After 24 years teaching, Diana Silva moves into principal role
By Agnieszka Krawczynski
Photo Caption: Diana Silva helps students with their work at St. Helen's Elementary (Agnieszka Krawczynski / B.C. Catholic)
A Burnaby teacher who has influenced countless students for more than two decades is stepping into a new role that she hopes will help her to reach even more of them.
Diana Silva, currently teaching Grade 7 at St. Helen’s, is leaving the classroom this spring to become the new principal at St. Edmund’s Elementary in North Vancouver.
“When I was a kid I always knew I wanted to make some kind of a difference,” Silva said during a break between classes.
“You don’t need to be a celebrity; that’s not the kind of impact you want. It’s the quiet impact where you know you’ve done your best to give these kids your best, to let them know you’re there for them.”
Silva has given her all to St. Helen’s for 24 years as a teacher, librarian, and vice principal.
“I love being immersed with the kids. It is why people become teachers. You have those 10 months, six hours a day, five days a week, where you really see that child in all their facets.”
That personal connection is why Silva has hesitated until now to take the big leap to principal.
“You build a relationship with the kids. You might not have that same close relationship when you go to administration. You couldn’t possibly, because you’re not with them the same amount of time.”
For Silva, teaching has never been a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. job.
“We have a wealth of extracurriculars that meet every facet of how a child wants to develop, whether it’s fine arts or athletics.” Catholic teachers are also a big influence on their students through the “spiritual component,” she said.
“They see that you live your faith and you become a model for them.”
Many of her students and their parents are members of St. Helen’s Parish, where they’ll greet her at Sunday Mass with a cheerful “Hello, Ms. Silva!”
That witness of being a faithful Catholic inside and outside the classroom has been important to Silva since she got her education degree at the University of British Columbia.
She first set foot in St. Helen’s for a practicum during her UBC studies.
Silva had gone to a public elementary school and graduated from St. Patrick’s Regional Secondary. “Being able to come back into the [Catholic] school system was that feeling of coming home,” she said.
“Our Catholic system is really built on the concept of building relationships: with Christ, with the parish, with the parents, and ultimately, with the kids.”
As soon as she heard there was an opening at St. Helen’s, she applied and started as a teacher’s assistant in 1992. The opportunity to observe a Catholic elementary school and its wealth of programs – something she had never experienced in the public system– left a big impression on her.
“Seeing how the sense of values and faith matched the way I wanted to live my life ... at that point I knew without a doubt that’s where my application was going to go.”
She fell in love with the school and worked there for the next 22 years.
She took advantage of a one-year opportunity to work as an education consultant at the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese for a year. Although the experience was meaningful for Silva, a self-proclaimed curriculum lover, she missed spending her days with the students.
The next year, she filled in as interim principal at St. Edmund’s, where she looks forward to returning as principal this fall. “It’s such a wonderful, giving community. They were very welcoming.”
St. Helen’s teacher Anthony Canosa said Silva is great role model who will leave a void. “She definitely leads by example more than anything. She always has Christ in her vision, in her thoughts, in her vision, in her education plans. It’s always Christ-centred,” he said.
Canosa, who teaches Grade 7, met Silva when he became a teacher’s assistant about 15 years ago. He credits Silva and colleagues like her for inspiring him to be a teacher.
“They led by example. They were always there for the kids, first thing in the morning, recess, and lunch. Her time didn’t matter. It was all for the kids.”
Although Silva will miss working without a classroom of her own, she hopes to have a positive impact on even more children through her new role.
“It is great to see that holistic picture, as opposed to my little silo classroom,” she said. “The minute you’re working with teachers and staff, it’s that ripple effect.”