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Experiential Learning

Aubrey Patterson – 30-Year Teacher, Principal, Superintendent & Founder of Warm Demanders

Aubrey Patterson, CEO Warm Demanders
About Aubrey Patterson

Aubrey Patterson (@PattersonAubrey) spent 30 years as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in a high-performing school district. Today, he is the CEO and Founder of Warm Demanders, an educational consulting company that provides coaching and online programs. Their goal is to help leaders build a high-impact remarkable culture, provide clarity with a smile, and find the time for the things that matter most!

Aubrey works with leaders to effectively use technology to develop structures and procedures as the means to improve learning conditions for teachers and students. To this end, Aubrey has developed highly regarded systems to recapture time and provide for exceptional communications.

These systems, like the extensive induction, formative job descriptions, truly collaborative meetings, and professional learning programs for teachers and administrators, are built upon three distinct leadership stages that much like dominoes, fall in succession: simplify, clarify and amplify. For more information go to: WarmDemanders.com

Connect with Aubrey: Email | Linkedin | Website | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The Principals Seminar

Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk

David Allen; Getting Things Done (book)

Getting to Inbox Zero

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 (00:03):
Aubrey, 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 also sharing a little bit behind your journey? What brought you to do the work you’re doing today?


Aubrey Patterson (00:15):
Yeah. Well, that’s great to be here, Sam. Thank you for having me here today. Yeah, I’ve was a teacher and a coach and a principal and eventually a superintendent and I had like all these different roles in education and, you know, absolutely loved it. And I did that until 2017. And then after that time, I, you know, wanted to make some different dance in the universe. And so I, I started creating some, some new opportunities for people with with our educational companies. Nohea, and principal seminar were the first couple, but the main thing that, that I focus on right now is Warm Demanders that’s our, our newest company and, we help mostly school and district administrators you know, with their, with their day to day functions.


Sam Demma (01:12):
That’s awesome. Where did the, where did the passion come from or what was like the Eureka moment when you were going down the teaching path that you decided to make different dents and, and how did you kind of develop the courage to make the jump?


Aubrey Patterson (01:29):
Well it, when we go through like go through it, a teaching career, we, we always talk about growth mindset, the growth mindset ideals. And we talk about this all the time and it’s become kind of cliche, but if you really want to, you know, embrace those kinds of ideals, you have to be willing to take a, take a risk. You have to be willing to fail forward. And man, I’ve done a lot of that. And and, and honestly, I just never really had a problem with making mistakes. And I used to encourage them with the, with the people around me. So taking a leap, isn’t a, a difficult thing for me, it’s actually, you know, taking a leap and then sticking with things and trying to make that really big damp, that thing that will, that will really, you know, imprint success and, and pathways upon the people that we think we serve.


Sam Demma (02:25):
Oh, it’s amazing. I love that. And what, like, what is the principal seminar and Nohea and explain maybe the name behind the years? Cause I know it has an interesting backstory.


Aubrey Patterson (02:36):
Yeah. So my, one of my passions, like I have this deep belief that, that especially principals and also superintendents, assistant superintendents, like, like all of these people are so encumbered by all of the stuff that comes at them. Day-To-Day and it’s really unfair because everybody wants to have deep conversations with their people and everybody wants to have this amazing school culture. But they just can’t get there because there’s just so much stuff that comes at them. And a lot of that happens right at the front doors and often at the front office. So originally when I was looking to, to try, you know, help some people out, we started focusing on the school office and I spent a lot of time in, in Hawaii, especially in Maui and love a lot of the Hawaiian, the Polynesian ideals, and no Hayah is kind of like you know, everybody’s familiar with the Aloha spirit.


Aubrey Patterson (03:40):
It’s like the Aloha spirit plus leadership, like strong leadership. And, and what I really love about it is that it, it, it really allows you to be kind, and at the same time, you can be, you know, fanatically meticulous about systems and details and things like that. So it allows those, those people who, you know, like to get things done, to also be able to smile during the day. So know, Hey, I was focused on the school offices, principals seminar was, and is focused on new principals, helping new principals, but all of that has kind of evolved into our largest entity, which is warm demanders. And that’s where we have actually taken over those, those particular courses and brands and put them into this package to, to help all school and district leaders. And, and of course, warm demanders is kind of just as it sounds, we help people who, who want to be true to themselves in every part of their lives. You can be nice and be the principal. You can be kind to people and be really firm. You can, you know, be there for all the right reasons and love the kids and do all that stuff and still be very careful and with your processes and things like that. So anyway I see what you do, Sam. I just go on and on about this stuff. Once you get me started.


Sam Demma (05:09):
Hey, that’s why I brought you here today. I want you to continue speaking so warm demanders. What does the company do? Is it, is it solely providing courses consulting? Like if you had to explain it to a principal or a superintendent listening right now, how would you explain the whole organization?


Aubrey Patterson (05:30):
Yeah, so, so we, we do have multiple courses that, that we’ve released. We just opened up the doors in may. We’ve been overwhelmed with a huge, huge response with it. It’s, you know, it’s asynchronous learning at its best. And so that’s been really, really helpful, but like, that’s, that’s the courses, but we also do one-to-one coaching and that’s probably 60% of what we’re doing right now is one-to-one coaching virtually helping, helping school and district administrators you know, to, to get through all of the, the things they need to meander through in the, in these crazy times. And then we also provide these menus of you know, one stop shopping for, for schools and districts, where they can have an abundance of courses, you know, one click access for teachers or for administrators, et cetera. There’s a, there’s a lot there.


Aubrey Patterson (06:31):
So ultimately I would just kind of sum it up with everything is focused on helping people who want to be warm demander leaders. It is not focused in any way upon a traditional educational leadership where there’s a lot of hierarchy or there’s a lot of bureaucracy. I spend most of my time helping people get through the bureaucracy, get rid of the bureaucracy all of that, that kind of a thing. I’ve found a lot of success with it, both as the principal and a superintendent. And, and I like to help people, you know, with those kinds of things. And, and I honestly, it just finds that a lot of people don’t know which domino to flip over first. Right. And once we get them started, it’s, it’s just amazing. I just love it. Ultimately I, I love the one-to-one coaching the most, just love it.


Sam Demma (07:31):
I love that. That’s amazing. I want to selfishly go back to Maui and Hawaii for a second in my mind. So let me ask you, like what brought you out there and how were you exposed to these ideas of Nokia and this type of leadership?


Aubrey Patterson (07:51):
I honestly, I just got there like many people from some friends recommendations and then I stayed there longer and longer, more and more. I’ve always had an affinity to to hang out in, in Hawaii, like who doesn’t right, but like Hawaii and Southern California for whatever reason we do, I would say 70, 75% of our contacts right now are coming from the west coast. And there’s a particular vibe that really, that we really resonate with. And that I think that, that we give off in our, in our work that is, you know, with that warm and friendly part. And that part that you can be, you know, true to yourself in every, in every part of your life. And I think that’s what actually appeals to me the most about, about Hawaii, about, about many of the cultures that I, that I love is, you know, you can be the same person at home hanging out with your friends or, you know, leading a school or a school district. Like you should be able to always be comfortable in your skin. And I found that those ideals really allowed that. And and that’s where I kinda got, I don’t know, that’s where we got the vibe, that’s where we got the whole concept of, of know-how and you know, probably we would have called that first company Aloha, but, you know, that’s been used


Sam Demma (09:23):
And it didn’t go with that main stream. Right,


Aubrey Patterson (09:25):
Right.


Sam Demma (09:27):
That’s awesome. And when you were growing up, I want to, I want to go back for a second. Did you know that you wanted to get an initially into education and become a teacher superintendent and principal, or were you kind of steered down that path by other people in your life?


Aubrey Patterson (09:44):
Yes, I did. I, well, I knew that I wanted to coach my, my dad is, was an amazing teacher and basketball coach. Like he was, you know, won multiple provincial titles. He’s that, that guy that everybody loved in the community, he was a fantastic role model. And I, and I want it to be that, you know, I want it to be just like that. And at the same time I did quite well in school. I wasn’t a typical student that you know, that does well, that is, is studying a lot. And all that things came easy to me. I was just really lucky for, with that. And, and so I had a lot of people actually telling me, oh, you shouldn’t be a teacher when I wanted to be a teacher. And those people were encouraging me to go into business or to go into, you know be a lawyer, be a doctor, be these other things.


Aubrey Patterson (10:38):
And I listened to them at the start. And so my first year in university, I was in, I was in business and, and I did really well with the marks and all that. Like I loved that I was on the Dean’s list, but I hated it. And I quickly switched into education and everything felt right. And so and you know, from there, I was just really, really lucky to have fantastic role models when I was becoming a, a new teacher. And then I got to meet all these people that were like incredible leaders. And I said, huh, I think I could do that too. And I could, you know, and I keep on going and, and, and it was the same with coaching. I’d be coaching basketball. And I was around all these fantastic basketball coaches that just wanted to be better at it. And so that’s always been something for me is to, to see people that I’d like to emulate the qualities or the values that they have that I’d like to emulate, or that I’d like to, to grow. And, and, and that’s always, what’s been, been driving me.


Sam Demma (11:39):
Where does your principles come from? You mentioned earlier that failure is something you encourage and you want to fail fast and you want to fail quicker. Was that something that your dad instilled in you growing up or people in your life, or maybe a coach R where, yeah. Where did that come from? Because I feel like it’s such an important lesson, but not only high school administrators or any school administrator, that’s something that they need to embrace as well, but it’s hard to embrace. I find sometimes for all human beings.


Aubrey Patterson (12:09):
Yeah. Like I like, honestly, I, I think I, I got that. Yeah, definitely from my dad, but also from, from all of the coaches that I had when I was in, in school. You know, I was, again, really lucky to be in in some fantastic athletics programs, you know, as a player. And, and we always knew, like, for example, in baseball, you’re, you’re going to fail. If you fail 70% of the time, like you’re, you’re doing really well, like, like black junior right now is, you know, failing 680% of the time. You know, when he’s batting and he’s, he’s, you know, leading the league, like, like it’s just, it’s, it’s just part of getting better and it’s, it’s just what we have to do. And, and so I’ve always been comfortable with that concept. I know it’s become really cliche to say things like fail forward in that now, of course.


Aubrey Patterson (13:06):
But I’ve actually heard that for a long, long time. And, and I always encourage it and people, I know there’s a, there’s a guy that I hired years ago as a teacher. He came over from from a district close to us and, and he came up to me the very first day, you know, when he was kind of like an opening days thing. And he said where, what’s your number one word of advice. And I, and I had known him fairly well in the community is a great guy. And and I said, make a lot of mistakes the next time I see you, I’m going to ask you to tell me about your mistakes. And he started laughing and he said, no, really what? And I said, no, seriously, like, it didn’t make a lot of mistakes. Like I want you to make a lot of mistakes. And if, because we didn’t bring you over here to play it safe. And, and so anyway, he, he tells me all the time now that I’ve been gone for quite a while, and that when I bumped into him on the street, he’ll say, I’m still making lots of mistakes. I’m still making lots of mistakes. And so honestly, I think I was really lucky to have people encourage me to make mistakes. And I’ve just really always embraced that I’ve been comfortable with it.


Sam Demma (14:14):
Yeah, I like that. I love it a lot. And you mentioned before we even started this call, that one of the trainings you did when you were growing up was the seven, the seven habits with Stephen Covey. Where does your, your endless curiosity you continue learning come from? And do you think that’s like an important attribute of not only being an educator, but you know, someone who’s working with young people?


Aubrey Patterson (14:39):
Yeah, no, I, I, I’ve always been fascinated with how things happen, like the algorithms of how things happen. And like I love for example I think it was back in what, 2008, 2009 originally when Simon Sineck was first doing his Ted talk and talking about my why, and you know, where the, why came out in the whole, the whole thing of the golden circles and talking about apple and all of that. And that’s kind of been, become cliche for people to say, you know, what’s my why instead of saying, what’s my mission, what’s my, why I’m not against that. Please don’t get me wrong. I, I use it to what, what I’m saying is people are so focused on it that they often forget the importance of how and when, who, and where, and when we’re actually serving people, taking care of people, clarity is kindness, especially in difficult times like we’re facing right now.


Aubrey Patterson (15:34):
People really need clarity when they’re scared, when they’re nervous, they want, they’re looking for that, that step. It’s like when you jump into the deep end of the swimming pool for the first time, when you’re a little kid it’s exciting and you’re happy. And it’s like, look at me. And you’re in there about three seconds and you’re reaching for the side, you’re reaching for something solid. People want that clarity. And I think that clarity is exposed with the how, when, who, what, where, and again, I am not diminishing the why part at all, like completely believe that I love it. It’s a great starting point, but I’ve always been fascinated in the algorithm. The, if this, then that the how part, and that’s what I work with people on all the time is, and that, you know, we S we always say, we can save you anywhere from 10 to 20 hours or so 10 to 20 minutes in a day.


Aubrey Patterson (16:32):
And when we add up that amount of time, that, that adds up into like 6,000 minutes in a year, a hundred hours, you know, like and it’s really easy because we just have to go through and look at the algorithm and get really scientific with it. So going back to your original, what, you know, where did I get excited about all this kind of stuff? I was always fascinated with what led to that, you know, and in basketball, we would, we would put on a, you know, a press, a full court press. And I was always interested in, you know, what caused the turnover, you know, both as a player and as a coach. And typically it wasn’t actually the trap that on the ball that, that, you know, came that most people were focused upon. It was the, if this then that’s around it like that, that, that person had no place to pass. No, because you know, all of these other things happen. So anyway, you know, I’ve, I’ve always been fascinated by, by the how, by the way, the dominoes fall. And it just gets me to dig into things all the time. See, you just sent me down that rabbit hole. Again, I love the algorithm. Rabbit hole is my favorite. Then know,


Sam Demma (17:49):
Because you have a phenomenal mailing list, then you share algorithm type content through it all the time. And you do have like the free videos and tech tips on your website. That really helped me with the tabs that you told me to subscribe to. So like, if you had to give some quick organizational tips, things that you think need to be known and make the biggest ROI instantly what are like a couple of little things that you’d recommend people look into or educators


Aubrey Patterson (18:23):
For sure. Well, I, I love the research of David Allen who originally wrote, he wrote getting things done. And so, you know, 30, 40% of what I teach is based upon David Allen’s work or his, his original research and his, his most famous concept is the two minute rule. So if you can do something in two minutes, unless, you know, it’s rude, like, you know, you get up from a conversation or dinner and run through something and a while you’re, you’re, he should, you gotta be present with people, right. But if you can do something in two minutes, you should, because it will take you more time to file it away and bring it back. Then it would you know, just to do it in, in that two minutes. So most often, you know, we’ll, we’ll refer to email when we talk about this.


Aubrey Patterson (19:10):
So if you get something in your inbox and you take a look at it, and it’s, it’s gonna take you less than two minutes, if you can take the two minutes right now, we’ll do it. Cause it’ll take you more time to put it away and bring it back after. But that’s not only the reason that you do this with the two minute rule, because it also breaks your chain of thought in the future. It breaks your, your focus to have to go back and redo the, all these little things. And so all of these, you know, five seconds, 20 seconds, one minute here and there add up, but they don’t just add up to time. They add up in giving you an opportunity to focus better. And so my favorite or my second favorite tip is the two-minute rule. No matter what, if you can do it in less than two minutes, if you can, whether it’s email, whether it’s, you know, picking up a dish and putting it in the dishwasher, you know, whatever it is like day-to-day life or work, you know, you can do it less than two minutes, do it.


Aubrey Patterson (20:12):
This, my favorite tip is the next best action rule, which is have all of your subject lines in your email, in your things to do lists in your notes, in the posts that you write yourself, have every subject line begin with a verb with an action, and then you will always hit the ground running when you restart with that. So, for example, if I send you, if I write down on a, on a posted, you know mum’s birthday, you know, and if I just write down mom’s birthday and I come back to that a week later, I have to think, what, why did I write down mom’s birthday? Of course, I know her mom’s birthday is coming up, but am I getting her a present? Do I need to get something? Do I need to call my brother? Do I need to arrange something? Do I have to get some time off? What, why did I write down mom’s birthday? Now, the simple fact that I just wasted 20 seconds asking myself that is a problem. That’s a time problem, but I’ve also broken my train of thought on whatever else I was working on at that particular time. What if instead on that post-it I took the extra two seconds and wrote, get mom a present


Aubrey Patterson (21:29):
Order. Mom’s cake, no, start with that verb. What if I sent you an email Sam? And instead of saying podcasts in the email, but if I, instead I said reschedule podcast, because I’ve got a problem, then we can see, you know, the action that’s going with it. When we pick up that email or when we pick up that posted, or when we pick up that item in the things to do is we can, we can hit the ground running with it and we can keep our ideas flowing all the time. So what we’ve done is we’ve created an algorithm to keep her, our ideas flowing simply by using a verb at the end, in all of our emails and in all of our things to do. And we pass this gift on to other people you know, in emails and calendar invites, et cetera, by using, by using over. So that’s the next best action or what’s my next best action by mama cake? You know,


Sam Demma (22:27):
I love that. And when you do the, you mentioned that 60% of the work you do is with a one-on-one coaching. What aspect of the coaching do you enjoy the most? Like selfishly? Like what part of the journey of the teaching? Like what lessons do you enjoy sharing the most?


Aubrey Patterson (22:44):
Oh man, I’m going to sh when we get off the podcast here, I’m going to show you that what I get is I get a lot of texts. And so selfishly, because this puts a lot of fuel in my engine. I get, I get at least two or three texts a month that say something like, and I got this one, two nights ago, so I’m, I’ll show it to you after we got here, I got, I got this one from from a superintendent in California and it’s, and he just said, I got down from 25,000 emails to zero in 30 minutes because we have a system to do that right. To get to inbox, Sarah. And, and he went through one of the videos and I was coaching him on that kind of stuff. And he just said, I had the best sleep ever.


Aubrey Patterson (23:32):
Like he used just so happy. And it’s not that we should be so fanatical about inbox zero. I am. I like that because you don’t want to have your focus, be your email all the time. And that too. However, if you’re always worried about missing something or you’re wasting time going back into messages, or, you know, all of those kinds of things, which happens to a lot of great leaders, like they, this guy is a fantastic leader, but he he’s a fantastic leader at the expense of his own peace of mind. And, and this, this inbox, like he literally, he showed me, he had over 25,000 emails in his inbox, like aside from the technical problem, with that, like with this computer restarts and running through all of those multiple PowerPoints of that, that he’s got in there, right aside from that, it was driving him crazy.


