Where She's Heading
We sat down with MBCI’s new Principal, Andrea Neufeld to hear about her goals, her history and what it means to be Principal.
How long have you been at MBCI? As a Teacher? As an Administrator?
This is my eighth year at MBCI. I started in September 2009 teaching high school mathematics and science, which I did for three years. In September 2012 I began my role as Assistant Principal and continued until this past year when I became Principal.
What inspired you to become an Educator?
I feel as though I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I have loved and continue to love coming alongside someone learning new things. My poor younger brother had to put up with me through years of forcing him to learn math on road trips. This was the beginning of my desire to teach. Later, in my time as a student at MBCI, I had a strong sense that my teachers loved what they did, and this made my hopes to become a teacher that much stronger. My parents placed a lot of value on learning and through their own example modeled the joy of continuous learning, be it on the piano, ski hill, basketball court, or the art of hosting.
Can you tell us a bit about your family’s history with MBCI?
My family has a long history with MBCI, on both my Mom’s and Dad’s side. My Opa, Cornelius D. Buller was one of the school’s founding members – a group of people who imagined an education for their children within a Christian context that taught Mennonite history, German language and culture. My Dad, Neil Buller (’69), served on the Board of Directors, and began coaching basketball in September 1969; a commitment that has continued for nearly 40 years. There are other stories and involvements that my immediate and extended family have with MBCI both on the Riediger and Buller side that I could share, that may even spice up this interview, but you’ll have to ask them, of course.
Why are you passionate about working at MBCI?
I am passionate about this place because of the opportunity it provides to cultivate the character of our students, through their learning, and to invite them to a new way of living, centered on the teachings of Jesus. We teach from the Manitoba curriculum and we teach out of who we are as people of God. The experience of teaching and leading in the lives of our students, of seeing their growth, is a daily inspiration to me.
What are your goals as newly appointed Principal?
This is a hard question to answer in just a few statements. The framework that I have been working out of relates to culture, learning, story and structures. Establishing a culture of collaboration, innovation, and growth mindedness; pursuing excellence in teaching and learning focused on a shared commitment to loving the right things, tradition and the practices of a healthy Christian community; sharing the story of what is happening at MBCI and experiencing the joy of this story as a community; and working to establish structures that hold us up as we move into the future.
What does it mean to you to be the first female Principal?
It’s interesting that I haven’t really been asked this question yet. I remember when I became an Assistant Principal some of my older female students made a point of saying just how great it was that there would be a female in leadership at the school. Admittedly, it was really fun to experience their excitement and support. It is a strange thing to think about being the first female Principal, and to represent a historic milestone. What is most important to me in this is to celebrate and respect the dreams, skills and giftings of those women who have wanted to serve MBCI in this role in the past, and those that will come after me. Firsts of this kind make it possible for other women to pursue educational leadership in this school, and that is exciting. I should also add that it is important for both male and female students to know that MBCI is willing to support women in leadership. When I think of my own children, and how at the young ages of 10, 8 and 5, they can support, encourage and engage me in conversation about how it is going as Principal, and how they see their Dad (Justin Neufeld ‘95) celebrate and partner in this work, I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity.
When you think of MBCI ten years from now, what do you see?
I love this question and you’ll have to forgive that I may get carried away with it. The best answer I can give (at least in this moment) is that I see an education that puts students at its center, that has transformed the typical classroom into a space of shared learning between teacher and student, and that, as much as possible, connects student learning to real work, for a real purpose. I see teachers co-teaching; subjects that are fully integrated with one another, and a school culture where staff and students are excited about what each of our students are learning and creating.
What does Christian education mean to you?
It has been incredibly rewarding to work within Christian schools since I began my career in 2001. Christian education provides an opportunity to integrate teaching and learning with faith, and to impart understanding of God’s grace and deep love for each one of us. Alongside the Provincial curriculum, we have the privilege and responsibility to teach students so that they develop cultivated habits of curiosity, reason, stewardship, compassion, patience, and joy. The last thing I will add is that Christian education not only seeks to guide students so that they may discover their gifts and passions, it focuses on how these gifts are most valuable when joined with the gifts of others to serve a greater purpose.
When each grade 12 class graduates, what do you hope they take with them from their time here?
I hope that they love learning and all that it requires of them, are equipped to make a difference in the communities of which they are a part, are capable of looking beyond themselves to serve others, and are individuals who practice love and hunger for God. I also hope they know that they are and were beloved, and that they know how to practice a love for others, because this has been modeled for them daily at MBCI.
What does having an alumni network of over 6,000 people mean to you and to our school?
This is a testament to the mission and vision of MBCI. It represents a group of people with a shared history, with ups and downs, celebrations and difficulties, wins and losses. It holds potential for joining together out of our shared history to support MBCI in continuing to provide Christian education to students and family members for generations to come. It is my hope that in the busyness and complexity of our lives, we remember the positive ways that MBCI has shaped our growth. Where we have experienced pain from our time at MBCI, I hope that we remain open to the restoration that may be possible. This community of alumni is truly a testament of God’s faithfulness and provision in the lives of His people