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Founder and CEO

Andrea Holwegner – CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc “The Chocoholic Nutritionist TM”

Andrea Holwegner - CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc "The Chocoholic Nutritionist TM"
About Andrea Holwegner

Andrea Holwegner (@ChocoholicRD) is the founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. established in 2000. Her mission is to empower people to create a healthy and joyous relationship with food and their body.

She leads a team of experienced dietitians that help busy families with meal planning success, weight concerns, eating disorders, digestive issues, sports nutrition, heart health, diabetes and more. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education.

In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, mountain biking and sipping wine with her husband over a delicious meal. Most of all, she loves being a mom and playing in the dirt in the vegetable garden she grows with her son. Join Andrea’s free nutrition newsletter that goes out to thousands of people each week for her latest TV segments, articles and healthy recipes from her award-winning blog at www.HealthStandNutrition.com/newsletter

Connect with Andrea: Email | Twitter | Linkedin | Website

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

National Eating Disorder Information Centre

Health Stand Nutrition Blog

Russ and Jay Shetty Podcast Interview

Dan Siegel: Name it to Tame it

Andrea’s website

Andrea’s free weekly newsletter 

Nutrition for mental health (article and video)

9 things everyone should know about eating disorders

Dispelling the top 4 myths about eating disorders (article and video)

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:02):
Andrea, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show this morning. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about who you are?


Andrea Holwegner (00:12):
Well, thanks for having me, Sam, of course. People mostly call me the Chocaholic Nutritionist because of my passion for balanced, not clean living. But of course, my name’s Andrea Holwegner. I’m a registered dietician, a busy mom and owner of Health Stand Nutrition in Calgary and lead a team of about 10 dieticians and growing as we speak specializing in really helping people with overall health and wellness and, you know, topics like how to get enough veggies to wanna, you know, take care of your health, but still save room for our favourites, like chocolate and potato chips and all the good stuff too.


Sam Demma (00:52):
If I was choosing to work with a dietician, they would have to have a giant picture with chocolate-covered strawberries in their office, or they would not be an option.


Andrea Holwegner (01:03):
Oh. And that might just be what I’m staring at right behind me here.


Sam Demma (01:09):
Yeah. That’s, it’s so awesome. Where did your passion for, you know, health and nutrition come from? Where, where did that stem from?


Andrea Holwegner (01:19):
You know, I was raised by a mom that like baked bread and we had family dinner together each night and just a family of, of food, loving people. My grandparents were farmers and grew all sorts of good stuff in the garden. So I just had a really rich upbringing with the love of, of good food and good culture. And then along the way, my dad in his forties became quite sick with cardiovascular disease. He became one of the youngest guys that were being followed by a local cardiologist here for very complex heart disease. And so he had some bad genetics both of his parents really complicated health histories and, you know, my dad, wasn’t the healthiest guy. There was probably a little bit too much you know, baked goods and all sorts of good stuff that he liked to to get into.


Andrea Holwegner (02:12):
He was a chewing tobacco guy. He was a banker, but he was a chewing tobacco guy, which was an interesting thing. So that also increased his risk. And so I watched him go through complicated, you know, health, recovery quadruple bypass surgery carotid artery surgery. And, you know, as a, a kid in high school going into post secondary, I was really starting to look at the connection between nutrition and health. And so the rest is history, sort of a, a food loving dietician, married with a total nerdy science brain that wanted to know more about how food connected to our overall health. And that’s how I ended up here.


Sam Demma (02:56):
When you’re going through school you get bombarded with so many different ideas. Atkin’s diet, this diet that diet eat these food groups, don’t eat these food groups. How do you approach nutrition from a Al approach? And maybe this is like what you get when you consult with you, but in a nutshell, what is your approach to nutrition and how could someone listening start to embody the same approach?


Andrea Holwegner (03:28):
Well, I love this question because of course the word diet when you even you ask people how that’s perceived or even the word dietician, and of course the word dietician has the word diet in it, and it also has the word diet it. And so most people think they’re going to be deprived and it’s gonna be awful. And that they’ll, you know, never be able to enjoy their favorite, fast foods or chocolates or ice creams or taco chips, whatever your favorites might be. But really when we look at our brand at health stand nutrition and our overall philosophy, it’s always about coming back to the big picture. So I always say to people, there are no bad foods, there’s only bad overall diets. And so if you love McDonald’s French fries, or if you love chocolate like me what we want to think about is, well, how do we make sure that stays in your diet? And then we wrap healthy eating around it. And this is a way more vulnerable, enjoyable, fun way to live than thinking about taking out all of the joy and being known as a fun sucking dietician. I have no interest in that. I have a total interest in teaching people how to keep all the good stuff in and finding the joy.


Sam Demma (04:38):
Do you think it’s obvious that there’s a, between nutrition and physical health, even explain through your situation, watching your father go through his situations? Do you also believe there is a connection mentally based on the foods that we choose to consume and eat?


Andrea Holwegner (04:57):
Absolutely a hundred percent. What we know about nutrition is if you think about it, there’s nothing more immediate that has an impact on your energy, your mental health, and how you focus, concentrate at school or work and how you feel than what you’re eating. And that can happen in the matter of minutes to, you know, an hour. If you think about how you feel, if you haven’t eaten in a long time, it could be state of hangriness that starts to, to emerge where we get hunger mixed with anger in our practice, we’ve also coined the term anxiety, and that means you’re, you know, anxious. Some people get really anxious when they haven’t fueled themselves properly and maybe it’s cuz they didn’t plan ahead, they forgot, or maybe they’re following some crazy cleany eating plan or low carb plan or whatever plan might be trending on Instagram or TikTok trying to, you know, make them a, a different version of themselves. And the more we restrict fuel, particularly carbohydrates for our brain, usually the hanger and the more anxious people get and nutrition has an absolute direct correlation to how we feel. And so when, what we’ve seen through COVID is a massive spike in mental health issues across the globe. Our business has grown as a result of so many emotional eating issues and working from home issues for parents, for kids and massive increases in eating disorders very much directly a mental health illness connected to food.


Sam Demma (06:33):
What does that look like? What is typically, what does the K that you typically get presented? It’s obviously not a good thing that more of these cases are happening and I mean, it’s a good thing. Your business is growing, but it’s unfortunate that it’s because of the health challenges of more and more people. What, when someone comes to you with this sort of a challenge, what does, what does it typically look like? And I, I would assume every situation is different, but give us a little bit of an idea,


Andrea Holwegner (07:01):
You know, maybe the best way to, to share this might be just to go through a couple of examples of, you know, some of the situations that we’re seeing, that’s really common. So we’ve seen you know, whether it’s teachers or, or, you know, individuals that are working from home, the whole changing dynamic of work has really shifted how people eat when they eat, what they eat and when your refrigerator is right next to you and you’re bored or you’re stressed, it becomes a source of comfort, right? And we all eat for emotional eatings or emotional reasons. Dieticians included, you know, the beginning of the pandemic, I pretty much wanted to just sit down with a box, a chocolate and call it a day. I mean, it was overwhelming for all of us.


Andrea Holwegner (07:41):
So because of that shift in the working environment, we’ve seen a huge shift in in people’s mental health. And then as a result of that, we’ve seen some people, for example, put on 50 pounds in developed diabetes or heart issues struggles with their body image and their confidence as a result of, you know, even being on a screen and through video conferencing has shifted people’s ability to really, you know, feel self confident. When you’re staring at yourself on video each day, it, it’s not healthy. It’s like walking around with a mirror attached to you and that’s not good for anybody. So one of the first things we do with our clients working on zoom is we teach them how to turn off their self view so that they’re not having to see themselves, cuz it’s really exhausting people, self-check themselves a lot and we just want them to be present and focused on why we’re here and what we’re doing.


Andrea Holwegner (08:34):
The next sort of piece, you know, if we were to sort of dive a little deeper into what we’re seeing with eating disorders you know, it depends on the source that you’re looking at, but there’s probably been a 30% rise in eating disorders, particularly amongst young adolescents going to school and that’s for a variety of reasons, you know, no surprise, everything changed school, changed their social community, changed you know, dance and music and sports, all of that community. And that way that adolescence really connect and alleviate stress. All of that became, it was just gone. And then households were experiencing a lot of family dynamics and family stress as a result of that as well. And so we see this huge increase in in eating disorders and knowing that in Canada alone, we’ve got a million people diagnosed with an eating disorder right now on top and that was pre COVID. So I don’t know what these numbers are gonna look like towards the end of this year, but it’s super concerning what we’re seeing in the collaborative work we’re doing with physicians and and therapists throughout the country,


Sam Demma (09:41):
Seeing yourself on conferencing is one challenge. I think for young people, it’s also challenging when they’re on TikTok, Instagram, seeing what is being presented as the perfect person, the perfect body image, the perfect diet, the perfect exercises it goes on and on. How do we address this? Or when someone comes with you comes to you with a case of emotional eating or an eating disorder, what are some of the initial steps that you know, that you can take or they can take to start working on it and, and hoping to soon resume back to a positive, more holistic diet approach?


Andrea Holwegner (10:26):
Yeah. So if we, if we were to look at first off, you know, like why do eating disorders even happen in the first place? I think a lot of times people see it as you know, it’s purely image focused or body weight focused, and really that’s actually quite a myth. What we know about eating disorders is there’s some genetic predisposing factors for example, being highly perfectionistic and achievement oriented. So we see if I think of our client load that we see often in our practice, these are like the top of the class. These are the kids that are the troublemakers. These are the adolescents that are, you know, on the social committees. They are like leading the charge in their peers. But with that drive and that high achieving mentality sometimes comes a lot of anxiety and a lot of feeling the need to perform or be perfect in so many of ways from school and in their extracurricular activities.


Andrea Holwegner (11:21):
The other thing too we know about eating disorders is there’s a lot of cultural factors, there’s mental health factors. There’s a lot of family dynamic factors. So for example, how your family communicates and how sort of emotionally connected they are, has a really big impact on our ability to be emotionally sound as well. And so oftentimes we see when we inherit an eating disorder, adolescent or teenager or someone in their twenties or thirties, oftentimes we probably inherit their family in the work that we need to do. So sometimes you know, parents might not be great at emotion coaching and helping their kids through stress and anxiety and what to say. And, and and so therapists that we collaborate with will spend a lot of time digging into the family dynamics. Sometimes it’s you know, when, when we look at who also is at risk for eating disorders, absolutely.


Andrea Holwegner (12:16):
The LGBTQ plus community is highly at risk for eating disorders just based on so much of a journey and being true to who they truly are at the end of the day. So if that is you, I, I, and you’re listening to this podcast. I just want you to know you are absolutely not alone. There’s help eating disorders that are affecting all different ages, all different genders all different socioeconomic patterns. You know, we’ve had lots of LGBT members as clients. We’ve had young boys that are 13 with anorexia. We’ve had women in their sixties that have never sought help for their eating disorder women that are pregnant and the list goes on, so it really can affect anybody. And it’s a lot of complex factors on how we get here.


Andrea Holwegner (13:06):
Along the way. And then Sam, you, you asked me about like, well, what do we do? Like what we know it’s affecting a lot of people, but what are the steps in kind of reaching out for help? And so when we’re kind of looking at overcoming and eating disorder, there’s three pieces or probably four pieces of, of help. The first is actually, you know, somebody in your trusted friend in family community that can be a support person is going to be someone that’s in your corner can be so helpful. Well, just that is more connected to you. Second is going to be working with your family physician, cuz sometimes there’s assessments or medical treatments and sometimes medical monitoring to make sure your, for example, your heart is healthy. All of these types of things need to be monitored, your mental health.


Andrea Holwegner (13:52):
The third piece is actually the field of psychology. So we were work with a lot of psychologists. The heart of the treatment, any needing disorder is absolutely through therapy and through really digging into how did we end up here and what are the ways that we can you know, get ourselves back on track to feeling more comfortable in our skin. And then of course working with a registered to dietician that specializes in eating disorders and it’s super important to find somebody that really gets it. Otherwise you’ll just be frustrated. It’s kind of like going to see a kidney doctor when you’ve actually got heart health issues. You need to find to all doctors are not created equally. And so all dieticians are not created equally in terms of their areas of specialty. So someone that really stands mental health and eating disorder behaviors is really who you wanna be seeing so that when you’re talking to them about your fears and worries and it’s, it’s something that we’ve heard before and people have gone before you, and we know what to do with that to help you kind of overcome some of these challenges.


Sam Demma (14:54):
There may be someone listening who is going through this right now and you’re giving them some great information for them to think about and start their steps on a healing journey. If there’s someone listening who, when you’re explaining the situ can identify someone else in their life, who they think is struggling with this, who they’d like to help, how would you advise that person reach out to that individual? Like how can you be there for somebody if I, if you had a friend in high school or a colleague who might be going through this, how can you make sure that you’re not crossing a bad and making them feel uncomfortable, but you can also be there for them through this tough time.


Andrea Holwegner (15:34):
This is such a great, great thing to to be talking about Sam, cuz I can promise you, there’s probably somebody, you know, that is struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidality, self-harming behaviors, eating disorder behaviors. And the best thing that you you can do is, is really just reach out with compassion and care. You know, you might say something like, Hey, I’ve noticed that you don’t really seem yourself these days is everything okay? That’s a better question than saying, Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve dropped some weight. So somebody with a needing disorder, this is highly triggering. And sometimes actually will we in the nature of what we know about the distortion in body image and mental health might actually be perceived as a compliment that Hey, people are noticing that my weight is down. So that is the worst thing that you could say.


Andrea Holwegner (16:25):
That’s a do not say, do not comment on people’s weight, their body size, make it all about, I’ve noticed the it you’re different. I’m seeing maybe some of the life in your eyes has gone down. You know, I’m noticing that you’re, you know, not as engaged or you’ve kind of lost a little bit of, of some of your pozas in your spark that I kind of know you for oftentimes adolescence, we see them socially isolating more and that’s been tricky to sort of suss out through co with. But for teachers and parents really taking a pulse on sort of that social isolation piece is really, really key to notice on.


Sam Demma (17:04):
That makes a lot of sense. And I asked because in high school there was some people like that in my life and it was always a, it was always a challenge to figure out how to approach it. So I think it’ll be helpful for teachers and also for students to have that context. So thank you for sharing.


Andrea Holwegner (17:21):
I think all of us, when we’re going through a tough time, don’t want somebody to come and, you know, attempt to fix it for us cuz you know, that probably just makes us angry if anything. Yeah. But what we know is really helpful is if people can see that we’re struggling and people can sort of hear and express compassion and just give us some space to even talk about it without any need to fix it as a parent or a teacher or a friend that is the best thing that we can do is just give people that forum and that space instead of tip toing around it and pretending it’s not there and ignoring the elephant in the room is name it. In emotion focus therapy that therapists use, we talk about, you know, validating or seeing the, or, or naming the emotion first.


Andrea Holwegner (18:08):
So we call that name it to tame it. When you say to somebody, Hey, I can see that you’re looking sad or Hey, I can see that you’re looking angry. This actually calms emotion because you’ve named the emotion in our brain. It just sort of feels like, wow, validating that somebody can see that I might be struggling. The next thing that you can do is then, you know, either add to the validation that it’s like, it makes total sense why you would be feeling sad or I can imagine it feels really scary or that you’re really angry about X, Y, and Z. So that naming it and validating it and then just allow some space for them to tell you what’s going on or not share. And if they don’t share the first time, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean it has, hasn’t been successful. They just know you’re someone that’s not going to judge them or try and fix the problem for you and give you all of the, you know, 10 strategies on what you should do to get better at this. You know, you can keep kind of having those conversations and in time that person will talk to you. This is what we know. They just need to know that they’re safe with you and that you’re not judgemental.