Aubrey Patterson (24:23):
And, and so we worked on that last week and I referred him to one of our courses called manage chart lead easy that, that has that, that algorithm in it. And you know how to start with the two minute rule and to work through those things. Well, we start with inbox zero and he was so excited. And so selfishly, I love getting the texts that say I got to inbox zero, and I get a lot of those. And, and I just know that, that, you know, these people just feel so good about it. And I just, yeah, that’s just, that’s what I love the most is, is when somebody transfers those, those wonderful feelings, just with a nice text. Yeah.


Sam Demma (25:08):
I love that. Thanks for sharing that. I, that’s a cool story. Putting on your superintendent hat one, one more time for one quick, last question. Like if you could go back in time and give younger Aubrey advice when you were still in that role. But knowing what you know now, like what, you know, a couple of pieces of advice, would you give your younger self with the experience you have now?


Aubrey Patterson (25:33):
Yeah, no, I that’s. That’s a good one. I actually go back on that. I actually think about this a lot because I see the successes of all these people that I’m working with. And I think, oh man, am I on my best day? I didn’t do what you’re doing on in your everyday. Like, like, so I see these people doing these things. So I have a lot of, I wish I had a redo on this and this and this. And I, I did spend a lot of time in the schools and I did spend a lot of time, you know, working with principals and, and, and teachers on, on a variety of things. But if I had a, if I had a redo on it, I’d actually, I’d spend more time with the people that, that are impacting the teachers the most. And in our district that in our division, that was like the instructional coaches and the tech coaches and the people like that.


Aubrey Patterson (26:31):
Because those, those people have a lot of fantastic ideas and they often don’t have the authority or the wherewithal to, to actualize those ideas. And we did, you know, take advantage of those things a lot, but I see all of these incredible ideas that people have, and they talk to me about it now, like the people that I’m coaching, and they’ll say, I’ve got this idea, how do you think I could get this across? And, and I wish that I had spent more time. I wish I could have a bit of a redo and go back to, you know, extract more ideas to, to add, create systems that would allow the people that lead without authority. The people that you know, are a little bit nervous to get those ideas out, like just to find ways to do more of that. So yeah.


Sam Demma (27:22):
Oh, cool. I love that. Thanks for sharing. Yeah. Ideas are a really interesting thing. In fact, I was, I actually bought a book about ideas called thinker toys, and it’s like a book that encourages exercise that lead to more creativity to hopefully come up with new ideas. Yeah, that’s a really cool learning. I appreciate you sharing that. And like, we’ve had a great 30 minute conversation now it’s flown by if an educator or a superintendent and principals listening to this wants to reach out to you or get in touch, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Aubrey Patterson (27:58):
Well, I’m really easy to find because you just go to www.warmdemanders.com and I’m all over the place there. But you can also email me at aubrey@warmdemanders.com. You can find me on Twitter. Instagram, I’m easy to find. And, and just DM me, just find me. I’d love to have conversations. I never, by the way, if anybody contacts me, I never hard sell anyway, anybody I’m like, I’m always telling people what I think would be their best next action, you know, like their best lead domino. And quite often, it’s not to work with us. Like quite often, it’s like to work with one of these amazing other people that I’m working with and that too. So anyway, if somebody wants to find me and to do anything, just, just email me, www.warmdemanders.com or go to the website and click on something and just find us.


Sam Demma (28:50):
Okay. Sounds good. Awesome. Thank you so much for taking some time to chat. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Aubrey Patterson (28:58):
Thank you, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Aubrey

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.

Christina Raso – Experiential Learning Consultant for Sudbury Catholic School Board

Christina Raso, Experiential Lead Learner SCDSB
About Christina Raso

Entrepreneur and Educator, Christina Raso (@Christina_Raso), shares her journey in education from a new teacher to a special education consultant to most recently Experiential Learning Consultant for Sudbury Catholic Schools.

The past academic year was most memorable for Christina as she temporarily returned to the classroom to support the teacher shortage. In her teaching time, she entered her class and St. David Elementary School in the Mindshare Technology School of the Future Contest earning third prize in the national contest. 

Connect with Christina: Email | Twitter | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The YMCA of Northeastern Ontario

Skills Ontario & Ian Howcroft

Mindshare Technology Contest

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):
Welcome back to another episode of the high-performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is an entrepreneur and educator and her name is Christina Raso. She shares her journey in education from new teacher to special education consultant to most recently experiential learning consultant for Sudbury Catholic schools. The past academic year was most memorable for Christina. As she temporarily returned to the classroom to support the teacher shortage. During her teaching time, she entered her class at St. David Elementary School in the Mindshare technology school of the future contest, earning third prize in the national competition. Change is something that Christina is familiar with, especially because she also has a roots in entrepreneurship, which she talks about a little bit on this podcast as well. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this interview and I will see you on the other side…


Sam Demma (01:24):
Christina, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about the journey that brought you to where you are today in education?


Christina Raso (01:35):
Well, first of all, thank you, Sam, for the opportunity to share my story. My name is Christina Raso and I am the experiential learning lead for Sudbury Catholic. And I guess if we talk about my journey it started a long time ago. Believe it or not, I’ve been in education for over 20 years and it was my second career. So I think it’s important to talk about where I started and having parents that were immigrants I think is really important because they value education. Not that other people don’t value education, but they really have a sense of you know, coming to a new country work ethic and the importance of going to school and having higher education. So my dream when I was younger was to own my own business and to be an entrepreneur.


Christina Raso (02:32):
And my parents said, yeah, of course, you can do about all of that, but first you need to get an education and a degree I, I received, but I had to get one. So I did that. So while I was going to university, I knew that I wanted to be a business owner. So I started selling women’s clothes at different you know, summer events and then flea markets and things like that. So it actually paid for my university. And then when I graduated with my degree, I was able to full force and I opened up for a ladies clothing store in Sudbury. And that’s kind of where things began for me in education is that I did that for over 10 years, but in that journey, I learned a lot about life skills, right. You know, working and all the challenges that go with that.


Christina Raso (03:26):
But I met a lot of young individuals and I had a lot of students that were coming for co-ops and then the teachers were giving me a little bit more of the heart to serve students, you know, the ones that were disengaged. And then it ended up that YMCA reached out to me and said, we have, you know, a group of young adults that you know, have, have quit school, but they really need some, some work experience. So I’m wondering if you can take a group and, you know, teach them how to use a cash register sales and, and work with them. So I did that. And and then, you know, I got a lot of praise and saying, you know, you’re really good at this, you know, have you ever thought of becoming a teacher because you’re really able to work with these kids and you know, teach them some things that a lot of them were able to catch on at school and things like that.


Christina Raso (04:22):
So you know, it’s just one person mentioned that, and actually I had never thought of that. And it happened that it was the day before admissions were due registration for a teacher’s college. And I put in an application and I decided that I would only apply to one school, which was, you know, an hour and a half away because I still had my business. So I figured if it was meant to be, I’d apply, I’d get in. I could do both. And lo and behold, I got accepted and I did that. And teacher’s college at that year at that time was one year. So I finished my one year and then I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. So I started to, you know, as my leases expired I closed my business down and I went into teaching full time.


Christina Raso (05:10):
And my first my first teaching assignment was a long-term assignment in a grade five class. And I did that from September to January and then a permanent position came up in the same school, but it was a special education resource teacher. And everyone says, well, you have to apply because it’s permanent. Right. And the position you’re in is not permanent. And then I felt, you know, as teacher, you get attached to your kids and I almost felt like I’m leaving these kids, but I’m still staying in the same school. I almost feel like I’m betraying them. Well, I felt that right. So you know, my colleagues convinced me saying, you know what? You have to, you know, think of yourself and your future, you’ll see the kids, you know, and things like that. So I did apply. And at that time, obviously, I didn’t know very much about special education other than what I learned in school and the little bit on life skills that I had working with some young individuals.


Christina Raso (06:08):
So I remember starting and the first day of that assignment, it would happen right after Christmas holidays. And I didn’t really even have an opportunity to say goodbye to the other students. So anyways, that all happened. And I had a father wait for me at the front of my classroom door and he wanted to meet me. So I came out and talked to me. And obviously you had heard that I was obviously a new teacher and I think he was concerned because I was taking over the class and he asked me if I’ve ever taught a student with down syndrome and I said, well, no, actually a habit. And you know, so he said to me, well, I’m going to give you a little bit of advice and tell you a little bit about my daughter who has down syndrome.


Christina Raso (06:56):
And he says, you know she’s very, very honest and she’s either going to love you or she’s not. And wow. You know, when your dad, when you have a parent that tells you that, and then, you know, you really have to perform. But anyways I stayed in that position for five years and that’s where I learned everything about teaching, because it was like a multi grade class, right. So I was teaching grade one to grade eight and it was basic literacy and numeracy skills. And it was a variety of learners. So it was students who had intellectual disabilities, but there was also some students who had a learning disability or who were a little bit behind. And, you know, the idea was for me to work with them and to get them up to a grade level or as close as possible.


Christina Raso (07:46):
So that in those five years, like I said, it really taught me almost everything. I think that I refer to back today about learning, you know, learning styles and students. And then that prepared me for my next journey, which was, I was a special education consultant for almost 13 years. So I did that for 13 years and I, and I loved it, just, you know, I felt like now, you know, I could do more, right. I had the students, I know how to work with them, but now I was at a different level. And I really, really enjoyed that. And then with all things, you know, you need to change, you know, and I most recently, so this’ll be my third year. I switched into experiential learning and as you know, experiential learning is, you know, learning by doing and reflecting and, you know, really becoming aware of maybe what careers you may want in the future with a push on the skills trades and computer science.


Christina Raso (08:50):
And actually,
I really had a, a turning point in my career, again, this well, this academic year I I’m in well, you know, and I think this happened provincially teacher shortages, right. Especially, you know, with the smaller class sizes and then, you know, with both remote and in class being offered. So when we pivoted back to online there, I think it was close to the end of March. Was it well before Easter? Anyways? we were significant short in our board of teachers. And, you know, when you’re a team player, you know, you need to do what you need to do to, to make your organization move forward. So I I talked to my supervisor and I said, you know, put me in wherever you need. I, I don’t mind going in. And so I went into a grade one, two class. So at first, at first it’s very easy to say, Hey, boss, put me in where you want, but then when you that, then you’re like, oh my gosh, what did I get myself into right now? I haven’t been in a classroom since 2007. Right. So, and I was thinking about this the other day I was using VHS videos. Oh my goodness.


Christina Raso (10:08):
Well, no, but it really puts the stress on how things were different. I left using VHS videos and now I’m now I’m teaching a virtual classroom. Right. And I haven’t been working directly with kids for, you know what, 15, 16 years. So it was a challenge, but you know, as soon as you go in, it’s like, I never left. That’s how I felt it. Right. I felt like, yeah, I have been in education this whole time. I’ve just been doing different things. I’ve been in classrooms. I just haven’t been the person that the child sees every day to talk about. And I, you know, I really missed it. And I did that for three months until they found a new teacher. I actually wanted to stay to finish the year, but I had to go back to my job. But while I was, you know, I felt like I was there three months.


Christina Raso (11:05):
And I felt that I put in you know, the things that I’m taught or what we’re taught as experiential learning leads. I put that into action. And I think that’s really important because I I’m able to do what I said we should be doing. And it works, you know, and it was great to see kids doing that. And I also had the privilege to work in a school where your administration team is very, very supportive and you know, we had also sorts of ideas and they ran with it and we did, you know, all things that would keep our students engaged. And there was also a contest that I saw that was out by Mindshare. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Mindshare technologies. Well, they have a national contest every year and this year’s theme was create a under three minute video on things that teachers do to engage students.


Christina Raso (12:07):
So I entered that with my class, but not only with my class, but with the things that we did as a school in that three months. And actually we placed one of the top three schools in Canada with title of a school of the future. So yeah, so that’s one of my proudest moments. And I also feel like that was also a turning point because I’ve been out of the classroom for so long. And then I went in and we tried all these things that we know that works. And, you know, the days that we did hands-on activities where the days that we had the most enrollment like attendance, right. You know, that when kids aren’t fully engaged, they’re going to learn they’re present. So it was great. So like one day we made bird houses and you know, the students picked up the kids at school.


Christina Raso (13:00):
And then the other thing that it’s really, really important, especially during during this time with COVID is working with your community partners. Partners are invaluable at this time. So we worked with skills Ontario, and they actually taught the students and they actually provided the free bird houses for our kids. And they taught the lesson and these kids produced, you know, put together a birdhouse. And then our school principal held a contest on decorating your bird house, according to your personal identity. And you should see the beautiful artwork from these kids. So, you know it was a great opportunity and I feel humbled and I feel that kind of goes back to full circle. Right. You know, you started in a classroom and you did all this, and then you kind of ended up back in a classroom and then it makes your perspective better. Like, I feel like when I go back to work a couple of weeks I have a new insight and you know, I feel like it’s given me more of a drive and energy to continue the work in the area of experiential.


Sam Demma (14:08):
It reminds you how impactful experiential learning is. If you take those ideas into the classroom and see such a big impact, right. It’s, it’s a great reminder. And it also reminds you that the programs that you’re bringing into the schools are having a difference and an impact when you can see it firsthand with the students. I’m curious to know where, where did your entrepreneurial drive come from at such a young age? And what were your stores called? I’m just, just curious about that real quick.


Christina Raso (14:34):
You’re going to like that. Well first of all my mom, my parents split up several years after they arrived at Canada. And so my mum was a single parent and she raised me, but she became she went to college in Canada and then opened she bought a franchise of photography franchise and I worked with her for all those years. So from, I think it was 1985 to when I graduated first degree in 1993, I worked with my mom and she had four locations as well. So I ended up, you know, pretty much managing one location and she did the other three. And then I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. And a funny thing is I, I still have a business on the side, but we can talk about that later. But my businesses were called Sono Bella, because of what they’re.


Christina Raso (15:29):
So I’m beautiful because of what I wear. So I kept that email address for my personal, so that’s what I do, but yeah, and that’s, you know we worked you know, when you’re, self-employed, you can work any 12 hours of the day you pick, right. I can nine at that time, I was trying to tell my son, right. It’s different work ethic. Right. And, you know, he’s tired after working 16 hours a week and I’m like 16 hours a year age, you know, go to school, then work, it’s still do my homework and I wasn’t tired, but you know,


Sam Demma (16:00):
That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing.


Christina Raso (16:03):
No problem.


Sam Demma (16:05):
And what are some of the programs and things that you’ve brought to your schools over the past three years that you think have made a great impact and a difference, and maybe you can even talk to some of the impact that you’ve seen or heard, you know, based on a program that you’ve brought in.


Christina Raso (16:20):
So I think one of the biggest, biggest things that I was involved with was building a community partnership, especially with skills Ontario. I think if I look back in my three years and, you know, your first year you know, when, when you’re talking about my first year, it was COVID started too. Right. So even a full year, right. I, I think I started I didn’t even start in September. I think I started in November and then COVID hit in March. Right. So that year was kind of wasted and that not wasted, but it wasn’t a normal year for someone to go into a new role and to learn the position because it was completely a different position. But the biggest thing that I got from that is working with your community partners and they have so many programs and contests that engaged kids that you can’t go wrong.


Christina Raso (17:16):
So skills, Ontario, which started contests just after the pandemic kit. And we knew that students were learning remotely. So they started these contests called skills at home, and they were challenges for kids to do. And so what I was doing was I was promoting them and it was really important that I found that educators don’t always relate that some of these activities can be integrated into the curriculum. They’re not extras or add-ons, they’re things that you can do and make it part of learning. So they had all sorts of contests and our board, we had, I think we had five students place in CA in Ontario in their contests. So I was promoting those. So the last year and a half, I was promoting those contests. And then the contests, when I was a teacher in the classroom, I was pushing it.


Christina Raso (18:22):
So I’ll give you one example. So the one contest was on wacky hair. So I had a grade one, two class, and I said you know what, we are going to have some fun. We are going to work on wacky hair. And I made it into a procedural writing assignment. So I told the students that what we’re going to do is we are going to create a wacky hairdo. So we’re going to draw it. And then we’re going to write, how do you actually do that hair style? And during that week, so I did it over a week. So on Monday, you know, I read stories about you know, wacky hair, which Stephanie’s ponytail by Robert munch. And so we really did a lot of reading and writing that related to, you know, wacky hair. And then on the Friday we made it wacky hair day.


Christina Raso (19:12):
And like I said, I was very lucky to work in a school where the administration took that idea and made the entire school have a wacky hair day. Nice. So what ended up happening specifically on that one contest was we actually placed first, second and third in Ontario in one school. So I, my personal students placed first and third and then another student in the school place. Second. So it’s just something where you embrace your partnership. And again, hands-on right. Students are working hands-on and you have to see the hairdos that these students made. So the one student that plays first, she took a root beer pop bottle and put a ponytail through it and then put a cup on a headband. So her ponytail ran into the cup. So it looked awesome.


Christina Raso (20:07):
Hopefully you can cut that part out. No worries. That’s totally fine. I can cut it out. Sorry. so anyways, that’s one thing that we really worked with was the partnership, and then they provided us the bird houses, but I think a lot of things that I’m most proud of is is bringing hands-on activities to the classroom. And a lot of things are inexpensive too, right? So some of the ideas were making a bridge with marshmallows and straws. So a lot of times we feel that, you know, we don’t have the resources to make these things hands-on, or they cost too much, but, you know, when we look around, you know, we can find things that really work and engaged kids.


Sam Demma (20:53):
Yeah. I love that. I actually interviewed Ian Howcroft on the podcast as well, the director of skills, Ontario.


Christina Raso (20:59):
Awesome. Awesome. I was going to say that would be a, another guy to to invite because definitely doing a lot of things, but I feel that contests seem to really engaged our students. Like, you know, whether, whether it’s a big prize or a small prize, but it’s just a matter of you know, saying, Hey, you know, you know, we’re whether it’s a class contest or a school contest, I think that that helps us to engage kids, you know, a little bit of competition friendly, you know, is good.


Sam Demma (21:31):
And why do you think experiential learning is so important? You know, like if teachers are like, ah, yeah, I get it. But you know, we’re really busy and we have to get through the curriculum. Like, what would you say? Like why, why is this type of learning really important for life and also future aspirations?


