Avni Soni – Secondary Science Teacher at Centennial High School

Avni Soni – Secondary Science Teacher at Centennial High School
About Avni Soni

Avni Soni is the secondary science teacher at Centennial High School in Calgary. This episode explores her passion for the sciences and how she got into teaching!

Connect with Avni: Email

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Centennial High School

Brent Dickson

Dr. Ivan Joseph’s “You Got This Mastering the Skill of Self-Confidence”

CBC Massey Lectures

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 (00:00):
Do you want access to all the past guests on this show? Do you want a network with like-minded individuals and meet other high performing educators from around the world? If so, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Sign up to join the exclusive network and you’ll get access to live virtual networking events and other special opportunities that will come out throughout 2021. I promise you I will not fill your inbox. You might get one email a month. If that sounds interesting, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest was referred to me by a previous guest. And I just wanna say shout out to Brent Dixon for making the introduction. I wholeheartedly appreciate it when you reach out and let me know other educators that you think I need to interview and need to talk to on this show.

Sam Demma (00:59):

So if you have anyone in mind, please reach to me, sam@samdemma.com. Let me know who I should interview, cuz I would absolutely love to chat with them. It results in phenomenal conversations and getting your friends featured on this podcast. Today’s featured guest who I’m super excited to share with you is Avni Soni. Avni is the secondary science teacher at Centennial High School. And what you’ll, what you’ll feel listening to this episode today is that she is extremely passionate about student wellbeing, about biology and science. And it’s a little difficult doing things virtually, but she’s embracing the reality and doing the best she can to give her students a phenomenal scientific education. So enjoy today’s interview with Avni. Thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Can you just start by introducing yourself and maybe sharing, like why the heck did you get into education?

Avni Soni (02:00):

Okay. So I’m Avni Sony. I’ve been teaching for 13 years now all in Calgary. And I got, and I’m a bio teacher and I got into education because I absolutely loved biology and I wanted to share my passion with the kids and just show how cool and all it is. And throughout the years I just, I love my job. I absolutely love it. I can’t imagine doing anything else is yeah, it just, it’s just so much fun. Every single day is just so different. And I just can’t describe it. It’s even though I teach the same con content, it’s just it’s fun and getting to know these kids too. Yeah.

Sam Demma (02:47):

What prompted you to become a biology teacher instead of a biologist? Like I’m sure you could have took different passions with your, you know, your interest in biology, but why teaching specifically?

Avni Soni (02:59):

Because it was a challenge. It was to get these kids to have that, or try and have that same passion for biology that I do. And to like to be a biologist, just doing research, I think, and I just found it would be so mundane, but being in the classroom and, you know, seeing these kids learn and just getting to know them and seeing what their interests are and seeing if I can tweak that towards BI bio or science is just awesome. Or if I could do that, that would be great. So that’s why I chose teaching.

Sam Demma (03:34):

That’s awesome. And did you have any teacher when you were in high school that had to huge impact on you in terms of teaching that led you down that path as well?

Avni Soni (03:43):

Ah, of course, yes. I definitely there was my grade six teacher Sandra Cober. I tried to look her up and I can’t find her. But maybe she listened to this. Yeah. If you’re listening. Cause I think you’re based off of in Toronto or something like that. Right. Are you, yeah, so I mean, I, I grew up in Toronto, so hopefully she’s listening. I’m like you had a huge impact. When I was in grade six, grade five and six, she was both my grade five and six teacher. And just again, her dedication and her hard work and just trying to get all of us to learn and just she’s just so wonderful. And then there was my bio teacher of course in sir, John, a McDonald McKinley I think his name’s Mike McKinley. I probably retire now, but he also had a massive impact just again, cuz he had all this knowledge of bio. Like he could just ask him anything and he would tell you the answer and just, and his passion for it. Kind of steered me towards bio. And then yeah. And then Sandra steered me towards, I think education in that respect.

Sam Demma (04:49):

Oh that’s awesome. It’s funny. Yeah. I really inspiring teacher when I was in grade 12, whose name was also Mike, so Mike must be correlated to passion maybe?

Avni Soni (04:57):

Right, exactly. It can be for sure.

