Breakout Session 1 - 16th September at 12:25 - 1:05

The Guitar Principal: A Story of Educational Leadership

Presenter/s: Wayne Davies
Type: Leadership Story
Keywords: Resilience, courage, belonging Circle of Courage Two-Eyed Seeing Community Building Theory student voice collective efficacy
Room: Auaha Hīhī


As leader, how do you respond to incidents that threaten the physical and psychological well-being of your followers? As principal of a Canadian junior high reeling from two critical incidents that was the question that needed answering.

Leadership without consultation is not leadership. Thus, as leader I guided the students to a place where they were architects of their own solution, leveraging the electric guitars they were building to capture the imagination and attention of their community, creating an atmosphere of optimism. Working as a team, the students and staff sold their handmade electric guitars, autographed by the likes of Jeff Beck, Rush, Bruce Willis, and many other celebrities, resulting in over $200 000 raised for 65 charities.

More importantly, the school (over 45% Indigenous) became the best attended in the district, dropping its suspension rate to almost zero, increasing staff retention, raising its academic achievement, and increasing social cohesion.

All of this forced me, like so many other leaders around the world, to ask questions I am eager to discuss, regarding student voice, the alignment of concepts from the Circle of Courage and Wahkohtowin, as well as Te Ao Maori, and Tribal Crit’s valuing of story.


Wayne Davies

I am Director of Student Teaching at the University of Winnipeg and doctoral candidate at the University of Western Ontario. I have 32 years of experience teaching and leading schools. I am Red River Métis, residing somewhere between the original people who walked the land and the settlers who came much later. In 2014 I was recognized as one of the top 40 principals in Canada and 2015 as a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Manitoba for community work. My research interests are school leadership and the recruitment and retention of teachers in remote northern communities.