fbpx

Sam Demma

Karen Kettle – Retired Science Teacher, Speaker and Author of Countdown To Camp

Karen Kettle - Retired Science Teacher and Author of Countdown To Camp
About Karen Kettle

Karen Kettle is passionate about the power of student-led leadership programs. Throughout her career with the Durham District School Board, Karen has been a high school science teacher, a consultant, an international presenter, an author, and a course director for the York University Faculty of Education.

She has worked beside talented student leaders and dedicated colleagues to create and implement the Eastdale Eagles Leadership Camp and the Port Perry Rebels Leadership Camp. In retirement, Karen continues to explore new and creative pathways to share her love of leadership with the next generation!

Connect with Karen: Email


Personal note from Karen

Leadership Camp is a collaborative effort.  I would like to thank all of the people who are partners in making camp happen.

Camp Heads
Camp Committee Members
Team Leaders
Student Leaders
Parents/Guardians
Teachers
Camp & Club Advisors
Camp Program Staff
Secretaries & Custodians
Administrators
Sponsors  

A very special thank you goes out to the two camps that I have had the privilege of working with: Kilcoo Camp (Eastdale Eagles Leadership Camp) and Youth Leadership Camps Canada or YLCC (Port Perry Leadership Camp). Having talented camp staff to work with is priceless!


Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Countdown to Camp (Karen’s Most Recent Book)
The book Countdown to Camp is available at volumesdirect.com for $20

Youth Leadership Camps Canada

Port Perry High School

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:02):
Karen welcome to the High Performing Educator Podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about who you are and why you’re passionate about the work you do with youth.


Karen Kettle (00:15):
Okay. my name is Karen Kettle and I am a retired science teacher. I taught for 30 years in the Durham school board. And my passion outside of science education is working with students to run student-led leadership camps. And I’ve had the opportunity to do that twice. I worked with a group of kids at Eastdale and also at port Perry high school. And we ran camps for about 130 or 140 students from the school that were mainly student run. So that’s, that’s my leadership passion outside of the biology classroom.


Sam Demma (01:06):
What brought you to that passion? How did you discover it and why do you think it’s important that students get involved in camp?


Karen Kettle (01:15):
Well, I spent a lot of time at summer camp growing up. I first went to camp when I was nine years old and I really badly wanted to come home on visitor’s day. And my mom left me there crying on the dock and told me I would learn to like it. And after that I went back every summer to that camp and also to the Ontario camp leadership center at bark lake until I was well in my twenties. And when I decided that I wanted to become a high school teacher, I wanted to be able to bring the best of that camp, spirit, that transformative experience into my teaching career.


Sam Demma (02:04):
That is awesome. And what, what, what were the steps you took to start building camp? So I would imagine being involved in a camp as a student is a different experience than organizing a camp as an educator. What, what were the initial steps you started taking to build the camp and tell, yeah, tell me a little bit more about that process on how it turned into its its own thing.


Karen Kettle (02:30):
Well, I was very lucky when I got to Eastdale I knew the principal very well and he was a principal that was a camp director in the summertime. And the year before a very talented leader had started a student retreat as part of a course. And so they wanted to continue it and they were looking for someone else with camp experience, there were some great teachers involved with it. And so I joined their team and then we just started to increase the length of time. We took students away until we were up to a four day camp and involve all sorts of different students from the school, from all sorts of clubs, like student council and music council and meet and we and athletic council and all of the social justice clubs and geeks unlimited and the gay straight Alliance and the ambassadors and the environment club and the business club. And so it became sort of an umbrella training ground for student leaders in the school. So that was my, that was my first experience with leadership camp. And then when I left and went to port Perry high school, I started from scratch again.


Sam Demma (04:06):
And now you are a camp pro or a camp in ninja, or I don’t even know what to call it, but you, you you’ve built out so many supports for camp and encouraging students to get involved in camps and encouraging students to lead camps and encouraging educators to understand the importance of camp. You’ve even, you know, written books about it. One that’s very, you know, new and fresh. Can you share a little bit about what inspired you to write the book and also why you think student led leadership camps are also really important?


Karen Kettle (04:45):
Okay, well in working with students over the years one of the things that they use to say to me is I kind of know what we need to do, but I sort of need a checklist to get there. And so during the, a pandemic, because I had lots of creative alone time I sat down and tried to pull all of the collective wisdom together from all of the other advisors I’d worked with and camp heads and camp committee members and my colleagues and support staff and put it together just in a way that someone who had never run a leadership camp could pick it up and know that they could start with simple steps. And then as their school got more involved and the student leaders in the school got more involved, all they could build it into whatever it was that they wanted and needed for the school.


Karen Kettle (05:51):
I think student leaders are incredible role models for their peers because the camp committee, which works together all year to get camp ready by designing it and implementing it and, and running everything other than high ropes course and waterfront they are just that little bit better at, at some of the leadership skills than their peers. And so it’s kind of like if you’re an athlete and you wanna learn to get better at tennis, you don’t want to play against world champions. You wanna play against someone who’s just that little bit better than you are and makes you stretch your skills. So the senior students are great role models for their less experienced peers, cuz the kids can look at them and say, you know, in two or three years, that’s who I wanna be. That’s what I wanna do. And it also keeps the ownership of the camp program in the, in the school. It, they’re not going somewhere and having someone else run everything, they’re working with a camp staff to, to run a program and, and the program belongs to them.


Sam Demma (07:16):
That makes a lot of sense. And, and I think giving students a voice is so important because thinking back to the educators that made a big impact on my life, their class was more so a discussion than it was a lecture. And because I was given a voice, I was more interested in the content they were teaching and speaking about out. And if I was running or organizing an event, I would be more inclined to get involved and also to promote it to my friends and to get other students in the school involved. Because I, I feel like ownership and interest are kind of tied together. Something you do a great job at, in your book countdown to can a, is breaking down this idea that student leadership is a year long process. What do you mean by that? And what does it look like? Or what does a typical year of planning in a student leadership position look like?


Karen Kettle (08:17):
Okay. well what would happen is at the beginning of the year students would apply to be on camp committee and this would be a group of about 20 students that really wanna put in the time because it takes a lot of time. They, they meet once a week for an hour and a half or two hours as a group. And so they go through a, a process where they start off with lots of team building within their group and getting to know each other, figuring out who has what skills and who can bring music who can bring organization, who can bring humor to the group. And then we basically start through a process where we develop a theme which holds camp together. And some of our past themes have been things like Dr. Sue or Harry Potter or Beatlemania or clue.


Karen Kettle (09:26):
And so they have to brainstorm all sorts of different themes and come up with what it might look like. And we take a lot of time to make sure that all of the themes are, are really, really strong. And then we have a process, a decision making process that we go through to help them come to a consensus on theme. And then after that’s done, we start through the same process again, to trying to decide what workshops we’re going to put into camp. And that is one of the places where you can really tailor camp to your own individual school, because you can pick out knowledge elements that the kids in your are clubs might need, they might wanna learn something about emotional intelligence or mental health. You can pick out skills that they might wanna develop, like communication skills or delegation or creativity.


Karen Kettle (10:33):
You can work on some values like attitude or kindness, and then you can also look at issues like inclusion or consent or anti-bullying or environmental issues. And so that becomes the, the part of camp. That’s the learning part of camp. The, we would then organize students in the teams, workshop teams, and they’d pick from the ones that they’d brainstorm and they’d work to put together their interactive workshops. And then we get to plan all the fun things at camp. And those are things like campfires and large group games and talent shows banquet. So there’s, there’s a lot of organization that goes on throughout the year. We also do a lot of fundraising to make sure that we can support kids financially, who might not otherwise be able to attend and that’s kind of fund too, because there’s a lot of experiential learning in, in running a, a fundraiser.


Karen Kettle (11:45):
Quite often the camp committee takes on some other challenges at port Perry high school. We used to run a minicamp day for the grade eight that were gonna come to our school the following year and run through our workshops with them and just help them come into the high school and feel comfortable in the high school. So all of that goes on throughout the year. And the culminate activity is the three day or four day experience with a camp partner where we take somewhere between a hundred and hundred 40 kids from the school. And, and they get to share in the experience.


Sam Demma (12:31):
What do you think are some of the really positive outcomes on a school’s culture when students within that school participate in a camp experience?


Karen Kettle (12:44):
Well, there’s a lot of them because there there’s individual learning and individual development with the people, especially the people of who are on camp committee. There are the skills and knowledge that advisors can take back with their students in their own clubs and apply those. But also I think students find that it’s, it’s intrinsically rewarding to do something that is sort of in the service of others. And, and so there’s, there’s a, a good feeling there. You get a large group and, and that’s, what’s different about student led leadership camp rather than sending an individual student to a conference is that you come back with like a hundred kids that have shared the experience and that increases cooperation and trust among the students. It increases cooperation with staff cause once you’ve boosted your vice principal up onto the ropes course, or you’ve, you know, what had your principal walk the plank because he was the villain story.


Karen Kettle (14:03):
They come back with a different sense of understanding that, you know, that the teachers and administrators are, are people and they’re there to, to help. So you get this sort of shared vision of, of what you can do as a, as a team. If everybody works together student thoughts will meet and interact and live with students that they wouldn’t otherwise meet at school. And so it breaks down social barriers in the building. It there’s more cooperation between clubs because each club knows what the other club is doing and what their purpose is and why they’re there. And then the other thing I find is that student leaders, when they come back, they look for or understand the deeper meaning in some of the activities that they’re running at the school. So they might be running like something really fun and silly on a Friday, but they know that they’re doing it to build community. Yeah. And they know if they put together something on study skills that they know that they’re providing a, a service for other students in the building, or they, sometimes they do things like they’ll come back and put up a kindness tree or something like that. So they understand that there’s a deeper purpose behind all of the extracurricular activities that, that they’re doing.


Sam Demma (15:41):
And how do you go about selecting what students in a school would get to participate in a camp? I would imagine that’s probably one of the most difficult aspects because you want everyone to have the experience, but you might have a li limited budget and a limited amount of students that you can bring with you to these four, five-day experiences.


Karen Kettle (16:03):
Yes. Well, one of the things is that with leadership camps, again, because you can fine tune it to your school, different schools have slightly different selection criteria. But the way we’ve always gone about getting students is that any student who’s already involved in the leadership club in the school gets an invitation to go grade nine and 10 students who are involved go through that process, or they can also self nominate themselves. So if you have maybe a shy grade nine student, who’s not yet involved in anything, they can just fill out an application form for an invitation and they get an invitation. We all also have our teachers that teach a lot of grade nine and 10 students nominate students that they think would benefit from the experience. And some of our teachers are really good at that.


Karen Kettle (17:08):
Really seeing that, you know, the little kid at the back of the room, who’s got all sorts of energy, but no focus might actually benefit from camp because once they find that focus then, then they’re set. They know what they wanna do. We also go to our teachers and coaches and guidance department and special ed department and adminis and ask if they wanna nominate kids. Sometimes students who are a little bit at risk because they’ve just moved into the area or something has happened in their family life. And they might just need that really to be part of a really supportive group. Sometimes kids who are just sort of there after school all the time, cuz they don’t really have anywhere else to go will get those kinds of students that are nominated. And then it basically becomes a first come first serve basis. After everyone who is interested through those categories receives an invitation,


Sam Demma (18:23):
Got you. And something else. Okay. Oh, go ahead. Some,


Karen Kettle (18:27):
Okay. Some schools because they wanna have they want diversify between grade nines, tens elevens and 12 do first come first serve based on grade. Mm. We, we’ve never done that. And we normally find that about 50%, 60% of our camp is grade nines and tens.


Sam Demma (18:48):
Got you. You mentioned briefly fundraising and you also do an amazing job in your book providing, you know, literally a template that you use in terms of a sponsorship letter. How, yeah. Can an educator who’s listening to this that wants to run a camp. What should they be thinking about in terms of sponsorship, how do obtain it and also what the letter it should include that they’re thinking to send outside of obviously buying your booking, check, checking it out.


Karen Kettle (19:17):
Well sponsorships are a good way to go sometimes what our sponsors do is they just provide items. So for example, our, our camp committee would go down the main street of port Perry with a letter explaining that we’re raising money to provide scholarships for students who might not be able to afford to go to camp. And quite often they will give us, you know, small items like candy or a t-shirt or something from their, their business. And so we put those together into something like a a draw or a silent auction, something like that. So that’s one way of, of finding sponsorship ships. We’ve also had service groups who have provided us with money sometimes connected to a, a, a service. So we went and helped out with a pancake breakfast and that group donated some money to our, our camp scholarship fund.


Karen Kettle (20:30):
I think if you’re writing a sending a letter to organizations, it has to really clearly state what your, what your leadership camp is, how it serves people. We put down a breakdown of costs per individual student. And then we basically just said, you know, if you’d like to make a contribution, here’s the, the camp advisors contact information and it’s sort of a contribution of whatever they would like to make. And we just basically had a bank account and we put money in from that and from our fundraisers, cuz we like to do silly fundraisers. And then on our application form for parents, there was a little line that sort of said we know that economic are tough for people. If your son or daughter requires some financial assistance, please contact. And there was a camp advisor’s email.


Karen Kettle (21:38):
And then when we got in touch with the parent, we basically said you know, what can you afford to pay towards your child going to camp? And then we can cover the rest of it. And, and that worked really well because it let us spread out the funds among the, the students who really needed it. For me, that, that I came to that realization when I actually had a parent call me and ask if she could pay for her son’s best friend to go to camp. Mm. And until that time we had sort of been fundraising to lower the cost for everyone. And after that experience I realized that it was probably better to target the money because some parents could easily afford to send their kids. And for some parents it was prohibitive. Mm. So that’s why we came up with that idea of, of scholarship funds.


Sam Demma (22:41):
That’s amazing. Another great resource that I pulled out of your book. I know I’m referring to it a lot and it’s because it’s jampacked with great stuff, the workshop topics, that was a phenomenal section that you created that, you know, encapsulated dozens of ideas that people could think about presenting or even bringing in someone else to present at their camps. What are some of the ideas that you found the great success with or would recommend that someone who’s planning their first camp should include in the programming somewhere?


Karen Kettle (23:19):
Well workshops that that list of workshops came about because one of the, the issues when you’re working with young people on a camp committee is that the only work ups they’ve seen are the workshops that were presented the year before the, or the two years before. Mm. And so they, and so they kept reinventing the same workshop and just changing its name. And it was normally about pushing your comfort zone. And it got to the point it’s like, we pushed our comfort zone enough. We know now need actually to do something else because you really want to not repeat anything sort of within the four years that that’s students could be in the school because we have some students that go for four, for three or four years. And so what I did is I basically just sat down and wrote like little teaser for 99 different workshops.


Karen Kettle (24:21):
And I think, I don’t really think that there are any, that you are essential that you start with. I think it’s more about giving the kids a, a list of a whole bunch of different things they could do, and then letting them select the ones that they have, that they truly have an interest in. Mm. And quite often what we used to do is we let the camp, if we, if we needed, let’s say six workshops, we let the camp committee pick four. We let the camp heads pick one. And then the camp advisors pick one because they do tend sometimes depending on the, the group of kids to try and they sometimes stay away from some of the more difficult topics. And so sometimes you need a little bit a push in that direction. And then the other thing we did with workshops is that we to connect them to our theme.


Karen Kettle (25:30):
So for example, the year we did Harry Potter, the mental health workshop became defense against the dark arts. Ah, and, and the, when we did Dr. Suess, the environment workshop became Lorax lesson. Mm. So you want tie in and, and tie it to to the theme, but it also, it depends on what the school needs like, do they need to do something on anti-bullying? Do they need to do something on digital leadership? Because really it’s what you do as workshops is completely wide open, as long as you have a mix of some that are really thought provoking and, and some that are, that are fun. Hmm. And we also try to make sure that, you know, if one workshop focused on skits that maybe the next one was gonna focus on a craft activity, or it was gonna focus on some kind of debate or discussion so that when students went from workshop to workshop, they were interactive and they were different. And it wasn’t like they weren’t being talked to, they, they were very HandsOn and involved in, in act in activities that brought them to the point of what the workshop was about. Understand. I don’t know what the, that


Sam Demma (27:04):
Yeah, it does. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all option. I was just really intrigued and impressed by how many ideas you pulled together and was wondering kinda well in


Karen Kettle (27:15):
A lot of the ones in the book we’ve actually done. And, and students come in with very distinct interest. And they take you places that as an advisor, you never thought you would be going because they have an interest in that area that, that resonates with their peers.


Sam Demma (27:39):
And what’s also interesting is extracurricular activities are not only the beneficial for students, but they’re also beneficial for teachers, you know, teachers benefit from being involved. What do you think are some of the benefits of the extracurricular involvement for teachers?


Karen Kettle (27:58):
Well, I think that they brought a lot of a joy in, into my life. I, I love the time that I spent with students outside of the classroom, because it gives you a different opportunity to mentor young people and also to learn from them. As teachers, you get to pick your extracurriculars. So if you are interested in sports coaching, a sport is great. Poor Perry high school had a phenomenal music program. And there were like some of the kids that were in that music program will be musicians throughout their lives, either as a career or as a, as a, as a joy, just for personal growth. So you get to follow your passion as a teacher and you meet up with kids that are also interested in it, and that’s sort of where that mentorship relationship comes from, because it, when you have someone who, who has knowledge in an area and someone who wants knowledge in the same area then that becomes a rich experience.


Karen Kettle (29:16):
It also has tremendous impacts on your classroom. I can remember on a grade eight tour day, listening to someone outside of my classroom going, this is Mrs. Kell’s classroom. She teaches science. I had her in grade nine. I really liked her. And then she takes us to camp. Well, if you have that kind of advertisement going on, when the kids come to your classroom, the next year, they expect that they’re gonna enjoy it. And all sorts of management issues just never come through your door because they know that even if it’s not something they wanna do, they know that you’re are interested in students in the school and that you are willing to put time in outside of the classroom. And it’s fun. Some of the students that I’ve worked with over the year have become really good friends. Some of them have become colleagues because a lot of the skills you learn at leadership camp work really well in the classroom. And so I, I think it’s a, it has a, a huge impact on your enjoyment of your teaching career. Yeah, and, and for kids, it’s great because they really get to interact in something that they’ve chosen, that they have ownership of, and they meet a positive peer group there that has similar interests.


Sam Demma (30:59):
Hmm. Kinda agree more if so, is interested in learning more about camps, more about the work you’ve done, where can they one pick up a copy of your book and two, get in touch with you.


Karen Kettle (31:13):
Okay. If they wanted to pick up up a copy of the book, the easiest way to do it is right from the publisher and the way to do that would be to Google volumesdirect.com. Countdown to camp is listed there. And you can just purchase it from that website if they want to contact me my email address and I’d be happy to talk to people. My email address is Karenkettle@gmail.com.


Sam Demma (32:05):
Awesome. Karen, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, talking about camps, your experience teaching, and also being involved in student leadership. Keep up the amazing work. I look forward to staying in touch and watching your, you know, adventures and work evolve. Thank you so much.


Karen Kettle (32:24):
Well, okay. And thank you very much. It’s lovely to talk to someone who is actually putting leadership into action at a fairly young age. And it sounds like you’re doing a great job.


Sam Demma (32:43):
Thanks so much, Karen.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Karen Kettle

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Cathy Beauchamp – Principal at Englehart High School in North Eastern Ontario

Cathy Beauchamp - Principal at Englehart High School in North Eastern Ontario
About Cathy Beauchamp

Cathy Beauchamp (@cbeauch) is a principal at Englehart High School (Grades 7 -12). She started in administration in 2006 as the vice principal of Timiskaming District Secondary School. She was the principal at this school when it transitioned to a 7 – 12 school in 2014.

Cathy comes from a sports background and incorporates an action-oriented teamwork approach. She puts the needs of the learners at the forefront of all of her decision-making and supports building capacity within her staff while focusing on wellness for all within the school community.

Cathy enjoys coaching basketball and encourages students to get involved in extracurricular activities in order to deepen their connection with the school. Outside of work time, she enjoys spending time with her family and being active in nature, usually with two golden doodles by her side.

Connect with Cathy: Twitter | Instagram | Email

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Cathy welcome to the High Performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Please start by introducing yourself.


Cathy Beauchamp (00:10):
Well, good morning, Sam, and thank you for having me on your show. I feel very honored that you reached out to me to include me in your podcast. I am a principal in a 7-12 school in Northern Ontario in a little town called Englehart we have about 200 students in total. I’ve been at that school for four years. And previous to that, I was the principal at new district secondary school, which is a a half an hour south of where I am now and a larger school, seven to 12 again, and probably about 700 students.


Sam Demma (00:52):
When you’re a student, you always get that question. What do you wanna be when you grow up? I’m curious to know when you are going through school yourself, when people ask you that question, was your answer a principal?


Cathy Beauchamp (01:08):
No, it actually wasn’t. I was a little bit of a resistor and I think it had to do with the fact that both of my parents are educators or were educators. My mom was a secondary art teacher and my father comes from a PHED science background and he actually went on to be a principal as well. And fun fact, he was a principal in the same two schools that I’ve been a principal in. Oh, wow. So that’s kind of neat. So being around the dinner table and being around a lot of talk of edge in my youth sometimes it can kind of sway your decisions on things and it’s also it, it’s also something that it was kind of thought that I would do that. And I kind of felt like I wanted to prove that there was more to myself then at the time I was very athletic in high school and, and through university.


Cathy Beauchamp (02:12):
And I think everybody thought that I was going to go to university for something PHED science related and I thought, no, I’ll, I’m going to do something different. And I went off and did a commerce degree which was, which was a interesting sitting in a university first year accounting class when I had never taken any high school accounting. It moved really quickly, but I managed to model my way through that learned a lot along the way made some good friends. And I worked in the world of, of, in Toronto for about a year and a half. And then I, it, I literally woke up one morning in Toronto, in my basement apartment and thought, what am I doing? Mm. I felt like I was kind of resisting something. And I said, you know, I, I wanna teach. And at that point I, I made up my mind.


Cathy Beauchamp (03:10):
I, I moved back north with my parents. I supply taught for the year. And then I actually went to the following year, ah to a first nation community along the James bay coast. And I taught at Northern light secondary school. And that was a, a great experience. So I was teaching unqualified at the time. But then as life would have it we ended up moving. I was engaged at the time and my husband had a job offer in Alberta. And so we moved to grand Prairie Alberta. After I finished that year and the education dream was put on hold a little bit. I dabbled in, in some more business type careers and had my children nice. I have two children Sabrina who is now RN at Ottawa general in the emerg department and my son, Randy, who is just finishing up teachers college at EPON university in north bay.


Cathy Beauchamp (04:17):
Nice. so we are at the, for seven years at which time I started my masters of education program online through Ning. And then we ended up returning to Northern Ontario. You think, you, you say you’re leaving and you are not coming back, but it’s funny how the world works. Yeah. And we ended up back in Northern Ontario. And I went to, I actually taught again unqualified at to miss being district secondary school, a couple of courses in business, and then went to teachers college. And, and then I did like a five years of teaching and then moved into administration.


Sam Demma (05:02):
W it’s funny, I, I interviewed another principal named Kevin wedling who’s from Mousonee. Which a small world, what, along your journey, what helped you make the decision that education was for you?


Cathy Beauchamp (05:18):
I think it’s, it was just that it did come very natural to me. And I think I always had my hand in coaching after I left playing basketball and I, I just always felt very comfortable and at home in that environment and sometimes you don’t realize that that’s your place and you’re until you go other places. And not that those other experiences, I think they really add to it and they help you appreciate when you’re back into the area that you have the passion for. So I think that’s why the journey wasn’t quite as straightforward for me as it is for some people. But all of that experience along the way of that journey certainly helped to enrich what I brought to the table.


Sam Demma (06:14):
And you’ve worked in various roles within schools, you know, both teaching and administration for an educator out there who wants to know what it’s like to work as a principal. How, how would you break it down?


Cathy Beauchamp (06:33):
Well it’s like being transformed out of your classroom and sometimes as a teacher we’re very fixated on our class and now we’re very fixated on our school as a principal. So it’s just a little bit wider lens. But it’s, I always find it very inspiring. Working in it education, there’s so many great people in our school, in our board, just I mean with technology and social media, it’s really busted open education in the way that we can communicate with others and bounce ideas off people and connect with people to share ideas. It’s, it’s very inspiring and very uplifting, like the ideas that people come up with and that as a principal, you’re able to sit there and bounce ideas off people. It’s, it’s great. They’re, you know, dealing with families, dealing with students is always a lot of fun and seeing at growth now that we’re in a seven, just 12 school. When I first started in administration, we were in nine to 12 school. So the, the seven and eight experience added in in my first year as a principal added a whole new, an area of development that I wasn’t as familiar with. And you know, I, I like having that, I think it’s a good transition for those students to be in a high school environment


Sam Demma (08:07):
For educators listening, who, you know, want to remain optimistic and positive, despite the challenges of our time right now, what do you think are some of the opportunities in an education? Maybe that exists because of current situations, but also just in general?


Cathy Beauchamp (08:29):
Oh my gosh. There’s lots of opportunities. You know, I, I have to applaud teachers on these this past two years. They have undergone some of the greatest professional development really kind of was forced upon them for survival. Yeah. And they’ve done a fantastic job pivoting to remote learning. And in our, we we certainly had our share of it. We’re in it now. Last year we weren’t in it as long as some of the schools in Southern Ontario. But I, I think, you know, as an educator, it’s important to, to set goals and, you know, you may be happy with being classroom teachers, lots involved with that. But I think it’s important to keep yourself open to learning and to new ways of teaching or different technology and finding that balance in your program, keeping it fresh, keeping it current, make sure we’re preparing our students for their future.


Cathy Beauchamp (09:38):
Those are all good things in terms of movement, I mean, in a, in a high school, you have an opportunity to maybe move towards a, a department head position to try out, to see if you like a leadership role. And then there’s also, you know, taking non responsibility of maybe doing teacher in charge or something like that, too, that gives you an opportunity to be in an administrative role for a short period of time to cover for principals when they’re away. And it is, it, it is a very different job. It’s if you were to ask me to give you off description, I couldn’t, if you’re the, like, if you’re a person that likes to know exactly how your day’s gonna roll might not be the position for you because there’s something that either comes through your door or a phone call or whatever it can change your day quite a bit. So but it is also very satisfying career being able to work with youth, being able to work with teachers, being able to work with principal colleagues in our senior admin team. We are very fortunate being a smaller board that, you know, we know our, our senior administrators for our board very well and meet with them on a monthly basis.


Sam Demma (11:00):
What keeps you personally motivated hopeful and inspired to continue doing this work day in and day out?


Cathy Beauchamp (11:10):
You know, I think just like talking to students can just turn your day around. Hmm. You know, and, and sometimes I, I, and I do find it’s important as an administrator to get out into the halls and, and get into those classrooms because you’d be surprised by the conversations that happened that probably wouldn’t happen if you had stayed in your office. So I think I, I am, I’m always, I see, you know, some of those principles putting their desk out in the hall and I kind of like that idea too. I don’t know that I’m there yet. I seem to have to have too much on my desk, but I do like that idea. I do have a standup desk already, so thanks. I’m, I’m moving there. But and also so that from a student perspective but teachers also inspire me in terms of just the ideas that they come up with, the visions that they have.