Sam Demma (19:12):
I was listening to an amazing podcast with Jay she and a rapper named Russ sounds unrelated, but this’ll make sense. In a second, Russ was explaining how he always wanted to feel understood and when he was going through tough situ people in his life would tell him, I know exactly what it feels like. And Russ knew that they had no idea because they had never been through it. And he said them saying that actually made him feel more alone. So, you know, there is understanding in accepting that you don’t understand what someone’s going through, but just deciding that you’re gonna be there to support however they need it. And I thought it was a really beautiful phrase or mindset and it sounds very similar to what you’ve just explained. So I thought I would bring it up.


Andrea Holwegner (20:04):
I love it. That’s so great. I mean I think if we can really just say, I can’t imagine what you might be going through, but what I do know is that you got people in your corner like me, if you choose to kind of, you know, open up to me that have got your back, that’ll help you figure out the next steps. And I certainly don’t know the exact answers as to what we need to do next, but Hey, we could do it together. And that type of support is so much more you know, wrapping people with a warm, cozy blanket which is really what we need through this COVID period, more than ever.


Sam Demma (20:38):
And some chocolate covered strawberries. Yeah.


Andrea Holwegner (20:41):
You know, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate covered almonds, chocolate covered raises. All of them are good for me.


Sam Demma (20:48):
That’s awesome. Well, this has been a phenomenal conversation. If someone would like to get in touch with you, reach out with a question, excuse me, or check out some of your resources, what would be the best way for them to absorb everything that is you in the company?


Andrea Holwegner (21:08):
Oh, okay. Well you can go over to our website first off its www.healthstandnutrition.com. And if you go into the search area of our website and just search the topic, eating disorders, we’ve got a ton of videos and articles and supporting resources that might be a useful place for you to to start to inquire. We’ve also got a free weekly newsletter. It comes, you know, goes out to thousands of people each week where we give people really balanced living tips and recipes and information that is in alignment with the topics that we’re talking about today for physical health, as well as mental health. And the other resource I would suggest is you can go over to the national eating disorder formation center. They’re known as www.NEDIC.ca. And they’ve got a ton of supporting resources for teachers, parents, students and the general public on all things, eating disorders. If you need a little bit more support there.


Sam Demma (22:03):
Awesome. Andrea, thank you again. Keep up the awesome work and I look forward to talking again.

Andrea Holwegner (22:09):
Thanks so much, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Andrea

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Alina Deja-Grygierczyk – Founder and Executive Director of Polish Academy of Canada, Educator and Passionate Canadianist

Alina Deja-Grygierczyk – Founder and Executive Director of Polish Academy of Canada, Educator and Passionate Canadianist
About Alina Deja-Grygierczyk

Alina is a passionate Canadianist, energetic English Coach Confidence, Positivity Purveyor, and Passionate Home Cook. She has Silesian-Polish roots, fell in love with Canada, and currently, lives in Berlin with her husband where they enjoy the German cultural diversity and share Canadian values.

Her mission is to inspire and empower today’s young Europeans to leave a positive impact on our world through their involvement in leadership exchanges. She also dedicates herself to strengthening EU-Canada bilateral relations, by developing multilateral applied educational projects in areas of common interest for both Europe and Canada.

She studied English philology at the University of Silesia, Poland, and also finished there my doctorate studies in Canadian Literature and Cultures. She is the recipient of the Competitive Government of Canada Program Grant and EU-Canada Study Tour Thinking Tour. She studied the EU – Canada bilateral relations in such prominent institutions as the European Parliament, European Council, European Commission, European Court of Justice, and the Canadian Mission to the European Union, as well as many think tanks and NGOs.

In 2012 she undertook an internship at the Polish Consulate in Toronto where she was responsible for the promotion of Poland in Canada. After a few years of working as an academic teacher and English coach confidence, she decided to pursue my passion for promoting EU-Canada bilateral relations and founded the Polish Academy of Canada to create excellent international leaders.

Connect with Alina: Email | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

University of Silesia

Polish Academy of Canada

Dave Conlon

Ian Tyson

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Do you want access to all the past guests on this show? Do you want a network with like-minded individuals and meet other high performing educators from around the world? If so, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Sign up to join the exclusive network and you’ll get access to live virtual networking events and other special opportunities that will come out throughout 2021. I promise you I will not fill your inbox. You might get one email a month. If that sounds interesting, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Alina Deja is the founder and executive director of the Polish Academy of Canada. She’s also an educator and a passionate Canadianist. If that’s even a word she fell in love with Canada when she traveled here years ago on an exchange and her passion for the opportunities that exist to here and the people she met pushed her to start the Polish Academy of Canada, where she brings students from Poland and other areas in the European union over in Europe to bring them here on exchange, to provide them with co-op and internship opportunities, or even just, you know, work opportunities or exposure and trips.


Sam Demma (01:23):

So kids have access to different experiences and options. Now she is someone who is extremely passionate. She, after a few years of working as an academic teacher in English confidence coach, she decided to pursue her passion for promoting EU Canada bilateral relations, which led to her founding the Polish academy to create this excellent international leadership opportunities. She has huge energy. She is working on so many different projects. I hope you enjoy our conversation today. I will see you on the other side, Alina, thank you so much for coming on the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to, to have you on the show all the way from Berlin. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what makes you passionate about the work you do in education today?


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (02:15):

Yeah. Well, that’s a great question. I have to tell you. And I love the word passion cuz I’m really passionate about all the work that I do and with the young people here and what makes me so passionate you know, it’s a very long story when it comes to me. The first thing that really I love when, when it comes to young people is just like a love giving them something, you know, to believe in. I mean like Simons, you know, the leader always said that we should always like give people, you, you know, something that they keep going in life. They, they believe in something. So I think that we as educators which we are really highly responsible for the youth right now, especially the times right now, you know, we have COVID 19 race, you know, democracy is falling and we have got, you know, technology and instead of humanology and that sometimes techn management, it comes to technology.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (03:09):

So I think that they really need our help and my experience that educators and the people that we surround ourself with most important for the youth. So we should really like try to navigate them help them to navigate their life, you know, their emotions and and just help them to be happy. So what I do with the young people I do create exchange programs between Europe, between Canada. And so I bring both, you know, like Canadians to Europe as well. Like Europeans, it’s mostly like Polish students to Canada and they just came both, both students, they just come, come back very, very happy. So the thing that also got, got me to work with the young people, it’s probably, I would say I was also very lucky. Since I remember to have a good family, he was always motivating me, my uncle through the United States.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (04:10):

He always likes, he was like charging my Barry when he was like visiting me in Europe. And as I, since I remembered, yeah, it’s funny. I know. So as I remember it, I’ve been always very ambitious. I’ve always been a dreamer, a dreamer, and I had my own visions and I always wanted to create something unique and something that’s gonna give back to the community, something that’s gonna like, you know, like make other people happy because I got a lot, I’ve been traveling around the world as I was working with you as well as Canada, when it comes to international exchanges of students, I mean also university lecture. So I’ve made a lot of contacts and as my uncle said you know, I think that it’s very important. The people that we surround ourself with. So thanks so much trouble.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (04:59):

I’ve managed to build a huge network of leaders around the world. And as I know that it’s very important. The people that we surround ourself with are very important. I just wanted to that the youth that I know they’re gonna get the same so that they’re gonna be able to navigate their lives and just be happy and to are positive emotions with others. So what is more those travels and those positive experience that I got both in Canada and somewhere else. They brought me also to the idea of Canada study tours. So we bring young people from Europe to Canada and we do a tour so that there’s universities, high schools, they go to institutions governmental institutions. So we try to get them familiar with Canada as you know, like most Europeans, I don’t know if that, if you’re aware of that, but probably maybe yes. They just think that Canada is like Netflix.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (06:04):

So it’s like, so they always have the feeling that whatever, wherever they are in Canada, join us in the Netflix. So we are trying to help them to follow their dreams. And just to help them also, you know, to, to make their careers, to set up their lives in Canada a little bit. Of course we work with them when it comes to work and and balance because, you know, they, sometimes they dream about, and they let’s say they imagine Canada or north America in a different mind that it really is right. So we try to help them to follow their dreams, but also in a reasonable way, I guess. So, so just to sum up I think that I’ve become very, very passionate about working with the youth. So all the positive emotion that I got from the people like who were showing me the way, and there should be. So, you know, and so energetic, I just wanna like give back on how to tell you just to make them happy, make all the possible for them. I couldn’t live in Canada. I was living in Canada for a while, but right now I live in Berlin. So I just want them to be happy, let’s say. Hmm,


Sam Demma (07:16):

No, I absolutely love that. I’m actually curious to know more about your uncle, who you mentioned. Did he play a huge role in inspiring you to start this work? Like where I understand what makes you passionate about it today, but what drove you to start your own organization and to start doing these tours with European students and to give them the opportunities they might not have elsewhere?


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (07:37):

Yeah. Well, I it’s always been my dream. I mean, like, it’s funny when I was driving the car, I was going to a conference in Brussels. So I was driving the car between Brussels and Berlin. I’ve asked myself a question, what you really like doing. So at that time I was working with the university students, you know, so like being an academic teacher, and I just said to myself, what you like really doing? You just like flying to America. So I think that this it’s funny, but this brought me to the idea of Canada study tour and my uncle. He’s been the only my motivator. So I mean, like as, as, since I was little, I mean, doesn’t remember him coming back, you know, to Europe reading books, to me talking about like life and you know, like making choices in life.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (08:21):

So he was really like a good educator. So I was pretty lucky let’s say that he was like my innate leader, like, so and what brought me to outside of my company well, my company has been at the very beginning language school, and then I just wanna something more for the kids. So it was not only about the language, but I just wanted that they gonna start grow mentally when it comes to English, as well as to help them to change their, let’s say, fixed mindset into the growth mindset. Yes. Which is a huge work and introduce to them how they can work on themselves.


Sam Demma (09:03):

No, that’s awesome. And what led you to meeting Dave Conlan and all these amazing people that work in student leadership here in Canada? I’m curious to know.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (09:14):

Well, in 2016, I went to Canada with two girls. They were private students and I was on my own academics doing my own academic research. And those girls, they wanna study in Canada and this is so they we contacted Ian Tyson, the motivational speaker, right? So Ian Tyson, he invite me to come to, to London for the global leadership conference. First of all, I was just like, I thought, he’s crazy said, I’m not gonna be, you know, like a part of kids, you know, to Canada who are like 18, you know, and 17, you know, said like, no. And but then I started really to work on thats and the kids that I talk with them, they really wanna go. Hmm. So and that’s how it all started. So, you know, I’m a person who is very energetic and also very communicative.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (10:07):

And I’ve always had a kind of, you know, like vision. I mean, like something, you know, that you believe in, you go there, you just believe that you wanna do it sometimes are not sure about your vision yet, but when, when you meet and communicate with people and you know, your vision is just like, it’s just more clear to you. Hmm. And so Dave conman from the leadership Ken leadership association I contacted him because well, Canada study tour has become very famous here in Europe and all the schools, they were just impressed with the that the kids are so happy and they, the attitudes they changed because they contact, you know, the leaders the best. Yeah. And they speak with them. And so they just wanted that we gotta create a program which is gonna be online for the kids here so that the kids there are more kids engage into like into some positive action. So, so I just thought about that. I’ve met the treasurer of Canadian association ones. Nice. And I said like, okay, so why not contact, you know, like Dave conman, who is, let’s say hat and is kind of important when it comes to leadership in Canada and to learn more from them even from him. Yes.


Sam Demma (11:28):

Ah, that’s awesome. That’s so cool. And what is coming up soon? Things that you’re working on that you’re very excited about and that you have poured lots of your energies into?


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (11:39):

So right now, well, first of all, it’s I’m kind of a positive about that. I mean, like managing that, you know, yeah. I cannot fly right now, international, like flights are very difficult to manage but I’m very positive about, you know, the new opportunities for me. So saying that, having said that so we develop right now a course for the schools. And so we just wanna, let’s say, create a movement in Europe and as well as to bring some changes when it comes to education here. Hmm. So that might be might be, let’s say both challenging for us as a very positive, I mean, like when it comes to young people so that they gonna start thinking about, you know, like, like things like like about their life in a different way. Hmm. So, I mean, like in Europe, the education is more academic, so we just focus, you know, like on studying on cramming reading like books. And so there are not many schools who offer like courses or help students to human up or to just grow mentally. Mm. So this is what we wanna change right now. So I’ve already contacted some people like from media and some journalists from some like super Hebrew educators. And then we were just planning, you know, to let’s say kind of a movement to, to bring some positive changes right now.


Sam Demma (13:12):

Hmm. Oh, that’s awesome. I absolutely love the at and when, what, what inspired you to get involved in education? So bring me all the way back to when you were a student yourself, there’s, you know, thousands of careers you can get into, you chose to get into working with young people. Why at that point in your life, when you were so young, did you decide this was the thing you wanted to do or did, did you work a different job at first and transition? Like I’m, I’m curious to know about your own path?


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (13:40):

No, I mean, like never, it’s, it’s funny because since I remember I was, I, well, I think that I’m just lucky I’ve been, I was always playing you know, like the school. I mean, I was always a teacher as a kid. Yep. So I had my own like register and over was putting some marks. So my mom, she’s also a teacher. So I think that I, maybe I took after her a little bit and she she’s she’s still teaching right now. I mean, she lost her job. She doesn’t wanna give it up, although she could already get retired. And and so I think that family as I said, I mean like family that was always supporting me when it comes to education. So I can see the differences sometimes when we teach some parents, you know, there’s a lack of I don’t wanna say like, but it’s true sometimes of lack of good parenting at home, a good leadership. So I’ve been lucky to grew up in a family which gave me a lot. And my mom, she’s a teacher, my uncle, I mean, like for United States, he’s also a university teacher. So I think that I had a kind of a, let’s say have had always like, kind of a natural gift of just working with the youth.


Sam Demma (14:55):

Oh, that’s awesome. I love that. And if you could go back and speak to your younger self, when you just started working in education, what would you tell yourself? What pieces of advice, knowing what, you know now, would you impart on your younger self?


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (15:10):

It’s just like, what do you mean? Like younger self? When I was like 15, I was 25 or two.


Sam Demma (15:17):

When you started working. So like the first year you started working with young people?


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (15:24):

I think that, you know what it’s about the fear, I guess. So a lot of people and me too, I was always very shy. Mm. And this is the same thing happens when I come with young people to Canada or anywhere else, they’re very shy. They’re afraid to act. They’re afraid to be themselves and be authentic at that time. I would like to hear our voice, that be yourself, be authentic. You should follow your intuitions. You should follow your dreams. I mean, like you should do what you like and don’t be afraid. So, I mean, like, I’ve been always like growing up in a kind of environment that was trying you let’s say to act against me a little bit. And so I’ve, you know, I wanted to do stuff. I was always different. I was always more ambitious than the others or had just different to dreams.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (16:13):

And so there were voices who were trying to suppress me. So I think that I would just tell myself, like, keep going that way, keep being yourself, because this is important. Stop pretending a different person, because this is also, I mean, like something that I can see, but a lot of students, they pretend to be somebody else that they really are. And, and I guess this is, and what I have learned more, I guess, so like be more patient. Hmm. Oh, that’s awesome. Because I mean, like, yeah. I mean, I think that being, being patient is also very important. I mean, like a lot of kids and me too, I’ve always wanted everything very fast though. I don’t belong to the generation that, you know, like, like clicks all the time. Yeah. And but but yeah, I have it too. I mean, like sometimes, you know, you wanna get to the end of the movie very fast. Yeah. But I think that patience is is very important. So I’m like no fear, you just be authentic and don’t be scared to be yourself.


Sam Demma (17:11):

Ah, I love that. That’s awesome. And I know that you’re someone who is a lifelong learner. Can you tell me why you think that’s important and what are some of your favorite books that you have read? I know the last time I spoke to you, you showed me your wonderful bookshelf. And tell me, what do you think it means to be a lifelong learner? Why is it important and what are some of your favorite books?


