Interview with Dr. David Ward (Full Article)

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Dr. David Ward has taken on the new role of superintendent this year. With 700 students, 110 staff, and two growing campuses, this is a vital role as JKCS looks ahead to a future that is firmly rooted in God’s word and prepares students for a life of service and transformation. Along with the addition of the new role of superintendent, the JKCS administration team has grown with some familiar faces and some wonderful new additions. We sat down with Dr. Ward to gain insights into his history, leadership and faith perspective, and to get a glimpse into his administrative team.

Dr. David Ward (right) plays foosball with Secondary students

What is your family up to right now?

The Ward family up to a lot these days. My wife Ariana is a crown prosecutor, currently on rotation doing trial work. Our house is a little upside down because when you’re in a trial it can take up an enormous amount of time. It also means that there are police officers and other lawyers calling the house and just different people who may be connected to a case. And so at any given time in our car or in the home, we can be interrupted by parts of the case. So when she’s in the middle of a trial, it is busy on that end, but it’s also very interesting.

My son Owen is 21 and at the university of Toronto. He’s in health studies looking at medicine but he’s 21, so who knows? He’s a hockey player, but he’s one of those bizarre characters where he loves both theater and hockey. So he’s on two different hockey teams and he is in theater. He loves to act, he sings, he dances, he likes all that. So it’s kind of a bizarre dichotomy. You don’t see that too often, right? With hockey player in theater.

And then we have Holly who is in a very exciting time of her life right now. She is a Longhorn. So she plays for the university of Texas. She’s on a scholarship. She is a freshman. She gets to play with Julia Grosso (plays for Canada women’s national team and scored the gold medal winning penalty kick in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics) all season long and Julia plays at her side. So they connect every, every day, which is really cool.

Tessa is in Grade 10 in French immersion. There is a lot of French music going on in our house. That’s a dream for my wife and I to have one kid who could have French as a second language. I was born in Quebec. So it’s always been a big deal for me to have somebody in the family who could have French as a background. She also does a ton of dance on the North Shore.

Will everyone be home for Christmas?

Yes. The Longhorns are keeping Holly longer than was anticipated and Owen’s last exams are on the 20th. It’s going to be late when everybody gets back, but enough time.

What are some of the Ward family Christmas traditions?

Our most prominent tradition is something we started through our church back in Portland. What they started was something called the Advent Conspiracy. And the concept behind that is to love more, spend less. So we really took that to heart. Each year we save up a certain amount and half of that goes to a particular charity. It often will go to an organization we’re connected to such as Compassion Canada or one or two others.  

So what we do on a given night where we can actually get everyone together is to go to a mall all together on a single night. We draw names from a hat and then everyone shoots out into the mall and it’s under a timeline. Everyone has created a list in advance that’s shared on everyone’s phone. And then we go out from there and seek. It’s a lot of fun because you are seeing each other pass through different stores and so forth, and then you have to hide when you see that person who might be your secret person. And it makes for a lot of stories by the end of the night, because someone has seen someone in a store and that could only be for this member or that member of the family. We have a lot of fun.

We have very specific Christmas music. So everyone has different Christmas playlists that gets played. And a really precious tradition for me is I watch a particular Christmas movie with our youngest.

What else keeps you busy?

Typically, I’m engaged in a lot of sports. I’m not right now due to an injury condition that will hopefully be fixed in less than a year. I play ice hockey and I play old man soccer, which is really fun. I write books as well. I just finished my first short story which was accepted by a publisher in Canada. I’m now currently likely turning it into a novel with that same publisher since they really liked the short story and felt it needed to become something bigger.

How many books do you have published?

I’ve probably got about 10 books published. There’s a bunch of novels in there. Two picture books. Outside of that, I have numerous publications that are academic. I’ve also written a play. I wrote a play with Michelle Davis who used to be at Carver. It’s been published and performed throughout the United States which was really fun. It was neat writing that because playwriting is very different than writing a novel or writing a short story.

What was your own educational journey like?

At Trinity Western, for my undergraduate degree, I thought I was headed for sports medicine. That shifted due to a couple of professors at Trinity who said they really felt that I needed to become an educator. They thought that’s where they could see a calling for me. When I was in my fourth year, they were watching me work with the freshmen in different phys ed courses. And they just said, wow, we think you need to do this. So then that led to education. I went to UBC and completed my bachelor’s degree.

