Ten years into her tenure as Principal at Garneau, The Reckoner interviewed Ms.Goldenberg to try and get the inside scoop about her life before, during, and after Garneau. Having rappelled down city hall, visited Alaska,and won Canada’s Best Principal award, she turned out to be full of both surprises and insight.
Ms. Goldenberg has been an educator for fifty years, starting as an elementary school teacher, then working as an administrator at a middle school, before finally moving up to high school, fulfilling her aspiration to work with older students.
Despite her many years as and love for being an educator, Ms. Goldenberg actually wanted to be a doctor. When that did not work out, she decided to pursue the career her mother wanted for her—teaching. Fortunately, she says she “gave it a try and loved it.” She pursued a bachelor’s degree in psychology and later received a master’s degree in special education.
At Garneau, a typical day for Ms. Goldenberg is “on the go.” She handles issues as they arise, including any problems students and teachers may have, as well as assisting with exciting events taking place around the school. She says she doesn’t like sitting still in her office all day, not only because of her ADHD, but also because the best part of her day is interacting with students and visiting classrooms. Unsurprisingly, she is not the biggest fan of the excessive paperwork her job entails, particularly because it takes her time away from working with students.
Over her time here, Ms. Goldenberg hasn’t seen major change in students. However, she noted that when she first arrived, some students were in their fifth or sixth year of high school, whereas now, “95% graduate within the four years they’re supposed to. That’s been a good change.”
Being a principal is a very rewarding job, and for Ms. Goldenberg, she feels rewarded when students are able to participate in a diversity of experiences, especially opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. Many of her initiatives have reflected this. In her years at Garneau, she has launched the snack program, annual Grade 11 Conference, the Business and Social Action Program (BSAP) which will be phased out after next year, and the dearly departed Winterfest.
Within her first two years at Garneau, Ms. Goldenberg launched the mid-morning snack program to help students she noticed didn’t eat breakfast before coming to school. This initiative gained her much recognition and proved her dedication to her students. She, among thirty-one other principals from across Canada, received Canada’s Outstanding Principal award in 2011.
Ms.Goldenberg also started the Grade 11 Conference three years ago, though she had been planning it for quite a while before it was finally able to manifest. The conference is an opportunity for students to explore political and social justice issues. Ms. Goldenberg said that the reasoning behind the event being exclusively for Grade 11 students is because those who are stimulated by something in Grade 11 still have another year to act upon it before Grade 12.
Winterfest, an annual event in which MGCI students participated in various activities such as skating, snow-tubing, or visiting the CN tower, was also established thanks to Ms. Goldenberg’s efforts, though was discontinued last year. It originally began as a means to enable students who did not get a chance to get out of their community to try new activities and experiences. Though many students loved Winterfest and had a wonderful time on their trips, several complications, including waivers from organizations and students changing their minds or not signing up, forced the event to come to an end.
On a more personal note, Ms. Goldenberg revealed that her favourite hobbies include travelling and reading. She could not pick just one favourite destination but said that she loved her visit to Portugal as well as to Iguazu Falls in Argentina, the British Isles, Alaska, and Morocco. As soon as she is finished with this job, she plans to travel more and has her eyes set on destinations in Asia and the Galàpagos. As for her favourite book, she said, “One of the books that I really enjoyed was The Book Thief [by Markus Zusak]. That’s a book that we have a lot of in the library and I think everybody should read it.” Ms. Goldenberg is also a thrill seeker and has even rappelled down City Hall.
A big believer in social justice, Ms. Goldenberg said that given three wishes, she would hope for “world peace, eliminating the homeless issue, and making sure everyone is well fed.” She encouraged students to help solve these issues in their community, mentioning the Out of the Cold programs that are prevalent in the Danforth area as a worthy cause. She encourages students to volunteer in these efforts, emphasizing that “working with the homeless can be a real eye-opener.”
For her parting words, Ms. Goldenberg wanted to leave students with some food for thought: “Every student in the school can have an impact on their lives and those of others. Think about your friends, think about your family, and think of some goals that you have in order to make things good for yourself and good for the people around you. Challenge yourselves to bigger and better things. Because those things are right there within everyone’s reach.”