By RON FANFAIR
The youngest instructor in the then Toronto Board of Education’s Black Cultural Heritage program and the African Canadian Heritage Association’s first youth tutor has been named principal of the new Africentric Alternative School.
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) approved Thando Hyman-Aman’s appointment last week, paving the way for the Africentric Support Committee to increase its outreach to bring more children to the school.
A total of 68 students have been formally registered and another 12 parents have committed to enrolling their kids in the school that will initially accommodate students from junior kindergarten to Grade Five.
“This is an excellent and exciting opportunity to make sure our children are able to grow, develop, feel nurtured and have the confidence to achieve excellence, which is what the new school is about,” said Hyman-Aman, who has been the principal at General Brock Public School in Scarborough for the past year.
“When we look at the work our ancestors have done over the years, you will see they have inspired, motivated and encouraged us to do a lot of great things. What we are attempting to do now is follow the footsteps of that long line of great icons.”
Hyman-Aman admits the new opportunity presents challenges, but says she’s ready to face them.
“It’s about building a strong team and working with staff on things like curriculum development and parent engagement to ensure that the parents are partners in their children’s education,” she said. “The school will not be a drop-off centre.”
A highly qualified educator, Hyman-Aman has been with the TDSB for the past 15 years during which time she has demonstrated commitment to educational and community leadership, student success and teaching practice, innovative and relevant curriculum development, equity and diversity.
“She is a person of strong organizational and management skills,” said TDSB Student and Community Equity executive officer, Lloyd McKell. “In addition, Thando has a long track record of commitment to the Africentric vision and a clear understanding about how the application of this vision into actual practice can meet the expectations of the community for a strong, vibrant and sustaining Africentric school.
“The challenges on the road ahead will be great for her and the team of staff to be selected, and for the parents and community members who will be an active part of this historic initiative. We are confident that, with the continued support of the Board and the community, her leadership will move this school forward from success to success.”
Hyman-Aman attended Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute in Scarborough where she started the school’s first African Students Club and met educator and calypsonian, Henry (King Cosmos) Gomez, who was her first Black teacher.
“What stood out about Thando back then was her leadership qualities and her sense of determination,” said Gomez, who has been an assistant curriculum leader at the school for the past 20 years. “I knew then she was going to be successful in any endeavour she chose.”
Hyman-Aman graduated from York University with a political science degree and was about to pursue law when a meeting with late community organizer, Eva Smith, who worked tirelessly with African Canadian parents to facilitate their understanding of how the Canadian school system operates, altered her career goal.
“I had applied for an Eva Smith bursary and when the committee sat down with me to review my credentials, I remember Eva took one look at my resume and told me I had a lot of teaching experience and that I should consider that field as a career option,” she recalled. “That was not something that I thought about but, as she began to expand on her comments, I gradually started thinking I should give it a try.”
Upon graduating from teachers college in 1995, Hyman-Aman taught at Brookhaven Public School where she also served as the literary convener, worked as an equity instructional leader with the TDSB and was a York University Faculty of Education course director and vice-principal at Chalkfarm Public School before becoming a principal in 2008.
The married mother of a young son also hosts “The African Woman & Family” on 89.5 CIUT FM, serves as a moderator/facilitator with Spelling Bee of Canada and as a board member with the Storytelling School of Toronto and co-chairs the TDSB African Heritage Education Network with Emily Carr Public School vice-principal, Kwabena Yafeu.
“I think it’s a significant move to have a person of Thando’s caliber who has a background of extensive community work, and at the same time is a well qualified educator, as principal of the new school,” said Yafeu. “She understands the community’s needs because she has been involved in struggle. It’s an excellent appointment and I am quite elated.”
The multi-talented Hyman-Aman, who is in her mid-30s and is an accomplished singer, rapper and writer, comes from a family that places an emphasis on education and community engagement. Her parents, O’Brien and Numvoyo Hyman, are activists and community organizers while her uncle, Dr. Barry Chavannes, is an anthropologist at the University of the West Indies.
“As parents, we teach our children, bring them up and we pass on certain values, and to see Thando has stuck with it and she has not given up on her community makes me feel so good,” said mom, Numvoyo Hyman.