Victoria Chiu, Editor
We talk to the new Archbishop MacDonald principal about donuts, weird jobs, and sporty nerds.
VICTORIA CHIU: So, what was your weirdest job before becoming a principal?
MR. FIACCO: (laughing) My weirdest job? In education, or…?
Growing up, I worked at Allied Paper Savers. I used to have to sort garbage and pick it all out from the newspaper that was coming through.
I didn’t know that was a job.
Yep. Paid $7.00/hour. I was rich. Lasted about three months.
What do you like about MAC?
What do I like about MAC? Or what do I love about MAC? What I love about MAC is that the students are here for the right reasons. They’re here for a good education and they’re very respectful. And you appreciate their teachers.
Excellent! That’s what we wanna hear. What are your favourite schools you’ve worked at?
I love every school I’ve worked at. But as a teacher, I would have to say Sir John Thompson. I worked there early in my career, and I was able to work with a lot of teachers that are here now—Mrs. Settle, Mrs. Grijo, Ms. Joy…it was a magical staff to work with. In terms of high school, I’d have to say MAC. It’s my home. Even though O’Leary…that’s the thing! It’s hard to choose—it’s like picking a favourite chocolate bar, y’know? They’re all good. Right? And MAC, for me, is just a part of who I am.
What was your career path like? I mean, you started as a teacher, but how did everything progress?
As a matter of fact, I started as a teacher at Fresh Start. Kids know what that is here at MAC. Fresh Start was an outreach school, so I worked with kids for the first five years. Then I taught math, science, and CTS over at Sir John Thompson for three years, which led me to come [to MAC] and I taught math 10/20/30 at MAC for two and a half years; in that third year I became acting assistant principal just to see what it was like. I was asked to be permanent assistant principal at MAC and I stayed at MAC for another three years. So, I was at MAC for a total of…six years. And then I went to Archbishop O’Leary, where I was assistant principal and also taught one or two classes of math 20. Lasted there for six years, again. Then I was asked to be a principal over at St. Thomas More halfway through the 2012 year, so I started at St. Thomas More in December of 2012. I was there for roughly a year and a half, so for the remaining part of 2012-2013 and all of 2013-2014. And now I’m here.
Wow. That was unexpectedly long and complicated. Wait a second—if I remember correctly, you said you went to MAC?
Oh, I graduated from MAC.
Yeah, and you were here all three years, right?
Yeah, I graduated from MAC in 1984.
Okay. So, then—what were you like in high school?
When I was at MAC, I was…I guess you’d refer to me as a jock. I played all the sports; I was also in the honours program. I wasn’t into drama, I didn’t enjoy it; I took music for the first couple of years, but I consider myself well-rounded.
So you were a…sporty nerd.
Well, I wouldn’t say nerd.
Meh, well. According to people at other schools, everyone who goes to MAC is certifiably a nerd. “People at other schools” being my friends who go to JP and Ross Shep and the like. It’s been said that the nerdiness “permeates the walls.”
(Raucous laughter) No, we had a lot of fun, too. We had a lot of fun. Those were three really great years of my life and I have special memories from my senior year for sure.
Every adult I ask always says high school was one of the best times of their life. Do you agree with that? Is it better or worse than university/post-secondary?
Yes, it’s true. Absolutely, 100%. It’s better than university, because university has a lot of pressure in terms of competition and making sure you’re not just scoring well on all the exams and assessments. In university, you’re trying to score better than your colleagues and peers. You’re placed on a scale and you can theoretically do well on an exam but do worse than the class average and fail the course. For me, university was a shock—going from a small campus to a huge one. But I think MAC students now are getting a more representative experience about what university is really like. My biggest advice for any student in high school going to university is to learn how to learn. Be an acquirer. IB students do particularly well with this because it’s mandated into the curriculum experience. The skills you have to incorporate into the program really help with the transition from high school into post-secondary, definitely.
When I was in junior high, I was actually planning to become a full IB Diploma student, but my mom talked me out of it because she was worried it’d be too much work for me to handle.
Well, that’s one of my goals. To make the IB program more prominent and find out firsthand from students why they aren’t taking it. I mean, why they’re not taking the full IB program—I want to find those barriers and break down those barriers, because I really believe in it.
I know that one of the biggest things—with my friends, at least—the reason they’re not taking IB courses at the 30 level is because they don’t want to have to deal with the stress of IB exams. They know it’s technically not worth anything in relation to the Alberta Education mark, but they just don’t want to have that stress placed on them. It’s also full-year, which can turn some people off of it. They just don’t want to have that extra set of exams that might cause them to have a lower overall class mark than if they were taking, say, an Honours or -1 class. They want the highest marks they can get so they can get into university and have the easiest time in class.
(Nodding from Mr. Fiacco)
Well, movin’ on. What was your favourite subject in school?
I taught math, so…what do you think? Math. Math and phys. ed were my thing. I liked all the sciences. Hated English, because it’s too subjective—I like rules. But as you get older, you learn to appreciate English, social, the humanities; one regret I have is that if I were to go back I’d work a little harder in English and social. You don’t learn until later how important it is.
Yeah, English—for example—it relates to everything. You don’t ever not need English.
Yeah, you have to be a good communicator. If you’ve got all these great ideas in your brain but you can’t get them down on paper or get other people to understand them, then your ideas are lost.
Like teaching, right? It’s said that if you know something but can’t teach it to someone else, then—well, teaching is a skill.
– END OF PART ONE –
For the second part of the interview, click here.