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (17:32):

Well it’s very important the first, like what you said it’s like, it’s very important. I mean, there is a coach in Europe who says that when you just don’t grow and you don’t learn all the time, you just go back. And this is the feeling that I sometimes also got, you know, that there was a time when I was busy without a project and I, you know, stopped like learning or reading and I really felt bad. So the more you contact people, the more you read, you just grow, you just feel more happy. You just have the feeling of being, let’s say of doing something, right? Yes. So I’m a person like that. I am, I, I’m not able to imagine myself being a vegetable. Mm. And so that’s, that’s what is important because if you just stop learning reading you know, you are just, you just gonna start, stop being, let’s say.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (18:28):

Right. Because I, I mean, like we don’t know our potential. I mean, like we can have a great potential. I mean, like, so the more we read, the more people we meet, we just grow and we can be really happy because I mean, like we never know our final destination. Right. Hmm. And my favorite book well, it’s a good question. I have to tell you that I have it even like here on my desk, in my Canada room I got it from my husband, honestly, I’ve, I’ve read a lot of books, like canal, literature, I mean, European literatures, et cetera. But the thing that right now, I have a new, like new new poet. I really like though, I’m not like into poetry so much. Her name is, I mean, like homebody she’s right now a Canadian poet, she’s Indian. And she’s writing for women about buddy about leadership, about heart and about rest and away. So I think that my that’s my favorite book right now. Oh, that’s awesome. So she’s, she’s she’s really, I mean, like her poetry is very simple and it just picks your mind and it’s about, you know, all the problems that sometimes, you know, like we as human, we we, well we go through.


Sam Demma (19:45):

Love that in a very simple way. Yeah. That’s, that’s amazing. And the next time you come to, can you better let me know. Definitely. Yeah. So we can do some stuff together.


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (19:56):

It’s gonna be 2022.


Sam Demma (19:58):

Well, hopefully it comes, comes, comes here sooner. But in the meantime, if someone is inspired by anything you’ve shared today on this interview whether it’s a little bit about your personal story or they love the work you’re doing, what would be the best way another educator or somebody listening to reach out to you and have a conversation?


Alina Deja-Grygierczyk (20:16):
Definitely, I mean, like I check emails all day. So it’s alina@polish-academy-canada.com. I’m on Facebook and Instagram too.


Sam Demma (20:33):

Yeah. Perfect. No, that sounds, that sounds great. Alena, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. I, I really appreciate it and keep up the awesome work. I hope to work with you in the future and keep doing great things. I’ll stay in touch. Thank you. And I’ll talk to you soon. 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 your, of find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 21 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 Alina Deja-Grygierczyk

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.

Nadia Irshad – Co-founder of Glarea Elevated Learning and the future of education

Nadia Irshad - Co-founder of Glarea Elevated Learning and the future of education
About Nadia Irshad

Nadia Hasan’s (@nadia__irshad) educational background is in Environmental Studies focusing on Sustainable Development and Urban Planning. She pursued a career in Art & Design working in Magazine Print Design and web design for a decade before opening her first early learning school. She is the Founder and CEO of Academics Educational Systems; The Academics Edge System that incorporates proprietary curriculum, programming and innovation in centres called Academics preKindergarten.

She is a founding partner of Glarea Elevated Learning; A NEW KIND OF SCHOOL. Glarea is a K-6 School in Surrey BC growing with the students yearly up to Grade 12.

As a resident of the South Surrey area, Nadia has had the privilege of being a board member of the Peninsula Community Foundation. She was a member of The Women’s Presidents Organization for years, before focusing on her current role as a Board Member for Arts Umbrella, Canada’s non-profit leader in arts education for young people, providing access to the highest quality arts education to communities as a basic human right. She is specifically dedicated to expanding the non-profit’s reach in the City of Surrey.

Nadia is passionate about her industry as a change agent for women, children and families. She is drawn to education and childcare through her own personal story. She finds passion in human connection, civic activism and more specifically causes that relate to women. Nadia’s interests include mobilizing women and girls by confronting cultural barriers that limit and harm women in closed communities.

Words, poetry and screenwriting is her passion. Maxwell’s Muse is where she spends some of her free time, on projects that give voice to untold stories, creating safe spaces and giving a platform to marginalized people through the production of art and film. 

Connect with Nadia: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Glarea School Website

Academics PreKindergarten

Peninsula Community Foundation

The Women’s Presidents Organization

Arts Umbrella

Maxwell’s Muse Website

Systems Thinking Leadership Certificate Program at Cornell University

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 I had the honor and pleasure to interview and chat with Nadia Irshad or Nadia Hassan. She has an educational background in environmental studies, focused on sustainable development and urban planning. She pursued a career in art and design working in magazine print and web design for a decade before opening her own early learning school.


Sam Demma (01:05):
She is the founder and CEO of academics educational systems, the academics edge system that incorporates proprietary curriculum programming and innovation in centers called academics pre kindergarten. She is one of the founding partners of Gloria elevated learning, which is a, a new kind of school focused on the K/six to K to six grades in Surrey, BC growing with the student yearly up until grade 12. She has kids of her own that are part of this school system and we talk all about why they created this innovative school, why she was a founding partner, and what their school looked like and how it differs from typical schools. And I think we can learn something from everyone we talk to. And I definitely learned a lot talking to Nadia, so enjoy this conversation and I will see you on the other side, Nadia, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about how you got into the work you’re doing today with young people in education?


Nadia Irshad (02:09):
Oh, that’s a big loaded question. well, pleasure to be here. How did I end up in the world of education? So I took a really interesting path of my passion for education lies within two sort of spheres. One is I’m a parent, so I never actually envisioned being a parent. It was a complete surprise to me. I never touched a child until I had one, never changed a diaper until I had one. But it, everyone, I think as it’s a transformative moment, it is a transformative moment. I’ll, , I’ll say it’s a moment where, you know, suddenly everything that you never thought was relevant to your adult life is and it also takes you back to your childhood in a really strange way. Children are your own child or other children to me are they’re kind of an opportunity to look in the mirror.


Nadia Irshad (03:12):
I think it’s an interesting, I always kind of reflect on my own parenting and my own kind of the things that I’m drawn to in relation to education and children, all I think really do are things that my child’s self are, is drawn to. Yeah. There are things that the gaps that I felt as a child, I feel suddenly responsible for ensuring that my children and children in my community don’t feel that gap. So that’s kind of how I landed here. I went. So I, so I started my career in environmental studies. It’s not even a career, my educational journey in our environmental study urban room planning and things like that related to sustainable development was more interested in the developing world. But I was, I I’m really interested in urban environments as well. And then I landed in a graphic arts and print design because my parents weren’t really happy with me traveling for work or leaving home or going too far.


Nadia Irshad (04:16):
And at that time there were no options available to me. So my other passion has always been art. I followed that I did print design for, I’d say close to even 10 years. I absolutely love the feel of paper. I love glossy magazines. I have none in my house. They’re not something that I, that I, that I keep, but I love, you know, I just, there’s something tactile about it. I love color. I love, you know, so many things I could talk about art all day, but then I had a child and it changed everything and I wanted to work. So I think I’m really in really, really fascinated it by how family structures are, how people pursue purpose and, you know, it’s really difficult being a woman and pursuing a purpose outside the family home. Mm-Hmm, , it is it’s a challenge in a world where you there’s expectations.


Nadia Irshad (05:21):
I know all the expectations that people around me had was that I was going to stay home and I was going to focus on being a good mom and cooking, cleaning, and ensuring that they’re brilliant, amazing, loved children. I, I don’t think that that humans need to box themselves into like specific little frames of reference that way. I think we can be lots of things. I, I, I’m quite proud of the type of parent I am, but I’m not the type of person that could sit at home all day. It’s just not in me. So after about a year, a half, two years of staying at home I started looking for childcare and preschools so that I could go back to work. I was feeling really antsy and stir crazy. And I ended up coming upon at that time, I lived in the was Washington DC area, and I came upon this really amazing little preschool that I ado and that allowed me to fulfill, you know, my other needs, intellectual creative, and leave the family home.


Nadia Irshad (06:25):
And so through that, I fell into preschools and childcare. So I started academics pre kindergarten when we moved to Vancouver, BC in, around, I started the company in around 2009. So that, that flourished from that personal experience. And I really do in that, in that sphere. So I, I, I touch education in multiple ways. I’m met a teacher, I’m an outsider to all the industries. I’m currently a part of, I absolutely door being an outsider. And the reason why is I can, I can ask questions. I don’t feel shame or guilt for not understanding things. I question things all the time. You know, it’s easy to when you’re in an industry for a long time to see things as this is the way they’re supposed to be. So I never under, I don’t understand that in this industry and I, I love it.


Nadia Irshad (07:20):
I think it I think children are deserve the utmost respect. I think children are capable. I think that what, what really fires me up inside is, you know, I’d say most adult, as I know, carry, you know, stories and sometimes trauma from their childhood homes and their families, and are the educational spaces that we provided academics, or, you know, I’ll talk about Gloria as well. You know, for me, the essence of it is to provide a safe space. And if you think about the fact that a lot of children, schools and preschool educational environments are where they spend most of their time you know, we, you know, we can be, we can be that, I don’t know what, what the right word is. We can be.


Nadia Irshad (08:20):
Yeah, so that’s kind of where that came from. So from there, I have an interesting story of how I landed in the K to 12 space. So one of my first students in preschool that, that enrolled in my first preschool that opened in 2010 I became really good friends with their parents. This was boys parents, and he is that couple, their developers in, in the province of BC. They mostly work in the health tech and health sphere. So with hospitals and care homes and you know, they, they kind of carry their purpose with their development projects. They’re always about community and empowering people, boldly elevating people. And it links well with healthcare. So randomly a dinner table conversation, I think at this point, it’s probably six years ago saying, you know, I have this D dream of a school and like, you know, just, just fun, philosophical, random chatter about what would your dream school look like?


Nadia Irshad (09:22):
What would it be? And this friend of mine told me, okay, well, I’m gonna do this. What do you think? And at the time, you know, I noded, I said that sounds great. Sounds so interesting. I’m so happy for you. Like, I I’m here if you guys need anything. So he went on his little journey and we had a hilarious chat years later where he called me and he said, okay, so my team, they do construction and they develop big buildings and they’re telling me we don’t operate schools. So , so I, I, they, they basically sat me down and said, you need to find somebody who, who knows schools and knows children. So he called me up and he asked me if I’d be interested at the time I was married. So it was something I was looking into for, for about a year, kind of doing a discovery, just looking into where it would be, what it would look like.


Nadia Irshad (10:13):
And then I ended up going through quite a high I conflict divorce. And he asked me if I wanted to do the project and, and if we want to you know, move forward in a concrete way and it was my anchor. And so the project became my anchor through a really tumultuous time in my life. Nice. and the amazing part about it is I don’t know how to best, describe how we formed Gloria except to describe a table of well, who I believe are the smartest, most innovative almost revolutionary type thinkers from different industries who sat around a table and said, well, what would be the most amazing school you could ever imagine? What would be the educational space you’d wanna be in? And yeah, we put together, you know, our purpose is at Gloria to empower indomitable spirit. And you know, that, that kind of, I think, sums it up really well. That’s, that’s what we envision for all of our students.


Sam Demma (11:20):
I love that. Can we go back all the way for a second, when you were telling me about when you were a child, you said there was gaps in your childhood that led you down this path. If you’re comfortable to share, I’m curious to know what those are, because I’m guessing those gaps are what inspire you to make sure that those gaps aren’t present and I other students or other young people’s lives.


Nadia Irshad (11:40):
Yeah, I think huh, I’m not, I’m comfortable talking about it. I think I was always the shy kid. I was always the kid that picked last for every sports activity known. And it’s interesting. I reflect on upon it now. I’m the child of a, of a, of an athlete. So my dad was a major athlete and I know looking at my brother and my father, I have the gene. I know that now as an adult, I know I could do all those things, but I nobody noticed me and my extreme shyness. And so I would pretend to be sick. I would have a tummy ache and not one teacher ever thought and stopped to reflect. Maybe she actually needs somebody to pay a little bit more attention to her and help include her. I was ne and, and so those are some of the, you know, I remember this will sound, I think crazy now.


Nadia Irshad (12:36):
I don’t think people, hopefully people don’t go through this now, but being told I’m stupid or, you know, I’ll never get it. Or, you know, you’re never gonna do more than be a secretary. I used to hear things like that as a child. Yeah. So those, and, and, and I, I’m an introvert and I’m a, I’m, I’m a bookworm. So I would just kind of spiral into my books and in my room and nobody paid much attention to me. So I kind of, I have a soft spot for introverted children, for sure. Mm-Hmm, I think it’s easy to, or, or the good kids. I always point out to people that, you know, it’s the kid that never or breaks the rules that never does anything, you know, that sometimes is negative attention worthy that we sometimes forget most. So the kids who are struggling and screaming and, and, and, and for attention, we give it to them. But sometimes it’s those kids that are so quietly kind of lost in the corner, but do you know, get the, as do everything right? That we never pay much attention to, but deserve it for sure to be seen is a big thing. And I think that’s through my, my educational entire journey, I’ll say all the way through university, nobody ever really saw me. I felt quite invisible. So that’s really important to me to see. I love that.


Sam Demma (13:55):
No, I love that. And, and at Gloria, you talk about challenge based learning. I was reading your website, and I know that’s a huge component that you’re very passionate about at the school. Can you tell me, or define what you think challenge based learning is and why it’s so exciting and important?


Nadia Irshad (14:13):
So the way I like to do describe challenge based learning is people are familiar with inquiry based learning or international BA programs. So those programs and that type of learning pushes questions. So it’s like the Socratic method it’s pushing, you know, asking questions, questions, questions, which is amazing, which I think we should all do all the time. Challenge based learning is problem-based learning. So everything we do in life, you know, every day we tackle problems all day. And I think that’s what we that’s, that’s what we pick challenge based. Learning challenge based learning is gritty. It means it, it’s not, it’s an environment where there isn’t a no. So if there’s an idea, it’s, it’s about failing reiteration learning. It’s about a it’s it’s challenge based learning for me is creating a space where failing you’re safe to fail. You’re safe to try again. You’re safe learn. Cause I do think in general, generally I’d say is true. And for most traditional educational models, it isn’t safe to fail. It, it isn’t encouraged. Kids need to get that a and there’s a lot of shame and attached to not doing it. Right.


Sam Demma (15:26):
I, I wholeheartedly agree. I even think back to my European parents, like you don’t come home in less, you have over 80 average, you know, like it was


Nadia Irshad (15:34):
The most, most scary day is the report card day. I remember that.


Sam Demma (15:37):
Yeah. Right. And, you know, knowing what I know now and looking back, I realize how backwards that thinking is. Right? Cause there’s a difference between learning and memorization. And I mean, throughout all of high school, I can memorize everything and finish a semester and look back at buddy and say, I’m not gonna remember anything I did. I’m not gonna use anything I learned, but I’m glad I got the nineties on my test. Like it’s so it’s so backwards at your school, what else do you provide the students with to create an unbreakable spirit, as you mentioned? Like, what does that mean and how do you young person? Yeah. Indomitable spirit. So


Nadia Irshad (16:16):
Gloria came from the word grit in Latin. So grit is something that’s important to all the founding members of Gloria elevated learning. Nice. And so indomitable spirit for was when we, when we sat around this table to talk about what model would we create? We talked about what made, what made the most successful. And when I say successful, I don’t mean in monetary terms or, you know, in successful, in happy, joyous living their best life terms. What made those people? And a majority of us, all that those were people who were comfortable with being uncomfortable, were comfortable with taking risks, were gritty, people, people who, who fell got back up, tried again, didn’t take no for an answer. And so in this world of helicopter parenting and lawnmower parenting, it’s a really hard children have a lot of anxiety and social media and all those things don’t help.


