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Founder and CEO

Sarah Hernholm – Educator turned Entrepreneur, Founder of WIT

Sarah Hernholm – Educator turned Entrepreneur, Founder of WIT
About Sarah Hernholm

Sarah is a former elementary school teacher turned entrepreneur.  In 2009, she left the classroom to create WIT – Whatever It Takes. At WIT she works with t(w)eens around the world who are interested in using their voice and ideas to launch businesses, non-profits, and/or social movements. WIT also focuses on helping t(w)eens develop emotional intelligence, soft skills, and an entrepreneurial mindset. 

She has given 3 TEDx talks, a few keynotes, and one commencement address. When I’ not “doing WIT” I’m planning my next adventure, working on a new business idea, or spending time with my amazing family and friends. 

Connect with Sarah: Email | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

www.doingwit.org

www.sarahhernholm.com

Camp WIT

Do WIT Podcast

From Victim to Victor | Sarah Hernholm | TEDxYouth@Austin

Authentic self expression: Sarah Hernholm at TEDxSDSU

Bravery: Commas, Not Periods | Sarah Hernholm | TEDxRBHigh

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 to the High Performing Student podcast. The number one resource for self development for young people. If you’re a student, athlete or youth entrepreneur, looking to crush your goals and reach your vision. This show is specifically for you. Each episode is engineered to provide you with the practical systems and strategies you can use to stay motivated, beat burnout, and ultimately make your dreams a full blown reality. And I’m your host, Sam Demma. Since the age of 17, I’ve spoken to thousands of youth across north America, and now I’m sharing the tools and strategies that will help you lay the foundation for future success. So grab a pen and a sheet of paper, and let’s go. Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Student podcast. Yes, you heard that right; The High Performing student. I know you’re listening to this on the High Performing Educator, or maybe you’re listening on the High Performing Student, regardless of where you’re listening.


Sam Demma (00:58):
I thought this episode applied to both audiences that I catered to. I have a second show. I have the High Performing Student podcast and the High Performing Educator. The High Performing Educator is geared towards people in education. The High Performing Student, geared towards students. Together, there is over 300 episodes. You know, if I combine both of the podcasts together over 50,000 downloads, I’m so grateful that you choose to take your time tune in and listen to this content. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. Whatever show you’re tuning in from, I’m super, super excited to share today’s interview with you. Sarah Hernholm is the founder of WIT(whatever it takes). Her story of getting out of a career and becoming an entrepreneur and doing amazing work and the obstacle she’s overcome and the people she’s met and the impact she’s making; all of it combined really inspired me.


Sam Demma (01:51):
And I was so impressed with her, her beliefs, her ideas, her philosophies, when it comes to life that I thought I should share this episode on both platforms. So I hope you enjoy it; have a pen and paper ready because you’re gonna take a lot of notes and I will see you on the other side, Sarah, welcome to the High Performing Student podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind the work you do today and why you even do it?


Sarah_Hernholm (02:25):
All right. Well, my name is Sarah, Hernholm. I am the founder of an organization called WIT(whatever it takes) and we help young people become leaders and entrepreneurs, specifically tweenagers and teenagers. We believe you’re never too young to start making a difference and that you’re never too young to be an entrepreneur. And so all of our programs and everything that we do is geared around that.


Sam Demma (02:48):
Why, where, why?


Sarah_Hernholm (02:51):
It’s why wit why doing entrepreneurship? I mean, I just feel that what kids are learning in school and I used to be a school teacher. So, and I do know that there’s great teachers. I was a great teacher and I know great teachers exist, but on average there’s not a lot of great, there’s not a of great teachers out there teaching real world skills and applications to young people. And I, I believe very strongly that if you really wanna be ready for the real world, then schools should be doing that for you and getting you ready for that. And if they’re not, then other organizations like mine need to exist until they get it together over there.


Sam Demma (03:37):
I like that. I totally agree. What, what do you think are some of the real world skills that are so important that we teach to our young people today or that you even teach at, you know, your own curriculums and schools?


Sarah_Hernholm (03:49):
Well, I think we need to be teaching financial literacy. I mean, you should be very clear on how to make a budget. You should know that how much things just cost and understand where that, that cost comes from. And then that’s very empowering when you know that information, cuz then you can know when you’re getting screwed over by something and then you got like, you’re getting a good deal. Like those kind of things. And then when you’re launching your own business, you wanna know what it’s gonna cost to actually run something. And all the things that go into that. So financial like real world application of literacy is really important. I like getting young people to grapple with, with ideas. And so that looks like, okay, you wanna solve this problem that adults have created, whether it’s climate change or homelessness or fast fashion, whatever the thing is that like you don’t like then start making changes and, and start creating an alternative and create a solution. And I love that. That’s what we do at wit is we really empower a young person to take the tools they’re learning at wit and then go do something. That’s why we say, do wit, just do wit yes, I know that is a little bit close to Nikes, just do it, but it’s just do WIT and that’s really our call to action to our young people.


Sam Demma (05:06):
And at what point in your own journey did you decide I wanna leave the formal classroom and start this organization and what prompted the decision to do so because even for a young person, making a decision to change paths is a huge one. Sometimes it comes with a bunch of difficult obstacles and the expectations of others like parents, family, and friends. And I’m curious to know what prompted your career change and what it looked like.


Sarah_Hernholm (05:36):
Well, there’s nothing like getting laid off everybody to make you start wondering what you’re doing with your life. And I was a teacher in California and in California, there’s something called last and first out. So the last teacher hired as the first one fired not based on merit, not based on the impact that you have on your, on your students, but solely based on your higher date. It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd. It’s I don’t know of any other business that would ever do that. So I was laid off four years in a row due to due to budget cuts. And so the fourth year I was like, what the hell is going on? I mean, it, it was like being in a dysfunctional relationship where, you know, you’re doing like everything you possibly can. I mean, I was a great teacher. My kids were scoring off the charts, but besides that, cause I don’t really care about testing, but I knew how to play the game.


Sarah_Hernholm (06:28):
I had really, we were doing really cool things. We were even getting pressed about what we were doing in the classroom and still I was laid off or I was told to stop doing those things. And you’re like, I’m doing everything I can. And I love this and I’m doing passion and heart and it’s still not enough. This is so dysfunctional. Like this is so dysfunctional. So the fourth year is when I kind of, I had a moment of ma I’m well, first of all, it’s really good to like know yourself. So I was like, I’m not changing. The I’m not changing. I know that I’m not gonna dumb down what, I’m, how I do my teaching. I’m not gonna change to make. I was once told to stop doing things that I was making other teachers look bad. And then now parents were complaining and they wanted me to change what I was doing.


Sarah_Hernholm (07:12):
And I was like, I’m not changing it. And so I knew I was not gonna change. And that’s actually a really good thing need to realize about yourself is like, just to know yourself and to know that where your boundaries are, what your limits are, what your and I was, I’m not changing. And so if I’m not gonna change, am I willing to go play their game? And I wasn’t willing to play the game anymore. And so then I thought, well, if you’re not gonna do that, you gotta figure what you’re gonna do. And so that’s, I started figuring out what I was gonna do.


Sam Demma (07:41):
There’s so much to unpack there. Like where does your confidence come from to not change? And the reason I ask is because I feel like society pushes young people, especially to change, to mold, to certain societal standards. You might have been a little older than a high school kid when you made this decision, obviously, but where does your confidence, where does your confidence come from to, to stand in your own power and decisions?


Sarah_Hernholm (08:06):
Well, I wanna be clear that I’m not always like that. Yeah. I mean, I’m gonna be doing something right now. I got a really big opportunity yesterday and my stomach is still uneasy about it because I’m like, oh my gosh, am I gonna be good enough? Am I worthy enough? He’s probably expecting like this and what if I can’t deliver? And so it’s normal to you. Don’t just feel confident all the time. I mean it’s, but I was very, very, very confident in my teaching abilities. I’m very confident in that. Like I just, that’s something that at, can I take you back on it and do better and will I learn new practices and do better? Sure. But no one can even like, come at me with me, not caring about kids or like wanting to help kids or doing everything I possible for a kid.


Sarah_Hernholm (08:55):
Like, it’s just, that’s this one area of my life where you just like you can’t, I, I wouldn’t even believe it. Like there’s other areas of my life where I feel insecure and I feel not enough. And I try to take the, the confidence that I have in this other area and how I’ve gotten that and try to bring that over there. But I just don’t want your listeners to think that I’ve all that that goes into every area of my life. I definitely have areas where I need to work more on or I get to work more on my confidence, but I, it was UN I was unshakable. I knew I was great as a teacher.


Sam Demma (09:27):
Mm. And then, you know, you mentioned as well, this idea that school’s a little bit dysfunctional in the fact that we think our self worth comes from our GPA. And you mentioned very briefly just now, you know, I don’t care about that. And I noticed on your Twitter, you even retweeted something from someone named Neil Sharma, who was basically saying like, oh,


Sarah_Hernholm (09:46):
He was in my,


Sam Demma (09:49):
OK. Oh, sorry, Nick. Yeah. and he was basically saying shout out to all the kids who felt worthless, that didn’t do great in school, but your greatness isn’t tied to your grades. And I wanted to unpack that because I wholeheartedly believe it as well. You know, you judge someone by their ability to do good in math when they’re they wanna be the next Picasso. Like, it just, it doesn’t make any sense. You’re judging them based off something they don’t like doing. And then you’re gonna tell them they’re a failure because of it. So I wanted to know your perspective on GPA and also how it relates to students identities and, and self-worth,


Sarah_Hernholm (10:22):
Well, first I’ll share that I was not an academically inclined kid. I, I was not somebody who, what like thrives in, in a hypercompetitive academic info. And I was sometimes put into those, I, I was very fortunate to have parents who were wanting to give me the best education possible. And so we went to some of the best schools and one of the schools, I went to three different high schools, and one of the high schools was a college prep school and very, very intense, very academic and very competitive academically. And I think it was twofold. One, I just didn’t, I just didn’t buy it. I guess I was a little bit like, all right. I mean, I don’t know if it was a self-preservation or defense mechanism, but it was a little bit like you kind of suck as a teacher if I don’t understand this concept, because why are you like making me feel about, I remember one teacher would make me go to the board and do the math problems in front of everybody.


Sarah_Hernholm (11:24):
And I obviously was struggling. And instead of getting support, it was like, I guess we’ll wait, or I guess we’ll have to wait before we can move on until Sarah and I. And then when I became a teacher, I was like, who the hell does that to a kid? Yeah. Like I, cause I thought, I think you think when you’re a kid that wants you, you become an adult. Certain behaviors will make sense. While I became an adult, I became a teacher and I could never have imagined doing that because shaming, your kid is only gonna make them like perform worse and also have zero trust. And if you’re like me, it becomes a little fight or flight. So I mean, I would send I one time like walked out of a classroom, I just like put the thing down and like walked out. I probably got in trouble, but it was more like, you’re not gonna get me.


Sarah_Hernholm (12:08):
Like, you’re not gonna let, you’re not gonna have this moment of me maybe crying in front of everybody or whatever. Like I, I, but that is silly that I had to learn how to survive. Right? Yeah. Like that, like that that’s ridiculous. So I, I didn’t wanna stay at that school. My sister was there and my brother was on his way there and they were more, they were, maybe it was a better fit for them. It just wasn’t a fit for me. I went to a public school for about, I went for happy year and then I ended up going to a boarding school where a lot of people that I knew that I, I would go to summer camp. And a lot of people from summer camp would go to this boarding school. And I ended up there and probably, I would say my best high, high school teacher, one of my best high school teachers was from there, my English teacher.


Sarah_Hernholm (12:50):
And she kind of went me into shape. I mean, I, I kinda came in a little bit like a punk. I mean, I, but definitely self-preservation a lot of like defense mechanisms up get given what I’ve gone through. And she pulled me out of the room one day and said to me, you’re better than this. And you’re better than that. And I was like, I am okay. And that was really powerful. So my high school journey was that three, three different high schools became better. Academically. My later in high school got motivated. I could get the grades if I was motivated by something, but it was very hard to motivate me. And, but if it was like a carrot, like, oh, you can’t audition for something or you have to have a certain GPA to participate in something that was creative or theatrical.


Sarah_Hernholm (13:42):
I was like, okay, all right, I guess I’ll start working now. But otherwise I wasn’t really motivated. Hmm. I understand why so many people are, are motivated by grades and adults owe young people a huge apology for creating this beast, which is that we have told you that if you get a high GPA, then you will get into the school of your dreams and you will be happy and that’s not true. There is no death or, or job or title that makes you happy. It can provide happiness at times, but it’s fleeting. It’s not consistent because life happens in all the places that you end up going to, whether it’s a getting a job or a school or a partnership or a boyfriend or girlfriend, they don’t make you happy. You can experience happiness. There, so they’re is a big lie that we’ve told people. And as a result of that, we’re burning out young people and we’re also getting them pretty dependent on some hard prescription drugs. Yeah. So I it’s really unfortunate, but you know if you really wanna look at things and wonder why things happen, you just have to follow the money. And a lot of money is made on young people believing the lie that their GPA determines their worth.


Sam Demma (15:07):
How do we break that cycle? Or how do we helps students realize that it’s, it’s not, it’s, that’s not where their self worth is attached from. Yeah.


Sarah_Hernholm (15:19):
I don’t, I’m surprised that it keeps perpetuating itself. I don’t have kids yet. And, but I would never pass that on. So I’m kind of confused by all of these adults who have, even who even have, who even got the GPA, got into the school, realized that didn’t bring them happiness, realized that they had to do their own work and like maybe even change career paths, why they would pass that on to the live onto their children. I think maybe they just want, I, I think I know every parent loves their kid. My experience has been as a teacher and working with young people for over a decade is that parents are doing the best they can, what they’ve got.


Sam Demma (16:00):
Yeah.


Sarah_Hernholm (16:01):
And I’ve never met no one. That’s not true. Most parents I’ve met wanna do better by their kids and give them more than they had. And they might just go about it in walk ways. But I think parents have to just stop drinking the Kool-Aid and being like, no, I’m not, I’m not doing that. I I’m not. And, and maybe this next generation, when they have kids, maybe they will stop the, the cycle. Who knows. I don’t, I just do. I just stay in my lane, do what I can with the work that we do, cuz otherwise it becomes overwhelming.


Sam Demma (16:40):
Yeah. I’m hoping that the next generation crushes that meaning like when I become a parent, when you become a parent, because I know firsthand that it’s almost like education was everything that my parents and grandparents knew because you know, they come to this country with nothing and get an education. What gets you, which gets you a stable paying job. And that gets you a, you know, a very average life. And so in their eyes, education is protection and safety and they wanna like, you know guard you as your, as their, as their child or grandchild. Right. But I think we’re starting to realize that there’s so many other paths to a stable life that don’t just involve your grades and whether or not you get a 92 or a 72, you can still create a stable life and a great life after high school or post-secondary.


Sam Demma (17:27):
I think I’m curious to know, you know, I remember when I decided to take a break for my university studies, I dropped outta school after two months, you know, my parents looked me in the eyes and like, what are you gonna do with your life? I told them my dreams. And I said something along the lines of, and I didn’t say these exact words, but in my passion and in my description, I basically was saying, I’m gonna do whatever it takes. And I’m curious to know in your perspective, what is doing whatever it takes mean to you. And can you give us like a story or an example of a situation in your life where you’ve been told? No, because from your Ted talk, I know as an entrepreneur, you’ve been rejected hundreds of times. Yeah. So gimme some stories. What does it mean to be, what does it mean to do whatever it takes to you and gimme some stories or examples of how you’ve done it in your own life?


Sarah_Hernholm (18:14):
Okay. I’ll tell everybody that. So the name of the company that I started is called wit whatever it takes when I started it was called wit kids because I was gearing it towards elementary age. Got it. And the name came because when I was in teacher, my classroom motto was whatever it takes. The reason it be the classroom motto became, whatever it takes is because one day, and this is my first teaching job. I was teaching fourth grade in a trailer because the CLA the school was under construction. We didn’t, I didn’t have a classroom. And I was in a trailer and I was in heaven. I was so excited to start teaching and get my classroom. I mean, I was, I, I was loving teaching. I don’t know how in, how long into the first year this conversation happened, but it was probably pretty early on.


Sarah_Hernholm (19:04):
And a kid came in and they hadn’t done their homework. And I said, and I, when I always did my homework, I may not have liked school, but I always did well. I mean, I I’m gonna always, but I mean, homework was it wasn’t optional, especially elementary school. Are you kidding? I mean, my parents were still guiding me then. And so it was quiet time after school. Did you get your homework, play your sports? And I was really surprised. I remember being really at how casually. He said he didn’t do his homework. And I remember being like, why are you not concerned? Cause I’m concerned and you’re not.


Sarah_Hernholm (19:40):
And I was like okay, well you need to do your homework. Like, it’s part of your grade HES. Like, oh, okay, well I didn’t do it. And I said, well, why didn’t you do it? And without even like blinking, flinching, anything, he said, I was watching the Simpsons. And then I was even more like, are you kidding? Like you don’t even, like now you are even like, I mean, props tea for being so honest, but also like do not see a problem with this, that you were watching like a cartoon. And I said, you know, really the tip to everybody when you really wanna go like one way in a reaction, maybe it’s like more of an extreme reaction or anger or frustration lean into curiosity because that will keep you more present. So keep asking questions versus having like overreaction. And so I said did your parents like know that you’re watching?


Sarah_Hernholm (20:31):
And he said, oh yeah, we all watched it together. And so then I thought, interesting. So you have, in that moment, it was like, oh, well, the reason he didn’t think he’s doing anything wrong is because he’s doing it with his parents. Mm. And then I asked, did your parents know you had homework? Yes. Did you tell them it was done? No. And I’m thinking like just processing in real time. And I thought, oh, and I knew what demographic of kids I was teaching. I was clear on the school and the demographic and the situations of a lot of the kids. And I thought, oh, they’re gonna, this is gonna be different. Like, they’re not gonna, they don’t all have the same kind of support that I had growing up, which was sit down, do your homework, show me, it’s done. Put your folder in the backpack.


Sarah_Hernholm (21:16):
Right. Which is pretty, that’s a lot of like parenting, like a lot of like monitoring you. Yeah. And so that night I stayed late at, in the classroom and I wrote on butcher paid, I painted on butcher paper, whatever it takes, put it on the, the wall of the right above the chalkboard whiteboard in the front of the classroom, in front of the trailer. And then when they came in the next day, I said, this is our classroom motto. And we do whatever it takes. If it means you have to take your body and like put it in the other room, your homework, that’s what you do. And we do that because we love ourselves and we want, we, we have big dreams. And so I really tried to make it feel like, of course you wanna do whatever it takes because we do whatever it takes because we love ourselves so much.


Sarah_Hernholm (22:01):
And we have a, we, we believe in ourselves and we, we have goals and dreams. I didn’t wanna shame anybody. I didn’t wanna make it sound like we have to do whatever it takes, because you know, sometimes you get crappy family situations. It’s like, no, like nobody wants to, like, that’s not empowering. And that I still have that butcher paper and that, that sign and that when I went to different schools, like that was the motto. And so then when I left teaching and started my new thing, I thought I wanted to combine that. So that became wit kids then to wit then to do wit doing wit and I, I, it’s not whatever it takes to burn yourself out. It’s not about doing whatever it takes. And like I’ve hustled so hard. And so I, I only sleep one hour a day, no, whatever it takes about creating the life that you really desire and you need sleep for that life. And so do whatever it takes to get eight hours of sleep, do whatever it takes to move your body every day. It’s not a beat down, cut a corner, whatever it takes, it’s an empowering, whatever it takes.


Sam Demma (23:09):
I love that, that such a empowering story. And sometimes doing whatever it takes is sending a tweet to Gary Vee and then responding four years later and hopping on a podcast with him. Right. So that


Sarah_Hernholm (23:23):
So that was so random.


Sam Demma (23:25):
Well, you know, I think, and Gary Vee highlighted it in that conversation with you, he said, you know, it’s so important. You go into interactions, figuring out how you can give as opposed to ask. And I think that that’s such an important thing to keep in mind when we are chasing our own dreams and goals. And I’m curious to know your perspective on that and has it played a big role in your own entrepreneurial journey?


Sarah_Hernholm (23:47):
Huge. And I think it really played into why I got this big offer that I got yesterday. Opportunity yesterday is.


Sam Demma (23:54):
One second. You’ve mentioned it twice now, is it like private? Or can we like so light on yeah, it’s, I’ll tell you.


Sarah_Hernholm (23:59):
Offline, but it just happened. And so, but it’s just really timely because it’s around feeling a little bit inadequate and scared and, and that’s all really good stuff. It means you care. Yeah. And it’s on my mind and I’m gonna be working on this presentation after we have this call and this hangout. And I also feel like a, that the opportunity came due to me. It, I, of being focused more on like gratitude and, and giving. And what I mean by that is I’m really, really big on gratitude and what that looks like. It looks like I’ll just walk you through a situation. If someone’s gonna come be a guest at wit and speak to our teens. So we have something called wit Hangouts and we have them every week. And we bring in different CEOs, celebrities, entrepreneurs, we leaders, and they come in, they spend an hour with our teens for free and they share their stories.


Sarah_Hernholm (24:50):
And it’s an interview similar, like what we’re doing right now, but the kids can jump in and ask questions. And we do this because one, I believe that you should surround yourself with those who have gone before you and learn from them. And I also do this because that I expression your network is your net worth. I mean, and I think how cool is it to be 15 or 16 years old and already be connecting with John shoe? Who is this great director? And one day you wanna be a director. And now you’ve had a hangout with John talking about crazy rich Asians and in the Heights. And so I just really believe in that. And so we, I make the ask for someone to come and I share what, you know, I share the opportunity. And a lot of these, these people are like people that have met along the way in my life, but I thank them before they come.


Sarah_Hernholm (25:38):
I send a message saying, thank you in advance for making the time tomorrow to come to this hangout. We’re so, you know, just expressing the gratitude. And then during the hangout, a very essential part of the hangout is the last part of the hangout, where the teens write in the chat on zoom, their takeaways in their gratitude, because I’m wanting them to learn the value of takeaways and gratitude. And not only that, when I, I will call on a teen and say, oh, Emma, do you wanna read your, she didn’t take away. Emma reads it. And then she sees Dave’s face re like receiving that gratitude and being like, oh my gosh, like that really made him. And then the person says the speaker’s like, oh my gosh, like, I’m so glad that, that you, like, it resonated with you and I could help. And there’s this exchange of like, oh my gosh, just being, you can visually see the power of gratitudes. Then after the hangout, we’ve screenshot all the gratitude that the kids wrote. And then we send an email to our speaker and say, thank you. We thank them again. And then we say, and here are the GRA the gratitude and takeaways from our students that you can have time actually reading them and digesting them. And like, knowing that you really made an impact today.


Sam Demma (26:45):
Hmm.


Sarah_Hernholm (26:46):
Let me tell you, no one has done that for me. And I speak all over the place.


Sam Demma (26:51):
Yeah.


Sarah_Hernholm (26:51):
Now, are they wrong for not doing it? No. But when you do something like that, you stand out. And so this, this, we had a guest yes. Yesterday, and this person came and spoke and, and it was great. And I was like, oh my gosh, I really want this person to help me on my journey. They’ve gone. They they’ve gone before me. They are so like far along and I would love to work with them. And so I had a lot of asks I wanted to make, but I thought, no, the move right now is just, is gratitude. And, and, and sending the thank you email with all of the screenshots. And then they wrote me back and said, we wanna do something together with you. I


Sam Demma (27:38):
See.


Sarah_Hernholm (27:38):
And like, whoa. And I just, and receiving of that. And like, I’m really grateful. But I’m also, the other thing that I did was I got off that hangout and I wrote a thank you note to that. Person’s assistant an email because that person booked it and made it happen. And I also wrote a thank you email to the person who had introed me to the assistant, because both of those people were essential for me to get this star on. And I also think that people forget who helps them get there. And I will, I will. I know what it’s like to be the assistant. I used to work in Hollywood. I was an assistant to celebrities. I mean, you like, people don’t always treat you well, but you’re also the gatekeeper to these people. So it’s always so interesting. It’s like, so you just don’t wanna forget who got you, where you’re going or act like you got there all by yourself. And so, so gratitude appreciation. Those things are just really key for me. Give more than get it’s a tough thing though. It’s a tough thing to teach, especially to a demographic of young people who are fighting for limited spaces at colleges. And so they kind of feel like they don’t wanna share the spotlight. Yep. But I always remind them that there’s enough to go around.


Sam Demma (29:05):
So true.


Sarah_Hernholm (29:06):
There’s just enough to go around.


Sam Demma (29:08):
And I think, you know, you highlighted also within that response, the underrated value of just being a kind human being, like you’re not being a kind human being calculating like, oh, I can get this. If I say, thank you. Or please, it’s like, no, it’s just the right thing to do. It’s the kind thing to do. But natural by being a kind person like the world opens up for you, you know, in ways that you didn’t imagine, you didn’t do it to get things right. You do it to get things. But you did it cuz it was the kind thing to do. Like I, I, you know, I, there was a golf course near my house that me and my buddies just started playing at and I made an effort just because I thought it would make it funer to talk to the person behind the window who I was paying.


Sam Demma (29:52):
And I found out his name was ed and he he’d worked there and it’s his course for 25 years. And he was so happy to tell me all about his course. We finished the nine holes. I over, I thanked him, told him how much fun we had and he looks at me and he’s like, Sam, is this your first time playing here? I’m like, yeah, like this was an amazing experience. He’s like, go play it again for free. I told my buddies, they were like, bro, let’s go nine more holes. They’re super excited. Now I didn’t, you know, talk to ed and get to know ed, you know, so that I could ask him to play nine more holes, a golf, but it just, it just, it just happened. And I feel like that’s, you’re right. It’s such a hard thing to teach. And something, sometimes nothing ever comes from it, but it’s, it’s just a, I think it’s just the right way to go about living our lives. I agree. Yeah. So kindness is underrated. Don’t forget the at. Yeah.


Sarah_Hernholm (30:44):
And Gary, V’s really big on that. So a lot of that is you, if you follow, I mean, find people that you wanna follow that you wanna have on your, when you’re scrolling, but Gary is very big on gratitude and kindness and patience and all of that. So it’s good to have that always as a reminder.


Sam Demma (31:01):
Yeah, I agree. And if PE wanted, like to know more about your group I know Emma’s a founder of the sweet spot. I think that’s who you’re referencing have been some research. Yeah. If people wanted to find out more about your group, learn how they could get involved. Is that something that’s still open and, and accessible? Like tell me more about it.


Sarah_Hernholm (31:19):
So people can get involved in a variety of ways. If you’re, if you are, are a high school student, you can take college credit classes that you can then transfer to the university that you end up getting into. Cool. You can also do classes, not for credit. You can be part of WIT community, which is the members only online community of young entrepreneurs who get to go to those Hangouts and meet those people. Those, the applications are ongoing. We have fun things that we do like camp wit happens during the summer. And that’s competitive cuz I like a good competition. It’s healthy, nice and compete for some money for your business. I’ve never met an entrepreneur who doesn’t want money. So it’s really hard for young people to get access to money for their businesses. And so we try to find creative ways to get them in the arena so they can pitch and win some prize money. And if you’re an adult and you happen to be listening to this, or then we have speaking opportunities, mentorship opportunities, and we even are now letting people pitch us, adults pitch us the class. And course that they wanna teach are wit teens. And then if we like that class and course we will hire them to come in and teach that class.


Sam Demma (32:33):
Awesome. Very cool. And if someone wants to connect with you online or reach out to you directly, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Sarah_Hernholm (32:41):
Well, most of my handles I think are @miss_WIT. That’s, I mean, you can DM me. I mean, I’m on Instagram. I don’t have a ton of followers, so it’s not like, I’m like, oh, I won’t see your message, I’m getting hit up all the time. So yeah, you can find me there and then that’s probably the best way.


Sam Demma (33:03):
Cool. Awesome. Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to chat about WIT and your own journey, time’s flew by. I really appreciate you doing this and maybe we could do a part 2 in like, you know, six months or a year from now. Totally. Yeah. I hope you, the listener enjoyed this, and got something from it as much as I did and let’s stay in touch and keep doing great work.


Sarah_Hernholm (33:25):
Thank you for having me.


Sam Demma (33:26):
You’re welcome. And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an 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; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna 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 fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sarah Hernholm

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.

Suz Jeffreys – Stress Management Consultant, Tai Chi Instructor & Certified Nutrition Therapist

Suz Jeffreys – Stress Management Consultant, Tai Chi Instructor & Certified Nutrition Therapist
About Suz Jeffreys

CEO Wellness Founder Suzanne Jeffreys, MS in Education, helps high achievers stress less, power up and create more balance in their lives. Want to look and feel great, work/volunteer smarter, and have plenty of time for family and fun, but not sure how? As an international Speaker, Fitness Professional, Tai Chi Instructor and Certified Nutrition Therapist, Suz teaches the self-care and stress management strategies you need with her signature Harmony of Body & Mind Method. 

Developed over 25 years, this unique system blends moving meditation, ancient Tai Chi principles, and her love of all things fitness, food and nutritional science. Suz offers keynote speaking, health coaching, corporate consulting, live classes and online courses. 

Suz and her husband Bob live in beautiful Estero, Florida. She has 3 kids, 4 stepkids, and 7 grandkids. Quirky facts: Suz loves Thai food, good wine, stand-up paddle boarding, horses, rescue dogs and beautiful beaches! Are you ready to stop trading your health for your lifestyle and impact? Find out more at Suzjeffreys.com or www.TaiChiwithSuz.com.

Connect with Suz: Email | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Bank Street College of Education

The Health Sciences Academy

Suz Jeffery’s Personal Website

CEO Wellness Blog

Tai With Suz

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. I’m super excited to share with you today’s interview with Suz Jeffreys. She has an Ms in education and she helps high achievers stress less, power up, and create more balance in their lives; in your life. The reason I was interested in bringing Suza on is because I thought her ideas, her philosophies, her practices, her teaching could help you stress less power up and create more balance in your life.


Sam Demma (01:07):
Want to look and feel great, work and volunteer smarter and have plenty of time for family and fun, but not sure how? Well, as an international speaker fitness, professional and Tai Chi instructor and certified nutritional therapist, Suz teaches the self care and stress management strategies you need with her signature harmony of body and mind method. She has been doing this for over 25 years. She has three kids, four step kids, and seven grandkids. And here are a few quirky facts about our guest here today. She loves Thai food, good wine, stand up paddle boarding, horses, rescue dogs, and beautiful beaches. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed recording it. There’s a moment where she literally takes us through a breathing exercise. So get ready, be in a quiet place while you listen today so you can get the full benefit of this interview. I’ll see you on the other side, enjoy. Suz, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show all the way from Florida on this beautifully bright morning, both in Pickering and where you’re from. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about how, a little bit behind the reason why you’re so passionate about the work you do in education?


