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Making him feel right at home

Dan Enns was welcomed into his new role as principal of John Mahood Public School with two pieces of artwork by Zoe Zslnka.
Dan Enns was welcomed into his new role as principal of John Mahood Public School with two pieces of artwork by Zoe Zslnka. [Whtiney Neilson / The Observer]
Dan Enns was welcomed into his new role as principal of John Mahood Public School with two pieces of artwork by Zoe Zslnka.
Dan Enns was welcomed into his new role as principal of John Mahood Public School with two pieces of artwork by Zoe Zslnka. [Whtiney Neilson / The Observer]

Elmira’s John Mahood Public School welcomes a new principal as February gets rolling.

Dan Enns points to a bare wall in his office and says he’s planning to cover it with student art.

The new principal of John Mahood Public School in Elmira took over from former principal Tracy Tait on Monday. By Tuesday, he’d already received two pieces of such art to put on said wall.

“I got my first piece of artwork today,” Enns said seated in his office. “I went to the classes yesterday and Zoe Zslnka had a lovely picture for me and she explained it to me.”

By lunchtime, she’d made another photo for him, this one of a treasure map.

It’s safe to say, he’s fitting into his new role just fine.

Enns was the vice-principal at Franklin Public School in Kitchener for four years and then for the first half of this school year at McGregor Senior Public School and Empire Public School, both in Waterloo.

Stepping into a principal position has been on his mind for a few years now, but he wasn’t always so set on it.

“I actively resisted it for a long time. People told me I should and I didn’t believe it was the best place to have an impact and then I saw the light. I realized it could be some very important work and I started to do some development courses and principals courses and realized that in fact this was the next step for me in education in terms of what I could bring and offer and have an impact and serve,” Enns said.

Raised in Kitchener, Enns knew he wanted to work in education from a young age. As a teenager he often worked with kids, whether as a swimming instructor or at summer camp.

“When I decided what I wanted to do when I grew up, I knew I wanted to do something that was going to serve and make a difference,” Enns said.

He chose a subject he loved, languages, and figured he could make a teaching career with that. Intending to travel to needy places in the world and teach people how to speak English and French, he ended up meeting his wife and settling down in Waterloo Region.

When he took positions as vice-principal in the past, it was with the intention of eventually becoming a principal.

“It’s the quarterback position. You’re the captain of the team. I enjoyed being the assistant captain but I was really looking forward to that captain opportunity,” Enns said.

Not completely familiar with the Elmira area, Enns was excited and started asking questions and talking to people in the area once he found out he’d be taking over the position in February.

“I’m having a great time meeting kids. That’s the part I love,” Enns said.

“It’s been a lovely reception. The kids are super warm and friendly. And it’s always an interesting thing to see how they’ll respond after they’ve been used to having a woman in the principal seat for awhile.”

He says his previous vice-principal roles have prepared him for this new challenge by helping him understanding what his responsibilities are and what sorts of things he needs to be thinking about.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the community and figuring out what I can do in terms of my skill set to best serve the interests of the students here and the families. The way we’re thinking about schools now and how we need to be is a hub. I’m really curious what else can we do so the school serves the needs of the community,” Enns said.

In terms of changes, there will be some, but nothing will happen overnight, he says. They’ll be based on feedback, input and careful reflection. And they won’t be made in isolation.

“At this point it’s about asking questions and figuring out what are the opportunities,” Enns said.

“I’m hearing lots of things people want to continue but I’m also getting some clues about things that people might be interested in what we can do differently to make things work better. That’s part of the reason why they move us around once in awhile. It’s good to have a fresh set of eyes. It’s kind of like a snow globe, you shake it up and it brings it to life again.”

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