And as I was doing that, I met a prof that I really connected with through reading and reading studies. I got my teaching certification then entered the Master’s program with that particular prof as a supervisor. I spent a lot of time teaching, but doing the Masters as well through that time. Much of it connected to kids’ engagement with reading and what reading does to people, particularly young readers. Boys and reading is a huge issue for me. We’re seeing a huge disconnect with boys through digital devices. I ended up with the same professor doing my PhD at UBC and completed that in 2008.

Where did your career take you after that?

We went to the States and I spent a long time at Lewis and Clark in Portland, Oregon. I was director of the elementary teaching program. That was for anyone becoming a licensed, a certified teacher in elementary studies. I was teaching all the literacy courses for that program. I was directing the program and then I would also go out into the field and observe the student teachers in all these different schools.

The cool part about that was I got to see many different kinds of schools right across Oregon. I would travel and visit these different schools and see how they were run, how their administrations were run. So I learned an immense amount. I would travel with those colleagues to various conferences where we would present and learn on various learning models, teaching models, education systems.

Can you tell the story of how you and your wife made the decision to move back to Canada?

We had made a decision to stay in the US and we were going to raise our kids there and I would get tenure. My wife would probably pass the bar over there and then we were just going to live there. We had an excellent church and community. Almost within a month of us making that decision, Ariana, my wife, her connections at the Crown in BC sent out a message saying that they were no longer going to be able to continue the deal that they’d been doing with her, where she could fly back from time to time engage in the BC judicial system, and then go back to Portland. It came out of the blue after nine years of that being in place. So we had to make a decision, which was her career or my career. We’d been doing my career for 10 years. And so we talked that over and we said, let’s put the fleece out, let’s see what God says. And so we took a day of prayer. We both followed a little booklet that had been recommended to us on praying for guidance over the course of the day.

So she went to one place. I went to another. Mine was a very remote faith-based institution. And when I was there I had an amazing experience. A lot of the time was spent by myself and in the quiet and in prayer. And there was a lot of things that sort of happened and began to affirm that a move should happen. But probably the most remarkable was this one. I wrote down a line in my journal that said, “it’s time to turn a page in the book”, meaning a new chapter, something new was about to happen.

The second remarkable thing was when I walked into a guest house that was on this property and there was nobody there. I went in and I sat down and an elderly man walked in and he walked up to me and introduced himself. He said, “I don’t normally come here, but I felt I was supposed to come here today.” So I said, okay. And he said, “Can I talk with you?”

And I went, okay. I didn’t want to talk with him. I had a whole day of silence with no food. And I did not want to talk to anyone. I was grumpy. Then he sat down and he said, “I’m supposed to talk to you.” And I thought, oh my goodness, this is a God thing. I have to pay attention. And he said, “The Lord is saying trust in the Lord with all your heart and he’s going to direct your path.” So I went, okay, God, what’s going on.

And then he said, “I want to tell you, I used to be a professor.” I didn’t tell him anything! I hardly said a word. He started explaining all his past and he’s describing me. Including a terrible trauma that had happened with the family through an illness, which had just happened to us with my wife getting cancer. So I’m just going, God, what’s going on? This is crazy. This is a parallel life. What is happening? And then as he continued to talk he basically said, you need to know that the way forward is God’s, just rest in that as you go.

He just kind of looked back at me and then he left. I walked out and he was gone. Still to this day I don’t know if he’s a real person.

I met with my wife that night because we’d agreed we’re going to meet at this restaurant and say, okay, what did you discover? My wife said, the only thing that I have is I wrote this one sentence: turning a page in a book. My mouth just fell open. We thought, this is what we’re supposed to do. Wow. So I literally phoned Paul (Tigchelaar, former lead principal at JKCS and Carver) and I said, are you guys still looking for someone?

You’ve been at JKCS for 5 years in a few different roles. What do you think your main responsibilities are as superintendent?

The overall running and the overall trajectory faith-based of the school. But really it’s the health of the school. We’re not just any old school, we’re a Christian school which means you’re looking at a Christian community inside and outside. It’s the spiritual component that changes the whole game.

One of the biggest delights and biggest challenges is that we have such a diverse variety of Christians at the school. I see how narrow the door is, as Jesus said, but how wide open the door is because there are so many different representations of Jesus here within our community.

