A new era will begin in the St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) Student Affairs Department this September, as John Connelly assumes the director’s position, taking over for the retiring Frank Trentadue ’84.
“I am deeply grateful to the school’s leadership team and to the Basilian Fathers for supporting my growth as a Catholic educator and servant-leader,” says Connelly, who has spent the last three years as a guidance counsellor at SMCS. “I look forward to leading an outstanding team of educators who are passionate about their work and committed to supporting students in articulating their goals and pursuing their dreams.”
Connelly’s career as an educator began in 2004 as a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University. From 2007 to 2012, he taught at three different high schools in the Durham Catholic District School Board. His first permanent position was in alternative education where he spent time teaching, counselling, and supporting credit recovery.
“Alternative education taught me how important it is for all students to feel supported and included,” says Connelly. “This includes those who don’t necessarily learn the way others do or who don’t fit into a traditional high school environment.”
In 2012, Connelly joined the SMCS faculty and spent the next five years teaching English to Grade 10-12 students before joining Student Affairs in 2017. Connelly’s impact as a leader has also been felt in his roles as moderator of the Student Government for the last three years, and this past year as co-leader of the school’s new Teacher Advisory Group (TAG) programme.
“I like to think I’m a consensus builder. My goal is to facilitate the work of my colleagues and help them grow and expand their work in exciting ways,” he says. “I’ve seen over the years just how much talent and experience the teachers in the Student Affairs Department bring to the table. They are innovators in the field of student success, and they are tremendous advocates for the students and families we serve.”
The Student Affairs Department consists of Guidance, the Learning Enrichment Centre (LEC), and the Odette Library. The department supports the entire student body with the information and resources they require to be successful and achieve their goals.
“As the school dives more fully into an inquiry-based, Deep Learning model of teaching, Student Affairs will be there to support the curriculum and to ensure students have many caring adults at the school to whom they can turn to when they have questions or experience challenges in their academic and personal lives,” he says.
Connelly plans to work with his Student Affairs team to advance their presence in the lives of students outside the confines of their department offices through workshops, lessons, and group discussions. He also looks forward to delving into new areas of emotional intelligence and connectedness.
“I would like us to become confident enough to teach students to name, claim, and regulate the range of emotions they experience,” says Connelly. “We’ve come a long way in terms of our understanding of mental health and wellness, but there remains much work to do. Student Affairs will be a linchpin in an expanding mental health strategy for the school.”
With a summer of planning for his new leadership position and the many return-to-school possibilities, Connelly is focused on keeping the wellbeing of all students at the forefront of the Student Affairs Department.
“Guidance, the LEC, and the library are really fun places,” says Connelly. “The perception is that a lot of ‘serious work’ happens in our corner of the school, but we have fun as well and encourage collaboration and connection. Many students don’t find this out until Grade 11 or 12, but I hope we can change that and have our younger students explore our spaces.”