She took great joy in utilizing her passion for teaching to enrich the lives of students for nearly four decades. Last week, some of those students and colleagues expressed their heartfelt appreciation to retiring Peel District School Board principal Joy Squire for offering new experiences and expanding the horizons of her students.
Squire retires on October 31 after nine years as principal at Central Peel Secondary School and Mississauga Secondary School.
Central Peel principal, Lawrence DeMaeyer, said Squire established several keystone programs and initiatives at the Brampton high school to enhance the well-being and development of both students and teachers. They included a community tutoring program to support academically struggling students and provide opportunities for newly-trained teachers, a model English as a Second Language (ESL) project, a literacy development structure and scholarships for young people without the financial means to access college and university.
“These are just a few small examples of the many ways she has impacted people’s lives at Central Peel and I certainly benefitted from the groundwork she has laid,” said DeMaeyer. “The biggest testament to her impact, though, was when she came back for commencement the first year after she left and seeing the large group of students encircling her and welcoming her back.”
Central Peel teacher Michael Herman said that Squire’s commitment to education was evident in everything she did.
“In spite of the prodigious responsibility associated with being a principal, you were well known for going above and beyond to serve and support students, particularly the neediest and marginalized,” he said. “You chose to make a difference in the lives of many here in our schools.”
Colleagues reflected on Squire’s intervention that rescued students deemed to have learning disabilities and were on the verge of being shipped out to North Peel Secondary School – the province’s largest vocational school – and other occupational institutions.
“She would say why don’t we get a couple of people in here, let’s sit down and see what we can do,” said Brampton Wards 1 and 3 trustee, David Green. “She made sure those kids got the treatment they needed and were not just discarded….This is a woman of substance and one who knows how to step out of the box. She has given students, who others have given up on, hope and opportunity.”
Squire joined Peel District School Board in 1989 after spending 13 years with the then Etobicoke District School Board as a guidance counsellor, business and history teacher and school liaison officer. She served as vice-principal for four-and-a-half years at Lincoln Alexander Secondary School in Mississauga where she met then principal and community worker, Maurice Hudson.
It was Hudson and a few other educators who encouraged her to consider becoming a principal.
“Joy has enjoyed a stellar career,” said Hudson who retired eight years ago. “I have had a long career in which I have met many fine people in this profession, but Joy is one of the persons I value the most. I have never been impressed or touched by anyone in the way in which she has done…She’s a person of class and in Jamaica they would say she’s top-shelf.”
Migrating from Jamaica at age nine, Squire said her zeal to pursue a teaching profession was influenced by the marginalization of Black students in the city in the 1970s.
“I was part of a group of York University students that co-founded the Black Education Project to help make students feel proud of themselves,” she said. “We canvassed community organizations seeking professional help for young people to get them up to par and ensure they stay in school so they could experience success. Parents started to trust us with their kids and I would accompany parents to schools to talk about their expectations and the language of education.”
After graduating from York, Squire spent two years in Uganda teaching at Aga Khan High School and serving as a resident tutor at Makerere University in Kampala working with young women.
“I just wanted to go to the motherland to see another side of the world,” she said of her African experience. “I had some friends there who invited me for a few weeks and I ended up spending two years.”
Squire is leaving her full-time job now to spend some quality time with her ailing father in Oakville. She also plans to travel and teach part-time.
Retired St. Augustine Secondary School principal and conflict resolution specialist Dr. Fae Samuels said Squire has left an indelible imprint on the educational landscape in Peel.
“She has given of herself, her talent and her creativity to her students and staff,” said Samuels. “She wanted the best for her students and staff and she understood the importance of students learning how to resolve their conflicts peacefully at a time when we did not hear anything on television or read in the newspapers about bullying and school fights the way they are reported today.
“Yet, Joy knew that if we wanted real change in our schools and in our community, we must start with students. This is one example of her as a visionary.
“Her passion to serve others with a smile will be greatly missed in her school and across the board.”
Co-founder of the Congress of Black Women Mississauga chapter, Squire started a tutoring program at Thomas Kennedy Secondary School and a Saturday morning initiative at Applewood Heights Secondary School.
She said she thoroughly enjoyed her time on the job.
“The high points for me were running projects for new teachers that would make it more easily accessible for them to secure teaching positions and seeing young people become successful,” she added.
Central Peel students Rubal Sandha and Jasmeen Kabuli performed a dance for their former principal while past students Isha Sachdeva and Simranjit Singh presented her with a bouquet of flowers for a job well done.