Henry Lise completes 40 eventful years in Christian education
Henry Lise, principal of Orangeville Christian School, is retiring after 40 years in Christian education – years he certainly couldn’t describe as boring.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Lise tells OACS News. He admits the journey has included some tough times.
But there have also been many good moments and rich memories.
Lise’s recent retirement party was one of those good moments. Students and colleagues spoke about the qualities they admired in Lise, many mentioning his compassion and ‘realness.’
Several also mentioned that he was “not your typical principal” which Lise says he took as a real compliment.
Sophia, a Grade 2 student, says she will remember Mr. Lise because “he helps kids when they get hurt and he’s very friendly.”
Christy VanderVeen is the Grades 1 and 2 teacher at Orangeville Christian School, which is a member of the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS). VanderVeen is one of those who appreciates Lise’s compassion and support for staff and students.
His view of each student as a unique individual made by God has also inspired her own approach to teaching, she says.
“What I would want to emulate is his love of each individual student and how he sees them as children that God has created and has made uniquely,” says VanderVeen.
Thanks to a unique teaching approach that Lise worked hard to implement in various OACS member schools over the years, the principal also has many other rich memories from his years in Christian education. Likely many of his students remember those times as well.
Lise recalls reading to his students outside the school on a grassy hill.
He remembers spending three days with one of his classes at Saint Marie Among the Hurons, a Jesuit retreat centre in the 17th century. The class slept, cooked, ate, worked and worshiped as the people of that time did.
Lise says many of the students appeared to enjoy this event.
There were many other class trips over the years; to Quebec City, Ottawa, and Algonquin. There were class outings to see the Toronto Dominion Centre’s Inuit collection and a several-day stay near the Toronto beaches.
Lise also talks about the many different projects his students worked on — most often the projects integrated various subjects and were hands-on and student-driven.
All of these activities were inspired by a teaching approach which Lise took up avidly after learning about it through an Ontario government report called Living and Learning, which was released in the early days of Lise’s career.
The approach involves a lot of hands-on and integrated learning and follows the interests of the students within a certain framework.
“It (is) all about making education real to the students’ experiences, taking a discovery approach,” Lise adds.
“I think it really opens education to kids and makes school a more exciting place to be.”
While some of the Christian schools welcomed the integrated approach, Lise also had experiences with those that did not want to veer from the traditional course.
“I often felt like a lone wolf,” he says of the days when he tried to get schools to change their teaching methods.
But for those schools that appreciated the model, Lise says he saw a great deal of success with students.
When they went on to high school, many of these students took up leadership positions, and were reported to be responsible, independent and intrinsically motivated.
In addition to the integrated learning approach, being involved in the local community is another passion of Lise’s.
Over his seven-year stint at Orangeville Christian School he has tried to connect the school with local community groups, including other independent schools and public schools.
As he considers the Christian education movement in Ontario in general he believes other schools should continue to make efforts to be engaged in their broader communities.
“I think that the Christian schools really need to integrate into society,” he says. “They need to get involved in the local community in different ways.”
Lise says he himself will be getting more involved in his local community once retirement frees up some hours in his day.
“I’m going to work in my own community,” he says. “In other words, think global, act local.”
He will be looking into joining the local hospital board and taking part in local Habitat for Humanity projects.