Cathy Beauchamp (12:14):
And it’s, it’s great to see, you know, where our kids move on to the different careers and having them back in to the school to speak to our students or having back in as staff or, or whatnot. It’s, it’s really encouraging to see, I think like being in this career kind of keeps you a little bit in touch with not, I’m not saying that I’m very, no, all everything going on with youth, but it does give me a little bit it kind of keeps you a little bit more youthful, I guess, in terms of what’s happening.


Sam Demma (12:52):
That’s so true. I think schools and just working with youth in general is always energizing. They have awesome ideas and not just young people, all people, but, you know, you’re less, you have less conditioned beliefs as a young person and you believe that everything is possible and you chase really unrealistic. And not that that stops as you grow up, but I think that’s where the energy and the youthfulness kind of comes from. It’s true. But you also are heavily involved in athletics. How has that shaped the way you’ve approached teaching and, you know, working with young people?


Cathy Beauchamp (13:33):
Well, I’ve always felt that coaching allowed me to give back to the community that I really enjoyed. I could not imagine going to school and not being involved in athletics. And I know that that could that sediment could be shared whether it’s the arts or trades or whatever, lots of different extracurriculars, but for me, it, it definitely was athletics. And I just think, especially as an administrator and coaching, it’s allowed me to have a connection with students in the school. That’s just at a different level. It’s, it’s it, I’m not the principal in the office anymore. I’m their coach. I’m, I’m traveling at one point when I was at TDSs. I used to drive the bus. Oh, nice. As well. So you know, lots of hats that you wear and it, it is just really rewarding to see the kids enjoying that.


Cathy Beauchamp (14:37):
And I, I do really feel for our students right now that extracurriculars have kind of been in a stop start, you know, pattern. And we, we were able to start this year with extracurriculars and instantly I could see a difference in the kids that were involved. There’s just more of a connection with the school. And I think, and that goes for all of our extracurriculars, whether it was students, council, jock, chapters guitar club, just they just saw school as something more, and that’s the way it should be. And I think it’s so important to have those things. And I really hope that we’re able to get them going again. Shortly


Sam Demma (15:23):
I agree as someone who pursued athletics pretty much my entire childhood up until the age of 17, 18 years of old, I identified a large majority of my life with, with an identity as a human being with the sport of soccer and found community there found success, found happiness, found so many things from, from sport. So I hope things open up soon, too. And all for all your, for all your students as well, not just me and soccer players, but for all extra cooker activities and clubs. In terms of your own journey and education, what have you found helpful when it comes to resources or learning materials, books, things that you’ve come across that have maybe influenced the way you approach your work or have enhanced it, or taught you something that you found or thought was really helpful?


Cathy Beauchamp (16:21):
Well if there’s one like really positive thing about the pandemic, I think it really has opened up a lot of learning opportunities for people not just in educate, but certainly during our last lockdown last year, I took advantage of a lot of the free professional development out there that was available online and jumped in where I could to to, with learning that kind of Cohen side, it with things that we were working on within our board or school or things that I could share with my staff or students that might help through this journey. I do like to kind of align whatever I’m reading or whatnot with, because it’s kind, it can be very overwhelming to try, try to have too many ideas in education. And so I try to align things so that it makes sense to me.


Cathy Beauchamp (17:23):
And I hopefully make sense to my staff that I’m not throwing too many different things at them. I think it’s important to have curiosity and to ask questions and to learn as, as much as possible. I do do professional reading, but I think more so I do more just personal reading in the evening, just as a way to kind of unwind for my own wellness. And I try to do more professional reading you know during the day or, or even the, like I find sometimes talking to people is, might be a bad source of digesting some of that information too. So lots of different sources. I I’ll look on Twitter. I, I have to say that I am kind of like that stalker type person on Twitter. I, I should, I have to force myself to get out there and respond more. But I do like to make connections when I see things that I know maybe someone in my staff is working on that I’m sharing things with them and being that kind of resource for them, as well as just resourcing things for my own professional development. So that’s, it’s kind of of a mixed bag.


Sam Demma (18:51):
I was speaking to someone literally two days ago, who, when we started the call said, oh, I saw you live in X. And she named the city I’m from, and I said, well, how did you figure out that? And she says, oh, it was on one of your Instagram pictures. And I was like, oh yeah. And I already know that you’re from Winnipeg. And she’s like, where’d you find that like, from your Instagram page? And we both started laughing because I feel like social media has made it acceptable to some degree to like stalk somebody like to like, you know, like figure out some basic information about them before you actually talk. So that’s kind, that’s kind of funny, but that’s awesome. And you sound like you read a lot. Is, is reading a, a big part of your life or is that something you’ve always done?


Cathy Beauchamp (19:35):
It’s something that I have tried to do. It’s kind of one of those goals. I think it’s very easy to, to watch Netflix in the evening, which I will admit that I, I do sometimes unwind, but I usually try in the last half hour, hour of the evening just to read something just to reduce the screen time, especially during the school year. Nice. Yeah, that, it’s just, I try to work on a, a girlfriend of mine talk to me about habits. So it was talking to our, our friend group about habits and she was saying that it takes 33 days to develop a habit. Oh, wow. And so that you should write it down what it is that you want to do, want to eliminate, want to add whatever it is, and try to do that for 33 days and not to be hard on yourself.


Cathy Beauchamp (20:26):
If you missed a day, it’s not like you have to go back that you, you missed a day and, and carry on. And so I tried that actually this year when you talk about athletics I found that I’m an a weekend summer athlete and during the school year, Monday to Friday, it’s not very good. So I tried to adapt Monday to Thursday, philosophy of doing something for at least a half an hour as a habit. And I did that through the fall and it, it makes a difference and, you know, taking that time and, and I often found it was at lunch. I would just take that time and go out for a walk or go down to the weight room and do a little bit of yoga or something to that effect. It was important to, to make that time. And once again, if, if the day gets away from you and it doesn’t happen, it’s okay. You start again tomorrow.


Sam Demma (21:29):
That’s awesome. There’s a phenomenal book called atomic habits, and it talks all about the practice of replacing habits and the science behind habits. And maybe you’ve actually heard of it already,


Cathy Beauchamp (21:40):
But I it’s probably that what this discussion came from for sure. I, I, I guess I got the Cole’s notes version of it from her.


Sam Demma (21:49):
Cool. That’s awesome. And you were an athlete, you still are involved in athletics, both as a coach, but also a part of Neo for some people wondering what that weird word that they don’t know what it is. Can you explain what ne is and your involvement?


Cathy Beauchamp (22:09):
Sure. It’s just a Northeast Northeastern Ontario athletic association. And so our association encompasses schools basically from the north bay area, right up through to Hearst whether they be French, Catholic public boards. And I sit as a principal rep on our association to represent our region, which is actually Tamy to to Hearst. And then we send teams through to a, or meet about things regarding a and extracurriculars to deal with sports.


Sam Demma (22:55):
Awesome. And this is gonna be the hardest question of the whole interview, but oh boy, No pressure. If you could, if you could take the wisdom and experie into knowledge, you have now bundle it all up, go back in time, walk into the first classroom you ever taught in and speak to your younger self. When you were in your first year of education, knowing what you know now with the experience and advice, what would you tell your younger self?


Cathy Beauchamp (23:31):
Well, there’s a few, few things I would tell my younger self. I think initially I always felt from a team perspective and, and we talked about how teams develop those life skills for us. But I was often surrounding myself with similar minded people. And I think as I entered education, there was a habit to do that as well. And I think it’s really important to respect and, and try to, and people that have differences of opinions because it’s, there can be a lot of growth that happens there if you’re not resistant to it and it can help to create a stronger team. And so you, you know, what, and giving people a opportunities to share in leadership, it’s not just sort of like a dictatorship that you’re having other voices be heard too. I would say as an educator, it’s important not to take things personally.


Cathy Beauchamp (24:42):
I know that we all do but it it’s at times you, you need to let things slide for sure. I’ve always had a philosophy of not letting things Fe in terms of communication. If something has go gone wrong, I like to address it and not let it build up to something that I don’t want it to become. I have a strong belief in that I should model what I expect to see. So whether I’m working with students I’m modeling what I would expect them to do, or whether I’m working with a staff I would model what I want them to do. I shouldn’t be expecting them to do something that I, I can’t do. And I think that has served me well. It’s important to be fair. And that probably the most important thing is to admit when you’re wrong, because you’re going to be


Sam Demma (25:49):
So true, Kathy, thank you so much for taking some time to share your experiences and stories on the podcast. If someone is listening and wants to reach out, ask you a question or send you an email, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you? You can share the actual email itself. And I will also put it in the article we post on the website.


Cathy Beauchamp (26:11):
Okay. I’m on Twitter at (twitter). Or I am my, my school email is (email).


Sam Demma (26:33):
Thank you again for taking the time. This has been a lot of fun. Keep up with the great work and I look forward to talking again soon.


Cathy Beauchamp (26:39):
Thanks very much, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Cathy Beauchamp

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Sara Lindberg – Educational Consultant at CESA #11 and World Traveller

Sara Lindberg - Educational Consultant at CESA #11 and World Traveller
About Sara Lindberg

Sara Lindberg (@techytaka) has had a non-traditional pathway to becoming an educator, including turns as a freelance writer, independent filmmaker, administrative assistant, and veterinary clinic manager. 

After going back to graduate school to get her master’s in education and media technology, she worked in the field of education as a tutoring coordinator, a school library media specialist and technology coach, an English teacher, and an educational consultant. 

She recently spent two years co-teaching at a bilingual public school in Spain, and now she works as an educational consultant and splits her time between her hometown in Wisconsin and her adopted hometown in Spain. She loves to travel, hike, meet new people, and share stories, most of which involve the kindness of strangers. 

Connect with Sara:  Email  |  Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sara Lindberg
Resources Mentioned

Cooperative Educational Service Agency #11

Burnett Dairy (Best cheese in Wisconsin)

Virtual Reality Field Trips

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Sara welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here this morning. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself?


Sara Lindberg (00:10):
All right. Well, I’m Sara Lindberg. I came into education in kind of a non-traditional way. So before I got into education, I did some freelance writing. I made independent films. I managed a veterinary clinic for a while. And then I came into education, actually working for a middle school after school tutoring program while I was getting my master’s. And then once I graduated, I, I was a library specialist at a small district nearby where I grew up in Northwestern, Wisconsin, and now I work at a CESA. So it’s a cooperative educational service agency in Northwestern, Wisconsin. So I work with about 39 school districts in our region. And the two years I was living and working in Spain as a co-teacher at a bilingual secondary school. So that’s my that’s sort of my educational journey in a nutshell.


Sam Demma (01:16):
what really fascinates me is the different roles and position you hopped around in and experienced before landing on education. Did you know growing up that one day, you would end up in a school or working with a school district or did it just kinda unfold?


Sara Lindberg (01:36):
You know, I think a little bit of both actually, because I, I look back to, I remember in kindergarten and we had to draw a picture of like what you wanna be when you grow up. And I remember drawing a picture of a teacher and I wanted, because I always loved school. So I wanted to be a teacher and then as I got older, then okay, now I wanted to be a veterinarian and then I wanted to be a writer and then I wanted to be a filmmaker and then I wanted to be a lot of different things. And I sort of did all of those in some capacity, but just came back to teaching and I was not really expecting it, but now looking back, I think like, oh, maybe that’s, maybe that was meant to be all along.

Sam Demma (02:19):
You also do a lot of traveling. How has kind of shaped your work or given you new perspectives?

Sara Lindberg (02:30):
Well, I think well in a few ways, so I studied abroad my first like big traveling situation was when I studied abroad in, in college in Australia. And so I lived there for stay six months and to D term at the university of Melbourne. And I absolutely loved it, made great friends and just really realized that there are amazing people all over the world. And I did a lot of traveling while I was in Australia. And so I think after that, when I came back, then I was like, okay, where else can I go? So I think that has, you know, that was really eyeopening for me at that time. And then I think just traveling around, I do a lot of solo travel. So just going by myself, meeting new people kind of getting into the non touristic parts of, you know, this towns and cities that I visit has been really great for me.

Sara Lindberg (03:29):
Like I love learning about new cultures and meeting people and hearing about their experiences. And you just meet, like, for me, I say, if they’re is, if there are good people in your town, I will find them because randomly I just meet the best people when I travel. I really, really do that is so I think that has given me a broader perspective. I mean, coming from a very, very small town in Wisconsin about 800 people. So my graduating class was 30. Nice. So I definitely I definitely have been opened up to, you know, more different ways of life, you know, and I’ve been living in Seville for the past two years. So a fairly big city, I mean, especially compared to where I grew up. But then also I think living in Spain for the last two years as a Spanish learner has really helped me a lot in working with bilingual emerging bilingual students has really helped me in my work right now, I work a lot with ESL teachers and directors of ESL programs. And so being a would learner myself and like, you know, having that struggle and having some personal experience to draw on, even though my experiences clearly are not the same as, you know, a lot of our students, but I, I can understand more that it’s just, it’s more than just, you know, the language that goes along with that. So I think that’s helped me too in my teaching it’s become it. It’s helped me become a better teacher for sure.

Sam Demma (05:06):
That’s awesome. And you mentioned CSA a little bit as well for those who don’t understand what the association or the organization does, how would you explain it? What is the purpose and role and how did you end up in that specific position of as well?

Sara Lindberg (05:23):
Yeah, so Wisconsin, there are 12 C, so they’re nationally, they’re called like ESAs educational service agencies. So a lot of states have something similar, like in New York, it’s BOCES and other states have, you know, similar things, but they just call ’em something else. So I work in CSUN 11, so it’s the Northwestern part of the state, a lot of small, more rural school districts. And so our organization provides support services. My department is focused on professional development and instructional support for school districts. So within that I work in the ESL title three program, universal design for learning. I sort of manage the library programs there because I have a background as a school librarian. And so I do a lot of like teacher workshops and working with school districts in district to do some planning, working on developing new programs. And then I work a lot with educational technology.

Sam Demma (06:32):
That’s so cool. And how has the work changed or shifted or pivoted over the past two years? I feel like COVID has played a big role in reshaping education. What has changed or shifted over at CSA for you?


Sara Lindberg (06:49):
Well, I think I was in a pretty good position, I think personally because I have a background in educational technology. Cool. So, so right when COVID hit I was working, you know, kind of part-time remote from Spain for the last two years, you know, still doing some support and it was this immediate need for in the moment, you know, tech support and really specific training on how do we make this shift from, in her person to virtual in a very, very short amount of time. So I actually worked with teacher friends in Spain helping them because we literally had one day, like we found out Thursday night, they made the announcement that we would go into lockdown on Monday. So we had Friday to basically set all of the, you know, all of the tea and all the students had to figure out, you know, okay, what are we gonna do now?


Sara Lindberg (07:42):
And then it was, you know, oh, it’s gonna be two weeks. And then, you know how that went. So I think for me it was an easier transition. But definitely now we thought we were going back to like normal, right. Which is not the case. So we’re doing a lot of, I mean, we have the same learning curve as a lot of districts. So trying to figure out how the things that we do are focused so much on in person, professional development day, long workshops. And right now that’s really just not a possibility. So we’re also you developing new ideas. So how do we do hybrid? How do we do instead of one day, can we break it up into a few, you know, shorter virtual sessions, how do we work in this blended environment and support teachers? And also what teachers need has been quite different, you know, over the last two years.


Sara Lindberg (08:39):
So initial was a lot of technology. Now we’re a little bit, I don’t wanna say over it, but teachers have developed over the last, you know, year and a half out of necessity. Like they’ve found a way that works for them. So now it’s more okay, now that this is ongoing, how do we navigate having some students in person, some students at home and the same thing for our teachers? How do we support them? You know, when they really only have, you know, small blocks of time, cause everyone’s, you know, nobody can find subs and so everyone’s sort of covering for each other. So how do we get them the best bang for their buck? Right. So we have to be really creative in what we’re doing, but it’s like also a really great opportunity to develop new programming and think outside the box. Like, what if we did this?


Sara Lindberg (09:30):
What if, you know, let’s try this. And I think there’s a lot more room to try, try new things. And then if they don’t work out, it’s kind of like, well, okay, we tried that it didn’t work now, what can we do differently? Or what, what part of that did work? And we can, you know, tweak it a little bit. So it has been, yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s been terrible. obviously, but also a lot of opportunities have come up and, you know, we’ve seen that, you know, there are really great ways to do some blended learning for teachers and for students,


Sam Demma (10:04):
That idea of trying something, learning from it, trying again in tech, it’s called rapid iteration. Mm-Hmm and one of my favorite artists, his name’s Kanye probably heard of Kanye before. yeah, he, he, on his latest album, went into the middle of a stadium for like a month and made the music live in front of people and would ask for their feedback live while he was making it. And it was like this crazy, innovative idea in the music world, because no one’s at ever done that before. And he was taking that idea of rapid iteration and applying it to his album, which I thought was really fascinating. What are some of the ideas or technologies or resources that you think the school districts have maybe tried to use or utilize over the past couple years, or maybe even in your own work that have been helpful? Any resources tech or softwares?


Sara Lindberg (10:59):
I mean, I think it really, at first we tried to do all the technologies, so it was like, here’s a hundred new apps and, you know, websites and platforms and all this stuff. And it was just, it was too much. And the expectation, you know, for teachers on students to have, and parents too, you know, of parents supporting students at home yeah. To have 20 different platforms and logins and all this stuff, you know, we realized that, you know, more isn’t necessarily better. So, I mean, we went back to some of the, some of the basics, you know, doing podcasts, doing little videos, you know, getting a lot of good stuff off YouTube doing a interactive, just simple things through like learning management systems, like simple like Google classroom or, you know, all of these, you know, Schoology and all this stuff. And so having interactive conversations with students, I mean, one of the, one of the things that I did that I loved was I did a conversation class at the school where I was working in Spain.


Sara Lindberg (12:03):
So we had a conversation class, like maybe once or twice a week and we just talked, you know, so it was for them to practice their English with a native speaker, but we just talked about, you know, what have you learned from COVID what have been some good things? Cause it was really, you know, in Spain, the lockdown meant that you couldn’t leave your house. So kids couldn’t leave the house ever. Wow. And adults could only leave if they were essential workers and they had to have, you know, all the stuff or to, to like go to the supermarket or the doctor. So kids were stuck in the whole time. So for them it was, you know, pretty rough. And so we knew, okay, there’s a lot of bad stuff, but like, what are the cool things that you’ve learned? And the things that they learned were, you know, not part of, you know, traditional academic curriculum, you know, but they’re like, yeah, I learned that, like my brother’s actually like pretty cool now that we’ve spent time together.


Sara Lindberg (12:57):
Like, oh, my grandma taught me how to make, you know, this traditional recipe that she’s been making for years and, you know, or I started a book club with my friends, or we started doing like, you know, group video chats where we would all like watch a movie together. So something like that. So I think part of it was, you know, using some simple technology, but we also learned more about the, the place of like social, emotional learning and health and, and you know, what we learned in COVID wasn’t maybe necessarily as much, you know, of science, English, you know, but we learned a lot of other skills, you know, adaptability and perseverance and things like that. So, but yeah, as far as technology, I mean, there’s so many cool, cool things out there. I actually started doing last year, a lot of stuff with virtual reality. Nice. So we did virtual reality things with like Google expeditions and, you know, sort of virtual field trips and, you know, there’s so many cool things like that where you can kind of experience places that you’d never get to visit. Right. You know, like you can go to the international space station or you can, you know, do tours of like, you know, the moon or, you know, all of these really inner, deep under wall. So, I mean, using virtual reality for me is, is a pretty cool resource like technology resource.


Sam Demma (14:24):
Very cool. I, I interviewed someone about a year ago. I can’t remember his name now. And he actually was one of the first people in his school board to bring VR to the classrooms within the board. And he used it to do expeditions for students who moved away from their home country so that they could see it again, someone who, you know, fled a third world country or came over as a refugee and maybe hadn’t been home for like 14 years. He was, he was able to program the headsets for them to walk through the malls in their local city that they would’ve been in. And it, he told me like kids were crying of joy. Like it was such an amazing experience. Yeah, I think VR will be a huge resource even moving future as well. So it’s cool to hear that you’re already leveraging that as well. Yeah.


Sara Lindberg (15:15):
And, and now that like the technology as we go along, right, the price comes down significantly. So at first it’s, you know, it was really out of reach for some of these things. And I mean, to some extent, you know, to get really high end stuff, it is out reach for a lot of, you know, districts. But I mean, one of the things that we do at CSA is because we’re a consortium model, we have different libraries and things like that. So we can, you know, on behalf of districts we can purchase things and then circulate it like in a library system. So schools who can’t purchase like an entire VR. So that’s one of the things we have in our library. So if they can’t purchase like an entire classroom VR headset set, so every student can have one, we can lend that and they can do a unit for a couple weeks and use that. So, I mean, that’s one of the cool things that I get to do in my job is like test out new technology things. So, I mean, there are times like when people are just like walking around the office with like VR headset or we’re out with, you know, like whatever, you know, drones or like underwater cam, you know, whatever out in the office. And so, yeah, that’s fun.


Sam Demma (16:26):
Very cool. And if you could take your experience working in education, bundle it all up and share it with your younger self, meaning Sarah, when you were just getting into education in the first year, knowing what you know now and with the experience you have, what would you tell your younger self?


Sara Lindberg (16:46):
Wow. that, that’s a big one because I feel like every experience really has made me a better teacher, even the, you know, things that were not necessarily teaching. Yeah. but I think I would say that just to focus on, I mean, relationships are so important. So I think that, you know, building relationships with students and building relat with colleagues, you know, administrators building a network of, of teachers and people that you can, you know, run things by that you can bounce ideas off of, you know, I wanna try this new lesson I’m thinking about this, you know, what do you think? And then just really listening to students and like some of the best feedback that I’ve got has been from students, you know, saying like, what did you think of this? I mean, I know that a really eye opening thing for me is I was, I was teaching a class that I had developed called film as literature.


Sara Lindberg (17:48):
So I have like a, a filmmaking, you know, film studies background. And so I develop this course and it was like the second year that I was teaching it and I did a survey of students and just getting their feedback, like, what do you think? You know, what’s the, you know, difficulty level, what’s the interest level? Like what ideas do you have and sort of midway through. I was like, okay, I had a plan on where we were gonna go for the rest of the year, but now that I have your ideas, I’m thinking like, let’s do something different. And so like, let’s do what if we do like this independent project and everyone sort of gets to design their own, you know, like here are the standards that we’re looking at or learning targets, but how you approach it and how you show your understanding can be really different.


Sara Lindberg (18:35):
And you, you know, you tell me, so you can work individually. You can work in a, with a partner with a group, whatever. And so we went through that and like, they co-developed the rubrics and they, you know, co-developed the schedule that they were gonna have and said, this is how I’m gonna address these standards. I’m gonna do a, you know, presentation, I’m gonna do a video. I’m going to, you know, one group rewrote the ending to a movie. So they learned how to write in like script format. So they like downloaded the software and learned how to actually write scripts and did this thing about the character development. And this is why, and they went to the whole backstory about why it should have had a different ending to begin with it. . And I mean, it was just amazing. And one student did you know, movies from around the world and she’s like, I wanna do foreign films and talk about the culture and how that impacts, you know, the types of movies and like the history of, of the country and whatever.


Sara Lindberg (19:31):
So she did this amazing presentation and based on that, I was like, okay, next year, we’re adding a foreign film unit into into the curriculum. And she actually came back as a guest lecture the next year, this student. Yeah. Oh, wow. She’s awesome. So I think just like that, like you said, that iteration process of you don’t, it’s not one and done. It’s not, I develop a lesson plan now I have it for the next 30 years. It’s, you know, a constant, okay. This worked, you know, this could be a little better getting feedback from students and really realizing that there’s so many different ways. I mean, as a, you know, like I was always a good student, like a real teacher pleaser. So I was like, whatever you say, like, that’s what I’ll do. So, you know, multiple choice tests, like 10 page papers, whatever.


Sara Lindberg (20:23):
So I think, you know, as an educator and I brought in the way I learned best and the fact that I loved school, I, everything about school, I love learning. I mean, you know, and that’s not the case for everybody . And so I think it’s, it’s just like realizing that there’s so many different, it’s not like this way or this way, it’s like this way or a million different other ways. And you can really be creative in, in how, and the more creative that students can be like the better, like, in my experience, I guess the, the better the projects and the work that students do, if they’re really interested in something it’s like, okay, I would’ve had you maybe write an essay, but instead, you know, like you said, well, what if I like make a little documentary film and you spent like a hundred hours on this documentary film and it was spent probably 30 minutes, you know, slapping together an essay five minutes before class. So like the learning was so much deeper in those cases where students had more of a voice in, you know, what that looked like. So


Sam Demma (21:33):
It’s like a per more of a personal interest too. You’re, you’re letting them craft the experience, which I think is awesome. I want you to get on your soapbox for a second. And someone who has a background in in film, I believe that like the arts are so important. Any artistic, you know, work or subject that enables a student to express themselves. It’s a lot harder for someone to express themselves in math class, which is why I think it’s really important that arts also exist. Why are, why do you think the arts are so important and all forms of art?


Sara Lindberg (22:11):
Oh, man. I am a big, you know, I come from a family that is very creative. So I that’s always been support of my life. Music has always been a big part of my life. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, you know, writing stories and, you know, and all these things movies, you know, art like painting and drawing and stuff, which I am not good at, but I have other people in the band that are very good at that sort of thing. Nice. so I think being creative was just, I that’s how I grew up and I didn’t really know anything different and in my school that was always encouraged. And so despite being a very small school, there are a lot of opportunities to be involved in the arts. And I think there’s, especially during COVID.


Sara Lindberg (23:01):
I mean, like I found that a lot of people found a creative outlet during COVID because there are some things that you can’t necessarily express maybe in words, and in having a conversation or, you know, a simple way. And art is a very complex and very personal thing that I think allows you to get out all the stuff that’s that’s inside. So I think just from like a mental health perspective yeah. It’s so important, but then also you have, you know, more ownership over it because it’s such a personal creative thing that you can take something that’s like, maybe in, in a school setting, you can take something that’s maybe not super interesting to you. Like you said, maybe math or something like that and approach it in a very creative way. And that allows you to make that connection. Like maybe I, I don’t love this normally, but I found a part that connects to something that I love painting or, or writing or filmmaking or, you know, dance, or, you know, any of those things, music.


Sara Lindberg (24:12):
So, I mean, I think it’s so important. I think we’re seeing like, you know, the focus was on stem and now it’s steam, right. Because we we’ve incorporated arts into that. So actually I work with fine network of educators in the CCC 11 region, and they’re doing some amazing things. And some of the things that, that these teachers were doing during COVID, I mean, if you’re a band director and all of a sudden you’re teaching remotely, what does that look like? And I think really the, the fine arts teachers have to be so creative, I mean, out of necessity, but I mean, they were doing some amazing things in, in virtual learning time. And I think it had such a positive impact on students, especially, you know, during, during that time while still we’re still in the time. Yeah. But, but yeah, so, I mean, I think it’s, you know, it’s, it’s a way for students to express themselves and I don’t think it has to be, and I don’t think it should be a totally separate isolated.


