Martin Twiss arrived at North Cavan Public School in 2016 as Principal in what he planned as the final stop in an extensive career in public education.
During his time with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, Twiss has been in the classroom, Board Superintendent and finally, Elementary School Principal. He was originally planning to retire at the end of the 2020 school year and had communicated that to the board in early March. Two weeks later, Covid forced schools to close, and he reconsidered his timing. He could not in good conscience leave his school in the middle of a crisis, so his retirement request was rescinded and he stayed on to steer the school through the most challenging year it has faced since its opening in 1963. Twiss does not regret his decision.
The back and forth between in-class and virtual learning over the last fifteen months have been challenging for families and educators alike, but some positive things have emerged amid the anxiety, burnout and frustration.
Twiss believes that everyone now understands the limits of virtual education. For rural students in particular, the social significance of school cannot be underestimated. He equates school with the mall- it’s where rural kids get to hang out together. Elementary school is where students develop social skills- negotiating conflicts, learning to share, communicating effectively, finding their feet. This is why he regrets that kids have been out of school for so long, but he believes it was the right call. He hopes to welcome students back into school in June, but only under the right circumstances
Technology in the classroom is now more comfortable for everyone- parents, teachers and students. It has given parents a window into the methods and expectations of educators for their students, and Twiss believes there is a greater appreciation and respect from both parents and teachers for their respective roles in the lives their students. He believes that the past year has helped many parents become more engaged in their children’s education which will pay dividends for years to come.
Twiss realizes that some students have received more support than others, but believes that parents and teachers have done their best to support student learning this year as they coped with their own challenges. However he believes that significant gaps in learning will become apparent when the students are back together in the classroom this fall.
After the tumultuous year, Twiss sees challenges ahead for students, but not insurmountable ones. Learning gaps that have developed over the year will require support, and bridging those gaps will take time. Reading support will be one of the critical ingredients to getting students back on track, and perhaps more school volunteers can contribute to this effort.
Graduation last year was a completely virtual affair. He is hoping this year there can be a face to face event in the auditorium attended by class cohorts, but is preparing Plan B, with live speeches possibly delivered through Google Classroom so parents can attend virtually. It’s not just for the students, but for him: he would like to say goodbye in person. Whether this is possible or not, Martin Twiss will be remembered for his compassion, professionalism (the suit?) and his dedication to students across the KPRDS board. Not a bad legacy. Thanks for everything. KG