Sam Demma (05:00):

But tell me more about what Sandra did in her class to make you feel so passionate about education. Like what is it that she did that had a huge impact on you? That’s left an imprint so much that you literally can remember her name and have tried to reach out to her in the past?

Avni Soni (05:16):

I, I think the reason I’ve tried to reach out is because when I found out she was Lee, even the school, I, I didn’t go and see her. And I regret that. I regret saying that you have such an impact on me as a kid and as, as a student that I just wanted to tell you how, cause you know, sometimes like as teachers, you just don’t know the effect that you have on kids, you hope for the best, you hope that they will, you know, thrive in the future, but you just don’t know. And sometimes, I mean, it’s nice now with Facebook and all that stuff and social media that you can reconnect, but sometimes we just don’t. So I, I that’s one thing I regret not telling her is that she had this huge impact. And I think again, it was just her nature and like I think our class was a pretty tough class too. There was a lot of different socioeconomic issues. And so but you wouldn’t, you couldn’t tell cuz she was just there day in and day out early in the morning, I feel like after school and just, you know, giving her a hundred percent all the time to whatever it was is, is what I remember. She’s just yeah.

Sam Demma (06:27):

Dedication. Yeah. I love that. I, I think that’s awesome. And what’s really cool is that, you know, that was a teacher that you had who had a huge impact on your life. She doesn’t even know it because you didn’t get a chance to tell her yet.

Avni Soni (06:41):

No, I know Sam.

Sam Demma (06:43):

I know the reason why that’s so awesome is because what that means is there’s gonna be kids that you teach, who, whose lives you change, that you might never know. And of course its, it helps when they tell you and you, you have these bubbly, warm feelings, but the reality is still changing lives and making a huge difference, which is that’s right. Which is awesome. It’s big. Yeah. Do you have any stories of students that you’ve seen transform as a result of education that you think were really inspiring? And the reason I’m asking is because there might be an educator listening who’s, you know, facing some challenges this year and is a little bit uncertain about their own future in this calling. And if there’s a story, you know, maybe there’s a student who, whose name like you can, you can just like take it away or change it just for privacy reasons, but oh yeah, yeah, yeah. If it’s a serious story, but do any of those stories kind of come to mind and if there’s not a, maybe you can share a personal experience.

Avni Soni (07:42):
So yeah, there are a few, okay. I have to change the names. So let’s call this person. I don’t even know William. But I think just, well I don’t, I don’t know what it was out. I don’t know if it was actually, let me, I have to think about this. Sorry. No, it’s okay. I didn’t really come prepared to honest, be honest. I want to wing, I want to wing it.

Sam Demma (08:09):

It’s, it’s more authentic that way.

Avni Soni (08:11):

Yeah, exactly. I just have to think about I God, 13 years and.

Sam Demma (08:18):

And while you think about that, I mean yeah. You know, let that germinate and, and yeah, come to mind and when it does just feel free to interrupt me and say, oh, oh, sorry, my, you know, I.

Avni Soni (08:27):

Yeah, yeah. Okay. Fine. Yeah sure I can do that.

Sam Demma (08:28):

But in the meantime you just told me, or before this, that you were a part of a teacher’s convention and I’m curious to know what is, what maybe one or two things you’ve learned that you thought were valuable from the convention that you could share with any other teacher or educator listening today?

Avni Soni (08:48):

Okay. From the convention. I would say that the takeaway is I think just to always grow and to find new and interesting ways to bring ideas into the classroom. Nice. Is what I would say. It’s just sometimes you get so stagnant just again, being in the class, like, especially if you’re teaching the same grade, same course over and over. So I think the best takeaways yeah. To find some ways to like reinvent the wheel in a way or reinvent the way that you present or reinvent that material to help those kids always about the kids. That’s what I, a hundred percent.

Sam Demma (09:35):

That, and I know biology sometimes is, is very hands on. You’re doing different dissections sometimes. And your models. How have you kind of transitioned during this time to still make biology class possible and, and like fun for the kids?