Sara Lindberg (25:16):
I mean, there’s so much, you know, interconnectivity and I just remember I’m, I’m not a painter I’m in awe of people who can paint that. It’s just not a skill that I have. And I remember being in high school and there was a, a teacher of mine who actually is now a colleague of mine. Like, like we work together as nice as adults now, which is, you know, strange. I have a hard time calling, calling her by her first name. Right. Because she was, you know, like always like, you know, Mrs. And now I’m like, okay. And she’s like, okay, you can call me Kate now. It’s fine. But I was taking a class with her and one of the projects she had for a different class was about, I don’t know, short stories or something, and the students could, could show it, you know, in a variety of ways.


Sara Lindberg (26:00):
And I remember one student who was like, not really into school in general, like wasn’t really into like the, you know, academic side of things. But he, for his project, he had done this beautiful painting. That was about a story of, it was during civil, you know, civil rights era in the south. And he did this amazing, like a mixed media painting the, that like represented the conditions like during that time and like some of the STR, and it was just like looking at it, you were just like, oh my gosh, this is like this incredible. And you can see so much, you don’t even need any words, like a 10 page paper would not have anything on this one piece of art because you looked at and you knew exactly. You know, like you could see all these things represented in it. And it was so amazing. And then I was like, oh my gosh, here I am writing papers. You know, like thinking like, great, is this that I can, you know, write a paper. And like, my paper is nothing, you know, I have nothing on, on this guy. Right. So I think, I think there are things that, that fine arts can express that other, you know, other forms of communication really can. So I think it’s super, super


Sam Demma (27:24):
Awesome. You mentioned a association of fine arts teachers or an organization. What, what is the group called? If someone wanted to look it up,


Sara Lindberg (27:35):
It’s actually just a network that we have. So at CSA we have all different kinds of educator networks. So I work the, with the library, medias specialists, and we have like a tech integrator and curriculum coordinators and, you know, title three directors and all stuff. And so one group is the fine arts group. Nice. And what’s really nice about it in our area is like in bigger schools you have say like, I don’t know, 20, 30, 50, whatever art teachers, like music teachers in a lot of our districts, there’s like one or two people who do that. And that’s it. Yeah. So it’s hard to say like, okay, now meet with your department and come up with some ideas. Cause sometimes like in my district it was like, okay, the department of one I’m, I’m the , you know, specialist. I’m like, okay, so a department meeting sweet.


Sara Lindberg (28:23):
It’s just me sitting. Right? Yeah. So to get, you know, in, in our area to get a bunch of, you know, music teachers and art teachers and, you know, theater and dance and you know, together, and they can say, okay, what are you doing in this case? Like, oh, I’m doing this. Oh my gosh, that’s such a great idea. You know, I tried this like, have you tried this, you know, have you tried this app? Have you tried, you know, this extension, you know, here’s an activity that I did. And just have, like that network format is so important I think. And so for fine arts, I mean, it, it’s amazing to be a part. And they’re, you know, my artistic skills are very, very, you know, limited, especially in comparison, but it’s like get a bunch of really, really talented, smart, passionate people together and have a conversation and things that come out of those groups are just like, wow, you guys are awesome. I would say you have to mine the collective wisdom of the group, right?


Sam Demma (29:22):
Yeah. I had someone he had this statement, he said, I think it was R and S it was like Rob and steel. And he was like, I’m looking to Rob and steal people’s ideas all the time and, you know, re you know, reimplement them or adjust them for his own purposes. And I think it’s so important, you know, we don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes just having a conversation where someone can open our, open our mind to a totally different perspective that we didn’t think about before. That’s why I think networking and that the groups you’re mentioning are so important. I have three, like rapid, like rapid last minute questions for you to, to wrap up the interview today. okay. And I’m gonna put you on the spot. You’re gonna put me on the spot. cause we didn’t talk about this. You didn’t know what was happening. I,


Sara Lindberg (30:13):
I’m not prepared for these questions,


Sam Demma (30:15):
But they’re gonna be good.


Sara Lindberg (30:17):
Might have to edit them out later. So if it, it turns out that they’re not three questions at you’ll know how the responses went.


Sam Demma (30:24):
Question number one. Did they find your luggage?


Sara Lindberg (30:28):
Yes. oh, yes. It was a Christmas miracle. Yes. I have to shout out to Kayla at Minneapolis St. Paul international airport, because she was on the case and she was made can calls and sending messages and she’s like, we are gonna get your suitcase back, you know? And I, yes, with all the Christmas presents in it for my family. Yes. Arrive safe and sound suitcases, a little banged up, but you know, made it through.


Sam Demma (30:56):
That’s awesome. And for those of you wondering what the heck, that question was in relation to, to Sarah’s suitcase almost went missing while traveling home, right?


Sara Lindberg (31:07):
Yeah. Yeah. It, it got lost and it was like home alone lost in Madrid. Right. So nobody scanned it to like, do anything with it. So it was just sitting there all alone and nobody was really looking for it. And so I got back, I was like, okay, where’s this suitcase. And they’re like, okay, well, you know, make a call put in this ticket. And so then, you know, a couple days go by like nothing. And then I called Kayla and she said, nobody’s even looking for it. It hasn’t been scanned. Nothing has been done. She’s like, I’m gonna start making some calls because I can see like, your suitcase is literally just sitting there and no one is gonna put it on the plane unless, you know, we get a hold of ’em. So yep. They put it on the plane. So it had its own little adventure and then they delivered it actually to my house. Nice American airline’s little delivery van or whatever, and yep. Safe and sound.


Sam Demma (31:57):
Awesome. Question. Number two. If someone is looking to purchase cheese in Wisconsin, what is the best? What’s the best brand or block of cheese they should buy


Sara Lindberg (32:10):
I’m gonna say anything from Burnett dairy. I might be biased, but I think it’s the absolute Wisconsin has, in my opinion, as Wisconsin, the best cheese. And in my opinion, also Burnett dairy in alpha Wisconsin has the best cheese. So they make it, you know, and ice cream, they make the ice like fresh, right from the milk in their big storage facility. So it’s a new flavor every day. So yes, that’s what I bring when I travel. Everyone’s like bring cheese, go to the dairy, bring cheese. So every time I travel it’s with a suitcase full of cheese, which makes for interesting airport x-rays sometimes. Yep.


Sam Demma (32:50):
Yes and then thirdly, if someone is in Seville and they have only a few hours, what do they need to see or do?


Sara Lindberg (33:00):
Ooh, you can actually do a lot the, the city center for like the, the really big things is pretty compact. So I’d say take a, walk by the river, go down to Paque Maria Louisa, it’s this really big, beautiful sea go to the cathedral. If you can climb up and, you know, go all the way to the top, you can have this amazing view of the city. It’s a long walk off up, but it’s worth it. And yeah, and then just eat some, you know, have some top bus and, and enjoy and go in springtime when the orange trees are blossoming. Cool. Because then it’s a beautiful, you know, sense of orange trees.

Sam Demma (33:52):
Awesome. Cool, Sarah, thank you so much for taking some time to come on the show to talk about your journey into education and some things that have been helpful for, you and your perspectives and philosophies, Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.

Sara Lindberg (34:11):
Thanks for having me on! Good to see you again.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sara Lindberg

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Adriano Carota – Classroom Teacher at St. Mary’s College in Sault Ste. Marie

Adriano Carota - Classroom Teacher at St. Mary's College in Sault Ste. Marie
About Adriano Carota

Adriano Carota (@adrianocarota) began his journey of working with youth during his time in residence life at the University of Waterloo and Western University. That experience drew him to teacher’s college and a career as an educator. “When am I going to use this in life?” This question is the driving force of his passion for providing students with insight into career exploration and goal setting.

Adriano served as the Leader of Experiential Learning for the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board after spending time in the Student Services Department at his alma mater, St. Mary’s College. His professional career has brought him -full circle – back to the classroom where his passion is stoked by the curiosity of his students.

Connect with Adriano:  Email  |  Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Adriano Carota
Resources Mentioned

The High Performing Student Podcast

St Mary College School

Goal Setting and Planning Resource

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Adriano, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. It’s been a while since we’ve spoken, how have you been and introduced yourself and let the audience know who you are?

Adriano Carota (00:14):
Well, thanks for having me. I’m pretty excited. I know we’ve been trying to get this going and it’s I miss you, man. I really do. It’s been a long time and we we’ll talk a little bit about how you’ve been using some of your content in the school and hope to do more of it. My name’s Adriano Carota. I’m a teacher at the Huron-Superior Catholic district school, at my Alma mater St. Mary’s college, very excited to be here all the way up in Sault, Ste. Marie, Ontario. So we are experiencing an odd December actually. It’s it’s very mild here today. It’s about eight degrees and rainy. So the snow is slowly melting away which is unusual, but hopefully we’ll end up with a white Christmas.

Sam Demma (01:00):
Yeah, I hope so too, because it’s raining here as well. And it’s oddly warm, which is kind of funny for late December…

Adriano Carota (01:09):
It’s very funny.

Sam Demma (01:10):
Yes. Tell us a little more about your journey into education and what brought you to where you are today?

Adriano Carota (01:19):
Well, it was a, not a straightforward journey. That’s for sure. I like most kids. I remember sitting in my a grade 10, I think it was a religion or geography class. And her teacher kind of told us a stat that, you know, you’re gonna change your decision for what you wanna do in your career, like a million times. And I just couldn’t I couldn’t wrap my head around that and sure enough, it wasn’t a million times, but it was quite a few times. So I ended up up going to university and when I got there, I was quite involved in residence life as a orientation leader. And then I always had a goal to sort of be a, an RA my university, university of Waterloo. We were, we were called dawns. And I got involved in that.

Adriano Carota (02:00):
And from there, one of my supervisors was just an amazing leader and heavily involved. He had been to about two other schools at the time in residence life. So I applied to a few schools and I finally got into a university of Western Ontario at the time now, Western university tremendous housing program, residence life program there. And one day a friend of mine called and said, I’m thinking of going to Buffalo for teachers college. Why don’t you join me? So I went for an orientation meeting and the rest is history, moved back home. Got a teach teaching job in elementary school for the board I, I currently work for here on superior. And and then was doing a lot of coaching I a big into, into coaching football and basketball. So I was doing that at the high school level as well as elementary. And then I put a transfer in, got back to my to St Mary’s college, which, which I’ve been at for, for, you know, the majority of my career and, and absolutely loving it. It’s a great place.

Sam Demma (03:02):
Most of the time when friends call to go to Buffalo, they want to go shopping so going for teachers college is awesome. Did, did you know, well, we ended up

Adriano Carota (03:14):
Go ahead, go ahead. Say I was just gonna say we did end up trying the best wings around Buffalo wings. That was, that was kind of the highlight there from the non school standpoint because we did actually live in 40 area Ontario. So we commuted over the border, getting over the border back then was a lot easier than it certainly is now for obvious reasons. So we were pre nine 11 and all that. So it was kind of easy.

Sam Demma (03:37):
Yeah. And did you from a young age, no. Teaching was your thing, like, I know you said you changed paths a couple times, or like when did the idea pop into your mind that it could be a, a possibility aside from your buddy recommending it?

Adriano Carota (03:51):
I think when I was sitting in the orientation session in Buffalo. Yeah, no, I, I never thought I really enjoyed it. I was heavily involved at high school. Yeah. I had some good mentors that really encouraged me to develop my leadership skills. I went to a couple leadership camps that I was kind of recommended to go to. But you never really think of yourself as a leader. I never thought I I’d go into teaching. I was really into healthcare. I thought I’d be like a a chiropractor, a physiotherapist, something like that. And when I went to school, I just started to kind of really get more interested in, in the extracurricular stuff that, that I was involved in, like the, the orientation stuff, the leadership stuff. And I think it was just fate. You know, I, I really believe that you know God has a plan for us and, and my friend called me that day and, you know, the rest is history.

Adriano Carota (04:41):
And so I think that’s sort of what led me there. Was it something subliminal perhaps? I’m not, I’m not too sure, but I, I certainly don’t regret it. I really am happy to be back in the classroom. I’ve had a really good journey in my, in my career, which a lot of teachers don’t get to experience. And it’s good to kind of, I’m hoping to end my career in the classroom as well because the students really give you a lot of energy. I’m sure you feel that when you’re in front of them as well. Whenever that happens, that you’re able to really get, get that boost of energy from them from that youth. So not that you’re a very old at all Sam, but you’ll certainly experience more of that as you kind of age, like.

Sam Demma (05:22):
Yeah. A hundred percent and you are right by sharing that you’ve had a unique journey being that you’re someone who loves leadership activities and being hands-on, I could see how the classroom would be super helpful. And I could also see how you would enjoy the experiential learning role that you were in the past few years, take us through some of the different roles you’ve had in education and why you think it makes your journey a little more unique.

Adriano Carota (05:47):
So when I was in residence life as a, a residence manager, you know, you do a lot of advising. You do a lot of assisting kids and guiding them and helping them and, and taking them through some of their life struggles. And so I always, once they did get in teaching, I always wanted to end up in guidance student services as we call it now. And so I was a guidance counselor for about seven or eight years, and then I just, I guess I needed a change. I, I do, I do kind of have that in me where do need to change things up from time to time. And experiential learning was a hot topic in our province. And the, the ministry of education put out a position for that in every school board. And I applied and I got it.

Adriano Carota (06:31):
I thought I could bring a little bit something to that. And it was also a way for me to hopefully get back into the classroom and with students from grade kindergarten all the way to 12, unfortunately COVID hit. And so my time in the classroom was a little bit limited, but we did what we could we did a lot of stuff virtually. So it’s yeah, so I, I went from guidance, so you got to see the other end of it, and you really, it really humanizes the student. Right. And, you know, when I first started teaching, I didn’t have kids. And, you know, you always hear people say, oh, if you had kids you’d understand. And I always thought I understood, but really wasn’t until I had my, my first daughter that it, it, it does change you and working in student services also humanize the, the student as well, because you realize that they’re at school, you know, not always for the they’re at school, cuz it’s a safe place to be.

Adriano Carota (07:21):
And they’re around positive role models being the teachers and the staff. And so that put that human element back into teaching as opposed to we’re just the knowledge givers. Because I think that we, we, we do offer a lot, the greatest part about it is as a guidance counselor, I was involved in graduate, right grade 12 graduation. And one of the greatest things I hear is when students thank their teachers and those people that in their life that were their role models to kind of guide them along because that’s a really great component of the school. It’s not just about, you know, the ABCs and, and the one, two threes, right. There’s more to it than that. And, and so that really F fills me as, as kind of why I’m glad I’m still in teaching. And I chose that, that pathway.

Sam Demma (08:06):
I love it. And you’re absolutely right. That safe spaces and cultivating safe spaces in schools are so important for everybody, including the teachers, the staff, and the students in class classrooms, specifically. How do you think educators do that? Is it through sharing your own vulnerable stories or allowing kids to share, or how do you think you cultivate and build safe classrooms in a safe school?

Adriano Carota (08:37):
Well, I think everyone does it a bit differently. I think fairness is key. So as long as the kids know that you’re fair and you have integrity, then that goes a lot a long way. Right. And you know, that saying fairness, isn’t always the sameness, but I think the kids understand you know, you’re not, you’re not favoring one student over the other and kids are pretty perceptive too. They, they know when one of their classmates needs a little bit more of a push or a little bit more of a break than, than others. So I think everyone does it a little bit differently. Recently since I’ve been back, I, I throw a slide with an emoji up and it’s called old man wisdom. And that’s, that’s basically, I try to tell the kids like, you know, I was just like you, so I get where you’re coming from.

Adriano Carota (09:22):
And, and when the adult at the front of the room is trying to tell you something, you’re not understanding, you’re not conceptualizing it at the time, but so I try to reinforce with them that somewhere down the road, you’re gonna say, oh man, Mr. Carta. Yeah, that was, that was the hang on, you know, cuz I’ve done it a million times in my life. Right. and that’s not an exaggeration. It likely has been a million times where, you know role models or adults in your life. My parents especially were great foundation in my life. And so, you know, that that’s sort of, you, you wanna make sure that they take a better path than you, right? Like, so some people I’m always like, I don’t want my kids to be like me. I want my kids to be better than me. Right. And so that’s like kind of my goal for my kids. And I treat the students the same way, you know you know, kind of go out and, and, and set your mind at being the best you possibly can be. And that’s at different levels, right? Every not everyone’s gonna achieve at the same, but I think happiness comes from when you’re to, you know, take pride in what you do.

Sam Demma (10:19):
What do you think drives you to continue the work you’re doing every single day, even through the pandemic when things are more difficult, what is your own personal motivator and driver?

Adriano Carota (10:32):
That’s, that’s a tough question. I would say to be a role model to my kids and, and you know, I’m, I’m certainly, I think we all fall into human nature of not always being the most positive. And so you certainly gotta remain positive as you possibly can and try to, to push yourself to be that way. So I think I wanna be better than I was yesterday. And so that sort of motivates me a bit. So that’s a little bit of an forensic motivator and, and give the best product I can to the people that I’m influencing, you know, whether it be my children at home, trying to be the best dad or the kids on the football field or my, my students in my classroom is just try to give them the best that I can be, because then, you know, that will assist them hopefully in, in kinda lighting a fire under them.

Sam Demma (11:18):
I know sports is also a big part of your life. And when I was at the school, I had the privilege of working out in the gym in one of your t-shirts and it’s a, it’s a beautiful space. You know, how do, how do you think coaching has played a role in your experience as an educator? And why do you think it’s so important? Not that kids get involved in sports, but just extracurricular activities in general?

Adriano Carota (11:45):
Well, when I was at, when I would visit the grade eight students to promote our school, that’s we used to do that and talk about the courses you’re gonna take. You know, we have a number of high schools in town and I used to always tell them, regardless of where, what school you go to, you, you’re not gonna enjoy it unless you make the most of it. So you it’s about you, it’s not about the school making the most for you, it’s you making the most out of your experience there and getting involved. And we’re very fortunate at St. Mary’s college. We have a ton of extra career at the curriculars, whether it be sports or, or theater or music various clubs that we have. We do a lot of being in Catholic school. We do a lot of community service as well, right.

Adriano Carota (12:23):
And so that’s a big component of our school and just getting involved is, is important. I, I always think that great coaches make great teachers and, and great teachers make great coaches. And so I kind of in my classroom, it’s almost like I’m coaching as well. Cuz that’s the whole thing I’m not there to, I’m not there to hand out DS. You know, like when I, when I, when a student’s not doing well, more many of the teachers at the school, they look at it personally, like they didn’t do the best they, they could. And, and so they’re always pushing to get that student to be better. We’re not looking to make a bell curve here. We’re, we’re looking to have our students SU succeed as best they possibly can. Right. And so we wanna push them to be the best that they can. So I’ve, I learned that when I first started teaching, I had certain tremendous role models and mentors when I first started, especially here at St. Mary’s college and some, some of the elementary schools that I, it worked in. And so, you know, it’s, it’s putting the kids first and, and trying to get the squeeze, the squeeze the best outta them.

Sam Demma (13:21):
Speaking of becoming the best, whether it’s you personally trying to become your best or students striving to reach their own definition of success. What are some resources that you’ve personally found helpful as an educator for teaching, for working on yourself? And second part of that question is what resources have you found helpful to share with your kids and kickstart discussions in classrooms or even programs that you’ve run in the past that you thought were meaningful and impactful for the kids?

Adriano Carota (13:53):
Oh, wow. That’s a, that’s a tough one.

Sam Demma (13:55):
It’s a long one too.

Adriano Carota (13:57):
It? Yeah, it is. I, I, I’m not saying this cuz I’m on your podcast, but I really looked at what you had put out with the high performing student as well and goal setting. Right. I mean I still struggle to goal set. But I think as, as humans were routine bound and goal, setting’s a big, big part of that. And so if you don’t set a goal for yourself, then how do you know where you’re going? Right. There’s no guideposts along the way. Right? So it doesn’t have to be too specific in terms of daily or what, or what have you. But I think students need to have goals. And one of the resources I keep pushing on to students is planning your future. The saddest things, some of the saddest things that I dealt with as a guidance counselor was a kid coming in and meeting with me for some career advice or some post-secondary advice.

Adriano Carota (14:50):
And, you know, they’re asking me what they should be doing. Right. And, and for me that was, that was a part that was missing that, that we, we didn’t really do a good enough job at. And so I try to push that every day is like, what do you wanna do? What’s your passion? So in my classes now I’m always showing them various resources of their or passion and it may not even be something that they’re looking to do, but there’s always off branches. Right? Like I started in residence life thought I’d be there for a while. I ended up teaching. Right. And so I always tell them as well, like trying to encourage them to get into computer coding as well. Cuz that’s the biggest, that’s a big thing right now. Right. And I, I always tell ’em, I’m, you know, I’m 47 years old and I had to start to learn how to code, right.

Adriano Carota (15:36):
So it’s never, it’s never too late. So I think goal settings important and I think planning is important for your future. And following your passion, cuz a lot of students will follow sort of the pack and where, where people are, are going not a lot, but some will. And it’s important for you to, to, to figure out what that passion is and, and, and do some exploration. Right. And I think that for some students has been limited in the last couple of years of where we are, where we’re at currently with our situation, but we have to move beyond that and try and figure out ways to to get them to see that the future’s so important and high school is such a hard time for, for, for kids as well. And I’m sure you could attest to that too.

Adriano Carota (16:16):
Like we can all attest to that being such a struggle, whether it’s, you know, physical going through puberty or social emotional. And so they just gotta realize that once you get past you know, that and into your senior year and that, you know, life really opens up for you and there’s so much that you can, you can all offer and do a hundred percent. I’m not sure if I answered your question there, it was, that was a tough one. But goal setting I think is, is huge. Having a plan is very important.

Sam Demma (16:44):
You did a hundred percent answered the question and as a follow up, when it comes to teaching and working with students in the classroom from your own personal perspective as an educator, what tools have helped you? And I’m assuming that planning and goal setting are two of those things, but have you come across any articles, books or different programs online, different softwares or anything you’ve used over the past couple of years that you think this tool was really unique and you know, maybe you’ve even told other educators about it. Any, any types of resources like that, that you think another educator might find valuable?

Adriano Carota (17:23):
Oh yeah. I, I actually the last couple years I did a newsletter in, in identifying all, all the stuff that’s, that’s so good out there. One of the best parts is is sort of I think community connectedness, right? So group chats and, and things like that. So those community of like-minded people, or like, you know, biology teacher kind of, that’s what I’m sort of looking at now. Right? Like I was heavily involved in the community for full of experiential learning people. Right. And we shared constantly. So I think human resources is one of the best resources that you, you could possibly have. So, so now coming back to the classroom, as a science teacher, I’m looking for those same communities of people that are you know, teaching science, teaching biology and, and what are you doing and what are your best practices?

Adriano Carota (18:14)
You know, and that, that that’s, I think some of the best that could be out there and, you know, you look from a digital standpoint, YouTube and what it has out there. So many people want to share what they have in social media. So I’m really leveraging social media like Instagram. I know you have a great presence there. It’s a great way to find resources and find connections and what I found the, one of the best things to come out of the pandemic as odd as that sounds was there were so many people doing video conferences in the evening, or, well, we’re doing clinics for example of sports. I did a lot of football clinics, but there were a lot of educators getting together with book study novel study, things like that. Right. So practical study that way.

Adriano Carota (19:02):
And so that was a huge a huge asset and getting online and learning from, from others. And I couldn’t believe how many people were so open to sharing and just giving up free knowledge, right. And then the chats you’d be the chat rooms would, or the chat portion of the, of the zoom calls would be loaded with website resources. So for me, the biggest resource, I, I can’t really nail down one or two, but it’s finding perhaps going on Twitter or Instagram and finding that group that, that you need support from. So whether it be, you know, a group of science teachers, or a group of math teachers, or a group of coaches that are interested in, in giving back because a lot of people are, are interested in sharing for the right reasons, right? Not to brag about what they’re doing, but to just kind of outline that, Hey, you know what, this is one of the greatest things that’s happened to me in my classroom. And I had a lot of success and, and we have a pretty good group around here full of sharing. And so that’s, that’s really important. We share a lot particularly in the department I’m in which has been beneficial for me. So I, I think human resources is the best resource right now and getting out there. And so obviously social media plays into that these days, cuz it’s one of the easiest ways to find things out.

Sam Demma (20:19):
There’s an abundance of videos and educators on, especially Twitter who openly. And I see it too, like post dozens upon dozens of links and resources and things in that you can search through and sift through. I think that’s such a good answer to that question. Human resource is the best resource that’s that should be like a tagline of this episode. if you could,

Adriano Carota (20:43):
Well, you know, you’d go on, you go on there and you, and you find their fall. So I would, what I would do is I’d find their follow orders, right. And then you, or who they’re following. And, and then it just, it, it’s actually a very overwhelming to be quite honest. I, I, I joked with one of my colleagues, a great math teacher, my Calver and I, I, we used the joke all the time. It’s like, I have to take a Twitter break because you could literally, and it’s not cuz I was posting it clearly research, you know? So my employer looks at that as this guy’s on Twitter all day. Well, no, it’s, it’s, it’s not to, you know, to tweet it’s it’s to search for these resources cuz you’re right. Twitter has just become an immense resource, but again, it’s overwhelming cuz there’s so much you can do do and you, so you need to again get set those goals and kind of really diverge your thing in terms of where do you want to go with things and, and what can you choose because you don’t wanna bite off more than you can chew that way.

Adriano Carota (21:33):
But I think, I think we have to leverage like I’m I’m I, I always tell my students that that phone that you have, that smartphone is one of the most powerful things you can, you can have. Right. But it can do a lot of damage, but if we leverage it for the positives there’s so many things we can do with them, it it’s just incredible being the digital agent and how fortunate students are these days.

Sam Demma (21:59):
We’re like an eight-hour drive away and we’re able to connect and have a face-to-face phone call because of technology, which is awesome.

Adriano Carota (22:07):
Yeah, you’re right. I mean, I remember when I was in residence life you know, I had to, we had to do collect, call, collect phone calls home. I’m sure some people on won’t even know what I’m talking about or we’d have a phone card that we can have long distance or long distance plans that we’d get into. Then when I, when I near the end of my current residence life webcams were huge, right? So parents were webcaming their, their, their kids at school, which is awesome. And then now, you know, we have, we have FaceTime, we have zoom and all that. And so hopefully fingers cross the, the pandemic will end soon, but I really hope that we can continue a lot of this because you know, it bridges, it bridges us, you know, like you just said, you’re so far away and yet you’re so you’re so close and the information is still valuable. You’re not in person, but it’s still it’s still great to, to get that exposure to someone who, you know, might be farther away. And especially for us here in the north, you know, we’re about a seven hour, seven and a half hour drive away from the GTA. So for us getting, getting down there is, is kind of tricky at times, right? Particularly in the winter when you have snow on the road, six months of the year.

Sam Demma (23:18):
It’s so, so true. And this past two years have been challenging, but like you mentioned, there was a lot of positives in terms of the technology. Do you think there are any other opportunities that have almost grown because of this period of time or things that have arisen because of the pandemic that maybe are slowly starting to appear as opportunities maybe for a change of thinking or new approaches to things?

