’kehá:ka culture is at the forefront of students’ education at KSS. As a social studies teacher, one of her main goals has been to make sure students feel proud of their Onkwehón:we identity.
“Becoming a principal is something that was one of my goals in life,” said Phillips. For her, the field of education runs in the family; her mother, Catherine Phillips taught at KSS for over a decade, and was even Sarah’s teacher at one point.
“All of her students loved her, and I just thought if I could be anybody, I’d want to be that. I’d want to be her. So that’s what I did,” said Phillips.
Growing up in Chateauguay, Gault first became acquainted with Kahnawake as a teenager, when he got a job working as a pizza delivery guy and had to navigate his way around town.
His relationship to the community has changed a lot since then, as Gault has spent the better part of the last decade working for KEC.
Gault said he has worked to learn about Kanien’kehá:ka culture so that he can better serve his students and understand the cultural context he works in. He’s picked up some Kanien’kéha phrases and familiarized himself with some traditional teachings so that he can meet his students where they’re at.
The principal-to-be was first hired by KEC in 2015 as an assistant in the French-immersion program but has since worked as a French-immersion teacher and specialist, as well as a classroom teacher.
Gault will be supported through the transition by current Kateri School principal Shelley Goodleaf-McComber, who is entering retirement.
“She definitely deserves this. She’s worked very hard,” said Gault of Goodleaf-McComber.
Gault holds a bachelor’s degree in education from McGill University, where he also studied English and history. He’s currently working on his master’s in teaching and learning at the University of Ottawa, which he expects to complete by winter 2024.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I entered education,” said Gault on becoming a principal. “It’s a vocation. It’s a 24/7 kind of position. It’s not a nine-to-five, that’s for sure, but I’m ready and willing.”
Gault is fascinated by aspects of education that often bore teachers: staffing, budgets, curricula, and professional learning communities. He looks forward to the opportunity to lend support to his fellow teachers and work collaboratively to ensure students succeed.
“I love this school. I love what we’re about,” said Gault.