The principal at St. Joseph’s Elementary School may be new to the school, but he’s a familiar face to many.
Keefer Pollard, 58, who’s taken over the position from Bern Muller, has previous ties with St. Joseph’s staff members from the time he spent at St. Patrick’s in Victoria.
Pollard used to bring Grade 5 students from St. Patrick’s on the E&N Dayliner train for day trips to St. Joseph’s.
“I’ve been a friend of the school and known the staff for a long time,” he said. “I was really keen to come here and work with them and support them.”
Pollard was born in Rossland and feels right at home in Chemainus. “This town reminds me of Rossland, small-town community feel, resource-based,” he indicated.
Pollard lived in Rossland till the age of 13 and then attended Oak Bay Secondary School. He received his teaching degree at UVic.
Pollard’s first teaching position was at T’lisalagi’lakw School in Alert Bay.
“I got a call from the education director,” he recalled of how that materialized. “It really gave me a good grounding in the teaching profession and opened my eyes to view the world from a different education perspective.”
After three years there, Pollard has been part of Island Catholic Schools for the last 30, including 14 years at St. Patrick’s, 11 at St. Andrew’s Elementary in Victoria (nine as principal) and one as co-principal at another St. Joseph’s in Victoria. He went on leave for a year and taught English as a second language in a corporate environment in Montreal.
Pollard was at Queen of Angels in Duncan for two years as vice principal, teaching middle school French and music, before coming to St. Joseph’s following consultations with Superintendent of Island Catholic Schools Bev Pulyk, who felt his skills and experience would be a benefit to the St. Joseph’s community.
“I’ve been a friend of the school since I first started teaching,” Pollard pointed out.
“This is my fifth school now. I’ve learned every transition results in transitional growth.”
Pollard’s already finding this new appointment a pleasurable experience.
“I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven,” he declared. “It’s such a wonderful community. I’ve got to know the kids and enjoy them.”
This is a critical year for St. Joseph’s to balance the budget and pay down its debt and Pollard is especially focused on making that happen.
“Bern Muller and a committee put together a sustainability plan,” he explained. “There’s a tremendous desire for everybody to chip in and work hard.”
The school is focusing on inclusiveness within the wider community, starting something called an Hour of Power.
“All children in the school will be praying for the needs of the community,” Pollard explained.
“People know on the inside when they need prayer support. Every child’s going to get a prayer request and it’ll be their particular one they’re going to pray for.”
Another new pursuit is the St. Joseph’s boot camp, with fitness activities like walking, jogging and running for adults in the Cowichan Valley on Tuesdays after school at 3:15 p.m.
“These are two of the things we’ll be doing to be a blessing to the community,” noted Pollard.
The tools of the teaching trade itself are changing and he acknowledges St. Joseph’s is keeping up with these technologically-advancing times.
“We want to be educating our children for the future, not years ago,” said Pollard.
He’ll be relieving the Grade 6-7 teacher for Social Studies and science classes, helping out with Language Arts and French, and teaching music from Kindergarten to Grade 7.
“Bern and I are very similar,” Pollard noted. “We’ve both got a strong musical background and it shows in our schools.”
He’s even known Muller for more than 20 years so many things about their styles are alike.
Pollard is settling in quickly and “it’s going to be a fantastic year,” he said.
“I’m getting to know all the children, especially through the music classes. I’m meeting with every family between now and Christmas just to get to know everybody.
“Everybody’s been very friendly and very welcoming.”