After 11 years as the Executive Director of Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS), Anne-Marie Kee has been appointed as the new Head of School and Foundation for Lakefield College School. Considering Anne-Marie’s record of passionate advocacy for best practices in education, the LCS community is looking forward to her arrival in August 2017, eager to learn more of her thoughts and plans for the future. In the meantime, Anne-Marie took the time to answer a few questions for us.
Q: As you look forward to joining the Lakefield College School community in August, what are your thoughts on the transition in leadership? Will it be a gradual immersion over the next few months or will you be taking a plunge at the end of the summer?
A: More like a plunge that will take months, if that makes sense. CAIS schools, like Lakefield College School, provide some of the best educational opportunities in Canada. Each one comes with its own unique set of strengths and characteristics based on its location and size, community and culture. Between now and August, I would like to focus on getting to know the people who make LCS such a special place and developing an understanding of current priorities and points of view. I have started to meet bi-weekly with the chairs of both the school and foundation boards as well as the interim Head of School, Guy McLean, and I’m observing two board meetings. I will also meet with the Leadership Team of the school, individually, and have an opportunity to join the foundation trustees at their annual meeting. In May, I’m looking forward to attending Regatta Day, and I will be there Thursday and Friday beforehand to meet the faculty and meet with all the Grade 12 students in small groups. Most important will be the time spent with students as they are at the centre of everything we do here.
At the same time, I will continue to fulfill my responsibilities at CAIS, which means I have a full schedule ahead of me! Once I arrive on campus in August, my focus will be on the faculty and staff. I want to understand in advance: What should be the priorities of Lakefield College School? LCS has been successfully nurturing and educating young people for over 137 years. With that comes a rich legacy of understanding based in the shared culture, values and educational experiences of the community—students, alumni, parents and decades of exceptional educators. I’m hoping to listen a lot and get great advice.
Q: As the Executive Director of CAIS, you have worked closely with more than 90 schools across Canada. What attracted you to the position of Head of School and Foundation at LCS?
A: It was the culture. It’s known as a school with a strong sense of community that emphasizes the value of the whole student, and I know from observation of many great schools that it really works. I have seen it with my own eyes in how my own children thrived here–although they will have moved on by the time I take up my post. At LCS, there’s an exceptional academic program but so much also happens outside the classroom. With the beauty of its lakeside campus and natural surroundings, it is a truly magical place to learn and grow as a young person. The faculty and staff at the school understand this and use it to challenge kids to reach their full potential, offering a rich variety of formal and informal programming. My husband Kevin and I knew this would be a 24/7 job for me, and that we would have to be in love with it to make that kind of commitment. We are and we have.
Q: What does Lakefield College School do best?
A: Speaking as a current LCS parent, I believe that the entire community understands and lives character development. There is an understanding that learning happens through relationships. Lakefield College School’s academic, co-curricular and residential programs are exceptional. They recognize that to really prepare students for the challenges of university and beyond, they need to develop confidence, critical thinking skills and creativity; they need to be able to work as a team, communicate and collaborate. Personal awareness and character development inside and outside of the classroom is a big part of this, and as a boarding school we have the advantage of being able to reinforce these ideas in a 24/7 learning and living environment. Living together in a boarding community, students learn the art of negotiation, accommodation and taking responsibility for themselves and others. You can’t underestimate the power of independence–being responsible for decisions and flourishing without mom and dad around. These are the skills needed to be successful in any career, and it’s the basis for lifelong relationships. Lakefield is all about nurturing these relationships in a safe and small, caring community.
Q: A large part of your career has been dedicated to education and youth. What do you see to be the biggest external challenges facing schools and their students today?
A: Teenagers today spend a lot of time with technology and social media. It is important that we help them navigate that world and understand how it impacts their lives. Understanding the real value of technology, its ability to connect students to resources and to broaden their perspective by putting them in touch with information, ideas and people from around the world is important. Equally important, is finding the balance between safely developing these skills and interpersonal interaction.
Across Canada, we’re also seeing an increase in anxieties and mental health issues in youth. Lakefield College School is a leader in helping students find ways to handle stress and maintain healthy attitudes. Health and wellness programs like THRIVE, the Leadership, Character, Values program and our Outdoor Education program are all great examples. LCS is the only CAIS-accredited school that educates high school students only, so it has all of these talented professionals focused on educating and supporting teenagers and it specializes in character development. There is no school better positioned than Lakefield College School to meet the challenges of preparing our teens for a changing world.