Nadia Irshad (17:19):
But so we created an environment. So challenge based learning, you know, is something that, that supports that type of environment. But we have academics, we have sports and we have art. So in our academic model, all those three things are equal. There isn’t a imbalance of, you know, your math mark means way more than, you know, athletics or arts. We really do feel that all those things come together to create whole gritty humans. And you know, what I love about the program is, you know, my, so my daughter’s in the program. She said, always, I hate skating. I’m never gonna get on skates. It’s cold. I don’t like it. And what I loved about it is I kept telling her, you know, but that’s the point, the point is you’re not gonna like everything. And that life, life is gonna throw so many different things at you. And it’s about your attitude. And it’s about pulling on those skates and making it happen. And what I love is she, so we’re now in almost in March and she loves skating and she’s talking about being a hockey player and I keep, you know, I’m being the annoying mom and I keep reminding her well, interesting.


Nadia Irshad (18:29):
But but I think, you know, I think we create an environment where, so parents like to push the things they love. Mm-Hmm of course, you know, soccer parents probably played soccer when they were young or wanted to be a soccer star or hockey parents wanted to be a hockey star. You know? So you kind of, because those are the things, you know, so what I love about gala Gloria is it’s a place where it’s a multi-sport multi art place. Children get to learn for themselves what they actually love, what actually fires them up, what they’re passionate about. And they’re able to kind of carve their own path, be their own spirit, right. Instead of feeling the shadow of all of the people around them who love them, who adore them. I know, but to me, that’s you know, as an adult, that’s the most, that’s the most exciting opportunity. I love that opportunity today, but


Sam Demma (19:18):
That’s awesome. It’s funny when you’re mentioning your parents always push your passions on you. I’m thinking about my own family and my own situation, right? My dad was hockey player growing up, always wanted me to play hockey. He tried for a whole year, a whole, whole year putting skates on my feet and I cried every time and he finally just gave up, put a soccer ball in front of me and I couldn’t stop kicking it. And I pursued a pro soccer career since I was six years old. I, I lived in Italy for six months when I was 13. I ended up having three major knee injuries, two surgeries, and totally lost my full ride scholarship, lost the ability to play. And I was just connecting with you on so many levels. You were talking about Latin phrases. I have a Latin phrase on my bicep right here.


Sam Demma (19:58):
It says, VIN key pat tour. It’s a phrase that means he who endures our, the person who endures conquers. And I had it after my second knee surgery, not because I was gonna go to the end of the earth to play pro of soccer, but because I made a decision in that moment that no matter what I chose to do with my life arts, academic sports, whatever it might be, I’m gonna give a hundred percent of my effort all the time. But I do have a question for you. How do you ensure that your students don’t attach their self worth to their cha their, their talents or their achievements or their accomplishments? Because at the end of the day, I think it’s still important that a student doesn’t come home and say I’m worth nothing because I didn’t play well or I’m worth nothing because I didn’t get a good grade. So I’m curious to know, how does the teachers and you at Gloria ensure that students don’t attach their self worth wholly to those things.


Nadia Irshad (20:48):
So I think, and that’s really interesting that you brought that up for me, the fact that we teach through challenge based learning, meaning we push trying, failing, reiterating failure is a success. Failure is something we completely celebrate. Risk taking is something we celebrate that, you know, walking through something you’re afraid of. And so for me, those are the things that we celebrate as an organization. We do not celebrate, you know, I love that’s great. You got a 99, but that’s, that’s not where we celebr. We celebrate your, we celebrate the spirit and we do have, you know, we a a health and wellbeing program. We have Dr. Doan, who is the president of BC doc doctor’s of BC right now who’s on our board. And she supports us with trauma informed practice. And she supports us on, in lots of, kind of mental health initiatives.


Nadia Irshad (21:44):
But I will say that, you know, child learning makes it really hard to do that. It really doesn’t even our sports, you know, for sports it’s, we, we focus on how you got better or what you did or what, you know, you tried that and you fell and you figured it out and you know what, that’s awesome. You, you know, you took the risk cuz sometimes the kids won’t even take that first step to fall. They don’t want to. Fall’s so scary. Mm-Hmm so while talking through those scary things, those are the celebrations for sure.


Sam Demma (22:11):
I love that. And you’re so right. I guess when you’re focused on learning from the failure, there’s nothing you really to attach yourself worth too. Like you’re not, you’re not celebrating an achievement, you’re celebrating the learning and the growth which is so unique and so cool. Cuz when I look back to my own experience in school, like that was one of my biggest hurdles. I remember the day that I had my second knee surgery and the voices just went through my head of all my parents, aunts, uncles, coaches, Sam, one day, you’re gonna be the player that we hopefully watch on TV. You’re gonna be the first person from our family who gets a scholarship. And then all these voices started becoming like weights on my back. Because I thought by myself that if I didn’t fulfill those things, that I’d be worth nothing as a human being. And it sounds like you guys are doing the exact opposite of Gloria, which is, which is so cool. Tell me more about what the average day looks like for a student at the school.


Nadia Irshad (23:06):
So an average day, so I’ll say for example, what’s today, today’s Thursday. So school starts at 7 45. The kids hit the rink first thing in the morning, so cool. and so we always, we always start the day with athletic athletics. We all, you know, I think there’s a lot of research to prove that that’s a good thing for you. So we, we try really hard to yeah, to follow kind. We break all the norms and we do it the way we think is the right way to do it. I like that. So yeah, so the kids hit the rink, they do that for an hour, power skating sometimes hockey and they get off the rink, then they hit their classrooms. We do have, so the difference between Glar in a lot of schools is we don’t have, you know, some schools have rules where you can’t eat until it’s snack time and you can’t eat until it’s lunchtime.


Nadia Irshad (23:58):
So that’s normal humans. That’s not how, yeah, it doesn’t work. so kids, you know, we’ll break out their snacks and they’ll eat and they’ll go to class. And so it’s challenge based learning, meaning math, science, English all the subjects that they’re learning. We, and we do Mandarin as well are integrated. So sometimes they have an engineering project. Maybe there’s a challenge. How would you create a Rover on the moon? So they have to use math. They have to use science. They have to use, you know, English to write up the report communicate. So, so it’s learning, but it always, so whenever I go into the school, it all, it looks too fun. It looks like campus can school, nobody everybody’s on their feet. We also have transitional learning spaces. So it doesn’t feel like we’re stuck in classroom and this is your classroom and now you don’t move all day.


Nadia Irshad (24:49):
No, all the entire school is, is a student school for learning. So you’ll see them in the hallway. They’ll use, they’ll use spaces in the cafeteria. Yeah, it’s, it’s a really cool actually environment. And what I love most actually about going to the school is because of the way it’s, it’s transitional and open and project based students interact. So the kinds love chatting with the grade five kids and they, and the grade five kids love mentoring the little kids. And it’s a really I can’t wait to see these kids in like 20 years to see how, you know, they interact. I imagine they’ll be really close for for a lifetime. That’s how I see the relationships that build as a family. It’s really, you know, we’re all learners. So part of the mindsets that, that, that we try to instill in everyone is we’re all learners. So the teachers are learners, the students, our learners, the grade fives learn from the kinds the teachers learn from the kindergarten, kindergarten kids. It’s not there. Isn’t a hierarchical kind of, you know, setup where there there’s a teacher up there and we’re down here, we’re all here and we’re all learning together.


Sam Demma (26:03):
That’s so cool. I love that. And I think in traditional education, sometimes students work in silos, especially when you get into university and people start th saying things like, oh, I’m not gonna share my work with you because it’s, it’s a challenge and I need to have better work than you so that I can get the position. And you don’t. And it sounds like what you’re fostering is a collective group to build team, to work towards solving a bigger problem. And I think, you know, there’s a proverb that says, you wanna go, you wanna go fast, go alone. You wanna go far go together. And I think it’s so wise and you know, from a young age teaching students that they need to, you know, be able to function in a team is so important because they’ll use that skill for the rest of their life, which is so, so cool. I’m I have so many questions. This is fricking awesome. It sounds like


Nadia Irshad (26:56):
It sounds like what you just said. You brought up about knowledge and university students. I have similar experience in university, but what’s interesting. What I always think of is people like that. See the world as a pie. I, you, you know, there’s only eight slices, so I get a slice and now there’s only seven left, so you can’t have, you know, so to me, knowledge, isn’t an asset. It isn’t property it’s for everyone. And so I think it’s interesting being an outsider in the world of education. I know I confront it confronts a lot of people to have non-education people in the world of education, but for me, learnings for everybody there’s no, there shouldn’t be any kind of boundary set. It is in a pie it’s endless. It’s, it’s abundant.


Sam Demma (27:42):
I love that. The way I look at it, just, you just gave me an idea of like a future analogy with the pie. So the way I look at it is like, there’s a pie on the table, right. And we’re all. And like people traditionally go and they take a piece, but in reality, every person has specific gifts and talents which could be a kid to an ingredient. So you come and take a piece from the pie, but you’re the flower and someone else comes and they’re the milk. And if you didn’t just realize that you all got together, you could make more pie, you know, like using everyone’s unique gifts and talents. So that just came into my mind while you were speaking. And I think it’s so true. Like, I, I don’t really talk about this much on this podcast because a lot of teachers listen, but I actually dropped out of university.


Sam Demma (28:23):
I did I did two months of formal school before I broke down in front of my laptop, crying, telling my parents, look, I have this passion for speaking to young people and I need to follow it. And there was this initiative I was building at the time catered around service learning and serving leadership. And at first my parents were like, what the heck are you doing with your life? And very, very quickly as things started to progress, their whole mindset shifted and changed. And so sometimes I think it just takes one example one success story to shift the narrative. And I think there will be hundreds coming outta your school supporting that idea. What is some of the things you’re most proud of so far that have come outta the school?


Nadia Irshad (29:04):
Hmm, interesting. That’s a interesting question. Be careful cuz it’s a small school environment. I, you know, can’t have confidentiality too. We’ve of course I’ve had I think one of the, one of the proud moments for, you know, it’s a small thing, but watching a ma you know, 85% of our students, couldn’t skate, couldn’t even, you know, they need a chair and now watching them months later, we open in September, we’re in February, they’re in power skating and they’re starting hockey. And these are like little like month, like little guys, five year old guys. And it’s so amazing because I think it underlines the fact that kids are underestimated. They have endless capabilities. They have endless energy, their brains are so from either this brilliant, you know, organisms that are constantly making connections and growing and how I, how sad I think it is when people limit that growth.


Nadia Irshad (30:08):
Mm-Hmm yeah, so there’s yeah, it’s, it’s it’s the little things, it’s the little things for sure. It’s and it’s watching the kids, you know, they put together performances, they, we have martial arts and watching the kids who never once, you know, did a punched something or did anything or now suddenly, you know, yellow and orange belts. those are it’s it’s, it’s amazing. And it’s, they take so much pride in it and I just love watching them. And I think I love that they never walk in and I never hear them say I got 99 on test. I never hear that. I hear today. I drop, I, I, I jumped up and I did this kick and, and, and, you know, I’ve watched them go through this journey where they couldn’t do any of those things and how much pride they are. And I think it builds so much self confidence to think, you know, to know, even for five year old, two months ago, I couldn’t even do that. And to so how endless are my capabilities? Right. So it’s yeah. I, I absolutely adore being around them that that type of energy is just, it’s like, I wanna see.


Sam Demma (31:14):
Moment. Yeah. It’s infectious. Right. you mentioned redefining purpose, right? I know this idea of finding your purpose, embracing your purpose. It sounds like you guys do it a little bit differently at your school. Do you have any opinions on the word purpose or, or what that means and how to encourage students to pursue it?


Nadia Irshad (31:34):
I think so is a trendy word too. Sometimes you, I always feel like I have to tip toe around it and be careful. Yeah. You know, if it puts fire in your gut, that’s the way I look at it. Put, puts fire in your gut and you can’t sleep until you do it, probably your purpose. And it’s probably not, you know, going fast on the ice and it’s probably not. It’s probably you, you know, you have to stretch to think what exactly is that mm-hmm and I do you think all of us and maybe I I’m an ideal idealist, I I’ll admit it. I think we’re all here to leave the world a little bit better. And so if you can find that little gift, you have that thing that puts fire in your belly to leave it a better, a better place.


Nadia Irshad (32:21):
And that’s why, you know, that comes back to challenge me, is learning. So what makes challenge based learning so special to us is it forces kids to think community and global mm-hmm . So it’s not the problem about you today. It’s how, you know, a problem that affects the people around you, your school community, the people down the block in your, in your world, and ask them to problem solve. And, and, and because the reality is, is it’s easy to be apathetic and it’s easy to think we can’t do anything. This is the way it is, but we, you know, people did it to get us here so we can, we can change and flip it around, make it go a different direction. Yeah, I dunno if that makes any sense.


Sam Demma (33:03):
No, it does a hundred percent. I, I had a world issues teacher who changed my life when I was in grade 12, who started the first day of class by walking in front of us and saying, don’t believe anything I tell you. But if it makes you curious, I want you to go do your Reese search and verify facts to yourself. And it was the first teacher I ever had, who said anything like that. And instantly like snap of a fingers. I was hooked. I was like, this is gonna be the best class ever. He made his own curriculum. He taught us his own curriculum. He retired the year after he taught me, but there was one lesson he taught us in, in April of 2017 where he was breaking down the lives of figures in history, trying to prove to us that they all had this common trait.


Sam Demma (33:47):
Grit was definitely a part of it. And the, the way he said it was, they all took thousands of small, consistent actions. And he said, if you wanna make a difference, you wanna challenge status quo, just, just choose a problem and take thousands of small actions towards solving it. And that challenge changed my life. I talk about him to this day, me and Mike Loudfoot, he’s retired now. We still stay in contact. So I wholeheartedly agree. It’s definitely, it’s definitely possible to make a difference. Especially when you just start with a small step, if an educator has been listening to this conversation and is just amazed by what’s going on at your school, loves your energy, wants to connect, have a conversation. What would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Nadia Irshad (34:29):
The best way would, they should go to our website. So they should go to Glareaschool.com and they can always shoot me an email. So my email is nadia@glareaschool.com. That would probably be the easiest way to reach me. But we are currently recruiting teachers. We’re in the midst of growing our little teaching community and it’s, it’s exciting to see the types of people that are drawn to our program. They’re really unique, unique individuals, which, which is exciting.


Sam Demma (34:55):
Can you just spell the URL of your school? Just so people don’t mess it up?


Nadia Irshad (34:59):
Yes. So Glarea is Glareaschool.com.


Sam Demma (35:04):
Awesome. Nadia, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show, share some of your wisdom, energy and stories. I really appreciate it. And I look forward to the day that I can come skate with the five year olds oh, totally.


Nadia Irshad (35:16):
You need to come out to BC and visit us here.


Sam Demma (35:19):
I will. I will. I’ll talk to you soon.


Nadia Irshad (35:21):
My pleasure. Thank you.


Sam Demma (35:23):
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. If you wanna 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 Nadia Irshad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Pamela:  Email  |  LinkedinWebsite  |  Twitter

Listen Now

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

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Pamela Pereyra
Resources Mentioned

The National Association for Media Literacy Education

New Mexico Media Literacy Now

The Journal For Media Literacy Education

Media Savvy Citizens Youtube Channel

The Transcript

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Pamela Pereyra

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

Ian Howcroft – CEO of Skills Ontario

Ian Howcroft - CEO of Skills Ontario
About Ian Howcroft

Ian Howcroft (@IanSkillsON) is an action-oriented leader and decision-maker with a focus on customer needs and service. He is the CEO of skills Ontario and one who can lead a team and is able to build consensus to maximize and leverage the strengths of team members to the overall benefit of the organization. Ian has a strong background and interest in advocacy, government relations, public policy, legal/regulatory issues, administrative law, and human resources.