Adriano Carota (23:51):
Oh, that’s a, that’s a tough question. I think that you know, again, the, the bringing people who are distantly, geographically distant and culture together certainly helped. I think it’s also, I think getting back to humans, I know when this first started and people were working from home, I thought to myself, you know, all this office real, estate’s gonna, you know, take a hit because people are gonna be working from home. But what I’m finding is people don’t wanna work from home anymore. Yeah. People want that social action re interaction, right. They want to be with their, with, with people. And I, I know with, with our students we’re talking about, you know, what’s gonna happen in two weeks when we return and, and they, so don’t want to be virtual again. They want to be at school. They want to be interacting.

Adriano Carota (24:38):
And that’s a great thing because you know, it gets them in a positive space. It gets them out of their home, gets them out out of the, the, the camera and really puts them in, in a place where it’s probably safer for them, particularly if they’re struggling with mental health or what have you. So I think I think we’ve learned that we took, we took for granted what we had. Right. and so being able to go to the office and, you know, just get, I know last year was my back was killing because, you know, I’m working from home and my computer and my printer and everything’s right there. But when I go to, when I went to work, it was great to just get up and go to the copier. Right. just to get a little stretch stretch happening and just being able to converse with your, with your your colleagues and for the students. It’s huge, huge, right. Being able to be close to friends and near friends and in a safe space because, you know schools have been, you know, the, the, the health table nailed it. Schools are fairly safe for students to be at, right. Cuz the precautions are there and the staff has done a great job in cleaning and, and maintaining a safe environment as far as the, the virus go.

Sam Demma (25:49):
If you could go back in time and basically speak to Adriano in year one of education, but still have the knowledge and experience that you have. Now, what advice would you give to your younger self or another educator who’s in their first working in this vocation?

Adriano Carota (26:14):
Hmm. I think it would be to network, you know don’t, don’t burn any bridges. I tell the students all the time, every day is a resume writing day because you just never know when someone’s gonna call you adrenal grow up for a reference or whatever. Right. So certainly networking and, and getting to know as many people as you can. And you know, taking advantage of, of the connections you have with people. And I think one of the other ones is, is you know, the saying fortune favors the bold, right. Well, I think all, oftentimes people look at fortune like as the money and, and the riches and the powerful, but if there’s something that you want, then you need to, you know, to go out and get after it. Right. because it’s not gonna come to you.

Adriano Carota (27:00):
And for me as a father of three girls, I I’m always pushing my girls. You know, because their gender even still, maybe it’ll be different when they’re, when they’re older, but even still have, could have an impact on them. Right. and so to push them to know that they’re just as equal and capable as anyone else and and to go after it, if you want it, you have to go after it. Right. So I really like that. And maybe I didn’t go after a few things when I was younger that I should have, or even in my early teaching career. But certainly I think that’s important is to, to get up and, and get after it is, is I guess advice, I would give my, a younger self.

Sam Demma (27:40):
That reminded me of this message I heard from Denzel Washington recently. So I’m comparing you to Denzel Washington. He was delivering a, a commencement speech and he said that it, you have, or that desire in your heart, if it’s truly a good one, meaning it’s gonna benefit all people involved that is God’s proof before or before the fact that it’s already possible and already yours, or you wouldn’t have had the idea in the first place. So claim it and start working towards it and your, you know, idea of getting after it. And you know, this idea that fortune isn’t just money and riches it’s any true, good desire in your heart that benefits all parties, if it was to, you know, come to life. I think it’s, yeah, it’s a message that brings me peace when I have an idea that I think is worth pursuing, but I have no idea how to make it happen. I remind me of those ideas and words, but this has been such a cool conversation. And I appreciate you coming on here to share a little bit about, you know, your journey through education, the different twists and turns. If another educator listening and wants to reach out, ask you a question or connect, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Adriano Carota (28:53):
They can, they can hit me DM me on Instagram at it’s @ace_carota, or my email adrianocarota@gmail.com I’m sure you’ll probably post that kind of stuff. But I’m sure if you just do a Google search, it’ll be out there, but yeah, this has been great. It’s, it’s been always great talking to you. You’re you know, we we’ve been having some younger students come into our school for for some exploration and we, we one of the days we start our off their lunch break with your with your video to them and on your, in your path, which is great because it just go out and get after it. Right, that’s the main thing. And, you’re right. If, fortune, happiness is the biggest fortune you could have. Right. and that’s and that’s huge.

Sam Demma (29:43):
Yeah. Cool. Well, Adriano, keep up the great work. I hope you have a white and snowy Christmas this might come out after Christmas and make no chronological sense, but that’s okay. Thank you so much for coming

Adriano Carota (30:00):
It could make sense up here though. It could make sense up here though. Maybe not to Christmas, but to the white stuff on the ground. Yeah.

Sam Demma (30:06):
Yeah. That’s awesome. Well, thanks again. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.

Adriano Carota (30:12):
Well, Sam, I hope you keep up the great work too, cuz you’re a great asset to young people. So keep it up and I appreciate you having me. Thanks so much.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Adriano Carota

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Mike Thiessen – Instruction, Curriculum, & Technology Coordinator at Fort La Bosse School Division

Mike Thiessen - Instruction, Curriculum, & Technology Coordinator at Fort La Bosse School Division
About Mike Thiessen

Mike Thiessen (@MikeThiessen) is the Instruction, Curriculum and Technology Co-ordinator at Fort La Bosse School Division. Over the past 20+ years, he has worked in the field of education as a Curriculum Developer, Teacher, School Principal, and now in his current position as a Divisional Co-ordinator.

He has a deep passion to provide students with safe and enriching learning environments where they can learn to set and achieve goals.  As a husband and a father of four, he enjoys spending time coaching sports, making music, travelling, and golfing. 

Connect with Mike:  Email  |  Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Mike Thiessen
Resources Mentioned

Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast

The Heggerty Reading Curriculum

The OrtonGillingham Approach

Fort La Bosse School Divison

The BYTE 2022 Education Conference

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Mike welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here this morning. Start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about your journey that brought you to where you are today in education.

Mike Thiessen (00:13):
Hey, thanks Sam. It’s really great to be here. When I heard about the opportunity to sit down with you and, and talk about what I do and also what, you know, have that conversation with you, because I’ve seen some of the stuff that you’re doing, and I was just excited because it’s, it’s an opportunity to be able to talk to people in education and maybe people that just wanna be inspired by educators. So when I heard about this, it was, yeah, pretty exciting. So thank you for inviting me here. Why do I do what I do? Why, what brought me to it here? Well, you know, I started out my career. Oh man, it’s gotta be over 20 years ago now. And so the reason why I’m in education is because I love people. I enjoy hanging out with people.

Mike Thiessen (00:56):
Relationships to me are number one. People are number one. That’s, that’s the most important thing in my life. And, and so when I was younger I worked at a summer camp when I was in my teens and I had the opportunity to work with young people. And I just saw how much of a difference that you can make in a, in a person’s life. If you’re having that opportunity to to speak life into them and to do positive things that are gonna make a difference in their life. And then you watch the changes that can take place and, and how that can actually affect a, a young person. And so that’s what inspired me. That’s why I became an educator because I felt, Hey, I wanna do this every day of my life. I wanna be able to impact kids.

Mike Thiessen (01:34):
I wanna impact young people. And so that’s, that’s the, the journey that took me here was, was starting out in a summer camp. And then obviously I had other major influence series of my life. Like, like my dad, my dad’s a, a teacher, his dad was a teacher. And so I saw the effect that they had and the impact that they had. And so because of that I was inspired to do that and, and, and it’s natural for me. I enjoy, I enjoy hanging out with people. I enjoy hearing people’s stories. I enjoy ma you know, starting relationships and, and making sure that you know, I actually take the time to listen to people and, and get to know who they are and, and, and why they are, who they are, you know? And so that’s, that would be why I’m an educator. Absolutely. Yeah.

Sam Demma (02:15):
Walk me through the camp experience, what that was like for you growing up. And it sounds like it had an emotional impact on, on you, if it really stuck with you and drove you towards wanting to work with kids, walk me through what it looked like.

Mike Thiessen (02:29):
Sure. Yeah. So working at a summer camp, it’s, it’s very unique. It’s not, it’s not your typical summer job. Obviously it’s, it’s one of those where it becomes 24 7, you know, and for me when I first started out, I was, I was 17 and as I was a counselor and, and it becomes a, a 24 7, like I said, you know, you go in and it’s a week. So you’re spending, you’re spending a full week with these, with these kids. And it could be a six year old, seven year old, eight year old, nine year olds, depending on the week. And so you’ve got these little, little guys running around and we’re going from one activity to the other, we’re swimming, you know, they’re, they’re doing archery, they’re riding horses playing games in the field. And it’s really, you know, it’s one of those experiences where you really can’t you can’t replicate it anywhere else.

Mike Thiessen (03:12):
Mm it’s it’s, it’s, it’s very unique and it is it’s own thing. And what we found was that these kids might be coming in from, from really tough backgrounds, you know, like they might be coming from, from areas where you know, where they’re with child and family services and they don’t have a mom and dad anymore. And so they’re, you know, in the foster system and that kind of thing. And so they’re coming in and they might be carrying a lot, a lot of baggage and a lot of hurts and a lot of other things, but they come in and they, all of a sudden they’re able to hear and have you speak life into them and say, Hey, you’re person, you know, like you are worth something. And I value you, you know, when they hear those words, all of a sudden you’d see that smile come on their face and you’d, you’d watch them at the beginning of the week, going from this person who’s, you know, obviously going through a hard time and sad and not, not, not doing well.

Mike Thiessen (03:53):
And all of a sudden at the end of the week, they’re, they’re smiling and they’re happy, and they’ve got this, this, this spring in their step. And so able to be part of that is, yeah, it’s really, it’s really unique. It’s really special. The other piece to that too, is the relationship with the other staff. They almost become your brothers and sisters, you know, because you’re working all together as a team and, and you’ve got one goal and that’s to be able to give that kid that came to that camp, the best experience that they can have. Right. And so to have a team of people doing that and, and hanging out together and, and being able to spend that time together as staff, those are they’re lifelong relationships. Like I’ve got one of my best friends is still, you know, I met him at camp, you know? Wow. And he was one that worked with me and he was a you know, one of those people that had major impact and continuously have a major impact on my life. And so, you know, I look at that period of time and I realize, Hey, that really shaped who I am today. And it’s also steered a lot of the, the career choices I’ve made and, and things that I do. So it’s, yeah, it’s a wonderful, been a wonderful experience for sure. That

Sam Demma (04:52):
Was at 17 years old. At what age did you make your mental decision that you wanted to get into education? Because it sounds like your passion for working with kids and working in a team could have taken you in many different directions, but it took you here. At what age did you make the decision? This is the path I wanna pursue. And what did making that decision look like?

Mike Thiessen (05:14):
I was 19 when I finally said, okay, this is what I’m doing. And so I actually went through a few different phases. I, I tried at a few different jobs. I worked in the area of carpentry, you know, I did some, some plumbing. I drove a truck for a while, so it was an in semi, you know, doing some, some short hauls. So I spent time working with my hands. I spent time doing those, those blue collar, you know, getting out there and, and working hard. And it, and I’m, I can, I can do that. I don’t hard work, like that’s, I grew up on the farm. So I, that that’s not an issue, you know, I actually enjoy it. I, I like working with my hands. But it was, yeah, it was through the experiences at camp.

Mike Thiessen (05:52):
And then it was through talking to other people. And then just realizing that you know, what, education holds an opportunity where you can make impact, and it can be a daily job. You can make a living in doing it, but at the same time, you’re actually able to make change. And so it’s not just going to a job and doing something so you can get a paycheck it’s actually going and making a difference. And then, yeah, the paycheck is it’s important, right? Cuz that’s what keeps you going. And it makes you can buy house and pay for food and all that. But that isn’t the main focus. The focus is actually what you do, you know, that, that daily getting outta bed, why do I do what I do well be so I can make an impact so I can make change.

Sam Demma (06:29):
You got me curious, because you mentioned your dad really inspired you to get into education. And then what I didn’t know about you was that you grew up on a farm. Did he do both roles? Like, was he a farmer and also an educator? Tell me a little bit about your father and how he had an impact on, you know, your decision to get into teaching.

Mike Thiessen (06:46):
Yeah, absolutely. So growing up, dad, he, he started out as a farmer. Yes. and then he went into university a little bit later in his career. He would’ve been in his thirties and it was, it was during that time when farming was getting a little bit tough, we had a few years of, of drought and then prices were getting a little higher and, and interest rates were getting higher. So dad had to go back to school and he actually became a teacher. He, he enjoys people. He, he, he actually was a, he worked as a, a minister as well, a pastor in a church. And so he did three things growing up. And so yeah, so the, the teaching piece was actually just it was, it was part of because he was very good at it and, and because he enjoyed it, but it was also because he needed to put bread on the table.

Mike Thiessen (07:27):
And so that was something that you know, he, he enjoyed doing it and he went and made it a career and he farmed at the same time. So for me growing up yeah, being on the farm, learned a lot of those skills, but then a also seen, has dad worked hard, you know, he’s give going hard every day. And, and so for him to be able to to do a good job teaching and do farming and, and take care of us as kids and, and mom obviously was a huge part of that as well. My mom obviously was his partner and, and, and working alongside of him with that too. But yeah, they, they definitely had an impact on, on the reason why I became, you know, a teacher and, and went into the education field for sure. Yeah.

Sam Demma (08:04):
The field itself looked a lot different over the past two years than maybe it did for your first 18 or 19 years, depending on how long you’ve been in education. What were some of the challenges that you personally faced and saw your colleagues and peers go going through? And now that we’re kind of coming outta that time period, a little bit slowly. Mm-Hmm what

Mike Thiessen (08:25):
Are some, we’re not there yet? We’re not there yet. but we are getting close. We’re getting close.

Sam Demma (08:30):
Yeah. What are some of the exciting things or opportunities you’re looking forward to, and then also some of the challenges you guys are all you’ve all been faced with.

Mike Thiessen (08:38):
I think for, for educators right now what I’m looking at and I’m, just, I, I feel very thankful for the people that are in the field, because I feel like they do have a heart for, for what they’re doing. Yeah. So that part, I, I wanna say first, I, I have full respect and unbelievable. I I’m blown away. Like I, I just, I, I, I, I, every day I look at what educators are doing and the things that they’ve done over the last year and a half, and I’ve just huge respect for every single one of those teachers who’s in that classroom and doing what they do, because it hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been one of those where oh, just another day, you don’t like, know it’s every day you wake up and it could be different. You, you could be, you could be shifting, you could be changing something within your classroom.

Mike Thiessen (09:21):
You might have a new protocol that you have to put in place or a new rule or, or something physically that you have to change within the classroom. So I have huge, huge respect for teachers for that. I think the next big challenge that I see coming, and, and like I said, I, I totally respect everything that’s been done, but because of all these challenges that we face, I feel like there are some gaps in learning it’s that have come through this. And, and it’s because we’ve had to move to remote learning. We’ve had to you know, maybe change the way that we do our teaching within the classroom. And so what we’re seeing now is that there are some gap gap, and it’s not the full 20 students that are in classroom or 30 students that are in the classroom.

Mike Thiessen (10:00):
We’re seeing it, that it might be that 40% or, or 30% of the students have, have these gaps that normally probably wouldn’t have been there as predominantly. We wouldn’t have seen them as, as, as, as, as a big of a deal. And so I think that’s our next big challenge is how are we gonna find ways to hold those students and have them so that they can make make graduation so that they can get to level prior to even, you know, hopefully within the next couple of years and, and we can sprint and get them up to that spot where, where they need to be. And so I think that’s our next big two out is to find ways to, to, to bring those students up that, that need it, and that have already fallen behind a bit because of this, this last year and a half of COVID and, and the struggles that have gone through that.

Mike Thiessen (10:49):
The nether big thing is taking care of each other. We need staff to be able to pull together. We need to be teams. We need to make sure that we encourage each other and we’re looking out for each other. And we also need to realize that we’re gonna still need to work hard, you know, like we can’t, we can’t just take a whew, a breath and, and, and relax, like, yes, we do need to find ways to recharge, but let’s recharge so that we can run. Yeah. Not so that we can come back into the classroom and, and just kind of me and, and, or through the next year and a half, cuz we actually are gonna need to work. There’s a lot of work to be done and it can be great and it can be done. But we’re gonna have to recharge ourselves and make sure that we’re healthy ourselves in order to do

Sam Demma (11:27):
That on the flip side, what are some of the things you are extremely excited about seeing I know you’re hosting the bike conference. You sound like you’re somebody who’s extremely passionate about how technology can be integrated in the classroom. You’re also someone who loves hockey and is excited about the fact that students are slowly starting to get back into sports. Tell me about some of the exciting things you’re seeing and hoping will continue to happen in the future.

Mike Thiessen (11:58):
Yeah. So some of the stuff that’s going on in the, in the schools and with our students is that yes, we are doing, you know, we are doing school sports within the cohorts, of course. And obviously using, you know, COVID restrictions and doing what we need to do there. But we’re getting back into it, you know, like we’re actually being able to interact with each other a bit and, and we’re back in the classrooms. Yes, we’re wearing masks while we’re in the ma classrooms, but we are in the classrooms. It’s not remote. You know, those things are exciting to me like that, that means we’re actually able to, to be human. We’re able to be around each other relationships. I’ve said it before. They’re number one, it’s always about relationships. And without those relationships you can’t you can’t do the things that we do as educators.

Mike Thiessen (12:41):
It’s not as effective. Yeah, it can, there can be teaching that takes place without relationships, but not effective teaching. Yeah, it has. We have, it starts there, it starts, it starts being able to interact and, and making a difference within people’s lives. And so when I look at at the future I get excited about the skills that we’ve built because of the challenges we faced. Right. Hmm. Cause there having been quite a few, like you talked about technology, we’ve learned a lot of new, great tools and we’ve learned how to use them. And as teachers I’m watching, as people who have never used Google classroom before, whereas a learning management system, all of a sudden became experts within a year and a half, you know, or people who with an office 365, they’re not afraid to, to fire up teams and have a, a meeting with, with other people and to be able to do that video conferencing call.

Mike Thiessen (13:27):
So and you and I we’re, we’re in different provinces right now, you know, and we’re sitting down and having a conversation and, and talking about education may not have happened two years ago. And so when I look at what COVID has, has presented as challenges yeah, that wasn’t fun. I don’t ever wanna go through that again. But I’m so thankful for the things that we’ve learned and the things that we can use as, as skills for the future. They may not be used every day. I hope they aren’t you, but let’s use them for the good that we have, you know, and, and not, and not just dismiss it as something that has passed, but it’s like, Hey, yeah, let’s build on that. And that’s, let’s continue to move forward on those things. One thing that I’ve noticed too, is with social media, taking off in the last five years and things like TikTok and, you know, shorts on YouTube and things like that.

Mike Thiessen (14:12):
I’m watching as, as students who are growing up, they’re almost becoming producers and editors and those types of things. I’m really excited to see what’s gonna happen when they walk into the classroom, you know, 10 years from now. And even some of these young teachers that are coming in, people that are your age, right. They’re gonna walk into the classroom and they’re gonna have this set of skills that I didn’t have because we didn’t have social media. When I was first starting out as an educator, we didn’t have a lot of these tools that you have even podcasts, things like that. Those weren’t even there back then. And so to be able to see all these great tools that have taken and broken down all these barriers in the walls, now we can use them in the classroom and, and use it for learning and it can be part of what we do.

Sam Demma (14:49):
And it’s just a different perspective, right? I think having access to different schools, going through different experiences gives you a different perspective and potentially a young, a younger teacher or the next wave of teachers will walk into the classroom and reimagine things too. Right. Absolutely. The same way that you would’ve reimagined things when you started 20 years ago or slight changed and adjusted, and along your journey, teaching, working in education, I’m sure there’s been some really helpful resources you’ve had along the way, whether it be people maybe even courses, books, like if you had to pick a couple of those things to share that have been very helpful for you and your own journey what would some of those things be?

Mike Thiessen (15:37):
For me, I would say wow, there’s so many of them, right? Like, and, and there’s people that have been involved in all of that. One that’s been really impactful for me this year. And I’ll, and I’ll stick to it. Cause I think it’s making a change currently in our, in our school division and within the, within our schools right now is that phenomic awareness and phonological awareness. And this is for early literacy. We’re talking about students that are just learning how to read. Mm. And if I was to ask somebody, what’s the most important skill that a child is gonna learn, whether they’re two years old, all the way, three to 21 years old, what is, what is gonna be the most important skill? And I think most or many people would say reading, we need to know how to read.

Mike Thiessen (16:20):
Like, that’s, I know it’s a basic skill and we kind of take it for granted sometimes, especially here in Canada, because our literacy rate is so high. Right. And so we look at reading as being something that is just, yeah, that’s gonna happen. Right. And so what we’re seeing is, and, and especially this fall and in even last year was we were, we were noticing that a lot of our, our students coming into our schools they were missing that ability to rhyme, to blend, you know, sounds. And it’s just those basic basic skills that we thought. We would just take them for granted and just assume that they would know how to do it. And so we’re watching as, as large chunks within our classroom, don’t have those skills. And so we’ve been looking at there’s a researcher Haggerty. Who’s been doing, doing research around anemic awareness and that’s program that honestly, it’s making an impact and it’s changing a lot of the, the teaching that’s going on in our, and it’s only, you know, it’s only taking 10 minutes, 15 minutes in a day with these students that are 5, 6, 7, 8, a nine years old.

Mike Thiessen (17:14):
So grade 1, 2, 3, 4. And it’s only just doing a very short amount of time with these students. And we’re actually watching, as these students are making huge gains in their, their reading levels in their, their spelling. And then we’re also, we’re using a little bit of another program that we’re using as Orton Gillingham for, for dyslexia and we’re, and it’s actually using it with, in the classroom as a whole as well. And we’re watching as, as it’s making a difference in, in this reading. And it’s the, these two programs that right now for me are very exciting because it’s actually, I’m watching as, as we look at the research and we look at the numbers, it’s making a difference. It’s, it’s actually, it’s changing the abilities and the skills for these grade 1, 2, 3 students, and it’s making it so that as teachers we’re actually able to have some breakthroughs.

Mike Thiessen (17:59):
And I talked about sprinting earlier and about being able to move forward, this is gonna help us with some of those gaps. We’re gonna be able to move forward with that, cuz once the student’s not to read now dig the next step. You need that as that base. If you’re in grade three and you’re not able to read yet, it’s gonna be pretty tough to cover some of the science and social studies and some of the other curriculums that you, you need to cover. So yeah, so that’s, that’s a big one for me right now is that program right there.

Sam Demma (18:22):
That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds like it’s making a massive impact. I can’t wait to continue to hear the ripples of that.

Mike Thiessen (18:31):
and it’s in early stages. Like we have some teachers that are really excited about it and jumping on board and I’m really hoping that it’ll and it, and, and it’s, we’ve got a good group and I’m hoping it’ll spill over into, you know, the, the rest of the school division, not just one or two schools, I think we were at about three or four schools that are working on these programs and it’s, it’s making an impact. It’s making a difference and it’s, it’s exciting and it, and it’s doing it because it is working. That’s why it’s spreading. That’s why it’s moving. And, and it’s because it is actually helping students be able to read.

Sam Demma (18:59):
Ahead from your experiences at camp. Yeah. You mentioned one aspect of it that was awesome. Was working together as a team and that’s something that leave is also so important in education, but in anything. Yeah. How do, how do you make sure that all the staff and like from a school are unified and on the same page, you know, working cohesively and together, is it about again building relationships and trust or like, how do we ensure that that happens in a, in a school

Mike Thiessen (19:33):
It’s, it’s a culture, right? It’s something that it happens within and it’s because, and, but it has to be done through effort. Yeah. You know, like we, we know that it does take effort. It does take, it does take some planning and it, and it’s interesting because leaders that, that do it well it ha happens naturally just because it’s who they are in, what they do. And part of that is like you talked about coming together as a team and what does that look like? Well, it’d be that conversation before or after class with a teacher between a school administrator and a teacher or between another teacher mm-hmm it’s that pre COVID that high five and the hall, you know, back when we could do fives, then we’ll get back there someday. I’m sure. It’s, it’s that you know, right after classes are done and one of those teachers, you can just see they’ve had a tough day and you walk over to them and you say like, Hey, Hey, how you doing?

Mike Thiessen (20:25):
You know, what can I help you with what’s what’s going on in your classroom? And it’s that, that reaching out and saying I need help in this area. What did you do with this day? And I noticed he was off today. What was, what was the methods or the, the strategies that you used it’s it’s that collaboration and teamwork. And like I said, though, it starts, it starts from leaders. It really does like leaders. We have to watch and see what’s going on within, within our staff. And we have to monitor that what’s that environment look like is there, is there, is there positively having, you know, are people encouraging each other? And then you have to take time as a leader. You have to either write that note and say, Hey, you’re doing a great job. You know, I really appreciate what you did.

Mike Thiessen (21:02):
I saw what you did with that student. And it was amazing keep doing that. You . And so when a person hears that and when it comes from a leader what happens is they feel inspired and they feel like tomorrow, I’m gonna do that again. You know? They might know, and you might say it verbally, too, that can make a difference as well. I, I listened to a leadership podcast and, and one of the, the gentleman that was talking about Greg Rochelle actually is, is the name of the gentleman. And, and one of the things he says is, you can’t say, thank you enough. You know, if you’ve, if you’ve said it, once you gotta say it again, like, it’s one of those where it’s like, if you think you’ve said it enough times, save it another 10 times, you know?

Mike Thiessen (21:37):
Yeah. Like it’s one of those things where you have to encourage people. And if you think you’ve done it enough, do it 10 more times because people need to hear that they need to hear that positive reinforcement. And they also have to hear that you do appreciate them. And so I think that’s where it starts from, and that’s where you’re gonna have that teamwork and, and that coming together. And then the other piece that I would encourage is those people that are part of a team, never, ever, ever tear somebody else apart. That’s part of your team, all that will do is just tear you apart because that’s, that’s your teammate. Like if you’re out there and there’s 20 people on a, on a hockey team and you decide you’re gonna go and hit one of your linemates while he’s out there on the ice with me and, and you decide, okay, you know what I’m gonna stop him from getting the puck, cuz I want the puck you’ve you’ve basically taken a team game and you turned it against itself.

Mike Thiessen (22:21):
It’s not gonna happen. You’re gonna lose the game, guaranteed. It’s exactly the same. If you ever tear somebody else down in the staff room, or if you talk behind somebody else, that’s exactly what you would be doing is you’d be destroying that team. And you’re actually destroying yourself when you’re destroying your team member. And so my biggest encouragement to, to staff members would be like, Hey, if you, if you have something that needs to be talked, yeah. Go talk to that person, but do it in a very constructive yeah. Way, but never behind their back or to somebody else or tear down the team because that’s, that’s the worst thing for it. And then it, it would just cause Ascension and it would cause make it so that it doesn’t work. So as a leader, you gotta be sensitive to that too, to make sure that you are always very much you can be truthful. Absolutely. But you have to be careful about who you tell things to or what you talk about to, to your, your staff members and, and, and the people that work for you. And, and make sure that it’s done in a very constructive and a, in a positive weight and, and where we’re moving forward and we’re doing, what’s what’s best for the team itself. And, and obviously at the end of the day, that’ll be the best for kids.