Christina Raso (21:49):
Yeah, there’s a lot of reasons. And I think I’d start with the first one is that learning in a classroom is learning within the four walls, but not all students do well and not all students are made to go to university or college. Right. And hands-on, hands-on opportunities open the pathways to all those, right. You can be hands-on and still go to university and still go to college and still go into the trades and still go into the world of work. And I think when I think back of my experience working as a special education resource teacher, I think as some of those students that were disengaged, right, because they were having a hard time learning to read and to write. And I think if we gave them the hands-on activities we’re still meeting the curriculum because you still have to read instructions.


Christina Raso (22:42):
You’re still doing math, especially, you know, if, if you’re building something and I think that by giving students these experiential hands-on opportunities, we’re hitting a range of learners. Right. And you know, when, you know, you think of computer science, you know, it is hands-on, it is building, you know, and I think of the students that I had that, you know, a lot of them would be going to college and university, but there was also a large portion of those students that didn’t see themselves going to college or university and, you know, they were going to the world of work, or maybe they didn’t even see themselves going to the world of work. You know, maybe they thought, you know, they’d live on a disability pension, but when we’re looking at hands on activities and, you know, thinking of baking and cooking and, you know, there’s so many opportunities for our students that give them the opportunity to feel valued and needed in our community.


Christina Raso (23:42):
And I think of, you know, you know, chef helper or prep, you know, for these kids that thinking that, you know, they would just, you know, they, some of our students who have intellectual disability, you may stay at school until 21 because there’s really nothing else for them in our community. You know, we have one, you know, we’re at Northern community, so it’s not like we have all these big partnerships with companies and organizations. So we have one community partner that takes some of our students to work, but what about the other ones? So if we invest in them and they see themselves as, yeah, I, you know, I could do this, they could still get a disability pension and they still can work part time and feel valued. You know, every pathway is valued, but you know, if we can help kids see that there’s more for them and that they’re needed, especially in the skilled trades. Right. We know that we are already experiencing a shortage. Can you imagine five, seven years from now? So we really need to convince some of these kids who don’t see themselves going to post-secondary that there’s other pathways and there’s lots that they can do.


Sam Demma (24:52):
Every path is an option. Every student learner is unique, you know? I can agree with that more you yourself out of all the positions you’ve worked what are some of your favorites or not that you could rank them per se, but what are some of the roles that, you know, really stick out in your mind as like, this was such a great experience?


Christina Raso (25:16):
Well, I, I think one of the biggest things that I did and was when I was a special education consultant I ran some summer camps. The ministry of education gives us some funding to run summer camps for students who are behind in literacy and numeracy. And one thing that they really promoted was physical activity. It’s really important for our students to, to, you know exercise daily. And how can we incorporate that with summer camp, but still make, you know, literacy and numeracy the main focus of the program. So at that time my son was taking TaeKwonDo and he was doing it for a few years and he had a really, really awesome teacher as well. And TaeKwonDo, who’s actually a full-time stuck person now. Yeah. So I got him to teach our kids and he was doing just half an hour of physical activity in the morning, but it was TaeKwonDo.


Christina Raso (26:24):
So was kicking, you know kicking punching, but, you know, individual not and teaching the importance of self control at the same time. Right. and mindfulness. And we started every morning probably for a good six years with a half an hour of TaeKwonDo and mindfulness. And we felt that the students were better prepared to learn, you know, and, and, you know, and then the research does show, right? When students do exercise every morning that they’re, they become better learners. Whether they come to school then are not awake and then they become energized because they’re doing activity. So I felt that that was something that I really took away is that exercises important. And, and when I was teaching the grade one, two class most recently, you know, now we’re sitting in front of a computer for a long, long time.


Christina Raso (27:20):
And by the way, I can not teach TaeKwonDo. I did not do that, but, you know, grade one and two we got up a lot and we did a mind break, right? We needed mind breaks. And, you know, we did, you know, two or three minutes, I would say every 45 minutes an hour would be pushing it, but we would get up and we’d have a mind break. And I, I still think that if I was going back into the classroom and it was in a physical classroom, I still would incorporate that ability to get up and move because a lot of us, you know, I mean, I found it difficult to sit in front of the computer and I’m an adult. And you imagine, you know, these are little kids, like, I think of how old they are. And we’re asking them to sit in front of a computer, right.


Christina Raso (28:07):
First, really six hours, you know a day. And we’re asking them to do that. And they, they are doing it right. Like kids have stepped up to the challenge right. Of online learning whether they want to or not. So I think that that would be the other thing is incorporating physical activity, mindfulness and mind breaks into the classroom is really important. And it goes without saying the other thing that you know, I know you’re an advocate is positive reinforcement, right. And really, really motivating our students for them to be able to see themselves something great, right. Whatever they choose, they’re going to be great in life.


Sam Demma (28:50):
It’s so true. It’s so true. It reminds me, I’m working on a, and this is classified information, so don’t share it, but I’m working on a spoken word album. So it’s like 10 spoken word poems that I’m going to turn into videos as well. And one of them is called empty backpack. And the premise is that students and all humans carry around the thoughts and opinions of other people sometimes to a fault. And it weighs them down and a parts in our lives. We have to empty our metaphorical bag of the thoughts and opinions of everyone else and stop carrying it around. And yeah, I’m excited about it. It’s a, I have a six foot bag that I’m going to be bringing to schools with me and people are going to like drop it. Yeah, that’d be cool. Anyways, going on a tangent, this has been great. So if you could go back in time, Christina, and like talk to your younger self when you were in your first year, working with young people, knowing what you know now, and based on the experiences you’ve had and the learning you’ve had, what advice would you give your younger self?


Christina Raso (29:48):
My younger self. So my younger self when I first started teaching, I’m going to go back to to being a special education resource teacher. I think knowing what I know now I would have done more of the hands-on right. So I think that I would have brought in those opportunities being able to bring in those hands-on opportunities. I could see that, you know, I had a couple of boys that were really, really disengaged. And I think, you know, if I would have given them a couple of activities or a couple of assignments to say, Hey, here here’s some blocks, or here’s some things I want you to do work on this. Can you create this or give them a problem and give them, you know, some materials to figure it out, I think, and, and to promote the skilled trades. Because I think at that time, the group of students I had were really at risk of dropping out, right. Not finishing high school, there was a good percentage of them. And I think that if I would have given them more hands-on opportunities and maybe even promoted the skill traits so that they could see themselves in those roles I think that’s what I would have done know.


Sam Demma (31:04):
That’s awesome. And coming from a European family myself, all my uncles work in the trades, my dad is a plumber by trade, such a valid, an awesome career path. I couldn’t agree with that more. Oh, it’s awesome. Thank you so much for taking your time to come on the show, share your experiences or your, your ups and downs, the learnings, the journey. If another educator is listening and they just want to reach out and have a conversation, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Christina Raso (31:30):
They can email me and I think that you started a community. So I guess my email would be there and then they could reach out or they can call me and anyway, whatever they want. And it’s definitely been truly an honor, actually, to meet you and to be on your show.


Sam Demma (31:49):
I appreciate it, Christina, thank you so much. Keep up with us and work and we’ll talk soon. Thank you.

Sam Demma (32:01):
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 and 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 want to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you want to meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider 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 feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Christina Raso

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.

Alexandra (Allie) Raper – Signature Programs, Senior Specialist at Canadian Cancer Society

Allie Raper Youth Relay For Life, Canadian Cancer Society
About Allie Raper

A quote that has inspired Allie in all her pathways and endeavours…

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. – Aristotle

Allie believes that when we learn, we grow and when we learn what we love, we are cultivating culture and wisdom. Allie has completed an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Justice, Political Philosophy, and Law and a minor in Political Science at McMaster University where she grew a passion for working with youth. In her time at McMaster, she worked with hundreds of students on an annual basis in a range of fields varying from advocacy, student experience, and athletics.

Now as the Senior Specialist on the Relay For Life Youth Team at the Canadian Cancer Society, Allie works to inspire, empower, and instill leadership in post-secondary students on a National level. On stage, Allie brings an energy that is infectious, a passion that’s undeniable, and a smiling face gazing back at you. And as a young professional, Allie embraces new challenges while also motivating others around her to do the same and become the changemakers that each of us is”.

Relay for Life hosts 260 schools across Canada (annually), and they are always trying to grow that number too. To get involved please visit www.relayforlife.ca/youth

Connect with Allie: Email | Twitter | Linkedin | Instagram

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Candian Cancer Society

Youth Relay for Life

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 (00:03):
Allie welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by just introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about the journey that brought you into a position to working with young people today?


Allie Raper (00:16):
I definitely will. Thank you so much, Sam, for having me here today. I’m so excited to chat with you and about leadership and about relay for life and so much more that we’re going to dive into. So this is a loaded question, but for myself, it there’s a couple of different experiences that really inspired me to work with youth. But I think the one that stands out is that not too many years ago, I myself was a youth looking to get involved and to make a difference. And I think that is something that, you know, stuck with me being able to grow in leadership opportunities myself, and then being able to give that back to students as well has been a really full circle experience. And I think working with youth is so special in the sense that they can accomplish so many incredible things. And so many people unfortunately underestimate our youth, but when they put their mind to something and they’re passionate about creating change and they’re passionate about a cause what they’re able to do, the results are just incredible and so impressive. So definitely a full circle experience as to how I got to working with youth as definitely starting out as one of them. But I’ll get into a little bit more about my story. I think in some of the questions coming up.


Sam Demma (01:29):
I love that. That’s amazing. And at what age were you introduced or exposed to student leadership? Was it a high school thing for you? Like, take me back there and explain how it kind of came about for you.


Allie Raper (01:40):
So I remember even being as little as, you know, in recreational soccer teams and things like that. And my mom getting me off the field and saying, Allie, don’t boss people around on the field, or, you know, Allie, you guys are a team work together. And it’s one of those things where it has a little kid. I just always kind of loved that idea of working together and creating a team and kind of wanting to instill that sense of leadership on to other people as I, of course got older, that definitely shaped into more concrete examples. So when I was in elementary school, we had like a primary junior student council. And then I continued my involvement in high school in student council capacities. And then in university is really where my leadership journey took off. I was involved with residence life as a resident orientation advisor.


Allie Raper (02:34):
I was involved with different extracurriculars such as really for life, our student union. I was the manager at one of our student restaurants and so many more different opportunities like that. So it definitely started when I was younger, but it really, really shaped itself full circle when I was in university and came to fruition there. And I think the coolest part looking back on it as there’s a difference between being a leader and putting that hat on, you know, just to have a role or just to be in a position, but there’s a difference when you get to lead something that you are excited about. And I’ve really tried when I was in university to shape things that I was involved in into my interests. And that kind of catapulted me into the role that I am in today. Because cancer touched my life in a few different ways and it really inspired me to want to create a bigger change in leadership capacities to getting me to where we are today.


Sam Demma (03:30):
That’s amazing. And when you think back to your own educational journey, growing up, going through school, did you have teachers, educators that played a pivotal role in your development and believing in you, and maybe you can remember some of those stories or some of those individuals, and can you share something?


Allie Raper (03:48):
Of course. So I do remember my student council teacher I went to high school, might be Ontario and I had a wonderful student council advisor. And I remember being in grade 10 and a little bit nervous to take on a bigger role. I was a great liaison and didn’t know really what I wanted my role to kind of look like. And she saw something in me where I had a lot of interest in athletics. I have a lot of interest in extracurriculars and really trying to bridge that gap. And this teacher sat me down and actually together, we created a new role for student council that has been on a high school student council for 10 plus years. Now I want to say so since I’ve been out of high school and in that moment, it just kind of showed me that, wow, you know, leadership, isn’t fitting one box, it’s not checking off a few things to fit a certain mold, but it’s when someone sees something in you that they’re able to shape an opportunity together with you. And that year we were able to a lot of new things that our high school had never done before, just based on the capacity of that new role that was created. And I think the role was something along the lines of athletics communications officer, but still to this day is such a unique title in itself when you think about structures and whatnot. So pretty cool thing. And, and it was great that that teacher saw something in me that continued for years to come.


Sam Demma (05:10):
Yeah. Oh, that’s amazing. And a lot of the educators are listening to this. Sometimes they don’t even realize the impact they have. Like, you’re the perfect example of someone who was impacted as a young leader and then continue down that journey and is now doing such amazing work in the world. So for them, it’s just kind of gratifying to see it and hear it. So thanks for sharing. Yeah. And so like, tell me more about how you directly got involved with relay. So you ended university and did you know that you wanted to work for relay or how did that connection happen?


Allie Raper (05:40):
Yeah, so it kind of started when I was a little bit younger. My mum is a nurse in the ER and when I was growing up, she was always involved in different volunteer opportunities. And every year her and her coworkers would do relay for life and they would do it in the community. And I remember as a little kid, you know, going to the event with her for a couple hours and seeing people walking laps and understanding that they were fundraising for a cause, but not really understanding the bigger picture, fast forward a few years. And we had a couple of family members diagnosed with cancer. And as a little kid, I think that a lot of the time, you know, your family inevitably, it tries to shelter you from some of those serious conversations. So I knew what cancer was. I knew it was something bad and something serious when someone had it, but really didn’t know the impact that it had on someone as an individual or someone’s family and community.


Allie Raper (06:35):
So when I was in university, I saw relay for life being advertised. And I had a couple friends in first year and we were like, let’s participate. You know, it’s a great event. Let’s get involved, let’s meet some more people from the school and let’s raise money for a great cause because at the end of the day, whether indirectly or directly, we all know someone who’s been affected by cancer. And it was in that moment when I attended that event, I actually have goosebumps right now as I’m explaining this. But I went to my first event in that first year of university as a participant, I just, upon walking the laps around the track and hearing all the incredible stories of the different survivors speakers, I had this inkling that it was just something that I needed to be a bigger part of. And that same year actually I lost my grandfather to cancer.


Allie Raper (07:24):
And that was one of the first times where I was like, wow cancer really does have monumental effects that, you know, people don’t always talk about if there’s not an outlet to talk about. So that was kind of something that really inspired me to continue to be more involved. And then I was on our committee for the next couple of years. And then my final year at university, I was the head chair that led the event. And throughout those next three years, my other grandfather was also diagnosed. I had an aunt diagnosed and an uncle and a friend at university as well. So, you know, when it rains, it pours, they say, but it was definitely one of those moments where I felt like I was in the right spot at the right time and doing something that was really impacting the loved ones in my life that previously I hadn’t anticipated was going to affect me so close.


Allie Raper (08:16):
But I think that’s kind of with anything serious, you know, we all think it’s not affecting us right now. It’s not, it’s not going to, you know, we’re kind of in the clear until it happens to you. So cancer definitely has a close connection to my heart. And, and then coming out of university the gentlemen who was actually in my role previously, who worked with me as a student at McMaster kind of shoulder, tapped me upon graduation and said, Hey, Allie, you know, we’ve got some openings you should apply to work at the Canadian cancer society. And as a new grad, I’m, I’m sitting there thinking no way, I’m not qualified. I am not eligible like definitely. And a quick realization that, Nope, you, you are eligible. You are very well qualified to do this and take that jump and leap of faith and apply. And so I did, and that was just over three years ago as of last week. So it’s been three great years with the Canadian cancer society ever since.


Sam Demma (09:13):
What a story. Holy cow. Thanks for sharing.


Allie Raper (09:15):
No problem

.
Sam Demma (09:18):
So three years with the Canadian cancer society, how long running the relay program?


Allie Raper (09:24):
Yeah, so all three have been with relay on the relay for life youth team. However the difference has been I was working with high school programs up until this past June, and then since June, 2021, I’m now working with our national post-secondary program. So same concepts, just different audiences now, essentially, but the relay for life youth team for all three years.


Sam Demma (09:50):
Cool. And what is relate for people who have no idea what relay is? Maybe you can share a little bit about the impact.


Allie Raper (09:57):
Definitely. So relay is first and foremost, a fundraising event held through the Canadian cancer society. People might recognize the name from their communities from high schools, from universities and so forth. And the event is typically anywhere from six to 12 hours in a pre pandemic world. So we’ll explain a pre pandemic lens of relay first. So essentially what it is is it is an event where we come together to honor and celebrate the lives of those who’ve been affected by cancer. It’s centered around four different ceremonies. And what I love about it is that other than those four different ceremonies, every school has the ability to shape relay the way they best see fit for their school community. So the first ceremony that happens typically right at the beginning is what we call an opening ceremony. And this is where we have a cancer survivor in the community of the school or the community who comes and shares their story.


Allie Raper (10:59):
It could be a student, a staff, a parent and so forth who talks to everybody about how cancer’s impacted them shortly after that, we then go into what we call our survivor victory lap. And the idea was, this is throughout the six to 12 hours of your event. People are constantly walking the track and getting their laps in, but the survivor victory lap is the first lap of your event. So let’s imagine we are at a high school event and there’s 15 survivors. We get them yellow t-shirts to signify hope in the color of the daffodil and those 15 survivors do that first lap all by themselves while your whole school is on the sidelines, cheering them on. I can’t give it justice by just explaining it. I’m getting goosebumps again, explaining it, but it’s so powerful to see that happen. And just to see, you know, how much impact and support a school has given me survivors.


Allie Raper (11:55):
So that is the second part. Then later on in your event, probably the most signature feature of a relay is what we call the luminary ceremony. So people might otherwise know this as the white decorated paper bags, but everyone at your relay gets a luminary and they decorate on it, why they relay. So for example, mine, every year says I relay for both my grandfathers, my aunt and uncle, like I mentioned, and my friends. So that’s my personal luminary. And now picture later on lining a track with hundreds of decorated luminaries, with a little tea light in it, where later on you do a lap to a more slower song, and you’re reading the hundreds of reasons why your school is coming together and relaying it’s yeah, it’s very special and it’s, it’s incredible to really see that because no two stories are the same and, you know, we’re all connected by the same cause.


Allie Raper (12:49):
So that’s the third piece. And the last piece of the event is closing ceremonies. So what that typically looks like is a big thank you for coming to our event. And very exciting people announce what the school has raised in as their fundraising total, I’m going, it’s always great to see when schools exceed and reach their goals that they set. And then following that that’s the end of the event, but all throughout those six to 12 hours, the school can plan any form of entertainment they want to do any games, any kind of areas and so forth or different theme laps. So for example, staffer students games maybe, you know, like an arts corner maybe having a varsity sport, play a scrimmage or something like that, a talent show, the list goes on and on, and the students get to shape the whole event, which is really amazing.


