By: Jaymie Miller
Following the retirement of our previous principal, Mr. Durecka, some roles have changed at West Hills. Mr. Gignac, our former associate principal, has stepped up to take over as principal. Ms. Palmeri, who previously worked at International Academy, has taken his place as associate principal.
This is Mr. Gignac’s fifteenth year teaching at West Hills. Before being vice principal, he worked as a teacher at Lone Pine. He taught third and fifth grade there. Teaching was the first job he had after graduating from college.
He attended college at the University of Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Western Michigan. Right after he graduated, he was hired to teach at Lone Pine. “It’s been my whole life, really,” he says. “Almost half of my life, I’ve been working in Bloomfield Hills.”
Mr. Gignac has loved building relationships with people throughout his years as vice principal. “My favorite part has been able to build relationships with students, staff and families over the 11 years that I’ve been associate principal,” he says. “When they understood who I was as a person, and I got to understand who they are as people—that builds trust. I’m most proud of that trust that is built from working with everyone, and always trying to find a good outcome in any given situation.” Mr. Gignac is excited to continue building relationships with our community as principal.
While he was vice principal, he has learned to listen to people as much as he can and to always try to help them learn. “I’ve learned to be a good communicator, listen to people and always try to help them learn from a situation,” he says. “That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned, building strong relationships and understanding that in most situations, there’s learning that can occur.”
Mr. Gignac is very excited that he is becoming the new principal. This is especially because in the future, our schools will change and all of the students will be shifted around. West Hills and East Hills will become elementary schools for grades K-5. Middle schoolers will be moved to either Bloomfield Hills Middle School North or Bloomfield Hills Middle School South. Mr. Gignac is excited to have a prominent role when that change will take place.
He is also very grateful to be able to work with our community. “I think we have an awesome staff at West Hills and amazing families and students. I feel very lucky to be able to work with the people that I do, with students, staff and families.” He says.
He also believes that when students are harmed, it’s more important to listen to the victim of the situation than to address the attacker. “When a student does something that harms another student, it’s how you respond to that,” he says. “Historically, schools have said something like, ‘you’re suspended’, or ‘you’re in trouble’. There very well could be a consequence, but I feel like what’s more important is what is done to hear from the victim. I’ve done a lot of work in that and that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
Mr. Gignac believes that West Hills teaches students to be good people as well as teaching academics. He thinks that the teachers educate students on treating people with kindness and that is something he loves about West Hills.
His visions for West Hills are to continue to develop Learner Profile traits in students. “Having some of the components, like to be critical thinkers, to be knowledgeable, to be open-minded, to be caring, to be balanced. The vision I have is to continue to strive to attain that, and to make sure that we’re all working collectively to give that experience to kids.”
As principal, Mr. Gignac can have more of a voice when discussing the new middle schools. They have been working on construction and planning out the designs. He is happy that he gets to help with that work. He wouldn’t have been able to assist in that if he was vice principal.
He encourages students to keep working hard and stay positive. “I can’t wait until students are back in the classrooms at West Hills every day, and where I can interact with people more often,” he says. I just want to say, keep working hard. This is a temporary thing. This will not be the rest of your school career. Try as best as you can to stay positive, to keep working hard. If you’re having a tough time, talk to a trusted adult. And know that we’re here for you.”