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Teacher Tuesday: Meet Our Principals!

Welcome everyone to this week’s edition of Teacher Tuesday! We hope that everyone is staying warm and cozy on this cold and snowy winter day!

We are so excited to introduce you to three amazing women who are integral pieces in our Clover puzzle. This week, we will be highlighting our incredible Principals – Ms. Tracy Durisin, Ms. Amy Gataveckas and Ms. Dawn Whitehead.

Headshot of Ms. Tracy Durisin
The delightful Ms. Tracy Durisin

Ms. Tracy Durisin is the Principal of our Midtown Junior Campus. She graduated from York University with a degree in Sociology and attended the Toronto Montessori Institute with a diploma in their Elementary Program (ages 6 to 12 years of age). Prior to joining the Clover School team, Ms. Durisin was a Lower Elementary teacher for fourteen years.

When asked why she loves working at The Clover School, Ms. Durisin said it best: “Simple. The Clover School is a community driven school with a growth mindset. This thriving community that I call home is filled with like-minded individuals that have educating the whole child at the centre of their teaching philosophy. Fostering relationships between teachers, staff, students and families is what makes our school special. Children fall in love with learning through a Montessori approach and learn to be resilient critical thinkers who contribute to their own wellbeing and the world that surrounds them. This is the only job where my day will start with a hug from a smiling toddler and most likely will end with one as well. Now, who doesn’t want a job like that?!”.

Ms. Durisin is extremely close to her family who are spread all throughout Ontario and the United States. She loves to spend weekends at the cottage with her mom and extended family members and is eager to when she is able to safely visit her 6 year old nephew and 4 year old godson in Missouri. Thank goodness for FaceTime and Zoom as a way to stay connected during these unique times that we are in! An interesting tidbit about Ms. Durisin’s family is that her great grandfather and great uncle contributed to the building of two major landmarks in North America – the Brooklyn Bridge and the CN Tower.

When she isn’t leading her beloved Junior Campus team, Ms. Durisin loves going on road trips and taking the road less travelled by going on adventures to less known towns in Ontario. During the beautiful summer months, you can find her visiting friends in Niagara-on-the-Lake and exploring wine country. Since the start of the pandemic, Ms. Durisin has a renewed interest in hiking, running and meditation. On the weekends, she tries to get out and discover a new trail, path or park. Riverdale Park in Toronto’s east end is her favourite spot and is best enjoyed with a coffee in hand from a small local shop. Anyone who knows Ms. Durisin knows that she is a clothes horse who loves to shop and has a passion for fashion. She especially loves buying new pairs of pants – the more fun the pattern, the better!

Ms. Durisin’s favourite pizza is a Frank’s Best from Maker’s Pizza which is topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, mozzarella, rosemary, sea salt and honey (although her favourite part is the sesame crust!). She does not like creepy crawly creatures and she is afraid of spiders. If she could have one superpower it would be to time travel. She would love to be able to go back in time and hug loved ones that are no longer with us but whom she misses dearly – this isn’t surprising as Ms. Durisin has one of the biggest hearts of anyone you’ll ever meet! Ms. Durisin and her mom always try to take a yearly mother/daughter trip and they had planned on going to Italy together before her mama turned 70. They had dreams of twirling spaghetti in their bowls at a quaint restaurant, visiting architectural monuments, exploring museums as well as sampling Tuscan vino and perhaps enjoying a taste of something sweet and lemony from the Amalfi Coast. Her mom turned 70 this past December and they are hoping to book this adventure as soon as they are able to do so. A few fun facts about Ms. Durisin is that she once went cliff diving in Austin, Texas and that she is a great baker who makes a mean lemon square!

Ms. Durisin is a ray of sunshine at our Midtown Junior Campus. Her cheery personality, tremendous compassion and incredible kindness shine through in all that she does. She truly leads with her heart and strives to make her campus a bright and joyful place for students and staff alike!

Headshot of Ms. Amy Gataveckas
The lovely Ms. Amy Gataveckas

Ms. Amy Gataveckas is the captain of our new High Park Campus ship. She is new to our Clover family in her her role as Principal. Ms. Gataveckas loves being a part of our team because she loves the feeing of respect that permeates the community. There is a feeling that everyone – children, families, educators, administrators and support staff – are all cared for and valued. She thinks it is wonderful to belong to a connected and supportive school.

Ms. Gataveckas received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics from Queen’s University and attended the Toronto Montessori Institute where she received her Elementary Teacher Training in both Lower and Upper Elementary age groups (for children from 6 to 12 years of age). She also has a post-graduate certification in Human Resources Management from George Brown College.