Sam Demma (13:38):
That’s awesome. And how many events roughly happen per year if you keep like some stats on it?


Allie Raper (13:45):
Of course. So annually on average, you work with over 260 schools across Canada, and that we’re always trying to grow that number too. So we are working a lot more so in recent years to grow it nationally outside of Ontario. And that’s been really exciting to see other provinces and territories get really involved as well.


Sam Demma (14:03):
Awesome. And if a school is interested and wants to learn more like what would be the best way for them to do so?


Allie Raper (14:09):
So they can reach out to us via email qt relayyouth@cancer.ca so, relayyouth@cancer.ca or on our Instagram as well, which is just @youthrelay are the two easiest ways to get in touch with us.


Sam Demma (14:24):
Great. And, you know, you kind of brushed over the fact that COVID is here. So what are some of the challenges that relay has been faced with and the fundraising goals because of COVID and how are you guys striving to figure it out and still continue moving along?


Allie Raper (14:39):
Yeah. What a what a two plus years it’s been a, like, I don’t think any of us anticipated to be a miss landscape for this long, but here we are. So something I’ve been finding myself saying a lot and reflecting on has been, you know, COVID stopped and changed a lot of things, but it didn’t stop and change cancer. It didn’t stop and change leadership and it didn’t stop and change, you know, our means to be able to make a difference in an impact. Yeah. So it’s been really great to see students still rise to the occasion and just flip their mindset as to, you know, how can we still take the special parts of relay and incorporate them into a re-imagined event. So what our team did this year is we essentially took those four key parts of relay those four ceremonies and reflected on, you know, what makes relay really at its core.


Allie Raper (15:32):
How can we take those concepts and switch them into alternative methods? So this year we actually had four options for schools to choose from all across the country, depending on their restrictions. Of course, we had a restricted relay model, which was for areas who weren’t really impacted by lockdowns and didn’t have a ton of social distancing measures in place. But that was just a, yeah, it restricted relay in itself. Then we had some hybrid options as well for schools. So if they weren’t in cohorts, for example, maybe classes were taking time on their own, on their breaks to go outside and do some laps, but then you’re opening ceremonies, luminaries and so forth were all done via virtual videos that were sent out throughout the week. And then we also had a fully virtual option. So what we did in this one was we coached schools on having, you know, roughly an hour to two hour long virtual event, whether that was during school hours or after school hours, where the school’s hosted a broadcast and still had all the ceremonies and some entertainment, but just in a condensed virtual setting with the idea of going to walk in your own neighborhoods on your own time.


Allie Raper (16:42):
So it definitely was different, but something that was really cool this year, which definitely kind of inspired us, was we had a ton of new schools actually work with us this year. And it was interesting to see that because, you know, we were so nervous about asking schools to do something unknown that they’ve never done before, but schools were still so excited to take on something and seeing the resources and the options that we had outlined for them made it that much easier for them to put something into place. Yeah, so that was really, those are kind of the options.


Sam Demma (17:17):
Awesome. That’s amazing. And so for a school to get involved, do they have to pay a certain amount of money to get resources? Or how does it, what is it?


Allie Raper (17:27):
Yeah, absolutely not. So basically what it looks like is the program fully and relay in itself is student led and staff supported. And by that we mean, you know, we are giving the students and staff the tools to be successful, and we know that staff already has so much on their plates, especially in, you know, navigating to the landscape that we’re currently in, that we want students to really leverage that leadership and make relay what they want to make it. Because, you know, as a peer in high school, you’re going to be a lot more enticed to go to an event that your peers are planning as well, opposed to staff or myself planning, for example. So we actually provide schools with training resources and funding right off the bat as well. So if a school is hosting some sort of in-person or even a hybrid event in a typical year, we give schools a budget of 6% of their fundraising goal.


Allie Raper (18:24):
So it’s really nice to know that they don’t have to dip into school funds to kind of offset any event costs. And they don’t have to fundraise for the event themselves, but we want to invest in them because they’re investing in us and into the cause and into the program. So yeah, schools will set a fundraising goal and then we issue a 6% of that to them right off the bat. And then we also provide one of my favorite things actually is we provide a free leadership conference. So for high school level, we call it relay university where in a typical year, you know, we bring hundreds of people into conference centers all across the country. And they hear from survivors speakers, they network with other students and staff. They do breakouts. They go through mock ceremonies of relay and so much more, and they get a full complimentary conference day and last year to account for COVID.


Allie Raper (19:16):
We did our first ever national virtual relay university, which was really cool too. So, yeah. And then the other resource we provide to, to make things again, as easy as possible is we provide a full Google drive full of resources. So instead of having a student, you know, try to create a, to do list themselves, we’ve got a committee structure of 10 outlined or suggested roles for students to take on. They each come with a guidebook to keep them on track. They each come with resources as well. So let’s say I’m a student is a ceremonies captain for all of those ceremonies. I mentioned, we have scripts already outlined for them, and we have resources on, you know, how to have sensitive conversations and how to speak to people, living with cancer or sponsorship, for example, you know, we’ve got template letters and thank you’s that can go out to external vendors. So that way, again, students aren’t starting from scratch, but they have the resources to really then customize them and make them their own to be successful.


Sam Demma (20:15):
That’s awesome. And what keeps you motivated and inspired to continue doing this work?


Allie Raper (20:21):
I think it’s, you know, Sam, I think the easiest way to answer that is the students themselves. And when they come to me so excited to share an idea or to share a success that they had, that is why I love doing what I, what I do. You know, even the other day, I had a couple of conversations with students who did relay in high school, who have now gone on to the post-secondary level. And I was trying to see, you know, if their school, if they want to get involved through late at their school and whatnot, and they had a student text me and say, I wouldn’t miss out. I’ve already told all my friends relay was truly the highlight of my high school experience. And I want to get involved at my, at my new school. So it’s little things like that that you just kind of reflect back on.


Allie Raper (21:05):
And you’re like, you know, those conversations we had or those coaching sessions, when, you know, these students were in high school, they’ll stick with them. And the impact that they make are being able to reflect and look back and say, I ran an event that raised $80,000 at my high school. That’s not something that, you know, a lot of students can say, but for them to be able to put that on a resume and talk about that, it’s, it’s really incredible. And I think the other thing, as well as it’s rewarding, but it’s also a sensitive piece in the sense that seeing when students are able to grieve and process a loss through relay is also really special in the sense that, you know, if a school doesn’t do relay for life for having an outlet, some students, you know, maybe going through a loss in their family or in their life or undergoing a diagnosis of cancer themselves. But if they don’t have an outlet to share that with it can be really tough sometimes, but relay really unites everyone as to, you know, we’ve all been affected with, you know, one in two Canadians being affected by cancer. We truly have all been affected in our lifetimes. And when I’ve see those students kind of break out of their shell or share their personal vulnerable stories and, and be confident about that, that’s something that’s really, really special to me.


Sam Demma (22:20):
That’s awesome. This has been a phenomenal conversation, Allie, thank you so much for taking some time to chat about relay your own experience, growing up with it and what keeps you going and how schools can get involved. One more time, if anyone wants to reach out or get in touch with you, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Allie Raper (22:36):
Yeah, I’m, I’m looking forward to hopefully getting some people to reach out. So this is great. So email relayyouth@cancer.ca, that’s relayyouth@cancer.ca and Instagram @youthrelay. So @youthrelay on Instagram and either one we will reach out to you and get back to you as soon as possible. And we hope to hear from many of you.


Sam Demma (22:58):
Awesome. Thanks so much, Allie, keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Allie Raper (23:01):
Awesome. Thanks so much, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Allie Raper

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.

Eric Windeler – Founder & Executive Director of Jack.org

Eric Windeler Founder and Executive Director of Jack.org
About Eric Windeler

Eric (@EricWindeler) started Jack.org with his wife Sandra Hanington and their closest friends in May 2010 after losing their son Jack to suicide. Since then, Eric has put aside his business interests and leads Jack.org full-time. Eric works tirelessly to inspire discussion about mental health, especially among young people. In 2013, Eric received the Champion of Mental Health award from CAMIMH and the QE Diamond Jubilee Medal.

In 2015, Eric was honoured by Queen’s University, receiving an honorary degree (LLD) recognizing his work in the field of mental health. In 2017, Eric and Sandra Hanington received the Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division) from the office of the Governor-General. Most recently, Eric was selected as one of the 150 CAMH Difference Makers for mental health in Canada. Eric is also the recipient of the 2018 Queen’s Alumni Humanitarian of the Year Award and the 2020 Ontario Psychiatric Association’s Mental Health Advocate of the Year Award. Eric sits on the board of Frayme, a youth mental health best practices charity.

Connect with Eric: Email | Twitter | Linkedin | Website | Instagram

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

www.bethere.org

Jack Chapters

Jack Talks

Jack Summits

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 to 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 dot high-performing educator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the high-performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Eric Windeler. Eric started jack.org with his wife, Sandra Hanington and their closest friends in May, 2010 after losing their son Jack to suicide. Since then, Eric has put aside his business interests and leads jack.org. Full-Time. Eric works tirelessly to inspire discussions about mental health, especially among young people.


Sam Demma (01:10):
In 2013, Eric received the champion of mental health award from CAMH and the QE diamond Jubilee medal. In 2015, Eric was honored by Queens university receiving an honorary degree, recognizing his work in the field of mental health. Eric and his wife, Sandra have been acknowledged and recognized by the office of the governor general. Eric was selected as one of the 150 CAMH different makers in mental health in all throughout Canada. He was the recipient of the 2018 Queens alumni, humanitarian of the year award and the 2020 Ontario psychiatric associations, mental health advocate of the year award. Everything that Eric and his wife, Sandra and the entire team at jack.org do is helping to create the future of mental health in Canada. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Eric. It’s filled with actionable ideas and resources to start mental health conversations in your schools. We’ll see you on the other side.


Sam Demma (02:11):
Eric, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today.


Eric Windeler (02:18):
Yeah, it’s my honor, Sam, to have talked with you before and seen you in action and just a real pleasure to be here and represent our work at checkout over. So thank you.


Sam Demma (02:28):
Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and maybe sharing a little bit about your upbringing and what brought you to where you are today?


Eric Windeler (02:34):
Sure. So you know, I’m an old guy, not like you Sam. Ive been around for awhile. I often say, you know, kind of start with humble beginnings to come from a large family. My dad was from a very rural part of Nova Scotia. My mom was from Cape Breton and my dad had six brothers and sisters and I have five brothers and said, I’m sorry, he had five brothers and sisters. I do too. So so grew up with a big family. I was the second youngest and we were at Halifax when I was born, but we, we did move all over the country. So live for Halifax for a while. Then in Calgary then just outside of Ottawa, you probably have heard of Canasta. It was just a, you know, just a little tiny suburb, but those times it’s grown now.


Eric Windeler (03:23):
And then back to Halifax for high school. And then I went on to Queens university. That was, that was in the time that was sort of a little bit you know reaching because you may not remember this, but Ontario used to have grade 13, but most of the rest of the country didn’t sound. So you know, I arrived having you know, gone through grade 12 and I did fine. And but everybody else sort of had one more year and they had, some of them had taken pre-calculus and things like that. But so first year it was a little challenging for me at university, but I caught up and then I went on to I did business school eCommerce at Queens, and then I always had the desire to be an entrepreneur.


Eric Windeler (04:10):
My dad always told me about how he wished he had tried to start something. And so I had a paper route when I was like 11 years old. And then I started a little paint contracting company when I was in high school. And so I worked in consulting for four years, right out of university. But then I got involved and started up an automotive firm with, with another fellow. And then we brought in a junior partner and kind of a firm that backed us. And that from that, that that company grew rather large. And that kept me busy until 2003. We sold the business at that point and then got into the software space and that really taught me a lot about that aspect of it. And I mentioned that in particular, because the, the entrepreneurial background, but also the business, you know, getting involved in software and internet related things has really helped our work at jack.org. But I was about seven years into into the software business when we lost my son, Jack, and that really, you know, appended and changed my, my life that was in March of 2010.


Sam Demma (05:24):
Wow. Let’s, let’s, let’s explore the startup jack.org for a second. So, you know, Jack passes away, what did the weeks, months, years, you know, immediately after the event, like, like how did that all lead up to jack.org starting?


Eric Windeler (05:40):
Yeah. Well, thanks for asking that. And it’s, it’s heavy. Obviously we, we didn’t even know my son Jack was struggling. I often say, you know, intellectually, it took after my, my wife, because he did great in school. He actually streamed gifted no trouble getting into his university of choice, which happened to be Queens university. And and yet you may know this, but these transition years, age 15 to 24, roughly where jack.org focuses that’s the time of about 75% of the onset of mental illness. So, you know, back in 2010 people, weren’t really weren’t really talking too much about mental health. It was just getting going. And frankly, we weren’t talking about it as a family and we didn’t even know he was struggling. And I’m assuming he was feeling very bad about the fact that he couldn’t go to class class and, and was probably going to lose this year, et cetera.


Eric Windeler (06:35):
And, you know, then we got a call from a police officer. So unfortunately you know, our tragic story is they found him in his residence room. He had died by suicide and it’s devastating for any family as you can appreciate and you know, to lose, to lose a young person in any way, shape or form, but, but straight out of the blue like that. But, you know, I often say as we, as we started to pick ourselves up, we started to look into it. And I feel very fortunate that my co-founder Sandra Hannington, my wife, and a really close family, friends were kind of behind me to kind of look into it. And Sandra and I made a significant Memorial donation to kids help phone in Jack’s memory, you know, just thinking that would do some good, but that led to me not going back to my business career.


Eric Windeler (07:32):
But I actually you know, every day I went to the kids help phone office as a volunteer and we, we decided, and they were really, really helpful in guiding me to think through this, to not just plunge in and do something, but to really do a landscape scan and see what was going on out there and find out where we could really make a difference. And so that pilot study led to what has become the jack.org model. We found out that young people were both at the highest risk, but really being left out of this mental health conversation. So that has led to so for two years of our kids help phone, we, at that time, we were called the Jack project at kids help phone. Cause we were technically a project we weren’t a charity.


Eric Windeler (08:21):
And then we tested our model by shifting our funds and our initiative to Queens university. And the young leaders there supported our work to reach out to young people all across the country. And then we said, no, we’ve got something here. So and we had raised quite a bit of money by then. So we we started we did the application process. You, you actually incorporate, and then you apply to be a chair of a charity. And because we had done all that, pre-work with kids help phone and Queens, we got our charitable status literally in less than 60 days, which is a is a bit of a record. And and we’ve been growing ever since. So it was very, very critical and we still work closely with kids help phone, but to get the guidance of that organization.


Eric Windeler (09:10):
And then the support at Queens to help us launch as an independent charity and you know, fast forward to today, we have over 60 staff and there’s about 3000 young people who volunteer in our programs because we are all about engaging young people and using what we call a peer to peer model of it, upstream education of young people to really help them you know learn about the mental health situation that they may face, or one of their friends or family, you know, brothers and sister may face you know, learn about resources. And it has the effect of both reducing stigma and increasing help seeking, you know, so to, to make it personal again for a moment you know, Jack received none of that type of training, nor did the residents dawns or the students on his floor.


Eric Windeler (10:03):
So they didn’t know how to reach out to support, nor did he know how to reach out for, for assistance. And you know, it, it kind of reminds me of a study that was done I think about 2016. And at that time 53% of young people were having their first interaction with the mental health system when they were in crisis. And so they were taken to an emergency room and, you know, probably, you know, or having suicidal thoughts, et cetera, and you don’t want to, you know, you don’t want to have your first interaction in that kind of situation you want to you wanna, you know, learn about mental health, learn how to build your own coping mechanisms and figure out where you can get more of what we call community care. That is more appropriate because we also have learned that if you get help early the outcomes are very good.


Eric Windeler (10:57):
So we feel that if we had, if we had known enough to talk to Jack about it, if those around him who were at, you know, seeing his change in behavior had known we more, more than likely would have had a much different outcome. Yes, he may have lost a year of school, but we would have figured out a way to get him some support and, and you know, once a year in a long lifetime, right. You know, it’s almost just like taking a gap year. So unfortunately that didn’t happen for us, but we’re committed to, to helping other young people and communities all over Canada with our work and happy to explain more, if you’d like to know more about about the work we do.


Sam Demma (11:37):
Absolutely. this is phenomenal. I was actually going to start by asking you, can you clarify for everyone listening, what mental health actually is? Because I feel like sometimes there is still this idea that it’s, you know, mental health is having a, a challenge or a mental problem. And it’s like, no, I think mental health is something we all experience. So what is like the jack.org view on mental health?


Eric Windeler (12:00):
I will, I’ll, I’ll just qualify that by saying, you know, I am an advocate okay. With a business background and yes, I’ve been in the space for 11 years, but I’m not a trained psychiatrist, but what I have learned is we all have mental health, just like you alluded to, you know, we all can have good days and bad days. But at least one in five of us will live with a mental illness and people often, you know, conflate or confuse those terms. You know, like someone will say, oh, that person has a mental health. I mean, it’s just wrong. And that person may live with a mental illness. So it’s really on a spectrum and this actually happens in our Jack talks. We teach the youth audience about the spectrum of, of, you know, from healthy to struggling from you know, all and all about how you may be in, in, you’re not in one place all the time.


Eric Windeler (12:59):
And what’s really interesting about mental health and mental illness is you can actually live with a mental illness, a diagnosable mental illness, but you, if you have the right care and that may, in some cases be talk therapy, it may be your own you know toolkit that you’ve built to take care of your own mental health and maybe medication, et cetera. But you can, you can actually thrive. And the flip side of that is you can really struggle if you, if you’re not taking care of your mental health appropriately, even though you might not have a diagnosable mental illness. And you know, I’ve come across so many young people in our, in our journey that have, have learned how to take care of their mental health. And they may have even been in a place previously where they were actually hospitalized, but they’ve learned how to take care of their mental health if got the appropriate care.


Eric Windeler (13:53):
And now they’re doing just great. And many of our young leaders in our network are amongst them because they, they also get a benefit of giving back. And that really, you know, I’ll say it’s really helped me in our family to be open about this and to help others. It, it, it has a payback in, I always see the same thing with our young leaders that when they’re helping their peers it really also helps them you know, in their journey as well. I don’t know if that totally answers your question, Sam, but, but people should really understand we all have mental health and some of us live with a mental illness that is at a diagnosable level, but in any event, we all should be learning how to recognize those signs and symptoms and learn how to take care of our own mental health and do our best to support those around us ourselves, but also to help them navigate to to the appropriate care. Should they need it?