People who are true followers of Christ, but who come from very different traditions. Sometimes within those traditions, there are different viewpoints on varying things. And that can be everything from how to raise a child to baptism. There are many varying opinions and as a superintendent of a Christian school, I very much feel humbled in recognizing that I don’t have a perfect view or a perfect way of saying this is correct or that’s correct.

Rather what I do is I very, very much feel that I need to respect the people of God and to hear their voices and to hear that there are varying opinions on multiple topics. So I see much more my role of listening profoundly and deeply to those voices, supporting staff in helping recognize that there will be different students who carry different voices within their classrooms, and that those need to be honored.

And yet, as a school, especially as students get older, to challenge them so that they can be firm and strong in their faith and then step into the world where they can be effective. And that’s one of the key ways that they can be effective is to be challenged, but challenged with support.

One of my roles is connectivity to the board, and I think it’s important to say that the school board, a Christian school board, is vital, and the relationship with the superintendent and the board and the board chair is also vital.

It helps describe and prescribe a healthy running of the school. We have a board that is looking forward and seeking out what is coming next, how are we going to help the school get to where it needs to go to, how do we help the staff do what they need to do.

One thing I’ve been trying to do is be very open with the board, talk to them and let them know that I need to lean into them at, at times, for areas of wisdom. Each one of them is there for a reason, each one has a specific expertise.

Every day you spend time at both our elementary and secondary campuses. What do you love about each campus?

I love walking into the high school and seeing and hearing and feeling the intelligent buzz of activity. So when you go to the high school, there is such an evident sense of purpose. Students are moving with just remarkable purpose towards things – both on the fun side of things, but also on the spiritual intelligence side of things.

You will see groups of organized kids heading towards a club or to an event where, for example, they are going to go out to support people within the community or farther afield. But you’re also seeing a teacher working with a group of kids on high level chemistry or mathematics. You’re walking through the hallway and you’re hearing music coming through from the music room, as our students are being challenged musically in band or choir. There’s just this very beautifully orchestrated sense of a wonderful noise of intelligence, spiritual life education, activity, excited chatter. And then of course in the Student Commons, you’re going to hear foosball being played or ping-pong, both things that I really love.

At the elementary campus, there is such a beautiful sense of innocent education and innocent faith, and it’s lovely. That can come from anything from a kindergarten or Grade One student literally stopping me and forcing me to look them in the eyes and they will say, “I hope you have a good day.” I love that. Or they’ll ask, “Why are you wearing that?” And they’ll question something that I’ve got on or whatever it is. And I just love that. Among the staff there’s a lot of playfulness, but there’s also a lot of care and deep concern from one another and support.

Outside of Covid, you see just a ton of parent involvement, parents reading to kids in the hallways, just that constant sense of parent buzz and interaction with our students.

What are your hopes and dreams for our school?

Making sure that our staff and our students and our administration are firm in knowing who we are, and that our culture and our faith are strong and remain strong, no matter what the waves that crash against us might be.

Being alert and awake to that, listening into what other schools are experiencing or feeling, supporting one another and doing as we were called to do, which is to love one another deeply from the heart, including one of our mandates which is to support Christian families looking for Christian education. That could mean increasing the scope of how many families we’re reaching at the primary level. I think it also means to recognize the differences within our school. We have an elementary school and we have a high school, but there’s a part in the middle that needs a lot of support and a lot of work. And we have incredibly dedicated teachers, but they need help with a system and they need help with a model that lets them do the work they need to do.

Elementary administrative staff – Kelly
Blackmore (top left), Jacob Rodgers (top right),
Kim Beunk (bottom left), and Lindsay Tafazzoli
(bottom right)

You’ve got a great team supporting you. I’m going to go through the entire team, could you tell me what you most value about each of them?

Kim Beunk, vice principal and primary coordinator

What Kim brings to our team is experience understanding the child. She knows humans who are at a very early stage of life, how they think and how they develop. That is absolutely invaluable for areas such as our admissions team and working with new parents who are trying to figure out how to do this whole thing called education.

The other thing that Kim brings us a tremendous sense of calm and wisdom to our admin team. She’s a person that I will frequently lean into to pray over the admin team. She’s a pastor’s wife, she’s been through it! She’s seen all that you can see. And so to have that voice speaking into your admin team is invaluable.

Kelly Blackmore, intermediate coordinator

Kelly is a firebrand of education. She’s a person that has an insatiable curiosity for how to move forward, how we can increase what we have, how can we become better than who we are. And she takes it on herself the most. She wants to make sure that her own mind, her own growth, her own spiritual health is all growing in order to help others. Her capacity for growth and for finding and looking for areas for us to grow is insurmountable. It’s phenomenal.

