Three Northern principals are being recognized for their outstanding contributions to public education.

Every year, The Learning Partnership – a national charitable organization dedicated to supporting publicly funded education in Canada – hands out 40 awards to exceptional principals across the country.

This year, a principal from each of the three territories is being honoured for their work.

'It's a great honour'

"I'm very lucky to love my job," says Courteney Lizotte, principal of Range Lake North School in Yellowknife.

Lizotte has been principal of Range Lake North for two years, but has been an educator for 14.

She says she loves helping her students grow academically, but that building children's compassion and empathy is her real passion.

"We just spend a lot of time working with our kids, teaching them how to be good community members."

Lizotte says the school's work in those areas is having real results.

"We recently had some new students move from another country, who don't speak any English.

"One little boy that came from Mexico wanted to learn how to play soccer, but coming to the North he thought there's too much snow.

"But the students in this class really rallied together and they play soccer everyday at lunch, and make sure to include him in everything."

'I love the job'

Ryan Sikkes — another principal being recognized — heads the team at Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse.

"I love the job that I do, and it's easy to get out of bed every day and come to work," says Sikkes.

Sikkes says people often think about education in terms of math and science, but for him it's also about helping young people find their paths.

"I think what's really important is that we prepare every student to lead what they conceive as their good and worthwhile life.

"For some students that is going to be connected to career, for others it's going to be connected to art and culture, for others it's going to be connected to their heritage and culture."

For Sikkes, Yukon is the ideal place for students to pursue any number of opportunities outside of just academics.

"From community agencies to First Nation governments, we have a ton of opportunities and options for kids to take advantage of."

Sikkes says he's honoured to be receiving the award, but it should really go to all his staff.

"I do a lot of work organizing and troubleshooting and problem solving, but the heavy lifting of meeting those needs of students is done by a team of such dedicated, passionate individuals," says Sikkes.

"So if nothing else comes from this, I hope it's our staff that feels affirmed."

'We work like a family'

Md. Abdus Salam has spent the past seven years as the principal at Inuujaq School in Arctic Bay, Nunavut.

Salam moved to Canada in 2002 and has lived in the Northern community for the past nine years

"I'm very proud to stay here," says Salam. "We work like a family together."

Salam said he loves walking through the halls and seeing the efforts of the community. From the breakfast program to a very successful anti-bullying video contest, Salam says parents and teachers are always working to engage students.

Salam says he's honoured to be getting the award, but acknowledges that "without the parents' help and engagement it is very difficult for teachers and students to succeed."

Learning by example

All three principals will travel to Toronto next month to attend a gala dinner and a five-day executive training program — an opportunity for which each principal is excited.

"I love to be able to compare what I'm doing and what I'm aiming for with what's going in other places." says Sikkes.

"I'm really excited to spend a week with 40 other principals that all come from very different contexts."