Suz Jeffreys (02:23):
Yeah. Thanks so much, Sam, for having me on, I love your vision. I love your energy and your mission, and it’s just very cool and quite an honor to be interviewed and spend the time together. So for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Suz Jeffreys. I’ve been an educator my whole life. I’ve worked with everything from three year olds who had learning disabilities all the way up through 98 year olds and fitness. And the best thing for me about being an educator is helping people to become more empowered by helping them learn and ask good questions. So whether I’m teaching Tai Chi, which I’ve taught for 27 years, or I’m teaching water aerobics, or I’m teaching stress management techniques now; working with younger, old, it’s just a privilege to help people be empowered to change their own lives with good education.


Sam Demma (03:06):
I love that. And I’m curious to know what led you down this path. You know, it’s funny people all often tell me that was such a great speech. And in my head, I’m thinking to myself, sometimes I give the advice I most need to hear. And I’m curious to know if you had a stressful experience in your life that let you down this path, or if not, what did, was it an educator or a calling? Like, how did you decide this is what you wanted to do?


Suz Jeffreys (03:29):
Such an insightful question, Sam. You’re so young to me that insightful. I love that. Yeah, actually. Yeah. So my original I’ve had several different chapters in work as an educator. I began to be a first grade teacher. I studied in college my last year to be a first grade educator because I studied political science. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. And I was putting myself through school and I was working full time, just like supporting myself. And I became interested in power and why some people take advantage of others and small groups. You know, I worked as a waitress called waitresses back then in New York city. And some people were nice and some people were not so nice. So that question expanded to why are groups of people kind to each other and not, and why are some groups of people more easily taken advantage of?


Suz Jeffreys (04:14):
And I was looking at first third countries, I was looking at indigenous populations first in the ruling class. And what I really found out Sam, it was kind of a mindblower was that people who couldn’t read or couldn’t ask good questions were the most vulnerable people. Mm. Because if they couldn’t read what was written or understand what was being said, or ask good questions, you know, really questions that would really reveal the answers that were meaningful, then there was so much more vulnerable to being manipulated. So I was like, Hey, all good. I know what I’ll do. I’ll become a first grade teacher and teach young children to love, to read and love, to learn and to love to ask good questions. So that’s really where I started, but then the story continues on from there. Cause I’ve worked with a lot of different people and several different actually as well.


Sam Demma (05:04):
Okay. So when you say that you make me even more curious, what do you mean several different species and, and how did that lead you into Tai Chi and the work you do with, you know, moving the body?


Suz Jeffreys (05:13):
Yeah. Great, great question. So a picture, this, I was a first grade teacher. I had two children was married and then when my two kids were really, really little, we were divorced and that was a very healthy decision for all all included. And the issue was I had like no money. I didn’t have a teaching job yet. I had finished my master’s degree, had a lot of school debt was struggling to find a first grade job in New York did find one. It was great. Cause I went to a great college to get my master’s degree. I had a great student teaching experience, but you know, back then in that year, which was oh, 30 years ago, like the job market was tight. Yeah. So I finally got a job. I was super excited yet. It was very challenging because I didn’t have very much money.


Suz Jeffreys (06:00):
I was paying for child support or childcare. Pardon me for two kids like babysitting for two kids, my child support wasn’t coming in. And I was like stressed the max, I’m kind of a, I can do anything kind of person. Like, let me add it. I’ll take it on. And yet I was super stressed out and overwhelmed and, and I, there was this one class. I could take my kids to where I bartered with the, the martial arts school in town. And I had no money for lessons, but my, my youngest really, really, really wanted to be in, in martial arts since he was like two. So I made him wait until he was four, but my youngest and my eldest seven and four took them to the community, martial arts school, all about building camaraderie and teamwork and supporting each other. It was a great school and cheering with all the parents on the side.


Suz Jeffreys (06:45):
But one day I was trying to hide tears while everybody else was cheering because I just hit rock bottom. That day. I’ve been struggling at that point for two years to support my children and to work hard. And I loved teaching, but I was working way too many hours with my teaching job. Plus also my part-time tutoring gig. I had started on the side to bring in more income. And honestly my kids were in daycare a lot more than I liked. And that day everything kind of came crashing down because the one treat I could afford for my kids and I saved up all week was to take them after clung Fu class on Fridays to get a slice of pizza. Mm. Back then remember like 30 years ago, 25 years ago pizza was a dollar, a slice and I would save up $2.


Suz Jeffreys (07:30):
They, they could each have one slice. I didn’t have any, we had ice water. That was it. But that was the big deal that day though. I didn’t have the $2 Sam. I did not have $2. And I felt like such a failure. And my biggest disappointment was that I was gonna disappoint my kids and I didn’t wanna do that. So I was trying to hold back, tears, sitting on this hard feature. Everybody’s like cheering. I’m just really trying not to cry. I’m literally praying for a sign. Cause I’m like, God, I can’t do this anymore. I’m working like a hundred hours a week. My kids are in daycare too much. Nothing is changing. I’m trying everything. I need a sign. What should I do differently right at that moment? And this is nuts right at that moment. I hear this soft music walking down the hall from the classroom, just down the hall.


Suz Jeffreys (08:17):
So I’m curious, I get up and I follow it. And I peek in the door and there’s all these people moving together in this beautiful, slow motion flow to this beautiful music was just mesmerizing. And I was peeking in the teacher, saw me, which I was like, ah, didn’t wanna interrupt them. And she’s like, come in. So I go in and pretty soon I start flowing with them and class went on for maybe five more minutes and I felt different. I began to breathe again. I felt my shoulders just sink and drop evident. They’ve been way up here. I was so stressed out. Mm. And I was just fascinated that I, I found out it was called TA Chi and it was all an ancient martial art to help to for self defense, but also distress less and balance better. And I was, oh, I was like, oh my gosh. That was amazing. And that moment my kids came running in. God’s honest to, they come running and mommy, mommy, guess what? Our best friends wanna take us all out for pizza? Can we go with them tonight?


Sam Demma (09:24):
Wow.


Suz Jeffreys (09:26):
Got it. That was my sign. Yeah. So I arranged with the school to bar with my Tachi lessons. And, and then honestly, in a couple weeks, everything began to shift in my life. I’ve things started to flow more easily. I was struggling less. I was feeling more centered. And honestly, even my kids told me, like, it was more fun again. They’re like, mommy, you’re smiling again. And that almost broke my heart because I didn’t even know. I hadn’t been smiling. I had no clue. Then within a couple of weeks, my tutoring business took off money was coming in. It’s like everything changed. And I took that as a sign Sam and I decided I was supposed to share this ancient TA Chi series of principles that helped create more balance in life with everyone. So I committed to a five year program to become a certified Tai Chi instructor. And I’ve been teaching in Taichi ever since,


Sam Demma (10:19):
Even to different species.


Suz Jeffreys (10:21):
Yes. Well, that’s where that comes in. So few years later I have, I get remarried. I have another child and I had the opportunity to leave my first grade job, which I love, but I was ready to have more time with my kids, still tutoring and had low spare. I loved horses as a child. And then I saw this flyer at my vet’s office for a horse rescue. They needed some extra money and they needed some extra hands. I’m like, ah, I love horses. Maybe I can help. I have a little extra money now. So I got involved with this organization and pretty soon I adopted one of the horses. Nice. And she was very traumatized. She’d been very abused. And I was looking for someone who could help train her to help her be calm and safe. Also, excuse me, to be rideable one day. So I found this horse whisper. If you ever heard that term, it’s like horse whisper named Bob Jeffries. And I couldn’t believe it. I went to watch him work with this one horse who again, not my horse. I was checking out first.


Sam Demma (11:20):
Yeah.


Suz Jeffreys (11:21):
And without touching this horse in about 10 minutes, he had this frantic terrified horse calm and centered, and he never touched the horse. Mm. It was all Tai Chi. Now, Bob didn’t know that at the time it was all flowing with energy and shifting energy and being very ground and centered and breathing now as a horse whisper, he had no idea. He was actually implementing ancient TA Chi principles, but the horse responded. I saw it and I’m like, okay, I’m supposed to do that work. So for 15 years I became a horse whisper. I became the centered riding instructor. And I went from teaching children in the classroom to teaching horses and people to bring out the best in each other.


Sam Demma (12:02):
I love that. That’s such a phenomenal story. And like what a, what a way to see the sign, you know at a moment, your life where you needed it the most. And it makes me think about the hun, the hundreds of people who might be stressed out in their life right now. Like if there’s an educator listening, who’s in the exact same shoes you were in, you know, maybe super stressed out, working so many hours per week to make sure their kids feel safe and, and healthy during this crazy time in the world. Like, what do you think their first steps should be? Like, what would you advise them to do? What would you advise your younger self to do maybe, you know, a week before you saw the signs?


Suz Jeffreys (12:41):
Yeah. So first of all, I wanna say, thank you to everyone. Who’s an educator. It’s the work that we do to serve can often be underestimated by others. Yeah. And often go unappreciated. And in those moments, it’s so important to remember why we do this work. Whether you teach first grade, like I did, or you teach high school or you teach something else completely like fitness or movement, whatever it is that you teach. Thank you for doing that because that’s how we make the world a better place, right. To share our gifts. And in response to your earlier comment. Yeah. Sam, usually we end up teaching what we need to learn the most. No doubt. I went from stressed out to much to understanding how to manage my stress and protect my energy. And for those of you who are teachers out there, or students or parents whoever’s listening, I I’d love to give you just some simple tips that you can use right now, anywhere.


Suz Jeffreys (13:35):
Anytime, if we want to let go of stress, tension, anger, fear, whatever’s just exhausting us and depleting our energy. We can always go to our breath and think about it this way. Our breath is literally biomechanically speaking. The easiest way for our body to release tension. Tension is an important to be aware of tension, anxiety, stress, fear, because they burn up our life, energy, our Chi, which is what she means in TA Chi, life energy. And then the philosophy of Tai Chi. The only cause of death Sam is that you’ve used up all your Chi, like you run out of gas. So we need to protect our Chi and to make sure that we don’t let it get wasted by things that are not important, or we can’t change. So stress, fear, regret. We gotta let ’em go. And the easiest way to do that is with the focus on her breath. So if y’all wanna do this with me, it’ll just take a minute and you really can do this anywhere. If you’re sitting sit up tall and relax your shoulders back, take your left thumb, place it gently in your belly button and layer Palm on your abdomen. And then your right hand on top. We’re gonna take a few moments to focus on our breathing in, through the nose, to fill our hands and out through the mouth, to empty


Suz Jeffreys (14:55):
Into the nose, to fill and out through the mouth to empty. If you like, you can close your eyes. That’s how we do it traditionally. But if you prefer, you can keep your eyes open, softly, gazing out. It’s something easy on the eyes, breathing into the, and out to the mouth. Listening to the sound of your deep breath Sounds a lot like the ebb and flow of waves on your favorite beach. And as we breathe deeply in this manner, you’ll fill your hands, filling up and emptying out. Our hands are on top of our center. It’s two to three inches inside our body. And we inhale to fill our center in exhale empty. We’re breathing deeply down to our center of gravity center of balance And center of power. We’re breathing deeply to relax the body, quiet the mind, and smooth out the energy. So whenever we feel stressed out anywhere, anytime I’ll invite you all, I’ll invite us all to just take 10 deep breaths, enter the nose so we can hear the sound of our beautiful breath And out through the mouth to empty. We inhale to fill up with positive energy and we Exel a let go of anything. That’s not serving us. Inhaling joy in


Suz Jeffreys (16:43):
Exhaling, anger, out, breathing balance, and Breathing, chaos out, breathing centeredness in breathing stress out. Let’s just do three more deep breaths together, breathing in and out In and out last one, together, breathing in and out, filling up with the good stuff and let going, letting go of literally anything that does not service the breath is powerful. It’s a beautiful tool we have at our resources that are accessed anywhere. Anytime. Just really a matter of realizing the potential for releasing stress powering up and balancing better. It all begins with the breath. We just have to remember to do it and to give ourselves the time it for a few deep breaths.


Sam Demma (17:52):
Hmm. What is tie? If she is life energy, what is, what is tie?


Suz Jeffreys (17:58):
I love that. So tie is grand ultimate.


Sam Demma (18:01):
Okay.


Suz Jeffreys (18:01):
Grand ultimate. And she can be can be translated in several different ways. It can be grand ultimate life energy. It can also be grand ultimate way.


Suz Jeffreys (18:13):
So the grand ultimate way in TA Chi is to conserve your energy, to protect it and cultivate more. And, and here’s why TA Chi, this is actually super interesting. And for you teachers out there, I think you’re gonna relate to this Tai Chi was created 1800 years ago by a Dallas priest named Chun. And he was head of this very important temple in China. He was the most highly regarded master of the temple. And he had a really big problem. His problem is he had a lot of responsibilities as head priests at the temple and his students meant back then Brazil men would flock from all over China to study with Chung fun and, and, and to be a dad was priest. You’d have to be a monk first and you’d have to study the, the ancient books of wisdom. And then you’d also have to practice Kung Fu, which is a martial art.


Suz Jeffreys (19:02):
And you had to become a warrior, not only a warrior that could attack and protect, but also a warrior that could heal. So you may have seen pictures or videos or movies where there’s all these Chinese people in the monk uniforms doing, you know, E so, so doing all these things together, they’re practicing one of the most important parts of ch fund’s job was to assess the students as any good teacher does. And one of the assessments was he had to test the martial arts skill and they wanted to go up to the highest level up being a monk and be ready to become a priest, which is a huge honor. Very few people made it there. It was a very, very high level of mastery, not only in the philosophy, but also in martial arts. And so Choong was a master. He was the one to test them.


Suz Jeffreys (19:48):
And if any of you out there have ever taken martial arts, you probably know for the higher levels of martial arts, you fight you spar. And that’s how they would test. But back then in China, they didn’t have like headgear and face masks and pads. No, you love like you fought. So Cho’s Ben’s problem was that he had to test all highest level students by fighting with them. And it’s not that he couldn’t beat him because the master never get every move. They always have a little secret on the head in the back pocket. It’s just no don’t mess with the master. It’s just not worth it. But his problem Sam was that he was using all this G you know, fighting with all these students. So I had to figure out a way to test his students and serve them without wasting his own energy.


Sam Demma (20:31):
Mm.


Suz Jeffreys (20:31):
So you know what he did


Sam Demma (20:33):
Invent to TA Chi,


Suz Jeffreys (20:34):
He invent to Tai Chi and you know how he got the idea. This is nuts. I’ll keep it short. He went to a cave and meditated until he he’s like, I gotta figure this out. So he went and meditated, you know, he’d get up every day and walk and eat whatever, and go back and sit and meditate. Three years later, my friend, he was coming up with nothing three years. Wow. So he went out for his daily walk. It was a sunny day. Like it is in Toronto, like it is in Southwest Florida. And he saw this big fat snake on the ground in front of him, just like, like taking a sun bath, you know, they just appeared to be totally sleeping there’s and he was looking at it and there was this circle circling on the ground and it was a spec and he looked up in the sky, there was a bird of circling. It was a Hawk. Well, he S possible second just rolls out the way and hits dog gets back up and he circles dives down again. The snake just rolls out the way, and the Hawk hits the ground really hard. Again, that happens over and over. And so finally, you can tell the Hawk is really exhausted. He does the last circle against more momentum than ever. He dives down and guess what happens at the last possible second, Sam


Sam Demma (21:47):
Snake just moves out the way


Suz Jeffreys (21:49):
They just moves outta way. It was working. The Hawk kicked himself on the ground so hard. He knocks himself out the snake, slithers over circles, a snake, and has the Hawk for lunch. Mm. And ch sun fun goes, that’s it. The snake wasn’t attacking anyone, but he wanted to protect himself off. And he was able to protect himself by getting out of the way, by allowing the attacker to waste his own Chi until he is completely de depleted. And then to go ahead with very little energy, very little effort, be the Victor. And that’s what inspired Tachi.


Sam Demma (22:25):
Hmm. It reminds me of Japanese ju to slightly it’s like the, you know, the art of Japanese jujitsu is using your enemies force against you or against themselves. And yeah, right before COVID hit here in Toronto, I, I did it for four months and it’s funny cuz you’re mentioning Kung Fu and all the different practices. And I enjoyed them, the, the sessions and the training, so much, many reasons, but one of the reasons that I enjoyed it the most was the aspect, the aspect of discipline. And and I think it’s really, it’s really awesome. And then, you know, discipline also ties into Tai Chi. Like there’s, there’s an older gentleman that I see at the park near my house, like every other day doing Tai Chi. And I never like looked into it like looking so peacefully and calmly and I just, I was always fascinated by it. And it’s really cool that you brought this up today and you’ve taught me so many things. So I appreciate it. And I know that the guest listening can say the same. If someone wants to learn more information about Tai Chi, get even get into it like what, what would, what would you advise? Would you just search up like classes and near their, or do you offer this thing online? Do you do this stuff online? Like what would be the best way for them? Yeah.


Suz Jeffreys (23:34):
Great, great idea. Yeah. For, for anyone who wants to try Tai just for free and play with it, I have a bunch of free Tai Chi videos on YouTube. Just look up Tai Chi with souse and that’s a growing library. I also have a free Facebook page called Tai Chi with souse and you can check it out. I have new content there every single week, cuz I really wanna spread the word Sam, you know, not only is Tai Chi and martial art. It’s also a way to stress less to protect our energy and to create my or balance there’s 10 ancient principles in TA Chi that were literally would change my life. And when we begin to learn those ancient principles and we implement them on day to day basis, whether we’re a parent, a grown up a kid, a teacher, a student it’s truly life changing.


Suz Jeffreys (24:21):
So my vision is to help spread the, the information and share it around the world. Cause in these crazy times, we need to find simple, profound truths that can allow us to connect more, to be healthier, to, to be more of who we truly are in this world authentically like you, Sam, you’ve got so much clarity around your purpose that you want to serve and help others learn how to serve this remarkable at your age. You’ve got the clarity and in TA Chi, we call that clear intent. Mm. When we have clarity, that’s one thing that can absolutely help us not only transform our own lives, but the lives of others. So you can go to TA Chi with sues.com or TA Chi with Sue on Facebook or Tai Chi with sues on YouTube. And you know, hit me up, send me an email if you’d like to get I have some TA Chi principles and little videos. I can actually email you. If you go to TA Chi with sue.com, you can sign up for that. I’d love to love to help anybody who’s interested in just finding simple ways to make their life better.


Sam Demma (25:20):
And you know, you mentioned the principles and every time you say something, I have like five more questions, but I’m keeping this. Like, I love that as concise as I can. The out of the 10 principles that you mentioned or alluded to, which one or two have had the biggest impact on you. Like I can imagine they probably all impacted you in various ways, but which of those 10 ancient principles impacted you the most and what are they


Suz Jeffreys (25:43):
For me, there’s really the, what had the really created a whole pivotal experience on many layers in my life was remember back in that class, the first class I just found by, I really say it like company. I didn’t, I wasn’t looking about it. Our seafood told us that story about the snake in the Hawk. And she said, so remember this means we all have Chi life energy and our life energy is precious because when we use it all up, it’s gone, we die. Mm. Instead, like if you were, it’s not that you have a heart attack, we die from a heart attack. It’s that people die from a heart attack and didn’t have enough cheat to survive. Mm. So she’s like, so our life energy is precious and we all have life. And that means every single person on this point is precious. I was like,


Suz Jeffreys (26:37):
Because till that moment, Sam, I had real self-esteem issues. Whole long story will get not get into. But I don’t know. I think a lot of people out there maybe don’t believe in themselves or their own words as much as we should. And when she said that, I’m like, wait, so Chi is precious. We all have Chi. That means I’m precious. And that means that I can protect my Chi. I can take care of me. I can simplify do less and give more. So the idea of conserving my Chi and that she is precious, keeping it simple has been just profound, really profound for me.


Sam Demma (27:13):
Cool. Yeah. I love that. Well, this has been a phenomenal conversation. We’ll definitely have a part two, sometime in the future. If a teacher does want to get in touch with you, do you have an email address you can actually share and recite right now on the podcast?


Suz Jeffreys (27:26):
Absolutely. The other website you can check out ’cause I do many things is Suzjeffreys.com. You can email me at suz@suzjeffreys.com and there you’ll see, I’m also a certified nutrition therapist, I’m a fitness instructor, and I’m a speaker ’cause I just, you know, the so many ways we can nourish ourselves and when we nourish ourselves and take care of ourselves, we have more to give to others. So suz@suzjeffreys.com would be awesome.


Sam Demma (27:52):
Awesome. Suz, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, really appreciate it. Keep doing awesome work and I will see you soon.


Suz Jeffreys (27:59):
Thanks Sam. It’s been a pleasure


Sam Demma (28:02):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an 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; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna 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 fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Suz Jeffreys

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.

Dov Shapiro – CEO of ConnectU Program Inc.

Dov Shapiro – CEO of ConnectU Program Inc.
About Dov Shapiro

Dov is an Experiential Educator and Business owner with over 30 years of experience working with students. His commitment to improving their well-being, regardless of the challenges they may be facing, is a life-long journey.

Today, more than ever, students are facing stress, anxiety and depression. There are solutions to reversing this trend. As Founder and CEO of ConnectU Program Inc. Dov is responsible for leading the vision to ensure the CU Program positively impacts as many students as possible. His business mindset has allowed him to scale the program in order to benefit all users: from administrators to teachers, to parents alike.

He has over 3 decades of North American education and outdoor recreation industry experience.  His previous roles as Director of Westcoast Connection Travel Camp (NY), Owner/Director of Camp Chateaugay (NY) and Mad Science Director and Science Teacher (FL) have brought a wealth of knowledge to the team about the academic industry. Dov has had the opportunity to empower over 15,000 students, in 4 countries and 3 continents over the last 3 decades.

Connect with Dov: Email | Linkedin | Website

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

ConnectU Program

ConnectU Program Youtube Channel

Westcoast Connection Travel Camp

Camp Chateaugay

Mad Science Group

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 Dov Shapiro. Dov and I were connected about five or six months ago, and we postponed the podcast because he was working on this program called ConnectU, and it’s a very cool technology that they’ve been building that supports students. I won’t get into it because he talks about it a lot during today’s episode, but here’s a little bit about Dov.


Sam Demma (01:06):
He’s an experiential educator; experiential educator and business owner with over 30 years experience working with students. He has three decades of experience in the outdoor recreation industry. He has been directors of camps, owned his own camp, been the mad science director, and a science teacher in Florida. He has worked with over 15,000 students in four countries and three continents over the last three years. His business mindset also has allowed him to scale his program; ConnectU program in order to benefit all users from administrators to teachers and parents alike. Dov is a trail blazer in the education industry, and I hope you learn something from today’s interview and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed interviewing him. I’ll see you on the other side, talk soon. Dov, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. A huge pleasure to have you on the show. I mean we talked months ago and here we are talking again, and between those two points in time, you know, some exciting things have happened in your life, which we’ll dive into in a minute, but why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind the reason why you’re so passionate about the work you do with young people today.


Dov Shapiro (02:16):
Thanks for having me on the show Sam. My name is Dov Shapiro, and I’ve been working with children for over 30 years between mad science, west coast connection, former owner of Camp Chateauguay in New York state. So my passion has always been working with kids and making an impact inspiring youth. And so about a year and a half ago, we noticed that there’s been a massive dip in the mental health and wellbeing of our adolescents and teens and youth; not just in north America, but across the globe. And then as a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen an incredible spike in the rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation. So even prior to COVID, we decided that we wanted to impact mental health and wellbeing of students. And that’s why we decided to do some research and develop our new software program called ConnectU or the ConnectU program.


Sam Demma (03:24):
That’s amazing. And I mean, you got me curious now and I’m sure the listeners are too, what is this software? What prompted you, you know, to, to create a software as opposed to a different tool and, and you know, how can you know, how, how can we learn more about it?


Dov Shapiro (03:41):
So the connect U program is specifically designed to improve student wellbeing, excuse me. And we use a platform, a web app, if you will, to first do an assessment of the student. So we create a profile of each student whereby teachers and principals can learn about each student at a really deep level, because right now it’s really hard to know your students. And even before COVID, it was challenging at times, but now with distance learning hybrid, learning, whatever learning you’re doing, it’s really hard to understand the characteristics and traits of all of your students. So by doing this assessment in real time, you get results, learn about students and their core, you know, kind of personality and where there might be students that could benefit from more teacher based support. Then what we do is we have an intervention model or a means of helping to improve those construct scores.


Dov Shapiro (04:41):
Those assessment scores called smart goals creation. So that’s the name of it is called CU you smart or connect you smart and smart is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. And it’s a widely used acronym in pedagogy throughout the globe to help help students learn how to create and achieve their goals. So we developed a web app that helps students go through a curriculum, teaching them about how to create goals using the smart method. And we have a six week curriculum that is teacher led and supported with 2d animated videos. So we run this program in schools from majors 12 to 18, and we start actually in the sixth grade level. So some 11 year olds are using this as well.


Sam Demma (05:34):
That’s amazing. Why, like what prompted you to create this? Like there’s, you know, anyone could have made this software, you know, why you, what, what, what inspired you to to do this?


Dov Shapiro (05:48):
So I know that in my life it’s always been a challenge to attain the goals that I wanted to achieve. But when I started using smart and started following a formula and being really diligent about it, I started to see some results. I started to change my programming and started to develop healthier habits. And so I did a lot of research, looked into the, you know, the educational systems that are mandating standards. They call in education to teach goals. And there’s very limited standards requiring smart goal methodology to be taught to students. And it’s through research, we’ve studied several old different papers and, and researchers who have shown that by using smart and more importantly, by using goals or teaching students, how to create goals, they’re more likely to achieve better GPA. They’re more likely to stay in school. It as well even has shown to reduce signs of bolding and incidents.


Dov Shapiro (07:05):
So we decided we were gonna hire an educational psychologist, a child psychologist, public teachers, principals, and bring them on the board to put this together in a manner that really made sense. And the reason why we did this is because again, through all the research papers that we’ve been studying, we can see that students are improving their wellbeing by simply creating and achieving their goals. When students create and achieve, they build resilience. Now the whole concept of goal setting falls right in line with what we call social, emotional learning. So social, emotional learning is the process where young people and adults develop healthy identities. They learn how to manage their emotions. They achieve personal and collaborative goals and they learn how to feel and show empathy for others. So it’s really an important element for students to establish and maintain supportive relationships in, you know, in these kinds of processes. So long story short, you know, students who go through this program are hypothesis, is that they’re going to improve their assessment scores and to improve their GPA.


Sam Demma (08:23):
Hmm. Love that. And you mentioned the focus on giving also educators, a way to learn more about each student. And I think that’s an amazing tool because right now, like you mentioned, it’s very hard for you to build personal relationships, especially right now when every kid is stuck at home and who knows how long the learning thing is gonna continue, but why do you, why do you think it’s, it’s important that every educator and principal in a school knows a lot about each individual student.


Dov Shapiro (08:53):
So as a former educator, myself science teacher, director of mad science, I know how important it is to understand your students character and really what makes them ticked. That’s how we connect with our kids. That’s how we connect with students as an owner and director of a summer camp in New York for 15 years. If I knew my, my campers really well, I could connect with them. Mm. And so learning about them, getting to know their family, getting to know their names, getting to know what their passions are, and even where they have room for improvement was a way for me to connect with my campers and a way for me to connect with my students. And now teachers, I believe find it harder than ever to make that kind of connection, to understand their students at that level. They don’t see the kids walking in the classes with a tennis racket or a book or a football or a basketball. It’s not the same experience. So getting to know your kids, getting to know your students is a real challenge. And now more than ever, we really need to, we need to know where our students can benefit from more intentional learning environments. When we understand our kids and what they need, we can really support them.


Sam Demma (10:12):
And you know, you’ve been an educator you’ve been around student in forever. I’m curious to know what got you into education. You know, your interest in science, it sounds like could have taken you down many different avenues, why teaching?


Dov Shapiro (10:27):
So my father always taught me that if you’re really passionate about something, you should teach it. Mm. So I love to ski. I became a ski instructor. I love to work with kids. So I wanted to teach children. I wanted to inspire children. And I love kids because kids really are the essence of what is possible. I mean, they inspire me because of the fact that they’re so enlightened and infused by the smallest things, they get excited about, you know, fun activities and, and in summer camp, they get, you know, inspired by any kind of music and song and dance and the spirit of what a camp is like. I mean, that environment is absolutely incredible. So when I think about the fact that in 2020 kids, mostly didn’t go to camp. That was a huge blow for kids. So my experience working with kids, whether as an educator or sorry, or working in summer camps has always been about inspiring youth because they are, I hate to say it, they are our future. And I know that saying is often used. Yeah. But that’s what drives me because I know that kids have so much opportunity. And so if we can empower them and if we can create an environment that feels very safe for them, or they can grow and develop, who knows what they can do.


Sam Demma (12:07):
Mm. I totally agree. I, I think it’s, it makes sense to me, you know why you’re so passionate about it. Was there any teachers or educators who along your own journey, you know, poured back into you and inspired you to get into teaching? It sounds like your, your dad played a huge role, but did you have any educational mentors as well?


Dov Shapiro (12:28):
I had a few actually. I had one principal and two teachers who really impacted my life, especially when I went to a military academy. Mm. In just outside of Toronto. That was an incredible experience for me. And definitely had a very positive impact. I’m still in touch with some of those faculty members to date, in fact, doing some work with them for another initiative that I’ve developed for student mental wellbeing. Nice. And so, yeah, teachers have always been a big part of, of, of my life in terms of, you know, inspiration, support, even me the idea that anything is possible, but really what it boils down to. I would have to say my late father, he was definitely my hero. And he definitely was the one who inspired me to, to continue this work.


Sam Demma (13:22):
Ah, I love that. Thanks for sharing. And if you don’t mind me asking, what, what did he do? Was he a teacher as well? Or


Dov Shapiro (13:28):
He was a ski instructor, but no, he actually he was a luggage luggage manufacturer And I did not wanna, did not wanna get into that industry. And he actually encouraged me not to,


Sam Demma (13:41):
So that’s awesome. But, but it sounds like his entrepreneurial spirit kind of was, was, was handed down to you in some way, shape or form.


