Fay Sutherland

Fay Sutherland

As indicated earlier, the Vanier Roots & Wings Awards were begun in 2002.   It is my distinct honour to recognize Fay Sutherland as the 2011 recipient of the Root award.   The Root award honours one of our founding leaders for their contribution to helping children at Vanier and children in our community.

Listen to the list of those who have received this award over the past 9 years going backwards from last year down to 2002:

2010 - Dr. Barrie Evans
2009 - Susan Hollyman
2008 - Leonard Macdougall
2007 - Mary Heisz
2006 - Antin Jaremchuk
2005 - Carol Jean Johnston
2004 - Dr. William Avison
2003 - Dr. John R. Dubois
2002 - Joan Smith, Dr. Ben Goldberg, The May Court Club of London

This is prestigious company.  Fay belongs in this company.

At the annual Vanier Employee Appreciation evening each February, we honour employees for their years of service.   It says something about Fay, and our admiration for her, that the event this February was the first time we honoured a non-employee for her service.   Many of us were there to see her feted.   Many of us were also present for an event last week hosted by her real employer, the Thames Valley District School Board, as she was recognized on the occasion of her retirement.   It says something about Fay that, because I got there a little late, I had to stand because the space was full.  There was standing room only.  

Two things really struck me about the retirement event last week.   First, the photographs.  Fay had on display on a table, a few photos of her family, a few photos of her in her younger years, including her dancing (she used to be a very fine ballet dancer).   What was most noticeable to me, however, was rows and rows of staff photos from each year at WD Sutton.   It don't think this was just because it was the school board retirement party.  I think it spoke to her complete dedication to and love of the staff she worked with over the years.   (As an aside, the way you could pick out Fay in each photo was by looking at everyone's feet to pick out Fay's shoes.)    The second thing that struck me was a story Fay told when she got up to speak at the end.  She told the story of being a young teacher working with Bill Tucker who was principal at her school and how he took on a kid who was struggling by having the kid come to his office each day for some reading time.   Fay spoke of her admiration for Bill.    What struck me is that this is likely the kind of thing Fay has done many times in her years as principal since. 

In the early 70s, Fay taught grade 7&8 in the Niagara region.  She then went to Fanshawe to become a Child & Youth Counseller and was placed at Vanier as a student in 1974 (37 years ago).   Her supervisor remarked that she was much more like a staff than a student and so she was hired.   Fay then spent 5 years as a Child & Youth Worker quickly working up to a senior staff position in a residential unit.   During this time, she also fostered a child.

After those first 5 years, she began to combine her twin passions of teaching and working with children dealing with behavioural and emotional problems by going back to the classroom as a fulltime teacher.   Now as a teacher she worked with children managing behaviours using many creative teaching strategies.  Before too much time passed, Fay took on the role of Vice Principal and then Principal of WD Sutton School.  In these roles, she could advocate for these kids in the broader system, helping community schools to understand special needs children & youth.   She always looked for innovative, better, fresh ways to do this important work, especially by providing the most current professional development to her teachers and ensuring that the partnership between teachers and child & youth workers in each Section 23 classroom was a true partnership of equals.  Because of all of these contributions, three agencies came together earlier this year to nominate Fay for the Ministry of Education's Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Fay has been an integral part of Vanier's 46 year history for 37 of those years.   She was a very skilled and compassionate Child & Youth Counsellor.   She helped shape the early and abiding culture of Vanier that is family-centred, innovative and tenacious.   As a teacher in the broader system, she was a role model, example and coach to other teachers of what it means to pay more attention - not less - to those kids that are at the margins.   As a vice principal and principal, she demanded recognition and equal opportunity for those kids that are our kids.  We'd like to think that Vanier helped shape her values, convictions and impact.   We know that she has helped shape Vanier's values and convictions and impact.  

Fay, you have been a root of Vanier.  You have contributed significantly to making us who we are today.   Please accept our recognition with this Vanier Root Award.