I was shocked to learn that Paul Bisson, the principal of Tecumseh Vista School, had died suddenly on Christmas Eve. Only 53 years old, Paul was literally 'full of life.' I can't begin to imagine the shock for his family and for the staff and students at Vista.
I've been thinking about all the things I've learned while working with Paul.
1. The importance of working with people with different perspectives. Occasionally, when things get a bit crazy, I think it might be easier if everyone thought exactly like me. Paul was principal of Wm Davis Public School when it was selected to be one of the eleven schools in our board to implement Full Day Kindergarten in September 2010. He attended regional ministry sessions in the lead up to implementation, and after listening quietly to the presentations he would ask questions that I hadn't even thought of. His questions always prompted me to look at things differently. I realized how valuable it was to work with people with completely different perspectives than mine.
2. The Importance of Creating a Welcoming Environment. When I posted Paul's obituary announcement on Facebook several other instructional coaches commented on how Paul always made them feel so welcome in his schools. I experienced this warm welcome each time I went to one of his schools - he greeted me with a big smile, walked me to where I was going and took time out of his busy day to do the same for all visitors. He always seemed genuinely interested in our work and how we were supporting educators and administrators.
3. The Importance of a Sense of Humour. Paul had a great sense of humour and was almost always smiling. In February 2016 a team of educators, including myself, went out to schools to conduct parent surveys during the Kindergarten Registration Open House. We asked parents how they heard about the open house and what factors they considered when choosing a school for their child. I was assigned to Tecumseh Vista, and Paul insisted that I indicate that parents chose Tecumseh Vista because "they were looking for a school where Paul Bisson was principal." He had a good laugh thinking about the committee members' reaction when they would be reviewing the results.
The most famous, or infamous, example of his humour was when a colleague was giving a tour of Tecumseh Vista to a group of visiting school administrators and university professors from China. Paul introduced his female vice principal as 'his work wife.' I don't think that translated very well!
We'll miss you Paul - your unique perspective, your unique sense of humour and your warm smile. Rest in peace.