Connect with Ian: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Skills Ontario Website

Volunteer Opportunities with Skills Ontario

Ontario College of Trades

Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing

Ontario Centre of Innovation

Hopin Event Software

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 on the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. I had an amazing conversation months ago with Shelly Travis, who is the, the state president, the national director of skills USA, which is a career and technical skills student organization. And after the conversation ended, she gave me the name Ian Howcroft to follow up with and hopefully get him on the show as well.


Sam Demma (01:06):
Ian is the CEO or Chief Executive Officer of Skills Ontario, an organization dedicated to promoting skill trades and technology, careers to young people. We have a phenomenal conversation on how COVID affected their operations and what they’ve done to adjust and pivot. . You probably all hate that word by now, but we talk about how he’s pivoted his organization, how they’re continuing the work they’re doing and still making an impact on the lives of so many young people and students. I’ll see you on the other side of this interview, enjoy. Ian, thank you so much for coming on the high performing educator podcast. It is a huge pleasure and honor to have you on the show today. Why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about yourself and why you got into the work you do with young people today?


Ian Howcroft (01:53):
Well, thanks Sam, I appreciate the opportunity. I am with an organization called skills Ontario. We’ve been around for just over 30 years and our raise on debt is to promote skilled trades and technology careers to young people. I got interested in that from my former job at an organization called Canadian manufacturers and exporters. I was there for almost 30 years in a variety of capacities, but every year I was there, one of the top three priorities, and usually the number one priority was a skilled shortage. We’re not gonna have the skilled workers for the future. How can we make relationships with schools and other organizations to promote skilled trades? So I was always involved in that and I ended up on the board of skills Ontario. And when the opportunity came to take over as CEO I was contacted and thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about solutions and things that we can do to help move things forward and create a clearer pathway for young people to understand what the potential is, how they can follow their path of, of career aspirations and how we can do some linkages with business and better engage them and also wanted to do things to promote to young people, but also part of that was getting to their parents and getting to some other audiences because they have a huge impact and influence on their kids. And many of them don’t know what the real opportunities are with regard to a future in skilled trades or technology careers. They say go to university not knowing what the full opportunity is. So we’re trying to dispel some myths and create some realities about the positive aspect of a career in skilled trades and technology careers.


Sam Demma (03:21):
Did you know when you were working in manufacturing that one day you’d be in an organization running an organization like Skills Ontario did you plan to do this when you were younger or like when was the moment when it was like, whoa, I’m making this shift and I’m, I’m gonna make this pivot?


Ian Howcroft (03:38):
Well, I was I, I thought when I went to Canadian manufacturers, I would be there three to five years get some experience make some contacts and move on, but that organization afforded me a whole lot of opportunities to do a whole lot of different things from, from membership business development, policy work speaking dealing with a whole variety of manufacturing related issues, one of them and skills. So I ended up staying there for almost as I said, 30 years, but my role changed and the issues changed and my passion continued to grow. So I also realized at some point I did not want to retire from an organization that I started with. So I was keeping my eyes and ears open for opportunities that I had an interest in and passion for myself. So when this one came up, I thought this is something I should look at. And and, and I did thankfully and I’ve been there for about two and a half years now.


Sam Demma (04:29):
That’s awesome. So cool. And I’m sure the first year working there with working with skills, Ontario has a, has been a lot different than this current year.


Ian Howcroft (04:38):
Yes. Yes. And when I started there, I thought there’s huge challenges, always with challenges come opportunities. And we got things moving forward. We had a lot of staff changes. We were trying to do things a little differently. Last year we’re off to a great start. And then we experienced here in Ontario, the labor disputes for the teachers. I thought to myself, what could be more challenging? The teacher dispute for like skills Ontario, nothing could be more frustrating. Nothing could be more problematic than that, but I was proven wrong again, as we got into the pandemic in March and that just changed everything we could deal with the teacher strike. We would work around that, but the pandemic just caused us to go back to basics and say, what do we need to do? How can we do that? Given the restraints the constraints and the realities that we have to face knowing that the health and safety of, of students staff and everyone was the number one priority.


Sam Demma (05:30):
Hmm. I like how you said with every challenge though comes an opportunity. And I wanna focus on that for a second because what we focus on grows, what opportunities have you seen along with the challenges in co of it right now?


Ian Howcroft (05:43):
Well, I, I think we’re learning new and, and different ways to better engage our staff and, and our audiences. We’re not allowed to hold in person events right now, which is a challenge when you’re trying to promote skilled trades. You want to have that hands on experiential opportunity, but we can’t do that. So what we did was pivot and started offering everything online, virtually remotely tried to have an experiential component to that, so they could do it in the classroom or, or, or do it at home. But we were, I think being very, as I like to think innovative and creative is how, how can we make this a meaningful experience? How do we get the, the interaction there? So we were able to link in with with students and with parents when everyone is in lockdown at home, we came up with a skills at home program.


Ian Howcroft (06:27):
Here’s something that parents can can learn from and watch encourage their kids to take part in it. The first one was a, a rollercoaster challenge using materials. You could readily find at home, build a rollercoaster and see how long you, you keep a marble in the air for, or on the roller coaster for. So we started looking at how we can do things to continue to engage our audiences, to continue to engage our partners, and also work with our main partner, the, the government of Ontario to deliver what their message was, was there’s an important opportunity and we need skilled trade. We need technology people and this is an opportunity for, for skills on Ontario to really come in and, and fill that, that vacuum that was left when everything else was being shut down.


Sam Demma (07:07):
That’s awesome. A lot of people have told me recently that the state of education right now, or anyone who works in, in the educational industry is like throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what’s the, and,


Ian Howcroft (07:20):
And I, and I think, you know, we’re, we’re all trying different things. We’re all faced by the, the same challenge. So how do we, how do we do something that’s still gonna be impactful, still gonna create a learning environment for kids. And I know the, the teachers and the boards of education and the other partners involved are, are trying on to do everything they can to make it still a meaningful year for them. But it is a, it is a challenge, but I think as you said there’s creative ways to come up with new ideas and opportunities to, to address some of these challenges. One thing I’d just like to add is that with the remote delivery of our programs, we found out that that’s not something we’re gonna stop when the pandemic is over and we can go back to in person. We also think there’s still an important complimentary role to have remote delivery and virtual delivery. We’re able to engage everybody around the province. Whereas sometimes it might have been a geographic possibility for someone to attend an event or to come to a competition or to be in something that we’re doing a, the remote delivery allow us to engage them in a whole different way. So we’re gonna continue with that and use that as a complimentary program for for moving forward after the pandemic.


Sam Demma (08:29):
And it makes the presenter more easily and readily available. Like last week I did three presentations, one in Saskatchewan, one in New Jersey, one in Toronto, all from my bay. Like there’s no, you know, it’s, it’s from a delivery and an audience perspective. There’s so much possibilities in the virtual world. Tell me more about some of the things that have stuck. I love the skills at home, the, the challenge to build a roller coaster. What else have you experimented with as an organization over this time that has worked well so far?


Ian Howcroft (09:00):
Well, some of the things that we’re doing now we were talking about, but we moved forward a lot more quickly. We talked about having a podcast, but hadn’t yet done that. So this allowed us the opportunity to create the podcast. And one of our folks guy named Dan Cardinal put together a podcast. So we’re doing a podcast that we’re using to promote skilled trades and highlight individuals, highlight partners, highlight people that have gone through and become a, a skilled trades person and what they’ve done, how they overcame some challenges and are now leading a satisfying career and doing, doing really well. We, in the summer run something that we call our the summer camp program. We did about 25 camps around the province. They were in person weeklong camps. Couldn’t do that this year. So we said, if you wanna provide again, that opportunity for kids.


Ian Howcroft (09:46):
So we came up with 35 different camps and they were half day, full day or two day events. And we engaged twice. As many kids had over 800, approximately 800 kids involved in our summer camp program, which is almost twice what we would normally have and the results that we got, the evaluations we got were even more positive than what we’d had in the past. Now, our event, our, our evaluation in the past were very positive, but these ones were were even more positive because it allowed more kids to get involved in a whole variety of things and try things at home. Some were like tutorials, how to fix a bike, how to change a bike tire or, or a bike chain, but others were doing some, some cooking or baking at home. So we tried to make sure there, there was something there for everyone. So even when we go back to our in-person camps, we will have the complimentary virtual camps for those that can’t make it to a college, or can’t make it to one of our sites where we’re hosting an in-person camp. So it’s been a, a great experience in that regard. And we’re using that to, to learn by and move forward with. Oh,


Sam Demma (10:43):
Oh, that’s awesome. That’s really amazing. And, you know, despite the challenges, skills, Ontario has done an amazing job, it seems at, at pivoting. But I’m curious to know, are there any challenges that you have learned from cause we talked a lot about what what’s worked really well. But I think with any challenge, there’s great learnings. Like what is, what are some learnings that you think might be beneficial for other educators to hear about this new world?


Ian Howcroft (11:06):
Well, in, in general, I think what I’ve learned or had reconfirmed is don’t just go on assumptions. Mm-Hmm that, oh, that won’t work or this won’t work try things. And if it doesn’t work, adapt it, change it modify it, tailor it because if you just say, so that won’t work or that hasn’t worked before, I don’t think this will work. You’re gonna limit yourselves. Whereas if going with the more positive attitude and say, let’s let’s, what do we wanna do? Let, let’s try this. And if it’s not working or it’s not resonating with the audiences, partners make some, make some changes and, and don’t, don’t be afraid. This gave us an opportunity. Let’s try things. We we’re all in new territory here. So we don’t have to worry about, about failing. We everybody’s floundering.


Ian Howcroft (11:50):
So this, that gave us an opportunity to try things that perhaps we had talked about, but hadn’t done, but we’re able to move forward with, and, and we’re we’re as a, we have about 35 staff around the province now. And when we could get together, we did it a few times a year. But that was it. But now we’re, we’re getting together with, with teams, meetings or zoom meetings, and we’re engaging and trying to make sure we have no or, or fewer internal silos, so that we’re all leveraging what each other are doing, better understanding what each other are doing. So we may be farther apart physically, but I think we’re closer together a as teamed members and as colleagues within the organization. And I think that’s allowing us to do more and again, have more impact with our audiences, with the students, with the partners, with the educators.


Sam Demma (12:33):
That’s awesome. And I’m sure with the increased internal communications, you’re hearing a lot more about what the students want. What are you hearing as a whole organization from students right now? What is it that they’re, they’re asking you for? What are they challenged with specifically that, that you’ve heard of?


Ian Howcroft (12:50):
I think there’s a, a real appetite for information and how do I enter a skilled trade or technology career? And it’s much broader than many people think, you know, think they, they think of the traditional trades or traditional skills, but there’s like 152 skilled trades in Ontario. And we, we broader with, with technology. So we’re doing coding, we’re doing robotics mechatronics a whole lot of opportunities. So there’s a lot of interest in that, even though we’re having to do that remotely and doing the presentations virtually to the classrooms, there’s, there’s still an awful lot of interest in that. And we’re are going, we’re looking at how do we get the skills kits put together to give them that experiential opportunity at home? How do we make sure that they’re able to engage and get some experience with the limitations that have?


Ian Howcroft (12:50):
I think there’s a, a real appetite for information and how do I enter a skilled trade or technology career? And it’s much broader than many people think, you know, think they, they think of the traditional trades or traditional skills, but there’s like 152 skilled trades in Ontario. And we, we broader with, with technology. So we’re doing coding, we’re doing robotics mechatronics a whole lot of opportunities. So there’s a lot of interest in that, even though we’re having to do that remotely and doing the presentations virtually to the classrooms, there’s, there’s still an awful lot of interest in that. And we’re are going, we’re looking at how do we get the skills kits put together to give them that experiential opportunity at home? How do we make sure that they’re able to engage and get some experience with the limitations that have? So we, we still feel we have a very important role and there’s still an awful lot of interest.


Ian Howcroft (13:40):
And the Ontario government is highlighting the opportunities and skilled trades. So we’re working with our partners in business, our partners in labor, our partners in the education system to make sure that kids aren’t at a disadvantage because of the COVID limitations. We’re still able to provide them with the information to promote the skill trades and to give them information that that they can benefit from. When we were in, in, in the March and April timeframe, we tried to, well, what are the programs that we have? What are the products that we have? So let’s modify them so that we can put them available on our website or make them digitally we’ve updated some young women in, in trades. Our other programs that we have, we do first nations programming. So how do we make sure that we’re still offering relevant, impactful, and, and exciting events that will engage kids and provide an interactive experience for them?


Sam Demma (14:31):
Well, that’s awesome. That’s really cool. And you mentioned zoom calls and go Hangouts. What has been successful with virtual events? Is it doing a zoom webinar? Is it when all the students can see each other’s face on zoom? What has worked the best for you guys?


Ian Howcroft (14:48):
I, I think it depends on the event and we’re somewhat guided by what platform schools will allow. You know, Google hangout was one that I think the schools were, were using and we were getting into the, the classrooms that way. Yeah. We used WebEx for some of our larger events. We do when we have our normal competition, we have at, at the Toronto Congress center, we have about 2,400 hundred kids competing. We have almost 40,000 visitors. We hope the largest young women’s conference in Canada with 2000 participants, girls and young women and supporters, mentors, volunteers come out. So we had to gravitate towards the virtual delivery, but I was really pleased with our young women’s conference. We had about almost 1500 people sign on, lot more registered, but we have 1500 participants in our virtually young women’s conference.


Ian Howcroft (15:36):
We did a, a business summit. So we’re looking at the various platforms to continue to make sure that they’re continue to be more and more interactive and engaging for, for the participants as cuz we’re right now, we’re going to, we’re planning to do our competition virtually in the, in the spring we were won’t I don’t think be able to have in person events. And if we do, they’ll be smaller and have to modify that for the most part, we’ll be doing it virtually. So we’re looking at what’s the best platform to do that. What gives the kids the best opportunity to have an experience that they can have as meaningful, that they can win and be proud of their gold or silver or bronze medal. And how do we also use that to make sure our partners and our other supporters and volunteers are still engaged with us and realizing the value and benefits that they normally do through Skills Ontario.


Sam Demma (16:23):
Oh, that’s awesome. Really cool. There is a cool platform that was used recently with an event. I was a part of called hop in; might be worth checking out. They have like virtual booth. So a networking section where you meet one of’em with random people, there’s a main stage option, really cool stuff. And yeah, I’m sure you guys will probably build something in house and and build something really cool, but it might be worth, worth checking out. If anyone listening to this has been intrigued by any part of the conversation wants to connect with you, maybe ask some questions, bounce some ideas around, maybe they have some ideas for you. What would be the best way for another educator to reach out to you?


Ian Howcroft (17:00):
Well, I would refer everyone to our website. That has a lot of information about the programming that we’re doing. We have our Halloween spectacular skills experience based around some Halloween caution design pumpkin painting carving , a few other things around the Halloween theme. It’s all on our website as is all our other program information but that’s www.skillsontario.com. And I’m always encouraging people to reach out and contact me directly at ihowcroft@skillsontario.com. Contact information is on our website, but what we do is engage young people, engage parents, engage educators, labor and business. So we’re trying to do as much of that as we can. So I love hearing from students particularly, but I love hearing from our other partners and anyone else, that’s looking for some information about skills, promotion skills opportunities, and how they can work with Skills Ontario.


Ian Howcroft (17:51):
I just wanna point out that we have 35 staff, as I said, but we could not do what we do without our volunteers. And volunteerism is so important. We probably have up to a thousand volunteers that help us deliver our, our programming, our competitions, our contests. Again, right now we’re restricted to the virtual reality, but we look forward to engaging our volunteers in a variety of ways as we move forward, virtually as well. But also when we get back to doing our, our carbo boat races and the contest and the qualifying competitions, and again, we’ve also been able to offer a few new programs. We couldn’t do the car boat races, which have to take place at a pool and teams design it, but we’ve moved to an airplane glider contest that you can do it into schools could even do it at home if you had to. So we have a competition based on that. So there’s a lot of exciting things that are coming forward from this tragic COVID experience that we have to deal with.