Sam Demma (14:51):
You alluded to a couple of things I want to go a little deeper on. You talked about Jack talks. So what is a, or what is it, what is Jack toxin? Yeah. Tell, tell me more about that. Why you think it’s so important and how it’s been going so far in the schools that you’re affected.


Eric Windeler (15:06):
So as an authentic youth engagement youth leadership charity, we have always developed our programmatic work by listening to young people and and incorporating, you know, what they what they wanted to see and bringing their voice to the table. So very early on in the process, it was actually in March, 2013, we had our first national what we call Jack summit. So it was a national conference where we had at that time 200 youth speakers or not youth speakers, young people from every province and territory brought them to Toronto for a conference. And I distinctly remember two things that I’ll share with you. One was that a lovely young person who was giving a speech and sharing her story on stage was actually telling her story in a way that triggered the audience. And it was in such a way that several of the audience members left the room.


Eric Windeler (16:05):
They were, it, it was upsetting to them. And so we learned from that experience, but a lot of the youth started telling us, we’d like to learn how to share our story, but I’m not trying to blame that young woman, but not like that. We want to do it in a safe and appropriate way. So we did the research and have followed the evidence and ever since then, our Jack talks program has existed in evolve each year. So in short, a Jack talk is a peer to peer mental health education. Each, each summer, we train about 150 young people who volunteer to go through about 50 hours of public speaking training. And remember Sam, not, not all young people are naturals like yourself.


Eric Windeler (16:53):
I didn’t know you had that technology, but I’m serious about that. You know, I happen to be fairly comfortable with public speaking when I was your age. And, you know did, did some talks and that sort of thing, but not everybody is, but we take them through public speaking and teach them how to learn how to safely and in a hopeful way share their mental health story. So a typical Jack talk is delivered by two of these trained and certified youth speakers. They each share their story, which is a small part of this hour long presentation, but they also educate youth all about mental health and how to recognize those signs and symptoms and how to support people. And overall, it’s just a very engaging way. You can imagine. In typical times, two youth speakers up on the stage of a high school auditorium.


Eric Windeler (17:49):
It’s very engaging for those youth to, to, to to learn about mental health from their peers. It’s way more impactful than, you know, an old guy like me preaching at them, or even a physician preaching at them that peer-to-peer is known to be a very effective way to transfer that information. So this year actually starting last year, we had to pivot our JAG talks and now we do them in digital format. And soon we hope we’ll be returning to both in-person talks and we’ll continue the digital format. So we actually provide schools and school boards with options. They can either share like a personal Jack talk, which a young person could watch on their own time. We also have a classroom addition that the teacher can take their classroom through. And we also offer livestream Jack talks.


Eric Windeler (18:44):
So some schools or communities might prefer them to be delivered in this format over, over zoom or another platform where they, they are alive. And we do a whole number of other things related to that other workshops, et cetera. And we’re continually evolving the program because we evaluated each year and we evolve at each year to, to be that much better. But you know, it’s, it’s an incredible way to, and it’s just one of, one of our key programs that really kind of opens the door and gets a young people, more aware of mental health and and, you know, starts them on that journey of learning. We have lots of ambitions about how we’ll get into things like curriculum development and so on, but, but that was the very first program that started.


Sam Demma (19:34):
That’s amazing. And, you know, you mentioned the impact of peer to peer, and when you’re in high school, a lot of interactions with mental health and mental illness, hopefully, you know, are seen between friends and groups of friends, and maybe you have a friend that’s struggling. I remember when I was in high school, we had one friend who’s struggled a lot, and we all tried to be there for that person. And sometimes you’re not sure, you know, how to be there for the person. What the correct thing to do is you don’t want to do the wrong thing. And I know that, you know, jack.org and you and the team have put together an incredible resource that not only teaches you how to be there, but it takes you through, you know, what you need to do and how to identify, you know, the situation. And can you talk a little bit about that resource and share what inspired the creation of it and the impact it’s having today?


Eric Windeler (20:20):
Yeah. And that’s, that’s one of our four key programmatic pillars. And you use the words be there. That’s exactly what young people started saying to us. And again, it was back about four years ago as, as their audiences of the, of the JAG chapters and the JAG talks you know, it was making young people more comfortable disclosing what they’re going through to each other. So many of our young leaders started saying we need some additional training for how to be there for, for our peers. And so again, we started with, you know, like we were taught back in the early day, we started with a landscape scan to see what was out there. And we couldn’t find either nationally or globally anything that was really engaging and also relevant for young people. There’s other good programs. I’m not trying to discredit them, but there was a real opportunity for us to make a contribution here.


Eric Windeler (21:18):
So we put out a request to our funders and literally in about three months raised about 600,000. And I only mentioned that because we didn’t sort of build this off the side of our desk in 15 minutes. It was a very thoughtful process to see what was out there, do the evidence. And we landed on something, we call the five golden rules, which, which help you learn about mental health recognize signs and symptoms, and, and learn how to kind of weigh into these difficult conversations and to do so in a way that also protects your own mental health on the way. So that digital resource, which is called, be there, and it’s at our, we only have two websites, jack.org, and be there.org. It’s a free available website. It’s been, it’s been used by over 800,000 young people to date in just over two years.


Eric Windeler (22:13):
And we’re really excited about the next phase of be there because it’s a, it’s a resource and that you can go and check out, but a lot of young people frankly, would go and quickly check it out, might spend five or 10 minutes on the site, but to learn all the content you need several hours. And so we’re developing what we’re calling a B their certificate program. And this is really for people like residents dawns. So they, you know, that their employer, the university could say, you know, we don’t want you to just check out that site. We want you to learn all this content. And we’re partnered with a us foundation. I think I told you on our warmup call, it’s their founders, a little better known than me lady Gaga and her mother founded born this way foundation.


Eric Windeler (23:02):
And they reached out to us when the pandemic hit and asked if they could get involved with the meta resource. And at that time it was just the regular, resouce. bethere.org. But they’re helping us fund, we’re doing the development work, but they’re helping us fund and they will be spreading the, be their certificate program across the U S while we’re doing it here across Canada. And we’re really excited about that. And looking forward to launch that in early 20, 22, so another, you know, five or six months. So that’s the resource and it’s, it’s not just for young people to help other young people. It’s really for anybody who wants to learn how to support a young person in their life. And you know, not everybody is as passionate about mental health as our young leaders. And I know you have a big passion for it, Sam, but if they know about it and they see one of their friends struggling, it’s a place they can go and learn how to, you know, weigh into those difficult conversations. So it’s made up of a bunch of engaging videos of really storytelling of how one, you know maybe one friend was there for his or her friend how a parent was there for their or their child. You know, how you know how one, one peer can support another. So, thanks for asking about that.


Sam Demma (24:26):
It’s a phenomenal resource. And I enjoyed hearing about it the first time we chatted and I thought it would be something worth highlighting and sharing as well. Those were, those were the two of the four pillars. So now we’ve talked about Jack talks, we’ve talked about be there, you mentioned there being four key pillars. What are the other two? And can you speak on those very briefly as well?


Eric Windeler (24:45):
Absolutely. So the, the next program after Jack talks is something called Jack chapters. So these are youth led groups at high schools, colleges, universities, and in community settings. And now they exist all over the country and every province and territory. And you know, it probably makes sense to you that if you just do one Jack talk and then the school does nothing else, period, things just sort of settle back to normal. And that’s why, you know you know, we have the vision of creating more content and more curriculum down the road. And we’re in the early stages of planning that, but chapters are a way that a youth led group conform at one of these schools or in one of these communities and kind of keep that conversation going all year long. So a typical job chapter, and there’s, there’s about 250 of them.


Eric Windeler (25:41):
It has been the most difficult program to operate during the pandemic. So a little under 200 of them have been very active during the pandemic, but at a lot of schools and some of the harder hit areas extracurricular activities have just been put on hold. But they’re really trying to share share resources, share engagements in a typical time, they’ll get together with, with peers, you know, and it could be a sporting based event. It could be an art based event. We try to reach out to different parts of the community, and then we’ve the importance of mental health into those conversations. So it’s we’re, it often call it the real core because yes, it’s great that we have, you know, 250 chapters, but there’s over 3000 high schools in Canada, Sam. So we really need to expand that program. And it is so fantastic to see what many of these chapters have done.


Eric Windeler (26:38):
And we now are evolving the program so we can have what we call sort of low and high engagement chapters. So some of the chapters do just fun little initiatives to kind of get the awareness going lower stigma. Some of the more advanced, mainly post-secondary chapters are doing some very sophisticated things. We have now a youth informed campus assessment tool, for example. So they actually learn how to partner with our administration, do a landscape scan on their campus and really interview students about the resources that are on campus. Do you know about it? Does it work for you what could what’s missing, et cetera, and that underpinned some of their advocacy work to have a kind of an evidence-based informed way of, of advocating for, you know, better services you know, in their, their school or in their community.


Eric Windeler (27:32):
So that’s the Jack chapters program the file program actually maybe I should have started with that because it actually came first and that’s called the Jack’s summit program. So these are you know, we’re trying to reach a very broad audience, but we do have these young leaders in our network and the Jack summits are a way to bring together these young leaders to train them really connect them to one another, let them learn from one another, have collaboration sessions, bring in expert speakers, et cetera. And this year there’s about I think about 25 of these summits across the country. Obviously sadly, they all had to be virtual this year, but that program has worked very well virtually. So we have the national Jack summit, as I alluded to earlier, we have six large regional Jack summits one in BC, one in the far north with students from all three territories involved one in the Prairie’s one in Ontario, one a Francophone one that I used to say was based in Quebec, but it’s really just for any Francophone students, cause there’s many Francophone students outside of Quebec.


Eric Windeler (28:43):
And then there’s one in Atlantic, Canada, and then the local Jackson mitts are smaller events where like one high school may invite the student leaders from the neighboring high schools. And they’ll have a smaller event really focused on their, their community, wherever that might be. So that’s the four programs talks chapter summits, and then the digital resource be there. We do a lot of other things, but I think that’s you know, that that will be the, a good summary for your amazing audience.


Sam Demma (29:13):
I never forget after we first connected and I asked you for more information and you sent me over the email with documentaries and videos and programs, and it was like a never ending resource. That’s what it felt like when I opened it. And it just so cool to see how many things are getting done behind the scenes that soon will no longer be behind the scenes. And yeah, I, I just, I can’t wait to see the continued impact. What personally keeps you motivated? Like what personally keeps you motivated and hopeful to continue doing this work?


Eric Windeler (29:48):
Well, it’s you know, often put it in another way. I’d say I’m incredibly, obviously we had a tragedy which got this all started, but I’m incredibly fortunate. And I, I, I would wish for others who are in the later stages of their career to have an opportunity to give back. So just giving back period is a very motivating thing. But you know, I had a successful business career and all I could really say was, well, we created lots of jobs and that is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. But this is truly helping people and, and in many respects changing the trajectory of their life. And in some cases, you know, we don’t have, I can’t point to exact evidence, but, but you know, it is a public health initiative and we kind of think, you know, if you, I may have used this analogy when we spoke earlier, but if you can help somebody learn not to start smoking you can probably have an impact on the health of them, their physical health later in life.


Eric Windeler (30:51):
And it’s the same with mental health. If you can provide that knowledge upstream, you will change the trajectory. And yes, suicide remains the the leading health-related cause of death of young people, which is completely unacceptable. But it’s still a fairly you know, it’s not happening it’s happening far too often, but it’s, it’s fairly infrequent, but it’s just a marker for the amount of struggle that is out there. And if you think about, you know, living with a mental illness and, you know, you’re having trouble getting out of bed, you can’t go to class, you can’t maintain employment, you can’t do relationships. There’s also a huge payback to, to the economy by, by letting young people sort of perform at their best. Because then they’re going to be gainfully employed. They’re going to be paying taxes, all those sorts of things, their, their relationships will be better. Their schooling will be better. So it’s tremendously satisfying. I’ve frankly never worked harder, but never never also wanted to work harder than this it’s, it’s, it’s been very gratifying to be involved in. And we’re so grateful for the supportive community that we’ve created not only of young people, but of, you know, donors and sponsors and volunteers who support that work that we do to allow it to happen.


Sam Demma (32:18):
Amazing. That’s awesome. And I can’t, yeah, I can’t wait for the future and to continue to see the impact and the implementation of the pillars and the curriculum as well. I think it’d be so cool if there was a mental health class in every high school, maybe that’s something that you guys are working with.


Eric Windeler (32:33):
It’s kind of hard to believe that there isn’t, when you thinkbout it, it doesn’t make sense. You know, it’s interesting, we’ve started discussing things cause there are curriculum organizations. And so we’re, we’re thinking about how we might, we’ve been in touch with a few of them, how we might either partner with those kinds of organizations, because frankly they don’t have much expertise in mental health. And we think we would be very well positioned to you know, I have a bit of a vision. I’m probably talking a little out of turn, but to pilot that with a school board or ideally a provincial ministry and really test it. But, but you know, definitely, there should be, there should be some mental health basics even before high school, but by the time you get to high school, there should be a content because we’re reaching lots of young people, hundreds of thousands of young people, but we’re not reaching every school in every community. And you should learn about something this important to your life, just like you should learn how to read and write and do arithmetic, you know, and it will be there. It will, it will happen. And we’ve got a lot of the content that will help inform that and be part of it. So that’s part of the big plans that are out there. It’s just a matter of when, right? It’s not what just as a one. But this has been a great conversation, Eric, thank you so much for taking some time to chat about jack.org, the pillars, what you’re working on. You know, the view on mental health, how it differs from mental illness and just the whole conversation.

Sam Demma (33:19):
I hope that now you listening right now, taking something valuable away from this. And if you want to get in touch with Eric, Eric, please share how an educator can reach out or get ahold of you guys.


Eric Windeler (34:18):
Well, I mentioned earlier, obviously, we have two websites to check out, jack.org, and bethere.org. There’s, there’s a way you can reach out generically to the organization. And we monitor that, that it’s, it’s we call it the whole inbox. It’s just hello@jack.org. But you can also, for example, a great way for schools or educators to start is with a Jack talk. And, you know, you can just go to jack.org/talks and it lays out, you know, if you’d like to arrange a talk, there’s a way you can get in touch with us there. We, we are on socials quite active and I would say disproportionately active for a mental health organization. We have bigger followings than most. We’re at, we’re at jack.org, but it’s spelled out its jackdotorg on most platforms, but probably most active on, on Instagram because that’s where a lot of young people are.


Eric Windeler (35:17):
One of our interns this summer got us just barely kicked off on TikTok. We’ve always been active obviously on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. But Instagram is probably the quick way to start. I’m at Eric Windeler. But so if people wanted to reach out by socials, they could do that. I’m easy to find online eric@jack.org. So you know, obviously I don’t necessarily, can’t keep up with a thousand emails, but I’d love to hear from educators and I would guide them to the right person on the team, for more information. So thanks, for offering that up to Sam.


Sam Demma (35:55):
Again, Eric, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you, keep up the great work it’s very needed. And I look forward to talking to you again soon.


Eric Windeler (36:02):
Absolutely. Sam, just a pleasure and thanks again and congrats again for the amazing grad talk you gave, I really found that incredible.


Sam Demma (36:13):
And there you have it, another amazing guest and amazing interview on the high-performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoyed these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and 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 want to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you want to meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider 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 feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Eric Windeler

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.

Paulette Lippert – Experiential Learning Leader for Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board

Paulette Lippert Experiential Lead Learner BGCDSB
About Paulette Lippert

Paulette Lippert (@paulettelippert) is passionate about all things education.  She has been devoting her time and energy to her work for the past 27-years.  Growing up in a rural area, she realized that access to opportunities was a challenge and now she bridges these exact gaps for the students in the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board. 

As the Experiential Learning Leader, Paulette spends her time bringing new programs and hands-on opportunities to the schools in her board.  She is also a mom of two amazing kids, disabilities & mental health advocate & avid Arts enthusiast.  

Connect with Paulette: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Rural and Ready

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 to 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 dot high-performing educator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Paulette Lippert. Paulette is passionate about all things education. She has been devoting her time and energy to her work in education for the past 27 years. Growing up in a rural area herself, she realized that access to opportunities was a challenge and now strives to bridge these exact gaps for the students in the Bruce grey Catholic district school board.


Sam Demma (01:07):
As the experiential learning leader, Paulette spends her time bringing new programs and hands-on opportunities to the schools in her board. She’s also a mom of two amazing kids, a disability and mental health advocate and avid art enthusiast. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Paulette. It was amazing, and I will see you on the other side, all that welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Love that you’re tuning in from the woods. You got the forest behind you, although no one can see it. I think it’s awesome. Yeah. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about why you do the work you do today in education.


Paulette Lippert (01:48):
Oh, sure. Well, first of all, thank you for having me. It was a huge honor to be asked to be a guest on this podcast and I’m, I’m super pumped. I always love talking about education because it’s my passion. So I really appreciated the invitation. So thanks for having me. My name’s Paulette Lippert I live while you, you can see behind me, the, the woods I live in Bruce county, near Kincardine Ontario. And so behind those woods is also like Huron. So I’m very blessed to live in this area because it’s very beautiful. I also grew up here and didn’t really think growing up that I would remain here as an adult, but I’m certainly glad that I did. And yeah, so I’ve been, this is actually, I, I had a bit of a session this week with some of our new teachers who are just joining our board and before I met with them, I had to actually get out the calculator and check my math because I could not believe that this is the beginning of my 27th year in education. I just, I just don’t know where the time has gone. I’m sure lots of people say that, but time flies you’re having fun. Yeah. So how did I get started? Is that the question you asked before I went into that lengthy introduction?


Sam Demma (03:08):
Yeah. And before, before you even jump into that, there’s a bunch of educators. I want to give you a round of applause for the 27 years of service. What got you started and brought you to where you are now?


Paulette Lippert (03:22):
Well what got me started, I’m going to go way, way back. So I’m going to go to the time when I was a really young child and I was just starting school myself at that time with my parents and I, we were living in the city of Cambridge and but we would come back to Bruce county, which is where my parents were from on weekends. And I can remember coming back and, and playing lots with my older cousins. And we used to play school. That was one of the things that we played. So I always wanted to be the teacher and then we would come home after being there on these weekends, playing school with these older cousins. And then I would want to play school with my younger sister and I was the teacher and I would get very upset with her when she could not do the math and the reading that I was assigning to her, which of course she cut into.