Sam Demma (23:17):
Rochelle sounds like a familiar name. Do you recall the, the name of the podcast?

Mike Thiessen (23:23):
Yep. It’s the leadership podcast.

Sam Demma (23:26):
Leadership podcast. Yeah. , that’s awesome.

Mike Thiessen (23:28):
Yeah. And he’s phenomenal. He’s got huge subscriber base and, and he does one every, I believe it’s once a month, he has a, a leadership podcast podcast and highly recommended it’s it’s very good.

Sam Demma (23:38):
All right. Awesome. Yeah. And if you could travel back in time, speak to, you know, 19, early, 20 year old, Mike, who’s just getting into teaching and education, but with the wisdom and advice you have now, mm-hmm, looking back. What would you tell yourself? Or what advice would you give yourself?

Mike Thiessen (23:59):
I would say the biggest one would be focus. That would be it. Yeah. Focus on your goals and make sure that when you spend your time doing what you’re doing, have purpose, purpose, and focus. I think we can do, there are so many opportunities and there are so many great things we could do. It’s important to actually sit down and say, okay, which one is the one that’s important? Yeah. Which is the one that’s gonna have, have the impact, which is, which is the opportunity that’s gonna, I’m gonna look back on and say, okay. But I’m glad I made that choice. I’m glad I did what I did. And so if that would be the advice I could, I would give that to the advice for the 40 year old Mike as well. , you know, like I don’t think that ever stops.

Mike Thiessen (24:43):
You know, just because we are gonna have our opportunities, we are gonna get up in the morning. We’re gonna look at their at our day and say, okay, what is it that we’re accomplishing or our week or a month? And I would say, let’s focus on, on what’s important. Let’s not let let distractions or, or things that could be good, get in our way or cause us to choose something that’s second best. Let’s let’s focus on what’s what’s best. And look at your vision. What is your vision? Is it accomplishing your vision?

Sam Demma (25:10):
That’s awesome. Focus is a huge component. I think of anyone striving towards any outcome. So, yeah, it’s a good constant reminder. Always. Mike, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, sharing some of your experiences, stories, resources, this was a great conversation. If someone listening would like to get in touch with you, what would be the best way for them to reach out, send you a message or ask a question?

Mike Thiessen (25:37):
Probably Twitter. I think that’s probably the…I don’t have a lot of social media. You know, so I think the one that’s that’s out there in public and people could probably access me the best would probably be Twitter and I’m @mikethiessen So that would probably be the best way to go. You can DM me on there or follow me on there.

Sam Demma (25:54):
Awesome. Mike sounds good. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.

Mike Thiessen (25:59):
That’s awesome. Thank you, Sam. It’s been fun.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Mike Thiessen

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Natasha Daniel – Program Coordinator at MCG Careers Inc and Certified Career Development Practitioner

Natasha Daniel - Program Coordinator at MCG Careers Inc and Certified Career Development Practitioner
About Natasha Daniel

Natasha Daniel is a bilingual (French and English) project manager in the Youth Skills and Employment Program at MCG Careers.  A Certified Career Development Practitioner, Certified Work-Life Balance Coach, Certified Strengthening Families Coach and a Trained Trauma-Informed Community Facilitator with a strong passion for community and working with people.

Her passion for empowering others began while working as a Trainer and Restaurant Manager for Burger King Canada, working as an Educator in an Adult High School and working in Human Services managing programs. 

In 2013, after several years of gaining expertise in Program Management, Career Development, Family and Youth advocacy in Montreal, her family relocated to Edmonton. Joining MCG Careers in 2013 with a wealth of knowledge she believes her career has further evolved in program management and process managing while empowering youth to increase their strengths, become more resilient and accomplish goals through the REBRAND PROGRAM.

She is motivated and driven to excel by incorporating a hands-on approach. This allows her to focus on the needs of others and their potential which results in stronger engagement, trust and stronger relations with stakeholders and the community. She loves bringing awareness and educating individuals in areas related to career and employment, mental health and any aspect to enhance one’s wellbeing.

Passionate about human relations and volunteering, she is instrumental in bringing strategies and resources to Non for Profits by serving on different boards and volunteering on Youth projects.  Natasha enjoys learning and is constantly broadening her knowledge through training and certifications. Natasha spends time honing her creative skills by writing poems and loves working around fun people.

Connect with Natasha:  Email  |  LinkedinTwitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Natasha Daniel
Resources Mentioned

MCG Careers Website

The REBRAND Youth Development Program

Small Consistent Actions TEDx Talk

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:02):
Natasha welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Please start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about the journey that brought you to where you are today.


Natasha Daniel (00:13):
Thank you Sam, for having me. So my name is Natasha Daniel and I work at a wonderful company called MCG Carrer as an employment center. And I am the youth program coordinator for our program called rebrand. And by the name rebrand, it gives youth an opportunity to rebrand themselves to really change their lives. And it’s a great journey to be on working with youth, supporting them and encouraging them to really be the best that they can be, and really be empowered to realize that, you know, the world is out there, that they can conquer. So that’s called REBRAND. So what led me to the journey of wanting to work with youth and when we say youth, the, the category of the clients that I’m working with there are between the ages of 17 to 30. So that’s the federal go? My definition of youth.


Natasha Daniel (01:03):
And you know, I started working with you very early in my career as a trainer and manager for burger king several years ago. And I had the opportunity to really hire and, and train youth to just maybe in their part-time jobs as they were accomplishing their ed educational goals. And I moved further from there into working in an adult high school, again with youth who are trying to accomplish a high school certification and stuff like that. And, and really seeing that youths need support and that youths are smart. They are innovative, they’re creative and they’re open to challenges and experiences. So that really empowered me to wanna continue working with youth then fostering an opportunity to support them into their career and employment journey.


Sam Demma (01:52):
That’s awesome. So bridge the gap between burger king and MCG careers for us, what was the journey in between that brought you to MCG?


Natasha Daniel (02:01):
So burger, I was my first career, my first employment opportunity in Canada. So I started off with cashier, but I have the passion for learning and I always wanted to be a teacher when I was younger from since elementary school, because I had a wonderful male elementary school teacher, nice. And my passion for learning and reading and all of that. So when I was burger king, I took time to learn everything on the job. So which within two years with working in a company, I was a shift supervisor because I really learned everything that they had to do like managers did and on the operation of the business. And then I just worked my way up into becoming a restaurant manager. So having an opportunity to hire youth more, also youth to wanna work in a fast food you know, in a fast food restaurant, I want, want to get that opportunity to have extra money while they’re studying so high school youth or post secondary youths.


Natasha Daniel (02:55):
And then from hiring, then I started training as a corporate trainer for burger king. So Alberta was one of my places I came to for a couple months to train people. So that’s kind of my part in terms of with youth and then going into when, when I, whilst I was studying for my post-secondary, I went into adult. So working again in the, in the education facility where you are helping people to learn and helping people to get their educational goals and stuff like that. And then I transitioned into community. I used to be a big brother, big sister at, for boys and girls club for many years. Nice. And being a big sister all also really empowered me and, and, and helped me to really understand that younger people need some additional support. And I taught about what can I bring from my experience?


Natasha Daniel (03:49):
What can I bring from my background? What are the values that they have that also Correl to my values and how could I empower them? So always working the community and working families. I had the opportunity to work with families and interventions in the school and child and family services and stuff like that. So again, I saw that, you know, sometimes as a child you mightn’t get the foundation that you need, but when you get into your youthful age, you’ll still require some of those foundational skills to help youth get into a stronger adulthood and life management. And that’s how I’m here at rebrand right now.


Sam Demma (04:29):
I know it makes you upset when people don’t treat youth with the same respect and I guess, general treatment as they might another adult. and I think what’s really awesome is you explained earlier that you, weren’t only focused on people getting jobs and working shifts at burger king, but you were also making sure they focused on their education. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?


Natasha Daniel (04:55):
Yes. And I, I think sometimes in society older, you know, adults, so people in general, sometimes we underestimate the power that a youth have. And we also, there are a lot of biases against young people also, you know in society. And I believe that how could you just be open to learning about a youth and learning that a charity that they come from and how they can contribute to society and how you can support them? So, one of the things I know that was imperative for me was I work at burger king, as education is very fundamental or at least acquire high school education on the first level is important to, you know, looking at a career path possibility or helping you with your learning goals. But I, when I worked at burger king, I wanted to make sure a part-time job wasn’t, you know, the main focus for everyone, you will have to have that life balance.


Natasha Daniel (05:50):
So I believed in life balance from really early. So I supported the students who were to get that life balance by, you can make your money part-time or full-time work, but you can also go to school. So in the, at burger king, we had a lot of post-secondary college students, and I would have them, we kind of opened a little tutor session within our diet, within our our work employee room. And they were free to bring their assignments. And I kind of them with another worker who in college could help so that they can get support and help with their assignments as they were going through high school. And that’s just because also some of the youth, they didn’t have that support at home. It’s very difficult when your parents are just trying to make money to put food on the table. And especially if it’s an immigrant parent also, they really sometimes don’t understand the whole structure of the Canadian system. So their goal is just that I need to feed you. I need to keep the house going, but what about all of the other needs and needs? And looking at the challenges that your, your child might have. And a lot of them didn’t have that knowledge and didn’t have that skillset. So that’s where I kinda stepped in from that early, early times, being in burger king and moved on into community and stuff like that.


Sam Demma (07:03):
Your experiences in burger king, in different community organizations and clubs has all led to the perspective that you have in working with students in rebrand. Can you talk a little bit more about the rebrand program, why it’s so close to your heart and what’s compelled you to continue working on it for the past eight years?


Natasha Daniel (07:25):
So rebrand again, you know, be why is it so close to my head when I came from Montreal to Edmonton and got a job at MCG, they had this beautiful program and it’s so really one of the foundational programs and I, that MTG offers. And I think it’s about 15 years in ENCE in the, in our current employment center. So there’s a great knowledge about the program in Edmonton is a program that a lot of agencies and support workers and stuff they know about because of the strength of the program and how the program helps you. So with looking at rebrand and going through many cohorts and many you know, participants with different challenges and experiences and background, you understand that really youth, they need the support and they need to really be allowed to have the resiliency. And they need that part where they see that there’s more to life in the world, or there’s more to what I could accomplish.


Natasha Daniel (08:24):
And I always say to my youth, like, how do you define accomplishment? Not don’t define accomplishment by society’s, you know, definition of accomplishment, because what did, what have you done? It doesn’t have to be that you’ve gotten a trophy, or you was, you, you were in the, you know, the football team or you had a scholarship and many of them do, you know, they had those, but what other accomplishment, how, what, how do you see accomplishment from your, your perspective and how can you think out of the box and bring those skillset to your life? So with rebrand because rebrand, we allow them to have many experiences in the program by having a mixture of, of training that they don’t get in school. So we focus on the life management and with the life when it comes with the basic things about budgeting, the basic things about, you know, those communication skills, the basic things about being more self aware.


Natasha Daniel (09:22):
So, you know, who are you and what can you bring to the table and how, you know, what part, what are your goals that you wanna accomplish? So we focus on those great ma life management skills now at COVID and a lot of youth, they go through mental health challenges, and sometimes they’ve gone through those challenges from early childhood and, you know, not having the right supports, the challenges, the mental health challenges increase and increase and increase. Yeah. So really getting them to understand that, yes, you can have a mental health challenge, but what is the best strategy that you are going to incorporate? And what supports do you need to really cope with your mental health challenge? Because not everybody who, you know, you do have coping skills when you have mental health and sometimes society label, you, you have mental health, you depressed, but with that, the, you can still achieve something as long as you have the, the right strategies.


Natasha Daniel (10:21):
And as long as you have the support, so rebrand provides all of that to the participants. And then we fo we help them to focus on employment. What skills can you bring to an employer what’s out there that you would like to learn on the job? You know, what are some of, of the values that you have that another employer might, you know, wanna bring into take you on because that value kind of meshes with their work value. And then what are your long term goals? So what are your current goals? So what are your employment goals, or, you know, so what do you wanna go back to school? What would you like to do? So helping them to really have a broad rate of experiences through training, through you know, sessions like having a good motivat speaker, like you, you know, through financial literacy programs first aid, computer programs, computer training, and volunteer experiences, and just basic, you know, everything their experiences an adult might have, or have had to bring them to a successful journey. That’s what we brand helps them. And then we support them in all aspect, as they’re, you know, being trained and gaining more of self and becoming, you know, looking at the path that, oh, I needed this to help rebrand my life to start a new journey.


Sam Demma (11:39):
The name is so appropriate for the purpose of the program, which is so cool. And I’m honored to have been a part of a few of them. And another one this week, I’m always super excited. One thing that I love about the program is the diversity. It seems like the students all come from very different cultures, different walks of life. How do you get through to students, you know, from the get go and make sure that they understand it’s a safe place where they can be themselves and share the truth. Even if it’s one that’s a uncomfortable to talk about.


Natasha Daniel (12:14):
I, I, I believe for myself, it’s just, I’m open. And, and I, I say, you know what being open is the first time. So I’m no longer youth, but I was a youth at one point in time. And I know some of the experiences that they might have might have be maybe a similar experience that I had, or also by my dive first experience in working community, working, you know, with intervention services and all of that, all of the prior work that I’ve done, you know, I let them know that it’s okay. That as a youth, that everything wouldn’t be smooth it’s okay. That you are gonna make challenges. It’s okay. That because you didn’t critically think about the consequences that, you know, like hitting someone in the head, you didn’t critically think about it, and then you gotta arrest for that.


Natasha Daniel (12:58):
And then you got a criminal record is okay. You know, and because of the challenges that you have, it doesn’t mean that your life stops right there. What it is is that, how can you cha take those challenges and make them into opportunities? So when they, when I connect with a youth, you know, it’s just to see I’m here to support you. And let’s have that open dialogue. Let’s talk about, just be upfront, put it on the table, lay on the table. I’ve heard it all. Like I tell him, I’ve heard it all. There’s nothing. I think that you would come and tell me that like might be a shocker with working with youth you know, from the different backgrounds and different challenges. I had a youth who came to Canada from from a, from the con African continent. And this kid was so resilient.


Natasha Daniel (13:46):
And when he had a story of this kid, he was a war soldier at 13 years old. And they him to kill someone and he didn’t want to. And he ran away. He ran from two weeks, no shoes on his feet, in the jungle for two weeks. Wow. To get to the border of another country for safe Haven. Wow. And this kid came into the program, was really resilient, you know, new immigrants. So he had to learn a lot, but he took to the supports and that, that, you know, everything that the program was offering, he got employment. He got a hand of learning how to understand money because his things that I need to work as I had to money for my mom, I need to take care of my family. And then, you know, two, three weeks into the program, he had one of those days where, you know, he was himself and I’m like, what’s up, he’s always a child.


Natasha Daniel (14:46):
He’s like, you know, I just got worried. One of my best friend got killed, trying to escape and trying to leave, you know, the, the world off that they grew up in with all of the hardship and he felt really guilty. And I says, you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay. Because he felt that I got freedom, my friend didn’t. Mm. And I says, you know what? Take a mental health day. It’s okay. You can go home. You can probably go, just call your mom or talk to the people that you need to support from culturally. And when you feel better, come back tomorrow. And so some of these are just some of the small things that allows, because when you give them those kind of supports, then they’re able to start planning the next step forward. And he moved on into employment. And a couple weeks ago I was outside and he is like, Natasha, Natasha.


Natasha Daniel (15:34):
I’m like, who is that is me? Like, what are you doing? He was doing skip the dish, but he’s a university student. Oh, wow. he is a university student. And he was just doing, skip the dish to make extra cash. So that’s just kind of some of the, the, the people that we experience in rebrand. And one of the things that I can say that learning working with youth is youth are so open. There’s never judgment in my classroom. They never judge. There’s so much support from one youth to the other, even though life experiences are different. They are one of the most open, hated group, I should say, within our society that a lot of people don’t know. A lot of people think that they’re lazy. A lot of people think that you’re paying for your games all day long.


Natasha Daniel (16:22):
And a lot of people think that, you know what, they, they just don’t wanna do anything. They just wanna BU around and all of that stuff. I don’t think they use the word bumming anymore. you’re showing your age, be careful. yeah. I don’t think I don’t that they would like, you know, and the thing about working with you, sometimes I say a word and like, like the other lady they said in my classroom, I’m like, what social media? Do you guys, you know apps and stuff, do you guys think that I have, and like, yeah, Natasha, we know you only have Facebook and one of them she’s like, and because you’re from the Caribbean, I know Caribbean, people love to talk to their family members and they only do WhatsApp and like, like yeah, know that, you know, on Instagram, you and I was, and I was like, whatever guys, whatever, , that’s so funny.


Natasha Daniel (17:22):
Yeah. And, and that’s to take, and, and even the fact that sometimes I said, sometimes in rebrand, I said, okay, tell me some of the I’m like, okay, well, let’s just, just, just, just, just write it down a little bit. You guys write some of the words that you say that we probably, that I probably wouldn’t know of, you know? And then they make me a whole list of kind of the, the, the, the pop culture words, and some of the regular words that they use now, so that I can be on the same lingo with them. yeah. , you know, and I think, so these are some of the things that, so for me, it’s just being open with them and making them, letting them know that you know, I’m not here to judge you. I want you, so I never forget that I was a huge, and I know we gonna all, sometimes we messed up.


Natasha Daniel (18:06):
Sometimes we make mistakes. And sometimes we, I says, you know what? I know. I know the days where, when I was in university, cuz I lived in Montreal and New York was right there, leave Montreal on a Friday, go club in Friday, Saturday sat up until Sunday night, you drive back into Montreal, you go to Tim Horton’s bathroom, wash up, you run to class. And then when school is finish on a Monday evening, you crash I’m like, and they were like, what? I’m like, those are some of the experiences, but how do you do things positively? You know, you can still experience live, but how do you do it in a positive way that it can help you increase your life management and become more aware of the part that you wanna go? You know? And every journey is a different journey. There’s so many, you know, youth and rebrand mental health, as I say you know, one of my rebrand pats was actually just from 2019 and this came, he came through the foster care system.


Natasha Daniel (19:09):
And when he came into rebrand, a smart kid, oh my gosh, like, cuz he has all, one of my, one of my coworkers say he reminds of Scooby duke because he was like, you know, bigger than my parents. But he was so he is such a smart kid and he would be there in the classroom. You teach him and is part of his ADHD and all of this FST and everything. But he’s there, he’s probably building a website, but he can tell you everything that you just said. And he wanted to go when we were part of the coach is looking at where do you wanna go? He says, you know, I really wanna do physio, arts. I wanna become a pilot, but I can’t afford it. And I says, but do know that there’s a program here in Alberta because you were in care, they can pay, you know, they can help you with your supports for education. I got him connected. We get to, we apply, we did the forms, we did everything. And he went forward into doing his assessments and everything to go to school as a pilot. So this is 2019 two weeks ago, cuz I’m not on Instagram again. he sent my other coworker, a video on Instagram to give to me, he was crossly he was flying cross Canada. Wow. yeah. And she came and she’s like, look at this. I’m like, what is that? And she’s like your student gauge. I’m like what? She’s like. Yeah.


Natasha Daniel (20:40):
He’s I on Instagram. And he was, he got yeah. And is accomplishing his goal of becoming a pilot. Wow. And this was 2019. Wow.


Sam Demma (20:54):
It, it sounds like the program really helps students lay the foundation for future success.


Natasha Daniel (21:01):
It does. And, and, and, and there, and no there’s by no means I wouldn’t say some of them drop out, but with me I am a high achiever. So from the get go, I, you know, they know that they have all of the supports that I said to them. Like, you know, I’m not working for you. We are working together. Yeah. And that’s my mantra when they come in, like I’m not working for you, we are working together. So with that, we, we have I used to have 12 for, for every four and a half months now I have 10. And for the most part I have eight, eight successful achievers all the time. Nice that they would go through the program, they would go into employment and figure their life part. And the thing about rebrand, because some of them who’s not completed high school cuz there’s a percentage of non high school completers.


Natasha Daniel (21:48):
They probably in school had negative experiences. Yeah. But coming into rebrand, it gives a different shift. Hmm. And then they, so, so for many of them, and I remember one of my UT said, you know what? After being in rebrand, I realized that I can go back to school now. Ah, because they have a lot of assignments that they’re given. There’s still some of the written work and the teamwork where you have to collaborate to the team and come up with ideas and, and you know, and also your critical thinking, what do you bring to this case study? So they do have work. That’s not structured like school, but they do have some work together increasing their knowledge and to get them to really articulate on pair with, you know, on the computers or whatever, what they’ve learned or how they would approach something.


Natasha Daniel (22:36):
And that helps someone who probably had a lot of challenges in school, realize that, you know, what, if I really am motivated and I can recommit myself, I can go back and complete my high school. So that’s one of the things that I know of, of a couple people who struggled in school and coming through rebrand and they realized that, oh, okay. And one of the things they always said, why did we learn this at school? Why did we learn this at school? And I says, you know what, sometimes school doesn’t, but you have the opportunity where you are here to, to, to get supports. And when we talk about what we are looking at now, we have mental health counseling that they can, you know, that we have a counseling session services that that we, the program pays for. They have also supports when they get employment.


Natasha Daniel (23:26):
So everything to remove the barriers from, you know, to keep them out of work. So they have so support for clothing to get them into employment. They have supports, they get bus tickets and stuff like that to help with the transportation. So every little thing that might become a barrier for a youth to not get in a job or not faking a job, the program tried to decrease those barriers. And then another, the other bigger support for them is that in comparison to a youth who has a job search on their own, we help with some of the employment connection. So if you are in the pro, if you are my participant in the program and I’ve seen your computer skills, I get a test, your time management. I know that you ha you have great communication skills. I know that you have a lot of leadership skills.


Natasha Daniel (24:10):
I, when we are looking for employment for them, I would market you to an employer and say, you know, this is such and such. I remember one of my UAN, she had some trauma was going to post secondary. And she stopped because of you know, being a domestic father and relationship. But then after she bounces back with con and all of that, and she she got with one of the employer connections I made. And he left her after three weeks to manage his driving school and insurance business. Wow. Because she had the skills. Yep. But its just that she didn’t know how to really formulate those skills into the language and then demonstrate them in the workplace by having that opportunity. And she excelled at her at her job and she’s still there today, you know? So that’s one of the things that we do with Reba when we have employers who we know, and especially when it’s an employer who have a hat for community, it makes it so much better and so much easier to really support a you to say you could accomplish all of this.


Natasha Daniel (25:15):
You know, I’ve had youth who came into the program and they got promoted from just being a regular employee to manager, warehousing manager. And so getting them to really become more self aware is one of the goals of the program. Because when they’re more self aware, we focus a lot on their strength. And that’s my thing. I wanna focus on your strength. I know you messed up a lot, Sam, but that’s not, that’s not who you are. You know? And my thing I also say to them fail means your first attempt in learning. Mm. So what did you learn from that? What did you learn from the jobs when you wouldn’t get up on time? What did you learn from, you know, and again, and I say to you, Dr. I know that when you don’t have anything to look forward to, you can go to bed at 2:00 AM in the morning, 3:00 AM in the morning.


Natasha Daniel (26:06):
When I try position from Montreal to Edmonton, that was my life. Cuz what, I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have to get up early to go anywhere. So I would stay up and I would be job searching at 2:00 AM, go to bed at three sleep all the way through, get up at 2:00 PM cuz I know my husband’s about to finish. And that’s how I, so it’s natural. And I think people have to admit to all of these things because it’s be, you know, adults do. I did it like I, them, I did it because I didn’t have any set schedule. I didn’t have any programs. I didn’t have anything to look forward to. Hmm. So I know that a you as a youth might do stuff like that, but how do you not stay in the moment? How do you not stay and dwelling it and look forward to something else?


Natasha Daniel (26:57):
And that’s what weand helps them to do. Look forward. I remember I had a tute rebrand. He was gonna have an assessment to join the program and he had finished full secondary doing graphic design. So website design and he forgot his appointment at 6:00 AM. He left me a message and he said, Hey Natasha this is Nicholas. I can’t remember what time is my appointment. But I’m now about to go to bed. Don’t call me during the day, cuz I’m going to bed at 6:00 AM, but you can text me and let me know what time is my appointment. Mm. So then I did call him later on in the day and I says to him, you got the oddity to tell me, don’t call you cuz you’re just going to bed. And, and that’s again, 6:00 AM. He’s going to bed because he’s still of all night playing for your game.


Natasha Daniel (27:49):
And I said to him, you know what, if you want to be in rebrand, you have to change the sleeping habits. Mm. The program is about to sat in two weeks. You’re gonna be in the program. I need you to start going to bed at a regular time. Yeah. So you can be in class by eight 30. Yeah. And you know what? He did it. Then he got his job as a first, as a, as a graphic designer. We got him this job, the kid was so happy and he called me a couple. I think it was last year. And he’s like, I missed you. I’m like, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t miss me. Stay on the job. and him, he, he was so happy to get because after he graduated from post secondary, for two years, he had, was doing nothing, playing for games.


Natasha Daniel (28:32):
He was so happy and was driving well in the job that he moved closer. So he to the employment. So he would have a for time. And I would say, I says, no, don’t call me. Don’t miss me at all. Don’t miss me, me stay on the job. And that’s just some of the small changes that’s required for you. So me saying to him, we adjust your sleep in habit. Because again, if you’re going into employment, I don’t think you’re gonna start. You know, you have to be depending on what way you wanna work, you have to be grounded to really be successful by just doing small, consistent action, which is one of your words. Yeah. Thank you. Consistent actions. Yeah. also a word that I like to tell him now and that small, consistent action is that adjusting my sleep in time. That’s all he needed. Yep.


Sam Demma (29:22):
Be successful. That’s awesome. I, we could talk for like two hours. Thank you so much for taking the time to share some of your stories. One last question. If you could speak to younger Natasha, not that you’re old, but if you could speak to, you know, first year working in the rebrand program, but with the knowledge and experience, you know, now what advice would you give your younger self?


Natasha Daniel (29:49):
What advice I would give my younger self and the advice I would give my younger self is from learning from the rebrand participants. I would tell myself right now, you know, take on more, get out of my comfort zone. Mm. Because I remember like I’m a personal even, you know, I, I get comfortable in my zone and then you know, that’s my zone. Oh. I would tell myself also shine myself, more shine, more like, you know, I write poems, I love writing and stuff like that. And everybody’s like, why don’t you? We didn’t know you. Right. We didn’t know you. Right. why don’t you publish a book and, and that’s just me just staying within my zone. Yeah. You know? And, and so I, soon as I write my poems and I share them more often, so that’s what I would tell myself, just be, get out of the comfort zone.