Sam Demma (18:40):
Ian. That’s awesome. And thank you so much for sharing. There’s a lot of great ideas and insight coming outta this podcast. I’m sure a ton of people will, will be reaching out. Thanks again, for taking time to have this conversation, it’s been a real pleasure having you on the show.


Ian Howcroft (18:53):
Thanks, I’ve really appreciated the opportunity, Sam. Hopefully our paths will continue to cross.


Sam Demma (18:57):
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 in review so other educators like your find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, 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 Ian Howcroft

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.

Ash Baer – Mental Health Advocate and speaker

Ash Baer - Mental Health Advocate and speaker
About Ash Baer

Ash Baer (@ashbear_) is a mental health advocate and speaker who has been facilitating leadership programs for the past nine years. She’s travelled across Canada and to Europe, working with the coolest student leaders and sharing her passion for authentic, positive, and fun leadership experiences.

Ash is a Summer Camp enthusiast and spends her summers at Youth Leadership Camps Canada (YLCC) as the Summer Camp Director. For the remainder of the year Ash is planning for the summer ahead as well as supporting student leadership conferences across Canada, empowering youth to reach their full potential to make their own positive impact!

Ash’s passion is to create safe and positive spaces for the youth she has the opportunity to work with. She incorporates important leadership lessons into fun and interactive activities, and works hard to be a strong mental health advocate.

Ash is excited to learn and grow with you through her two workshop opportunities; Mental Health Awareness and Leadership Team Building.

Connect with Ash: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Baer Leadership

Youth Leadership Camps Canada (YLCC)

Global Student Leadership Summit (GSLS)

Ontario Student Leadership Conference (OSLC)

Canadian Youth Speakers Bureau

Mental Health Awareness Workshop

Leadership Team Building Workshop

Nipissing University

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 Ash, Ash Baer has been facilitating leadership programs for the past nine years. She’s traveled across Canada and to Europe working with the coolest student leaders and sharing her passion for authentic, positive, and fun leadership experiences. Ash is a summer camp enthusiast and spends her summers at YLCC as the summer camp director.


Sam Demma (01:02):
She now does mental health programs across the nation and today she talks a little bit about those presentations, managing student mental health and your own mental health and how her journey in education has shifted due to the recent challenges. This is a very awesome conversation. I hope you enjoy it. Take lots of notes. I will see you on the other side, Ash, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about yourself, who you are, and how you got into the work you’re doing with young people today?


Ash Baer (01:33):
Yeah, perfect. Well, it’s a pleasure to be here so thank you so much for the opportunity. So, I currently work with youth in a couple different capacities. The one that I’ve worked in the longest is through youth leadership camps, Canada (YLCC) and in their summer camp program, I am the summer camp director. I also help out with, we also run the Ontario student leadership conference, the global student leadership summit and events like that. So I’m also helping out with that with the student volunteers there. And then another thing with youth leadership stuff is I do Baer Leadership. So my last name’s bear. So that’s where the bear comes from. And I’ve been doing programs along the lines of mental health and team building.


Sam Demma (02:24):
That’s awesome. That’s so cool. And what got you into the work that you’re doing with young people? Why did you decide to join Y L C C? Was there a teacher that pushed you in that direction or was student leadership a big part of your life? What led you down this path? Totally.


Ash Baer (02:39):
So definitely was really involved in high school leadership. I went to Waterloo, Oxford and Jeff Gerber was my advisor. And he really created an environment where there was no limits to what we could do. So I really enjoyed that sort of environment in the, the environment of student leadership where you can think big and do big things. And there were the only barrier was your own perspective. So I was really into that. And then from that involvement, I got involved with OS L C and then got to know Stu Saunders who owns Y L C C in the camping world. And I haven’t left since, so it’s all kind of merged together into a beautiful timeline of what I’ve done.


Sam Demma (03:33):
That’s awesome. And you went to school in Waterloo. Did you also go to university in Waterloo or what you do?


Ash Baer (03:40):
No, I did university in north bay at Ning.


Sam Demma (03:43):
Nice. That’s awesome. Did you study something along the lines of social work or teaching or working with young people or was it something totally unrelated? Unrelated? nice. No, I love that. Yeah. Yeah. Me too. Right. Like I was studying environmental stuff before getting into this work. And like now doing totally different things. So there’s no, there’s no one right path to any destination. Right, exactly. So you do a lot of presentations now and programs in schools what kind of led you down that path? So you took a step towards doing your own thing on the side, where did that all stem from?


Ash Baer (04:19):
Yeah, for sure. So, so for the last 10 years I’ve worked with Y L C C. And like I said, I’m the camp director there for our summer programs. And with that, I really fell in love with the concept of being able to have a lot of fun. So that’s what we do at camp have tons of fun, but there’s also always messages embedded in everything that we do and leadership opportunities and growth there. So I fell in love with the team building aspect of that got to travel a lot with Y L C C been to Europe and all across Canada running programs and then started to develop some things on my own. And then also from the mental health perspective of it, I started to recognize in youth that mental health was something that was widely talked about and people were aware of what mental health was and stigma is going away, which is awesome.


Ash Baer (05:14):
But I also recognize that even though that stigma’s going away the language of how to talk about it, isn’t really there. So there’s not that toolbox of what is the definition of depression? Am I depressed or am I feeling sad? Is this anxiety, or am I just like worried at this exact moment? So I wanted to kind of take my own journey and learn a little bit more about my own mental health and got educated in courses like mental health, first aid and some living works courses as well to better facilitate and create safer environments for the students that I was working with. And then from that, I was like, if I have the opportunity to speak to more students. Awesome. actually one thing that I really push for in the student leadership conference world was I was like, I wanna see more women on stage because there’s lots of student leaders who are identify as women. And I want them to see themselves on stage too. And whenever I would go to even myself or other conference coordinators, I’d be like, Hey, get some more women on stage. And they were like, well, why don’t you just do it? And I was like, well, okay, fine. I feel comfy with a mic , I’ll learn some stuff and I will also share some messages there that way too.


Sam Demma (06:32):
Awesome. No, that’s amazing. And what challenges are you currently face with right now? Because of the current state of the world?


Ash Baer (06:40):
Yeah, for sure. Obviously there’s ton . And I think for me specifically if I look at our programs that we traditionally run in a year through conferences and camp camp specifically was shut down with no other option for the summer. So we kind of adapted in a way that we brought everything online conferences obviously in person were canceled. It was great to see you at O S L C you got to come into the first hybrid of a sort of event where you were on stage in front of a green screen. So obviously the challenges of just kind of figuring out how we keep leadership alive in these programs alive when we can’t be literally sitting beside each other or interacting in the way that we typically would.


Sam Demma (07:30):
Amazing. And if an educator’s listening and is thinking the exact same thoughts, what advice do you have to share, or what could you share with them that might be, do you have any ideas that have worked so far during COVID or things that you’ve tried that you think are worth sharing?


Ash Baer (07:44):
Yeah, for sure. So I think first of all, I wanna say to all educators listening, like you’re all amazing and adapting to such different times and I’m sure one day is completely different than the next day. I I’m a lot, I have a lot of close friends who are educators and I just have so much respect for them right now. And I’m wishing them in a couple weeks, two weeks of just the ability to sleep over the holidays. But some things that are tangible that I have seen happening specific with us, we the moment that things shut down, back in March, we opened an online camp on zoom. The schools shut down on Thursday and the next Monday I was like, yeah, we gotta do it. It’s like a March break zoom camp. And I honestly expected, it would be like a two week thing.


Ash Baer (08:39):
We do some crafts of the materials that I have in my home, which is like paper and Q-tips and we bring it to life, but we ended up running it for 30 weeks on zoom. And obviously this is lasting a little bit longer than anyone would’ve been anticipated. But I think the overall for adapting to the challenges that are happening right now, it’s important to not cut anything out that you think is important. Right. So if you run an event at your school that is so important for your school culture don’t say like, well, COVID canceled that. I think it’s important to bring it to life in some capacity, obviously there’s barriers. And obviously it’s not gonna be the exact same, but how can you still bring that to life via something virtual or maybe going super old school and doing a snail mail, like stuff like that. Like there’s ways to like, still build that community, but it might not be the exact same, but like thinking outside of the box. And I think the students that we’re all working with have the answers, right? Like, they’re, they’re so creative, they’re so smart. They want it to happen. So if they want it to happen, they’ll find a way.


Sam Demma (09:56):
That’s awesome. And with your, with regards to your own presentations, how are you delivering them right now? I know things are a little bit different.


Ash Baer (10:03):
Yeah, for sure. So whatever sort of online platform via zoom or Google room sort of thing, I’ve been delivering speeches that way. and just, I’ve done a couple throughout the summer that were in person and distanced, but I, I really am craving the opportunity when we can all just be in one room together.


Sam Demma (10:31):
yeah, me too. And, you know, you spend a lot of time hanging around with students. You understand there’s struggles, you’re not far removed as well. What do you think would be the best way to support our youth, like right now through this challenging time?


Ash Baer (10:45):
Totally. I think the best way would, and I think this is the way, no matter if there’s COVID or not COVID is to meet people where they’re at. And I think ESP with youth meeting them where they’re at is, is where you’re going to have the most success. And I think there’s so much authenticity that comes from that. So, you know, I don’t think there’s a cookie cutter answer to that of being like, well, this will work for all students, cuz I know everybody listening knows that that’s not the case either. Like for some students social media is, is a great way to connect with them and get on their level for some people that’s not. And I think it’s just on a very individual meet people where they’re at sort of vibe.


Sam Demma (11:36):
Awesome. Sounds good. And that makes a lot of sense and I totally agree. I think you can approach every kid with the same plan because they all learn different. It’s like trying to teach your curriculum the same to every single student. You can’t support every single student the same either. That’s awesome. I cannot wait to see you back on a stage or at camp or in a classroom doing a speech. If an educator is listening right now, wants to reach out to you, bounce some ideas around, maybe have a conversation about your programs or anything that they, that they heard today on today’s episode, what would be the best way for them to get into touch?


Ash Baer (12:13):
For sure. So a couple different ways. Email is ash@baerleadership.ca and Baer is spelled “baer”. And then Instagram or Twitter @ashbaer_ because somebody already took my name so.


Sam Demma (12:33):
All right. Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on the show, Ash. Really appreciate it. 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. If you wanna 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 Ash Baer

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.

Joanna Severino – CEO and Founder of PrepSkills and the US College Expo

Joanna Severino - CEO and Founder of PrepSkills and the US College Expo
About Joanna Severino

Joanna Severino (@joanna_severino) is the Founder & President of PREPSKILLS and the US College Expo. Joanna has been an educator for over 25 years, helping students to excel in achieving important milestones in education. For many Canadian families, applying to private schools and US colleges can be daunting.

PREPSKILLS helps navigate this process by giving families the tools, resources and connections to maximize opportunities. Joanna created the US College Expo in Canada and PrepConnect events to help families explore their educational pathways. Education is really about resourcefulness.

As a certified teacher and passionate mom-preneur, Joanna is always looking for ways to ensure that students connect with these opportunities and get the valuable information they need to make informed decisions about education.

Connect with Joanna: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

PREPSKILLS

US College Expo

Prep Connect – Private School Admissions Networking Event

PREPSKILLS Franchise

OSCA Conference Speaker

School & Athletic Seminars

Wings of Hope

PMH Mentorship

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 my good friend, Joanna. Joanna Severino is the founder and CEO of prep skills and the US college expo. She helps students prepare for their SATs SSATs, any of their standardized tests that they might need to get into a school in the US or a specific program here in Canada.


Sam Demma (01:00):
She also, I mentioned runs the US college expo, which helps to connect US admissions reps with students who are interested in going to their schools in the states. She’s been in education for over 20 years. She’s a powerhouse. She is a mother of her sons and she just, she never runs out of energy. As someone described it, she is a trailblazer and I hope you enjoy this interview and get something valuable from it. I’ll see you on the other side. Joanna, thank you so much for coming on to the High Performing Educators podcast. It seems like forever ago, I was sitting in your workshop with my dad, prepping for my SAT to hopefully get a scholarship back when I was just a young man and you’ve continued that work ever since then. And recently we’ve reconnected. I’m curious to know, and I’m sure everyone listening is as well. Who are you? I’d love you to share a little bit about yourself and what got you into the work that you do with youth today.


Joanna Severino (01:56):
Thanks Sam. Thanks for having me and I, and I remember, I think I, I tossed a stress toy at you. It was a soccer ball, wasn’t it?


Sam Demma (02:06):
Still have it!


Joanna Severino (02:08):
Love it. Hope you’re using it. My name’s Joanna Severino and I’m the founder and president of prep skills and the US college expo. So I’ve been an educator for over 25 years and a mother of three incredible boys; ages 14, 11, and eight. And really what we’re here to do is help students through their transformative years essentially, and support them as they embark on their journey through the middle and high school years.


Sam Demma (02:43):
That’s awesome. What prompted you to do the work that you do? Was there an experience you had, if you could go back to 25 years, I’m asking you to go back a long time. what prompted you to get involved in this sort of work with youth?


Joanna Severino (02:58):
Well, really, I, I, I was an educator and, and loved it. And from a very young age, I had this entrepreneurial spirit. My, my father passed when I was 11 and my mother was left to raise four children on her own, through social assistance. And, and we really built resilience and confidence through that process. But what I did know is that education was really key to recreating essentially my narrative and that’s really what I wanted to do. And so as an educator, when I graduated and then became a teacher, was super passionate about that. However, I felt like I could do more, more globally as an educator and found myself thinking about that a lot and then life threw me a curve ball. So really it was my experience with cancer and having gone through chemotherapy and an autologous stem cell transplant, that that was really the launchpad to creating prep skills today.


Sam Demma (03:34):
Wow. That’s, that’s crazy. I didn’t know that about you, so I appreciate you sharing. And I’m certain, there’s so many educators listening who have gone through tough challenges, just like the ones you all outline, and I’m hoping they’re, they’re hearing what comes up after you get through it, especially if someone’s going through the same sort of challenge right now, and speaking of challenges and getting through them right now. So many educators, so many schools, so many companies are faced with the instrumental challenge, which is COVID having to very quick pivot and shift and do things virtually. I know you’ve done a great job with the virtual prep skills connect event, where I showed the little stress ball live and you’re doing the expo virtually, you’re doing school tours virtually. How have you overcome the challenges of COVID and what was that experience like for you in education?


Joanna Severino (05:02):
Well, I think we’re still overcoming challenges on a, on a daily basis minute by minute. And really, I think what’s important is, is taking action. Action is super important and not worrying so much about perfection. I’ve I’ve been known as the trailblazer in the space. And so I tend to pave the way for, for a lot of people in a, in a lot of innovative things that occur in education, it was a pleasure actually to hear from a few of the educators that reached out to us before the prep connect. And they said, can we join and just watch and learn from what you due? And, and sort of referenced me as being the best in, in the space, which was a wonderful compliment, but really, I, I think rooted from my childhood and my resilience and, you know, having lost my father at a young age surviving cancer I’m, I’m pretty resilient and, and love to turn no to yeses. So I think that’s really what drives me. It’s, it’s sort of like, what’s the worst that could happen. Let’s go. And I think that’s an important mindset to have during COVID, especially.


Sam Demma (06:20):
No, that’s amazing. And you did a great job with the virtual event. I was there, I CEED. And I’m curious to know what do you think? Awesome. Thank you. what do you think are some unique, unique ways to engage people during COVID? You know, if you, if you could put the mindset on of an educator, maybe more classical that works in a school, and they’re struggling a little bit right now, you know, what can we do to help these young people during this time?