Dov Shapiro (13:51):
It was definitely, he, he definitely was an influence and a very, very positive man, always, always looking at the bright side and always had a very, you know, open mind and a growth mindset. He was definitely an inspiration.


Sam Demma (14:10):
Cool. I love that. Very awesome. Okay. So I wanna go back to the, the software for a second school interested wants to learn more about it, wants to understand what this actually looks like. Could you gimme a breakdown of how it would look if a school wanted to use this and get in touch? Like what would the actual program itself look like?


Dov Shapiro (14:30):
Sure. So right now we’re actually at beta testing the software with several schools in the Montreal area, like ECS, sacred heart, the primary school LIC, and a few others. And we’re also beta testing with schools across the globe. So at this point, if schools are interested, we’re running a summer pilot program that begins in June. So if they’re interested, they can always go to connect U program.com and they can reach us that way through requesting a demo, or they can call our toll three number, which is 807 0 6, 8 8, 7, 6.


Sam Demma (15:10):
Perfect. That’s amazing. And if a school did want to get involved, like and wanted to pilot it, like how much of a time commitment would they be looking at for something like that?


Dov Shapiro (15:19):
That’s a great question. It’s about eight weeks total, which includes the six week curriculum to get everything on board and get all the consent forms arranged with parents because every parent and child who’s 14 or older plus faculty have to sign electronic consent forms through our app.


Sam Demma (15:41):
Perfect. Awesome.


Dov Shapiro (15:42):
But we need about, we need about two months.


Sam Demma (15:44):
No, that sounds great. And if, if a teacher’s listening right now and wants to just get in touch with you personally, what would be the best way for them to, to reach out, would it be email or, or what could you share for an educator listening?


Dov Shapiro (15:55):
Yeah. best way is just info@connectuprogram.com. Awesome. And we’re happy to share information. There’s also a fall pilot project, which launches in September. So for anyone who’s interested in is not running a summer school this year. Of course we have those programs available, we have a few spots open for those as well.


Sam Demma (16:17):
Amazing. And one last question for you, I see over your left shoulder rack of dumbbells, and I’m curious to know if personal fitness plays a huge role in your own life.


Dov Shapiro (16:28):
Absolutely, very physically active. I’m a rock climber, skier, water skier, and physical fitness. More importantly, strength training is what I’m doing these days, just so I can do the sports that I love aAnd it’s always been a big part of my life.


Sam Demma (16:44):
Cool. Love that. Dov, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it and keep up with the awesome work. I can’t wait to see the impact you make in these schools.


Dov Shapiro (16:52):
Yeah, thanks. I really appreciate having me on board and I hope you have a very safe and healthy rest of your week and the rest of your year. Good luck to you guys.


Sam Demma (17:02):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an 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; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna 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 fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Dov Shapiro

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.

Eleanor McIntosh – Founding member of the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE) and the Principal of Ajax High School

Eleanor McIntosh - Founding member of the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE) and the Principal of Ajax High School
About Eleanor McIntosh

Eleanor (@Eleanor27332035) is a secondary Principal within the Durham District School Board. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration and undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry and Kinesiology. She is an advocate for youth and the community.

Eleanor is one of the founding members of the Durham Black Educators’ Network (DBEN) since its inception in 2005. She has held executive positions of Treasurer, Vice-Chair and two terms as Chair. Eleanor is a founding member of the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE), where she lends her skills and experience to inform policy and programming for educators across the province.

Eleanor has been a panellist and presenter at 30 different speaking engagements and conferences since 2012. She has appeared on CTV, Rogers TV, and a variety of Metroland Media local newspapers. An avid global traveller, Eleanor has visited over 25 different countries around the world and is happy to call the Durham region home.

Connect with Eleanor: Email | Twitter | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Durham Black Educators’ Network (DBEN)

Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE)

Durham educators call for more inclusivity in wake of George Floyd’s death (Global News)

Ajax High School – Durham District School Board

The Transcript

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

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


Eleanor McIntosh (00:08):
Yeah, for sure. So good day, everyone. Eleanor McIntosh here, my pronouns are she her and hers. I am excited motivated, inspired to be here today for this podcast. I’m a principal in the Durham district school board at Ajax high school where I’ve been for the last five, almost five years doing, doing the good work, getting into some good trouble.


Sam Demma (00:37):
Why education? What drew you to teaching and education as a whole?


Eleanor McIntosh (00:42):
So interesting story. My pathway to education was not direct by any means. I, I always tell people that I kind of fell into it because I never really saw myself as an educator education found me. So after my post my undergraduate post-secondary adventures, which are more, mostly geared in the sciences, actually, that’s my undergraduate degree. I decided to put a pause in my life to try and sort things out, I guess you could say. And I traveled, I took I took a job teaching English, a overseas through the a program called the jet program, the Japan exchange and teaching program. So I applied got shortlisted and then got accepted to the program. And off, I went on my adventure to Asia. So I spent two years in Japan where I had never been that far away before, but, you know went along with many other educators from Canada and around the world and found myself in a small little town kind of like Pickering or Ajax in the Durham region.


Eleanor McIntosh (01:59):
And I taught English in a large academic high school cuz they do, they, they stream there in Japan. And in that experience I found my calling. I loved teaching. I loved connecting with kids. I loved being in a classroom and English is not my background, but I had to figure it out. And it wasn’t about the English, right? The English was just a part of it. It wasn’t about the English, it was about the connection and, and being in community and all, lots of other different things. And so it’s because of that experience that I applied to teachers college here in Ontario, came back and became an educator.


Sam Demma (02:42):
That is so awesome. Would you other educators who are teaching now or thinking about teaching to travel international and if so, why?


Eleanor McIntosh (02:53):
So again, a really good question because it was because of this experience that I really often encourage students and educators to travel and to use international travel or education as a gateway to learning and building, building our personal selves and verse building character because I really, we found that that experience, it, it was for me life changing. I will say that I say that all it was life changing for me. I grew as an individual. I grew as a professional at the time I didn’t really see myself at the professional, but I really grew into my professional self. And, and, and so, you know, I often talk about my international education experience as a stepping stone to to whatever you want to learning to growing. And I talk a lot about that, especially with students who are unsure, you know, take a year go and see, because you can gain so much from traveling around the world and connecting with people, which is what I found.


Sam Demma (04:06):
That’s so amazing. I found similar experiences traveling not to teach, but to play soccer. Yep. At the age of 13. So I think travel opens your mind and eyes to many things you might not hear or see, and it changes your perspectives. It gives you more tools to see the world through.


Eleanor McIntosh (04:27):
It does. It does. And it’s, it’s amazing. I think probably there was lots of aha moments in that, in that traveling. I was there for two years. Like I was overseas for two years. Didn’t come back to the Western world for two years. Because why I could come back, I’m gonna be back here eventually. Yeah. But you know, I really, I really saw the value of perspective because the world views the west their differently than the west views, the rest of the world. So that was eyeopening for me.


Sam Demma (05:09):
Tell me more about that. How does the rest of the world view the west versus us?


Eleanor McIntosh (05:15):
So we are very, as a Western society, we’re very, we’re new compared to the west of rest of the world, right. Because our, our civilization started much later than, than other countries. And I think we’re a little bit arrogant in the way that we believe the rest of the world operates or a ESP for the rest of the world to operate. And so it’s very Western centric. So, you know, it’s like the west is the center of the world and everybody else operates based on what the west does, but oh no. You know, you know, the west has its own ways of functioning and, and operating. And, and I found in particular I often got confused for being American. And so I was interrupting notions of discrimination and, and viewpoints of Americans or black Americans, even when I was traveling overseas.


Eleanor McIntosh (06:13):
But the minute I said that I was Canadian boy, the, at the viewpoint change. So the world welcomes and sees Canada as a very big partner for it around for its, for its citizens and a global participant positive global participant. Whereas it doesn’t view the Americans in the same way. Exactly. And so there was a lot of hate coming, you know, I, I heard a lot of hate for the west and we, you had to kind of separate Canada and America a little bit because really that hate was about America a lot. Right. Wow. So it was, it was really I opening yeah. Really eye opening.


Sam Demma (06:59):
Speaking of perspectives and the importance of gaining more, I’m grateful that lots of perspectives that have been very underrepresented are starting to, you know, hopefully bubble to the service and have over the past two years especially in the communities of a diversity equity. And you’ve been a champion of pushing that message forward as much as you can. What do you think are some of the challenges that have existed and to this day still exist, that you’re really passionate about speaking up and, and trying to make a change in that you think are underrepresented perspectives.


Eleanor McIntosh (07:38):
Really great question. So a couple of things come to mind I think for a long time education, public education was allowed to be ignorant yeah. To the realities of what was happening in its communities, where it was centered. You know, it was always seen as the powerhouse and there was a very clear, defined way of operating and still it’s still there. It’s absolutely still there. And so you know, George Floyd, the, the incidents and George Floyd a couple of years ago, I think served as a real catalyst for the world to wake up and for education to now participate in interrupting biased practices, discriminatory practices that have been going on forever and still continue. So it really allowed us to will no longer be silent. So those who were on the margins who were working in education, it gave them voice mm, gave them a space it gave and not them cuz I’m included in that.


Eleanor McIntosh (08:52):
It allowed us to advocate for the change that we knew we wanted to see for so long, but really we were silenced for for years. And I will say that specifically about my work in education. I never really saw a, an avenue where I could participate in challenge notions of, of racism, discrimination, oppression in the system. I felt that I really had to maintain the status quo because if I chose to speak up, then there, I would be for lack of a better word blacklisted, I would be I would limit my career possibilities, right. There would be, there would be impact to me personal impact and professional impact to me. But as the doors have widened more and more examples come to the forefront that have allowed the conversations of equity and diversity and more specifically anti-oppression to find its way into learning spaces.


Eleanor McIntosh (10:09):
And that was nothing that we ever wanted to participate in before you might have seen pockets, but they were quiet pockets. Yeah. They were people that would close their doors and do their thing quietly. But now people have opened their doors and let that freedom out into the entire school community. And that is bringing students joy because we’re not, we’re no longer harming, we’re not harming kids anymore. That harm. You’re giving students voice. You’re giving them the opportunity to say, no, I don’t want my education to be like this. I wanna make sure that it’s going to resonate with me fully and, and allow me to be my full self.


Sam Demma (10:54):
And represent the whole truth.


Eleanor McIntosh (10:58):
100%. Cause we were speaking partial truths for a long time.


Sam Demma (11:01):
There’s a book by Martin Luther king Jr. With the title. Why we can’t wait, it’s something, I might be butchering it a little bit, but it’s something along those lines. And the whole book is amazing and it talks about a lot of the movements he engaged in and why now was the time for change and why? Like we can’t be patient anymore. And I’m curious to know why you believe the reform that’s happening currently in education and, and hopefully continues to happen throughout north America and all over the west. Why is now the time and why can’t we be patient with this stuff anymore?


Eleanor McIntosh (11:36):
We can’t be patient because all kids are not succeeding. Mm.


Eleanor McIntosh (11:43):
All, all students, that’s what publication is grounded in. Yeah. Right. The success of all students, Nelson Mandela talks about that education is the powerful equalizer. Right. But it hasn’t been yeah. For so long. And so we can’t wait for more and more students to be harmed for black students, particularly black males to be pushed out of the system to end up into this pipeline into activity because they don’t feel a sense of belonging that no one is there advocating for them. So you’re right. We can’t wait. And sadly for those who hold privilege and those who have, have garnered that privilege through just by who they are, we can no longer allow those loud voices to control the outcomes of students cannot. Right. It’s time now for those who have been silenced underrepresented or marginalized to bring those perspectives back to the forefront so that we are there to, to advocate, that’s what public educators are for. They’re there to advocate for all students, not just some and the ones on the margins need us the most. And so we need to stand up for them. Now, the data’s clear, kids are not succeeding and we can’t do it anymore.


Sam Demma (13:11):
It seems like the motivation and motivation is very fleeting because it might last for a minute. It might last for a month. It might last for two months, six months. Yep. But the motivation and excitement of something happening in the world and our initial reaction seems to fade very fast. Yes. How do we sustain this change? How do we move away from motivation and decide to commit and discipline ourselves to follow through with these things? Even when it’s hard, even when the doors are open and the conversations are extremely uncomfortable, I’m not asking you for the key of this whole solution here, I’m putting on the spot, but how do we bring this back to the forefront of the conversation and continue it?


Eleanor McIntosh (13:59):
Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a, there’s a number of different ways that that can happen. From a, from a professional standpoint, I think it’s, it’s twofold, right? So from a professional standpoint we have a responsibility in schools, right. And so for this question leans more towards what is our responsibility and, and not just, not just in the way that we believe that this should be, but what is the legal responsibility? Because there is a legality, right? What is the legal responsibility that we have to make sure that this that we’re not closing these doors, that we’re keeping that at the forefront, right. So that’s the first thing. And there’s been a couple of really strong moves made by the government in order to make sure that, that that, that responsibility is clear for educators. And I’ll give you an example.


Eleanor McIntosh (14:55):
So one example is, is that the Ontario college of teachers has now advised it has now become as part of the education act that discriminatory practices are now an act misconduct for educators. That’s a bold move. That was a necessary move to legitimize the work and keep that responsibility very ever present for educators. Right. they’ve also put out an advisory relating to anti-black racism, right? Again, another bold step that allows for that high level of accountability for educators. Right. So no longer. So now as a system, we have some, some very clear lines to lean on, right? Should people decide that they no do not want to participate, that they want to give up their responsibilities to the students that we serve. Right. but I also think it goes deeper than that because we have to also lean on ed administrators, like leaders in the right leaders, leaders have to participate in, in making the space for this change to happen.


Eleanor McIntosh (16:07):
Right. We are part of that responsibility because we are also we’re educator at heart. And so from, from middle to upper management and the executive level, how are we making sure that the policies, procedures and frontline work of leaders make sure that we are advocating, educating, building awareness, right. With our staff so that it doesn’t fall to the wayside so that our, our educators feel not just empowered, but confident to entertain and engage in conversation of injustice in the classroom. Right. Because it’s not just about teaching you know, literacy and numeracy, that’s important, but we want to make sure that we are creating a world that we, that is not reflective of the current day. We wanna create a world that is reflective of what we want to see in the future. We do that through opening up these conversations in the classroom.


Eleanor McIntosh (17:21):
Right. And so that, I think it’s so it’s, it’s multiple things. And then on a personal level for people, people have to also feel as though that they are not comp that they’re not complicit in racist practice or discriminatory practices. Right. So, you know, you know, they have to choose to educate themselves, right. So how do they, how do they, why, why would I, as an educator, as a human being choose to participate in, in learning more, right. People don’t want to feel as though that they are creating barriers for people or upholding white supremacy. They don’t wanna feel that way. And so it’s also playing into people’s compassion and right. We wanna make sure that people understand that justice is for everyone, from every location, from every identity. And so by putting that and making that as a priority, right. Going, leaning on the moral compass, if you will, the compassion that everybody holds, I think it’s how you also get to educators or people to buy in right into these circum, into these conversations, even when it’s hard. Right? Yeah. Even it’s hard.


Sam Demma (18:40):
It sounds like we really can’t afford spectation or spectators anymore.


Eleanor McIntosh (18:46):
You can’t, you can’t afford to be a bystander anymore. Yeah. If you’re a by, in, or someone’s gonna call you out, like this is the thing now, right. People aren’t gonna stay silent, somebody’s going to call you out. And I have had to on many occasions, you know, engage in conversations, sometimes difficult conversations with staff about something they may have said or whatever. And again, not ill intention. I would never think that anybody is doing something maliciously. We are gonna make these mistakes, but it’s up to me and, and everybody else in the building to make sure that we are all moving this forward together, nobody left behind.


Sam Demma (19:26):
Hmm.


Eleanor McIntosh (19:26):
Nobody left behind.


Sam Demma (19:28):
What have you found helpful in terms of educational resources? So there’s an educator listening right now who is mentally deciding, not because they’re just motivated due to your passion for this topic. Yep. But they’re mentally deciding right now. Okay. I don’t wanna bystand I don’t wanna spectate. I wanna join this conversation and participate. Where should they start with their own self education or what have you heard, or even read yourself or heard other educators reading, going through, watching to learn more about the situation to inform themselves?


Eleanor McIntosh (20:07):
So reading is a lot of what I’ve been doing over the past little while, and also, you know, encouraging my staff to read as well. Right. Yeah. And presenting them with choices and options to help build their awareness cuz you’re right. We can’t do it all right. As I so a couple of, so in terms of titles, you know me and white supremacy by Lelas Asad white fragility, lot of, so I read white fragility by Delo. So a lot of DeAngelo’s work. A lot of Kent’s work you know, anti-racist education. Anything by Kent DLO Leila, sod is all very important readings to participate in because it allows us to connect with that personal side of us and push a little in terms of our thinking around what it means to be just a human being, not even just for educators, just a human being. So those are some of the things that we’ve engaged in here. And then of course there’s any number of videos and media pieces that are all put together by again, people who are doing this work that allows us to build more awareness about the issues that are at the, the forefront of this. Right.


Sam Demma (21:25):
Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for sure. What personally on all fronts of life and education, not only with this topic, but what keeps you personally motivated and hopeful to show up every day with your energy and continue doing this work?


Eleanor McIntosh (21:40):
Yeah, so a few things, when I, I decided to become an educator, I came back to Durham where I part when I, where I went to school and, and was raised, I came back to Durham because I wanted to make sure that other students who were in our system didn’t have to experience some of the injustices that I experienced as a, as a young woman. Mm. The young black woman growing up in, in the Durham region. So it was really important for me to be active as an active advocate, right. To interrupt those, those injustices, that was really important. You know, I wanna make sure that I’m actively participating in state in change and not being complicit. And that, that, that, those aha moments, those, that feedback I get from teachers, from students that what we are doing is working definitely keeps, keeps the fire lit for me.


Eleanor McIntosh (22:41):
Mm. You know, when I hear that positivity, when I hear, you know, student voice coming to the forefront, definitely that that warms my heart. It really does to know that I’m, that I’m making those connections really strongly for, for our students. When I, when I see a student turn the corner that’s huge, huge for me because I I do this work for students. I do this for that next generation who is going to do amazing things very much like yourself, Sam, right, who are doing these amazing things that you know, 10, 15 years ago, we couldn’t even imagine, right. It is students that are going to create change for the future, right. We, it is, it is, it is this generation, your generat that, that are going to make that change. And so it’s really important that we empower them to do so. And the last piece in particular is at some point in my career, I became a parent and I have a young daughter a young queen. And you know, I definitely, I’m a young queen. And you know, I wanna make sure that the path is very clear for her coming in, into a system where I know there is injustice. So she is my light every day. And the one who helps to make sure that I am staying focused on the work that needs to be done, because I don’t wanna ever ha have my daughter to come home and tell me that she wants to have blonde hair and blue eyes again.


Sam Demma (24:24):
Amen. That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that.


Eleanor McIntosh (24:28):
Yeah, no problem.


Sam Demma (24:30):
If you could if you could take all the experience you’ve had in education, bundle it up, walk back to when you first started teaching, tap yourself on the shoulder and say, Hey, this is what you need to hear right now. What, what advice would you have given your younger self?


Eleanor McIntosh (24:54):
Yeah, that’s another good question. I always, I always ask myself, I have learned, I, you know, when you, when you know better, you do better. And I, and I definitely have done better. So I was gonna go back to myself. I would definitely say, make room for, to connect with students, build community it’s community that signals belonging and value for kids. When you have that belonging and value, you get engagement. When you have engagement in the classroom, learning happens when learning happens, success happens. So I would make sure that I would tell my younger self to put aside. There are times when you need to put aside your plan and you need to make sure that you are bringing conversations that matter into the classroom.


Sam Demma (25:48):
Mm.

Eleanor McIntosh (25:49):
I really wanna encourage, I would really spend that time. I was a math and science teacher. So sometimes it can be very linear right in the way that we think. But I think, you know, sometimes we have to take risks, right? I I’ve, I’ve become a risk taker as I’ve, as I’ve matured in the profession. And I would, I would try to take more risks a little bit. I would try to make sure that I’m also using my voice, cuz I didn’t use my voice in those early years. I was too worried. I would use my voice as a vehicle and a platform to advocate even when it was difficult. Even when I fell, felt scared, even when I was fearful.


Sam Demma (26:32):
That’s awesome. Right.


Eleanor McIntosh (26:34):
I would do that.


Sam Demma (26:35):
Thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show. Talk about your experiences, talk about your beliefs and philosophies and share some important follow up on all the things that have happened over the past year or two years. If someone’s listening, wants to reach out, collaborate with you, ask a question, brainstorm some things. What would be the best way for them to get in touch with you.


Eleanor McIntosh (26:59):
Best way is to reach out to I’m not see super huge on social media to be truthful. So I’m on LinkedIn. That’s the one platform that I’m on. So you can look me up on LinkedIn for sure. And then look me up at Ajax high school for now or through the DDSB email’s always great. I’m always open to doing the good work and getting into good trouble with anybody who wants to do that.


Sam Demma (27:22):
Cool. Oh no. It’s thank you so much. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Eleanor McIntosh (27:26):
Sam, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on the show.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Eleanor McIntosh

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.

Tim Cavey – Founder of Teachers on Fire, 8th-grade teacher and assistant principal

Tim Cavey – Founder of Teachers on Fire, 8th-grade teacher and assistant principal
About Tim Cavey

Tim Cavey (@MisterCavey) is a husband, stepfather of two, 8th-grade teacher, assistant principal, and the host of the Teachers on Fire podcast. In 2019, he completed a Master’s in Educational Leadership degree that re-ignited his fire for teaching and put him on a new path of growth, professional reflection, and content creation.

Tim’s a firm believer in the growth mindset and advocates often for the kinds of informal professional learning that can be found on social media and in blogs, vlogs, or podcasts. When he’s not creating content or spending time with his family, you’ll find Tim hiking, flying his drone, or paddle boarding in the chilly waters of the pacific northwest.

Connect with Tim: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Vancouver Christian School

Masters of Education in Educational Leadership at Vancouver Island University

Teachers on Fire Podcast

Mindset by Carol Dweck

EdPuzzle

StreamYard

FlipGrid

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 come back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is Tim Cavey. He is a husband, stepfather of two, eighth grade teacher, assistant principal, and the host of the Teachers on Fire podcast. In 2019, he completed a masters in educational leadership degree that reignited his fire for teaching and put him on a new path of growth, professional reflection, and content creation.


Sam Demma (01:05):
Tim is a firm believer in the growth mindset and advocates often for the kinds of informal professional learning that can be found on social media and in blogs, blogs, or podcasts, just like this one or his own. When he is not creating content or spending time with his family, you’ll find Tim hiking, flying his drone, or paddle boarding in the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest. Tim is a brilliant, brilliant educator and an awesome human being. I’m so glad that he agreed to come on the show and I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I enjoyed chatting with Tim. I will see you on the other side, talk soon. Tim, super excited to you on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself in whatever way you choose to do so and share why you’re so passionate about the work you do in education and with young people.


Tim Cavey (01:56):
Thanks so much, Sam, what an honor to be here. You inspire me so much. So thanks for having me on I’m an eighth grade teacher, assistant Princip, both rookie assistant principal this year, and the host of the teachers on fire podcast. You asked about where my fire comes from, and I always point back to the start of my master’s program a few years ago, and reading Mindset by Carol Dweck as, as kind of a couple of really pivotal moments in my academic journey, my education journey. So those together with launching the podcast have really sort of set me on fire, and gotten me excited about learning again and sharing what I’m finding with other educators.


Sam Demma (02:37):
Love that you mentioned the book mindset, I’m a big fan, and I sure you could riff about the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset. I’m curious to know what would those two perspectives of a growth and a fixed mindset look at today’s current situation of education and, and take away from it. So looking at the challenge of COVID 19, what would the fixed mindset person think say or do versus the growth mindset?


Tim Cavey (03:02):
I think the fixed mindset would look at all of the problems and sort of stop there and attach labels to the problems. Talk about the, just the difficulties we face the, the, the way states and districts are not really listening to the needs of educators, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And, and, and like I said, kind of stop there. I think the growth mindset recognizes the adversity we’re facing, but actually says, okay, what are the takeaways? What can we learn from this? How can we actually move education forward and transform it in a permanent way based on what we’re finding. So educators have learned so much and grown so much and fully mindful that the last year has been a nightmare for a lot of teachers. I, I do see tweets about teachers leaving the profession and so forth, but on the other hand, teachers have really gained a lot of knowledge. Teachers who really didn’t spend much time online a year ago are now fully embracing these ed tech tools, getting into new spaces, covering better strategies for delivering formative assessment to their learners. And it’s super exciting. So the fixed mindset is all about labels. The growth mindset is all about saying, how can I evolve? How can I adapt? How can I move forward based on what I’m facing


Sam Demma (04:16):
And what are the opportunities that you personally have discovered? I know you, you know, you teach grade eight and rookie vice principal in those two roles, what are some of the opportunities that, that have surfaced for you that you think have been very transformational in your own learning and growth?


Tim Cavey (04:33):
I think some of the most growth that I experienced was actually last spring during the lockdown when I was forced to go virtual along with a lot of my colleagues and I did get into some new tech tools that were pretty transformative. So I, I started to experiment with ed puzzle and I’m, I’ll forever be an evangelist for ed puzzle. I think it’s such an underrated tool. Pad is an another one, Flipgrid wake lit some of the tools that I, I, to that point I sort of knew about, but hadn’t really played with too much. Now this past school year we’ve been face to face. And so I’m sort of going back in some ways, but still a, as I said earlier, like trying to implement those new tools in the old spaces, if that makes sense. So trying not to go right back to the way things always were and bring some of those new insights and strategies into my practice. And I would say to some extent I’ve been successful now this year has been really tough in other ways in terms of masking and COVID protocols and, and no field trips and no assemblies, and just a lot of things that kill the joy of school. And so in that process, we’ve learned how to, within our school building livestream assemblies in and deliver them into every class and, and bring about or livestream parent teacher conferences. So those are some things that in terms of access we can move forward with as well.


Sam Demma (05:55):
I love that. And you do a phenomenal job with your own podcast, which we’ll talk about later on today. It’s a huge, amazing resource, not just the podcast, but you have thousands of links on your website to different books and, and past episodes in blog posts. And I was getting overwhelmed with how much you provide, like, it’s just, it’s phenomenal. And I see that you use streamy have like multiple educators on the screen at once, which is amazing. You know, you mentioned a bunch of awesome tools and you said you’re a huge evangelist for the ed puzzle. Can you explain what that is? And also maybe explain what streamy yard is if anyone’s curious about using that for their own virtual assemblies.


Tim Cavey (06:32):
Sure. So full disclosure on ed puzzle, I’m at a new school this year and I, I have not yet convinced my it department to get on board with ed puzzle. So that’s still, that’s still a discussion that is ongoing, but ed puzzle is basically a way to engage and to monitor student engagement with video content. So if you think about the flip classroom, if you think about asynchronous learning resources, we know that our students re night with video, we’re creating more and more tutorials all the time, whether you are a math teacher, English, whatever you’re working in, hopefully you’re starting to do a little bit more screen casting. And so thinking about that, ed puzzle is that tool that actually shows you have my students viewed the content. Have they responded? You can integrate questions really well. And so I it’s, it’s simple. It, it’s not an elaborate tool, but it’s so effective.


Tim Cavey (07:24):
You also mentioned stream yard, which is something pretty different, but I’m having a lot of fun with that one Sam a year ago, I, I started seeing teach better and other friends streaming. And at first I was like, this content is not so great. Like what, what sort of educators gonna sit around and watch this grainy video one on one interview, right on YouTube or whatever platform. But I started to warm up to it. And I realized that there are certain things going on there that are actually really powerful and impactful. So the live Q and a, the live connections relationships are actually forming around some of those streams. So yeah, I, I made the decision to start streaming every Saturday morning on streamy yard, which you mentioned, and it has a free base level that you can just experiment with. And then there are tiered levels above that, that allow you to stream on multiple platforms and get rid of watermarks and so forth.


Tim Cavey (08:17):
But the goal is really just to share ideas and amplify voices. That’s what I do on my podcast. And so now I’m starting to do so by video. And, you know, just last Saturday, I had the pleasure, the honor of hosting five Latina superintendents from California. Nice. And that was such a fun conversation. I was way out of my depth, but it was a really fun conversation. And I learned a lot. I left super inspired, so it benefits my professional practice I find, but it also just gets the word out and shares ideas as well.


Sam Demma (08:50):
My mind immediately jumped to three years ago, being in Costa Rica, dancing the Beata and salsa with people in, in Costa Rica. When you said that that’s so cool ideas, spreading ideas, such an impactful way to share content, to share practices again, your podcast teachers on fire and your whole platform does a lot of that. I’m curious to know out of the, I don’t know, hundreds of conversations that you’ve you’ve kick started and had so far, what are some of the ideas you’re hearing that you think are important to listen to important to try and maybe implement during these crazy times?


Tim Cavey (09:30):
There are so many different directions I could take that. I mean, I guess my brain is still stuck on the virtual sort of hybrid mediums and platforms. So another part of my work, something I’ll be engaging in later this afternoon is is connecting with a virtual conference presentation platform and looking at what they can offer educators in terms of a local conference happening in this area. And so I, you know, I look ahead to the future and I think, yes, I look forward to getting back to face to face. I mean, who doesn’t love those face to face conferences, but as I mentioned earlier, I think we have to really improve our access at, especially when I think of rural educators, international educators, we, we need to think about how we can scale our learning and share it a little bit better. And so virtual conference presentation platforms that that’s one way to do it. And, and then I think your part of your question related to the classroom as well, right? Could you just reframe it for me?


Sam Demma (10:29):
Yeah, absolutely. So a, a teacher right now might be listening or an educator who is struggling. I think the basis of all change stems from an idea, right? Like the water bottle that’s beside me on my desk was an idea in someone’s mind before they created it. You’ve heard hundreds, if not thousands of ideas within your conversations. And I’m curious to know if there’s been any ideas educators have shared that you think might help a classroom teacher or principal or educator in any sense.


Tim Cavey (10:56):
Yeah. Wow. So you just opened the door for me. One, one example that is fresh in my mind that I was just talking about yesterday is there’s an educator on Twitter by the name of Tyler Roblin. I hope I’m seeing his name correctly. And he is experimenting with different forms of assessment and some really progressive practices in his high, high school English classroom. Something he has done is built a rubric for his high school English writers. That is it. It’s got those proficiency columns. So it’s grade list in that sense. And then each of the proficiency levels is actually hyperlinked out to a YouTube video that explains exactly what that student needs to be focused on. And I saw that Sam and I was like, wow. If we can start to hyperlink rubrics like that, then students can on their own time asynchronously actually dig into exactly how to take that next step.