Natasha Daniel (30:37):
And, and, and this is what this generation of youths are teaching me how open they are and how open they are to new experiences. And not even just owning new experiences, how open they are to each other, like, you know, working with youths who are diverse cultural background, youth who are L G B T youths who have, you know you know, being maybe a criminal record history, two in a gang and they just embrace everybody and they just open to the experiences mm-hmm . So I would, that’s what I would tell myself as a younger, you know, back a youth back, you know, just younger again, like just be open, be more open. Now I became I’m open right now, but you know, if I, if it started back then, like, you know, the younger Natasha, I think I would’ve been like I would, I flourish. Well, I think I would just be like, Hmm That’s awesome. That’s what, and that is just all from, from the experience of working with youth and also you know, I, I, I tell them this now. And it’s just because from my experience was said, don’t let others define who you are. Don’t let others define who you are. You define who you are, because at the end of today, you would want, that has to live with you and not others.


Sam Demma (32:09):
Natasha, this has been a great conversation. Thank you again for taking the time to come on here. I really appreciate it. I look forward to future programs and working with you and the students keep up the great work, happy holidays. And we’ll talk soon.


Natasha Daniel (32:22):
Thank you, Sam. I do appreciate you. You know, I appreciate just, just the work that you’re doing to empower others and, and, and sharing your story. Like I was, you know, the other day when you sent me sent me the, the invite my son who’s nine. He was like, who’s the guy, like I’m gonna do a podcast. And so then he, I, I said, listen to his video, my son listened to one of your TED talks. Oh, wow. He’s into the he’s nine years old. He’s into stuff like this. And then he says to me, mommy on Saturday, he’s like, did you do the podcast?


Sam Demma (32:54):
That’s awesome.


Natasha Daniel (32:55):
And you know, and I, and then I, I was to him. Yeah. So Sam, you know, I think he used to, he used to play football and then my son, he corrects me, like he says, mommy, you know, he played soccer. was not football.


Sam Demma (33:11):
He’s attentive. That’s good.


Natasha Daniel (33:13):
yeah. Oh no, no. I, I was like, so I said to him, you know, like, so that’s just to show you, I don’t a nine year old kid is also empowered by what you do. Ah, thanks for sharing that. So I would just say, you know, keep up the good work and the fact that, I mean, coming from Reeb, right. Again, when you come and speak to our youths, a lot of you, they don’t see youths who can bring and shed light to a lot of what they go through. Mm. And this is what, from having you into rebrand from having a young computer instructor, we as MCG, make sure that we have, we get them to get that balance. Yeah. So that they’re not just learning from our experiences, but they also, so learning from people who are dear generation and people who can really identify to what their struggles and what their challenges are, you know, within living in the 21st century as a young person. Yeah. So thank you again for the good work that you’re doing. You too.


Sam Demma (34:19):
You too. And thanks for sharing those stories! We’ll talk soon.


Natasha Daniel (34:22):
No problem. Thank you.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Natasha Daniel

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Pamela Pereyra – CEO & Founder of Media Savvy Citizens and Media Education Expert

Pamela Pereyra - CEO & Founder of Media Savvy Citizens and Media Education Expert
About Pamela Pereyra

Pamela (@aducateme) is passionate about helping youth and adults in their drive for transformative experiences through critical thought, creative expression and hands-on play. Pamela is a leading voice in media education with over 20 years of experience as a designer, trainer, consultant, educator and advocate. 

She is an authority in comprehensive media and digital literacy working with schools, nonprofits and companies to transform learning with media and technology. She has received the 2021 Media Literacy Community Award by the National Association for Media Literacy Education and the 2019 Media Literacy Champion Award by Media Literacy Now. As the chapter chair of New Mexico Media Literacy Now, she advocates for media literacy education for all students. 

Pamela is the founder and CEO of Media Savvy Citizens, which facilitates understanding, positive participation and meaningful media interaction for learners. Their work is centred on building the capacity and resiliency of youth and adults in a changing technological world through media education and technology training, facilitation and consulting through hands-on experience. Media Savvy Citizens worked with 30 New Mexico school districts transitioning them into digital learning into 2020 and 2021. 

She is also an adjunct instructor at the University of New Mexico and holds an MA in Media Studies. 

Connect with Pamela:  Email  |  LinkedinWebsite  |  Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Pamela Pereyra
Resources Mentioned

The National Association for Media Literacy Education

New Mexico Media Literacy Now

The Journal For Media Literacy Education

Media Savvy Citizens Youtube Channel

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is Pamela. And I’m so excited to have her on the show here today. Pamela, why don’t you introduce yourself and share a little bit about who you are?


Pamela Pereyra (00:19):
Okay. So my name is Pamela Perrera and it’s Pamela. That is just pronounced in Spanish, just for the people out there who are wondering what’s going on. Yeah. I am the founder and CEO of Media Savvy citizens, which works on media education initiatives and the understanding positive participant and meaningful media interaction for all learners. I’m also I live in the states and I’m the chair of New Mexico chapter chair of New Mexico media literacy. Now, which advocates for media literacy education in the state of New Mexico.


Sam Demma (01:02):
You’re like the media ninja, the media expert. What is media, how do you define and explain media to somebody else?


Pamela Pereyra (01:12):
That is a great question. And I think everybody has their own conceptual ideas depending on like when they were born so when they came into this world and what their experiences are, there’s like media legacy, right? Which is like broadcasting and television and radio and the, but there’s also new media, right? Which is digital technology media. And so media in this broader scope is any form communication that is not face to face. So, if you think about it, any, if it goes through a medium, any communication that goes through a medium is a form of media. Mm. So a podcast is media, a, brand on a t-shirt is a form of media that has a communication, right? Mm-hmm so it’s like a billboard is media, a poster is media and ucell phone is media. And also like all the apps in the cell phone are different forms of me. So like most of what we do in our lives, especially now,uin 2022 and 2022 are, mediated communications. Right? Most of the work that we do, even our schooling is through mediums. Right. We go on the internet, we search things. We, participate in social media. We take pictures, we share, means all of those things are media and mm-hmm.


Sam Demma (03:01):
Yeah. It’s, it’s a big concept.


Pamela Pereyra (03:05):
It is a big concept. Right. So literacy like media literacy, right. Is being literate, being able to read and really read in like a conceptual way. Right. So being able to like, understand how these, all these different technologies work how we participate with them, how we act with them and also like you know, how we create with all of these technologies, right. So we can be passive or we can be active depending on our mood.


Sam Demma (03:39):
And I think whether you’re passive or active with the media, it’s important that you understand how it works and you understand, and are aware and media literate, like you’re saying, why do you think it’s important that someone is media literate or, and understands media?


Pamela Pereyra (03:58):
Well, we’re bombarded we with media, right? We live in a mediated world. We have people who are creating messages for us with different intentions. Right. And are they, and being aware and just taking the time to reflect and understand, is this a fact, is it an opinion, am I being persuaded who think a certain way or behave in a certain way? And so part of that, like media literacy is just taking a moment, you know, and taking a, a, you know, breathing space to understand what is happening. And also like, am I gonna participate? Am I gonna share this information? And if I share, how does that impact people? So yeah. And so like, is it not, you know, important to understand the world in which we live and the world in which we live is, is impacted by all different forms of communication, whether it’s entertainment or whether it’s work related and doing any kind of internet search, you know, or working like a two or three year old who have, you know, who are given tablets, right. These are tools that we use. And so being media literate just makes us a stronger, more engaged citizen, conscious of what’s happening and possibly even a more engaged in civics and possibly society and our democracies.


Sam Demma (05:27):
What got you inspired to work in this vocation to spread media literacy as much as you can, because it’s important work and you’re obviously extremely passionate about it. So what prompted you to start and get into it?


Pamela Pereyra (05:44):
Well, it’s been a process. I started out back in the nineties as a journalist, I studied communications. I understand, I understood and had studied public relations and like how messages are put together from the ideas of like layout to colors and the psychology of color to influence people, to make them feel certain things, to give, you know, provide certain headline, to engage people to, you know, and so everybody has different motivations, right. For putting messages together. And I realized that I didn’t really wanna do that. I wanted to work with youth and talk about a lot of these things and talk about how media function. And so it kind of started with a, well, it started with me like working in film and journalism and moving in publicity and then realizing I didn’t really wanna be a producer so much as I wanted to discuss a lot of these things with, with youth and, you know, how have a different kind of impact I am a producer, we’re all producers, you know, if we press like that’s producing something, it’s producing a message.


Pamela Pereyra (07:05):
Right. And, and so for me, like really working with students and like getting into a classroom, I did that through a film festival. I worked for this film festival and expanded their education programs. And so I worked with a lot of teens and we made all kinds of media and films and audio pieces, but we also discussed the impact of, you know, FM messages and the impact of media. And I felt like it was a good, well rounded form of like working with youth and seeing how positive, what a positive impact it had on teen’s lives and how they were thankful, you know, for being, going through the process and, you know, discussing things that for them felt really real and like authentic and things that were relevant to them. And so that has been, my driving force is really working with teens and seeing like the impact, you know, that that being media literate can have on people. And so I have not stopped because I feel like it helps, there is like a balance there, right? Like if we are just sitting back and only consuming, what does that do for us, you know, as a society. Right. So it’s great to consume. It’s also great to produce, and it’s great to do both and to consume with a consciousness and an awareness around like what’s happening.


Sam Demma (08:42):
It’s important, regardless of what subjects students are learning in school that they’re taught and explained, I think in some sort of context with global awareness with what’s going on in the world with media literacy. And I’m wondering what you think some of the key concepts are that you can pull from media literacy and, and apply to classroom learning that maybe an educator listening to might explore, look into or think about how they could tie into their own classrooms.


Pamela Pereyra (09:13):
Yeah. Well, media education fits into any subject, right? Yeah. Whether you’re working with math and like graphs and data and statistics, or whether you’re working in a social studies classroom or a English language arts classroom, or a health classroom, there are different concepts that educators can different concepts that educators can implement in their classroom. So there are different ways. So one of ’em is like, before I get into some of these concepts, one of ’em is like using media as a, as a way to like spur discussion, right? Like using a video or, you know, using media in the classroom and, you know, discussing things, making media, like making a video for instruction. So the educator can make a video for instruction or an educator can ring in media and like work on different projects and have students participate with that media as a learning tool and then even make, there are little podcasts in the classroom about like what the reflection was.


Pamela Pereyra (10:29):
Right. So when looking at different media we have like to discover meaning and it is, we go through a series of like questions. So there are like five major, key media literacy questions to look at. And this is like when you’re studying different ideas. So let’s just say somebody brings in, in a math class, a statistic and an infographic, right. On something, whether it be math class or science, I mean, it could be COVID right. So it could be like a COVID related science message and, and statistics. Right. So you, you could look at it from different way, but one of the things that you would look at the first one would be author and authorship who created the message, like who is the author who paid for that message. That’s also part of the authorship, right? Like where is this message coming from?


Pamela Pereyra (11:34):
So that’s one, the other the other thing would be purpose. Like why did somebody create this message? Were they trying to inform, were they trying to entertain? Were they trying to persuade have you think a certain way or act a certain way. Right. So discovering purpose, symbols and techniques is another, like, what symbols are they using? What techniques are they using to, to hook you, to hold your attention? So this may be you know, it could be D different words that are being used, different length, which like is their language loaded, is are the symbols like, are they using certain colors, like lots of red? Are they, you know, like, you know, what, what symbols and techniques are they using? If it’s a YouTube video are people you know, using sources and do, you know, does the information is the, you know, you’re looking at context as well, right?


Pamela Pereyra (12:43):
So like what are those techniques, even within like a, a YouTube video or something like that. Right. So then you’re looking at representation, point of view, whose point of view is this coming from? Right. So is this point of view whose point of view is being presented and who’s this not like who’s being represented and who’s not, you know, if you’re looking at a historical piece of writing to look at point of view is like fascinating. And, you know, when you bring in the concept of global right. A global world in which we live, and especially since we’re living in a network world, we are, we are, you know, global, right. So we are way more connected to anybody anywhere in the world and at the touch of a fingertip or cell phone. Right. so we are looking at like, what it, you know, what, what historical perspective would they be presenting this information from, if you’re so that’s representation, right.


Pamela Pereyra (13:49):
If you’re looking at different messages, right? Like, or a text and a history book, where is this text coming from? Mm-Hmm so you are really kind of decoding in order to code, right. It like looking at all this stuff, the, the last part would be interpretation. And like, what did I learn from this message? Like, how did that change me? How did, how might different people interpret a message? You know, being a woman and being a brown woman in my interpretation of certain messages are sometimes just the frame in which I look at my world, come from that place. Also being media literate, I continually continually ask questions of any, you know, infographic or piece of data, where did this, where’s this coming from? Is this credible? Is it not like who’s the author, you know, all of those things, but also you can have, like, teachers would have students make a certain infographic, right.


Pamela Pereyra (14:46):
For a, a science class or a, and so understanding the process of what goes into media making and also deconstructing the, to then construct, right? Like, why am I making this infographic? Who I, who am I whose point of view am I representing? Even with numbers and data, people represent a point of view. And so it’s like, seems a little bit kind of hard to conceptualize, but going through a process of like practice and practicing these, these questions like where you ask the questions and you decode, but then you also encode, right? You also code these things. You also can make an infographic. You can make a meme, you know, know and make it funny and make, you know, and bring that into learning and talk about point of view, you know, in a, in a meme, or you can pull a meme and kind of deconstruct it as a form of text.


Pamela Pereyra (15:43):
So a lot of what we do is like bring in these PE pedagogy, right? The pedagogy in the classroom and have teachers go through this process of like becoming and embodying the concepts of media literacy so that you know, where they’re consuming and decoding, but they’re also constructing so that then they can like help their students construct for the classroom for learning. There are more concepts, you know, and some of ’em are like media construct, our culture, you know, they shape culture, right? Mm-Hmm and media messages, do they affect our thoughts or attitudes or actions? They are, are most powerful when they operate on an emotional level and have emotional power. They Def always reflect the point of view, right. They always reflect the values, the viewpoint and intentions of media makers. Right. So anybody who’s making a message has a point of view that they’re shared and they have values and viewpoints.


Pamela Pereyra (16:56):
And so understanding that is important. So media messages contain texts, but they also contain subtexts. So what that means is there’s like what is said, but is also what is not sad was like implied. Yep. Right. So these are like, this is part of that framework for media literacy and like kind of going through a process of using media, but also like when I have students in, in the classroom, when I have students make something like, let’s just say, we’re gonna all make memes today and we’re gonna make memes on, you know, any subject matter that would be relevant. That is being studied. Like we’re making memes on the American revolution. So you study the American revolution you make, possibly will make a mean, but then you deconstruct a memes and understand like, what is a mean, you know, and what, you know, and, and how do they function to be able to make a meme, but then it’s related to whatever is being studied.


Pamela Pereyra (18:02):
Right? Mm-hmm so it might be related to the American revolution. And you know, what, if you, okay, everybody make a meme from this point of view, or from that point of view, make a meme from the point of view of a revolutionary or make a meme from a different point of view. And so it really helps bring, drive home the concept of like, what is being studied, but also that, like the understanding that there are different points of view and that there are different authors and there are every author has a purpose. Yeah. And every per, you know, and every message can be interpreted in a certain way. And so those are some of like the conceptual pieces that we put into practice, right? These are just like theory, right? These are concepts, but then to put them in a practice and to really bring that have teachers, like when we work with teachers, we have teachers use a lot of these concepts. They go through a process of a hands on decoding and then a hands on like making stuff. And it’s really fun. And they, they get to plan, you know, a lesson, they take a lesson and maybe like revamp it and be, make it media literacy focused. Uand that’s always really fun for teachers because they get to like sit down and like plan and figure out like, how can I make this more of a media literate lesson when I I’m already it’s some that already exists. Right.


Sam Demma (19:33):
Tell me more about the importance of the author. I think that’s a really cool concept. And I’m curious if any examples come to mind where you think it would’ve been very helpful for society to know who the author was of a certain message. I think about nutrition. And, and I watched a couple of documentaries on, and this is two years ago, and this is also, again, if I asked myself these questions, I would’ve had a better perspective on the documentary itself, but it was a documentary about not being vegan, but it was a document tree on reducing our intake of meat. And they started showing that behind most of the dairy and meat industry is like one sole company or like one massive company that has like 50 brands under it. And it’s like really one author. But then if I ask myself who made the documentary, there’s a whole other author who made, who made that with a whole different purpose. I’m curious why you think it’s so important that we ask ourselves who the author is when consuming a piece of media.


Pamela Pereyra (20:44):
I mean, this is like, authorship is like, it’s huge, right? Yeah. So, and a piece of media could be a lot of different things, right? Yeah. You were watching a documentary. And so to have that understanding of point of view, right? Like it’s all kind of related. Yeah. Because the author has a point of view. Right. And it’s made for a purpose and the purpose of that documentary for you, it was possibly made. So people could stop eating meat and become vegan because they were influence and it was meant to influence people to feel certain things. So they showed you certain images, those are symbols and techniques. Right. And they were presenting a certain point of view that was who have you be against eating meat. Right. Yeah. And so understanding the author really helps you understand the message right. And where it’s coming from and why it’s being put together.


Pamela Pereyra (21:40):
So when we’re looking at like a post truth world, right. We’re looking at like, what is, you know, when we’re discerning, whether it’s a piece of news, whether it is a presidential speech, whether it’s you know, a meme, a silly meme. Yeah. You know, if you are looking on know a lot of young people get their news from Instagram, right. So it’s like a caption and actually it doesn’t give you the whole story. So you don’t actually get the whole story. You only get a tiny component of it. So that also is like, has almost a different kind of authorship than the actual story. So when you’re looking at author, if you’re looking at you’re also thinking for me, you know, when we dig deeper and you go deeper into this kind of work, we’re looking at bias, right. So we’re looking at like, where is the bias and what is the bias?


Pamela Pereyra (22:44):
And like, even like, if I look at a media or article, right. A news article, the bias, like first I might be looking at like, okay, the author is Sam Demma. Right. That’s the byline, but, and Sam Demma may have written the article, but also Sam Demma works for a certain company. Right. That has certain point of view that they’re, you know, trying to relay. So if you’re looking at, you know, is I always look at, when I look at news, I think about, is this left leaning? Is it right? Leaning? Is it more central? Do these people stick to the facts? Do they not? Like there are a lot of a few different, and for news literacy, there are like media bias fact check. Right. Mm-hmm like, so there’s you can go and look at media bias and figure out like, where’s the bias in this company.


Pamela Pereyra (23:45):
Right. But also like, so you might realize like, oh, this is extreme, right. Or this is right leaning, or this is extreme, left or left leaning. Or this is, you know, they’re presenting news. Especially if you look at news, cuz it’s supposed to be centered, right. It’s supposed to be objective and presenting both sides of the story, but is it trying to influence you still to look at a, in a certain influence you to, to, to lean in a certain way? And so when you’re looking at author, I look at the byline who the person is. I look at the company and who the company is. I look at the bias and what the biases of that company also, like it might be the funders like of different like organizations or companies, like how is this project being funded? Who’s funding it.


Pamela Pereyra (24:38):
And like, where’s the money coming to back up, you know, to back the, that project. And so it’s, you know, it’s, it’s really quite complex because there are many authors to one piece of news or one documentary, like you said, right. So it might be like the person, the director of that documentary and the writer of a documentary, but also like the, you know, like, is it whoever put out that memory, right. Is it like 21st century Fox or is it, you know, Warner brothers or is it Disney? And you know, like who’s putting that out and you know, and so there are, there are many authors yeah. To, to a piece of media, you know? Uso that, and also when you’re looking at stuff that could be,unot credible, I guess, would be the, the right word when you’re looking at information that could be not credible.


Pamela Pereyra (25:37):
That lacks credibility, the lacks validity then is, is important to understand when you’re looking at authorship to know like, how do you find something, whether something is credible or not, how do you know if something is reliable? How do we know if something is valid? And there’s a whole process that we go through, which is gonna take me to train you Sam you’re probably, and you know, like that, because it’s, it’s a process, you know, and it’s practicing the, these skills. Like it’s not a one time shot. It’s not even like a one semester shot. It’s ongoing from kindergarten through college and onward on through your life, you know, to continually practice these skill sets, you know, to ask questions and be curious about media and message and like, you know, and what that is a, a book, a textbook is a piece of media that has a point of view and has, you know, authors and, you know, if, and so who are those authors?


Pamela Pereyra (26:46):
What is their point of view and how is it being presented whose point of view is being presented. So all of that can be decoded from a textbook and also what’s inside that textbook. Right. And so to understand that just means that we begin to understand, like by and begin to understand point of view and representation and begin to understand our world in a different way. When we ask questions, when we go through the process of inquiry, you know, of of communications, right? And like question our world and question our, you know, question the Instagram posts that we see and we, you know, and we question it in a curious way, it doesn’t need to be negative. Yeah. It doesn’t need to be like bad. It’s just like, I, media literacy, doesn’t tell people what to think. It just helps people to go it through a process of how do you go through the process of critical thinking, right?


Pamela Pereyra (27:48):
Yeah. Like, how do you do that? How do you, you know, ask questions of authorship to understand if something is credible or not credible. Right. Got it. And if something is like a conspiracy or not like, how do you figure that out? You know? And there are, and so we have to continually go through the processes. And I do a lot of research. I of like, when I look at an author, I don’t just look at like, who is Sam Demma? You know? I mean, I actually, don’t just look at the author and like read the article I go through and figure out who is the, you know, the author’s name, right? Who is Sam? What is he? You know, what do other people say about Sam? Like, and like, I, what is called what used to be called, like triangle reading. And, but now it’s called lateral reading.


Pamela Pereyra (28:36):
When you do the research and you read across and you open up a bunch of tabs to figure out who is the telling the story about this documentary, like, yeah. Not just like who is the director, but is like, who is this company? And who is, you know, and who are these brands that are trying to influence me to, you know, to drop eating meat and to be vegan and, you know, and what’s, you know, all of that. So I think in the end know, authorship, I know this is a long, you know, I know this is a really long answer, but I think authorship is like so important because understanding who is putting messages together and why really helps us understand what’s credible. What’s not especially right now, you know, and we’re, we’re living and I’m just gonna repeat myself where we’re living in this in a, in a world that is complex.


Pamela Pereyra (29:31):
And it’s hard to understand, like there are a lot of authors there, EV anybody’s a producer, anybody could put, you know, could produce information. And is there information credible? Like when sometimes within a piece, somebody might quote a doctor. I go and figure out, is this doctor who is this doctor? You know, is it a doctor, a philosophy that’s actually being quoted for a, you know, for a scientific, you know, opinion, you know, piece, is this like, so then a doctor of philosophy would then make that person that credible, right. If they’re being quoted in something that just because they’re a doctor, doesn’t make him an expert in COVID, doesn’t make him an expert in like, you know, whatever is that they’re talking about. So even within a piece, I go, I might search different people different because they’re also, you know, part of the whole story.


Sam Demma (30:24):
It, I got it. And media literate, like citizens in society is so important. If educators are listening and want to integrate media literacy more into their classroom, one way they could do it is by going on your website, media savvy citizens, and getting in touch with you but how else can they learn? How, what, what can they read? What other pieces of media have you found very insightful in your own journey of learning about media literacy? any books, courses, videos that you think educators should check out as a, or to start their own journey.


Pamela Pereyra (31:04):
Yeah. And I’m glad you asked that there there’s a lot of information out there. Media literacy has become more and more popular. And just to clarify, there are media literacy is this big umbrella, which looks over news literacy, which is a subset information literacy C, which is also a subset digital literacy, digital citizenship. So depending on what they’re looking at, they’re looking for, they can find different information. Some people call digital media production, media literacy. Well, it’s just like a small component of it, but it’s not all of it. And then, you know, and so, you know, it’s, it’s, I just wanna make that distinction. Sure. Because if you just look up the word media literacy, like you’re gonna find only news literacy or only certain, you know points of view that it’s not the whole scope. So the national association for media literacy education is a great resource.


Pamela Pereyra (32:01):
That is a resource for educators. That really breaks down a lot of these concepts that I talked about, the key media literacy questions and like resources there. They have they put together a journal, which is a journal for media literacy education. I think it’s called. And so they, you know, you can go through them. There are also the I’m the, like I said, I was, I’m the chapter chair for New Mexico media literacy now, but media literacy now is an advocacy organization and they also have a ton of resources on their website. So it’s media literacy now.org. And they have a lot of resources on their website to access different information and courses and different things. And not courses necessarily, but just entities, you know, that are media receive media education entities. So yes, media savvy citizens, which is my project.


Pamela Pereyra (33:06):
We have a lot of resources, our YouTube channel, lots of webinars and different resources on our highlights page that people can access for, you know, for free and different like information specific to media. Like I, the scope of media education. Hmm. Yeah. So those are some places to go to. And, you know, and now if somebody wants to just specifically deal with news, then you know, they’d be looking at news literacy. You know the center for news literacy is a great place, you know, for just news literacy resources, but media literacy overall in general and resources for media literacy, I think is net national association for media literacy education is a great place to start. Sounds


Sam Demma (33:57):
Good. And where can someone send you a message by email online? What would be the best way for them to get in touch?


Pamela Pereyra (34:07):
Yes. Thank you for asking. So Media Savvy Citizens is the name of my entity. And so my name is spelled like Pamela. So they could just email me pamela@mediasavvycitizens.com. You can, most people can just go on my website, https://www.mediasavvycitizens.com/ and go to the contact page. You can, people can subscribe there and they can just peruse the website, my, my events page and my past events page. I have tons of resources there as well. So any talk that I have done this specific piece of in this interview, I will put a link together there once, you know, I get the link. So any interview that like media savvy citizens has been involved in, and there was a lot of information there as well. So as far as resources, and then as far as contacting me, go to the website to the contact page.


Sam Demma (35:12):
Pamela, thank you so much for taking your time to come on the show. It’s been a pleasure. Keep up the great work and all the best in 2022.


Pamela Pereyra (35:20):
Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate your time.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Pamela Pereyra

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Larry Tomiyama – Consultant and Retired Administrator with 32 Years of Experience in Education

Larry Tomiyama - Consultant and Retired Administrator with 32 Years of Experience in Education
About Larry Tomiyama 

After spending over 30 years of his life as an administrator in the Calgary School system in Canada, Larry (@TomiyamaLarry) was gifted the opportunity to work with some of the most vulnerable and behavioural students in his school system.  Through that experience, Larry learned so much about trust, trauma-informed teaching, and how to build really deep relationships with kids.

He believes that his opportunity to work in this environment was a gift from God because it truly changed the way Larry understood education, leadership and life. He was so motivated to share his discoveries, he left the school district so he could speak with other educators and leaders about what he had learned.

Connect with Larry: Email | Website | Linkedin

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Robert Greenleaf’s book – Servant Leadership

Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education – Book

What is Trauma-Informed Teaching?

Calgary Board of Education

In Everything Give Thanks (website)

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Larry welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Please introduce yourself and share a little bit about the work you do in education.


Larry Tomiyama (00:11):
Thanks. It’s a pleasure and privilege to be here, Sal. It was great to meet you the other month and I’m happy to be here today. So I’m a,, I guess a lifelong educator, if you count of when I was in school it would be 55 years almost that I’ve been in school as either a student a teacher, a university professor. And I guess even the speaking that I do right now and the everything that I get to do right now is due to the path that God provided the opportunities that he provided for me. And it all kind of culminated in the last two years of my K to 12 teaching career with the Calgary Catholic school district. And in those last two years, I got to work with, be the principal of a school that educated the most behavioral, the most vulnerable, the most volatile students in the city of Calgary.