Joanna Severino (06:47):
Well, you know, I think we underestimate these, these students and they are resourceful and resilient. And, and I think this online world is, is more familiar to them than it is to us. Mm. So getting them involved in really activities, such as the ones that we’re hosting, there are lots of opportunities to volunteer virtually. Your program is fantastic. Sam, you know, top performing students to really engage and connect online. And they’re, they’re very familiar with this world. So I, I don’t know, you know, outside of there being challenges, especially through the early stages with mental health and, and really being and lockdown at home, I think that this is actually progressing in a positive way where students are now back at school, back with the structure, back with their peers and teachers. And, and I see that with my own boys. So I, I think, I think we’re moving in a good direction.


Sam Demma (07:58):
And you’re somewhat who radiates joy. You radiate hope, even through tough times, you have this positive mindset and mentality, and it’s so evident even if people are listening to this right now, what gives you hope to keep going to trail blaze away, as you said, even when everyone else might be stopping or hesitating?


Joanna Severino (08:18):
Well, I think life experience and a mindset. And you know, I, I, I really attach myself to the symbolism of a butterfly mm-hmm and a butterfly in a cocoon that then transforms into this lovely butterfly the, the caterpillar to the butterfly scenario is something that I revisit a lot of days of my life . And so looking at the, that transformation and seeing it as every ending has a new beginning, and there’s a reason why this is happening. And how do you overcome obstacles? How do you strengthen your core? These are all important things that I think we need to do and reflect on. And what can you personally control? Because there’s so many UN outside of yourself and you really shouldn’t be worried about those things. Mm. You know, what is it about you that you can really tap into your core strengths and be able to, to support your growth, your mindset, and then through that process, you can help others. So it really begin with you.


Sam Demma (09:36):
I love that. And the focus on the core strength is so important. And I know from working with you and, and watching you do your amazing work, one of your core strengths is helping young people prepare for post-secondary education for getting into the schools, their dream schools. We talked about Kevin who went to UCLA and, and I believe it was Sam who went to Haga and had a great experience at boarding school. You know, can you share an experience of a young person who’s been directly impacted by your work, maybe when they came to you, they were uncertain. They were unclear. They didn’t know where they were going. Didn’t know how to do what they needed to do to get to where they wanted to go. And through your work, you had a tremendous impact hacked on them, not only with their schooling, but maybe even their mentality or their mental health. And if you wanna share a, a touching story, you can also change the name for the sake of privacy totally up to you.


Joanna Severino (10:27):
Well, there, there’s so many stories and, and that’s really what I love about what I do. And because I’m a trailblazer and I keep moving, how I, I know that I’m leaving a footprint and I know that there are people that are being supported and helped. I, I have to admit I don’t always stop and, you know, analyze the, the situation. Yeah. Until later when someone tells me that. So, and so has been impacted by whether it was a, a war, a statement I made or has successfully been admitted to, you know, their, their school of choice. Just this week. I discovered that one of our students from many years ago must be probably at least 10 years. And he’s currently studying at brown university. And I remember him, I thought, oh, wow, that’s amazing. I’m getting older. but there’s no stories because what happens is you don’t know what you don’t know.


Joanna Severino (11:26):
And, and really success is a group project. So I found myself dealing with students and parents who are maybe limiting themselves mm-hmm . And I remember a situation where a parent came in and she wanted her son to apply to a particular school. And I asked her why. And at that point, the sticker price in terms of tuition was a little lower than some of the other school choices. And I said, so you’re not considering these other schools. And she said, no, I couldn’t afford it. That’s, that’s just completely out of our realm. And I said, well, did you know about this and this and this, these financial opportunities that you could take advantage of? And she said, no, I, I didn’t know about that. So we embarked on this journey together. He obviously ended his reach in terms of school options.


Joanna Severino (12:15):
And then he was admitted to all the schools and offered financial support at all of them. And guess what? He ended up at a school that was different from the initial choice that he had when he and his mother came to me. And I think that’s so awesome. And he’s since graduated and loved the experience, and that was the right fit for him. So I I’m really here to crush obstacles for parents and, and families, if they, if they’re concerned. I, I wanna be able to help there are so many incredible stories. A family that, that came into the city recently was during COVID and was looking for a school. And and really, it seemed like an impossibility, like how can you possibly get into a school for September and it’s June? And I love those challenges. . So there, I went and I, I went door knocking for, for the family and lo and behold it happened. And so we were able to get them into a school. So that that’s really, what I love to do is I, I really love to, to create things that don’t exist and to create opportunities that don’t exist and support families in that way.


Sam Demma (13:33):
I wanna highlight the fact that you said you hadn’t seen this young person for 10 years, and the first story you just shared, or maybe 10 years had gone by, and you vividly remember who the person was. And now they’re at their dream school at Browns college. That’s so cool, because I think so often in education or in any service based business, sometimes you don’t realize the impact of your contribution until a decade down the road. When they write you a handwritten note, or you see them standing on some podium, delivering a talk, and it’s such a, oh my gosh moment where you realize your impact has been, has been realized through that person’s life and their activity, these, and any educator who’s listening. I want you to take Joanna’s story as a, a reminder to yourself that maybe you’re not seeing the impact of your teaching or your perseverance right now, but maybe 10 years down the road, like she did, you’ll have a crazy experience where someone reaches back out to you and tells you how much it meant to you that you, you kept pushing through and, and you kept going Joanna you’re someone who has worked with so many schools has worked with so many organizers and events and planned a dozen different opportunities, hundreds by now for young people, you’ve hired dozens of speakers.


Sam Demma (14:52):
I’m curious to know how do you choose who to bring onto your stages and, and who to work with because you brought on Mike Weaver, former NHL player, Jillian apps, Olympian, you know, what, what makes a good presenter and how do you choose someone to put in front of young minds?


Joanna Severino (15:08):
Well, first, you know, as I said, I really love a great challenge. And so, you know, oftentimes we look to these, these individuals, and we think that it’s almost impossible to connect with them, right? Mm-Hmm oh, former NHL player Olympian. We had Dr Chopra from Harvard medical school, like all of these great, great inspirational speakers. And it becomes a little bit like, you know, how, how do we engage? How do we interact with them? And I, as I said, love to create opportunities that don’t exist. And so, you know, I, I find ways to connect and make sure that it’s of value to these speaker, the individual, and a value to the families that we serve. And so, you know, the, the speakers that we selected for, for example, the us college expo primarily graduated from a us college, their Canadians. And so we wanted them to reflect that story, that journey and that inspiration. That’s really how we, we go about selecting our our speakers and you of course have transformed so many students in lives. And, and with your positive, inspirational enthusiasm, we thought Sam Demma is our guy for CE this event. So thank you for doing that.


Sam Demma (16:37):
No, I appreciate it. And I was gonna say, it sounds like it’s a needs basis. You know, if there’s a need in your school, if there’s a need for the event, you find the person who can fill it, which is, sounds like a very logical way to approach the, the conversation, which is awesome. This has been an amazing conversation. I have a couple more questions for you. I’m curious to know what keeps you motivated. So we talked a little bit about what gets you hopeful, and I know you’re very obstacle oriented and you love crushing obstacles and you love creating opportunities. What motivates you to keep going? Is there someone in your life that motivates you? Do you, who do you look up? Who do you get inspiration from?


Joanna Severino (17:16):
Well, it, you know, my father passed when I was 11. I, I didn’t really get a chance to, to know him, but I do know that he, he was an entrepreneur and mm-hmm, he did you know, start a business that that was not successful actually over the course of a 10 year period, apparently in Australia. . So I, you know, I, I don’t know much about that, but I do know that there is this, this entrepreneurial spirit inside of me where I feel like what I do can impact the world globally. And, and that’s what motivates and drives me. So this, this, this spirit that I have and connection with my father, definitely. And then the miraculous transformation through the restoration of my health through cancer and then having these three wonderful boys. So, you know, I have a, a 14, 11 and eight year old, and they drive me every single day, along with my, my great husband, but the, the boys really tell the story. I can see it and live it every single as to what they’re going through, what their needs are, how the world is changing. And and, and, and it’s, it’s really motivating for me to support them. And in turn support all these families that we serve on a daily basis,


Sam Demma (18:44):
If you went on ancestry.com, I’m sure you’re a whole lineage was people that were all entrepreneurs. doing amazing know.


Sam Demma (18:56):
Educators are listening, principals, teachers, parents who wanna apply the same mindset to school. I know a while back, not too long, maybe 20 years, my age , you were once a teacher, how can a teacher or an educator that works in a more formal scenario apply that entrepreneurial mindset? Is it just, you know, doing things that are outrageous and crazy you know, what would you tell an educator in a more classic scenario how they can use an entrepreneurial spirit maybe in their classrooms or schools?


Joanna Severino (19:26):
Well, I was a, a business and computer studies teacher, and so I always bought, brought the world outside, inside mm-hmm . And so it wasn’t traditional textbook type teacher. So with, with the teachers that we serve, I think they’re doing a tremendous job because they actually do reach out to me to prep skills for the support that they need to be able to better serve the student. I mean, the American university admissions process, for example, there are over 4,000 options in the us. It’s, it’s impossible for any one person to really understand that entire system. And so they, through professional development, reach out to us they engage in the counselor day and event. And I think what they’re doing is, is fantastic. And and we see that with, with the students that we serve that foundationally and primarily come from these schools and the teachers are, are supporting them. So they’re the, the real heroes. And I just come in to, you know, to, to sort of, of finesse that and, and support them as they move on to their next stage.


Sam Demma (20:37):
That’s awesome. I love that. And you mentioned educators reach out a lot to wrap this up. I would love for you to share where they can reach you if they wanna bounce ideas around chat with you, connect, use prep skills for some preparation for students, or just to connect with you and chat about some things that you’ve done in your life. Where can they do that?


Joanna Severino (20:56):
They can, they can do that by connecting through prepskills.com or uscollegeexpo.com. And I’d be happy to, to, to meet with them or connect with them and support their process for sure.


Sam Demma (21:12):
Awesome. Joanna, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. It’s been a pleasure and I wish you all the best in the future, and I’ll be watching you behind your car as you trail blaze through this industry. I can’t wait to see what comes up next.


Joanna Severino (21:27):
Thank you, Sam pleasure.


Sam Demma (21:30):
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 this show. If you wanna 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 Joanna Severino

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.

Julie Champagne – Co-Founder at the English Tutor and Teacher

Julie Champagne - Co-Founder at the English Tutor and Teacher
About Julie Champagne

Prior to settling in Toronto, Julie (@TheEngTutor1), an Ottawa native, studied at The University of Ottawa and Queen’s University. She is the Co-founder of the English Tutor as well as a teacher. In her ten years of teaching, Julie has taught everything (except math!) to a variety of age groups in a variety of locations including Kanata, Bradford West Yorkshire, and now at an independent school in midtown Toronto.

A proud Hufflepuff, Julie is an avid Harry Potter fan and has lost count of the number of times she’s read all seven books. Julie lives with her husband, young daughter, and dog named Pepper Potts. She eagerly shares her love of reading with her whole family. 

Connect with Melissa: Email | Instagram | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The English Tutor

Park Street Education

Blyth Academy school website

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Do you want access to all the past guests on this show? Do you want a network with like-minded individuals and meet other high performing educators from around the world? If so, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Sign up to join the exclusive network and you’ll get access to live virtual networking events and other special opportunities that will come out throughout 2021. I promise you I will not fill your inbox. you might get one email a month. If that sounds interesting go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Julie Champagne. Prior to her settling in Toronto, she was from Ottawa. She studied at the University of Ottawa and Queens university and in her 10 years of teaching, she has taught everything except for math to a variety of age groups in a variety of locations, including Kanata, Bradford West Yorkshire, and now in an independent school in Midtown, Toronto. Julie and I met when she taught at Blyth academy, which is the private school in Midtown Toronto.


Sam Demma (01:20):
And now because of COVID, she took an entrepreneurial path into teaching, virtually, students from all around the world. She has a company with her business partner, Sam, and they have an amazing venture called the English Tutor. It’s a really interesting idea. They are very energized about the work they’re doing and having a huge impact. She has a ton of wisdom and ideas to share, and I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed recording it. I’ll see you on the other side. Julie, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. I know we worked together. I, I wanna say over a year and a half ago now, and it’s really cool to connect with you virtually again. Share with the audience a little bit about who you are and why you initially got into the work you do with young people today.


Julie Champagne (02:07):
Sure. Yeah. Thanks so much. And I I’m so excited to be here. You’re right. It was about a year and a half ago with my foundation’s kids. So I mean, obviously I’m a teacher. I I teach high school primarily and you know, when the world changed, we had to all adapt very, very quickly. So I, I have my own tutoring business now that I own with my co-founder Sam, it’s called the English tutor and we teach kids all over the world, guided reading. And then I also am a middle school teacher with another school called park street. And I guess, you know, why do I do what I do? I, I honestly, I don’t think I could do anything else. I absolutely love my job. There are people let’s say there are jobs and vocations, and I truly feel that teaching for me is a vocation.


Julie Champagne (02:57):
You know, the, the joy I get from planning lessons that really get kids, right. Get them engaged, get them excited about something, especially if they’ve never been excited about something before. I mean, that is such an amazing moment. It’s so wonderful to be there, to be there supporting and talking them through the challenges too. Right. I mean, I do it because the kid like the kids, I not to sound cliche, but the kids are amazing. Right. They’re they’re the future and what they’re doing and who they’re becoming. I love that I can play a small part in that with them.


Sam Demma (03:36):
Yeah, no, it’s so true. And for, for some clarification, I’m not the Sam that she started the English tutor with. If anyone’s wondering no, it’s, it is a different Sam. That being said, you mentioned, you know, getting into teaching, being a V a vocation, and I’m curious to know, at what point in your journey did you decide teaching I’m gonna be a teacher was there a defining moment, a person who pushed you in that direction or when did you know?


Julie Champagne (04:03):
I mean, I think, I think there’s probably a few different things. I don’t know that I necessarily believe in one sort of sign that led me, led me down the path. And I think I probably took a few wrong turns along the way. Yeah. Before I, before I landed you know, but I think one of the primary ones that comes to mind for me is, is my brother mm-hmm . So my brother has what’s called Asperger’s and that’s it’s high functioning autism essentially. And so we’re going back 20 years now. Right? He, he hasn’t been in the school system in, in 10, 15 years. And as a kid I’m older than him and, and as kid, I just watched the school system, let him down. They just didn’t know how to reach him, you know? And to me that meant that the box of education, the box that I had somehow managed to make work for me, you know, I fit that mold somehow some way it wasn’t working for somebody else in my family.


Julie Champagne (05:02):
So it must not be working for everybody. Yeah. And, and I just, I was determined, especially when I got on the path to teachers college and, and my sort of first view teaching posts, I was determined to be the teacher that took the chance. Mm. Right. The teacher that, that said, okay, this box, doesn’t, it doesn’t have to be a box. We can push this. We can push against the constraints that the education field is, is throwing at us. You know, I think we’ve all got one or two teachers in our history that we remember. And if we’re lucky, one of the, one of the ones we remember is because they, they made a difference. Right. They, they pushed us in a really fantastic way. My brother doesn’t have that, you know, like he doesn’t have a teacher like that. And, and I do, I’ve got a couple like that. I’ve got teachers that took the time. And so that’s how I approach my own teaching. And, and it’s certainly when I look back at, you know, how did I get into this? Those are, those are the reasons that come up for me, for sure.


Sam Demma (06:04):
Yeah. That’s awesome. My teacher was Mike Lafa who changed my life, inspired me to go into the community and take his theory of small actions and put it to the test and totally change my life. And fact, I still stay in touch with him, him today. And he was a very principled man very alike, my own grandfather who taught me that if there’s a will, there’s a way. And you know, you are a perfect example of that. You were just telling me how as school was reopening. You made the decision, you know, I’m gonna fill a need here and make this work. And you were teaching at late hours. Can you share a little more about the English tutor and how it actually got formed and what it is today?