Paulette Lippert (04:12):
She was younger. And I remember my mom having to, having to speak to me about this and saying you know, you need to realize your sister is younger than you. She can’t do the work that you’re used to doing at school and you can’t be so hard on her. And so I guess that was my first introduction to learning some good pedagogy as a future teacher. You know, how important it is that you know, your students and understand where they are at before, you can possibly try to teach them what it is that you want them to know. So that was my first lesson. So it’s just kind of a cutesy story to reflect back on, but I also had a couple of teachers in high school who were really key to encouraging me. I had an English teacher.


Paulette Lippert (04:59):
His name was Mr. Forest. Absolutely wonderful man. Really great in the classroom had really wonderful classes that were engaging and he had good relationships with his students and he was also a guidance counselor and he wasn’t the guidance counselor that was assigned to me. But the one day that I made an appointment with the guidance counselor that was assigned to me, that guidance counselor happened to be a way that day. I think he was sick. So Mr. Forest stepped in and did this guidance session with me and I was in such a hurry at that time, I was graduating grade 12 and I wanted to go to college at that point because I wanted to get started in my career. I was just so anxious to get going and get started. And Mr. Forest looked at me and he said, a lot of people would wouldn’t necessarily say this to you, but I’m just going to say it to you.


Paulette Lippert (05:51):
I’ve taught you twice. Now you are not going to be happy doing that. You need to go university. You are a university bound student. If you go this other route, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this, but I’m telling you that at the end of that two or three or pro three-year program or whatever it is that you choose to do, I guarantee you you’re going to want more because you love to learn and I highly recommend that you not do that and apply for university and then see what happens. And so I remember when he retired, I saw a notice in the newspaper that he was retiring and I had to write him a letter just to thank him for being so upfront and so honest with me, but also for encouraging me to take that path because I think he was right.


Paulette Lippert (06:39):
So that’s kind of how I got into the, to the work. It wasn’t a straight path for me though. I actually started in a different direction in a, in a related career. But I S I was in the end of high school. I was debating between social work and education, my last couple of years of high school. And I couldn’t make up my mind. And of course these fields are very much related. But much of the work I have done as an educator has definitely been very much informed by my studies at the faculty of social work. So I actually pursued a master’s in social work degree at Wilfrid Laurier university. And it was actually during my work placements when I was completing that program, that I realized that I really needed to move to the education system rather than remain in social services.


Paulette Lippert (07:31):
When you begin the program, you are asked to select one of two specialties. So as a social work student, you can either specialize in individuals, families, and groups, or you can go into community development. And so I chose individuals, families, and groups, cause I thought I was going to be family therapist. And that was, that was my goal. And then I started one of my work placements in, and that was in child welfare. And what I found was that I was not seeing enough results for my, for my work. So I would work with a family and things would be going really well. And I would think we were making some really good progress. And then just when you thought you were on the right path to change and to improvement something unpredictable would happen to that family. And then it kind of felt like you were right back at square one.


Paulette Lippert (08:27):
So whether it was a traumatic event or, you know or an illness in the family or a death or something, some big event would have occurred. And they almost like you’re starting over again. And I, and I felt like I was spinning my wheels. And I remember coming home from when I was with children’s aid society. And I would be cooking feverously in the kitchen. And in particular I was baking a lot and I would bake and I would say I was married. I was newly married at the time. And I would say to my husband here, help yourself. Cause I’m, you know, I just made something last night and here I’ve made something again tonight. And, and he looked at me and he finally said to me, who are you? And I said, what do you mean? He said, you hate to bake.


Paulette Lippert (09:17):
This is not what you like to do. Why are you doing this? Like, I hope you’re not doing it for me because I don’t expect this. And I suddenly had an aha moment. I sat back and went, oh my gosh, why am I doing this? I hate baking. You’re right. Why am I doing this? And I realized I could throw a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, mix them up, stick them in the oven and come out with a product. And I was not feeling that at work at all. And so it was like this big aha moment where I went, I need to see results for my work and I need, they can’t be that long-term, I need to see results for my work sooner than later. And that was it. Then I knew I’ve, I’ve got to go to education because one of the things I learned really quickly, I also did a placement as a school social worker. And I got to watch all of these great teachers teaching their classes and I, I could see the kids making connections and I could see them building skills. And I could see that these teachers were seeing growth in their students right away. And teaching does that for you. You get that immediate feedback from students. And then that was it for me, I knew this was the path and I, that I needed to take.


Sam Demma (10:30):
That’s amazing what a story and the analogy between the baking and the end result. That’s such a powerful one, like right. When you were making the connection, I could totally understand that feeling. And I’m sure there’s so many educators that can relate to that. Some of the most meaningful experiences of education is seeing the seed grow that you plant in a student. And as you know, probably sometimes you see that, you know, within 10 days and other times it takes 15 years. And I know there’s a difference for students growing up in this city than there is for students might be growing up in a rural environment. And I’m curious to know, like, what do you think are some of the challenges and also maybe some of the benefits as well, like both sides of the coin being a rural student.


Paulette Lippert (11:13):
Well, the benefits are this is going to sound very stereotypical, but everybody knows everybody in a small town. Sometimes that can be a blessing and a curse. So, you know, you know, we all know what, how gossip spreads in small towns and that kind of thing. So there are challenges with that, but overall having these connections and knowing how everyone is connected is really, really useful for you as an educator. You know, if you know who so-and-so’s aunt or uncle is, that’s sitting in front of you in class and you make reference to them and they light up right away. They know that you know who they are and, and, and they know that, okay, so she knows my aunt or uncle, I better straighten up here. You know, there’s some of that effect as well. It’s just really, really helpful that to know those connections when you’re working in a, in a rural and small community and, and for lots of reasons, it’s really good to know who everyone is connected to.


Paulette Lippert (12:11):
And, I’m not saying that you can’t get that in an urban environment. I think you can, but I think it, it’s more challenging to be able to make those connections. So that’s a real benefit for sure for educators. I mean, I just remember recently teaching a student and and I’ve known his grandparents my whole life. And he was, and he was, he was an easy student where he was, he, he enjoyed if you joked around with him a lot. And, and he asked me a question about something about how soon does this work have to be done. And I said something like, well, you know, the deadline, and I think you have enough time to complete it, but just know I have your grandpa on Twitter. I can tweet your grandpa at any time. And he just looked at me.


Paulette Lippert (12:55):
And so, you know, that’s the beauty of being in a small town is is having those connections and letting your students know that you know, who they are and knowing their name and knowing how to properly pronounce their name and knowing just where they fit in in the community is really, really helpful. So that’s, what’s, that’s the benefit but there are challenges as well. You do have to work really hard to find opportunities for your students that are probably often taken for granted, maybe not often, but sometimes taken for granted and larger, more urban centers. So, you know, we don’t necessarily have the fancy summer camps here that students would have perhaps access to in the city. And traveling is, you know, you put a lot of mileage on I put 50,000 kilometers on my car every year and I’m living in a rural area.


Paulette Lippert (13:59):
And so I I’m living an hour away from my work place. And that’s not uncommon many people do. And so, because we don’t have any public transportation here this can be a huge barrier for students who want to seek opportunities that aren’t necessarily in their own community or are in a more urban environment. We don’t have colleges and universities right in our backyard. You know, we have one campus, we have Georgia and college, which is not their main campus, but it is the campus in Owen sound. So we have one college. We do also have Fanshawe college that has some outreach campuses that our students can take advantage of for some programs. But really all of our students are at least two hours away from, from other institutions, colleges, and universities. So that can be a barrier there’s you know, there’s costs associated with travel.


Paulette Lippert (15:01):
So, and, and even for our students in the south, there’s still an over an hour away from Georgia and college. So even the closest college that would, we would consider is in our community. They’re still an hour away from that. So it makes it really challenging sometimes. And I work closely with our OEM coordinator and he always says to people who don’t really have this understanding of our geography, you know, he says, just remember that Bruce county is bigger than prince Edward island. So, you know, in prince Edward island, you’re just about half an hour away from everything, but it takes us a lot longer to travel from one end of our county to the other. So where our communities are spread out and it’s a vast geographical region. So that, so sometimes our students, because of that geographical factor, sometimes our students can feel more isolated than urban students.


Paulette Lippert (15:56):
And sometimes what I’m hearing more and more from this is something I’m discovering in this rural as the experiential learning lead is that our students are often feeling less prepared when it comes time for them to leave secondary school and venture out into a more urban environment. So that’s something that I’m really paying more attention to is hearing stories from students when they are expressing this. And and it’s also having me work harder to find organizations and mentorship opportunities that could help with that. I’m, I don’t know, Sam, if you’re familiar, there’s a youth led organization that I was recently introduced to and it’s called rural and ready. Oh, cool. And it’s it’s student developed and student led and it’s a nonprofit organization that is all about creating opportunities for rural students to help build their readiness and their independence for post-secondary education and the world of work.


Paulette Lippert (16:59):
So, you know, here’s a little plug for them. They, they started, it was three young women who were in who decided to pursue stem careers and they got off into their prospective university programs and found out really quickly that there were things that other students just knew and took for granted that they didn’t know. So an example they gave is that some of those students have been doing their own research for years in labs. And they just ha in their realm of experience, they just hadn’t had that opportunity. And so, and, and many of the students they were in programs with had also attended private schools where some of these programs were readily available as well. And they had attended a rural high school and just didn’t have the same access. So they began this, this organization called rural and ready and you know, they might make fantastic guests for a future podcast. I’m just going to give them a little plug.


Sam Demma (17:59):
Yeah. I’ll definitely check them out. That sounds amazing.


Paulette Lippert (18:02):
It’s kind of interesting because when I first listened to them, I attended a session that they gave for, for experiential learning leads in in our region. And they, of course, were targeting experiential learning leads who were from rural communities. And at first I kind of got my backup a little bit and I was like, no, that’s not the experience of our students. We are preparing our students. I know we are because we have so many students that go out there and they’re very highly successful at university and they come back and they share their stories and we’re definitely preparing our kids. Then I started listening more closely to what our former students and current students were saying. And I realized, okay, there are some barriers here for rural students that we don’t pay enough attention to. And so I’ve started paying closer attention to what they were, what they had to share. And it’s definitely an issue. Yeah.


Sam Demma (18:55):
Thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it. And along with the struggles, you know, there are also still those stories of transformation and amazing impact that programs have, or teachers have on students. And I’m curious to know if some of those stories kind of stick out in your mind, you know, you mentioned at the beginning of this, and maybe even before we hit the record button that educators throughout their lives, they collect those stories, you know, put it in the little envelope on their desk. And maybe when they’re feeling down, refer to them to pick themselves back up. But do any of those stories stick out in your mind that you feel like?


Paulette Lippert (19:28):
Absolutely. Absolutely. So I’m going to go back several years. And one of my favorite things to teach is the social sciences courses in our high school. And I’m one of those courses that I, I got to teach many, many times that I absolutely loved was the, the parenting courses. So there’s a great 11 open parenting course, and there’s also a college level parenting course, and one is called living and working with children. And then the other one is really focuses on becoming a parent and it really looks at pregnancy and birth really closely. And and so I, I loved both of these courses and was always really excited to teach them. And I remember this group really well. This was the open class, the pregnancy and birth class. And so one of the field trips that we always take is we go to our local birthing center for a tour and we have a wonderful birthing center in market and by the way, a shout out to them because it’s absolutely phenomenal.


Paulette Lippert (20:34):
So, and I had, as an, as a young mom, I had had the experience of having one of my children and in this birthing center and and actually started out having both of them in the birthing center, but had to be transferred to a larger center with one of them. So I knew the great work that they did there. So I was always excited to take students there. So this one particular day I took my class. We, we made it sometimes we had to cancel our trip because they would have too many people in labor and they would have to say, oh, you have to come at a different day. It’s too busy. But this particular day, it worked out and off. We went and we had our tour and we were at the point now where the obstetric nurse was was asking the students, okay, what questions do you have?


Paulette Lippert (21:19):
I want to answer all of your questions. So it does, there’s no silly question to ask. And so a couple of students ask some questions about the equipment that they had seen, and then one student put up her hand. And the first question she asked was at what stage in pregnancy should an expectant mothers start taking maternal vitamins. And I thought, okay, that’s, that’s a good question. And it’s not a question that I, I expected. And it was something that I knew we would cover in the course, but that we hadn’t covered that yet. And then the next question was, if someone has a baby here and they want to give their baby up for adoption, how does that work? Do the adoptive parents come to the birthing center right away and take the baby right away. And that question stopped me in my tracks.


Paulette Lippert (22:11):
And I saw the nurse look at me, and I knew that we were communicating with our eyes. We were both thinking the same thing. And I realized that, oh my gosh, this student is expecting a baby. And I don’t think she’s told anyone yet. So I, we got back to the school and on my prep that day, I called her out of class and we had a conversation and sure enough she was expecting a baby and she hadn’t told anyone. She hadn’t shared it with her parents yet. I was the first person to tell. And I just said to her, well, what was the questions you were asking? I knew right away. So she did have the baby and she did keep that baby. And now fast forward 14 years, and this young woman walks into my classroom, the first week of school starting in September.


Paulette Lippert (23:04):
And she looked at me and she said, my mom told me I had to come find you. And I said, oh, why is that? What can I help you with? And she said, well, you are the first person to ever know that I was coming into the world. And I knew right away. I knew, oh my gosh, this is that baby. This is her daughter. And she said by the way, my mom said she would love to be a guest speaker in your, in your class, if you ever want to reach out to her. And I went, oh yeah, I’m reaching out to her. I want her to come as soon as possible. And the other neat thing was this baby was born on my birthday. So we shared that information too. And, and that was just kind of a weird coincidence at the same time.


Paulette Lippert (23:47):
So the great thing is she came back as a guest speaker, told her entire story to the class, but then she went on to talk about, you know, how hard it was to be a young mom and how hard it was to pursue her education. But she did it. So she talked about all of the challenges that she faced, and she was, she had already achieved her bachelor of arts degree. She got a sociology degree, and then she shared with the class, but I want to go further. I really want to become a researcher. And I want to research pro I want to do research and sociology that really matters to students. So she then explained that the research that she was already embarking on was really looking at sex education programs, whether or not students had adequate information that they needed to make these big life decisions.


Paulette Lippert (24:47):
And she shared with the class that in her family, sex was never really talked about. You know, her parents assume the school was doing that job. And yes, the school did have family life programs in place, but she really felt that she lacked information that she needed. And she was also looking at places where there were really robust sex education programs in place in high schools and found that there was a correlation that students who had all the information they felt they needed were delaying sexual, their sexual relationships. They were waiting longer before they became sexually active. And so she was telling my class, all of this and my class was absolutely riveted. And, and then to hear that she, you know, she had hoped then to go on and do her doctorate and become a professor and just to see the journey that she had taken. Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you how much that meant to hear her speak. I was just enthralled as the students were. And so, you know, sometimes the work that you do, you don’t find out, as you said earlier, you don’t find out how important that work is until many years later. But there, she was in my classroom living proof and and she was really excited to come and share that information with me. So yeah,


Sam Demma (26:13):
Yeah, yeah. And the sharing of birthdays like,


Paulette Lippert (26:21):
Oh, I know it’s crazy.


Sam Demma (26:22):
That’s so cool.


Paulette Lippert (26:24):
It’s crazy. But I was just so incredibly proud of her. And recently I saw a teacher post something on Twitter that said, you know, when I retire, I don’t want flowers and I don’t want a big meal and I don’t want the big retirement party. I just want my adult students to come back to me and share with me what’s going on in their lives. And I’m like, yes. Like, like, like if you could have a multiple like button on Twitter yes. That’s how teachers feel. We, we don’t need all these fancy presence and we don’t need you know, all the, the FA the public thinks we really just want to know how our students are doing and that they’re fairing okay. In this crazy world. And so she did that for me that day.


Sam Demma (27:06):
Thank you so much for sharing that story. That’s a great story. Now, you have a reason to reach out to her again, so feel free to do so. You know, if another educator is listening to this right now, Paula, and is a little bit inspired or reminded of something, and they would love to chat with you what would be the best way for them to get in touch?


Paulette Lippert (27:26):
They can definitely find me on Twitter. My Twitter handle is just my name at Paulette Lippert. I’m also on LinkedIn, so anyone could reach out that way as well. I don’t, I don’t check LinkedIn as often as I should, but I’m definitely on Twitter pretty regularly. And that’s what actually, that’s one of the things that we’ve been finding out about our rural students is they needed some support knowing about all, about LinkedIn too, and, and the importance of that networking from an early age. So I got to get better at that along with, as I promote that to my students.


Sam Demma (27:59):
Nice. Oh, awesome. Well, this has been a phenomenal first conversation I say first, because they’ll probably do a part two sometime in the future if you’re open to it.


Paulette Lippert (28:08):
Absolutely. I would love


Sam Demma (28:10):
To, this was great. Keep up the amazing work and we’ll talk soon.


Paulette Lippert (28:14):
Okay. Thanks again for having me. And I just want to wish everyone good luck out there who is beginning. Their teaching career are beginning a new school a year. It’s been challenging for educators. And so I just want to wish everyone the best of luck.


Sam Demma (28:28):
I actually, you know, what? You just prompted one last question. Oh, sure. If you could go back in time and speak to Paulette year one of education, knowing what you know now with the experience you have, what advice would you give for those educators who might be just embarking on this journey?


Paulette Lippert (28:44):
That, that one is easy for me. I think I, I began my teaching career and I really, really wanted to be the best possible teacher that I could be. And I really think that I thought I had to be perfect. And, and I didn’t know when I should be reaching out for help or support. So if I could give one piece of advice to my, my younger self and to any new teacher it would be that you will definitely make mistakes. And just as there are no perfect parents out there anywhere, there also are no perfect teachers. So my advice would be to be reflective enough so that you recognize the mistakes when you make them. But then also not to be so hard on yourself tell yourself that it is okay to make mistakes and learn, and and know that when you admit, when you make mistakes to your students, that then they have the permission to make mistakes as well and learn from them.