Avni Soni (09:51):

Oh, okay. It, I mean, because of COVID and the pandemic, it would be completely like online dissections that we could do. Or if I like when we in Alberta, so in December we had online teaching for that one month. And so I still was in the classroom, so I just brought in my models and I just, you showed it with the video. So try and explain that. What are other ways have I online dissections, online videos the models that I have there to show the same concepts is yeah. Is what I’ve done, I guess. I can’t think of anything else really.

Sam Demma (10:34):

That’s awesome. That’s that’s phenomenal. And if you could, if you could travel back in time and speak to younger Albany, when you were just starting education, like what advice would you give your younger self in this calling and profession?

Avni Soni (10:49):

That I know it’s difficult. Sorry. Are you talking about like when I just first, first started out teaching? Yeah. Or like what yeah. Started of teaching. I would say that I know it’s super difficult and it’s so like the first five years are so hard, they’re like the hardest part, but you can do this. You are going to make a difference in these kids lives because you have in some of these kids. And so yeah, I would just keep on doing, you got, this is what I would say. You have this in the bag. Just, just keep driving.

Sam Demma (11:26):

That’s awesome. That made me think of a book. I just recently read called You Got This. Oh really? Yeah. There’s a, there’s a, a PhD in sports psychology. His name’s Dr. Ivan, Joseph, and he has a Ted talk. That’s all about self confidence and yes, he believes that self confidence is actually a skill you can build and there’s a specific way to build it. And he wrote a book about it called You Got This.

Avni Soni (11:50):

That, is that book all about like how to develop that skill and yeah.

Sam Demma (11:53):

And if you watch, yeah. If you went on, if you went on YouTube and just searched, mastering the skill of self confidence, you’ll see his Ted talk and it has over 20 million views. Like it’s really good. Okay.

Avni Soni (12:03):


Sam Demma (12:04):

I’ll check it out. But on the topic of books do you enjoy reading? Have you read anything recently that you think might be interesting to share?

Avni Soni (12:12):

So I have been reading, I’ve been trying to get back into reading. I have two young kids, so nice. It’s been hard in the last few years. I mean, I should say hard, but like my time is spent with my kids so nice. But now that they’re a little bit older, so I was like, you know, I’m gonna start reading. So I did start, I got some books a fr from a friend who recommended a book called a short history of progress. It’s based off of these Massey lectures. I don’t know if you know about the Massey lectures that the CBC puts on. Sounds awesome. Yeah, it’s great. Like every year they have a speaker about a certain topic and so and then they put out a book about that topic. And so I’m reading one of those books right now. It just talks about sort of human civilization. I think I haven’t read SAPs yet, but I think it’s supposed to be similar to sapiens. Yeah. And yeah. And so it goes through that. I also have an evolution book that I’m halfway through, but those are on my reading list right now.

Avni Soni (13:14):

I, I feel like there’s something else there too. Yeah, I, yeah, I’m trying to read more also to be a good model for my kids as well.

Sam Demma (13:22):

Yeah. Cool. And are you teaching virtually at the moment? Like, are you teaching from?

Avni Soni (13:28):

I right now for the next I I’m quarantined right now for, until February 20th. And so I’m teaching my class, that’s also in quarantine and then I’m also teaching my other bio class. There’s 10 kids isolated in that class. So I’m also teaching them online, but the rest are yeah.

Sam Demma (13:50):

Was there a case, are you okay?

Avni Soni (13:53):

Yeah. I’m okay. Thank thanks for asking. I, yeah, there was a case in my class and so we had to all quarantine for two weeks and so that’s okay.

Sam Demma (14:01):

Okay. And how are you finding the online teaching? Is it a challenge? How are you getting your kids to turn their cameras on?

Avni Soni (14:09):

I’m not. I know when I was in high school, you know, you’re like self, like you’re self-conscious. And so, and you’re at home when some of these kids probably, especially cuz we have class at eight 50 in the morning that they’re just rolling outta bed. And so I don’t force them to put their cameras on. I, I, I said like, if you want sure, I’d love to see you. I always have my camera on so they can see my face. And I try and make it fun. I’ll do silly things cause I sometimes really silly. Nice. And I’ll yeah, I think like when we did that online teaching in December I did theme days and so ridiculous things like crazy hat day, crazy hair day a sports day, one of my classes came up with the themes and we went with it and the kids.

