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,

Head Lines: Spring 2022

With COVID and travel restrictions lifting and spring just around the corner, I’m sure many of us have a desire to break out from under the veil of the pandemic and get back to exploring the world, connecting with others, and resuming our normal activities. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years already. In March 2020, one day before Spring break, I remember meeting with our staff in the auditorium to share with them that in essence, the world was shutting down. There was a clear sense of disbelief, uncertainty, and palpable fear for what lay ahead.

Now, looking back, as a school community, we’ve learned so much in two years. We’ve learned that we are capable of finding solutions to problems that never existed, that clear and timely communication is key, that empathy, critical thinking, and that collaboration are skills essential to finding ways to be adaptable in meeting the needs of all members of our community. We learned from our mistakes, we created networks where we intentionally shared our key learnings and gained knowledge from others who also faced the same challenges we did. We learned that we are courageous, caring, and resilient and that a community of care is vital when facing unprecedented challenges. Thank you parents for the support you have displayed towards each other and of course, for your trust in us. 

Most importantly, we learned to put into practice the very skills and competencies we seek to develop in our students in order for them to be successful in facing various challenges and opportunities in an ever-changing world. Never have I felt stronger about York House School’s mission to “empower young women to be active global citizens with the courage to act on their beliefs and make a difference in the world.”

We certainly are a global community connected not just by our common humanity, but collectively through our struggles with COVID-19, climate change, the fight for social justice, and the global conflicts. Never, in most of our living memories, have so many challenges confronted our ability to navigate uncertainty while continuing to live our lives and fulfill our aspirations. 

It has never been more important for educators and parents to join forces in helping girls develop the skills and mindsets necessary to ensure their readiness and curiosity to navigate successfully in this complex world. No doubt, their future success depends on their ability to seek to understand the world around them, investigate issues that matter and have the confidence to take action in ways that are meaningful to them. 

If you wish to explore what teaching students to become global citizens really means, I am sharing the newest episode of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools Educating Girls podcast, where Clare Sisisky, Executive Director of the Global Education Benchmark Group, shares her experience, wisdom, insights, and actionable recommendations for educators and parents. I’m sure you will find it insightful. 

I want to thank our staff and students who have worked so hard this past term and wish them a wonderful holiday. I also hope that you spend a wonderful time with your family and friends over the break.

In April, we also look forward to meeting Deryn Lavell, our newly appointed Interim Head of School, who will be joining us on April 19, 20, and 21, for a few days to connect with staff, students, and the YHS Board. 

Once again, we will make sure to provide you with timely information related to the easing of restrictions following the break. Be well everyone.