Larry Tomiyama (01:19):
But those students and the staff that I got to work with taught me changed and transformed the way I think about education, about life and about leadership. And I believe it’s been my calling for the last five or six years to go share this information with anybody who wants to listen because it’s it, to me, it was, it just put everything into perspective. It made sense to everything, to that part of things. So I don’t know if you want to hear anything a little bit about my, how I grew up and things like that, but really everything is kind of culminated. And the purpose of, I think why I’m on earth is occurred in, in that little space of time. I’m in, in the last five years,


Sam Demma (02:06):
What a beautiful realization to have and to still be able to share and have the time to share these things, which is phenomenal. I think you’re doing an amazing job. Please take us back to when you were growing up, tell us a little bit about your upbringing and also what got you into education in the first place, or should I say made you never leave?


Larry Tomiyama (02:30):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, my, parents were both, Japanese. My mom was born in Japan. My dad was born in, Canada and, so I grew up in a small Alberta town of Taber, Alberta. 5,000 people there. It was a fantastic place to grow up. Small town, you went to school there. My dad owned a service station in a town, just, just east of the city. my mom worked in a canning factory, canning vegetables when she wasn’t, at home chasing us around, I have two brothers and a sister and, get to hang out with them in Calgary. So that’s, it’s great. both my parents have passed at this at right now, but, certainly the work ethic and the example that they provided will live on. And I hope, and I know that, they’re in heaven right now and I’m happy with most of the stuff that I do.


Larry Tomiyama (03:34):
But I’m sure wanna criticize me as well, too. So I’m, I’m okay with that. I’m okay with that. I went played a lot of baseball and basketball as I grew up and sports is a big part of my life and was able to pass that on to our kids, my own kids as I grew up. So went to the university of Calgary, started my teaching career in Calgary and never left and had a really, really fulfilling career as a teacher, as a principal worked at the, our central office for a little while and then kind of only moved into the post-secondary world. But that’s been part of it, but really the again, things really culminated in basically 2015 to 2017. And in those two years that I got to work with those students. My wife was gonna kill me, as I said, right after that, then I know I have to go share this information and I decided to leave the district. And that was not part of our retirement plan, but it had to be done. Luckily I’m still married. So,ushe was okay with it.


Sam Demma (04:57):
Hey, sometimes you have to ask for forgiveness and not permission, right.


Larry Tomiyama (05:02):
That was definitely one of those occasions sound I don’t re I don’t recommend it, but it worked out. Okay.


Sam Demma (05:09):
Bring us into the environment of the school that you had the opportunity to work in. I don’t think every educator understands the feeling, the experience. Tell us a little bit about, and also what you learned


Larry Tomiyama (05:23):
You bet. I think if it’s okay with you, Sam, I’ll tell you a little bit about it and then I’ll tell you a story. And it really it kind of, I think people get a better visual visualization of what’s there. Sure. So our lady alert school was created to educate those students because of their behavior, because of their brokenness, because of their issues that they were having. They couldn’t be successful in any other school. So they needed a place to go to do things maybe a little bit differently than other schools but to see if we could help them provide some type of therapy for them to get them to the point where they might be able to integrate themselves back into regular school. So most of the time these students been suspended or expelled from other schools and there’s really no else, nowhere else for them to go.


Larry Tomiyama (06:22):
So we got to educate them in our building. So we had 60 students. Half the building was for really cognitively delayed and students with severe, severe autism. And the other half was the students who, and I called them to screw you kids because they had no problem telling to, to screw off and many other things as well. But they were just students who had experienced no success in school. And as we found out lots of trauma that they experienced that caused them to not be able to function. And it was our opportunity that we got to help them function in a way that they can be a little bit more successful. So the story that kind of illustrates this really, really well is a story. I call this student little G I gave all my students nicknames and Ralph was really, really good then, and the kids really liked it.


Larry Tomiyama (07:31):
So they liked, they liked that name. So this guy was little G little G came to us in kindergarten. Story is that at the age of two little G had to be removed from his biological parents because his biological father was sexually abusing him. At age of four he was in the foster system and social services felt it was important for little G to be with a sibling to try and get a family connection. So little G was moved into a foster home with his 12 year old brother. He was four at the time that lasted about six months and he had to be removed from that house because his 12 year old brother was sexually abusing him. Enter us. We normally didn’t take students that young at five, we usually took them at grade three.


Larry Tomiyama (08:31):
We wanted them to go into a regular system and see if they could function. And then if there was a problem we would try and step in, but myself and our psychologist went to go see little G in his school that he was at. And we saw this cute, angry, sad, outta control, little boy. And I looked at her and she looked at me and we looked at each other and said, we gotta take him. So I entered little G into our school. I, he started in September. The hope was that we would hear at some point that little G was gonna be adopted. That was really the goal, social services working super, super hard to try and make that happen. And it was like November. And in November, we got the word that little G there was a family from out of town that was extremely interest in little G.


Larry Tomiyama (09:38):
It was like a party at our school. We started planning the party. His last day was gonna be December 22nd. I think it was the last year of school. And then he was gonna leave school with the family and go to their help. And in in conversations and therapy sessions little G had mentioned over and over and over again that he just wanted to call somebody, mom and dad again. And so we heard this news, we did everything. We invited the family in. We saw, we let little G be with his perspective parents. As many times as we could at school, things were looking really, really good. And I remember it so clearly it was December 21st, the last day before school was to let out. And I got a call from Steve, the social worker, and Steve said, Larry, I’ve got some bad news. I said, what’s that? The parents can’t take little G they’re not ready. They don’t want ’em. I don’t know what the reason was, but they can’t take ’em. So I’ll be there tomorrow morning, the last day of school tomorrow morning to let little G know that that’s what the situation was.


Larry Tomiyama (10:55):
Selfishly, selfishly, on my part, I it’s, Steve, this is. You’re gonna come to school at nine o’clock wreck this kid’s life again, and we’re gonna have to deal with them for the rest of the day. I’ve got no choice, Larry. We gotta do it. Fair enough. So December 22nd rolls around we’re in the conference room, I’m sitting across a little G little G’s teacher is sitting across from Steve. The social worker. We bring little G in our little G’s teacher is she’s crying already. And we’re just waiting. So the meeting starts and Steve communicates the little GE gee, I’m sorry that the, the adoption didn’t go through the, family’s not gonna take you and you’re not gonna be going home with them today. And I just put my head down and waited for the explosion and to everyone’s surprise, LGI jumps up onto the table that we are at jumps into my lap and says, that’s okay, Steve, Mr. T that’s me, Mr. T you’ll be my dad. Right.


Larry Tomiyama (12:23):
And I had nothing and I was praying to God, what the hell do I say? What do give some words, gimme some words. And what came outta my mouth was absolutely. I will always be your dad at school. G always, always, always. And he jumps outta my, laughing into this teacher’s lap who can’t even talk and says, and miss G you’ll be my mom too. Right. And I, and she couldn’t even breathe. So I took her head and I motioned it for a nodding action. So she would say, yes, I think that was a yes. G you’re doing okay.


Larry Tomiyama (13:03):
So the, the reason why I tell that story is because we got to work with these students who experienced trauma and everything else that no student should ever, ever have to experience, but we got the chance through the model that we used to get that kid to the point where he thought enough of us thought enough of me thought enough of his teacher, that he might be able to call him mom and dad. And we have that opportunity every day. And this is an extreme case for sure. But every day, as educators, as teachers that we have, when we get to step in front of our students, there’s lots of little G’s out there, lots. And in order for us to be able to tee each them, those kids need to feel safe and they need to feel that somebody cares about them.


Larry Tomiyama (14:04):
And I don’t care if you’re in grade, if you’re in kindergarten and grade 12, that, that model, that formula in order to make those kids safe and secure prior to teaching them and get them to trust you. It just spoke volumes to us as a staff. And we got to do this every day. Not that it was easy. In fact, it was brutal sometimes, but to be able to do that, it showed me why we got into the business at educating and teaching kids and how we can get them to learn to like themselves enough to be productive in the, in, in whatever that they do. So, like I said, I can go into the model a little bit more if you want, but certainly he’s a great example of teaching us what needs to be done with these, with some of these kids.


Sam Demma (15:08):
Wow. But before we jump into the model and talk about that a little bit, can you share in your perspective how you believe you’re able to build trust with students? Not only the challenging ones, but also the easy ones. You shared some experiences on our previous call that really highlighted how I believe, you know, sometimes building trust is a long process and can be very challenging, but once you have it, like you just explained with little G it becomes a beautiful thing. How do you think you build it?


Larry Tomiyama (15:46):
It doesn’t matter if the, I mean, if, if a student is traumatized or not, sometimes, I mean, and, and the model speaks to it really well at the bottom of the model before anything happens, it’s safety. So the student needs to feel safe and how we define safety. When we worked with these kids was that the student needs to be able to predict what’s gonna happen next. That’s what safety is because in their lives, in their homes, in their situations, you’re not safe. If you can’t predict, I don’t, they can’t predict how mom’s drunk boyfriend is gonna act. They can’t predict if they’re gonna have supper that day. They can’t predict if they get in trouble, what that’s gonna look like. So we are able at school will be able to create an environment where they can predict what’s gonna happen regardless of, of how they act, what they say or what they do.


Larry Tomiyama (16:41):
They’ll be able to predict how we’re gonna act towards them and that’s respect respectfully, lovingly whatever we need to do that doesn’t, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t consequences. Cause there consequ are critical, but students need to feel safe. The next step that we need after we got them to feel safe, we called it security and security is that they’re willing to do things, even though they might fail, they feel secure enough because of the adults in the room or their teacher or whomever that even though if they fail, it’s gonna be okay. And kids, especially kids who struggle in school, they don’t, they’d rather not try than fail. So we need to get ’em to that point where you know what it’s okay to. And I actually, I was listening to another podcast and people didn’t like that word failure. So they used the word falling instead of failure.


Larry Tomiyama (17:46):
And I kind of like that, cuz falling gives the connotation that that you followed, but you want to get up as well. Mm like that. I like that. Yeah. So, so first safety, security, and then trust and trust was vague. They knew how we were going to react in every situation, even though it was a consequence and, and there were, there were students that I suspended. But they knew that what was gonna happen, they were able to predict that part of things as well. The reaction of, of somebody when things didn’t go right. And once that was there ex that’s when the magic happened, but that sometimes that took years, but even, even in a regular classroom, their kids that, that are trustworthy already, just because they’ve had pretty solid background, loving parents, et cetera. But they still used to it’s they still gotta trust you so you can prove it to them.


Larry Tomiyama (18:54):
And it comes pretty easy for a lot of kids and teachers. But it’s that bottom third to bottom quarter where it’s not easy. So we have to work a little bit harder. We have to make an effort. They might be the kid in the class. And you might think that kid is the greatest kid in the world. He doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t bother me. He’s fantastic. But he might not feel safe. So we need to go and make an effort to create those relationships with those kids. It’s easy for the kids that you, like. I tell the kids that, you know, the teachers in training that you think you’re gonna, like all the kids, you’re not gonna like all the kids. In fact, you might not, you might dislike a lot of them or some of them, the key is they can’t know that every kid in that class needs to think that you’d love them. Your inside voice might not say so, but it’s okay. They just need to know that you care about them and yell. And then, like I said, that’s where the joy of teaching comes from when you get that pack from the students. So hopefully it might be kind of confusing, but hopefully I explained it.


Sam Demma (20:13):
Okay. You did a phenomenal job explaining that. And it leads me to my next curious question, where have your principal’s ideas come from? It sounds like a lot of them have come from your past experience. The two years spent in this school and the 55. So or so years you spent in education altogether, but what resources, what courses, books programs, anything have you used or consumed that have been very helpful in helping you make a bigger impact on kids in the classroom and also as an administrator?


Larry Tomiyama (20:53):
Yeah. You know what it’s to say that there was I mean, a, a big on Robert Greenleaf’s book, servant leadership was certainly influential in my life, but you know, most of my stuff and, and most of the things that I speak about is from firsthand experience stuff that I screwed up royally as a principal, as a thing, and then to be able to think back record it, document it and understand, okay, that’s, that’s why I messed up on that. I should have it this way, or I should have asked for more input this way or they didn’t trust me yet. So I’ve taken what those kids taught me and the model that we used there and brought it back to the way that I was a leader in the way, the, the successes that I had and the failures that I had. And it’s all the same thing when I messed up.


Larry Tomiyama (21:51):
And, and I thought my staff should act this way and they didn’t it’s because I didn’t take the proper steps to get ’em safe. They didn’t feel safe. They didn’t certainly didn’t trust me. After a year, two and a half, they trusted me and then I could, then we do anything and everything. And we created culture. That was amazing, but it took me that while. So like I said, it was a culmination of those two years, but all the years that I was a principal and as a, a leader with the district and things like that, it all made sense to me when I got to live it with these students. And it made sense why I fell or failed in that situation. And it made sense why I am success. I was successful in many of those ventures. If there’s another book that I’m, that’s really influential in my life, right, right now it’s called neuro teach and is written by educators.


Larry Tomiyama (22:55):
And it’s all about brain-based research. And, and again, all the stuff that I thought is now reinforced by recent brain research. That that’s why we are able to help these students said we did. That’s why many of these kids were so stuck that when they were traumatized and they were young, their brain was damaged, physically, physically damaged. But research also shows that we have an opportunity to create neurons in the brain. That’ll help switch or flip their script, that all these people hurt me in my life. So I’m not lovable. I’m not likable and switch that to your more than lable. You’re more than likable, more than worth it. And we’re gonna show you why you’re worth it. So it, it, I don’t know. I I’m just, most of my life is cuz I’m a little bit messed up and that’s how we kind of evolve for me that those two years risk reinforced all the things that I had done before. And it’s really created and given me a a platform and a foundation to be able to share some of this information.


Sam Demma (24:18):
And you do a phenomenal job sharing it and telling it through the old art of storytelling in a way that’s engaging and fun for the audience. And last time we connected, you shared the story of I don’t know if that made a good representation of the sound or what happened, but, man you share that story before we wrap up today’s uhonversation and what you learned from it personally, if remember,


Larry Tomiyama (24:46):
Yeah. W was that with the I’m trying to think of which story that I had told was that with the little guy that I was in the timeout room with, correct. Ah, okay. Okay. So let’s, let’s call this student OB. And so OB was a grade three student who came from a war torn country. And his life was basically before he came to Canada, was running and fighting in refugee camps. So he comes to Canada and not functional in a regular school, kicked out of a number of schools or Exel from a number of schools just because he wasn’t able to, to function in a regular classroom. So we arrived at our season grade three and as most kids are, they’re not really that happy when they start in our building, because it’s just another place that they’re gonna be unsuccessful at and they’re gonna get kicked out of.


Larry Tomiyama (25:54):
And that’s where their head is at. So I got a call from the classroom saying that’s coming down and it doesn’t look like he’s very, he’s very happier. He is not ready to start class. So I said, fine. So I leave my office and O’s coming down the stairs and I know he’s not doing really well because he’s sucking his thumb. And that was his coping mechanism for when he was stressed or anxiety rid. And he comes down the stairs and I said, OB, how you doing? Just take a seat on the chair and we can get started with the day when you’re ready. You let me know. And he had his thumb in his mouth and everything. He just says, sure, up, shut up, Mr. T screw you. So it went on and, and on to that nothing that was pretty tame to some of the names I was called.


Larry Tomiyama (26:48):
So I was okay with that. And he came down, so it came down the stairs and was really, really angry, started throwing chairs, throwing things around and then went after a student. So we had intervene and when a student gets violent, we have a room that we call our calming room. And it’s basically a six by six cinder brick wall room with a door and a window in it. And so we brought him in there and he lost his mind in there. Kickings spitting, anything that you can think of. And usually they calm down after a while. So when they calm down, we enter the CLA enter the room and, and see if we can work with them. And so I walked into the room and he was lying in the corner of the room and started to get violent again. So I had to leave. And so I just waited and waited them out and got quiet. And he was mumbling and mumbling. I said, OB, are you okay? What are it’s gonna happening? Oh, I felt, tell me MRT. And I said, what’s that OB what’s happening, whatever you need. And he says, MRT, I’m gonna take their outta your and rub it right in your eyes.


Larry Tomiyama (28:23):
I couldn’t even talk. I was laughing so hard. I, I thought that’s so brilliant. How can and someone be so elevated? So, so mad and think of something like that. It took me like five minutes before I could collect myself. I looked in there and he’s crying again in the corner. So I walk, I walk in, open the door and I just sit on the floor and don’t do anything. And,uhe looks at me and I look at him, he puts his head down and nobody says a word for another five minutes. Uand then I see him army crawl over to me and put his head on my leg. Cause I’m sitting down in the ground. So he sat there for a few minutes and he’s crying and crying. And then he kind of collects himself. And he says to me, Mr. T, you can hurt me now.


Larry Tomiyama (29:24):
And I said, OB, what are you talking about? No, one’s gonna hurt you. That’s not why you’re here. We’re not doing that. Cuz he said, when I’m bad like that, and I say bad things, my brother or my dad beats the. And so I, I said, OB, listen, it doesn’t matter what you say, what you do, no one is gonna hurt you here. That’s not gonna happen. So we sat there for a few more minutes and in my work sense of humor, I said to him, I said, you know what, OB, you know, that stuff said to me, you know, with this and putting in my eyes and stuff like that, I go, I don’t know how possible that is. Do you think you could really do that? And there was a pause and he says,uand then he just starts full out,ubelly laughing.


Larry Tomiyama (30:29):
Yeah. Things like that. I said, OB, go clean up and get your to class. Mm. And so it went off to class. The, the, the big thing with that again, is the safety piece. Mm. That a, in his mind he was predicting what was gonna happen. Yeah. So when he acts like this, then he gets hurt and we had to flip that and we had to convince him that doesn’t matter what happens and how much you lose your mind that you’re gonna be safe here. So that was a huge, huge step in creating that safety for him. And again, this is an extreme story, but we can do little acts in our classrooms that show students that it doesn’t matter. What’s gonna happen. Whether whether we reprimand you or not how we say it or whatever. But you’re gonna be safe in my class. And that’s really, really the that’s the place to start


Sam Demma (31:27):
Love that. That’s such a powerful story along with the other one you shared and I’m sure there’s hundreds upon


Larry Tomiyama (31:33):
Hundreds. Yeah, no, it’s some of ’em are, are so ridiculous. They’re funny. Yeah. ,


Sam Demma (31:42):
That’s so true. Well, Larry, this has been such a pleasure with you about the, you know, the philosophies, the principles you have, the way you view education, the framework from which the school functioned. It’s really interesting. And if another educator is listening and is inspired by this conversation or has enjoyed it and wants to ask you a question or invite you to their event, what would be the best way for, for them to get in touch with you?


Larry Tomiyama (32:08):
Probably. I mean, if you need more information, I mean, my website’s not great, but it’s okay, but certainly it’s there. And my web website is https://ineverythinggivethanks.ca/about/. My email address is larry20ltomiyama@telus.net.

And shoot me an email take a look at the website that my contact information is on there. I’d be happy to talk to anybody. I talk to a lot of educators just about working with, at risk students about what, what I believe in leadership and what I, what I know works. And so I would be willing to share with anybody because it’s that’s what God God has asked me to do. And I don’t want to, I don’t wanna make him mad.


Sam Demma (33:06):
Larry, thank you so much. I really, really appreciate the time, effort and energy you put into your work and appreciate you sharing some of it here. Keep up the amazing job. And I look forward to our next conversation, hopefully on a golf course.


Larry Tomiyama (33:20):
My pleasure. Thanks.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Larry Tomiyama

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Tali Aziza M.S.W., R.S.W. – School Counsellor at Netivot HaTorah Day School

Tali Aziza M.S.W., R.S.W. - School Counsellor at Netivot HaTorah Day School
About Tali Aziza

Tali is a Registered Social Worker who works at a Modern Orthodox Jewish Day School in Thornhill Ontario. She works specifically with students in Pre-Nursery through to Grade Three providing one on one counselling, consultative services and social-emotional learning program development and implementation.

Tali earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree at IDC in Herzliya, Israel. She then completed her certification in holistic nutrition through The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto and then her Master of Social Work at Wurzweiler School of Social Work in New York.   

Connect with Tali: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

The Zones of Regulation (SEL resource)

Netivot Hatorah Day School

The Ruler Program (SEL resource)

YALE Center for Emotional Intelligence

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Tali welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what brought you to the work you’re doing today with young people?


Tali Aziza (00:13):
First of all, thank you so much for having me on I’m so excited to be talking to you today. So I am a registered social worker. I sort of came to my work now in schools through it, wasn’t always my, my path to end up in the school system. Really, I started, I did my undergraduate degree in psychology. I always knew I wanted to work with children. But more specifically at the time I wanted to work with children with eating disorders. So after my undergrad degree I went and did my degree in holistic nutrition. So I became a certified holistic nutritionist with the goal of combining the two together and working in eating disorders. I started my masters of social work and did my placements my first one in the school system and my second one really specializing in eating disorders.


Tali Aziza (01:07):
And then after graduating, I really, I tried out a little bit of different things, but I really found that I loved working in schools. And the reason being is that you get the opportunity to work with such a wide variety of different presentations and, and different kids dealing with different things. And what’s really neat about being in the school system is you really get to be on the front lines and really have a very strong impact. I find on the kids that you’re working with. So I didn’t land working specialized with eating disorders. I sort of work from a more holistic perspective. But I do feel that the work ties in because we get to work from a preventative model. And, and even in the work that I do, I try and interweave making sure that we’re doing all the protective factors to ensure that people have healthy, strong relationships with food moving forward, but also are, you know, protective from anxiety and things like, like that as they grow older.


Sam Demma (02:06):
Can you take us back to your first experience working in a school setting and explain kind of how you fell in love with working in a school?


Tali Aziza (02:17):
So what’s interesting about my, my position in the work that I do is I work really with very young kids. And so from a social work perspective, it, it almost seems like a little counterintuitive. The youngest age group I work with are kids who are, you know, 18 months almost. And I work with the kids up until grade three. So when I started, I, I, in hindsight, like I was completely sort of out of my comfort zone working with kids who are so young is not really something that you get a lot of experience with in, in social work school. But immediately I saw how we had the opportunity or I had the, to become part of the framework of the school. So right immediately, like first day you’re, you’re not locked up in your office as this like very fancy formal school social worker. You’re really in the hallways, in the classrooms out on recess duty, welcoming the kids as they come into will. And so you get the ability to like sort of infuse some of this social and emotional support into the school day in so many different ways. And then the added bonus is it’s, it’s wonderful working with kids who are, who are younger, you get to it’s so gratifying and it’s, so they’re so sweet and, and welcoming of any sort of interventions or anything like that. So that’s been really positive too.


Sam Demma (03:44):
And tell me more about your journey into social work as a profession. Did you know, growing up that you wanted to be a social worker or what led you down that path?


Tali Aziza (03:54):
So it’s an interesting question. I always knew I wanted to work with children. I, and after finishing my degree in psychology, I was looking into a master’s in psychology, but really with a master’s in psychology, you almost sort of need to go down the road of a PhD to be able to really do the work that I wanted to do. And then my dad actually said to me, one day, he said, like, I think you’re over complicating things here. What’s the end goal. And let’s think about up the most direct route you can take to get there. And so my end goal was I wanna work with children. I wanna support children, social and emotional wellbeing. And the most direct route was through a master’s in social work. Because that really allows you to be on the ground, working with kids, doing the work. And you know, maybe some of the other things are, you know, come into play later down the road, but that was like the most direct route to get me to my end goal. So it really, it really never had to do with social work per se. It was always more about working with children.


Sam Demma (04:53):
Cool. And what do you find are some of the challenges that students are faced with? I mean, you probably see them before most people do. You might even be the first adult in a young child’s life to hear a challenge before they even tell a parent or a family member, what are some of the common challenges that you’re seeing in young kids and how do you as a caring adult support those challenges and those young, those young learners and human beings?


Tali Aziza (05:20):
So it differs, I mean, you, you see different things at different age groups. So really when you’re talking about really, really young kids a lot of the times you’ll see more of the behavioral or the social side of things. So you’ll be, might, you might be seeing more tangible, like outbursts tantrum, like behavior some social, some signs like that. But as you work with children and as they get older, you start to see different things coming out. So I work with up to grade three. So as you approach the grades you start, you do start to see a lot more of the anxiety, be it social anxiety generalized anxiety things like that. More, more social issues coming out. Self-Esteem issues, things like that. And this has all been of course, really complicated by the pandemic also.


Tali Aziza (06:14):
And one of the things that I spent a lot out of time worrying about when we first transitioned to being in lockdown and being online is that for a lot of these kids, these are really pivotal years and nobody has eyes on these children. So be it from, you know, whatever perspective, but sometimes when you’re living with your kid day in and day out, you don’t know necessarily notice some of the things that might be going on for them. It’s important for them to be in a school setting, to have different people with different perspectives, looking out for your kids. So that’s, that’s a big thing. And, and now we are seeing, I mean, I do, I do find that we do see more anxiety kids struggling more socially, definitely struggling more academically, which plays into all of the social and emotional stuff as well.


Tali Aziza (07:01):
So where I come in and you ask, like, what do we do about it? It of course differs from kid to kid, but really I think that the most powerful work that, that I do in that the department does is really being an advocate and a cheerleader for these kids. I think going into school every, every day. And knowing that you have someone in the building who is on your team, no matter what they want you to do. Well, you know, I, I have kids come in and they’ll sit in my office for a few minutes and even just color and talk. There’s not any huge social work intervention happening, but just knowing that there’s somebody there who cares about you, you have a space to go. If you, you know, if you’re feeling really overwhelmed or you have a fight with a friend, or you’re just not feeling great that day I think really makes a huge difference. And I don’t think it needs to be big or fancy or, you know, super well researched interventions, I think. And even, you know, for, for you and I like growing up in a different time, we didn’t necessarily have that. And so having someone that, you know, is there for you in the building, like just that in and of itself, I think is really impactful.


Sam Demma (08:11):
It’s not like you have some grade one walking into your office and you hand them this white sheet of paper with check boxes on it. And you’re like, put you diagnose yourself and that’s correct. Check off your problem, or right. It sounds like you’re more focused on building relationships. Mm-Hmm and really showing that these students, that you care about them as human beings. Mm-Hmm how do you think you build that relationship? Obviously, accessibility is a big thing, like being accessible and having this space open, but once they enter the space, how do you go about building their relationships and ensuring these young kids know you are on their team?


Tali Aziza (08:47):
Right. So it really starts so much even before they come into the office. Mm-Hmm , and what’s really neat about being able to be in a school system. And, and the school that I work in is that there really is no stigma around going to see the social worker. We call, call ourselves the school counselor to make it a little bit more friendly. But like I mentioned before, you know, I’m outside on the playground every day, when the kids come in, I agree, read them outside. I’m outside on recess duty. I’m very visible within built into the framework of the school. So they don’t see me as like someone you go to when you have a quote unquote problem or something like that. And, and we often joke that we sometimes have the opposite issue that like, after recess, everyone wants to come speak to the school counselor cuz you know, someone took my ball or this or that.