Tim Cavey (11:54):
And so when I think about tools like that, when I think about tools like moat that are offering audio feedback embedded right in Google classroom and other learning management systems, it’s a pretty exciting time just for better feedback, because we know students learn best when they have immediate precise feedback. If you just think about the coaching the coaching metaphor, right? Like a basketball player doesn’t benefit too much from a review of a game two weeks later. Yeah. They benefit from some coaching right in the moment. So looking at the tools that allow us to do that faster and, and more precisely like moat or, you know, deliver that pinpointed advice to take the next step, like the hyperlinked Google docs that really excites me. And I think moving ahead, teachers teachers are going to be adopting more of those practices. And, and it’s a good time to be a student.


Sam Demma (12:47):
Teachers are also struggling to find balance between work and life. And I, I mean, I saw your recent post that said in, in 48 hours, you had 858 emails. And I was, I was blown away and I was curious to know personally, what tools and management systems you use to organize your own time you know, to separate work in life. What is your own system to look like when it comes to time management? Do you have something that’s that you try and follow? That’s been helping you?


Tim Cavey (13:19):
Usually my answer to that is just obviously using a calendar. I shouldn’t say obviously. So using a calendar cementing in those times that are non-negotiables. So, you know, I’ve got Friday family fun night, make sure to connect with my boy and my wife, and actually have some quality family time. Saturday is really date day or date night. Nice. For sure. So spending some quality time with my wife device, free dinners, shutting it down, usually weeknights, we try to shut it down around 9:00 PM and those are all just guardrails that sort of help to put some structure around my life, make sure I’m getting decent sleep, make sure that I’m cultivating relationships and not neglecting them. But other than that, Sam, it’s an ongoing struggle. And so yeah, you saw that tweet where I, I mentioned, I just sort of ignored email for a few days and of the emails piled up and I ended up blowing a couple of appointments and one of them was use and my heartfelt to apologies.


Tim Cavey (14:15):
They, no. So it is, it is tricky. And, and to that point, let me just say about email. I hear some educators or I see it sometimes on Twitter saying like, yeah, I just step away from email and completely ignore it for a while. And I think, yeah, well, yeah, that kind of works. But on the other hand, when you, when you know that the emails are piling up, it, it is going to stress. It’s going to add more people to get back to you. So I, I think email alone is just such a difficult space to manage effectively. One more thing I’ll pass on that might be helpful to somebody in your audience is I keep, I keep my iPhone on, do not disturb twenty four seven. So if you’re not in my favorites list, you probably won’t reach me by phone or by call or by text, at least in real time.


Tim Cavey (15:00):
You’ll sort of have to wait until the next time I actually look at my phone, but to me that just slows down the mountain. Well, it does more than slow down. It kind of eliminates the mountain, the avalanche of notifications. And, you know, I look at some of my colleagues who get a notification every time they receive an email. Yeah. I, I just think that would drive me crazy in a short amount of time. So try, do not disturb on your phone if you are getting a snowed under by notifications. That really that was a game changer for me.


Sam Demma (15:30):
I love that. It’s a great piece of feedback. I saw this funny tweet the other day as well. And it was this girl explaining how you could hang up the phone without letting the other person know that you hung up and essentially you just slide up and you hit the airplane mode button and on the person calling you screen, it’ll say call disconnected or did not go through as opposed to, as opposed to hang up. So if you have to avoid a phone call too there’s this little strategy for you.


Tim Cavey (15:57):
Nice, nice, bad connection.


Sam Demma (15:59):
Yeah. Right, exactly. I’m curious to dive a little more into Tim, your passion for education. Like, you know, you could have taken many different paths back when you were in school. What, with the passion you have for technology with the, in the, the entrepreneurial spirit that you obviously have starting these ventures, what drove you specifically to teaching?


Tim Cavey (16:24):
I think at the time it was a love of people. I knew I, I enjoyed working with kids and a love of the classroom. And I, I will say too, like some really impactful teachers that influenced me. And I just thought, like, I can see myself in this space and teaching has sort of a sense of autonomy, at least within the classroom. Most teachers have a sense of autonomy and independence in the sense that you can really make what you want of the day. Yeah. You’re you caring for these kids of different ages, but you can shape the learning experience and, and you can impact your own level of fun. And I, I get excited when teachers are actually teaching to their passion and that is very evident to their learners. They’re teaching to their strength and they can bring in things from the outside, whether it’s a side hustle or other passions, bring that right into their practice.


Tim Cavey (17:16):
I think on, so another answer to your question, Sam, I look at you at, at, you know, 21 years old, you blow my mind. And I think if I could do it all over again you know, if, if that was my generation, I would take a, a really hard look at content creation as a path to act, actually developing and building your own career. And that may involve some level of being in the school system. It may not, but you, you really excite me because you have that whole, you have your whole career track in front of you. You’re making all the right moves. My Matt,


Sam Demma (17:49):
I appreciate that. And I, I’m learning from gracious educators like yourself, who give their time to chat with me on this podcast. You know, one of the reasons I started it was because I don’t have all the answers to give educators, but I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could just invite them on the show to chat about what’s working for them in the hope that other educators might listen. I want to go back though, still to those teachers that you said deeply impacted you when you were in school. Mm. What did they do? Like, what was it that those teachers did that had such an impact on you that it drove you to go to education? Because I know I had teachers that changed my life and I can pinpoint the reasons why, and I feel like for every person it’s a little bit different. And if you can pinpoint those things, it’s essentially teaching other educators what they can do to also impact their kids. So I’m curious to know if you can pinpoint the characteristics or things that those teachers did for you.


Tim Cavey (18:39):
I think one of the teachers, I always look back to his name was Mr. Bergen and I had him in eighth grade. And it’s kind of funny that I’m an eighth grade teacher today. Yeah. And although my, my teaching assignment is sort of going to evolve a little bit next year, but I, I teach eighth grade. And so Mr. Bergen was such a supporter. And, and like, you always hear, I mean, I don’t remember a ton of specific moments or lessons that he taught, but I remember the way that I felt in his class. And I remember the way that he encouraged me. I came to Mr. Bergen. Now this is going to sound so nerdy, but I came to Mr. Bergen as a really passionate writer and content creator. Pre-Internet nice. And I was, I was, I, I had fun like working with word processors at the time, there was one called print master.


Tim Cavey (19:28):
I I’m sure no one has ever heard of it. That was, this is the time of word perfect. And corre draw and some really primitive tools now. But I was, I was excited to play with these tools and I had the vision of creating a class newspaper. And Mr. Bergen actually trusted me enough or gave me enough space to actually print a few additions of my newspaper and put them up on the bulletin board. And just something like that. I know I, I look back and I’m like, okay, he was giving me that commendation and that encouragement, that, that approval at 13 years old and now you know, much, much later I am writing blog posts. I’m creating content, I’m doing writing all the time. And I look back at him as a really key you figure in that journey. So there were others in my high school experience as well, but I will shout out Mr. Bergen. I haven’t had contact with him in decades, so I hope he’s still around, but, but I will, I will shout him out as someone who just, just gave me that encouragement and gave me the space. Like he took a risk, right. Because I could have, I don’t know, put something really awkward or inappropriate up on the bulletin board or sort of made him look bad somehow. But he, he gave me the space to try that and he cheered me on and I think it shaped who I am today.


Sam Demma (20:46):
I think giving students responsibility is such an impactful way to build trust. I had a pass guest on, who told me that he had a student in his class that was giving him issues or giving them issues. I can’t remember exactly who the guest was, but they told me that after a couple months of of struggle and he took his car keys and said, can you go into the parking lot into the front seat of my car and grabbed the jug for me? And the kid was like, do you want me to do it? And, you know, gave this kid his trust and his responsibility. And he went and he got the thing, he brought it back into the school. And it was like, he said, it was like a flip switch. The kid changed from this problem to this. Wow. I was useful to the teacher.


Sam Demma (21:28):
He trusted me enough to give me his car keys. I kind of crashed the car. And so, you know, hitting on that piece of, of responsibility is so huge. When I look back at my experience, when I was in grade 12, Mike loud foot was the name of the teacher for me, who’s now retired. And you mentioned it already, but he was so passionate about his, that it just rubbed off on me. Like I felt like he was doing his life SQUI teaching was his ministry. And it was so evident. And you mentioned that, you know, you loved when teachers are passionate about their content. Do you think that’s also a, I wanna say a trait of a high performing educator or a teacher on fire. Like you, you need to be passionate about the material that you’re deliver in teaching


Tim Cavey (22:10):
100%. And if you don’t have the passion, maybe you’re stuck with an assignment that you didn’t really want. I mean, try to generate that passion, dig into it, lean into it try to, to bring that curiosity to life. But absolutely if you’re, if you’re in a situation where you have no passion for your content, it, it really is to think about maybe moving on or changing context, right? You don’t necessarily need to leave education, but as I’ve interviewed educators, one story that I didn’t see coming, Sam was this idea that for many teachers, it was just finding a different situation that actually better aligned with their passions and that brought their fire back to life. So I, I do have a, a concern or a passion for those teachers that are burning out or don’t have much fire left. And I think one of the solutions, one of the answers sometimes is just finding a, a situation that fits their passions and aligns with their values a little better.


Sam Demma (23:06):
And how long have you personally been teaching or in educational?


Tim Cavey (23:11):
Well, I’m embarrassed to say beside you, but that’s okay. I started, I actually entered the field in 2001. That was my first fall.


Sam Demma (23:19):
So 20, 20 years now.


Tim Cavey (23:21):
Yes,


Sam Demma (23:21):
That’s awesome. And if you could, if you could like go back in time and speak to younger Tim and give yourself advice relating to the practice of education and teaching, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?


Tim Cavey (23:36):
Oh, man. Well, my thinking has evolved in the area of assessment quite a bit. Okay. And so the way that I collect grades or, or marks, whatever you wanna call them that would evolve considerably. I would make sure to clarify I could talk about that quite at length, but basically it would be keep the focus of assessment on the learning and not any not any of these old compliance measures that we used to keep in mind. So, you know, that’s a whole other topic, but you know, that’s something I would definitely bring back. And again, Sam, if I could go back to the beginning, I would say just from a content creator perspective and just a growing professional, like just write one blog post a week. And that would be absolutely transformative over the, the decades. Not just for any kind of an audience, although that audience would certainly come.


Tim Cavey (24:30):
And, and that brings a whole lot of opportunity and, and fun growth as well. But just simply for my own professional practice, there is power in self-reflection. We know that from the classroom, we call it metacognition. We think about it all the time. We want students self-assessing more today. We want them reflecting on their learning. Why aren’t we doing more of that as educators? Right. George Kus actually said when he was principal in Alberta, he made his staff take two hours and write a blog post about their learning. I don’t know if a lot of teachers are ready for that. Yet. There, there might be some rebellions in some staff meetings, if, if, if principals tried to force that, but there’s so much power, right. In actually reflecting on what we’re learning and how we’re doing. So I think that’s, my answer is more reflection along the way.


Sam Demma (25:17):
I have to ask, cuz you sound super fired up about assessment. As a young student myself, I struggled with my self worth because I had to hatched it to my talents, achievements and accomplishments, which sometimes was my grades. Because as an athlete, if I did get a 95% average, it would lead to a potentially higher scholarship at a university or a school. I also attached myself with, to soccer because my whole family praised me as an athlete growing up. And I thought if I wasn’t a great athlete or student, I would be worth nothing as a human being, which looking back now I realize is totally crazy, but it seems like the assessment system is set up that way. When a soccer game get a trophy, everyone praises you do well in school, get high grades, everyone praises you. But what makes it scary is that if the opposite is true, if you fail, which is supposed to be something that teaches you a lesson, you get reprimanded. And I’m curious to know how you think assessments could be changed, adjusted or altered to remove that, that issue of failure being a bad thing. And what you think about the whole idea of failure.


Tim Cavey (26:22):
Wow. Well, I mean, it goes back to the growth mindset, right? Do we see failure? I mean, you could spell the word fail as first. Why am I forgetting it now? It’s okay. First attempt, first attempt in learning. There we go. First attempt in learning, but yeah. But I think it goes back to the growth mindset. And as you say, how do we look at failure? Do we look at it as a stepping stone? Do we look at it as a, an inevitable part of the journey as a sign that we’re actually stepping out and taking risks? Do we believe that the most learning and growth happens when we leave the comfort zone? I mean, to take it into sports or into the gym, I, you know, our physical ball is only really grow and develop when we’re pushing them to their limits and the same is true of our brains.


Tim Cavey (27:08):
So to bring that back to assessment, yes. I mean, traditional assessment systems have done a great job of ranking and sorting and yes, traditional grades motivate a certain number of students, but they also demotivate a great number of students. And what they do is assign labels and validate people to say, either you’re smart or you’re dumb or whatever, fill in the blank. I mean, as educators, we cringe at those terms, but that’s the way people tend to interpret grades or have traditionally, as, you know, this, this X pathway is not for me or that kind of thing. We put ourselves into boxes. So all kinds of limitations come with those labels of letter grades and percentages. And as we can start to move away from that and actually put the focus on learning and growth and standards, the, the curricular standards then we start to create some space for students to take risks and not worry about being penalized, but try new things and move forward and move into unfamiliar territory. So there’s so much we could talk about there Sam, but yeah. I’m not a fan. I understand the difficulty. You mentioned scholarships and that’s tricky. I mean, we’ve got some big question to sort of resolve at the high school levels in terms of college and university acceptance. And we, we’re not about to convert the whole system overnight, but that’s where we want to get to in my mind is really put, putting the focus on the learning and the assessment, the feedback on growth.


Sam Demma (28:41):
I love that that’s it’s great to hear from an educator, first of all. And I would, I’d love to see how you test the different theories with the students and classrooms that you work within. And on that note, I’m curious to know, like, have you tried anything unique with your own students with your own grade eights? That’s a little different or outside of the box per se? Over the years,


Tim Cavey (29:03):
I mean, this won’t shock any edge educators in British Columbia, but I have not entered a number in my grade book in math or English in three years. So all I, all I track is proficiency levels and you know, that, and so there’s, I condition the cells in my, in my Google sheet or Excel, whatever to reflect, you know, the color code. And so I can see at a glance how a student is doing on these different learning standards. And that’s just one small answer to your question is I just don’t use numbers. I refuse to put overall assessments on math, you know, summative assessments anymore, because I know that students will just look at that overall assessment and they’ll tend to say, oh, I did, I did great. Or I, I did terrible. And then the, the quiz or the test goes in the garbage and they’re not really moving, not learning forward at all. So yeah. Keeping the focus on the standards, getting away from grades is, is one thing for sure. But does that answer your question?


Sam Demma (30:06):
Yeah, I was actually curious to know when you mentioned people in BC, wouldn’t be surprised by it. Is this like a province-wide initiative that’s been started or tell me more.


Tim Cavey (30:16):
Yeah. So I, I mean, across the province and, and you raise a good question, had know the answer to this in terms of, is it actually provincial policy? Okay. but, but the, just the, you know, if you look across all of the districts K to eight, basically there are no, there are very few holdout schools or districts at this point who are not in a proficiency scale model, you know, moving from emerging to developing, to proficient, to extending and teachers and educators are measuring, learning against that framework. And that’s gonna look different. I mean, there, there are sort of experiments happening and different variations and you see one point rubrics and things like that. But by and large, no very, very few schools would have letter grades and percentages in British Columbia at this point. And I know we’re pretty progressive on that front, so it’s not going to be the same in every state in province, but it’s a, it’s exciting. It’s a great place to teach right now.


Sam Demma (31:17):
It’s innovative, it’s disruptive. It’s, it’s leading the cha change. It, I even fascinating when you mentioned the four words, you know, the, the one at the bottom is emerging. That’s a very positive word. Like I remember getting my report card and it, you know, if you did something bad, it was needs, improve needs, improvement or satisfactory. And the use of positive wording, even if you are on the lower level, you know, of where you maybe should be in terms of the I’m an emerging student, that still sounds amazing. And, you know, the student will probably remain, remain positive in that grading. Yeah, there’s a great book called catch them. Why they’re catch them while they’re good, which talks about the importance of, you know, praising the positive behavior instead of coaching the negative and how sometimes coaching the negative diminishes or is the student’s confidence. And right. I think that system does a great job of ensuring students still feel confident despite where they’re at. Yeah. What, what has your experience been with that? Like, I mean, if you had to grade a student lower or, or as an emerging student what does their feedback, like, how does a student react to respond?


Tim Cavey (32:22):
I mean, so full disclosure, I mean, students do try to sort of compare our current system to their older models. And so they, they will interpret that typically as you know, as, as failing or we try not to use that word, but yeah, I mean that they, they tend to go there, but you’re right. It is a positive word. And the more we can use that proficiency language, it really puts the focus on learning as growth, right? This is where you are now, but it’s not static. I think that’s the key difference. You’re not an F student you’re learning on this particular standard is a urging or developing. It’s going to move forward to proficient. How can we get you there? Got, and I’ve, I’ve got a good friend on Twitter Jeffrey Fri from California who talks about getting rid of, as you said, deficit based assessment. A lot of our assessment looks for the faults. What if we focus on what if we focus on the growth? What if we focus on what we see and sort of fan those flames and work from there. So, yeah, I love it.


Sam Demma (33:25):
Cool. I love this. And I, I wanna wrap up today’s conversation highlighting your role Adex of resources, if, if you’re okay with me calling it that sure. Where can people go and listen to your podcast, give a brief explanation of the cast itself and why it started and, and where all the resources are housed.


Tim Cavey (33:44):
So thank you so much, Sam. I really appreciate this opportunity. You have a brilliant future. My man, and I’m so grateful to be connected with you today and going forward. So I started the podcast on anchor. I would encourage all budding podcasters to consider it. I actually don’t know where you’re hosted, but anchor is free. It, it distributes my podcast to 12 different apps and platforms for free, which is phenomenal. Can’t beat that value. Nice. And you can, so you can find teachers on fire on just about any podcast app, wherever you listen to podcasts. And you can also find my website, which is badly out dated and needs and overhauled, but I do have some posts happening there @teachersonfire.net. And you’ll also find me on any social media platform, including clubhouse at teachers on fire.


Sam Demma (34:32):
Awesome. Tim, thank you so much. And personally you already have enough emails, so I won’t direct people there, but if someone wanted to just shoot you a question or a message, what would be the best way? Would Twitter be the best or what social platform should they gravitate towards?


Tim Cavey (34:48):
Yeah, sure. Like I said, you could probably reach me on your favorite platform, but I am most active on @TeachersOnFire and yeah, you can reach me there. I’ll definitely get back to you.


Sam Demma (35:00):
All right. Cool, Tim, thank you so much for coming on the show. Keep lighting educators on fire in a metaphorical sense and thank you so much. It was an awesome conversation.


Tim Cavey (35:09):
Thank you for having me, Sam. It was a pleasure.


Sam Demma (35:12):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an 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; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna 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 fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Tim Cavey

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.

Ryan Fahey – CEO of Fahey Consulting & Amazon Best-Selling Author

Ryan Fahey - CEO of Fahey Consulting & Amazon Best-Selling Author
About Ryan Fahey

Ryan Fahey (@wellnessrf) is a 3-time author, speaker, and edupreneur who is passionate about personal growth and well-being. He is the Owner of FaheyConsulting which aims to help people and organizations move from good to great.

His latest book, “How To Thrive In Remote Working Environments”, which supports the well-being of remote workers globally recently hit #1 on Amazon in Canada and cracked the top 40 books on entrepreneurship. Originally from Eastern Canada, Ryan has dedicated his life to pursuing wellness and is widely considered a thought leader in the wellness & education sectors. 

Three fun facts about Ryan:

  1. Early in his career, Ryan ran a mobile personal training business out of his Hyundai hatchback.
  1. Ryan has worked in various education delivery roles in a provincial capital, state capital, and national capital.

Ryan owns a small digital publication called, The Canadian Way”.

Connect with Ryan: Email | Website | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Ryan’s Website – Fahey Consulting

How To Thrive In Remote Working Environments (book)

Physical and Health Education Canada (PHE)

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:01):
Ryan welcome to the high performing educator. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Please start by introducing yourself.


Ryan Fahey (00:08):
Hi Sam. Thanks for having me and for everybody tuning in. I hope you’re having a good day. Yeah. My name is Ryan Fahey. I’m a bit of an entrepreneur educator by trade and also a lead for special projects and resources for an organization called physical and health education Canada. So I’m excited to, to get rolling here, Sam, and to share some stuff with your audience today.


Sam Demma (00:32):
Tell me a little bit about why you’re passionate about the work you do with educators and also with schools.


Ryan Fahey (00:39):
Yeah. You know, one of the things that I’ve noticed. So I, when I, when I was in university, I went, I was training to become a physical and health education teacher. And movement has always been a big part of my life growing up, and I’ve always enjoyed the subject area of physical education, health education. And when I got into this field both as an educator now working nationally supporting physical education across the country. You know, when I look back at this, there’s just been so many people that have invested in me. You know, I’ve had some incredible mentors along the way that have supported my journey. And so one of the, one of the pieces, I guess, that drives the work I do is just willing to give back to the community and wanting to give back to this C because they’ve just given me so much, like every step of the way, and I’ll share a little bit more later, but every step of the way, you know, I’ve had people investing in me, people encouraging me, calling me lifting me up when I needed it. And and really, you know, passionate individuals when they get, when they get out there and they get into their gymnasium. So, you know, working at the national office is credible being able to support schools and, and educators, cuz it’s, it is an opportunity to give back that community that really has put me here. So so yeah, that’s a little bit about, I guess, why I do what I do and why I get up in the mornings to support the, the folks that have invested in me.


Sam Demma (02:04):
And how did you get into this work? What did the journey look like for Ryan as a young career aspiring man to Ryan now?


Ryan Fahey (02:16):
Well, so it’s funny. I was actually talking to a guy earlier today about this. We were having a conversation, so it was my last practicum. My teaching practicum at St. Xavier university. I I got approval to go on this trip down to shape America conference, which is the national kind of PhysEd conference in the us. And I was gonna get a job. I was determined, you know, I’m gonna get a job down there. So I went down, I printed off all these resumes, brought my binder. I went to this huge convention center and just started literally handing out, resonates to people. I knew that when I was graduating that I really wanted to travel and I wanted to, you know, I wanted to see the world. I was curious and growing up in small town, Nova Scotia, spending most of my life in Nova Scotia, I wanted to kind of, you know, branch out and, and explore a little bit more.


Ryan Fahey (03:07):
And really from there I got a bite. I ended up getting a job with with an organization called be active kids out of North Carolina and, and, and started there, you know, started my work was supporting early childhood physical literacy through a, a train, the trainer model. And I got to drive. I literally drove across the state in a, in this van, this B active van and would just like hand curriculums and do trainings. And so it’s kind of funny, you know, like, there’d be days I’d have to pinch myself off and be like, I can’t believe I went to school for this and I get to do this work cuz it was just, it was really cool. You know, I guess to kind of fast track from there, I came back to Canada still really was curious about traveling and seeing different parts of Canada at that point.


Ryan Fahey (03:55):
And I was very fortunate to have, get a position with an organization called ever active schools as a school health facilitator, basically going into schools and supporting them through a mentorship model and through a comprehensive school health approach. So whether you’re looking at DPA in schools, daily physical activity, whether you’re looking at being more intentional with comprehensive school health or potentially school, little sport, those were kind of the areas that I would go in across Alberta and support schools in. And you know, when I left, when I left there, I, I was really getting the itch to go international. I was really like, okay, I worked in north America, I worked in Western Canada, Eastern Canada. I grew up there, but you know, what about maybe going abroad? And so this incredible opportunity came forward to teach physical education abroad at a school in Abu Dhabi.


Ryan Fahey (04:51):
And and I jumped on it and it was a, it was pretty much a master’s in education. You know, I don’t have a master’s, but I say I have a real life. Yeah. Experience masters. But the amount I grew, the amount I was challenged and, and, and how I really had to overcome a lot of personal adversity professional adversity at, at that point was, was tremendous. And that’s really where you know, those experiences then combined have kind of led me back to Canada and let me back to, to work here nationally now, to support schools. And again, you know, just having so many unique experiences along the way, it’s, it’s kind of nice to, to be at the national office to be able to share those experiences with others.


Sam Demma (05:37):
You hopped in a van that said be active on it and drove across the country. True. Can you elaborate on that a little bit where that came from and what that initiative was and some of the stories along the way.


Ryan Fahey (05:51):
Yeah. I’ll tell you one, I’ll tell you one day this, you know, I was, I was very passionate. I mean, I’m still very passionate, but I would say I was very passionate at that point, but a little more careless. So there was one day north Carolina’s a very large state, so there’s 101 counties from west tip to, you know, the odor banks. And my role was get, get this curriculum in all 101 counties with this van. And so there was, was one day there was a tornado warning in the central part of the state. And I had a workshop planned in person in Greensboro, which is kind of in the heart of the state. And I remember driving and like my phone going off at the time, like tornado warning, you know, seek shelter and I’m driving. And I remember just like in this van by myself, just like, yeah, but not like in an aggressive way, just in like a prove it prove you wrong way.


Ryan Fahey (06:42):
I was like, you know, physical literacy, doesn’t take a day off education, doesn’t take a day off. Like people need to learn this this curriculum needs to get out there. I’m going like all in, like if this tornado takes me off. So be it. And I just went ever thinking about that. I’m like, I’m a little crazy, like, this is, this is probably not the safest thing, but yeah, I just literally drove around the state in a van and everywhere I went just kind of had some amazing people that would either build me or put me up or show me where to go within the community. And it was a fascinating experience right. At university, for sure.


Sam Demma (07:18):
That’s amazing. And you mentioned a lot of people poured into you along this journey. Talk a little bit about the mentors you’ve had and the impact they’ve made in your own life.


Ryan Fahey (07:29):
Yeah. I’d say, you know, there’s so many, I, unfortunately I lost one a few when I was actually in North Carolina. Oh, wow. And that was really tough. He a, he was a longstanding mentor of mine. But of the mentors that I currently have in my life or have had, you know, I’d say my dad is my biggest for sure. He’s, he’s the, he’s kind of that like he’s got that Sage wisdom to him, you know, it’s like, he’s got this sixth sense about everything that I just can’t seem to figure out how he does it. Yeah. He’s not on social media. You have to like go into the woods to find him. But when he is in there and when you see him, it’s like this Miyagi karate kid experience. And so he’s definitely my, my number one. And then I have a really good friend who is kind of been this pseudo friend mentor for years named Matt McDonald.


Ryan Fahey (08:19):
And we were actually just chatting the other day and he’s, you know, he is so different than me. And when we were younger, we would sometimes have our differences. And, and now like at the older I get and the older he gets, even though our lives kind of have went in multiple directions. I just appreciate that so much more. I appreciate questioning thought. I appreciate diversity of thinking. I just appreciate these multiple perspectives. And he always will be the one to ask the questions that no one else will ask. And, and I think that’s, that’s been huge for me in my life and, and it’s allowed me to sometimes walk away frustrated, but also walk away being like, okay, like I really need to think this through because Matt really asked me some great questions. So those would definitely be my top two.


Sam Demma (09:04):
That’s awesome. And for an educator who doesn’t know much about PhD Canada, and what they have to offer schools, go ahead and give a little breakdown of what pH does and how school could get involved in a partnership, a collaboration with pH or what you guys have to offer.


Ryan Fahey (09:25):
Yeah. So the organization, physical health education Canada has been around for almost a hundred years actually. Which is which crazy when you think about it. But yeah, it, you know, the organization basically seeks to support healthy, healthy, active kids through physical and health education and quality physical and health education experiences. Over the years, the work obviously has changed a lot. You know, I think, you know, a few years ago was there, there was a lot of support specifically around curriculum many years ago. And obviously there’s a big need there to support advocacy and, and, and curriculum development, curriculum improvement, things like that. And we still do a bit of that, but I would say the, the biggest piece that I carry and and for the listeners listening in that, that might be of value is the amount of projects, programs, and resources that we have.


Ryan Fahey (10:21):
So we, we, we’re very grateful in that we have a lot of great funders, including, you know, the CFL is one MBA obviously the government and, and other corporate funders as well. And, and one of the pieces I just actually developed was a K to three physical literacy resource that is focused on football. So it’s in partnership with the CFO, it’s an earlier introduction to football and it’s kind of this two pronged approach and that kids are gonna learn about football, but they’re also gonna develop the, their fundamental movement skills, like hop in and, and jumping and kicking and throwing, which are all the skills that we see in the super bowl. Right? So it’s kind of this fun project that, that we were able to work on together with them and, and to support and to get the next generation of Canadians excited about the sport of football I think is huge. And so any of the listeners tuning in there’s, there’s tons of free resources across the website, go check it out. And whatever you’re teaching, we, we probably have something to support your needs. For sure.


Sam Demma (11:28):
That’s amazing. That sounds like a great program. What’s happened during COVID with the pivot, if I’m a, had to use that word with physical education, have you guys worked on some virtual resources as well for gym teachers wondering like, what the heck do I even do with my students right now?


Ryan Fahey (11:50):
Yeah, absolutely. So when, when COVID first hit, we, we kind of went into startup mode where we’re like, okay, we need to be equally as disruptive in terms of how we operate, what we do and, and how we deliver, right? Because everything just changed so quick for everyone. And, and, you know, again, peach, Canada being so old, we’re, we’re often looked to as that, that, that lead voice. And so it was important for us to do that and to meet the needs of the teachers. So when COVID first hit, we were doing a lot of advocacy for the at-home learning mandates writing letters to many of the provinces territories in partnership with partners there to say, Hey, look, you know, in your at-home learning mandates, you need to have some form of physical education. Because that’s, that’s, you can’t just drop that.


Ryan Fahey (12:39):
Like you can’t just go away. Yeah. So that was some of the initial work. And, and then as folks began to return back to school, we created these return to school guidelines just to really help physical health education teachers on navigating policy, navigating some of decisions that they need to make navigating gym gym sizes, or how many students can be in a gym, those types of things that we’re really looking for clarity. And so we, we try to just support and guide them you know, with, with compiling resources like that. I would say we we’ve completely moved a digitally right with conferences. We’re, we’re fully digital. We have a conference coming up here in February, that’s fully virtual.


Sam Demma (13:17):
Nice.


