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Doyle climbs into new territory as Chemainus Secondary principal

Getting to know every student and family an appealing part of the small school
Jaime Doyle by the new First Nations mural at the back of Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Students may not realize it, but even experienced teachers can feel nervous or edgy about the return to school – especially when it’s a different location.

That’s certainly the case for Jaime Doyle, who’s the new principal at Chemainus Secondary even though the profession is old hat for him.

“It’s scary to come to a new place,” conceded Doyle. “We have a lot of kids coming in who are in the same boat as me. It’s brand new for them and brand new for me. Change is scary and change is good.”

Doyle last served as principal at Lake Cowichan School. Previous Chemainus Secondary principal Lori Hryniuk is now there, as her and Doyle essentially traded places.

Related story: Chemainus and Lake Cowichan principals trading places

“The community doesn’t know you and you don’t know the community,” said Doyle. “You want to make a good impression.”

Doyle has done that during his previous postings and is well-known throughout the Cowichan Valley School District. Community connection and involvement is the No. 1 priority for him and he intends for that to continue at Chemainus Secondary.

Doyle is from the Lower Mainland originally and went to Simon Fraser University. “I wasn’t a good student,” he quipped, proving there’s always hope for those of all abilities.

Doyle began his teaching career close to home at William Beagle Junior Secondary in Surrey. He quickly became the vice principal there after just two years.

“I missed a meeting and came in next day and found out I was the new vice principal,” Doyle laughed.

He moved to Len Shepherd Secondary and later to Kwantlen Park and Johnston Heights Schools within the Surrey District.

“A position became available over here at Frances Kelsey,” Doyle explained.

That’s when he made the transition to becoming an Islander. “I was interested in the self-directed program at Frances Kelsey,” Doyle added.

He was vice principal there for three years before assuming his first principal’s job at Mount Prevost School in Duncan followed by the Quamichan campus of the amalgamated Cowichan Secondary School and then Lake Cowichan School the last five years.

Rock climbing has long been a claim to fame in the Doyle family.

“About 18 or 19, I started climbing indoors at the first rock gyms that were opening up on the Lower Mainland,” he explained. “My kids and my wife also picked it up.”

Doyle has two sons, Aidan, 21, who attends Concordia University in Montreal, and Brennan, 19, who’s at Camosun College. Both became very proficient in the sport at a national level.

Jaime Doyle still oversees the Cowichan Climbing Academy.

“Climbing is a passion,” he said. “It’s a sport that is fantastic for girls and boys. Generally, the girls are better than the boys up until the 20s. Climbing is like dancing on a wall so they’re better at that.”

Doyle doesn’t see any reason why it can’t also take off at Chemainus Secondary, with help from his expertise, of course.

“I think there’s a need around here for something for kids,” he said.

While Doyle was in Lake Cowichan, a climbing wall was put up in the theatre that backs onto the gym at the school.

He also foresees other potential options for Chemainus from his background and most recent successes in Lake Cowichan.

“One of the things we started a few years ago was the hockey program,” Doyle explained. “I know this school hasn’t had a team in a few years.”

For now, he’ll be getting acquainted with the students and the families and seeing what direction academic and recreational opportunities will take.

Doyle will be teaching Socials 9 right away and then another class to be determined in the second semester. “I always teach,” he said.

COVID’s impact has derailed the normal course of events in schools and Doyle intends to work hard to bring that back for students.

“For the last two years, they’ve been told to stay away from everybody,” he noted. “It’s recreating that feeling of community and pride that you’re in a great place. We play it by ear with what takes place with COVID. We know what to do and let’s hope we can continue with community building with the kids and the families.

“A lot of kids are suffering from anxiety. We need to combat and fix that.”

Having come from a background of mainly larger schools, Doyle likes the smaller school atmosphere.

There are 364 students starting the school year in Chemainus from Grades 7-12.

“I can know every kid and I can know every family,” said Doyle. “That’s what I need, that’s what I like. The small school’s cool.

“We’ve got great kids and they’re going to go and do great and wonderful things with their lives. This is the first building block.”


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Jaime Doyle admits it’s a bit scary even for an experienced principal like himself when you switch schools. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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