Tali Aziza (09:38):
Which is amazing because there’s really no stigma around it. So it starts in the hallways. It starts in creating that rapport in, in the safe spaces that the kids are comfortable in. And then the other important piece of it, which can get sometimes a little tricky in a school based setting is I’m really careful to really distinguish between discipline and social work. Mm. Which can be tricky because sometimes the kids that you’re dealing with, you know, can struggle from both angles. Right. And so they, there might be a discipline component and there’s a social and emotional component, but it’s really important that I’m not the, the discipline in person. Because then the kids will shut down and won’t wanna relate or talk to me. So it’s really important that I stay neutral from that perspective. And then once the kid comes in the room and, and you know, you don’t have any negative association from anything else beyond that point.


Tali Aziza (10:36):
It really, at first from kid to kid, I like to find out what the kids like to do. And, and you know, the first few sessions, I really just focus on building a relationship because if there’s no relationship there, then the rest of the work won’t land, it won’t work. So depending on the kid and what their interests are, we do different sort of things to ensure that we’re building that relationship. And from there that like sort of lays the foundation for all the other things, to be able to permeate so much better.


Sam Demma (11:04):
I love that. And there’s definitely an educator listening right now who loves the ideas you’re sharing, but does not have a social worker in their school currently. Mm-Hmm how would you apply these same mindsets for an educator or a classroom teacher? Or do you have any tips for like a, just a classroom teacher on how they could use some of these same ideas to help their own students if they don’t have a social worker in their school and not, not that they can be the teacher and the social worker that’s not possible, but maybe there’s some mindsets or some ideas that they could use in their, in their classrooms when situ arise.


Tali Aziza (11:40):
Oh, sorry. I just cut out for a second. That’s okay. Absolutely. I think first of all, it doesn’t need to be a social worker. I think the biggest gift that the students have coming into the building is the teachers themselves. They have the most impact on the children. And the biggest thing the teachers can do is ensure that each and every child feels seen and recognized by the teachers. So something that I know that within my school, but in general teachers have been more cognizant of in recent years is, is how we greet students. Ah so for example, instead of the kids rushing into the classroom and the teacher standing at the front of the room and saying, okay, things away, take out your books. You know, we have the teachers, a lot of teachers standing outside the classroom and looking at each kid as they come in and saying their name and saying, hi, how are you or giving them a smile or even giving the kids the opportunity to do that to each other, just creating that like one small moment in a day where the kid is looked at and feels seen and recognized and genuinely cared about.


Tali Aziza (12:42):
We never know what’s going on for these kids at home. And so that one small moment could be huge. That could be all they’re getting in their day. So not to underestimate the power that you have. And, and I know that isn’t time, there, there is no time as a teacher it’s, you can’t make it appear from nowhere, but in those transitions, in those moments and then something that we’ve created that, that my school has taken on is something where we carve out time every day to address the social and emotional needs of our student. So there’s 15 minutes, there’s supposed to be 15 minutes with each teacher we’re dual curriculum school. So in the morning and in the afternoon where they take time to check in and find out how the kids are doing either, or they, you know, something as simple as talking about recessing kids, giving a thumbs up or thumbs down some sort of a reflect or carving out time just to do some sort of social and emotional learning anything like that, but even in just creating that space and opening that door to talking about feelings and things like that for some kid that could signal to them, okay, this is someone that I can open up to.


Tali Aziza (13:53):
And it doesn’t need to be big ways or in, you know, in fancy ways or in taking time to meet with every student, you can’t do that as a teacher. But there all are small things. Something else that I’ve done in the past that I think is, is really amazing to do if you have the time or the resources is journaling with students. So it it’s amazing because it gets students also working on their writing working on their thought and idea formation. But it is also a really nice way to build relationships with students. So you can give a prompt, give a question and then have students write their response and you don’t need to answer every single student every single time, but each time you can go through and write a response to some of the students and, you know, maybe ask them a little bit more. And then through this journaling exercise, which can become part of the framework and the structure of your class you’re, you’re first of all, tackling so many things you’re tackling, you know, you’re giving space to gratitude. You’re giving space to mindfulness, you’re giving space to relationship formation, but through all of those things, you can also be opening the door for kids to be able to confide in you or share with you if they need to.


Sam Demma (15:06):
It sounds like all these activities lend themselves like creating a safe space or a space where there’s more communication mm-hmm . Do you have any tools, resources, fun games that you’ve leveraged or used when it comes to mindfulness, social, emotional learning or even things that have helped you learn more about the topic that you think teachers or other social workers might find helpful?


Tali Aziza (15:30):
Mm-Hmm yeah, so there’s, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There’s really great, well research programs out there for all of these things. So for example, the zones of regulation program is a great program. It was developed by an OT and it’s a great program that’s aimed at teaching children, how to identify their feelings, label their feelings and what to do to maneuver through their feelings in a comfortable and expected, appropriate way. So there’s a whole program that exists around that it’s very well researched, very well founded, and the, it, it’s not complicated or hugely costly. You buy the book, it comes with the CD and there’s a lot of information about it widely available online as well. Another program similar to that is the social thinking program that has books and, and all sorts of follow up activities that can really guide you in, in relating this conversation and bringing it in there’s something similar called the ruler program.


Tali Aziza (16:29):
Some of these are more expensive and, and more complicated to, to take off than others. But the zones is a really easy one to start with. The other thing is, is that there’s a lot of really great literature out there. And by literature, I mean like books for the kids themselves. Cool. So, and, and what’s really great now is you don’t need to go out and necessarily buy all of these books. They have so many read alouds on YouTube. So just even knowing some of the books that are really great for bringing up that conversation, teaching kids about their emotions. And, and that’s the important piece is we have to teach them. We can’t just assume that they know, right. So a lot of kids feel anger, but they don’t know that that’s to anger. They just know it’s a really uncomfortable feeling in their body.


Tali Aziza (17:17):
Mm-Hmm so there’s an education piece that has to come into play here too. And there’s a lot of great books that do just that. So for example, the color monster is an amazing book that can be adopted to different ages and teaches about that. And there’s for sure many read, read aloud for that on the you to yeah. So that’s the great, those are great things to do. The other thing that I like to tell teachers to do is we like to, we like to tell students that, you know, at times they need to be calm or they need to, they need a break or to calm down, but we can’t just assume that kids know what it looks like and what it feels like to calm down. We have to practice that with them. Mm. So even just taking five minutes in a day and having like five minutes of mindfulness time, you can put on some relaxing music, you can have some mindfulness come coloring sheets. You can have time to take a book. You can have time to write in a journal, but all of these things, they need practice with getting into that state to be able to then access it when they need it. We can’t just go about the hustle and bust of our day all the time, and then expect that kids know how to calm down when they’re told to calm down.


Sam Demma (18:27):
Yeah. That’s such a good, that’s such a good piece of advice, even for parents. Like, because I know that like teachers, a parent often tells their child calm down or stop doing this or do that. And like, yeah, a kid might be totally confused as to what that looks like. And you know, they’re not gonna sometimes listen to your words, but they’re gonna follow what you are doing. And if you’re screaming at them to calm down, kinda goes against the whole thing you’re asking them to do.


Tali Aziza (18:55):
Right. And then if they don’t know what to do, then that’s frustrating and that can further contribute to whatever behavior you’re already seeing. So I like to tell parents very often I tell parents to like model calm and to practice calm. So take five minute. It and, and sometimes even just as you come in the door after school is a great time and it’s important for whatever their calming activity is to be something they can access independently. Mm-Hmm , if it’s something that they need a lot of support with, it’s less likely that that’s gonna be effective in the moment that it’s needed. But if you have a space that’s, and it doesn’t need to be, be designated to calm as in nothing else happens there, that’s not feasible for most people, but a space that’s associated with a calming activity. You practice that calming activity, they get comfortable with accessing it independently. It’s gonna be much more effective in the moment.


Sam Demma (19:45):
That’s awesome. And examples, you mentioned, if you journaling mind for, with some music, there’s also so many great apps. There’s an app literally called calm mm-hmm, , there’s an app called the Headspace or insight timer. If you wanted to introduce your students to meditation or some form of mindfulness, mm-hmm, , the list just goes on and on. I’m sure you could find videos and even guided meditations or guided mindfulness act activities on YouTube. Mm-hmm . Uthese are all very cool things to implement. What do you think is one or a few of the opportunities that exist in education today, or, I, I know there’s a bunch of challenges that have come along with COVID that’s very clear and obvious, but on the other side, what do you think some of the opportunities are?


Tali Aziza (20:30):
Hmm. I think that’s a, that’s an interesting question. I think we spend so much time talking about yeah. What, you know, how it set us back in so many ways. I think in, in some ways, access to resources is, is changing. And for some people it’s, it’s easier. And for some people it’s harder. So for example, you know, there’s therapists now who are meeting with kids online, so that might make therapy more accessible to some kids OT, more accessible to some kids. It also hinders the process in a lot of ways too. So that’s a whole, whole Def different conversation. I think that the time at home has really allowed parents to get to know their children. Mm-Hmm . And so I think that as educators and I’m sure a lot of educators would feel this way. A lot of times we’re trying to help parents see some of the things that we’re seeing at school and what’s come as a result of the time at home is that a lot of parents, you know, are really seeing it.


Tali Aziza (21:28):
And I know specifically that year where we transitioned from being totally in school to being fully blindsided by all of this and then being at home, I, I know, and I suspect that globally, a lot of parents were calling teachers and saying, oh my goodness, I, I see it now. Like I get what you were telling me. I didn’t know it before. So I think there is this awareness and there’s partnership that comes from parents re really being part of the classroom, you know, be really being the ones who are, are spearheading it in a lot of ways. So there’s, first of all, an added appreciate that I think always needed to be there for the incredible work that teachers are doing. And that with that has come greater partnership and greater awareness from the parent perspective. So I think that that allows us to go so much further in how we can support and help children,


Sam Demma (22:24):
Speaking of gratitude and appreciation, not only educators, but everyone that works with young people, including yourself and other social workers. If you haven’t heard it recently, thank you so much for the work that you have done and continue to do. If parents aren’t telling you our students it’s making a massive impact. And I appreciate it. Because I know when I was in school, I could have definitely used a teacher that I could celebrate my wins with. Also share my challenges in a very safe environment. Thank you so much. This has been an awesome conversation. If someone is listening and wants to reach out, ask a question or share some feedback, what would be the best way for them to reach out and get in touch with you?


Tali Aziza (23:05):
Yeah, absolutely. And I’m always happy if anyone sort of wants to come up with some ideas or is maybe struggling with something please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to brainstorm together. I can be reached by email and it is taliazizacnp@gmail.com


Sam Demma (23:25):
Awesome. Tally, thank you so much. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Tali Aziza (23:30):
Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Tali Aziza

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Elijah Johnson – Secondary Division National President Business Professionals of America

Elijah Johnson - Secondary Division National President Business Professionals of America
About Elijah Johnson

Elijah Johnson (@BPAPresident) is a 17-year-old senior at Blaine High School, in Blaine, Minnesota. Although he’s involved in a variety of extracurriculars, he’s most proud to serve as the National Secondary Division President of Business Professionals of America (BPA), a business education non-profit that changes the lives of students all around the world. 

This year, he, along with the BPA Executive Council, has worked tirelessly to tackle some of the issues that the coronavirus has created for students. By the end of his term, he hopes to create a variety of positive opportunities for both students and teachers. 

Elijah will be pursuing his post-secondary education at Harvard as part of the class of 2026.

Connect with Elijah: Email | Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Business Professionals of America (BPA)

How to Win Friends and Influence People (book)

Minnesota BPA

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Elijah, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing with the audience a little bit about who you are?


Elijah Johnson (00:12):
Sure. My name’s Elijah Johnson or I go by Eli and I’m the national secondary division president of business profess of America, which is a business education nonprofit mainly based in the United States, but also with an international presence in Haiti, Peru, China as well as Puerto Rico.


Sam Demma (00:32):
That’s awesome. What led you down this path to get involved in BPA and these different leadership opportunities?


Elijah Johnson (00:41):
Sure. So at my high school I’m a part of the, the engineering program that’s called Sims. And one of the things that some students have to do freshman year is do a computer skills class and the computer skills class is taught by bla high school’s resident. Overly friendly, super boldly, like always super cheerful teacher, miss Bosman. And she’s actually one of the VP’s core advisors at Lynn high school. So she eventually pulled me in to BPA just through talking to me and knowing what my interests were. So I eventually joined BPA through miss Bosman. And then when I was a junior, I started becoming an officer in the organization. And then a couple of months ago in may, I was elected as the national president.


Sam Demma (01:27):
That’s so amazing. And when you were in high school, was it that teacher’s bubbly personality that kind of drew you into BPA? Did she tap you on the shoulder and say, Hey, you should get involved or tell me more about how that unfolded.


Elijah Johnson (01:41):
Sure. It was exactly like that she’d burst into class and then she’d start pointing at people and she’d be like, you should join BPA and you should join BPA. I was one of the students that she pointed at and eventually like kind of just gave in and I was like, okay, sure. I guess I’ll, I’ll try it out for a little bit and see how it goes. And four years later and still in my…


Sam Demma (02:04):
That’s. Awesome. Tell me more about miss. Is it bossman?


Elijah Johnson (02:08):
Yes. Miss bossman. Yeah.


Sam Demma (02:09):
What was it like being a student in her class? Was she tell me more about her? I’m curious.


Elijah Johnson (02:15):
Sure. At times it was a little scary that you’d walk into a class cuz I had her first hour and somebody was already that hot be and like excited to start the day. like, especially as a freshman who was just getting orientated into high school. Just having that, that personality. I mean I’m, I’m being sarcastic. Obviously. I love miss Bosman and she was super fun, brought a lot of energy to teaching. Being a student in her class was pretty refresh she to start out your day with someone that was that supportive of everybody’s future and their education. Because one of the reasons that she’s an advisor is because she cares about students that much that she’s willing to put in all the time, it takes to be a VP advisor.


Sam Demma (03:02):
So what do you think makes a good leader? It sounds like miss bossman was a, a great leader for yourself and many of the students in your classroom. And now that you’re in a leadership position, I’m sure you are trying to live out certain characteristics and traits and mindsets yourself to make sure that you’re all a good leader. So what do you think some of those traits and characteristics are?


Elijah Johnson (03:23):
Right. Definitely the ability to relate to other people. I feel like you can’t be a leader of anything if you’re not able to connect to the people that you’re serving you need to know what their issues are. What’s important to them. Some of their problems are because then you need to work to be able to solve those problems and create solutions to the things that they need help with. I’d also say being a very open-minded person because as a leader you’re obviously exposed through different types of personalities, different types of socioeconomic backgrounds and, and such. So just having an open mindset and being able to work with anybody I think is really important.


Sam Demma (04:07):
And have you learned these things through your own personal experience or do you also have mentors and leaders that have poured into you at the, you know, at BPA or in other areas of your life?


Elijah Johnson (04:20):
I’d say both. A lot of my, my what’s the word kind of like not traits but values. Sorry. A lot of my values come from my family. And just being raised by my mom and dad, but for sure a lot of my professional values have definitely come from VP experiences. VP mentors, like miss Bosman, another one of my advisors, supposedly, and then also just the students that I work with getting able to interact with them and learning through them.


Sam Demma (04:52):
That’s awesome. And as a student yourself, like thinking about your whole journey through high school, just your whole journey as a student, what do you think has been the most helpful in terms of what teachers and educators have done for you? I think we all have teachers who pour a lot into us and maybe believe in ourselves sometimes more than we do. And those teachers can shape our future and, you know, push to make decisions that are helpful. What do you think some things are that educators have done for you that have made a massive impact?


Elijah Johnson (05:28):
Definitely being accessible. I’d say that’s the biggest thing that’s impacted me personally. Getting into the position that I’m in right now and running for national office was hands down, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And I know for a fact that I would not have been successful as I’ve been, if it wasn’t for another one of my advisors, Ms. Boley I would text her questions at all hours of the night. Like, how do you do this? How am I supposed to do this? You have any idea what I’m gonna be asked in the caucuses. So just being there having that presence for students is one of the most important things in my opinions that a teacher can do to support their students of that.


Sam Demma (06:12):
I think presence is so important, not only in the classroom, but also in every conversation you can tell when someone’s mind is elsewhere and not paying attention to the words that you’re saying. and I think we both know what it feels like to have those conversations. How do you, like, how do as a leader, do you ensure you stay present when someone is sharing or, you know, speak to you because there’s not, not only now being that you’re involved in BPA, but for the rest of your life, there will always be thousands of things pulling you, your attention and your energy and your thoughts away from the present moment. How do you like kind of remind yourself to stay present?


Elijah Johnson (06:54):
Right. So that’s a great question. And what I personally do is I try to ask questions. So if the, the person saying something that I don’t really understand or if I feel myself starting to drift away from what they’re saying, I try to write down mental questions of clarifying points that I can ask to kind of show that I am paying attention and also force myself to go back to paying attention with him, starting to drift away a little bit.


Sam Demma (07:21):
That’s amazing. There’s there’s a really great book called how to win friends and influence people written by this guy named Dale Carnegie. And he talks about the importance of being interested in somebody else rather than being interesting or trying to be interesting. Your, and I think that aligns so much with your idea of asking questions, which is awesome. On the topic of books, like, have you found any resources helpful for you as a leader and as a student that you think are worth sharing or do you watch any YouTube channels or listen to any podcast that you wanna give a shout out to?


Elijah Johnson (07:56):
Unfortunately I don’t honestly, the only book that I live by as a leader is Robert Robert’s rules. Cause that’s kinda elementary procedure that runs all over board trustees meetings. I see in terms of leadership development, really what I turn to is people that I can interact with. So different mentors within the organization that I can go to and say, Hey, how do you do this? How could I get better at this? So for sure books and, and different types of videos and YouTube series is something that I can start personally. Looking more into,


Sam Demma (08:33):
I, I would argue if you have access to the people who are doing exactly what you wanna do, then they’re probably your best source of learning anyway, like something that I always remind myself is that like all opinions are not created equally, that if you wanna learn how to fly a plane, you know, go and find the pilot instead of asking an attendant or somebody else. And if you have access to those people that are doing what you wanna do, then you don’t have to read books or watch YouTube videos. Anyway, you could just go ask them questions. I’m sure that along your journey, you’ve had so many supportive people, people that have propelled you forward and given you beliefs that were empowering, but there’s probably been situations or the opposite has occurred, or someone told you that your dreams are too big or that it was not gonna be possible or wasn’t gonna work out or you weren’t smart enough or you weren’t good enough. How do you deal with the limiting opinions and beliefs that other people place on you?


Elijah Johnson (09:32):
Honestly, just by moving on, you have to, to be thick skin sometimes and not care about what other people say to you. I remember very, very clear when I told my dad that I was gonna run for national office, he kind of just looked at me and went, okay. And then brushed me off and kind of forgot that I had said anything. He didn’t really start taking me seriously until I ended up becoming middle soda’s candidate in the national elections. And he was like, oh, you are serious about that. And then also kinda similarly, I tried to run for state office in Minnesota and one of my advisors told me that I was too young to run. So I, I actually didn’t end up running. And that kind of impacted me personally a lot because my VP journey almost stopped there. Being told that I couldn’t do something that I had been trying to work towards to, to work towards for years was really, really impactful. But I kind of did what I suggested and I just brushed that off, collected my thoughts. And I ended up asking if I, I could run for nationals and because the limitations that apply to my school regarding age don’t apply at nationals and I ended up completely skipping state and just ran in the national election.


Sam Demma (10:49):
that is such a good story, man. Do you tell this on stage at BPA events?


Elijah Johnson (10:55):
I have told it a bunch in online meetings like this, but not at any conferences so far


Sam Demma (11:00):
Sometimes we get so worried or upset when something doesn’t work out, but oftentimes it’s because there’s something better just waiting around the corner. I, I read this quote online recently that said, you know, when a door closes it’s because the universe, God faith wanna call it is telling you, you just have to walk up the hall and open the next one. And there might be something better behind that door than you had ever expected. I think that’s such a beautiful story that explains the importance of persistence, but also staying true to your vision. Like most people maybe would’ve hit that first limitation of age and decide, you know what, I’ll just wait, I’ll just wait till I’m older. But you know, you continued staying true to your, your dream and your vision, which was to get involved with BPA as an officer and you kind of founded a loophole with the national level and it worked out. What advice do you have for students who are dreamers, who might be dealing with the opinions of other people trying to make their own unique dreams, a reality. Do you have any general advice or feedback for someone trying to do something that might seem a little unrealistic to those around them?


Elijah Johnson (12:11):
Yeah, for sure. What I say is create a plan because especially if you’re dealing with external forces regarding a, a lack of belief that other people have in you, I’d say, if you can articulate what your goal is and the steps that it’ll take to reach that goal, then it’s a lot easier for people to start taking U seriously and for other people to say, okay, maybe they do have a chance. And also it’s easier for you because the steps that you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to go, are that much clearer when you have them running down and you know what you need to do.


Sam Demma (12:48):
Can you bring us back to your own plan? like, what, what was your plan after telling your pops? I wanna get involved ATPA as an officer


Elijah Johnson (12:59):
Sure. So I was sitting at the kitchen table. We were eating lunch. I think it was, we were eating sandwiches from Jersey mics and I was like, Hey dad, I’m gonna run for chapter office. Then I’m gonna run for regional office. Then I’m gonna run for state office. And then I’m gonna try to be elected as a national officer. And like I said, he kind of just looked at me and went whatever and rolled his eyes. The chapter in regional office went good, but then like we just talked about, I kind of hit a wall at state, but everything ended up working out in the end. So kind of like you said, when doors close others open that’s for sure.


Sam Demma (13:37):
That’s awesome. Sounds like your plan was to just start small and continue moving up from there. I think like sometimes what stops people is, you know, maybe the first goal they said is I’m gonna be represented by national office. I think, which was really helpful in your journey in your own plan was, let me start in my school, let me then go to regional, let me then go to state and let me then try and crack the national board. And I think when you break it down like that, you’re setting yourself up for more success. Because even if the first one or two levels of your plan are a little easier to accomplish, just the fact that you accomplish something is gonna give you the confidence to continue going and the momentum to continue moving forward. And it’s very clear that you’re someone who has lots of confidence and you speak very passionately. And clearly you brought, you know, one of your own dreams and goals that you told to your dad to life, despite the odds, where do you think your confidence comes from? And how do, how have you developed that as a young person?


Elijah Johnson (14:40):
Definitely by failing a lot. Like there’s absolutely no way to be successful if you don’t fail. I remember when, when I was elected as a chapter officer, I was actually the treasurer of my school. And at first I was a little upset cuz I’m like, how am I gonna eventually reach my goals if I’m starting out as just a treasurer? I mean, of course that position meant absolutely nothing. Like it didn’t matter that I was the treasurer. It wouldn’t have mattered if I was the president. The fact the only important part was that I had accomplished a part of what I wanted to do. So I just took that and moved forward and went on with my life. And there’s a lot of other areas of my life, where I failed like in sports where maybe I had a performance on guitar, that didn’t the way I wanted to. You just take the experiences and lessons that you learned, you pick yourself up and you move on.


Sam Demma (15:39):
One of my favorite, speaking of music, one of my favorite artists is this rapper named Russ. He has very affirmational music and one of the lyrics is that he takes his failures and uses as stepping stones. Like almost, you know, each of them is like a learning. And I think, especially in today’s society, we spend so much time focused on how successful people are and how great their life is. And it gets so, so much more like pronounced when you go on media, because everyone’s only highlighting the best parts of themselves. What is something or an area in your life or a situation where you, you defined to yourself that you failed that you’ve learned from that you think might be helpful for other people listening?


Elijah Johnson (16:28):
Yeah, I think that’s a very, very important question, cuz like you said, especially since everybody’s on social media now and really all we see on those platforms is perfect worlds with perfect people in them and you don’t really see the imperfections that make up who those people really are. So I’d say an area that I’ve definitely failed at, especially being a student leaders in the early months of my term, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Like I was going to meetings, voting on things that I barely had an understanding of. And I was having all this, these difficult conversations with only a surface level knowledge or some of the topics that I needed to know because for better or for worse, one of the things that BPA likes to do is throw their students into things. So I was thrown into overseeing a $2.1 million budget thrown into an advocacy committee, thrown into policies and procedures.


Elijah Johnson (17:28):
So definitely struggling in those first few months, I’d say was a failure because not knowing the things that I need to know to effectively serve the students that I represent. That was definitely something that I look back on and wish that I was more prepared. So that, that didn’t happen. But like we talked about, you take your failures and you use them as stepping stones. So I, I went back and I said Hey, what could I have done to be better prepared? And then I worked on the areas that I was deficient at. And now that’s something that isn’t as much of a problem anymore.


Sam Demma (18:05):
That’s awesome. I love that. I was gonna ask you if you didn’t ask, what would you have done differently, but you did a great job answering that yourself. So thank you. I’m writing a book right now and the title of the book is gonna be called dear high school. Me and the premises that a lot of people that write books that contain advice for high school students are so far removed from the student life. That it’s hard to kind of give or accept advice from those people. Like if someone is 45 or 50 years old, yeah. Their advice is relevant, but it’s so far removed from what a student life might look like today. And so I thought it would be a unique idea to talk to people like yourself and also use my own experiences to write a book of advice for my younger or high school self. And if you could give one or two pieces of advice to your high school self, even right now, what would you tell yourself? Like if you could go back to the first year of high school and give yourself a one or two pieces of advice.


Elijah Johnson (19:05):
Number one, the biggest thing of all is don’t procrastinate. That’s something that I still struggle with as a senior in high school. Getting worked done when you get it initially is the best way to go. Cuz it’s immediately off your plate. You don’t have to worry about it two weeks later. It’s not gonna come back to haunt you. So just being proactive in the work that you’re given and the things that you need to get done and is for sure, one of the things that I wish I would’ve had drilled into my mind as a freshman in high school. And then also another piece of advice I give is just surround yourself with friends and students that you want to be like, cuz I can, I can say personally I’m still develop. And for sure, when I started out in high school, I was nowhere near the person that I am now. And I’ve partially developed because of BPA, but I’ve also developed because of the people that I’ve been surrounded by who I’ve admired and they’ve pushed me to become a better person. So I’d say lean on your friends. They’re the people who are gonna support you the most in addition to your family and other people. So procrastination and the importance of the people you surround yourself with are for sure the two pieces of advice I’d give.


Sam Demma (20:22):
All right. Love it. Awesome. Well, thank you again, Elijah, for coming on the podcast here, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show. If someone wants to reach out or connect with you we’ll would be the best way for them to get in touch.


Elijah Johnson (20:34):
Sure. So if you went to the bpa.org website, you just type in bpa.org you can go to a tab called the executive council and then right on that is my email. So ejohnson@bpa.org. You can reach out to me at any time you wish.


Sam Demma (20:51):
Awesome, Elijah, thank you so much. Keep up the great work with yourself, your future endeavors and BPA. And we’ll talk soon.


Elijah Johnson (21:01):
Thanks for having me.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Elijah Johnson

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.