Ryan Fahey (13:18):
And, you know, I, a big credit to the team, you know, there there’s a mix of educators on the team. There’s business folks, there’s kind of multiple backgrounds, but everybody’s just come together and said, we need to support this community. And we need to continue to listen. Because there’s, there’s a lot being thrown at teachers right now. And we need to sift through that and find clarity and develop high quality resources and supports for them.


Sam Demma (13:42):
Physical education changed my life, growing up as an athlete. I, I don’t know if I would be the same person I am today without it. So the work is extremely important and something that can’t be dismissed no matter what the world it is going through, we don’t move our bodies. We lose our mental health. And I think they’re very interconnected. There’s probably dozens of studies that link the, the mind to physical movement. Yeah, it’s just such important work. Tell me about a, a situation or a story where you heard positive feedback from a program making an impact in a, or an educator reaching out and letting you guys know.


Ryan Fahey (14:19):
Yeah. So we ran this grant campaign for a couple years, my first few years at PhD Canada. And it was incredible. It was called share to care, and it was a mental health campaign to support schools with their mental health needs. And so what we would do is we would grant funding to those schools. I think we had like maybe five or 10 schools across the country each year. And then we would highlight those school profiles as promising practices as well, and publish them on our, on our website. So that was incredible because teachers would come in and they’d be like, I didn’t know, other schools were doing this. This is amazing. So we were able to surface some of that knowledge that was happening locally so that other schools across the country could take it and run with it.


Ryan Fahey (15:05):
But it was really neat being a part of that, that campaign as the, as kind of the lead person on it. Because like, I remember one school, I went to a school in Brampton. They were a recipient and they were just so overjoyed to have us in there. Like we would come in with this jumbo check and the kids were so excited. There’s a guest in there and he’s got a big check and, you know, and I’m like excited to be in a school cause I love schools. And, and so that was a lot of fun, like to get up in the gym, they would have an assembly. We present the check and have the funder there, do a few words and whatnot. I mean, this is all stuff, I’m sure you, you know, you you’ve been in some schools, you, you know what I’m talking about, but just to see the look on these kids’ faces and the teachers as well being like, there’s hope you there, there’s, there’s groups out, out there that are gonna support us in our, you know, cause a lot of them are just doing this from the deep Wells of their heart and they’re not getting paid for these extra things and these extra initiatives and you know, all of these, these things that they’re assets that they’re bringing to their, to their work.


Ryan Fahey (16:08):
And when you get these beautiful initiatives that pop up, it’s so awesome to be able to celebrate them. So that was one just being at that school in Branford was, was one one really neat way to see the impact of the work that we do and how important it is. And I mean, sometimes it’s like a school just needs to know that that there’s hope right. And it’s so challenging right now. But but how having grant programs like that, I think that I think provides that hope.


Sam Demma (16:36):
A hundred percent on the topic of hope. What do you think are some of the opportunities that exist in education right now? I think whenever there’s a challenge, you don’t have to find the silver lining in that specific individual challenge, but somewhere within the industry as a whole, that become some opportunities. Do you think any of these opportunities are starting to pop up because of the shift in education that has happened over the past two years?


Ryan Fahey (17:03):
Yeah. I’ll give you a great example. So when I was with ever active schools out in Alberta, we were piloting this new resource at the time called don’t walk in the hallways and essentially they were different colored sticky tiles that you would put through the hallways and it would create this kind of makeshift hop scotch. So as opposed to the kids, you know, hand on the hip finger on the lip or something like that, you know, like be quiet walking down the hallway, this was a culture shift for many schools to say, maybe the kids can hop or Gallop or skip. They go, you know, from point a to point B and have a little bit more play within their day and the amount of pushback that we got at the time, not from every school. I mean, we had early adopters for sure.


Ryan Fahey (17:46):
But, you know, there were some schools that were like, oh, it’s not gonna work. You know, the, the floors it’s too, they’re too sticky. They leave a residue and it’s not clean. And now think about this, Sam. Now you go anywhere and there’s like stickers on the floor. Like stand here, don’t stand here. Here’s another arrow. So I’m like, I think we were just too early with that. But you know, now it’s like this, this would be so much easier because schools are already used to having to have things marked on the floor right now. Now the, the leap is less large because they they’ve already been doing this with, with COVID. So I think in that sense, like the disruption has allowed space for a quicker conversation, right. To say, you know what? Yeah, we don’t need to worry about all these things anymore because they’re really not that important.


Ryan Fahey (18:37):
Like we know that these things are important, so let’s just go and make this decision. So I think that’s one thing. I think it, second thing that that’s really important and this kind of goes with that is I think teacher voices have never been louder. And I think it’s amazing. I mean, you’re, you’re, you’re on social media as well as, as, as myself and seeing educators being able to stand up and say, you know, what they feel, what they want, what they need. I think we need more of that. We need more teachers coming forward saying, look, this is just like this policy to doesn’t make sense. Or this policy doesn’t make sense or this look at this best practice and like, you know, call me and you know, we’ll talk about how to, you know, replicate this. Yeah. I think that that collective voices are huge right now. And I, I, you know, go going through the remainder of this pandemic. I hope that teachers don’t remain silent. I hope that they continue to provide a ground for all wise practices and what’s working. What’s not working and really advocate for what they need, because I think that’s really important.


Sam Demma (19:40):
I tell educators all the time that I think if they choose to share their experiences, it helps everyone else in the field because it may be a situation that someone else is experiencing right now that they’ve already figured out or solved and their sharing will open a door for somebody else who’s tuning in, whether it’s listening or reading. At the beginning of this interview, you introduce yourself as an ed entrepreneur, someone who works in education and is also an entrepreneur. One of the ways that a lot of educators, at some point in their life consider using their voice is by writing a book. And I know you’ve published. Self-Published a few of them. Can you tell me a little bit about your impetus or an inspiration to writing books and what it’s like being both an educator and an author?


Ryan Fahey (20:34):
Yeah, this is it’s very interesting. So I started out with a blog. I, I was in university and I wrote this blog. It was terrible. So if anybody Googles it, it was called wellness network blog. It was terrible. The visuals were awful. But the content was okay. So, you know, I remember I fast forward a few years from that I shut down the blog. I was kind of, you know, starting my career, doing things in education, but I was driving to a school in Northern Alberta and, you know, inspiration just hit. And I being like, I need to write these, I need to write this down. This is gonna be my book. And so I pulled over the side of the highway and I literally wrote down every chapter of the book that I was gonna write. And and that’s, that’s really where it started.


Ryan Fahey (21:21):
You know, I ended up actually finishing the book and really doing the, the groundwork of the book when I was in a Abu Dhabi. So I would come home from school. And literally just, I was in a hotel and I would just put my feet up and just write for hours and hours. Sometimes I wouldn’t even know what time it was. And just put myself in this space, cuz I knew that that was the time in my life to do that. I, you know, we had, didn’t have kids at that point. Weren’t married at that point or I wasn’t married at that point. So I just knew that this is the time to do it. And so that was, that was where my, my first and second book were, were created. The third one was very interesting because I knew I always was going to write a third one Sam, but it was March of 20, 20, everything had happened and I was looking around and I, I wasn’t seeing much for or many, many kind of resources and books out there to support the wellbeing of remote workers.


Ryan Fahey (22:16):
Mm. There was a few and remote workers already in, in our, our way of life. I think, you know, there were a lot of businesses that were offering that, but not to this extent that COVID put us in. And so it was actually last the last Christmas season where I wrote it, I, I sat down, I said, I need to write a book to support the wellbeing of remote workers and I need to get another resource out there. And so I literally locked myself in quarantine for 14 days. And I was staying at my sister’s place in, this is kind of funny cuz she has a couple of cats and I felt like mark Twain, you know, like he was out in a cabin and Maine the cat and the wood stove. Like that was literally me like except no wood stove, but two cats.


Ryan Fahey (23:00):
And yeah. So anyway, I ended up cranking this thing out, but you know, to your, to your second point on what’s it like being an author it’s it’s and an educator? It’s kind of interesting when I published a second one, I had a lot of people think I was, or, you know, kind of mentioned that I was too young to be an author. Mm. And, and that really played with me, you know, play with my psyche play with the imposter syndrome. And I remember, you know, really having to, to struggle with and work through that. And then I just got to a point where it’s like anything when you’re changing an identity and you’re deconstructing one and reconstructing another, that you’ve just, there’s a shift at some point that happens. And that shift for me, I would say happened probably last year where where I said, okay, I’m gonna fully step into this identity, no matter what age I am, no matter how you know, how gray my hair is or how many letters are behind my name, I, you know, I’ve written multiple books. So that one was definitely a learning learning moment for me. And, and you really, you really open yourself up. I mean, it’s a vulnerable experience and you know, any, any day now somebody could just rip, rip my books apart on Amazon and, and I just have to be okay with that. So it’s it’s definitely an interesting journey for sure.


Sam Demma (24:16):
Putting out your own stuff is always an interesting journey. You can work for somebody else and sell their products and have someone turn you down a thousand times and wake up the next day. Totally excited to try again, but you push your own stuff out. And one day someone rips it apart. It’s like what? And it has this totally different effect on your brain. What’s interesting to me is a thousand people could tell you it’s amazing and one person rip it part. And sometimes we focus on that one negative comment rather than the thousand people that loved it and that it helped regardless of the feedback at all, putting out things that you truly believe will be valuable to others is such an interesting experience. And I’m sure writing a book helped you clarify your thought and sharpen your ideas and keeps that fire lit within you to continually learn and be curious, which is invaluable as well. What is your best advice for an author who, or an educator who wants to write a book and journey into becoming an author as well?


Ryan Fahey (25:26):
Yeah, when I was back, you know, if we go back to the van, North Carolina days I, this family that I was living with at the time the, the father was an author and that book was called taking on Goliath. And it’s actually very fascinating read for anyone who’s interested, but we were running together one day and he said to, I asked him similar question, like what, like what kind of led you to writing a book? Like how did this happen? And he said, you know, Ryan, I got to a point where I realized I’m not an author, but I have a story to tell. And I think that’s so important for an educator out there. You have a unique story. You have your unique individual, you have unique value that you can add to the world and you need to add it.


Ryan Fahey (26:08):
You know, we live in this time that it’s so easy, like to write a book or to get, you know, get your resources on teachers, pay teachers or whatever, you know, platform is out there to share your talent, share your insight and value with the world. And I find it, it’s so interesting because as educators, we time inspiring the next generation and telling kids to live their dreams. But sometimes we, we, you know, through life and challenges and whatnot, they get snuffed out in their own lives. Yeah. And I think it’s important that we, you know, we just start something small, start something simple. And, and like you said about adding the value to adding value through your gifts and talents to the world, like putting yourself out there. I think it’s a super rewarding experience and, and it just makes the world a better place.


Sam Demma (26:56):
I couldn’t agree more. And if someone wants to ask you a question about anything we discussed or during this interview wants to pick up some of your books purchase, some of them wants to learn more about the process of becoming an author. What would be the best way for them to reach out or get in touch with you? Or send you an email?


Ryan Fahey (27:16):
Yeah. Great question. So they can come to my website just https://www.faheyconsulting.org/. I’m also on LinkedIn (ryanbfahey/) with Twitter as well at (@wellnessrf). I love Twitter. I think we’re now following each other Sam. So you might get some tweets from me about how exciting this conversation was. But yeah, I’m always open to chat, you know, I even put it in both of my books, I think like, or one of my, of books I put in temperature check, you know, you halfway through the book, you send me an email and I put my email in there, like, let’s talk, like what, how are you feeling? What have you taken away? What, you know, what more could I have done cuz I think, you know, keeping those conversations and lines open is huge.


Sam Demma (28:00):
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much again, Ryan, for doing this. Keep up the great work. I look forward to your next book and I, yeah, I look forward to staying connected and seeing all the great work you’re up to keep it up and we’ll talk soon.


Ryan Fahey (28:13):
Thank you, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Ryan Fahey

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.

Patrick Schultz – Director of Education, Director of Technology Integration at Business Professionals of America

Patrick Schultz - Director of Education, Director of Technology Integration at Business Professionals of America
About Patrick Schultz

Prior to joining the National BPA staff, Patrick Schultz had a very successful teaching career in Career and Technical Education with a focus on Computer Science and Cybersecurity.  Under his current role as Director of Technology Integration, Patrick is responsible for technology infrastructure development, multiple education initiatives, and establishing/growing partnerships around technology.  

With over 15 years of combined teaching, industry, non-profit, and student organizational knowledge, he brings a unique perspective to building opportunities for those looking to enter the fields of finance, business, and/or informational technology.

Connect with Patrick: Email | Website

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Business Professionals of America

Career and Technical Student Organizations

Nicholas Sparks (author)

MICE – Michigan initiative for cybersecurity education.

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:01):
Patrick welcome to the high performing educator. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Please start by introducing yourself.


Patrick Shultz (00:09):
Hi, my name is Patrick Schultz and thank you Sam, for having me here today. Currently I am the director of technology integration and director of education for Business professionals of America, a premier career tech student organiz located primarily in the United States, but also reaching into Guam, Haiti, Puerto Rico China, and a few other countries on the side of being those two director roles which we’re gonna dive into. I’m sure here talking about what we do on a day to day basis. I am also the CEO of a 501 nonprofit that focuses on cyber security and it education training for both students and teachers throughout the us.


Sam Demma (00:55):
How did you get involved in BPA and what are your responsibilities today?


Patrick Shultz (01:02):
Yeah, great question. So I got involved with BPA originally as a classroom educator, I taught in bay city, Michigan computer science, software engineering, website design, and pretty much anything else in the it media arts platform. As part of that, one of our responsibilities was to become a local chapter advisor that involves getting students prepared for competitions. It involves getting students built in and learning their own leadership potential and tracking a lot of community service work not just in local community, but also in ways that they could engage both nationally and internationally through virtual opportunities as well. My journey through BPA has been a very interesting one over the course of almost 17 years now after being in the classroom or while I was in the classroom, I did teach in that program for approximately 14 years.


Patrick Shultz (02:03):
While I was in that program, I had an to travel to regional competitions, state competitions in Michigan, and then also through multiple large scale cities throughout the United States. And essentially what we have in those cities at the national level is called the national leadership conference. As students work in impeding through nationals and working through that, I got the opportunity to meet some of the national staff the current director of education at the time. This goes all the way back to 2009. We were talking about competitions and I didn’t realize who they were, but we were talking about some of the challenges and ways that we could improve some of the competitive event in little to be known. She was the actual national director. So we were able to work through some, some different things via email.


Patrick Shultz (02:56):
And then I was invited out to do some work alongside some key educators throughout the nation. And, and each state gets to send one to three individuals to a group that’s called C a C or the classroom educator advisory council. So in the work there that I was able to do, I helped take a look at for multiple years in an unofficial role into the it events that we looked at in our platform. And then an opportunity opened up where I could become the official Michigan representative on the group. I was there for six years doing that and then turned from that opportunity after those years of, of working on so many different events and being a competition author, I was able to work my way through and I applied for the board of trustees at the national level my first year I was just a general member at large.


Patrick Shultz (03:51):
I was able to look at our strategic long range plan that hadn’t been updated in multiple years. So we put together a 1, 3, 5 year model for where we wanted to take the organization. And then my second year of the board, I was the vice chair elected by my peers. And then my third year I was elected as the chair of the board. Really opened my eyes to multiple different positions. What the national staff really endures throughout a year. It always seemed like they put on this big conference, but what else happened throughout the years? So I was able to really gain, you know, crucial insight to that perspective from staff, taking a look at governments and everything that went into all of the decisions that a board would make it an national nonprofit. And then combining with my teacher experience as a local advisor, it was sort of, I hadn’t really not experienced every angle.


Patrick Shultz (04:51):
So with all of that experience, there was an opportunity to work on the national staff after I was the board chair and there was a job opening into a job posting. So I applied for that, and that was for the director of technology integration. And then after a year of doing that, then I’ve moved into now the director of education. So that’s a long story for sure and my journey to get where I’m at. But right now my current roles of director of ed and director of technology, the integration, I oversee all of our technology solutions, our platforms also oversee all of our education partner competitions, our competitive event platform across six different assessment areas and career pathways, as well as taking a look at building out standards, certification and really just trying to grow and make sure that we’re staying at the forefront with new competitions and staying on par, if not ahead, of where the industry’s headed,


Sam Demma (05:55):
It’s such a fascinating organization that’s doing such important work. What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of working with BPA?


Patrick Shultz (06:06):
Definitely it’s, it’s getting to know and working with students and, and educators around the world. So it’s this past couple of years, you know, has been very tough for many people. Definitely through the coronavirus, the pandemic a lot of education was really flipped on its head in terms of delivery models. So utilizing my tech background as well as my education knowledge, we were able to go forward and still provide the same opportunities for students. We were still. And in many cases, we actually opened the door to new opportunities that rural students or others who may not have been able to attend all of a sudden have this platform that they could connect with. In the past two years, I was able to connect with more advisors and students than I think I ever did as a classroom educator, just because I had open platform to 45,000 members within our organization.


Patrick Shultz (07:06):
We successfully assisted at the national level over 85 regional and state leadership conferences across 30 different states. So that was just something really, you know, unique. It was really rewarding to get to know everybody. And, and ultimately there there’s a ton of work that goes into what we do, but it’s always about hearing the stories about how we’ve impacted individuals lives, how BPA as a whole has been able to show a students that they can have a career pathway in business or it marketing communications, health admin and in the end, it, it really shows them what they’re capable of. It builds that self confidence platform through our leadership development and, and in some cases too, something that is just as rewarding as showing someone their path of where they want to be is also showing them where they don’t want to be. You know, and, and it’s really cool to see students say, you know what, I did this competition. I don’t ever want to do this again. And that’s awesome because we help them find their path. And then they take in and move down a totally or plan that we know they’ll be successful in with the, the life skills and the basic core knowledge that they get from the organization.


Sam Demma (08:28):
And at what point through your own educational journey and career, did you found mice? And maybe you can explain the acronym and why you’re passionate about that work as well.


Patrick Shultz (08:41):
Yeah, absolutely. So mice is the Michigan initiative for cybersecurity education. About six years ago, I had the opportunity to work at the federal government level in a, a project called nice, the national initiative for cybersecurity education. I was their K12 co-chair of a, a federal working group identifying resources and, and best practice trends in cybersecurity and it education for a three year term. And when that term was over we brought everything by back into Michigan that we have found, but what we noticed was that there was a lot of ideas, but there wasn’t a one stop solution to try to bring everything together. It’s, it’s always easy to say, yes, let’s start this program and then you have to think, well, okay, who’s gonna teach it. Who’s gonna implement it. Are they trained? Plus in Michigan at the time, we did not have a certified career tech ed program for cybersecurity.


Patrick Shultz (09:43):
So there was a group of individuals who are my co-founders in mice. What we took a look at doing was writing a state standard program. So we modified it or, or implemented it as a carbon clone of what was done at the national standards, but then we threw in the auto automotive industry. And some of the other areas that are highly unique in, in Michigan is our core of manufacturing. And we built out the statewide program. And then we pitched it to the state department of education. And what’s always interesting when he’s start talking to higher education or department of ed, is that it typically takes a year to get the process rolling. And then another year for planning and then a third year for implementation. They were all on board with this within three months from start to finish.


Patrick Shultz (10:32):
We had a full program integrated. We had the standard there and then we also immediately had the thought process of, okay, now it’s there. What do we do? So we had already predesigned out quarterly trainings for teachers that were interested in cybersecurity and it we’ve specialized so far now in converting educators who may not have anything to do with it. So we we’ve got a lot of English teachers or business teachers that we converted into it teachers. So far we’ve worked with over 70 different school districts in Michigan. Wow. And that was just within the first year. Mice has been officially an organization for five years. And over the past two, we’ve also expanded into Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio Illinois, Indiana California, and a couple other states throughout the us. But ultimately there there’s three main pillars of mice.


Patrick Shultz (11:33):
One is to develop teacher training models that can be replicated across other states. The second one is to build a learning management system that has customized courseware that is open for all career pathways in it, whether it’s cyber, computer PRI computer programming networking hardware. And then our third pillar is taking a look at consulting and designing programs. Michigan is what’s known as a local control state, meaning that every local district gets to make the choice, as long as they meet the statewide standards, how they’ll implement what text they use, what curriculum materials to implement with that comes a challenge that everybody is absolutely unique and there is nothing that is done the same way between two different districts. So we take a look at our consulting side as identifying what they currently have, where we can fit in additional and information, how we can modify it with the ultimate goal of building a pipeline from preschool, kindergarten, primary grade, all the way through the 12th grade system. Hmm. So it’s, it’s interesting to see how each one works but ultimately we’ve impacted on average about 6,000 students, a across those districts that are specializing just in it throughout Michigan, over the PA or on average per year,


Sam Demma (13:01):
That’s amazing. You, it seems like you hold different roles of governance in different organizations your journey as a leader, along the path, what resources have you found helpful? Who have you looked up to and learned from, and what do you think makes a, a strong leader?


Patrick Shultz (13:22):
Well, I I’ll start that and come back to the strong leader aspect in a minute. For me individually my parents were definitely a huge influence on me. My, my dad was in, in computer science, he worked for general motors and recently retired working for autonomous vehicles. So that’s where I get my tech background from nice my educator side. My mom was a preschool teacher for many, many years. And then when I got into high school, she backed off from just to be able to, you know, work through all of the schedules between my sister and I from the multiple sports that we played and working through, you know, getting us to where, and luckily we were, she was able to do that to be with us at all times, but it really instilled in me to always take the risk, jump to the next step and just keep pushing as much as possible.


Patrick Shultz (14:16):
My journey is, is really an interesting one. I, teaching and education was never my first choice. Mm. I, I really wanted to be a brain surgeon or an astrophysicist. And that’s where I started school. I that’s where I was headed towards. And I can expand on that later in terms of, you know, how I ended up in education. But when it comes full circle, you know, there was a lot of individuals who were very influential in my life. I had an English teacher Carol Young, who always just taught you to think outside of the box. She, she believed in you, no matter what, I mean, even if you were being the absolute troublemaker I mean, I remember seeing friends and, and even myself sometimes, you know, we didn’t behave well. We were young and, and working through the process, but she always just saw this vision in us that we never saw in ourselves.


Patrick Shultz (15:13):
So people like that really make the difference. And when you really take a look and think back at it, and for me, reflecting on your question about what does it take to be a leader is, is it’s a few things, one it’s initial drive. It’s just the want to make a difference. I think that’s so huge in it because I don’t know if there’s one cookie cutter shell to, to define a leader because you can, obviously you can have leaders that are global. You can have leaders that are in a community, and they’re just happy with where they are. They don’t need to have that, you know, worldly acknow of where they’re going. The second thing with leadership in me is that you just have to be authentic as long as you are doing it for the right reason, whatever that reason you might believe in, and you don’t lose sight of that, then I think you end up leading down that path and you’re going to make a difference in people’s lives.


Patrick Shultz (16:12):
And, and the third one is just listening to your environment. You know, there’s so many times where you can get caught up in everything. That’s just going on, you know, whether it’s politics or you listen to, you know, if you’re leading a group of 10 people, there might be, well, there is 10 different voices there. You might have many different opinions. You might have many agreements, but ultimately you have to listen and you have to keep your ear to the ground. And, and you have to make decisions eventually where you may not know all the facts, but you know, what is right based on your own feeling, your gut, your vision, and that that’s where you want to take things you know, to move in it. And that sort of goes back to me and how I ended up in education is it just felt right. You know, it, I always wanted to make a difference in, you know, helping others and looking external. And I try to start every single decision that I do was with, with how will this impact someone else if it costs me 50 hours, but it saves someone else one hour of time, I’ll do that all day long. That’s, that’s just the way that I’ve always believed it.


Sam Demma (17:27):
I love that. I I’m intrigued by your explanation of gut feelings, because a lot of the big decisions that I made in my life, I believe came from my gut and the way that I felt about it. And sometimes those decisions don’t make the most logical sense to others, but it, you know, it feels right for you when you’re Teeter tottering on making one of those decisions or in front of a big decision, what do you find helpful to help you pull the trigger?


Patrick Shultz (17:58):
Well, I live by the motto in the, the quote where mantra of sir Richard Branson, someone offers you an opportunity, take it. You can figure out how to do it lay. And even if they don’t offer you the opportunity, you can offer yourself the opportunity at any time. And, and if you live by that, then you won’t ever look backwards and say, I should have coulda would’ve, you know, and if you’re, if you fail, you didn’t fail. You went forward. And, and in very, you know, I, I know there’s circumstances, obviously you can take a huge financial risk. You can lose a lot of money. You can go through that part, but in the end you might get set back, but you’re also gonna have a knowledge base to expand that even further and to grow faster through that entire process. So I think, you know, for me, it’s taking a risk.


Patrick Shultz (18:52):
It it’s risk is how you look at it. If you look at risk as being negative or, Ooh, I shouldn’t do that because of this situation, it’s hard for you to move forward. But if you look at risk as an opportunity, and you say, Hey, I might do this, but I not making. And that’s okay. You know, it’s traditional marketing, you make 10 phone calls, you probably get one lead that one lead could be the difference maker. And it also goes to, you know, a perspective of never being afraid to, to just fail. It, it, there’s so many different aspects of failure in, in weakness as what is perceived as weakness. So it’s, you know, if you look at a traditional SWAT analysis, you’ve got strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats which, what SWAT stands for, you know, anytime that you realize that your weakness and your threat are really your opportunity to and move forward, then you’ve, you’ve, you’ve really changed your mindset in, in part of it, cuz otherwise any company or any individual entrepreneur, if they looked at a market analysis and it’s oversaturated, we’d never come up with a new, the new product or we’d never come up with that new you know, transition to where we’re gonna head next.


Sam Demma (20:16):
What a good way to position that whole idea of failure and looking at risk as a positive thing. One of my inspirations as an American rapper named Russ who at the age of 15, decided he wanted to be one of the biggest artists in the world spent 10 years in the basement, a clothing store on a couch, making music made 94 songs, 11 studio albums build no fan base. And in the 11th year became one of the biggest independent artists on the face of the planet. And when asked in an interview, the best piece of advice he’d ever received, he said, what if it could turn out better than you ever imagined? And that sentence really reminded me of what you were saying about risk and it being an opportunity. It really just depends on the frame of mind that you’re in. When you look at the situation, I’m really curious to know where you see yourself within BPA within mice in the next five or 10 years. And this is obviously a big question, but what are some of your big goals that you hope to see come to life?


Patrick Shultz (21:27):
Yeah, well, I, I can start it by saying that it doesn’t matter what the title or what you know, what the position I’m in is as long as it’s making the difference. That’s where I want to be, you know, eight to 10 years for, from the mice perspective, I want mice in all 50 states. I wanna be in Canada, Mexico, Japan, China. I want it to just explode because I want the message and the opportunity to explode for students. It it’s not necessarily, but I, I mean, I’m not gonna lie. I’d love to be making millions and own a small island. And that’s where I wanna be in 10 years. But ultimately it it’s really the difference. For BPA within three years, I want to be in five new countries, I want to have BPA have double or triple the membership. And I wanna be able to have a system that has self support to be able to help identify and build out new instructors, because one of the biggest challenges that we’re gonna face globally, isn’t economical.


Patrick Shultz (22:34):
It it’s going to be an education or educator shortage that’s going to happen and occur. Cuz we have a number of individuals who have done their time. They have put in multiple years, multiple decades and they’re frankly burn out and it’s time and, and there’s going to be a very large shortage in terms of educators coming in. So that’s a big part of it. You know, it’s interesting too, when you bring up Russ and in, you know, the presence in, in how everything is cuz opportunity present itself, when you least expect it, if you go through life constantly waiting for that next moment, instead of making that moment or letting it happen you’re gonna live a little bit of, of doubt in yourself sometime, you know, or fear or anxiety because you’re always gonna be waiting and looking at it from a of, well, it’s not happening for me yet.


Patrick Shultz (23:33):
Well, that doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. It just hasn’t come to fruition. So it’s, it’s in work, it’s in progress. So you know, when I look at BPA in my career at BPA, did I ever think that I would move from a classroom educator all the way up to working for the national staff? I can’t say that I did. I’ve, I’ve loved the journey. I’ve loved the adventure. I’ve been able to work with so many dedicated educators and, and business professionals. I I’ve met CEOs, I’ve met custodians, I’ve met everybody throughout the process and they all have equal and important roles as you look at the full journey. I, myself, I would, I would love to be in a position that’s able to continue to make this decisions and move the organization to be really a model for global development and student success.


Patrick Shultz (24:36):
And, and honestly, I don’t, I don’t know that I need a title or that you need the title to be able to do that. Cuz you can make often you can make such a difference from the side and it doesn’t have to be from the top. Or even behind the scenes in certain things. There’s often many projects that I work on that I get called in for a quick solution or that, and, and it’s just that you do the solution, you give it back to ’em and then they’re able to move on and nobody ever knows where it came from and it’s perfect. It’s, it’s okay to happen in that way. It happens all the time. But yeah, you know, I’d love to be a philanthropic leader, you know, and build a a massive wealth that, that combines itself with other communities in, in really targets at risk youth in, in some really underprivileged areas, areas that we currently work with too.


Sam Demma (25:32):
So awesome to just hear some of the ideas, I appreciate you sharing, you have a quote on your Seren for everyone listening, who doesn’t actually see us and it reads, if it comes, let it come, if it stays, let it stay. If it goes, let it go. What does is the significance of that quote and what does it mean to you by Nicholas Sparks?


Patrick Shultz (25:51):
Yeah. You know, the quote really means that change happens. You know, when it comes, allow it to come, it, it could teach you some, some really positive life lessons, you know, change brings with it challenges, but it does bring solutions. If, if what you’re going through the, the second line, if it stays, let it stay is it’s okay to not force change. You know? So if you’re looking at something and it works, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel just to make it a different way or fit. It might just work. So the platform may be in my mind a solution that could, could be better, but there’s bigger fish to fry or bigger things to take a look at. And if it goes, let it go, you know, it’s one of those things. It, you can take that in a lot of ways.


Patrick Shultz (26:41):
When nobody likes loss nobody likes seeing people walk away or rolls be reduced. But when I look at that in my, what it really means is, is go with the flow. You know, there’s many times where the change that comes is going to come no matter what, and you can’t control it, you have to just let it sort of go and let it play its course out in certain times you have to be there to support everybody on your team so that they’re able to do their jobs and be able to, you know, help others and work through it. And everybody does take it a little bit differently too. So you have to let it roll off your shoulders. Sometimes you, you know, someone might be upset. That’s okay. They might walk away. That’s okay. You will get through it no matter what that’s, that’s the big part, but it may look different and that’s okay. You know, for it to take a look at that way, but that’s really, you know, it’s deep, but there’s really those, those three different parts of it. And Nicholas Sparks is one of my wife’s favorite authors. So he he’s written some excellent books over the years. But just go with the flow.