Lindsay Tafazzoli, elementary ESS coordinator (Educational Support Services)

I don’t know what I would do without Lindsey. Lindsey is a person who is the consummate professional of knowing her field. Every detail that could possibly be related to ESS, she either knows or make sure she knows who she needs to know in order to know it. Lindsey is also profoundly sensitive. She is sensitive to the needs of her team and is constantly listening to the needs of her team and defends her team, which is wonderful.

Jacob Rogers, vice principal and elementary site administrator

In all my experiences of working in schools all over the United States and Canada, I have not yet met a person like Jacob who has been able to step in and learn the skills of administration so quickly, so well. And who then is willing to take on more. Here’s a person who gets school, who understands elementary school from K through 6 at a profound level. He has a deep faith that he expresses daily.

He is able to relate quickly to all staff. He’s able to relate to the Kindergartens and he’s able to relate to the Grade Sixes and work with them. But additionally, what not everyone knows is that Jacob is relied on and greatly valued at the high school because he actually goes over several times a month to the high school where he meets with staff, he meets with administrators and he connects. He has a heart for the Grade 6s that are handed over to the high school. He wants to make sure that they are succeeding and that they’re doing well. So he’s spending time over there and he’s speaking and spending time with the staff over there and helping us develop new systems that will make that an even better experience for the incoming Grade Sevens.

Wendy Perttula, K-12 director of curriculum

Wendy’s key role is to shepherd the overall delivery of the K to 12 BC Ministry of Education curriculum, but also the Christian curriculum. So it is an enormous job. Curricula are never static. And if it’s not changing here for a year or two, it’s changing in the U S or it’s changing in Britain. And then that has impact on what education and educational institutions do. And then you have new professors that are coming in that are changing the face of education that way. So education always shifts. It always changes. So you need a curriculum director who knows what the universities are doing, who has a good sense of what we do, and who knows what our kindergarten students need to know so that by Grade 12, they’re able to step into what they need to step into next. Wendy has to look for areas that need strengthening, which is exactly what she does. Wendy is methodical, she’s a researcher.

Adam Wasik, secondary principal

What Adam brings immediately is integrity to the professional role. Whatever emergency is rising, which could be everything from a fentanyl overdose outside on the street to a teacher who has broken down in tears due to stress, Adam is up for that task.

And what you see quickly with Adam is that not only is he capable of stepping in and dealing with scenarios, but that he wants to. He has a lion heart. He wants to make things better for the staff and for the students. He is an incredibly capable person and he also brings in a wide, wide knowledge. Not only is he good at being an administrator, but he has an incredible knowledge in the math and sciences as well. Adam shares his faith with staff and students, and also in private conversations about running the school.

Jessica Duncan, vice principal, junior grades (returning from a maternity leave this December)

What Jess brings to our team is a nurturing heart. She’s taught in the elementary program, she’s taught in the secondary, she understands the whole student, but she really understands the bridge between elementary and secondary. So she’s going to get an understand those Grade Sevens at a profound level. And she’s going to understand their fears. She’s also going to understand their confusion. We didn’t just bring Jess on because she understands that, we brought her on because of how she also connects with her colleagues. In Jessica, we have an administrator who gets kids, but who also knows how to step alongside a colleague to either support that colleague or to build new programming.

Leanne Arevski, vice principal, senior grades

Leanne hit the ground running. We got the sense quickly that she was very capable. She wanted to step in with administration and she’s done that immediately. She is systematic, intentional and purposeful. When you have a school that has many balls in the air, many things going on at once, she’s a person that will create lists or create all the different support points that she knows needs to be in place for something to be successful, both with the staff, but as well as the whole system. And she’s just done that profoundly well.

Trish Joyce, secondary ESS coordinator

Experience, experience, experience with a tremendously great heart. Trish just understands her crew, but she also understands the students. She has an amazing relationship with Lindsay at elementary, so she always knows who’s coming in to the secondary and how she’s going to support them. She’s often in Adam’s office or my office advocating. She’s always advocating. And I love that. It’s the best thing because she cares. She strongly supports and advocates for her students to get what her students and her staff need.

Secondary administrative team (left to right) –
David Ward, Jessica Duncan, Wendy Perttula, Adam
Wasik, Trish Joyce, Leanne Arevski