Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
In most academic pursuits relevance and significance are often key directions on the path to success, and for John Dickson, this year’s Margaret Haughey Masters Award recipient, those directions proved quite accurate.
Recognized at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education annual general meeting this past May, the award was presented by the Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration (CASEA) and recognizes the best masters research completed in the previous year.
“The competition for the award was strong; however, referees stated that your work is highly relevant and significant to the field of educational leadership,” writes Dr. Paul Newton, chair of the committee in his letter of award notification. “Further, they commented that you pose important questions for research in this area. These by themselves, are important contributions to educational leadership studies.”
Education professor Coral Mitchell served as the academic advisor for Dickson’s research, entitled Tracking Superintendents’ Experiences as they Create and Build a Learning Community, and spoke highly of his research in her nomination letter, stating that his “research deals with a subject that is centrally important for school administrators: how to build learning communities in schools so as to improve teaching and learning”.
Superintendent of Schools, Area 3 for the DSBN, Dickson’s research topic, while tied closely to his current professional role, had a driving force of more than just a familiarity on the subject.
“While this was a major reason for choosing my research topic, it was not the only reason,” says Dickson. “I have been interested in, and working with, the concept of learning communities for many years and this research project provided me with an opportunity to examine this concept from a more theoretical and academic perspective and then apply that learning in a practical way.”
A teacher with over 26 years’ experience, Dickson has taught mostly elementary but secondary panels as well and has worked with school boards in both Peel and Niagara. With his passion and experience it is no coincidence that Dickson was able to present the quality of work that won him the award.
And while Dickson admits that the award was “incredibly humbling and a great honour to receive” there was another component to his experience that he will cherish perhaps above all else.
“[Working with Coral Mitchell] was an absolutely incredible experience,” says Dickson of his advisor. “I couldn’t have done this without her support, guidance and encouragement; in fact, getting to know and work with Coral, and to now be able to call her my friend is by far the best thing that came out of this project – she’s such a great person.”
The respect amongst teacher and student was mutual, as Mitchell closed her nomination letter by saying that, “Mr. Dickson was a pleasure to work with” and that “I trust the members of CASEA Margaret Haughey Masters Award Committee will be equally impressed with the value and quality of this piece of scholarship”.
As it turns out, they were.