Press Release / Community

EMSB recognizes Maria Caldarella for National Principal’s Day

principals-day-maria-group
Montreal - Wednesday, May 1, 2024

On the occasion of National Principal’s Day on May 1, the English Montreal School Board recognized Maria Caldarella from LINKS High School in Ahuntsic at a special assembly.

Ms. Caldarella was recently nominated for a Canadian Association of Principals (CAP) Award. Her leadership has earned her the admiration of staff, students and parents at LINKS, which caters to a special needs population. “Her approach, from the moment she stepped into our school, has been to explore the culture of the school and cultivate an atmosphere of cohesion, respect, kindness and support for one another,” says teacher Gail Bernstein, who nominated her for the CAP Award.

Ms. Caldarella began her professional career as Registered Nurse specializing in obstetrics at the St. Mary’s Hospital. She regularly shares her stories of bringing life into this world and caring for her patients with such emotion and pride, naturally imparting the value of commitment, teamwork, sense of belonging, patience and support for one another. From an RN, she moved on to become a healthcare teacher and vocational education consultant at the Lester B Pearson School Board followed by opening of the Health Programs at the EMSB’s Shadd Health and Business Centre

“Maria’s approach is always one of outreach, networking and raising the bar,” said Ms. Bernstein. “She has lifted LINKS to the forefront of everyone’s minds in the education system and in the community. This has been done in her short four years at LINKS, expanding our student population from under 60 to over 130 students. Our school was once a place where parents sent their children as a last resort, to now one that they are registering their children years in advance and from outside our territory. Maria has turned widely accepted notions of what neurodiverse students cannot do to what they can do.”

Ms. Caldarella acknowledges that her journey to become a principal in a special needs school has definitely been unique in the sense that she has not followed the typical trajectory of education nor work experience leading up to this role. Her staff strongly believes that this is what makes her stand out.

“Maria is a fighter and does not shy away from any challenge when it comes to her students and staff,” says Guidance Counselor Shannen Ciricillo. “She is present and actively listening to all her partners from the point of student intake conferences to after they graduate. A shining example of this is when, in an intake meeting, a potential student asked if we had a cheerleading squad. We did not, so Maria proposed this activity for the following year and now we have a full squad of gals and guys in uniform performing at many events in and out of school.

Roadblocks or barriers to learning or performing do not exist at LINKS because of Ms. Caldarella’s strong commitment, notes Staff Assistant Julia Giannacopoulos. “We have yet to meet a principal who trains for months so she could run 20K from home to school to raise money on National Denim Day for Breast Cancer,” she says. “The entire school was waiting in the school yard with posters and cheers as our dedicated principal jogged in. How inspirational is that for students and staff alike? Maria is a true pedagogue and as a lifelong learner, continued her university education obtaining a Teaching Certification from McGill, a Bachelor’s in Vocational Education from the University of Sherbrooke and Certificates in Educational Leadership from McGill. She has also maintained her nursing license through professional development and infusing her nursing skills into her role as principal. We all know she has our backs and in turn we are there for her in any way possible.”

Staff share how Ms. Caldarella is always there with a hug, even if you don’t realize you need one and checks up on all staff at any hour after any stressful events. “We all look forward to her daily check in walks through the halls to say hello to staff and students and appreciate her open-door policy,” says Student Life Coordinator Myriam Farley. “Imagine when more than one new staff member shows up on their first day and Maria realizes that she has delivered them as babies. This is a full circle moment for Maria as she delights in these unexpected bonds. For Maria, LINKS is a family in every way. Her retirement eligibility has come and gone, but Maria will not leave because she iterates regularly, ‘My job is not done. There is so much more to accomplish. I cannot leave my LINKSTERS just yet.’ Maria believes our students do not belong in the background, but in the forefront standing tall.”

For the photo album please click here:

National Principal’s Day photos


About the English Montreal School Board

With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 73 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at www.emsb.qc.ca.

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