Avni Soni (14:53):

Yeah. So some of them dressed up, they showed their pets one day they had a pet or a stuffy. And so it was just, it was fun. It was just trying to get them more engaged because this online stuff is so hard, especially when they’re transitioning from, in person online, there’s a case you gotta go, then you’d be back. And so there’s I think it’s taking a toll. I know it’s taking a toll on me, so I can’t imagine how much it’s taken on them with all these transitions that we’ve gone through. Yeah. So I guess, yeah, I think about their health is what I’m concerned about their mental health.

Sam Demma (15:28):

Yeah, that’s awesome. No, I appreciate that. As you’ve been talking, any stories pop in your head about transformation?

Avni Soni (15:36):

Transformation? I think more like I’m just trying to think of and if, if that, well actually I can, I, can I, can I have one? I have a few, I think, but I may there’s one that just happened this year with the online and we’ll call him I’ll call I guess, with the online stuff. And I was worried I, and he wasn’t, he, he just, he kind of wanted to take biology cuz he had to take one of the sciences. And I think he said from the three, you know biology was his thing that he wanted to take. And so he took it but not so much of an interest and he was struggling with the online. I was worried, I actually talked to his dad was a teacher also at my school.

Avni Soni (16:35):

Nice. And just worried about him. Dad had didn’t have any really clue that like that he was struggling with biology anyway, so that student cuz we were still allowed to have students come in. So he came in and he had, I gave him a crash course. And by the end of it, I was talking to his dad and his dad was like, William really loved your class, like so much so that he wants to take grade 12 biology. And I was like, wow, I didn’t know that. I, I can’t tell like sometimes in the classroom that I’ve had that much of an impact, it didn’t seem like he was as interested as he made it out Tobi and that he’s now taking grade 12 for that. I’ve also had another kid I just remembered. Also I think he was really bright.

Avni Soni (17:23):

We will call him, man. This is tough. Bob, Bob. Thanks Robert. So Robert, I mean he is a hard working student and that sort of thing. But again, I guess I think he wanted to go into engineering. But he took grade 12 biology and loved it so much now I, I guess, I don’t know. What’s good. I think he went to the UK and he decided to major in like bio medical engineering. And so yeah, there’s another one where it, you know, the interest of biology and maybe being in my class transpired into his future path there for that.

Sam Demma (18:11):

That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing. Yeah, no, I appreciate it. Yeah, it’s always cool. When there are some examples you can think about just because it shows other teachers how important it is that they do, like the work that they do.

Avni Soni (18:22):

Oh yes, definitely. It is a hundred percent. Like if I can say that to all teachers who are unsure or if there’s any educators unsure of what they’re doing, you are doing the right thing. You are making a difference, even though it may not seem like it. You have that small impact, you are doing the best that you are for these kids and they know it and you are going to transform these lives a hundred percent guaranteed.

Sam Demma (18:50):

I love it. And if a teacher listening to this is inspired. No, I think we should end on that note cuz it was so good. Like you said, you said it better than I could, but if there’s a teacher listening, who’s inspired by anything you’ve said or vibes with your energy and wants to just connect and have a conversation. What would be the best way for another educator listening to reach a out and just chat with you?

Avni Soni (19:13):

I mean, I guess it would be via, I do have Instagram, but it’s private cuz I also don’t want students on their or Facebook or email or I don’t know. Yeah. I, they can reach out via email is at avsoni@cbe.ab.ca.

Sam Demma (19:35):

Yeah. I’ll just put a little link to like a form they could fill out in the show notes if they wanted to reach out everyone who listens to this is just other educators. So if someone did reach out, it would just be a teacher like no worries. Oh, okay.

Avni Soni (19:46):

I didn’t know. I didn’t know how it works. Sorry. It’s my first time doing any of this stuff.

Sam Demma (19:49):

No totally fine. Yeah. Yeah. So I’ll just, I’ll just post that in the little notes. If someone to reach out, they could reach you out over email. Okay. Sweet. Perfect. Sounds great. All right. Okay. A thank you so much for doing this. I appreciate it.

Avni Soni (20:04):

Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate this. It was fun.

Sam Demma (20:08):

And there you have it. Another amazing guest and amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating in review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed are going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

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