Sam Demma (27:54):
I like it. A good friend of mine used to say Kura, if it’ll be, it will be. And I think that really sums up that, that quote, which is why it’s stuck out to me. If you could take the experience, you’ve had the knowledge and the wisdom over the past, however many years you’ve been working in education, travel back in time, tap young, younger, pat, not that you’re old, but tap younger pat on your shoulder and say, this is the advice I wish you heard when you were just getting started in this field in vocation. What would you have told you young yourself?


Patrick Shultz (28:29):
I definitely would’ve. It, it would’ve been my third, you know, option of leadership is listen more. I think that when I was younger, I would, I was definitely a go-getter I’m still a go-getter. But I didn’t, I impactfully listen to those or my environment all the time. I think that that would be something to definitely go back and tell myself to just sort of live in the moment and again, ears to the ground experience, what you’re experiencing. You don’t have to rush through it to get to the next phase or the next step in your career. And the other thing that I would definitely go back and do and tell myself, and I wish everybody could always tell themselves this. When they look back is you have to trust in your own ability. You know, there are many, many times where you are correct or your ability is good enough, but the human psyche takes over so often and tries to cast doubt in yourself or in the project you’re working on or even in a team.


Patrick Shultz (29:35):
You know, there’s, there was times too where, you know, you may be the strongest link on the team and there’s times where you may realize you’re not the strongest, but what you have to realize is how to share the responsibility or to pick up the others who are on your team you know, and help them along in the process. But at the same time, you do have to have discussions that are tough. And you have to have you know, a lot of faith in those around you to be able to move forward with a lot of the projects in, in the way that, you know, they need to be done. And it might not be your way, you know, that’s the other thing too, is I, if I could go back 20 years, I would tell myself that your way is not the only way, you know, it, it takes everybody, I think, quite a bit or a lot of time in life to realize that other solutions are, are awesome and that you know, they open your eyes to a different perspective to help you improve and grow to it.


Patrick Shultz (30:38):
I’ve always been a lifelong learner. I mean, I can’t get enough. I’m a knowledge hound where I sit on Wikipedia, I’ll sit and read you know, books, not it, it’s more like sitting and reading a dictionary almost. So just work, looking up word of the day and going through all those things. Yeah. I can’t get enough of, of that education piece, but I would tell myself to slow down and just enjoy the right two.


Sam Demma (31:03):
I love it. Thank you so much for taking some time here to share your experiences a little bit about yourself, some of your philosophies, if someone wants to reach out, ask a question or help you expand to Japan, China, or any of the other countries you mentioned, if they’re in the position to do so, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Patrick Shultz (31:23):
Yeah, the best way to get in touch would be to reach out, to support@bpa.org. That’ll come right to me and we can work through any challenges, structure, ideas even people, if they don’t want to talk BPA, they can talk mice, they can talk general knowledge, you know, just pick the brain. That’s, that’s where I think the collaboration amongst everybody always comes in. And you know, I’d like to just leave this with my favorite quote of all time. When my when I started teaching there was a track coach that I coached girls track with. And he always used to say this, and I never really believed it until four or five years into teaching, but the quote is still unknown to this day. I don’t know who created it other than him. But the quote is good. Better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best. And if you live by that motto in every single situation that you look at, no matter what the project, no matter what the assignment even if it’s just getting up out of bed out a day, when you’re having a bad day, take the good, make it better. And eventually the better will become the best that you could be. So that’s where I’d like to leave it with you for today.


Sam Demma (32:36):
Thank you so much, pat. Thank you so much, Patrick. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Patrick Shultz (32:42):
All right. Thanks a lot, sir.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Patrick Shultz

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.

Jamie Stewart – Teacher and Founder of Elite Basketball Training Academy

Jamie Stewart – Teacher and Founder of Elite Basketball Training Academy
About Jamie Stewart

Elite Basketball Training Academy’s CEO Jamie Stewart has been operating EBTA for 20yrs. EBTA boasts a 100% Scholarship Graduation Rate for players who attend daily! EBTA players on average Train for over 2000 hours Annually, play in over 300 games Annually, which fulfills the longtime belief of the 10,000 required hours needed to receive a Basketball Scholarship by the end of your High School Career. 

Jamie Stewart is considered a World Level Basketball Skills Instructor & many of the drills he has personally invented are being utilized in the NBA! Additionally; Jamie Stewart’s players are always considered the Best Shooters in the Country by their senior years! 

 

Connect with Jamie: Email | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Elite Basketball Training Academy Website

ETBA Youtube Channel

Summer Break Academy

Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board

EBTA Blog

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. I actually met and learned about today’s guest by doing a four day seminar to his class in the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board. His name is Jamie Stewart, and he has been operating the Elite Basketball Training Academy for 20 years. EBTA, the Elite Basketball Training Academy boasts a 100% scholarship graduation rate for players who attend and show up daily. EBTA players on average train for over 2000 hours per year playing over 300 games annually, which fulfills the long time belief that 10,000 hours is required needed to receive a basketball scholarship by the end of a high school career.


Sam Demma (01:20):
Jamie Stewart is considered a world level basketball skills instructor, and many of the drills he has personally invented are now being utilized in the NBA. Additionally, Jamie Stewart’s players are always considered the best shooters in the country by their senior years. Jamie; I brought him on because it’s interesting to me that he is both a teacher, an educator, and a high level world class basketball skills instructor. He brings a lot of what he teaches on the court into the classroom, and that’s why I thought he’d be an amazing guest for today’s episode. So I hope you enjoy this conversation and I will see you on the other side. Jamie, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about your background and who you are?


Jamie Stewart (02:12):
Okay. My name is Jamie Stewart. I was born and raised in Amherstburg, Ontario. I went to St. Thomas Villanova high school. Through, I’m considered an overachiever, through a lot of hard work, and diligence and sacrifice of many things, I was able to overcome a lot of obstacles and, and become, you know, like a three year scoring champ in the area. A full scholarship winner, I went on to the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut where I was a three year captain. I think it was second or fourth in assist a couple years in a row. My senior year when I was supposed to really, really break out, I was at about 25 points a game, and my career ended with a series of knee injuries. I just wanted to, I always wanted to help kids get better.


Jamie Stewart (03:03):
But I, I kind of didn’t know how so when I was in teachers college I, I met this I met this guy he’s actually from London, Ontario. I went to Western Ontario, Western university in, in London, Ontario. And he, he, he explained it to me how he’s put, put himself through school. And he ran a music business where he had a house and he had different people come in and teach instruments per room, you know, piano, one, one room violin. And I thought, wow, that’s, that’s wonderful. And he’s a music teacher now. And I said, wow, that’s wonderful. So you use your passion for instrument to not only, you know, help others service the community, but, and you’re able to get paid for it. I thought that was more, I should do that for basketball. I should, I should teach kids basketball skills, teaching better basketball.


Jamie Stewart (03:58):
And we actually had, we were in this class and we had to produce a website and I said, you know what, I’m gonna kill two birds in one stone. I’m gonna, I’m gonna do the website for my basketball business that I’m going to open. And, and, you know, and it’s gonna fulfill my requirements in class, actually create a website. And that’s kind of how, how it started. And then I, you know, drip, some business cards and brochures. And I was my, my first ever client, Dan chap, Japane bell river, Ontario. He was actually the last player on the grade nine Riverside Falcons as an OBA team. And he was my first ever client. So make a long story short. So he went from the last on grade nine, OBA to number five in Canada, his senior year high school, first team, all Canadian.


Jamie Stewart (04:53):
He played on national television, TSN all Canadian game. Some people had him rank number two in Canada. He full scholarship Columbia university of New York work where he graduated. He appeared on I think he was good morning America. He won, he won a, I think he won some money to start his business. Hmm. He has a lucrative clothing clothing line now. And he’s he’s a millionaire in Los in list. He’s doing really, really well. So I was my first ever client in over 19 years going on 20, all of my, all of my clients, all of my kids that I’ve trained have similar, you know, crazy improvement stories that, you know, it’s hard to believe unless you’re there and you, and you witness it. So that’s that’s kind of how I, how I got started and my passion for the, the game.


Jamie Stewart (05:46):
I, I can remember in university, I mentioned before, you know, I, I was always addicted to the game when I was in when I was in college university, they, they would call me Hurley. My idol was Bobby Hurley and my dorm room, I have two TVs. One was a big screen and one was a small screen. And the big screen usually had NBA games on and the, and the small TV had college games. And when I was, when I was home, no matter when I was in my dorm room, no matter what I was doing, those were on. And I was watching even while doing home and work, even, you know, even if I people in my room, I, so I, I was addicted to the game, addicted to player development, improving, and, and skills. And still to this day, I, I fall asleep with my laptop in front of me studying, studying basketball or studying my, my kids at my basketball academy and trying to find a way to make ’em better.


Sam Demma (06:39):
So where did your own passion for the game stem from? Take me back to when you were a young kid, why basketball? Where did that passion come from?


Jamie Stewart (06:49):
I remember I, I always loved dribbling the basketball and running out and playing with, with the older guys. I remember begging my, it was grade four and you had to be in grade six to play on the basketball team. But I, when I remember my teacher telling me, just go knock on the door and they’re having their basketball tryout and ask the teacher, if you can try out for the team. So grade four, that’s what I did. So I knocked on the door. I said, you know, can I please try out with the team? And the coach let me in. And I was on the team from grade four to grade eight. I don’t remember actually getting any playing time except for the junior team until maybe grade seven. I, I didn’t get in, but I just remember not being very good, but loving, absolutely loving playing at that time.


Jamie Stewart (07:38):
And eventually that, that love for playing, you know, created a work ethic where I was always playing. And then it kind of like from going in grade 10 to going to create grade 11, when I first started lifting weights, I actually started to get good. So, you know, I grew a little bit and the time that I spent on the core of those, the, the countless hours of, of playing, even though I wasn’t very good, I started to pay off. And I started to see fruits of my labor when I went from grade 10 aver and maybe eight points, a game to grade 11 aver and 25 and leading. And that was from junior boys to senior boys. Right. So that was a big jump. I probably grew four inches that summer as well. So I went from averaging like eight points game in junior boys, basketball as a 10th grader to, you know, leading the conference and scoring at 25 points a game at 15 years old.


Jamie Stewart (08:33):
So, but I’ve always loved it. Even when I wasn’t a good player, I’ve loved it when I was a decent player. I’ve loved it. You know, you know, I’m, I was a gym rat. You couldn’t get me out of the gym. You had to chase me out of the gym. You know, I’d break into the gym, I’d leave the back, I’d leave the gym door open in my high school and come back at 11 o’clock at night when the janitors left, you know, and I’d stay here until three, four in the morning, getting up shots and getting better. And you know, that that’s really how, you know, I, I made myself I made myself a, a decent, respectable scholarship, eventually an NCAA captain by, you know, just outworking and outsmarting the opposition. And, and that’s kind of the same, you know, the same philosophy that I had taken into my academy. We will outwork and we will outsmart everyone, you know, we come in contact with, or, or we compete against.


Sam Demma (09:27):
Hmm. And where personally, for you to teaching and education, like when did that come into the picture as well? Like, I’m sure at a young age, you know, when you had those knee injuries, you were devastated. What drew you to education?


Jamie Stewart (09:42):
It was definitely the the high school that I went to St. Thomas Villanova at the time was the name was brought Ontario. Now it’s in lasal Ontario competes their conference. There, there was a few teachers there in particular. Tony low was a former CFO football coach. And I, and, and and, and Linda Macelli was also there. And I just remember most of the staff just being, especially the, the athletic department being super positive nonjudgmental, and they, they wanted what was best for you. That’s not always the case, believe it or not, but I really think that I made it out of there because I made it out there with a scholarship, because I, I remember in grade 11, when I, when I kind of busted out as a really good player, when my coach coach de logio pull me aside, he said, you’ve come a long way.


Jamie Stewart (10:36):
And I leaving you, you can get a scholarship, just keep working. And it, and that, that, that positive effect that they had on me, I wanted to, to give back that’s what I wanted to do to others. That’s what I wanted to do to kids. Tell them, even though, even though you’re probably not, you’re not very good right now. If, if you are told, Hey, I believe in you, I believe in your work ethic, I believe in your perseverance, I believe in your character and I will help you get to the next level. That’s what I wanted to do for, for kids. I want to be positive inspiration, and I wanted to help them do things that they never would’ve dreamed that they’d ever be able to do. I, I remember in grade nine, I’m grade nine and grade 10 I’m, I’m probably 5, 2, 5, 4 playing.


Jamie Stewart (11:26):
And I, I seen somebody running, jump, running, jumping dunk, and I see somebody shoot a 30 foot jump shot. Wow, wow. I wish one day, maybe I could do that to like go into my junior year where I’m averaging four, you know, four dunks per game is like, right. It, when people inspire you to do things that you don’t think you can do, you know, that’s that, that it’s a trip trickle effect into your life. You know, having building confidence in sport, you know, through their positive interactions with me, you know, benefited me going forward in many, many other areas of my life, but definitely get back to your question more. So it was, it was St. Thomas Villanova led by coach Delo, just believing in me and inspiring me to do good and then better. And then, you know, be one of the best in Canada. You know, that’s why I wanted to, to become a teacher and an educator and, and eventually a basketball coach.


Sam Demma (12:28):
And I think what’s really unique about you as a teacher now is you teach, you know, civics and careers, which is a course that’s difficult to teach, but it has, it has very fruitful outcomes. You can include life lessons, you can include leadership skills. You can include so many awesome things in the curriculum. Being a careers in civics teacher, like how do you implement your philosophies from the game of basketball into of the, into the classroom per se?


Jamie Stewart (12:58):
The very first day that I met them was actually online cause we were on lockdown. So we were learning online. The very first lesson I taught them was the secret. If you read the book, the secret and then encouraged I, everyone to read the book and then eventually read the book once a year, and then you watch it on film. And in the first 20 minutes, I think really, really applies to like grade nine or 10 religion, careers in civics. You know, even phys ed is just to have a positive, you know, like a ridiculously positive attitude.


Sam Demma (13:37):
Mm


Jamie Stewart (13:37):
Right. So no matter how, you know, life sometimes is humiliating, you’re gonna fall so many times you’re gonna fail so many times. But if you have that true unconditional positive attitude, you’re gonna get back up every single time. You’re gonna keep trying, you’re gonna try to, you’re gonna try to strive for things that, you know, how many times was I told when I was in grade 9, 10, 11, even 12, you’re not getting a basketball scholarship. You’re not good enough. Right. And that’s another thing that, that we talk about all the time. Don’t listen to people believe in yourself. Hmm. Believe in yourself. And, and I would tell the kids all the time, you know, who’s your favorite athlete entertainer, or, you know, if you eventually wanna be a teacher, a doctor, who’s your favorite, Google them right now and ask the question. How many times was Wayne Gretsky told, or, or somebody was told they can’t do something.


Jamie Stewart (14:36):
Mm. And they will say hundreds, thousands. That’s just the world. Yeah. You gotta, you gotta laugh that that’s just the world and it’s never gonna change. Right. Cause sometimes people are offended by your goals and your dreams. But not to listen to them to get back up when you fall. And if you’re really truly determined to achieve something is ridiculous. As it sounds like you really can do it. Right. So having that ridiculous positivity in your life can really, really benefit you, help you get up when you fall all, you know, brush it off and move forward, bigger, stronger, faster, better.


Sam Demma (15:17):
I love that. That’s amazing. And this belief I’m assuming came from your teacher, I’m sure you’ve had other inspirations that, that led you to develop that belief and to try and share that with others. Where do you think that belief came from? Like, did you have someone in your life who poured belief into you or was it mostly your coach in high school? What led you to the secret and other materials to continue building that really positive mindset?


Jamie Stewart (15:44):
I always, you know, as a kid, you always wanna be successful. Hmm. And actually that’s another assignment that we do in our class. You know, what do you fear the most? And, and I always tell them if, if I was sitting in your desk right now and the teacher asked me that it was always the fear, the fear of failure. Mm. So anything that I tried to do, I tried to give it 100%. You know, I was told I, and I was, I was too skinny. I was too scrawny. So what did I do? I wanted to change that. I lived in the weight room. Right. I couldn’t shoot, what did I do? I shot 500 jump shots a day. You can’t dribble. Good enough. You have no left hand. What did I do spent hour or two every single day working on my ball hand.


Jamie Stewart (16:33):
So yeah, you know, my coach Delo had a, had a wonderful effect on me. Obviously there was something deep and down inside. Mm. And I also teach grade nine, 10 religion. And, and I, and I incorporate it into this class as well. You know, what, what motivates you, you have to find what motivates you? What, what triggers you? What trigger that triggers that inner animal in you? Right. For me, it’s being told you can’t do something. Mm. I remember I remember high school. I would score 30 and a half 25 and a quarter 40 in a game that really didn’t. Yeah, that’s good. You know, let’s keep going with it. But what really lit my fire was somebody telling me, like, and, and to this day, somebody tell me I can’t do something or I’m not good enough. Then it’s on you. Go on my run, mental Rolodex.


Jamie Stewart (17:36):
I write your name down on my phone. And I will look at it for the rest of my life. And it’ll drive me to absolute exhaustion at the end of the day. And this is just a competitor to me, has nothing against that person. They help me at the end of the day, I’m gonna make sure that everything I do is better than you I’m coming at you. Right. And, and it’s psychological. And, and I tell the kids find something that motivates you. Mm. Yes. You have your, you have your passion, you have your goals and your, and, and your daily routine. It should resemble the result being your goal. But what sparks a fire in you to push it to that next level? Yes. In my basketball academy, my kids wake up at five in the morning, every morning, they’re in the weight room by six, till seven 30, then they go to school and then they see me after school from four to eight inside of that, four to eight, they shoot a thousand jump shots. They make a thousand passes. They make 200 5500 defensive slides and 2000 to 5,000 dribbles. Okay. So everything, everything is systematic in, in what we do. So, sorry. I lost track. Sometimes I go off on tangents. Can you re bring me back to the initial question? Cause I just lost track of my


Sam Demma (18:54):
Yeah, no, no, no worries. I was just asking where your belief came from and you gave me a ton of great ideas from, from your coach. And then you said internally, right? Like you have to figure out what drives you. Personally. And I think it’s important to understand that every person is driven from something different. I relate to you. I, I love when people tell me I can’t do something and that drives me a ton. And yeah, I, I, I agree. I, I’m curious to know what are some of the things you think that drive your students? So when you give those assignments in religion class and, and in careers and civics, like what kind of ideas or answers come up?


Jamie Stewart (19:35):
A lot of ’em talk about, you know, cuz I always, I always go back to basketball with them, with me and the work that I have and my kids have, but I always say replace that with your goals and dreams and they, and they always do. They always do. And a lot of the kids in this class now say that they wake up and they exercise before school or they wake up and they’re working on their dream, whatever it may be. And a lot of ’em, they don’t know what they wanna do yet, but they wake up and they get an hour of schoolwork in before school that they weren’t doing. Mm. Right. So they’ve a lot of ’em have changed their schedule into putting more time into who they want to be in the future and obviously a lot less time on, on social media.


Sam Demma (20:27):
Hmm. I love that. That’s awesome. And I know we met because of the four day program that we, you did with your school, which I’m super grateful for. Which is awesome. Wh what would your advice be for another educator who’s listening, who maybe they’re in their first couple years of teaching. And I think teaching and coaching are very similar, which is why we can make these, these similar analogies. But if you could give advice to someone who’s in the first couple years of teaching what would you say? Like what kind of advice could you give them?


Jamie Stewart (20:58):
I always say, if you have passion for the kids, if you have passion for their development and you have the betterment their betterment truly on your mind. Mm. Obviously you’re gonna have to put a one an hour to three hours a day in understanding the curriculum and really not only understanding, but learning how to bring modern day contemporary issues that can drag the kids in to that. They, they enjoy what you’re doing. You’re gonna be successful. Hmm. I think with teaching you can’t fake it. The kids will know if you care or not. They will know if you’re on their side or not. So for all the advice I’ve ever given, new teachers is love the kids, put them first, put your ego to the side. It’s servant leadership. It’s sometimes gonna be humiliating, but that’s okay. That’s what, that’s what we’re here to do. If it betters the kids and you’re humiliated, good, you’ve done your job nice. Right. And I, and sometimes even, even in coaching, right. Sometimes you’re gonna be humiliated, but it, if it makes the kids better and they’re gonna learn from it and grow from it, right. And then you can build upon that, put your ego to the side for the betterment of the, the student to, for the betterment of, of the player.


Sam Demma (22:32):
Mm. I love that. It’s an awesome principle. And I think our egos get in the way sometimes.


Jamie Stewart (22:38):
So all the time, any, any, any, if you really look back as, as a coach or a teacher, whenever you get into trouble, whenever you get into conflicts, what is it really? It’s your ego. Mm. Right. They, Greg Popovich has a wonderful thing that I learned from you is get over yourself, right. Get over yourself in order, you know, to make the squad better, which in essence is gonna make you better as a person. And no matter how good, no matter how good you think you are. Right. You can still always get better.


Sam Demma (23:08):
Yeah.


Jamie Stewart (23:10):
I was having a, a conversation with Cedric BA Cedric Ben. He’s a boxing coach here in Windsor. He has a lot of national champions. And I told him, you know, back in 2011, when, you know, I had NBA Scouts calling me about one of the players that I had transformed from a really, really struggling player in Windsor to duke and Michigan and Northwestern calling and, and on offering scholarships. I thought that I was, I was one of the best in the world. I really, I really thought that. And I probably was, but from then, until now I am a thousand times better. And it’s because of my passion. And, and it’s because, you know, I study the game, you know, so thoroughly, so no matter how good you are, get over yourself, because you can always get better. You can always improve which, which is gonna help you benefit a benefit. Everybody that you come in contact with more.


Sam Demma (24:08):
I agree. I, I couldn’t agree more. And your progress has been super inspiring and you’ve helped so many young students inside the classroom and also on the basketball court. And if anyone is listening to this and is inspired by this conversation so far, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you and have a conversation, be it at basketball or teaching?


Jamie Stewart (24:28):
Yeah. So I’m online @ebta.ca. I’m, I’m on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube. My email address and my contact information, you know, is there along with other, other information. I’m always, I’m always getting calls emails from parents from, you know, they have a soccer, they have a soccer kid or, or another baseball kid. And then they’re always asking, you know, for my advice. And I always try to give the best advice as possible and it, and it’s usually about the work ethic of, of my kids and my academy that you, that you really, that you, that you really should have. So I’m open, I’m open to you know, to help anybody if, if they’re in need.


Sam Demma (25:21):
Awesome. Jamie, I appreciate you taking the time to, to have this conversation and I’m wish you all the best. Keep up the awesome work and we’ll talk soon.


Jamie Stewart (25:31):
Okay. Thanks buddy.


Sam Demma (25:33):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an 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; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna 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 fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Jamie Stewart

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.

Tomy Valookaran – Chaplain at St. Mary C.S.S

Tomy Valookaran – Chaplain at St. Mary C.S.S
About Tomy Valookaran

Tomy (@tvalookaran) is the founder of bridges for solidarity. This is a business enterprise operating on social enterprise principles to bring together the poor in developing countries and the youth in Ontario high schools to work together to help create a global community of caring and mutual help. 

Tomy is also the Chaplain at St. Mary C.S.S, the high school from which I graduated.  Over the course of his career, Tomy has worked alongside other educators to coordinate one of the largest student clubs in the province called “Retreat Leaders.”  

Connect with Tomy: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

St Mary Catholic Secondary School Website

Retreat Leaders Leadership Program

St Mary Catholic Secondary School: Alliance for Compassion

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 on the show is a Chaplain; he’s a Chaplain that was at my high school. He was the Chaplain at the high school that I grew up at, that I graduated from; St. Mary Catholic secondary school in my hometown Pickering. He is someone who lives out this idea of serving others every single day, whether it’s with students, with his fellow colleagues and teachers, or for disadvantaged peoples and poor people around the world.


Sam Demma (01:11):
He’s the founder of something known as the bridges for solidarity. It’s a business enterprise operating on social enterprise principles to bring together the poor and developing countries and the youth in Ontario high schools to work together, to help create a global community of caring and mutual help. He worked closely with dozens of teachers from the high school I grew up at, to over this man of 20 years, donate over a million pounds of food to local food shelters. He runs and organizes one of the largest school clubs catered around service and mentorship for other young people. He calls it the retreat leader program. It’s a phenomenal program, phenomenal opportunity. My head was so deeply sunken in soccer when I was in high school that I didn’t get involved as much as I wish I could have, but he shares how he runs this on today’s episode and if you’re looking for ideas Tommy is definitely someone you should chat with. He will, he will give you a ton of ideas and he’s always looking for ways to help. So enjoy today’s interview, and I will see you on the other side. Tommy, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on this show. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit of the journey that got you into working with young people today?


Tomy Valookaran (02:32):
Well my name is Tommy Valookaran, and this is my 35th year of chaplaincy in general. I spent three years in a hospital chaplaincy before I came to high school working with young people. So my journey is is like, it takes like couple of books to write, but to put it just shortly, I was born and brought up in India. I was born to a family of seven brothers and two sisters and we just had a one bedroom house where we lived and we were pretty poor; so I can remember being hungry many times. And when I looked around as a, as a young person growing up like 10, 11, 12, I was always very angry at the society. You know, I could see all the injustices which are happening. Then I looked to our, our church and I became an altar boy.


Tomy Valookaran (03:36):
And the church was very involved in people’s lives there. So I, I felt, you know, this is something I could do with the together, with the help of others to improve things for everybody. And I was at a, in grade 10. I clearly remember there was a, I couldn’t go to a Christian school because we had no money. So we went to a, a Hindu school, which was free run by the government. And they, they had a guest speaker, a, a priest Salian priest who came in, he did sort of like a small assembly and he talked about how he’s making a difference in so many people’s lives. So he was asking for volunteers and I jumped in and they took us to a, a three day retreat. And one thing I remember is they fed that so well.


Tomy Valookaran (04:27):
And, and I, I bought right into it. Anybody who gave me food I’m good. Yeah. So that, that memory always stayed with me. And, and that made me passionate about social justice. So I went through priesthood through that. I spent 12 years in different seminaries and I was a few months away from ordination and we did, I did a retreat where, you know, it got, it became very clear to me that God is calling me to be a lay person doing the same work over must. Most priests do. And that’s how I got into chaplaincy and sisters of St. Joseph hired me from in Hamilton. I was a chaplain at the St Joseph’s hospital. And one of the wise nuns who was mentoring me she sort of suggested that I have a lot of gifts which will be useful for young people.


Tomy Valookaran (05:23):
And I’m a second Vatican council person, and I’m very passionate about all the changes, which has happened in the church. And so she sort of nudged me to apply and I applied to Durham and, and different people, and Durham called me for an interview. And we were like 25 people being, I, it for two, two positions and I got hired and I was very shocked with that hiring. So that’s how so the, it sort of organic how it came to young people. Then I started listening and you know, my passion has always been the passion of Jesus. Mm. And, and I spent a lot of time trying to understand the doctrinal teachings versus the real Jesus who was born in Palestine and some of the struggles he went through. And I realized, you know the God, he tried to reveal through his work was a, a God who is passionate for justice, a God who Christ when his people or anybody suffers because God created, everybody doesn’t matter what religion or no religion.


Tomy Valookaran (06:35):
So when they suffer, God suffers. And and Jesus really felt that passion. And he passed that on to a few people and those few people became a movement. Yeah. And I used that. So my experiences made me, first of all, very inclusive in my chaplaincy that everybody’s welcome no matter what, especially those who are struggling, especially those are marginalized. And well, my ministry is iCal because I grew up with Hindus and Muslims equally. So especially in a high school, there are Hindus and Muslims and buds. And I know they feel very much at home in my ministry. And I’ve always made it a point to let everybody who works with me know we preach God always, but we use words only when absolutely necessary through our actions. And, and that’s what St. Francis of ASIS preached. Yeah. Yeah.


Tomy Valookaran (07:44):
So, so the, the ministry I do is modeled after the ministry of Jesus, especially in the early church. And we build communities, small communities and not within the large school. So right now we have we eight color groups, we call them color families. And they are all led by two or three core leaders whom we have selected and trained, and they meet every week with their family and make it a safe space for everybody. And out of which comes all the other initiatives we do. So, so our retreat of the community, I was, I was explaining to a couple of kids who asked me what retreat leader was all about during the interview. So, so I tell them, listen, this is not another student group you are joining, or you wanna join. Yeah. This is a movement you a movement, which has changed the lives of so many people, a movement where so many before you have given so much to build it up the way it is.


Tomy Valookaran (08:49):
So right now it’s your turn to take it to the next level. And, and so we always try to go below the radar. We don’t like to show off too much attract too much attention. So people, everyone feels safe. Right. Nice. And so, well, Esterday like T I met with four great 11 students who are already retreat leaders, and they wanted to study a women’s group. And that’s our next initiative here. That’ll be our ninth initiative, nice coming out of our retreat leadership. So they want to focus on intersection of feminism, nice and amplify the voices of especially black and indigenous and people of color voices in feminism.


Sam Demma (09:44):
I like that.


Tomy Valookaran (09:44):
No, I believe, I believe when God, when, when we adults give their platform a safe platform where young people can express themselves and are given support. So they shine. They really shine.


Sam Demma (10:01):
I agree. I, I,


Tomy Valookaran (10:04):
Yeah, go ahead.


Sam Demma (10:05):
No, I was gonna say, I totally agree. And I have a follow up question, but continue. I don’t want you to lose your thought.


Tomy Valookaran (10:13):
Oh, okay. Well, Mr. Mora who is one of who worked with me as a team member asked me if I could suggest a speaker for their LGBTQ group. So I suggested one of our outstanding alumni. And so I was talking to her about it. And then, and then what she said was just incredible. She said, sir, your group saved my life.


Sam Demma (10:43):
Mm.


Tomy Valookaran (10:45):
So we, we have that Alliance for compassion, LGBTQ safe group, which we run out of our chapel every Friday and just incredible how kids feel so safe and come every Friday at four 30 to five 30. And then


Sam Demma (11:03):
That’s awesome.


