Who am I and Why am I Running?
Updated: Sep 16, 2022
My name is James Gollinger and I'm running to become a trustee of the Upper Grand District School Board for Wards 2, 3, and 4. I'd like to introduce myself and give a bit of background.
I grew up on a farm, just outside the village of Alma, about 30 minutes north of Guelph. I attended the french immersion program at various schools across Elora and Fergus and high school at Center Wellington DHS. After I graduated, I moved to Toronto where I earned a Bachelor's degree in Electronics Engineering Technology and worked in that field for several years. In 2008 I got married and in 2010 my wife became pregnant with our first child. We decided that we wanted to return home to raise our family and we chose to settle down in Guelph.
I have always wanted kids and I was very interested in taking a direct role in their development from the very start. We participated in the excellent programming offered at the Shelldale Community Center, starting with Peer Parent visits, moving into Baby Days, Drop-In, and eventually After-School programs.
Starting in 2017 I was presented with the opportunity to split my time between work and home and I got involved in the Parent Council at Willow Road PS. During this time the Parent Council undertook a series of upgrades to the schoolyard, including new play structures for both the Kindergarten yard and the main yard, and organised several festivals, including the annual Diversity Day event, several Parent BBQs, and, my personal favourite, Parent/Student Board Game night. I was lucky to work with, and mentor under, several passionate and experienced parents, and I was able to try my hand at a number of roles, including secretary, treasurer, and co-chair.
On top of all we were doing, I still felt that I could be more involved at the ground level and so I started working in the school, both as a Lunch Supervisor and volunteering. I helped wash dishes with the Snack Program, read with and offered one-on-one help to students while their teachers handled the bulk of the class. I was also able to run some workshops of my own, including showing the kids how computers are built and letting them experiment installing parts, as well as leading small groups in cooking and baking.
From what I saw, students responded very well to this type of experience. The first pillar of the Boards' Multi-year plan is "Inspire a Lifelong Love of Learning"; I saw the students I worked with, even those who normally had trouble with focusing or listening in class, perk up to offer ideas and solutions, volunteering to participate and patiently waiting their turn if they knew they would be allowed to. I think having activities with real world outcomes, and having instant feedback, really appeals to children and, by offering a range of different types of activity, with one-on-one or small group supervision, we can spark the interest of all of our students.
I want to build on this type of engagement, at the board level, by inviting parents come in and work with students, in small groups and individually, on lessons with real world applications, in order to engage them at their level, rather than at the level at which we want them to engage.
I'll go deeper into how and why I want to move in this direction in future posts.