Vito Colella is one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals and it’s not hard to see why.

From the moment he set foot in Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Elementary School, Colella has been focused on creating a safe, inclusive and caring school community where the needs of students are always put first, vouch his award nominators, Catholic School Council Chair Kristal Bozzo, Principal Intern Debbie Medeiros, and past Catholic School Council Chair Daiana Eberts.

Whether through gender-specific interventions, mental health supports, digital learning technologies, regular and transparent communications, parent engagement strategies, student success incentives, professional development opportunities, student voice activities, health and safety practices, or plain, unabashed passion, Colella’s service has not only been outstanding, but transformational.

“As an educator for almost 25 years, Vito’s innate ability to read and tap into the strengths of his community has translated into school success,” wrote Eberts in her nomination of Colella for The Learning Partnership’s Outstanding Principal Award. “He is a leader creating great leaders, which makes him a catalyst for growth both for himself and the community at large.”

On January 26th, Colella was selected by The Learning Partnership as one of 40 principals nationwide and only one locally to be honoured for exemplary leadership.

The Learning Partnership’s Canada’s Outstanding Principals program was established in 2004 to recognize the unique and vital contribution of principals in publicly funded schools. Candidates are chosen on leadership and student achievement, leadership and innovation, instructional leadership, professional learning teams, partnerships with families and communities, personal growth initiatives, and corresponding letters of support.

This year, the 40 principals, nominated by their parents, colleagues, and community members, are being celebrated for demonstrating innovation, having an entrepreneurial spirit and for employing creativity in finding solutions and opportunities.

For Colella, innovation, entrepreneurship and problem solving are a natural part of leardership. Where he made a difference was turning them into a collaborative task.

“With the school changing its name to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in 2011, he seized the opportunity to set the stage in building strong and meaningful partnerships between school, home and community,” said Eberts, Bozzo and Medeiros.

Over the next year, he not only engaged staff but parents and students in the common goal of student success. Data driven change and greater parent engagement were key priorities and under Colella’s leadership, staff commitment increased. Where once 3-4 staff, student and volunteer committees were the norm, now there are 12-15 active school committees involved with school life. His leadership team established a Principal Advisory Group to build the capacity and involvement of student leaders.

In 2014, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was one of 11 Ontario schools selected for The Premier’s Award for Safe, Accepting and Inclusive Schools. Vito has inspired staff, students and parents, giving them confidence and joy for learning.

“Mr. Colella is not only visible in the school community,” wrote Medeiros, “he is also highly visible in areas of professional development for staff, programs, and initiatives for school improvement.”

Whether walking the halls, directing traffic, or taking his turn in the dunk tank at school BBQs, Colella always has his finger on the pulse of the school.

“Vito knows the name of every child, parent and grandparent in the community,” added Bozzo. “It makes you feel part of a family, led by an outstanding leader, Mr. Colella.”

Outside of work, Colella has been a Director with the Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame, Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton, and Catholic Family Services. He is also a chartered Grand Knight with the Knights of Columbus Regina Mundi Parish Chapter. In March 2009 he travelled to the Dominican Republic on a St. Mary D.R.E.A.M.S. service trip to build houses in impoverished rural communities.

Congratulating Colella on his prestigious award, Chairperson of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board Pat Daly noted, “To be one of only 40 Principals to be recognized is truly a tremendous honour which you richly deserve.”

“It is wonderful to see your many years of dedicated service publicly recognized,” he added. “Although I know you do not seek public acclaim, this recognition serves as a tremendous example to all who labour in the vineyard of publicly funded Catholic education.”

Colella and his fellow honourees will be honoured at the annual Canada’s Outstanding Principals gala on February 23rd at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto.
The award includes an exclusive five-day executive leadership training program at one of Canada’s top business schools, the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. The program will introduce them to leadership and management practices presented by business, government and education leaders as well as Rotman instructors.

The 2016 Canada’s Outstanding Principals will join the prestigious ranks of the National Academy of Canada’s Outstanding Principals, which now boasts almost 400 members. The National Academy offers principals ongoing networking, mentoring and professional development opportunities so they can constantly enhance their leadership skills.

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