Message from Deryn Lavell, Head of School: December 2022

Dear York House Community,

We’ve come to the conclusion of a very busy fall season and are looking forward to a well-deserved holiday break. Teachers, students, staff and families have all been running at full steam and I can only imagine how much you are looking forward to some renewal time.

As your new Head, it’s been busy for me too— but the really good kind of busy. The kind that is full of energy, enthusiasm and eagerness to get down to business. The welcome I’ve received from this community has been overwhelming and inspiring. I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate the support and encouragement you’ve given me.

While we anticipate with excitement all of the fun, celebration and family time we’ll be able to enjoy, I also hope that you take some time to relax and restore.  

One of my favourite things to do over the holidays is to catch up on reading. It might seem odd that as a lifelong educator, reading is a luxury. But indeed, the pace of professional life for everyone leaves little time to relax with a good book, just for the pleasure of it. So, for this holiday, I’m anticipating spending some hours with two books I’ve been wanting to get to:

Under Pressure:  Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, by Lisa Damour, PhD; and Potlatch as Pedagogy:  Learning Through Ceremony, by Sara Florence Davidson and Robert Davidson.

In the first, Dr. Damour brings her expertise to bear in this insightful book about the increasing demands on the time, minds and hearts of young girls, causing unprecedented rises in unhealthy anxiety. I call this the ‘era of intensity’, where everything from academics to social pressures is ratcheted up to a level ten at all times. It concerns me to think about how all this might be affecting our students and their well-being. I’m anxious to learn from Dr. Damour who shares practical and thoughtful advice for parents and educators about how we can work together to help our students ease up on pressure and find more joy in their lives. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you decide to read her book.

The second book has been on my shelf since September and I’m excited to dive into it. Early in my career, I was honoured to be invited to attend some Potlatch ceremonies in Alert Bay, BC. To be a young teacher and given the chance to join our Indigenous students and their families in such a deeply personal and meaningful tradition, was a gift of learning and friendship that has impacted my beliefs and values as an educator in so many ways. 

Our York House community is deeply committed to learning and taking action through our work in Truth and Reconciliation, and this book is a thought-provoking window into how we move forward with respect and deepening our understanding of the First People’s Principles.

So, when we’re done with the celebratory family time with my daughters and their partners, my husband Steve and I will be keeping a low profile and curling up with some great reading. He’s working on The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnansky, a 10,000 page tome about great legends of baseball.  Even if I had the time, I wouldn’t have the attention span for that!

Let me know what you’re reading and I hope everyone has a healthy, happy, and relaxing holiday break. I look forward to seeing you in 2023 for the start of another action-packed term at York House.

Best wishes,


Message from Deryn Lavell, Head of School: October 2022

Deryn Lavell, Head of School
On Gratitude

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a Senior School student-led assembly about gratitude. As I considered what I would share with the students and teachers, I reflected on why I am so grateful to have joined this dynamic York House community.

There really is a ‘secret sauce’ at York House that is unique to this learning community. It is the driving force that enables our students to thrive and inspires our faculty and staff to give 110%. It’s the power of our mission that energizes our Board of Governors, our Foundation, our Parents Association and our Alumnae Association to give so much of their time and talent. It’s why a Yorkie can go anywhere in the world and connect with fellow Yorkies who are living our motto, “Not for Ourselves Alone”, and making a lasting impact in the world.

Of course, the high regard for academic excellence is certainly a key ingredient in the York House difference. As importantly, it comes down to the caring and sense of belonging that the York House community brings to all that it does. 

This deep sense of belonging allows our students to dig into their learning, feel confident to take risks, learn from their mistakes, and embrace a ‘can-do’ attitude towards their learning. This self-determination, combined with a deep sense of gratitude and self-worth equips our students with some invaluable tools on their path to becoming future-ready. 

I am also grateful to be part of this caring community that doesn’t stand on yesterday. Instead, we learn from our history and those who went before us while at the same time we look forward—not just to the horizon but well beyond it.

As a learning community, we understand it is our responsibility to grow and change. Today, we are on our journey to becoming a more inclusive and diverse community. Do we always hit the mark? Of course not, but we are a community of learners who believe in the importance of asking hard questions, taking an honest look at ourselves and our actions and striving to do better.  

As a school, we’re engaged in ongoing and thoughtful work on truth and reconciliation, which you can see some recent examples of in this issue of the Yorkie. I see our students and staff so full of gratitude for this learning and the development of new understandings. 

Here are just a few of our students’ words they shared with me: “Being thankful is an everyday event.”, “Traditions stretch beyond documented history.”, “How can I work to honour the land I live on once I learn more?”

This kind of reflective work is not easy and requires new ways of thinking and looking at our world and our place within it. We have so much to learn from each other and the wider community – and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the journey.

Kind regards,