Tomy Valookaran (11:04):
So this is about you know, life. Yeah. You know, creating safe spaces where people feel safe, and that is the heart of Christianity. You know, it’s not about everything else that you, there is a famous saying. The Budha said the hand, that points to the moon is not the moon. So the, the, the sacraments going to church, they’re all the hands that point to God. They are not God. So a lot of people get stuck in the, in the, and, and I missed, missed the whole point. So


Sam Demma (11:43):
That’s a great perspective shift. I, I, I have to ask two questions. The first is, you said you were mentored by a nun, a very wise nun and do nuns sleep. And I’m asking because I was at a summer camp one time and, and the, you know, the nuns seem like they’re up at like three in the morning. And just, just outta curiosity, what do you think?


Tomy Valookaran (12:08):
Yeah, there are there are different types of nuns religious group. Yeah. Some are very active. They call it active condemn. So they, they are action oriented and some nuns just stay indoors and pray for everybody do counseling. So my sister is a nun of saying, you know, Francis commissioners of Mary and I have two aunts who are nuns. So yeah. NA had a big influence on my life.


Sam Demma (12:37):
Yeah. That’s awesome. So cool. And you know, the educator that’s listening to this right now is, is probably wondering how are you able to get so many students from the school involved, you know, the program, their treat leading program has, I think you, you said roughly over 120 students right now, and that’s a massive accomplishment where, you know, most student clubs and it’s not a club, it’s a movement, but, but where most, you know, typical student clubs would have 30 kids. Maybe if they’re lucky, you know, that many students involved your retreat leading and core program is, is, is, is blown up. And I’m curious to know what is it that makes so many students want to participate and get involved and, and help


Tomy Valookaran (13:22):
Because well, we, we do have a big history, like going back 10, 15 years, we have been building slowly, right? Yep. So their brothers, their sisters, older sisters recommend many parents know the work we do. So parents recommend kids to, to join because they see the change in their own children. Mm. Once they become part of a movement as opposed to ING your ego, like, so the, the way we train is we, we really give them opportunity to we, we call it graced history. So, so we give them the tools to go through their life five year cycles, zero to five, five to 10, 10 to 15, 15 to 17, whatever. And they have to write down the significant events or people they have had who had either a positive or a negative influence on them.


Tomy Valookaran (14:28):
Mm. And then we created safe space where they share that with each other. Mm. And, and once, once people see that, you know, everybody has burdens, they’re carrying and they really mold and become a real community. It’s almost like a family. And then, and that is what attracts people to join, to become part of that. You know, all of us are seeking, you know, to belong to something more than bigger than us. Yeah. And, and know that’s, that’s the God part in us wanting to connect with the God part in everybody else and thereby create what Jesus called the kingdom of God, where everyone, everyone is valued and appreciated and affirmed, especially those who are marginalized.


Sam Demma (15:23):
I love that. That’s awesome. And I would, I would only, as I would only assume that this year it’s been a little more challenging or a little bit difficult, but it sounds like from our previous conversation that it’s still moving forward and proceeding, and you still had an overwhelming amount of students interested. What, what looks different this year than previous years, and how have you been able to kind of adjust


Tomy Valookaran (15:47):
Well, well, this year it takes much more effort.


Sam Demma (15:53):
Yeah.


Tomy Valookaran (15:54):
From, from the team’s part. Cause you know, it, it’s not just about me. It’s about you know, there are many teachers who are very passionate about what we do. And, and so when you build a team, then, you know, when, when we come to a crisis, so one of the first things I, I got all my leaders together and what I said, including teachers, and what I said was, you know, the word for crisis in Chinese is means two things. It’s danger opportunity. So when it, when a crisis comes media, everybody looks at the danger like coronavirus and everybody looked at the danger, but there were so many hidden opportunities in there. Mm. And so we started focusing on the opportunities and then we had the George Floyd thing happened. And, and so we got all our black students together on zoom every, every week.


Tomy Valookaran (17:02):
And like we would be doing like two, three hour zoom meetings in the evening because there was so much hurt. We had to process. And then we brought in guest speakers and, and help them to heal. And once they felt they were comfortable, then they start going out into the community and, and, and start connecting with others who are hurt. So, you know, that’s typically how God works. You know, if you look at the history of God, you know, it’s when crisis has come, those are opportu for God, really to show up. Right. And so we do a, we have, we have done a lot of creative things like kids, we put together a black history assembly, like no, before no one has before done that. And, and kids loved it because it’s our own kids who shared their experiences. Oh, wow. Of being black and, and experiencing racism and how they managed to survive still. And then many kids were crying during the was ritual assembly. We Preap it and we asked every teacher to it. And so that would’ve never happened if it wasn’t on zoom and recorded. And, and


Sam Demma (18:21):
That’s awesome. And I was gonna ask you, you know, you just shed lay on one of them, but what are some of those opportunities that you think it came out of the challenges and changes that came along with COVID 19? I, I would assume that presentation doing the, the zoom was one way, because everyone had a chance to speak and share, and, and it was prerecorded. So you could re-watch it as opposed to a live thing. But yeah, you would know better than I, what were some of the opportunities that came along with?


Tomy Valookaran (18:51):
Well we learned so much new technologies.


Sam Demma (18:57):
Yep.


Tomy Valookaran (18:58):
Well, I personally was forced to learn much more than kids, but because we had so much youth involvement in our leadership, they took over that side and they, they started teaching us how to do some of this stuff. So and care youth are very good at technology, you know looking from far to like a faith perspective, you know, what I see happening when you look at the digital technology, digital revolution, which happened like 20, 30 years ago, that was in preparation, God was preparing the earth to deal with crises like coronavirus. Now, can you imagine if we didn’t have the digital platform, holy, how we will deal with


Sam Demma (19:46):
It? I don’t know.


Tomy Valookaran (19:48):
Yeah. A lot of people don’t think that way. Right. But you know, really that God has been preparing with or pushing out all these new technologies, you know, from the east east end philosophy that they have a theory that you know, deep inside the earth lies all the, all what we need. And when the time is right, certain things, resources get pushed out and, and that’s how the earth survives. Right. Hmm. And when you look at oil, when you look at, you know, going back, you can clearly see certain technologies and certain resources being intentionally pushed out so that we, as a humanity can, can serve. Right.


Sam Demma (20:34):
And even when you look at activism, like, you know, everyday people expressing their concerns and having their voices heard wouldn’t be as possible if we didn’t have social media or, or the internet, you know.


Tomy Valookaran (20:49):
No, no, no. The climate movement, the black lives matter movement. These are powerful tools if used well to build the kingdom of God.


Sam Demma (21:01):
Yeah. Totally agree. I think that’s a great distinction to make in terms of your program this year and not just yours, but all the teachers who are involved, what are some of the initiatives that have gone on so far? I know you talked about the, the black history month, this Emily, I’m curious, like, what are other, some of the other things that have gone on? And yeah,


Tomy Valookaran (21:20):
We, we have a domestic outreach group. Nice. And this, usually we do Christmas outreach. So, you know, you remember when you were at St. Mary, it’s a big but this year we couldn’t collect things, right? Yeah. So, but we still had the families we sponsored. So kids went creative and they went with gift cards only. And and, and cash donations online. Nice. And I was just astounded like we initially kids only said, you know, let’s just put $10. People who want donate. I said, no, let’s put 10, 25 and 50, so people can choose. And we got so many people donating.


Sam Demma (22:06):
Yeah.


Tomy Valookaran (22:07):
And one of our alumni gave us $5,000.


Sam Demma (22:10):
Wow.


Tomy Valookaran (22:11):
Because he has a business which has been successful during the coronavirus. Wow. And so we raised more money than normally we would. So we were able to give, I think about a hundred dollars gift cards per person, per family.


Sam Demma (22:31):
Wow.


Tomy Valookaran (22:33):
Yeah.


Sam Demma (22:33):
That’s awesome. And the food drive has historically also been something that you and a lot of teachers worked on for years this year, I guess it’s not possible or how’s


Tomy Valookaran (22:44):
No, no, no. We are doing again gift cards, cards, cash. Oh. So we, so they’re preparing for our Easter food drive already. Got it. And we also, that group is connected with the bleed, the north, the organization, which which supports menstrual products, menstrual education. Oh, cool. So we also collected a lot of menstrual products to be given to that organization and, and they send it to some of the original communities or indigenous communities. And, and so we did that, then we have the international outreach group. They focus on international issues and they’re right now planning, excuse me, a, a hour fast from social media.


Sam Demma (23:34):
Nice


Tomy Valookaran (23:35):
Coming up in may. And they’re also planning a multicultural night, virtual in may. Nice. And, and the other group we have is best buddies. They focus on make out, making sure our our special education students are looked after. And so they have a group. They plan things that support them. Another group we have is indigenous F and M I group. They focus on highlight, educating our community on indigenous issues.


Sam Demma (24:09):
Nice.


Tomy Valookaran (24:11):
Then we have a large group called safe and caring. So they focus on mental wellness and they are right now working. We just had a two week mental wellness week at, at our school where they highlighted how to get help if you need. And they have even created a website. So all these groups have Instagrams to, to follow. Okay. Then the other big group what am I missing among the nine. Okay.


Sam Demma (24:40):
That’s okay. Yeah. So there there’s does it’s. Yeah. It sounds like there’s, all of these groups are umbrella under the retreat leading program. Yes. Okay. So they come for weekly touch points altogether, monthly touch points, or how does it look like from the retreat?


Tomy Valookaran (24:57):
Well, the initiative groups is open to the whole school.


Sam Demma (25:02):
Got it.


Tomy Valookaran (25:03):
So, but it is run by retreat leaders.


Sam Demma (25:05):
Okay. Understand.


Tomy Valookaran (25:07):
And, and so what happened? They meet once a week.


Sam Demma (25:10):
Okay.


Tomy Valookaran (25:11):
So each day we have at least one or two groups meeting for planning their activities. And these meetings are not just for planning either because one of the other big needs during this quarantine is isolation.


Sam Demma (25:27):
Yeah.


Tomy Valookaran (25:27):
And people feeling lonely. Right? Yeah. So, so as soon as we come together, we do what we call processs and thoughts, you know, what’s going on. What’s good. Nice. know what’s hurting you. And, and then, you know, people connect the, you know, I look at all these initiatives that tools to build intimate communities. Yeah. And out of those communities come miracles.


Sam Demma (25:56):
And


Tomy Valookaran (25:57):
So we, yeah. We have an Alliance for compassion. I spoke about the LGBTQ group. Yeah. And we have eco


Sam Demma (26:04):
Okay.


Tomy Valookaran (26:04):
Eco is pretty they, they were involved and you know, Fridays for future, we even took a bus lot of kids, city, Queens park against, against all the bus school board. Well, they want, they don’t want you to do stuff like that. Yeah. But kids loved it. And, and, and because they felt they were, they had a voice. Right? Yeah. Yeah. Those are most of the groups I think I covered.


Sam Demma (26:38):
Yeah, no, no, no worries. And if we miss any, I can link them in the show notes of the episode as well. Just to make sure they have some recognition. How do you, how do you think as an educator, we make students feel valued, seen, heard, and appreciated without being like face to face physically, is it, is it just by giving them the chance to speak? Like, you’ve obviously you, you and a bunch of other teachers that run these programs have created those intimate communities. Is it the kids themselves interacting that makes them feel safer? Or what is it exactly that gives them that feeling of safety and community?


Tomy Valookaran (27:15):
First of all you know my advice to teachers who help run these things that you don’t run it it’s, it’s kids who run it. Yep. And then it’s kids who set the agenda and it’s kids who lead discussions. And we only get involved only if, for, we feel something is hurting somebody and, and otherwise, you know, they’re all student run. And so there’ll be a, a teacher present one or two teachers with with them, but that’s just to support. And, and I feel, you know, once you provide a safe environment where kids feel that they can speak and not be judge, mm. Then they tend to open up.


Sam Demma (28:08):
And how do you create that safe space? Is it by ensuring that when something happens, you address it, is it by setting rules or,


Tomy Valookaran (28:17):
Yeah. Yeah. Well, initially we, we talk about what are some of the, you know, we come as a group and then create certain rules for ourselves so that each of us feels safe.


Sam Demma (28:29):
Got it.


Tomy Valookaran (28:30):
Okay. So they come up with suggestions and we keep the, as our as our safe space. So everybody needs to follow those. Cool. So, so one of the one the, we expect people to contribute. Yep. So, but you have the ability to Surpas, but the expectation is you’re going be actively participating.


Sam Demma (28:54):
Nice. Oh, very cool. That makes a lot of sense. Amazing. And I want to ask you a personal question. So in your own educational journey, when you were up and going through school, did you have teachers in your life that had a huge impact on you that, that inspired you to work with youth? Or why do you think that your ministry took you towards working with young people in education?


Tomy Valookaran (29:24):
I, I really have no answer for that because it sort of evolved.


Sam Demma (29:30):
Okay.


Tomy Valookaran (29:31):
In fact if I have had any positive most of my experiences with educators have been pretty negative. And, and so I always want to go go the other way. Like, I’ve been expelled from a couple of institutions. Got it. Because of my activism. And, and, and so it, that the anger, which I grew up with against injustice is, you know, was healed and transformed by my connection with the, with the real Jesus Christ. Mm. Like, you know, a lot of people think Christ Jesus, Jesus, last name. No, that Jesus last name was something different. Mm. And so, so when you understand what Jesus Christ me means, then you start getting a feeling that, you know, if Jesus was the son of God, so are we, that’s the message of Jesus was like, we are all children of the same God. And, and, and once we get that, then we get empowered just like, Jesus, God.


Tomy Valookaran (30:41):
And, and that’s why we call, you know, the resurrected Jesus becomes us. Yeah. When we are passionate about the kingdom of God. So the work Sam you are doing is very similar. So you might think it’s your, well, it’s your two. But my experience tells me, no, we don’t choose. You know, it’s like, we are provided like, you know, we are lead. Yeah. You know, it’s like the Eastern philosophers. They say, you know, many times we think we are the dancers and, and artist, the person leading us. Mm. But they say, that’s not true. It’s. We are the dance itself, the God dancing through. Mm. And, and that’s the doctrine incarnation, right? Yeah. A lot of people don’t get it. Jesus never wanted to be worshiped. Jesus wanted to be followed. Mm. You know, just clearly said, you know, follow me, follow my teachings. That’s how you worship me. So, so I’m not I’m not very like a churchy churchy person. Yeah. But you know, I support churches when, what they do inspires people to create a caring, compassionate world. Yeah. And if they are inspiring them to be judgemental, you know, to divide people as versus them, then that’s not true. Authentic religion. Yeah. That’s brainwashed.


Sam Demma (32:25):
Yeah. Yeah. I think I love how you open this conversation, talking about, you know, the church is one of the hands that points to God, right? Yeah. And if it, if that’s something that helps you personally get closer to that, then, you know, go there and that’s great. And I love that philosophy. I want to bring this to a close I wanna respect your time. I know we’re a little overtime here, so I apologize. If you could go back and speak to younger Tommy, when you, when you did your first year of teaching at St. Mary and chaplaincy, you know, knowing what you know now and realizing that you know, you’ve learned things throughout the past. I don’t know how 20, how many years have you been at St. Mary now?


Tomy Valookaran (33:11):
I’ll St. Mary since 90, 99, 21


Sam Demma (33:15):
Years. So, you know, in the 21 or 22 years give, take if you could go back and speak to yourself when you just started, what advice would you give that might help you along the way?


Tomy Valookaran (33:29):
My advice would be Tommy relax. No, there is, there are other unseen grace is working with you because you are working for a cost greater than yourself. It’s not about you. And so, yeah, I wish he would, he, would’ve relaxed a little more. Got it. Because I’m much more relaxed now. And then, then big things happen, right? Yeah. People are attracted to you and you carry some, they, they, they connect with your passion because they have the same passion, otherwise they wouldn’t connect. Right. So, and, and we know from our experience that we all have a passion to make our world better than we, we know. So that’s God working through us to no, that’s what we call the journey to, to heaven. Right. And Jesus mission was to bring heaven to earth. Mm. And no, that’s the journey we are in.


Sam Demma (34:34):
Yeah. I love that. Awesome. This has been a phenomenal conversation. I feel inspired. Oh. If another educator is listening to this and is inspired, or just wants to have a conversation with you, like what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you? And if it’s, if it’s by email, go ahead and spell it out, just so they just, so they.


Tomy Valookaran (34:54):
Okay, email would be the, the best way, because I check my email. I have to cause a lot of kids communicate with me. So it’s Tomy.Valookaran@dcdsb.ca.


Sam Demma (35:16):
Perfect. Tommy, thank you so much for sharing some of your thoughts and advice and wisdom today on the podcast. I, I really appreciate it.


Tomy Valookaran (35:25):
Well I’m so proud of seeing you Sam, as an alumni of St. Mary we are always speaking highly of you and, and we hope to have you back again once the opportunity arises. Maybe we will see if we can come and talk to our, our leadership once I put it together for the next year’s leadership.


Sam Demma (35:48):
Yeah, for sure. No, I appreciate that.


Tomy Valookaran (35:51):
Sounds good. Okay, Sam.


Sam Demma (35:52):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an 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; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna 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 fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Tomy Valookaran

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.

Chad Ostrowski, Jeff Gargas and Rae Hughart – The Teach Better Team

Chad Ostrowski, Jeff Gargas and Rae Hughart – The Teach Better Team
About the Teach Better Team

The TEACH BETTER team (@teachbetterteam) imagines a world where every educator is connected, supported, and inspired to be BETTER every day; so that all learners can discover and develop their passions to positively impact our communities. BUT – how do we get there?

Not every educator is in the right mental space to learn. While we continue to juggle new elements of the profession, daily tasks, managing student needs & navigating a work-life balance, being a lifelong learner can find itself on the backburner.

The Teach Better Team has been built on best practice instructional pillars, but without a growth mindset, Professional Development is like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

It is our belief that the first step toward being better, every day, begins with carrying a mindset focused on being open-minded to small steps. 

Connect with the Teach Better Team: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Teach Better Website

Teach Better Conference

Administrator Mastermind

Teach Better Store

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

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. I’m beyond excited to bring you today’s interview. It’s a conversation that happened about a month and a half ago, and the topics we discussed still are fresh in my mind, due to the power at which they were explained by today’s three guests. This is one of the first times I’ve had three people on with me, having a four person conversation on the podcast, and it’s an amazing, amazing conversation.


Sam Demma (01:08):
Today we’re talking with the Teach Better team. You can find out more about them on teach, better.com. All of their work aligns very deeply with my philosophy of small consistent actions; that small incremental changes make huge differences and improvements. Yeah, right. he whole idea is not to be perfect, but to be better. And that’s really the DNA throughout their entire company who, which was founded the CEO by Chad. Chad and Jeff; those are the two gentlemen that co-founded the initiative. And we also are joined by Ray, their CMO, and they all have very diverse experiences, and share a ton of phenomenal information that I know will help you as an educator. So buckle up and enjoy this interview. I will see you on the other side. Chad Ray, Jeff, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. I know we are in different places, geographically in the world. It’s so cool that zoom can connect us and I know all three of you are huge champions for technology and education. I wanna give each of you though, a opportunity to introduce yourself, however you’d wanna be introduced, and share a little bit behind the reason why you’re so passionate about the work you do in education and Chad you can kick it off, followed by Ray, and then Jeff.


The Teach Better Team (02:24):
Absolutely. I’m Chad Ostrowski, I’m the CEO and the co-founder of the teach better team. And I have the pleasure of working with schools, districts, and teachers across the country to not only spread mastery learning and student-centered best practices, but working with these two amazing colleagues to just grow the awareness of what best practices in, education can do. I think what gets me the most exciting is seeing the impact of our work. Whether that’s a teacher overcoming a stressful year or situation, or having the best success they’ve ever had, or a student who’s never been successful in a classroom, finding that success and being able to thrive when they’ve never done so before. And I think that’s at the core of a lot of what we do; its just finding that spark and inspiring, not only the learners in the classrooms, but the teachers and the administrators in the schools, in the districts we get to work with here on the Teach Better team.


Sam Demma (03:23):
Love that.


The Teach Better Team (03:24):
Yeah. Gosh, how do you follow that? This is bad. You win. No, Hey everyone. My name’s Ray. I am the CMO of the teach better team, and I’m also full-time sixth grade math teacher. So I love having kind of the role of working with students by day and teachers by night and on the weekends and all, some are long cuz that’s what we do here in the teach, better family. I, I, I think this answer like changes depending on the day and the week, because the teach better team continues to be such a safe space for educators that has this family mentality, but also allows educators to kinda walk in and gain value however they need at that point in time. So I think my favorite element that’s really fueling my excitement, not only to work with students and to work with educators and leaders really stems from the desire of building a community and a family, which I’m gonna get into today. So I, I love that you had us all on, we don’t normally get to do podcasts altogether, so this is gonna be a fun conversation. Awesome.


The Teach Better Team (04:28):
Yeah. This is kind of fun. You know, we, we don’t always get to do podcasts together, but Ray doesn’t even mention, like we do podcasts together literally all the time, but she doesn’t even list that into things that she does. So I’ll, I’ll list it for us. Right. I’m so I’m Jeff Garas, I’m the COO and co-founder of the teach better team. And I’m Ray’s co-host on is how she prefers me to say that on the teach, better talk podcast as well. I get to do that.


The Teach Better Team (04:51):
Glad I’m glad, you know, your place, Beth, my post,


The Teach Better Team (04:55):
I am your co-host. And I, I think I’m just the guy who tricked these two in a whole bunch of other amazing and educators somehow let me continue to work with them. So I, I second everything they say, I think for me, it’s the word family has become such a big thing, big piece of what we do. And that’s probably my favorite part. You know, Chad mentioned about our impact in classrooms and in school districts, but for me too, it’s this impact of the people we get to work with that work with our team that are okay at the door team and all, everything like that. It’s just, it’s awesome.


Sam Demma (05:25):
I love that. It’s amazing. And I’m so happy to have all of you here on the show right now. When I think about mastery, my mind immediately jumps to Malcolm Gladwell and the book he wrote outliers that talks about the 10,000 hour rule, you know, you know, put 10,000 hours in. And I see that all three of you are super passionate about this idea of, as you said, Chad, at the, at the beginning of this podcast, mastery based learning, like what is that like, take, take me, take us through what that is. And maybe all three of you can chime in. And why are you so passionate about making sure that schools adopt this concept in their teaching strategies and styles?


The Teach Better Team (06:01):
I’m gonna, I’m just gonna put the quarter in Chad real quick, as we say, let him know for a


The Teach Better Team (06:05):
Minute, feel free to take the quarter out if needed too. So just for, as this goes forward,


The Teach Better Team (06:11):
Contr pop with believe there is no like emergency stop button. It’s just


The Teach Better Team (06:15):
So in its simplest form, I like to equate the term mastery with student readiness to move forward. Got it. I think one of the biggest crimes in education is a teacher-centered idea of what instruction needs to be, where the teacher is driving the pace, the content, the choice in how everything is occurring in the classroom and just sort of dragging students along. And I think this is what traditional education basically was for a really long time. And in some cases still is I think mastery learning is a Keystone and a core component in moving classrooms to being more student-centric. So at its core mastery learning focuses on students moving at their own pace when they are ready to move on from one topic or one a activity to the next, as opposed to, you know, if I’m in a classroom and student a didn’t understand the lesson from Monday yet, I, I asked them to understand the, a lesson on Tuesday when they have no prior knowledge or understanding yet I am now putting that student in an inequitable disadvantage in that classroom.


The Teach Better Team (07:28):
So I think mastery learning creates a level playing field for every single student in the classroom to not only grow and learn at their own pace, whether that’s quicker than their peers, but also get the, the help that they need and deserve in their learning environment. Mm and I also think mastery learning at its core fully supports these other best practices that we know work in education, things like differentiation, backwards, design, universal design for learning, even embedding things like PB and inquiry based learning and community connections in the classroom can be supported via mastery learning. So I don’t like to say that mastery learning’s the only thing we do because I think it’s the start of the conversation that we have to have in education that then branches into in completely kind of including all of those student centered best practices that focus on what the student needs, where they’re at and how do we move them to the next step.


The Teach Better Team (08:28):
I do have to add, I, when I originally connected with Chad, I mean, Chad, your passion for mastery learning has like been there from the beginning. And when we originally connected and you told me about this concept over a Google meet, I believe I was like, yeah, that sounds good. But I hadn’t seen it actually done in a classroom. And at the time I was working in, you know, a classroom that we were 94% low income, and I had all these other hurdles I was working with. And to be honest, Sam, my passion was so much more focused on student engagement. How am I gonna get students in the building? How am I going to use neon colors and fun activities to ensure that they’re enjoying learning? And what I found right or wrong is that master learning from me was this missing piece that I needed as an educator to actually then do all the other things I wanted to do better.


The Teach Better Team (09:23):
And so it’s so comical now looking at mastery learning and, and actually getting the luxury of working with educators, right with the teach better team, because as you articulated wonderfully, Chad, it really is kind of that fundamental concrete base that then we can build everything off of educators right now are struggling to keep students engaged. We feel like we’re trying to outshine YouTube and you know, do everything better. And, and I think the reality is is that we can do all these elements better in education. If we start with that core value of truly meeting this where they’re at. So honestly the concept of master learning changed my life for the better and definitely my trajectory of, you know, success as an educator.


Sam Demma (10:05):
That’s awesome. Love that. Jeff, anything to chime in here?


The Teach Better Team (10:11):
No, I mean, they summed it up really, really well. I think for, for me, you know, I’m, I’m not pretty much the only, I think the only one there’s maybe like one or two of us on the team that aren’t classroom teachers got it. So it’s been, you know, different journey for me, but one of the biggest things that’s hit me when early on when Chad and I were traveling all over visiting schools and stuff like that. And I was just learning so much about what was going on and why I was having impact. Just thinking back to like when I was in school, when I did pretty well in school, like I, you know, in, from a good home, I’m in a good area. Like I was, I was gonna be all right, like kind of a thing. But I look back at that if had I been challenged properly because they were actually assessing where I was actually at and where I was actually, what I was actually learning or not learning and gaining or not gaining what I, what my experience would’ve been like and had I would, I been able to, I don’t, I don’t saying like, oh, I could go back and hopefully I would’ve achieved more or anything like that, but would I been ha in a better spot, better position to, to learn and grow as a person than versus what it actually did was took me a long time to kind of like figure out my life afterwards.


The Teach Better Team (11:11):
And a lot of that, I just look back at how that is and think through all the kids that have gone through that system that didn’t have the extra setup that I had in a sense of coming from a good family and a good, a good home and a good, you know, I had a, I had a good starting point better than most. And I, if, if, if I would’ve had that, if other kids don’t have that they’re even further behind. And so that’s where my passion behind is going. Like, what could that have done for me? And even more than that, the kids that didn’t even have the things that I had, how can we change that for future kids? But


Sam Demma (11:41):
You gave me a perfect segue into the question I was writing down while all three of you were speaking, which is what does this mean for assessment in the classroom? Is there, is there a way that mastery learning approaches assessments differently? Because I can tell you personally that growing up, I, I wholeheartedly attached my entire self worth as a human being, to my ability to have an a plus or a 95% average on my tests and report cards and coming from a European family, I’ll be honest. It felt like it, it felt like if I didn’t bring that home, there was issues and problems. When in reality, I could have a 95% average not understand the concepts, just be memorizing things and not really engaged with the learning. Right. And Jeff, as you point yourself, there, it’s a common thing that happens with all of us. Yep. And I know all three of you have your mics, your mics on muted, ready to jump in. So please tell me how mastery learning and the grid method approaches assessment differently.


The Teach Better Team (12:37):
I just wanna jump in and see if Chad’s having dejavu, cuz him and I had like an hour and a half long conversation about assessment yesterday. So Chad, I’m gonna let you take this one, but I have to remind you like this is not actually dejavu. This is a new conversation we can just,


The Teach Better Team (12:54):
Yeah. So I actually, I love this question because assessment is such a core aspect of where a student is at so we can grow them. But I think in a traditional sense, we usually look at assessments and we say, it’s a quiz, it’s a test. And, and it’s just like this autopsy, right? This is what you know, and we’re gonna move on regardless of how well you did. I think mastery learning changes the assessment culture. And we start to look at assessment as snapshots of where a student is on their larger aspect and their growth as a learner. One of my favorite ways to think about assessment is that that’s where the student is today. It’s not where they have to stay forever. And I think mastery learning really articulates that well, and it embodies things like retakes standards, aligned assessment, formative assessment practices.


The Teach Better Team (13:51):
So it makes assessment a natural part of, of learning as opposed to these high stakes really stressful environments. So instead of assessment becoming this super stressful high stakes, oh my gosh, I hope I do really well situation it’s Hey, Sam prove what you know right now. So I know how to help you further. And I think that’s a huge cultural or shift that mastery learning helps occur in classrooms. I think it also helps align instruction and assessment. With a lot of the schools in classrooms, we work with a district will come and say, we need to do we need to reestablish our assessments. And I go, well, have we talked about instruction at, because if those two things don’t talk to one another, that’s a really big problem. So a lot of mastery learning comes in the planning process in the backwards design process, which ensures that the learning that’s occurring, the growth that’s supposed to happen.


The Teach Better Team (14:51):
And the measurement tool that you’re using to establish that growth are all connected and all work together. And then the most important thing is the idea that the assessment is not the last step. It’s the first step in identifying where the students at with grid method classrooms. We have a saying F a I L fail stands for first attempt in learning failure should be the first step in the learning process where you’re identifying gaps in needs so that you, as the educator can take next steps to fill those gaps and move the student forward.


The Teach Better Team (15:26):
Wow. I know rays gonna jump in. I just wanna touch on like, Chad, you already kind of wrapped this up, but you said the word like autopsy, right? So your assessment, it’s not, it shouldn’t be the looking back at what happened before. It’s utilizing that to see what do, what happens next? What do we do next? What do we take them from there? And Ray’s gonna say it a whole lot better than I did.


The Teach Better Team (15:45):
No. You know, I actually, I don’t wanna take us down like a rabbit hole here, but it’s interesting Sam, when you ask your question and Chad, as you in, into your explanation, I’m separating the concept of mastery learning is a phenomenal instructional practice we should have in our classrooms. Me personally, though, when I was trying to figure out how to achieve it, it came into the, I mean, Chad, you brought it up like the grid method, which is that mastery framework that we get to do. We’re fortunate enough to do a lot of work in, and for me, that’s what I needed because when I think of formative summative assessment or any sort of evaluation of student understanding, it comes down to the fact that never in my career never have. I seen educators having more conversations with students than I do right now. And how valuable is it that when I was in school, back in the day assessment was this high stakes test.