The loves of Ms. Gataveckas’s life are her kind and wonderful husband Lukas and her precious and sweet sixteen-month-old twin girls, George and Betty. Her family also has a golden doodle named Meatball, who is a beautiful menace and a joyful addition to their home. Ms. Gataveckas is busy as bee most days between her work helping to open our new High Park Campus and caring for her growing family, but when she does have free time, she loves to go for walks in High Park. She enjoys exploring the park with her family or alone to create some space for quiet mindfulness right here in the busy city. The park is her happy place and source of daily exercise. Also, when her puppy and twins allow it, she loves to practice pilates at home.

Her favourite pizza toppings are pineapple and spicy soprasetta. Her biggest fear is whales and if she could have any super power, she would love to be able to shift through time. If she could travel anywhere in the world right now, she would love to go back to Greece where she and her husband spent two glorious weeks travelling on the mainland and exploring the islands before they were married. She has her eyes on going to Crete, Pyros, Hydra and more! Ms.Gataveckas is known for the amazing BBQ food that she makes – she goes all out with ribs, corn bread, coleslaw, mac and cheese and baked beans! Sounds absolutely delicious!

A fun fact is that Ms. Gataveckas and her husband, Lukas were married at a summer camp. They love to be outdoors and active! They had a full weekend of fun where their guests were “campers” and they all swam, canoed, ate and played as a camp during the day and sang songs around the fire together at night! They even had a 100 person game of kickball on the morning of their wedding!

Ms. Gataveckas is full of amazing energy and fresh, exciting and innovative ideas! She is eager, enthusiastic and her positivity is contagious! She hit the ground running as soon as she started in her new role and we have all the confidence that she will grow the new High Park Campus into a vibrant, colourful and thriving community!

Headshot of Ms. Dawn Whitehead
The extraordinary Ms. Dawn Whitehead

Last but certainly not least, we have the extraordinary Ms. Dawn Whitehead. Ms. Whitehead leads our Midtown Elementary Campus in the role of Principal. She has also been the driving force behind our virtual learning platform, Clover@Home, which we have used to serve our students and their families during the most recent mandated school closure. She is thrilled that today we were able to re-open our Elementary Campus and welcome all of out students back for in-person learning.

Ms. Whitehead has her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from York University and obtained her Montessori Elementary Teacher Training from the Toronto Montessori Institute. She is a wealth of knowledge as she taught as an Upper Elementary teacher for fifteen years! She is also classically trained in guitar, piano and vocal and has taught music for two decades. She is proud to be a part of our team because the Clover School is such a loving community. She feels like we are family and that this is her home away from home!

Ms. Whitehead lives at home with her husband and her two children – Tegan who is eight years old and Brady who is five years old and who both attend our Midtown Elementary Campus. The Clover School is a family affair in her household! Ms. Whitehead’s house seems like a scene out of the movie, “We Bought A Zoo”. She has a Newfoundland dog named Moose, two cats named Willow and Mischa, a lion head bunny named Clover and a horse named Apple Pie. She is an animal lover and her home is always bustling with excitement.

Between her family, her pets and her work, Ms. Whitehead’s schedule is always packed but during her spare time, her absolute favourite thing to do is ride her horse. She also loves to play guitar, play baseball and build puzzles. Her favourite pizza toppings are goat cheese and rapini. If she could have any superpower, it would be to fly! She thinks it would be so freeing! If she could go anywhere in the world, she would want to go to Iceland as it looks like such an adventure. She is passionate about horses and would love to be able to see Icelandic horses while there. She also does not like the heat and thinks that Iceland would be the perfect climate for her! Although, this dream adventure presents its challenges as she is terrified of flying and hasn’t been on an airplane in twenty years! Her signature dish is her homemade tomato sauce with homemade pasta and meatballs – it’s a favourite amongst her family and friends. A fun fact about Ms. Whitehead is she was actually in a rock band in her 20s and played in gigs all over Toronto! Rock on!

Ms. Whitehead is the definition of calm, cool and collected. She handles any situation that is thrown her way with confidence, grace and is always quick on her feet! She is committed to the growth and development of her students and staff and they blossom while under her watchful eye at the Midtown Elementary Campus!

Thank you for joining us again this week for another edition of Teacher Tuesday! We hope you loved getting to know these amazing, brilliant and dedicated women. Check back next week when Teacher Tuesday goes west-end and introduces you to some of the newest members of our team who will be working at our High Park Campus!