Paulette Lippert (29:50):
So and don’t be afraid to reach out to the supports that are there when you need them. And that can be, you know, assistance of any kind advice, resources, coaching, whatever it is that you need. There are people there to support you in your own building, but also in the district. And those of us who have been in this field for a while, we all want you to be successful because we know how much we need you right now. And we always need good educators, but we really need them right now. And so we want to be able to support you and nurture you as you begin your journey and and continue on your journey. You know, we’re never done learning. I’m, I’m learning all the time, even after 27 years. And that’s what keeps you fresh, and that’s what keeps you motivated in the profession. So don’t be afraid to reach out for those supports. I can think of some times when I really needed those supports and should have reached out and did not. So that would be my piece of advice.


Sam Demma (30:51):
Love that. What a good way to end. Thank you so much again for coming on. That was amazing. Keep up the great work and we will definitely talk again soon.


Paulette Lippert (31:00):
Thanks again. Take care.


Sam Demma (31:02):
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 and 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 want to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you want to meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network. You have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode and.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Paulette Lippert

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.

Daniel Horgan – CEO and Founder of CoLabl and the Talent Accelerator

Daniel Horgan Founder and CEO CoLabL
About Daniel Horgan

A volunteer role with a YMCA summer camp at the age of 12 sparked Daniel’s passion for service and building community. At the age of 18, Daniel pioneered the first youth-led Community of Promise in Pittsburgh under Retired General Colin Powell’s national America’s Promise movement, landing him a seat on the national board of directors and recognition from President George W. Bush.

Daniel (@HorganDaniel) has over 20 years of experience working in the business and nonprofit sectors, fueled by his commitment to increasing others’ access to relationships and opportunities that transform their lives.

He has worked with companies of all sizes including the world’s largest global brands like Nike, Starbucks, and LinkedIn, some of the largest school districts, national and local nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Daniel has proudly served on several nonprofit boards and advisory councils including City Year DC, the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, Team Kids, and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership.

Named one of Pittsburgh’s 40 Under 40 Honorees, Daniel has keynoted dozens of conferences and training seminars and is the author of Tell Me I Can’t…and I Will. He currently resides in Arlington VA.

Connect with Daniel: Email | Linkedin | Website | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Zig Ziglar

The YMCA

The Talent Accelerator

Situational based leadership

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):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma, today’s guest Daniel Horgan is someone who I had the chance to work very closely with throughout the entire summer of 2020. He contracted me to do some facilitation, some keynote speaking, and some workshops for his programs that you hear a lot about in today’s episode. And as our working relationship built our personal relationship built as well. And today I’m super, super honored and excited to call Daniel a close friend, and you’ll see why on this episode, he’s up to some amazing work and doing some great things, a volunteer role with the YMCA summer camp at the age of 12 is what sparked Daniel’s passion for service and building community at the age of 18 Daniel pioneered the first youth led community of promise in Pittsburgh under the retired general Colin Powell, his national America’s promise movement, landing him a seat on the national board of directors and recognition from president George W. Bush.


Sam Demma (01:02):
Daniel has over 20 years of experience working in the business and nonprofit sectors fueled by his commitment to increasing others, access to relationships and opportunities that transform their lives at CoLabL. Daniel is working at the intersection of talent development and community building with this specific focus on creating and facilitating brand relationship and skill building experiences that support existing and future talent. He has worked with some of the world’s largest brands, including Starbucks, Nike, apple, LinkedIn, school districts, national and local nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Daniel has proudly served on several nonprofit boards and advisory councils, including city year DC, the community foundation of the national capital region team kids and the greater Pittsburgh nonprofit partnership. He was named one of Pittsburgh’s top 40 under 40 honorees, and he has keynoted and facilitated hundreds of conferences and training experiences, published several articles on forbes.com and is the author of “tell me I can’t, and I will.


Sam Demma (01:59):
I’ll tell you, Daniel works very closely with a lot of youth, and if you don’t have a pen and a paper beside you right now, I will encourage you to grab one because you’re going to have a whole page of notes. Here’s the episode with Daniel Horrigan I’ll see you on the other side…


Sam Demma (02:15):
Daniel, thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educator podcast. It’s a huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about yourself and why you got into the work you do with young people today? I know it’s a long question.


Daniel Horgan (02:28):
No, absolutely. Well, Sam, first and foremost, thanks so much for having me. I’m a huge fan of the work that you’re doing and I’ve enjoyed collaborating with you. So thanks again for, for having me on quick high-level overview of me. Like, so I started my, I say when I was 11 years old, YMCA summer camp, where my two older brothers were camp counselors. I convinced them to let me not just come to camp, but let me volunteer with the six year olds. And I would say that that really sparked my interest in service and really it sort of set me out on this path to really think about the unique contributions that I have to offer. And, you know, through the years I’ve worked in nonprofit management, running nonprofits, locally and nationally here in the U S spent some time in corporate social responsibility looking at the corporate philanthropy space.


Daniel Horgan (03:14):
And I think employee engagement with capital one and then launched my own consulting company CoLabL which I’ve been running really to help apply all of the lessons that I’ve learned, frankly, over the last 20 years. Like what drives me to do this work is that I see so many young people, especially just not have the social capital that unlocks their awareness of new opportunities or awareness of different paths or experiences that they can take on. And so I just tried to get in front of as many young people as possible, connect them to as many professionals in different pathways and see where it goes from there.


Sam Demma (03:47):
Speaking of connecting young people to professionals, you have a huge milestone to celebrate literally this morning as we’re recording this you want to share a little bit about it and how it kind of came to be.


Daniel Horgan (03:58):
Yeah, absolutely. So I’m super excited for this morning. We crossed a major milestone in matching 278 in Canada, Deloitte volunteers with young leaders all across Canada. Most of these young leaders are ages 18 to around 24. Some of them are in college, some of them were in sort of non traditional post-secondary education pathways. And the goal is that we work to connect these diverse employees with them to explore their career pathways, to share their insights that they’ve gathered through their deployed experiences. You think about like a traditional, the, what employee. They had the opportunity to work with a lot of different clients and a lot of different projects. So they were able to glean a lot of lessons from those experiences. And so we want to create this experience where for one hour, that’s a minimum commitment. We’re asking these Deloitte volunteers to share what they’ve learned and really at the same time, learn from the young people, like let the young leaders shared their questions, share their own unique experiences.


Daniel Horgan (04:57):
And if it sparks something beyond that one hour, that’s amazing. I’ve already gotten a bunch of emails from people that were like, are we allowed to like follow up and have a second meeting? And I was like, yes, you’re absolutely allowed to do that. And so it’s been a pretty cool project. As you can imagine, we sort of skyrocketed when we first launched the program to about 200 volunteers signed up right away, which shows us, I think that there’s a huge appetite and interest among a lot of people to give back and to positively contribute to young leaders on their own.


Sam Demma (05:28):
And you had mentors, I would suppose back when you were going through high school and, and university, and some of those were people that you probably didn’t even meet. I.E. Zig Ziglar, which I read about in your book, do you want to share a little bit about how like mentorship and mentors in your life have played a huge role in your development?


Daniel Horgan (05:48):
Yeah, absolutely. So Sam, it’s so funny, you mentioned Ziglar. I was doing a training last week where this big Ziglar quote came to mind in the middle of this training based on what somebody was saying. And I shared it and somebody was like, oh, tell me, how did you connect them? Like, here’s the story? 20 years ago, I was working all day taking night classes and I lived about 47 minutes away from the university I went to. So my nitride home, I would listen to cassette tapes and they were like, what? But yes, I would pick the set tapes in my car to listen to Zig Ziglar on tape, basically like, you know, just learning and trying to get as much as I could from, from all of his amazing lessons. But what’s interesting about your question to me is when I reflect, I do so much work in the mentorship space.


Daniel Horgan (06:32):
And I think that so many people work here in mentor. They think traditional like big brothers, big sisters one-on-one matches oftentimes for a long period of time. And when I look back on my own life, I don’t think I really had people that I would say, quote unquote, were my mentors. I never referred to them like formal advocates, coaches, devil’s advocates, like people that just challenged me in all sorts of ways and cheered me on when I succeeded, helped me troubleshoot when I was failing at something. And so I think that, you know, whether it was my student council advisor, who would never answer a question with a straight answer, he would always return a question with a question which taught me to be curious or people like the, the Zigler or Oprah or Les brown, who I just, I studied their craft in a way that they were inspiring people and the way that they were serving through their words and through their coaching and trainings. And I think those people had probably the biggest impact on me.


Sam Demma (07:35):
And that’s awesome. And what pushed you into the direction of starting your own work? I think lots of people listening educators are like, had a defining moment when they decided I’m going to get into this work that I’m doing with young people, because it lights a fire in my soul. It’s meaningful. It’s building tomorrow’s leaders. Why did you decide to not pursue corporate work? I know you did for a while, but then take the leap into entrepreneurship and try go full on with this youth empowerment stuff.


Daniel Horgan (08:05):
I think there’s two quick stories I’ll share with you. One is when I volunteered at the YMCA, you, I told you I did it because I was home for like the first two weeks, the one summer where my both of my brothers went to work. And I was like, this is not fun anymore. Like I’m all by myself. I convinced them. And like, I always wanted to follow in their footsteps. And for the first year that I volunteered at the camp, that’s what I did. It was the second year that I went back to the camp when I was 12, I was matched with a young kid named Patrick who had down syndrome. And the entire summer I was matched one-on-one with Patrick. And my goal was to make sure Patrick had like the best summer experience possible. And it was that summer, honestly, that like I learned that it wasn’t about following in someone else’s footsteps, but it was about basically carving out my own path and part of carving out your own path.


Daniel Horgan (08:51):
I think if you’re going to be successful is learning how to the needs, the wants the desires of others so that you can serve in the fullest way possible. And so with Patrick, you know, Patrick parents were super protective and rightfully so. They wanted to make sure that like, he didn’t get hurt, that he was only engaging the things that they thought he could or wanted to do. But then I would see Patrick, while we were sitting on the sidelines and the rest of the kids were playing a game of kickball and Patrick had this look in his eye and they’d be like, do you want to play? Right? And he’s like, yeah. And I’m like, well, let’s play. And he’s like, well, my parents don’t want me to play. They don’t want me to get hurt, like, but you want to play. So let’s just test it.


Daniel Horgan (09:30):
Let’s just see, like, can you bring this to life? Can you bring this interest, this passion for life? And we got them to play. And he had an amazing time. And even his parents over the course of the summer started to realize that you have to make this switch at some point where you’re not following someone else’s chosen path for you, that you are creating and, and, and sort of designing your own experience. And so fast forward in time, you know, I worked in lots of different contexts locally and nationally and incorporate a nonprofit. And I had a coach when I was at capital one who taught me essentially the skill of taking a step back and zooming out to see where in my career at that point was like 15 years in, was I most happy. And what she made me realize was I was most happy when I was creating an entrepreneurial. And so coming out and doing my own thing for me was the space where I could be the most creative, I’m a fast paced person. So like, I like to move quickly. If I see a problem, I want to fix it. I don’t want to like talk about it forever. And so like the ability to test and learn and iterate has been something that I would say continues to fuel. The entrepreneurial spirit within me.


Sam Demma (10:44):
That’s such an amazing, it’s such an amazing story and example to highlight that point. And I think a lot of educators can relate in the sense that, you know, in life they might’ve been going along. And then they had a defining moment where they decided, you know what? I want to teach these young people. When they first start teaching, they have this idea that, you know, I have to follow the curriculum a hundred percent and make sure I get all of these lessons done in this amount of time. And then as I, as they progressed, and as I’ve talked to more veteran educators, they tell me, you know, if I could go back, the piece of advice I would give myself was to go off. The beaten path was to serve the students, not really, and not relating to what’s on the agenda today, but for what they need today, if during our discussion, something came up, you know, I had to veer off track is that’s the best way to serve them.


Sam Demma (11:32):
And it’s like you said, you have to stop following the rubric or the agenda or the footsteps of others, and just carve your own path based on those desires and needs of others, which is a, such a sort of fascinating point. And all the educators listening could probably relate. If you could think back to when you were in school, did you have any teachers or educators in your life who deeply impacted you? For me, it was my grade toll road issues teacher who opened up my eyes to different possibilities and social impact. I know you’re not that old, so it’s not too long ago, but is there anyone that comes to mind?


Daniel Horgan (12:11):
Yeah, I mean, I would say I mentioned him earlier within my student council advisor, who also taught a leadership class at my high school. So it’s, it’s funny, like doing the work I do now. I am a naturally introverted to where I get my energy is like through my own sort of individual reflection and sort of learning process. And so I was like re and I also went to like a much, much smaller school and then transitioned to a campus style high school that had like 1500 people in my class. So it was like a very big learning curve for me and an adjustment. And I were not like my first year and a half, I was pretty much like just went to class, you know, did well in school and just like do what I needed to do. And like, just didn’t want to be noticed to be honest.


Daniel Horgan (12:55):
And my locker was right outside of Mr. Meyers is his name, Mr. Myers, his office. And like halfway through that school year, my sophomore year, he started talking to me about student council and like all these activities. And he’s like, Hey, you know, you should get involved in some of this stuff. And I was like me, like, why would I go? Like, I just didn’t see it. But like, I think he saw something in me and the way that like we interacted each day. And then we, I said hi to him and have small chat. And I think what I would share with you in terms of that question is Mr. Meyers convinced me this next semester to take his leadership class, which unlocked for me, like an entirely different understanding of leadership. We, I remember clearly the handouts on situational based leadership and how you apply different leadership strategies to different contexts.


Daniel Horgan (13:40):
And it made me realize that, like, I don’t have to be the, you know, the outspoken person in charge all the time. Like I can be in different contexts playing different roles. Then he also got me, encouraged me to take forensics, which was like speech and debate where I started like taking on different acting roles and competing on the weekends in these states. And what high would in hindsight, like, I didn’t know it at the time, but when he was doing with getting me to come out of my shell and he was trying to do it in a way that was like, take on a different character and like compete in the acting thing. Right. It’s not, you it’s like somebody else that your TA and I would take on these crazy characters because it was totally not me. And it felt like I could do that.


Daniel Horgan (14:20):
Right. But then I started translating it to leading workshops, but he had me do it like the local and then state level. And I went on to like lead a statewide camp for middle school kids. And it was all about his training, right. He was slowly patiently coaching me, seeing within me something I didn’t see in myself and challenging me with questions instead of telling me what to do, which is today is like my top advice for educators and mentors is lead with questions and curiosity and bring the answers out of people because oftentimes students and young people, especially they have the answer, they know what they want to do. They just haven’t given them themselves permission to do it.


Sam Demma (15:04):
That’s such a good reflection. And I’m thinking about situations in my life, even like on a personal note where you might want to tell someone your advice, but it’s probably a lot wiser and more impactful to ask a question and help that person come to a realization themselves. Even if it’s not the answer you were looking for. That’s a great piece of advice and I need to hear, and I hope anyone listening needs to hear it as well.


Daniel Horgan (15:25):
Yeah. It’s hard to do, but you can do it with practice.


Sam Demma (15:29):
Small patient challenges like your teacher. That’s amazing. Since then, you know, and you’ve developed, you’ve developed and delivered, I’m sure hundreds of sessions, you know, maybe even thousands by now, what have you learned one about facilitating to young people and impacting youth, but also virtually cause I know you’ve, you’ve been doing a lot of work virtually and one of the things that educators are struggling with is engaging young people virtually and you know, you know, every time you do a presentation, you probably learn something new, learn something different, the more online presentation you give, you learn something new. Have you had any realizations, has anything stuck that you’ve, you’ve figured out that you think might be worth sharing with an educator who teaches a virtual class?


Daniel Horgan (16:14):
Yeah. I mean, my number one tip that I’ve been sharing lately is when, when COVID hit and so much of the world, I mean, my business completely went from being in person. I was in like three different cities a week. So like all of a sudden doing everything a hundred percent virtually. So like I got stuck in the trap in the very first, I would say months where I was just like constantly researching and trying to find like every trick in the book around virtual learning, virtual engagement and like tested things out in different, in different formats. And what I realized was that it’s not about the tricks. It really is about an authentic connection with the audience, quote unquote, right? With the students, if the students feel your vulnerability and the way that you’re teaching, coaching, being curious, they will connect with you and stay engaged with you in whatever experience you’re creating.


Daniel Horgan (17:07):
And so I would say, you know, focus less on like the tricks and more on the authentic connection. And then second I would say, which is one of my favorite Maya Angelo quotes, you know, peop students, well, from an educator’s perspective, students will forget what you said. They’ll forget what you did, but they’ll never forget the way you made them feel. And so what I always try to reflect on when I create, or I’m speaking or doing training experiences, if it’s the experience that you’re creating, that is going to pull them in to, how do you want that student to feel in that virtual context? And how are you tapping into, by being curious how they’re feeling? Right. So like if you’re a student who now all of a sudden can’t see their friends as much and don’t have the social interaction in the school building and are trying to adjust to this whole new virtual world as well, like lean into the fact that we’re all in this together, lean into the authentic stories of what you’re navigating and what you’re going through and where you fail or where you try something that doesn’t work and share those funny stories and what you’ve learned from it, with your students and invite them to share with you in return.


Daniel Horgan (18:17):
And it creates a common bond. And I always say that common bond recreates the foundation upon which you can build that relationship. And that relationship is so pivotal for, I think, any educator to be, you know, an effective instructor and an effective mentor to these students.


Sam Demma (18:32):
That’s awesome. I love that. And you’ve been doing this for a while. I had the pleasure of working with you on the talent accelerator, which is a phenomenal program for young people who are working on their professional development and career development. Would you mind sharing a little bit about that specific program and how it works?


Daniel Horgan (18:50):
Yeah, totally. So the talent accelerator was launched. I say the silver lining of COVID, right? So a lot of the companies that I work with in a lot of the communities around the U S they were canceling their summer internships or job opportunities for young people. And the reality is just economically. A lot of young people rely on these experiences for the funds to support their next semester of school or the miscellaneous expenses tied to books or transportation, things like that. And also these experiences are what gives young people an opportunity to test different career pathways and decide what they want to pursue or don’t want to pursue. And so the town accelerator, we created a virtual experience where students are engaging in project based learning assignments related to different career pathways. Each project takes about 10 to 15 hours and students, they pick their course.


Daniel Horgan (19:38):
So they pick which projects they’re most interested in. They work through the project, learning about in the research section, all about the context, seeing examples, then they get to create something, their own original work, which is a way for students to build up their portfolio and sort of showcase the value that they can bring to potential employers. And then the opportunity to gather feedback. So every student is matched with a group of coaches who are employee volunteers from different companies, representing different industries, functions and levels. And so the idea again, is that students are, are creating something. They’re getting feedback, they’re getting coaching. The number one takeaway that you know, Sam and I, when we work on this over the summer as a pilot with 460, that’s quite a pilot, we learned to let Mike one of the key takeaways, then the student’s feedback was so many of them had not had practice or a lot of experience presenting.