The Teach Better Team (16:34):
And that was the only time that you were really, even if it was a one way communication, you were communicating what you know, whereas now not only in my own classroom, but in classrooms that we get to work with, educators are having one-on-one or small group conversations with their students every single day. And to me, that that is so much more of an example of authentic assessment. Because if I have an administrator walk in on a random Tuesday, I can tell them exactly where their student is at, you know, and, and they might all be in 24 different spots for 24 different students. But because we’re giving teachers the gift of time able to actually have those authentic conversations. So that assessment becomes a valuable use of their classroom time. Does that make sense?


Sam Demma (17:21):
Yeah. A hundred percent Chad go for


The Teach Better Team (17:23):
It. I also think Ray’s hitting on a really core benefit of mastery learning that it expands the definition of what assessment can be. Yeah, right. So instead of it having to be blanks on a worksheet or bubbles on a, on a, on an, an a Scantron test or something like that, it can now be any form of demonstration of mastery. And so I think that’s a, a, a core component that mastery learning helps support is the, the broadening of the idea that we can assess mastery authentically and in more ways than we traditionally thought were possible. And that a student can demonstrate that mastery, however, is comfortable and close enough to their ability, their current ability level. And it means the same, whether it’s a Scantron test or a, a five second conversation like Ray Ray’s talking about. And I think that’s a really powerful thing for a teacher to embody in the classroom.


Sam Demma (18:19):
My mind immediately jumps to that picture of a bunch of different animals, an elephant a monkey. And there’s a goldfish and, oh, judge the goldfish by its ability to, you know, to climb a tree, it will limit its whole life believing it to failure. And I think, you know, what you’re getting at here is the idea that yeah, assessment isn’t binary and using this mastery learning approach, you know, allows the different animals to be tested in their unique capacities, to see if within their skillsets, are they learning as much as they can and maximizing their ability?


The Teach Better Team (18:53):
Well, and for the teacher to be able to evaluate the type of animal they’re, they’re working with, like how many times have we all sat stood in front of a classroom of 34 and said, Ooh, I can’t wait to figure out the inner workings of every single student that are all gonna be different. Oh yeah. And then in an hour, they’re all gonna rotate and I get a whole other group of group of kids. So that time is really valuable.


Sam Demma (19:16):
Love that. Awesome. It it’s, and it’s not about being perfect. Right. it’s not about being perfect. It’s about being better, right? It’s about 1% improvement. It’s about being a little bit better today. A little bit better tomorrow. It’s about complaining better, right there. There’s so many things that you guys talk about in your books in past podcasts. And I love this idea that we don’t have to arrive tomorrow because that’s unrealistic and mastery does take time. But if we do improve, you know, small, consistent actions as I would say my teacher would inspired me when I was in grade 12, it leads to a massive change. So at the heart of what you, you, why do you believe, you know, being 1% better than you are right now is really what we’re going for and working towards with all the work that each of you are doing.


The Teach Better Team (20:03):
That’s a good, that’s a good, solid que I think, I think you really just said it cuz to be perfect or where we want to be, or hit a goal tomorrow as a unrealistic, unless we set really, really low goals. Right? Mm. But to be 1% better, tomorrow is something we can accomplish. And if we’re trying to be 1%, that doesn’t mean we can’t be 10% doesn’t mean we won’t be 20%. Right. But, but to understand that it, it doesn’t need to be, and it’s the scale like across all the animals, right? It’s going to be a whole bunch of different percentages based on that individual animal, that student, that person, whatever they need at the time and what they’re working on and the level of the, the number of, of, of hours, it’s going to take them specifically to hit that master or whatever it is. So to understand that, like, it doesn’t have to be this, it can be more, but it doesn’t have to be it just as long as we’re moving forward, we’re moving forward and we’re getting towards what a mastery is for each individual person and student. Nice. That’s how I view it.


The Teach Better Team (21:01):
I also think sort of like that teach better mindset that we talk about better today and better tomorrow. And that constant search for that 1% better, that constant search for better also broadens the scope of what is possible on an, on a given day, because you can be better at something on the worst day you you’re having in a week. You can be, you can be better at something on the worst year you’re having as a teacher. So by not going, you need to be a perfect educator tomorrow. Cause you’re probably, that’s never going to happen. There’s no such thing as a perfect educator. Yeah. I’m not a perfect educator. I’ve never worked with a perfect educator cuz it’s not something that can actually exist. She’s


The Teach Better Team (21:43):
Right there, Chad.


The Teach Better Team (21:44):
But if we, except for Ray possibly but definitely


The Teach Better Team (21:49):
Not perfect friends. I hate to tell you, but


The Teach Better Team (21:51):
I, I, I think the better mindset gives access to improvement and it gives the freedom of an individual regardless of how their day, year, month or career is going to be better to what can I do better? And it might not be better at instruction. It might be better at forming relationships. It might be smiling at a student instead of giving them a mean look, and that might be how you’re better. Cause in, you know, at the Genesis of the teach better team, I was at the lowest point in my entire career. And it was those little moments of finding something I could be better at that eventually built up to massive instructional changes, massive personal changes, massive relational changes. And it’s not about that. It’s about the 1% every day because we can all at least commit to that. But it’s about the, the culminating event change in progress that occurs when it’s 1% every day, cuz you’re also gonna have 5% days when you’re, you’re also gonna have 20% days and 3% days. But as long as you can have 1% every day, you’re always gonna be moving forward. And the culmination of that is something that’s truly been amazing to watch educators and schools and districts we work with go through and that, and that’s such a driving force behind the family and the work that we do every single day.


The Teach Better Team (23:21):
I think theres a piece of this like that, you know, so you can have, we can have 5% days, you can also have negative 5% days. Right. But I think if you’re focused on being better versus trying to be perfect or trying be exactly here all the time, you can have a bad day and come back the next day and go, wow, it’s a lot easier to be better today because yesterday I wasn’t so great, but I’m still moving forward. Right? I’m still growing versus now I’m further and further and further away from this probably unrealistic goal that I set for myself in the first place.


Sam Demma (23:48):
Love that. And Ray alluded to this earlier for you, the listener, if you, if you didn’t catch it, she was talk. She said, you know, we have to strive to be better than YouTube. That’s actually the title of her latest TEDx talk. So make sure you check it out on YouTube. It’s awesome. Ray, what does that mean? What does it mean to be better in YouTube? And, and why did you title your talk that,


The Teach Better Team (24:07):
You know, it’s so funny guys. We, you know, if you guys go to teach bear.com, you’re gonna see oodles and oodles and oodles of content and there’s more and more and more being published every single day. And when you apply to a part of a Ted experience, it has to be original content. And there’s so many things that I believe and that I would love to continue to share with the world. But one of the things that really hit home during COVID, as, as every educator, as I said in my, in my Ted talk was kind of thrown to the wolves and we had to figure it out on the fly and we saw incredible problem solving and, and, and incredible characteristics, you know, shine in the people that we were working with. I really struggled working with educators that were trying to compete with resources that were already good and in existence for us already.


The Teach Better Team (24:58):
Hmm. So when I was trying to craft up my message and I definitely wanted mastery learning to be a focus. I wanted my own personal learning journey to be, to be shared. One of the key takeaways I wanted educators to recognize is that, you know, teachers are masters at inspiring their students. They’re incredible facilitators of discussion and they’re more than simply being a content delivery system, right. They can do so much more in the classroom. So this title of better than YouTube was really this, this blunt statement of teachers have to acknowledge and celebrate that they are better than a stagnant video. Mm. And so rather than compete and make 1500 YouTube clips this year or compete and say, how am I going to add enough to my mini, to my mini lesson? You know, as a YouTube edited clip might do instead let’s partner with these incredible tools that we have access to and give ourselves the time to do what we do best, which is interact with students and foster discussions. So it was a really, really incredible project to work on. I’m so thrilled. It’s out


Sam Demma (26:07):
Love that. It’s awesome. And it’s, it’s so plainly obvious that all three of you have this burning passion for the work that you do. And I’m really curious to know how the heck do you balance teaching Chad and Ray and you know, Jeff, you can touch on this too. I know you’re not a classroom teacher, but I’m sure you’re balancing a ton of different things right now. How do you balance that with the work you’re doing and not get burnt out because I’m sure we can all agree that reaching out to teachers and educators right now and saying, Hey, we’d love to chat with you or, Hey, we have some ideas. The response you’re getting is that their hair is on fire. You know, like you just, you can’t can’t talk right now. How do you personally balance your own time to make it all work?


The Teach Better Team (26:46):
Yeah. Sam, I have to tell you that, you know, we have an incredible amount of educators that, that work with us to share the teach better mindset, right? Yes. I mean, if you look at the teach better team, there’s not only 22 plus people that are on the team, but then we have a huge collection of educators on our speakers network. We have guest bloggers, we have podcasters. We have people who help us design courses in the teach better academy. I mean, we really have built a network that we label our family and almost all of them, 99% of them are classroom teachers. And the reason that is, is because we, that classroom teachers are, are incredible, you know, or they’re working in schools as administrative leaders. But we’re better when we surround ourselves with good people. And so it’s not about, you know, that it’s not hard working two jobs, right?


The Teach Better Team (27:38):
Like, you know, right. For example, right now I’m physically in the classroom as a classroom teacher and also in with the teach better team. But it really is about trying to support educators holistically. And one of the elements that we all need is to be around positive solutions, seeking people who challenge us to be our best selves. And so whether it’s the, the struggle of keeping a calendar so that we can be hustling or all the time as effectively as possible or anything in between, you know I, I’m gonna let Jeff touch on this next, but one of the best things that Jeff Garas said to me very early on as I probably was feeling like my hair was on fire, you know, working multiple jobs is this phrase that he doesn’t like of when you get a job you love, you never work a day in your life. And he was like, it’s not true, Ray. It’s not true. When you get a job, you love, you work harder than you’ve ever worked before, but you love it. And I cannot emphasize that enough. We are constantly working probably in an unhealthy manner. We may not be the best people to go to for self care, but, but God, I love it. Jeff, don’t you love it.


The Teach Better Team (28:49):
I, I do. I agree with everything she just said. And, and I just, I just want to add, like, you know, you talked about the Sam, you mentioned teachers with, well, Ray kind of mentioned too with, you know, my hair’s on fire. I’m crazy. Right. Especially this year, it’s always like that, but even more so this past year, and Ray mentioned all the content, everything we’re creating, all the support pieces and all the resources we create. I think for us, a big piece is one, this kind of two pieces is one. We want teachers just to know that like, that we’re creating these things and we’re building these things even when your hair’s on fire. So when you’re ready for it, it’s here, right. It’s here for you to come. And it’s for us. Consistency has always been really, really important so that they know that we’re here.


The Teach Better Team (29:26):
Like, you know that your family’s there. The other piece is when a teacher says my hair is on fire. We like to say, okay, great. What’s causing the fire and what can we do to help you put it out? And then maybe try to put some pieces in place to make sure that it doesn’t catch fire again. Right? So we like, we wanna help teachers understand that we, you know, really mentioned the good people that we’re part of that we like to be part of that and be that family of, okay, if your hair’s on fire, we can help you put it out. We can help you prevent that. But, or if not, we can just be here when you’re ready. Right. When you’re ready to come up from, from, for air, from being underwater all year, we, we’re still creating these resources. We’re still building these things for you. We’re still creating this community for you. We’re still here for you. And I think that is, is a key piece to what we do and what we believe.


Sam Demma (30:10):
I’m gonna jump in just for one second and then pass it back over to rate, because I just thought of this. And it was kind of funny. I was gonna say, you know, if someone’s hair’s on fire and they don’t want help now you can tell them that they can come back in five months when they’re bald and you can give ’em a wig, right?


The Teach Better Team (30:24):
Exactly. If that’s what they need, then that’s that’s. And that’s what it is, right. That we we’ve. I say it all the time that like we’ve built everything with our, our, our company, by listening to the, our company, telling us what it needs to grow and our community about what they need us to do within our capacity of being able to do stuff for them. And that’s why, what we create and how we build and what we build is based around that.


Sam Demma (30:48):
Awesome. Love it.


The Teach Better Team (30:50):
No, I think Jeff said it wonderfully. I, the only thing I was gonna add in, you know, it’s so funny in terms of being around whenever someone needs something we launched in 2020 and administrative master remind, which is truly just a zoom call that happens twice on Tuesdays, every single week to create a safe space for administrative leaders, right. Educational leaders to talk shop, and kind of share their grievances and problem solve and hopefully take away resources. And it’s so funny because every single time someone joins, they’re like, Ugh, I of that. If I’m busy, I don’t have to be in this meeting, but the moment I need something, I know the meeting exists for me to like connect with my people. And I find that while that might be a good example of that, I, I really enjoy seeing that kind of holistically across multiple different capacities of things that the team tries to do to be accessible.


Sam Demma (31:43):
Brilliant.


The Teach Better Team (31:44):
And I, and I think they’re both hitting on something that we’ve built this company on, which is authentically and holistically help first. Mm. Right. Like if, if we’re helping educators, we win and they win and everyone can feel good about that. Yeah. and there are other aspects of our business of course, but one of the things I think has helped us over the last hair on fire craziness of 2020 has been, we made a purposeful shift to try to provide as much help as humanly possible when all of this started, you know, I think it was March of 2020 when everything shut it down. And we said, you have two options here, right? Like you can help, or you can do other things that aren’t necessarily helping. And, and we made the purposeful to authentically reach out to every single teacher. We knew every single school we work with in our entire network and family and in, in audience and just offer authentic help.


The Teach Better Team (32:48):
Mm. But that has been something as both of them have articulated very well. Jeff and Ray that I think has driven a lot of the work that we do on a daily basis and teach better team, whether it’s helping a school or a, a partner district we wanna help them before we do anything else and make sure that whatever we’re providing them is making, helping them meet their goals in their mission. And I think that’s like the, the lifeblood of everything we do. And I think that drives a lot of the work and decisions we make on a day to day basis.


Sam Demma (33:23):
I love that. I believe that as humans, we’re also shaped by significant emotional experiences and one that I know rings true to you, Chad is get the hell outta my classroom. And I’m really curious to know what does that mean to you? Can you share, you know, that story as if we’re on an elevator and, and you have 30 seconds to pitch it.


The Teach Better Team (33:46):
Yeah. I think every teacher can relate to that moment. I, I visually remember that moment where, how much, how long was the time? Just, I


The Teach Better Team (33:56):
Was just, I, Ray and I were connecting there cause I was laughing at the eye. Any of that, Sam thought you were gonna do this in 30 seconds.


The Teach Better Team (34:02):
No, listen. That was a, that was a visceral moment for me as a teacher where my students had become the enemy of myself as an educator. And I had become every single aspect of the teacher. I never wanted to be got it. I don’t think any, any teacher ever enters the class and their first year or their fifth year or their 20th year seeing students as the enemy. But that was a moment where it was me versus them. And I was in hundred percent survival mode. Yeah. And that was the moment I realized something had to change and I couldn’t change everything overnight, but I could do something better the next day. And I could do a lot of these changes and start thinking about my instruction differently. So that moment you know, and I do articulate that moment quite a bit when I’m talking about some of the changes that, that, that we embody, I’m gonna teach better team for classrooms, but that was a catalyst that allowed all of the other changes that eventually become the creation of the grid method, which we now get to share with schools and districts, the creation of the teach better team, which now has an expansive availability of resources that are helping students and educators across the country and beyond.


The Teach Better Team (35:17):
So that’s that moment, I think, resonates with every teacher in a, a room when I’m speaking and sharing that story. Every teacher has that moment where they feel like they’ve lost that spark. They’ve lost that passion and they never wanted to be here. So you have two choices, you just lay down and give up or you get better the next day. Mm I’m glad that I was able to get better the next day, which has now brought myself and, and to teach better team into fruition and in the ability to help others and increase our impact on a daily basis. That was way longer than 15 seconds. So


Sam Demma (35:56):
That’s totally okay. On the idea of challenges, because sometimes dealing with students can feel like a challenge. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that exist in education right now? And what do you think the opportunities are on the other side of those challenges? Because solving them leads to some sort of opportunity. And I’m curious to know anyone can jump in here first.


The Teach Better Team (36:20):
I, I, I think the last year has demonstrated the amount of inequity that already existed in the educational world. I think the inequities that showed up due to lack of internet service due to home life of S students due to living situations due to you know, demographic stability or financial instability of, of families and students and, and everything that goes along with all of that. I think we’ve known for a really long time that those are problems in education, but because that we were, because we were bringing students into our classrooms and we could say sometimes falsely that because we were providing a space that we knew was safe and, and, and, and supportive that it was okay. It didn’t matter about these outside things because we could create this safe space, this sheltered space it was known that those things were problems and that in all the research, if you ever look at it fully supports that there’s a distinct difference between socioeconomic status and success for of a student and, and other aspects that are cultural in nature and things like that.


The Teach Better Team (37:34):
So I think what this did is it put all of that under a microscope. Mm. And it allow, and it forced us as educators, regardless of your role teacher, classroom aid, principal, superintendent. It forced us to address those needs and confront those needs in a way that was somewhat uncomfortable, probably, but that, it just really forced us to just realize that this is real. This is something our students are dealing with, and this is something that we cannot wait to address it needs to be addressed now. So I think from an instructional standpoint, I know we’ve helped a lot of schools address some of these things, utilizing mastery learning and giving them tools and ways to make the instructional prep is in the classroom, more equitable from a pedagogical standpoint and an instructional standpoint. But I also think it, it was a really great conversation starter of just because the kids are back in the classroom doesn’t mean all these other things are now gone. Cause we know they exist now. Like the elephant is in the room and we can see it. Now, the sheet has been lifted and it’s right there in the corner and we have to address it. And I think the biggest crime and the biggest worry I have is that we want to go back to what was, as opposed to going back to back, going back to an improved instructional setting so that every student can thrive and succeed in their classrooms.


Sam Demma (39:02):
Awesome. Yeah. That was a phenomenal answer. Anything to add Ray or Jeff?


The Teach Better Team (39:09):
You know, I think Chad like hit the nail on the head in terms of a huge fear that we all have, that we are all driving to be on the solution seeking side of, right. I mean, this is a, a necessary conversation. I think a, a smaller element, but one that is really in my face as we continue to host live videos, you know, taking questions from educators and, you know, like doing professional development opportunities. And, you know, I hear this in my own school that I working with my colleagues is this concept of the fact that educators have been filling their toolbox with, with, with resources over the past year and a half because of COVID right. We’ve all learned 15 new tech tools. We’ve all tried a hundred new strategies. And I think an, an additional layer here that I’d love to continue to challenge educators to seek support on is now becoming educated and better understanding when we go into a more familiar school system, when, you know, we’re all back in the classroom and masks may or may not be worn.


The Teach Better Team (40:08):
And we, you know, we all kind of transition, how are you gonna strategically best understand what’s in your toolbox and when, and how to implement them as effectively as possible goal. So, you know, obviously there’s a thousand problems with education. We’re all just doing our best to find the solution. But as you, as an educator are listening to this, I’d love to challenge each and every one of you, whether you are most passionate about a huge, huge problem in education that you wanna find a solution towards, or you just have something really small that you wanna take on to find solution for. There’s plenty of problems. So pick one and let’s all work together to try and find the right answer right away.


Sam Demma (40:43):
Love it. Awesome.


The Teach Better Team (40:46):
Jeff, I don’t know. I, I, I’m gonna, I’ll add just a little bit, it’s a separate problem and it might open up another can of worms. I’m not sure, but for, for me, one of the ones, and this has been a thing that we’ve noticed. I know Chad and Ray new being in this system, but that I learned very quickly after we got started in this is that I think a huge challenge that educators face and have to work within and are trying to change. And we’re seeing a lot of it is that we are trying to educate kids within a system that moves a half inch every 50 years and prepare them for a world that moves six miles every 30 seconds. And I don’t know if that actually adds up to what it is, but this very slow moving machine of the world of education and holding on to how it was and what it was and what worked for us.


The Teach Better Team (41:33):
And we’re trying to prepare kids for a future that is moving so fast right now. If you think about like technology growth over the last, just three years, and then you look at 10 years and you think about the fact that like, when I, you know, I’m not that old, but like when I was in elementary school, like the internet, wasn’t a thing yet. And now it’s literally the real world. Like it’s just this. And, and I think that’s a huge, that’s a much bigger problem, more of a systemic problem and everything like that, that we, that we have to address. But I think that’s a huge challenge that we continue to face. And I think that goes into, you know, we, we learned all these new tools and resources that we had to because we had to live in like this new world for the last year. And if we forget about that new world that we lived in, that is the world that our kids are growing up and whether we like it or not, that’s gonna cause us to just continue to be in this slow moving machine, trying to prepare kids for a machine that they can’t even catch. That’s one of my biggest worries.


The Teach Better Team (42:29):
Can we clarify Sam for all the educators listening, who can’t see us as we’re, you know, on, on having this conversation, Jeff is ancient in case any of you are wondering So old. So


The Teach Better Team (42:41):
I won’t, I won’t lie to you today. I, I went to the eye doctor and he said this like three times, he said, well, you know, yeah, with this, that blah, blah, blah. And you, you know, you’re getting really close to that, that age. And I’m like, what age doc? Whoa, that age. I’m like, what age? He’s talking about 40. I’m almost, I’m not, I’m close. That’s funny. That’s still not that old compared to Ray it’s old, Chad, it’s not as


The Teach Better Team (43:04):
Old. It’s like really far away from me. Thank God.


The Teach Better Team (43:08):
There was something earlier you were talking about like bubble sheets or whatever Scantrons. And I’m looking at Sam going, I don’t know Sam ever had to do Scantron


The Teach Better Team (43:15):
Sam. We know Scantrons.


Sam Demma (43:16):
I know Scantrons. I know Scantrons. When, when you, when you accidentally think question one is question two, when you write the whole


Speaker 5 (43:23):
Thing, every


Sam Demma (43:24):
Single question comes back wrong. And your teacher’s like, you got a F and I’m like, what?


The Teach Better Team (43:29):
Oh, wait, teach. If you just shift those up one. It’s actually all right. Yeah. Yeah. It’s,


Sam Demma (43:33):
That’s funny. No, that’s awesome. This has been a phenomenal conversation and you know, Jeff, your, your last question there about the system could take us on another whole hour long journey. I want to wrap this up on a final note and then we’ll give you an opportunity to share where everyone can connect with you. I want you to imagine you could go back in time and Jeff, you’re gonna have to travel the farthest because you’re the most ancient. But if you could, if you could go back in time and speak to your younger self having the knowledge that you have about education today, understanding that there’s still more to learn, of course. And you’re trying to learn more every single day, but if you could go back, you know, 20 years or to the first day you started teaching, if that applies to you, what would you tell your younger self? What advice would you give your younger self before getting into this work?


The Teach Better Team (44:29):
I think that’s a really, really challenging question. I do to say the first thing that came to mind for me, if I was to go back to my first year of teaching and give a piece of advice, it would really come down to something along the lines of you’re gonna grow faster than you thought. So just keep on tracking like every educator, whether they’re learning to be an educator at a university level, they’re in the classroom right now in the trenches, or they’re 30 years in is constantly finding hurdles and, and things that are stopping them. And we’re constantly brainstorming the next solution to the next problem. And I find that that can be extremely defeating. It can rock your confide. And so many times, I, I mean, I still have these moments so many times I sit back at the end of the day and I’m like, did I, did I do good work today?


The Teach Better Team (45:19):
Did, did I accomplish anything that I actually was trying to do? And I think the reality is is that when you surround yourself with people who are striving to be better, right, striving to grow, then you are, are able to look back. Whether it be look back at the day, look back at the week, look back at the year or an entire career and say, holy cow, we we’ve accomplished a ton and it’s not because I figured it out myself, but it’s because I surrounded myself with people who helped me figure it out. And so I think that would’ve been the biggest piece of advice I needed, cuz I was so nervous every day that I was gonna mess up a kid. And I think the reality is is that if you’re constantly carrying that mindset of growth, you’re always gonna be doing good work regardless of, you know, to what extent that actually is for that day.


Speaker 6 (46:09):
Love it.


The Teach Better Team (46:11):
I think I could piggyback on what race said actually. Cause I’m glad she went first actually for this question. I, I, I think something I used to see, I used to see instruction as a very transactional thing. I used to say a lesson or an experience either went perfect or I messed it up and it was very just like, I, I had to be perfect. Everything had to go perfect or it didn’t go good. It didn’t go well. And then I messed it up. Hmm. And I think as I evolved as an educator, when I look back on that, as I stopped shifting towards my performance in my sort of delivery of like a lesson and more the experience in the learning that was happening in my classroom, moving from more teacher-centered thoughts to more student-centered thoughts. I think that is something I wish I would’ve known earlier and focused on earlier.


The Teach Better Team (47:09):
And I also think, you know, as we kind of approach going back to this normal, I think a lot of teachers need to, to be reminded that it’s not about a kid being broken or behind it’s about focusing on growth, not gaps, right? So it’s about meeting kids where they are. And as long as we are growing them, we’re doing our job and we’re winning because if we look at education, as we made it, we, we failed or we passed based on some arbitrary thing that the system created or the grade level the kids supposed to be at. We’re gonna fail a lot more than we succeed. If we look at ourselves and at the educational system and go, listen, if we meet every kid where they’re at and grow them from there, we’re gonna be okay, regardless of if they’re five grade levels behind or one grade level behind, because a grade level’s an arbitrary understanding of where a kid’s supposed to be anywhere. If in education at its foundation, we just meet kids where they’re at and grow them in an engaging environment that’s safe and supportive and lets them thrive as themselves, as individuals, we will win. And that’s, I think the long term game in realiz, it I’ve had now that I wish I had when I was younger.


Sam Demma (48:33):
That is so powerful. And, and you mentioned the idea of focusing on the growth instead of the gaps and that hits home with me from an athletic background. There’s a awesome book. Titled I, I believe it’s catch them while they’re good. And it’s this idea that instead of giving feedback on someone’s you know, negative result, look for someone who did a great job and highlight what made that example. Great. So you let the other students save face or the other athletes save face and they still can say, oh, that’s what I’m aspiring towards. You know? Jeff ancient, Jeff, what, what, what advice would you give yourself


The Teach Better Team (49:11):
The time I had to go further back? No, I think I, I, this kind of touch, I kind of connects with both of those. I think the thing that I would tell my younger self is that you’re probably going to lose more than you win, but you’re gonna learn either way. Mm. And I had put similar to how Chad had put so much on, did the, his lesson go well or not? I put so much on what I was trying to be in that moment. And when that thing or that person that I thought I was supposed to be, or that was the only thing I was supposed to do, didn’t work. It just, it crushed me and destroyed me. And when it was after why I figured out that, that wasn’t what was important. It was the reasons behind why you were trying to do things and what you were trying to build and what you were trying to accomplish and trying to chase happiness that became more important. And we do it all the time where we learn from all my failures in the right when Chad and I started as a whole lot was let’s look back and see all the businesses that Jeff messed up and see if we can avoid those things. And so I think it’s, it’s similar. Like what Ray said is like, you’re gonna, you’re gonna learn and grow so much from all these times that you think it might have been a failure, but it’s really just an opportunity to learn.


The Teach Better Team (50:17):
Yep. I do just wanna put on record. We do pick on Jeff a lot, but I’m really proud since usually we pick on Chad and


The Teach Better Team (50:24):
I think it’s, I was gonna say, like, I


The Teach Better Team (50:26):
Think it’s crazy. Speak on Jeff today.


The Teach Better Team (50:28):
Can I pick on Chad one last time? No, I was gonna say that I thought what he was telling his younger self was brilliant, but I’m pretty sure his younger self would’ve walked away about halfway through. Cause it took so long. Like there’s this old guy talking about I’m out of here. That’s I know if I’m talking younger me, I gotta be like a couple words and done because I would’ve just been so


Sam Demma (50:46):
Awesome, amazing. This has been such a phenomenal conversation. Thank you. All three of you for, for taking the time to chat about this. I think what’s so inspiring for me as an interviewer and someone who’s listening and I’m sure is as inspiring for you, the person listening as well, is that everything we talked about, it’s like, it all comes back to that idea. That it’s about being student centric, which, and this is how we started this podcast, right? Everything we talked about is about being student centric. You know, filling more tools in your toolbox is so you can help your students, right? Figuring out what tools you need to use so you can help your students; making more equitable school systems is about helping the students. Like I love that through our entire conversation, the values of your, your work and your company came through in every answer you gave. And it just shows to go. It goes to show how much focus you have for the work you’re doing, how much passion and love you have for it. So keep doing amazing work. Where maybe one of you can share very quickly, where can the person listening, find you, where can they check out your program, buy your books, watch your videos, get in touch, or even make fun of Jeff.


The Teach Better Team (51:53):
Yeah, absolutely. Guys. There’s a lot of places that you can go and make fun of Jeff Gargas. So here, let me give you them all. No, to be honest, like we all are on social media. We’re all active. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, boxer, Facebook, everywhere between, but it’s not about connecting with us. Right. We love when we connect with new people. I mean, geez, last night we were all on Twitter, connecting with new friends for an hour during a, you know, a Twitter chat, but it’s really about connecting with everyone else, all these other educators doing incredible work around the globe. So definitely go check out @teachbetterteam that is over on Twitter, Instagram, like I said everywhere. And you can also see all those details at teachbetter.com. But you know, we hope you connect with us and everyone that is a part of the teach better team, but there are so many incredible educators connected to us in small and large ways, doing really, really good work that we hope


The Teach Better Team (52:47):
it’s just the beginning of all the dots that you, you are collecting to continue to foster the type of life you wanna live. You know, as Sam, I think you said it perfectly, that we really believe in having that student centered mindset, but we also believe that it should exist without the expense of a teacher. We want you as a teacher to be supported and then hopefully have incredible experiences with students, but it really does begin with making sure that you are your best self as well. So let us help if we can. And if not, then we hope to connect with you in the future as we celebrate all the stuff that you guys are doing.


Sam Demma (53:22):
Amazing. Awesome. Chad, Jeff, thank you so much. Chad, Jeff and Ray, and the whole team who is not on the call. Thank you again for the work you’re doing. Thank you for showing up today and, and sharing some of your wisdom and some of the work that you’re doing in education that’s changing lives. I look forward to staying in touch and, and watching all the great work you guys do.


The Teach Better Team (53:42):
Thank you, Sam. Thanks for the work that you are doing. We appreciate you, man. Yeah. Appreciate it.


Sam Demma (53:46):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an 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; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna 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 fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll 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.