Jaslene Atwal at Sparwood Secondary School. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Sparwood vice principal honoured for her work

Jaslene Atwal, named Sparwood’s Citizen of the Year, talks school safety, new programs, vaping

Jaslene Atwal’s leadership in the school system is one of the reasons she was named Sparwood’s Citizen of the Year.

Born in Fernie, she moved to Sparwood at a young age, graduating from Sparwood Secondary School in 2004. Following this she moved to Edmonton to earn her Bachelor of Education, and came back to Sparwood where she taught for several years.

At this point, life took a different path. Recruited by Suncor, she moved to Fort McMurray to help with their training programs. Over the years, she worked to develop these for power engineers, managed all simulation training, and more. With two young children, Atwal chose to accept the position of vice principal at Sparwood Secondary School, and return to Sparwood where they will have more time with the children.

“Sparwood is always where my heart has been,” she said. “We always knew that we would come back, it was just (a matter of) when the time would allow us.”

“I always end up coming back to Sparwood; I love the community, the people here are very friendly, and I want my kids to grow up the way I grew up,” she added.

During the awards ceremony at the 2019 Sparwood Business Awards, a nomination for Atwal was read:

“Since she has come back to Sparwood, the high school has been way better; kids are safer, and she is kind and respectful,” read one of her nominations. “Ask any staff member at the school, and they say she is the best leader they have had at Sparwood Secondary School.”

Atwal said this is always her intent; to make the school a safe place for all students; both physical safety, free of harm, as well as emotional and social safety. She said she works hard every day to ensure their code of conduct is upheld.

Atwal said she is firm with this code of conduct, which has been communicated with students and staff. Day to day, she said it’s her job to uphold this.

“Sometimes, that is very hard, but I try to do things in an ethical manner; what is the right thing to do? Not always, what is the easier thing to do,” she said.

That being said, Atwal stressed that the framework for leadership was worked on for years before she arrived, and said she was lucky to come into a position where the staff is cohesive and added that it’s her goal to keep it that way.

“Many principals and vice principals have worked hard over the years to pave my way,” she said.

Each day, she said, school systems around the province are faces with challenges with regards to bullying, and vaping, and said Sparwood is no different.

Any time something is reported to her, she deals with it. Atwal explained that she never brushes anything off. Listening to the students, Atwal says is key.

“They tell you; if they’re not liking something, they’ll tell you,” she said.

Many of her ideas for improvements come from the students, stemming from ideas raised in student council meetings.

From a lunch program, to growing their own food, and an increase in sports teams, these ideas came from the students.

There are 265 students that attend Sparwood Secondary, ranging in age from grade seven to 12. Atwal explained that this allows them to bring youth of differing ages together. Homerooms that are multi-grade allow students to build connections, and allow senior students the opportunity to mentor.

Vaping is a challenge that high schools around the country are facing, particularly to do with the misconception that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking. Atwal says through open, but hard-hitting conversations, they are able to present all the necessary information about the dangers of vaping. They also include a crucial piece of information; how to quit.

Through collaboration with other surrounding schools, the school aims to give youth all the tools necessary to lead a healthy life.

Atwal said that vaping is a hard thing to police, which is why they have taken an educational approach to it.

“We look back on when smoking became more predominant in schools; policing it didn’t have as big an effect on reducing the amount of kids smoking, but education really did, so we’re trying to take that route,” she said.

That being said, vaping in the school is taken very seriously and comes with consequences.

“My philosophy overall… somebody once told me; the standard that you walk past is the standard that you’re willing to accept. So that’s what I ask myself; am I okay with them doing this? If I’m not okay with them doing that, I stop and I have that conversation.

“I don’t just walk past something that I’m not willing to accept all the time.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a snow warning for the Kootenays on Friday. File photo
Environment Canada issues snow warning for Friday

Two-to-10 centimetres is expected to fall

Fernie’s Snow Valley Lodging allows the mountain love stories to continue. (Photo Contributed)
Ski-bum love: Shred Kelly’s Mountain Town Love Story Contest kicks off

The competition invites both tales of heartwarming romance or debauched misadventure

Where a five-point bull elk shot in a bow-only area near Sparwood. (Photo contributed by Conservation Officer Service.)
Conservation Officers seek info on bull elk shot in bow-only area

The five-point bull elk was shot near Sparwood on Oct. 18

The most recent council meeting was streamed via Zoom on Oct. 20. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
District of Sparwood revisits support for no-cost contraception

Representatives from Sparwood Contraception Access Advocates brough the matter back to council

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

Jack Vellutini, 100, is still making sweet music. Photo: Submitted
Music stirs memories as Trail serenader nears 101st birthday

Jack Vellutini gave his brass instruments to Trail up-and-comers so the legacy of music can live on

BC ELECTION
B.C. political leaders reflect on rural health care as election looms

NDP leader John Horgan, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson talk health care priorities in the Kootenays

Most Read