Daniel Horgan (20:30):
And so the idea of presenting in front of their peers, presenting in front of professionals, getting real time, coaching and feedback. It enabled them to not just develop that skillset, but boost their confidence, knowing that their voice mattered and their creative ideas could unlock other opportunities. And so again, I think the most educators listening I’m sure will relate to the experiential learning. The project based learning design of the talent accelerator is I think what really pulls the students in because it’s not somebody just lecturing at them. It’s a real experience. Self-Directed learning. Like we’re not teaching them. It they’re sort of teaching themselves. And then reflecting back to us, their application of learning


Sam Demma (21:10):
So true. And you can see the improvement of these students after they finished and the smile on their face after they finished their presentation, the, the feeling of teaching and seeing a student or young person grow is such a fulfilling feeling. And the TA talent accelerator does a great job at just allowing kids to build themselves up in all areas of their life. And if someone’s listening and thinking, you know, Daniel’s a really cool guy. I would agree. What would be the best way for them to reach out? Maybe just ask a question or have a conversation with you.


Daniel Horgan (21:43):
Yeah. So they could definitely reach me by email. It’s just Daniel@colabl.com, or they can check out our website, colabl.com or on Twitter @HortonDaniel. So love to connect with anyone who’s interested in.


Sam Demma (21:57):
Awesome. Dan, thanks so much for coming on the show. It’s been a huge pleasure having you on and we’ll stay in touch and hopefully do some more work in the future.


Daniel Horgan (22:04):
Absolutely. Thanks Sam.


Sam Demma (22:06):
And there you have it. The full interview and conversation with my good friend, Daniel Horgan. If you enjoyed this episode, consider taking two seconds to leave a rating and review on the show. It’ll help more high performing educators, just like you find this content and benefit from hearing it. And if you do have something that you want to share, some insights or inspirational stories of transformation in education, please shoot me an email info@samdemma.com and we’ll get you on the show as a guest as well. Anyways, I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Daniel Horgan

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.

Lisa Galay – Experiential Learning Leader at the Halton District School Board

Lisa Galay Experiential Lead Learner
About Lisa Galay

Lisa is the Experiential Learning Leader at the Halton District School Board. She proactively seeks out opportunities for her students to gain real-world knowledge through hands-on experiences. This occurs through career fairs, pathway exploration events and programs that she works to implement in her school board.

Her intention is to help students see connections between what they are studying in their high school courses and jobs that use the skills and knowledge acquired in those courses in the ‘real world.’

Before growing into this role as the Experiential Lead Learning, Lisa worked as a science teacher, a guidance counsellor and taught co-op and careers. In this episode, Lisa shares dozens of ideas that you can use immediately. P.S. Her favourite ice-cream flavour is chocolate.

Connect with Lisa: 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 (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. This week we have on the show, another very special guest, someone who reached out to me during COVID to do a session for them during take your kids to work day. Now, unfortunately, the session got canceled due to COVID-19 and school board regulations, but Lisa and I still had a wonderful conversation and I thought it would be very valuable to bring her back on the show so she can share some of her amazing ideas with you. Lisa is the experiential lead learner at the Halton district school board, and she proactively seeks out opportunities for her students to gain real world knowledge through hands on experiences. In this episode, she shared dozens of ideas that you can use immediately after you leave this recording. PS, her favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate.


Sam Demma (00:54):
Just know in case you want to ship her a gift. That’s what she loves. Anyways, let’s jump into the episode. I’ll see you on the other side, Lisa, thank you so much for coming on the show here today. It’s a pleasure to have you. We talked a little bit earlier on the phone about different events. You were planning in the school board about chocolate ice cream home. Ken here, can you share with the audience who you are, why you got into the work you do with young people and what keeps you going at it every single day?


Lisa Galay (01:22):
Sure. Hi everyone. My name is Lisa Galay and I’m the leader of experiential learning for grades seven to 12 with the Halston district school board. And the work that I do today is definitely not where I thought I would have landed. You may have heard that before Sam but it it’s such important work. And my role right now is really to work with educators in our board to create engaging initiatives for students that give them hands-on experiences that allow them to reflect on those experiences and then to apply what they’ve learned from their reflection and, and from the experience itself. So that’s really that experiential learning cycle. And you know, in my role before I was, I was in this role, I was a science teacher for many years. I was a guidance counselor. I taught co-op and careers.


Lisa Galay (02:18):
And you know, all of those roles certainly allowed me to work with, with youth, which I knew I always loved. It was something that I did long before I was a teacher. And I think it always gave me this real sense of satisfaction that I was really making a difference. I always knew that I wanted a job where I could clearly see the difference, even if I might not see it for months or years or, you know, who knows how long. But I always found that working with youth was, was a way to, to know that I was making a difference and I felt like I had a lot to give in that area. I felt like I, you know, I inherently enjoyed it. I was good at teaching people, things I was excited about learning myself. And I felt like that could have a contagious effect with students.


Lisa Galay (03:04):
And I think, you know, over my years in the various roles that I’ve had, I saw the impact that caring could, could do, whether it was caring about the quality of the lessons and, and opportunities I was creating for students, whether it was caring for student as their guidance counselor, when they came to you with a serious mental health issue, or now whether it’s supporting a teacher to allow them to do an amazing experience or support their students in a, in a really engaging way. I can see the impact of the work that I do. And I think that’s what keeps me going, because I know that it’s making a difference. And and it’s something that I love doing. And it doesn’t feel like I’m working.


Sam Demma (03:47):
Speaking about creating, engaging experiences during a time. Like COVID, have you worked with any teachers this far to maybe implement some ideas that you thought knocked it out of the park or that the other teacher gave you some great feedback on that you think might be valuable for another educator to hear?


Lisa Galay (04:06):
Yeah, absolutely. So like many educators when COVID struck in March and the school shut down and we were all working from home, it was definitely something none of us were prepared for. And, you know, at that point in the year, in my role as leader of experiential learning, I had tons of initiatives planned for March, April, may, and June that were bringing hundreds of students together, bringing community partners into schools and, and all kinds of initiatives and they all got canceled. And you know, initially it felt pretty devastating thinking about all the work and time and, and the excitement that had been built up around those opportunities. And, you know, I had to scratch my head for a little bit and say, as someone who was directing and supporting these engaging experiential learning opportunities, what does that look like when students are not actually doing any of these things in person anymore?


Lisa Galay (04:58):
So it was a lot of re-imagining to be honest of what experiential learning could look like in a virtual environment. And even now, you know, my school board right now has some students that are totally virtual, some that are partially virtual and partially in class, it’s still a lot of re-imagining. And I think, you know, all of the things that, that I created and did during that time really came back to, you know, we, we can’t just say because it’s, COVID because we’re at home because this is difficult and requires some out of the box thinking, I guess we’re just not doing anything anymore. That’s, that’s interesting or hands-on. So we found ways for students to do things while they were at home in a safe way. So just as an example, one of the initiatives that I helped to support was purchasing these little model home kits for construction students that were using materials and tools that could safely be used without parental supervision in the home, so that when they couldn’t be with their construction teacher, they could still be building something and getting the support of their teacher virtually.


Lisa Galay (06:07):
That’s one example, when I thought about, you know, the massive event for, you know, thousands of grade sevens that, that wasn’t going to happen in, in may, as I had planned, you know, instead we looked at how we could bring the, the virtual or, sorry, I should say how we could have brought community partners to students in a virtual way. So I created a series of what is now almost 40 different community partner videos, where I interviewed partners kind of like what you’re doing now and ask them a number of questions about their educational journey, their career pathway, the impact of COVID on their career and, you know, picked those partners so that they represented a wide range of various career sectors, and also touched a wide range of, of subject areas. So students can see, oh, I’m in math right now. And those are careers that use math on a daily basis. And you know, those, those things, did they take time and, you know, was it something I’d ever done? Absolutely not. But it was, it was a resource that became highly valued as teachers thought, how am I going to help students make these real world connections? So those are just two examples, but I think it really just required an attitude of, you know, this is not an insurmountable obstacle. This is just a challenge. And I need to be creative and flexible and look for the opportunities that I may not have even considered before.


Sam Demma (07:29):
I love that it goes back to changing the story we tell ourselves, right? If we tell ourselves that something’s terrible and not possible, then that result is going to manifest in our life in a short period of time physically. And when we think outside of the box and overcome a challenge, we can impact the student’s life forever. They may never forget it. And I’m, I’m certain in your years of teaching, you’ve had students write you letters and reach out and tell you how much of an impact you’ve had on them. How do we continue to, like you said earlier care for our students during this time, even when they’re not in the classroom like w what do we have to do to show them that we appreciate them during these times?


Lisa Galay (08:15):
Yeah. That’s a great question. So a big part of my role coming into the start of this school year and even last year, when we so quickly switched to distance learning was all about community building, right? Which, which would have been important in normal times as well, but in a virtual environment or in a situation where teachers, aren’t seeing their students every day, because of these different adaptive models that that schools have taken on building relationships is still key. So even though there might be screens between us and we might not be seeing someone face to face, if we want to have a successful classroom where people feel open to communicate to work together, they want to log on. They want to be, you know, engaged in what’s happening in the classroom. And also even in, when we’re in person, we’ve got to invest the time and energy up front.


Lisa Galay (09:05):
And I know in the times that we’re in right now, a lot of teachers feel really pressed for time. They feel like with the new models that we’re working under, you know, gosh, it’s already going to be so tough to fit in all this curriculum, and I’m not even seeing them that often. I don’t have time to, you know, as one teacher said to me, hold hands and sing kumbaya at the start of every, every session with new students. But again, I think it’s that investment of time getting to know our students getting to tell them a little bit about who we are you know, expanding their mind about the possibilities of what the course can offer, giving them opportunities to get to know each other and, and build trust and feel safe in that classroom environment that we’re going to see the biggest return.


Lisa Galay (09:48):
And that’s where students again, feel appreciated. So again, Sam, when I think back to being a guidance counselor, and when students would come down and talk about challenges that they might’ve had with teachers, it was always about relationships. And it was still often, you know, that they felt like someone wasn’t seeing them or someone didn’t care or someone hadn’t put the time in. And it’s those teachers that just remember that, oh yeah, you play soccer. I’m going to ask how your game was this weekend, or that’s right. You said you were getting a new dog. Well, how’s the new family member. It’s all those little pieces, those little attempts to, to make an outreach and get to know your students that I think makes a difference. And it’s a huge difference now because we’re not even seeing each other face-to-face as much as we normally would.


Sam Demma (10:35):
It’s those small, consistent actions as Mike Loudfoot would say.


Sam Demma (10:43):
That’s awesome. Thinking back to your guidance counselor days, can you think of a story where maybe a student wasn’t feeling heard and maybe even had problems outside of the classroom at home or in the community? I’m sure you had students break down in your office. I broke down in my guidance counselor’s office a couple of times, and I was in high school. Can you think of a story though, where the narrative was flipped and that student got appreciated by a staff member, and there was a huge transformation in that student’s life, and you can change the student’s name for privacy reasons, but I want you to share the real authentic story. So another educator listening might think to themselves, wow. I do hold the power to shape a young person’s life. Yeah.


Lisa Galay (11:25):
Yeah. I’ve actually got a great story for this. And, and this happened a couple of years ago when I was still in my guidance counselor role, and that was a student I had worked with her for many years. She was in grade 11 at the time. You know, there had been challenges with her family situation for many years and she had, you know, she would come and see me and then I wouldn’t see her for awhile and she’d come back again. And at that point in the year, you know, I I’d seen her casually, but hadn’t really come in for a big discussion in my office. And that was okay. But another teacher, someone who taught her just notice that she seemed off one day and it had sort of been a bit of a pattern, but the teacher noticed that it was getting progressively more inconsistent with her normal demeanor.


Lisa Galay (12:12):
And so it was literally that teacher just taking a moment at the end of class to pull her aside and say something something’s going on. I feel like something’s up with you. What can I do to help? And it just melted the ice walls that were around her. She ended up coming down to see me and shared some major life altering events that she was ready to share that had really been behind a lot of the pain and difficulty that she’d been facing for years. And also revealed a really serious mental health situation that needed support. So all of the supports and next steps and things that came out of that you know, in the moment I just thought I need to do what I need to do to make sure that she’s safe and protected, but ultimately the student came back and said that those actions from that teacher, and then the follow-up support I was able to offer literally saved her life.


Lisa Galay (13:14):
Because she was starting to think about doing things that, that could have really altered her path. And so again, it’s sometimes just those little connections, those little things we notice, and rather than just letting that student leave and not saying anything, you know, sometimes we’re bogged down with our own challenges and we think, oh, am I really ready to take on another, another possible, you know situation that’s gonna, you know, maybe take up more of my time today and you’re thinking about everything else you have to fit in. And I would always encourage teachers that you just never know what’s really going on for someone. And so that little moment of outreach can make all the difference.


Sam Demma (13:53):
Asking a student, how can I help is a simple question, not do this or do that, but how can I help you? I think it’s a, I think it’s a game-changer and I appreciate you sharing that. Are you seeing, you’re almost like a bird’s eye view of the school board when it comes to who you work with and the scope of students that are under your wings, if you were an Eagle are you seeing any mistakes in education right now, or things that we could improve upon or things that we might want to consider doing differently for the second quad master of education?


Lisa Galay (14:29):
Right. You know what, that’s a great question. And I, I guess I, I never want to think of it like a mistake. I always think of it as us trying things and, you know, learning and when we know better, we’ll do better. So I think I honestly, I’ve been blown away by the things that the teachers have tried to do. And I think if anything, they’ve tried to come right out of the gate being as incredible as they’ve always been and sometimes compromising their own mental and physical health in order to feel like they’re doing everything they can for their students. And, you know, it’s such a tough balancing act. You know, whether you’re a parent or you’re being a good friend to someone, or you’re an educator, you want to give everything, you have to know that you’ve really done the best you can for those people you care about, but you also need to balance that with your own needs.


Lisa Galay (15:19):
And if you can’t, you know, if you can’t take care of yourself, then what good will you ultimately be to those that you’re trying to take care of? So I think if anything, the only, you know, the only challenge that I would say, I hope we all get better at moving forward in these unusual times is that we just give ourselves a little bit of grace and give ourselves a bit of a break that this is new and unfounded territory. We’re all navigating this for the first time. And this is going to be a year of making mistakes and thinking, oh, I should have done it like that. Or looking back and thinking, gosh, like, that seems so obvious now, why didn’t I do it this way? But it’s not so obvious right now because we’re, we’re in the thick of it. So I think we just need to give ourselves a break, do the very best work we can and make sure we’re taking care of ourselves in the process.


Sam Demma (16:11):
You mentioned, we’re all going through this together for the first time. And I think it’s so true. It’s a new experience for everybody. What I want you to think about for a second is the educator who is navigating this for the first time and as also an educator for the first time, maybe this is their first year teaching. And if you could go speak to that person with your years of wisdom, who’s listening, what would you share with them? Because right now they’re getting a picture of education painted totally different than what it used to be a few years ago, or a few months ago, this person might think what the heck that I sign up for a year. I’m so confused, but what would you want to share with that person?


Lisa Galay (16:56):
Yeah. Well, one thing I, I wish I could do and I can’t do is to reassure them that it’s going to go back to normal and that, you know, what they might’ve been used to as a student themselves or what they saw the role of a teacher being, or what schools look like that it, that it will return to that. But no one really knows the answer to that. I think we’re all hopeful that it will, but it’s so hard to say. So I think my biggest advice would be to just remember why you wanted to be in education in the first place and that no matter what circumstances you’re in, you can still accomplish those goals. So if you love your subject area and you’re so excited to impart that knowledge and understanding to other students, you can still do that. If you love connecting with youth, if you enjoy you know, helping them cultivate their gifts, supporting them through challenging times, connecting them to community partners, helping to expand their world, to see the possibilities that are there.


Lisa Galay (17:56):
You can do all of these things, even in these strange times, again, with a little bit of creativity and, and relying on those that have been here before, in the sense that you know, this, this well, again, new for all of us, you know, those who have a little bit more experienced in education will know that there have been different shifts and changes over time. It might’ve been different curriculum. It might’ve been different philosophies around education or, you know, assessment and evaluation. There’s so many different changes that happen. And this is a big change, no doubt. But again, I think if, if teachers stay centered in why they’re doing this there’s always a way to do it. And again, I don’t think it’s going to be quite like the way it is now forever. And so if we can just ride out the challenging times, we’re going to all come through it stronger and with some awesome ideas that we never would have had if this hadn’t happened, right. It’s one of the silver linings of this pandemic experience.


Sam Demma (18:55):
Yeah. Tony Robbins always says, it’s not about having resources. It’s about being resourceful with what you have, and you do a great example, exemplifying that with coming up with ideas, staying positive, looking at the good side of things and not the negative. And I think it’ll rub off on everyone listening. So I want to say, we said, thank you so much for coming on the show. If another educator is listening and wants to reach out to you, bounce some ideas around or Uber eats, or your favorite chocolate ice cream, how can they reach out to you to do so?


Lisa Galay (19:27):
They can absolutely reach out to me at my email address, galayl@hdsb.ca. That stands for the Halton district school board. I’d be happy to, to share ideas, share some ice cream, virtually whatever it might take. I I think anyone who’s been in education for, you know, 20 plus years, like I have, we remember the colleagues that made a difference when we were starting out and the ones that made a difference along the way, even when we hadn’t been starting out for awhile. And we always want to give back. So if I can help in any way, I’m, I’m definitely glad to do that.


Sam Demma (20:06):
Awesome. Thanks so much, Lisa.


Lisa Galay (20:08):
Thank you, Sam


Sam Demma (20:10):
And another interview in the books with yet again, a high performing educator, Lisa had so many ideas to share that blew my mind on our first phone call and on this podcast, if you enjoyed this and got something of value from it, please consider taking two seconds to leave a rating and review on the podcast. So more educators like you who want to hear these things can find this podcast and benefit from the conversations. And of course, if you are someone who has ideas or know somebody who has ideas, please reach out by emailing info@samdemma.com. So we can bring you or your friends and colleagues on the show to share those ideas and expand this network. I’ll talk to you soon. See you on the next episode.

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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.