Julie Champagne (06:43):
Sure. Yeah. So my co-founder Sam when the school systems shut down all over the world, I mean, just absolutely wild. We started teaching these guided reading English courses to students in China. Mm. So we would be up at just ungodly hours, you know, five, six in the morning. And then again at eight o’clock or nine o’clock at night teaching these kids English and in a way it was, it was just so amazing and so wonderful to be doing this, but then we thought, how do we take this further? How do we really make this meaningful for the kids? So it’s not just a, it’s not just a bandaid for COVID, but legitimately something that they’re gonna get out of it. And we decided why not just read them books that are in their age level. Right. And, and not necessarily comprehension wise, you know, like they’re gonna struggle a little bit with a Royal doll text, but let’s break it down for them.


Julie Champagne (07:43):
Let’s create these beautiful resources that lead them through reading these books with us. Mm. You know, and so we’ve done all kinds. We’ve done Royal doll, we’ve done Charlotte’s web. Sam’s working her way through Harry Potter right now with her kids done nonfiction units and poetry units. I’m doing a nonfiction course at the moment with kids in Shanghai. Nice. so it’s been really, really incredible. And it’s been such an amazing thing for Sam and I to witness the equalizer that is a child. Mm. Right. All kids, it doesn’t matter. Culture, language, kids are kids. And, and they find the same things funny, and they they’re challenged by the same things. And so reaching a whole new set of kids has been super, super amazing and definitely a silver lining to COVID because it led us to form our, our business. And then when the school shut down here in, in Ontario, you know, we, we had, I think something like 200 hours worth of content worth of teaching content.


Julie Champagne (08:52):
And I happened to I happened to teach one of my grade 11 students. His mom is the CEO of the big brothers, big sisters organization in Toronto. Oh, cool. And so I reached out to her and I said, listen, like we have, we have all these teaching resources, we’ve got hours and hours of programming. We’d love to volunteer for your littles virtually. Mm. And so they created this amazing partnership with Rogers where Rogers dropped off all these devices to these kids. Holy and so since April Sam and I, five days a week have been doing these courses with the big brothers, big sister students ha. And it’s awesome again, like what an equalizer, right? Like kids are, the equalizer happens in China in the morning, happens again at 4:00 PM with kids in Toronto. You know, they’re laughing at the same joke from Willy Wonka, which is so cool.


Sam Demma (09:44):
That’s so awesome. And I just want to shed light on it because whether it’s facing a challenge with, you know, engaging students online or facing a challenge with hybrid learning where you have to go in class or room and back online, if there’s a will, there’s a way, and I just wanted you to showcase that story because I think it’s a great example. You know, you really pivoted and you’re teaching kids not only virtually, but across the freaking world. Like that is so cool. And I’m glad you, you got a chance to share it. I’m curious to know someone recently described education to me as the own spaghetti on the wall calculatedly and seeing what sticks is there any mistakes you’ve personally made or great successes you’ve had that you think are worth sharing with other educators who might be listening?


Julie Champagne (10:28):
Absolutely. I think that’s such a great analogy. I think one of the big mistakes I made when I first started teaching was being a little bit of a slave to the curriculum and overplanning, right. Just creating these absolutely gorgeous lesson plan and I recognize, I just said, I talked about how with the English tutor, we make these great lessons and these great resources and you need that. But you have to have some flexibility. You have to allow the classroom to derail sometimes and, and go off in these weird, fantastic sidebar conversations. Kids have so much to share if we let them. And it’s in those moments, it’s when you, when you pull back from the very regimented lesson that the real magic happens, but between a teacher and, and their PE and their students and, and the classroom community. So yeah, absolutely. The, the flexibility in the classroom is, is so important. It’s, it’s how you’re gonna build relationships with kids.


Sam Demma (11:32):
No, that’s awesome. I think that’s an amazing piece of advice even in life, you know, I have this weekly planner and no one can see this, cuz it’s not , it’s not, there’s no video here, but it just gives me a high level outline of the week. And so often I find myself not beating myself up, but realizing I didn’t complete everything I said I was gonna do, but then reminding myself that’s okay. And I, I think it’s the same for teaching. I’ve never actually taught, you know, for nine hours a day or eight hours a day for a whole year. But even with speaking, sometimes things don’t go as planned the person before you, you know, cuts you short 20 minutes and you gotta adjust on the fly and figure out how to fill the gaps. And it’s, I think it’s really cool. It’s a like painting, you know, I just gotta take the colors as they come and figure out how to paint the picture. And regardless of what you plan to, you know, create before you started painting.


Julie Champagne (12:21):
Absolutely. And I think more than ever this year, that holds true. Right. Mm-hmm and, and, and just being ready to meet kids where they’re at this year, you know, like you’re saying with your, your agenda, like feeling bad that I didn’t get through everything at the end of the week, you can feel like that teaching all the time. Right. Because, oh, I’ve gotta get to this piece of curriculum. Yeah. They need to learn how to write an essay and sure. They absolutely do. I’m not saying they don’t, but if it derails, because you know, there was a playground fight or some, some, one of your students saw something really spectacular on the news and they wanna talk through it. You have to allow space for that. You have to allow the air to come into your classroom. And, and this year, especially, right. We’re seeing kids who are, they’re just at varying degrees of readiness to learn. Yeah. Right. They are where, what they’ve experienced this year, what we’ve all experienced, the collective experience adults are going through. So we certainly can’t expect kids to, we certainly have to be ready to say, learning’s not happening today. Cuz they’re just not, they’re not ready for it. You know, and being okay with that being okay with saying, okay, but we’re gonna make some progress elsewhere. Mm-Hmm .


Sam Demma (13:40):
And that progress elsewhere is sometimes just showing kids you’re there to hear them and that you care and you’re paying attention. And I’m curious to know, how do teachers do that in a virtual scenario? You’ve done, it seems excellently with kids across the world. If an educator’s listening and you know, maybe the day comes where they decide today’s not gonna be a teaching day. It’s gonna be a, let me show you a care day. What does that day look like for a teacher?


Julie Champagne (14:05):
Yeah. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It is not without its challenges. This world, you know, student isolation is, it’s a big challenge this year. Isn’t it like it’s and, and teacher isolation. Right? Our, our we’ve all lost our communities. There’s, there’s no lunchroom to say, Hey, you know what, this wasn’t working for me today. What worked for you? Yeah. I think one of the ways that we’re doing it, so I, you know, I mentioned, I teach at a school called park street. It’s a grade four to grade eight school. So the kids are pretty little. And I think one of the ways that we’re addressing that and, and showing levels of care is, is recognizing that we have to treat the school day as though we were in person. Mm. And we have to be willing to work on the relationship and work on, on building the trust between teacher and student and, and student and student.


Julie Champagne (14:57):
Right. So all of our lessons are live. The kids are in zoom together, nice learning together, interacting. Right. So as much as we can taking that, that physical space and putting it virtually really helps to lay the groundwork for creating that level of care for kids. And, and then beyond that offering opportunities in class, right. You know, like next Friday, we’re gonna do we’re gonna do a Halloween costume and pumpkin carving contest over zoom, the whole gonna get together. You know, we’ll play, we’ll play the Halloween haunt music and nice. And we’ll all carve great photo, great pumpkins and, and just have some fun. Right. And that’s certainly what’s missing from the virtual space right now, right. Is the fun that comes with school. So we’re trying to find ways that you can inject that in. And that’s when the conversations where it’s let their guard down and, and tell you what’s really going on with them and tell you where they’re at and what they need from you. Right. Their hands are busy or having some fun. And then just all of a sudden that little, that little Mor, so is something that you wanna tease out of them a little bit more shows up, you know? But it doesn’t even have to be as big of an event as that. Right. What Sam’s last fry? She did feel good Friday in her class and all she had them do. I’m not kidding. All she had them do was change their zoom screen name to something that they love about themselves.


Sam Demma (16:23):
Oh, that’s a great idea.


Julie Champagne (16:24):
Right. And so this group of great eight boys, they’re all these great eight boys who are all very different person. And they’re reading about the hound of basketballs. They all, they all took it so seriously and really thought about what they were gonna put out. And we saw some just spectacular answers. That’s amazing, you know, like things like, I’m so glad I have courage or I really love that I can be the calm voice in the room. Mm. Like just what a reflective moment for these kids, but also allows the teacher to just get to know them really quite well and so simple to do. Right. It took two minutes. It didn’t detract from the lesson and the kids leave feeling pretty, pretty good about themselves.


Sam Demma (17:05):
Yeah. That’s so true. That’s an amazing idea. And like, I hope people listening right now are writing down in their own, you know, planner for the next day at class, because that’s an amazing idea. Not only does it encourage self-reflection, but it also allows you to honor your gifts and talents and maybe give you that feel good moment that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Yeah. Which is phenomenal. And on the topic of student transformation or students being impacted as a direct result of over your dozens of years, you know, working as a teacher and teaching, I’m sure, you know, you’ve had students reach out and tell you, you know, Ms. Champagne, you made a huge impact on my life. And thank you so much for what you’ve done with me. And, you know, it’s really helped. Maybe some of your kids even stay in touch with you today and they’re older and you go out to the bar and have some food and catch up and talk life.


Sam Demma (17:53):
I’m curious to know if there’s any stories of transformation that stick out in your mind and you can change your name. If it’s a very profound story. The reason I’m asking is because a lot of teachers are burnt out. Some teachers are just getting into teaching some teachers plant, but don’t see them. They don’t see the, they don’t see the efforts or the sewing of that seed for 10 years down the road. And especially right now when that network of teachers is gone, I think it’s even more harder to stay motivated and hopeful. And a story of transformation might just be the thing to remind an educator, listening that you know, what they’re doing is important and they should keep pushing forward.


Julie Champagne (18:29):
Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think, I think those sort of impactful moments, they, you can have one really great one and then two, three weeks later, maybe that student takes a backside. Right. I, I, I really feel for new teachers this year. Mm-Hmm I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be in a silo. Right. Just without that sort of support without the sounding board. And to feel like you’re not making a difference, but honestly, any programming, I just, I will answer the question, but I just wanna say any programming that a teacher is providing right now, whether it’s a worksheet that they got up onto Google classroom, or they were hoarded a quick lesson for 10 minutes, or they threw up a cool video that they found on YouTube that is reaching kids. Yeah. And it’s making a difference and it’s, and it’s more than they’re getting otherwise.


Julie Champagne (19:22):
Yeah. Right. And so we just have to be okay with that and we have to celebrate that and recognize we’re all just doing our best, not just teachers, teacher of students, we’re all just doing our best this year. And, and muddling our way through it. Right. So if you know, any new teachers that are feeling that way, I, I, I think they, I, I hope that they just take a pause and realize this is quite honestly the hardest year they will ever teach. Yeah. Right. It’s it’s only gonna get easier from here. Yeah. But not for one second to think that they’re not having an impact. Yeah. Cause they are, even if they have to wait 10 years to get the email from, from the kid, I love it. I think for me, I mean, you, you met some of these kids.


Julie Champagne (20:06):
I, I taught the foundations program at, at my old school. It’s grade nine and 10, and you knew a little bit about them, their, their students who, for whatever reason, the, the mainstream wasn’t working out for them. And so a lot of them arrive with some pretty icy chips on their shoulder. Mm-Hmm . And I can think of one student in particular and, and you know, this student, we had lots of ups and, and downs. This was not, this was not a, a fixed by October. It was a, it wasn’t even a fixed by the time he graduated. Mm. You know? So he arrived in, in grade nine just all over the place, all over the place. He couldn’t predict his actions. You couldn’t, you couldn’t predict if he was gonna listen to your lesson that day or not, or if he was gonna show up or not, and wicked smart, wicked, wicked smart.


Julie Champagne (21:03):
And, you know, I just remember pulling my, a hair out in the staff room. Like, how am I gonna get through to this kid? How am I gonna reach him? He’s more than capable. He can do this. And then we’d have these breakthrough moments where he’d come in and be like, miss, I just read Richard the third, last night for fun. You’re like, wait, sorry. So you won’t read to kill a Mockingbird, but you’ll read Richard the third, your, okay. All right, well, let’s talk Richard III. I’ve read Richard. The third. Let’s do it. Let’s have that conversation. Right. And, and those little moments, I think go a really long way in helping that kid see that I believed in him and that I knew he was capable and I knew he could do it. And I think the real turning point was, was a, was a trip that we took.


Julie Champagne (21:50):
I took the foundation students on a Portage trip to Algonquin. Mm. And I saw a different side of all the students, but this student in particular, there was a confidence and a surety of himself in this environment that I’d not seen in the classroom walls. Mm. You know, the not tying ability, the fire building skills, naming of trees, the all get outta the canoe first to see if there’s any, any bear sightings on, on the site before we pitch our texts, right? Like this is, this was real roughen at camping. There was no glamping about it. And, and it really changed something in me for him. I came back to the classroom and, and just equipped him with so many more hands on things and told him, you know, okay, this is your seat, but this is your squad. Like, this is, you know, if you can’t sit in your seat, the whole class cool.


Julie Champagne (22:42):
But stay within the, stay within this squad that we’ve created. Mm-Hmm right. And, and he did it and, and, you know, to your, yeah, he is, he is a student that I stay in touch with that, you know, sent me a Christmas card last year, who, when he found out I was moving to Ottawa, asked if he could take me out for, for a, a goodbye drink and, and just wanted to say, thank you. And it’s incredible, like what a moment. Right. But at the end of it, like, he taught me so much about my teaching practice. Do you know what I mean? Like yeah, sure. I made an impact in his life. He’s off at Guelph. I mean, he’s home, but he’s not Guelph. Yeah. And, and he’s lighting it up and that’s a, my own practice because of what I went through with this student. Right. So he he’s, I he’s gonna go down in the history books for sure. That’s awesome. So cool. I think if he’s listen, if he listens, he’ll know it’s him too. That’s the funny thing, like he will know


Sam Demma (23:38):
, that’s awesome. I love that. Maybe you just send it to him. yeah, I will. There’s something about you in here, you know, we have to catch up and get a drink and it’s an excuse to have another conversation with a person. Exactly. in the, in the effort of making sure that we try and support teachers and educators, as much as we can and give them opportunities to connect and move away from the silos that they might be in right now, how could someone reach out to you if they wanna bounce ideas around, have cool conversations and just yeah. Talk and connect.


Julie Champagne (24:09):
Yeah, absolutely. I love, I love that. I love sharing resources. I love getting new resources and, and supporting each other. I think that’s the best. So you can find the English tutor on Instagram, just @theenglishtutoronline. You can email me at it’s julie@theenglishtutor.com. Or you can email me at park street, julie.champagne@parkstreetedu.com. Awesome. Would really welcome any anybody that wants to reach out and have a, have a chat I’d love to, I’d love to learn more. Cool,


Sam Demma (24:39):
Julie, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you and I can’t wait to see all the students you keep to mentor and teach and read to is really exciting.


Julie Champagne (24:48):
Thank you so much.


Sam Demma (24:49):
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, if you wanna 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 Julie Champagne

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.

Dr. LouAnn Ross – Executive Director of Business Professionals America

Dr. LouAnn Ross – Executive Director of Business Professionals America
About Dr. LouAnn Ross

Dr. LouAnn Ross (@LouAnnRossi) has always been inspired by those who work relentlessly to make the world a better place for youth, and she is committed to the belief that all youth deserve the best that we as adults have to offer.

Throughout her career, she has led with an unyielding dedication and set of principles that have allowed her the opportunity to not only be successful, but to learn best practices, cultivate relationships, and expand her breadth of knowledge. She is a nationally recognized professional with extensive experience in organizational administration, board governance, and program management. This includes project management and evaluation, diversified fund development, board governance, corporate and community relations, and fiscal management. She has led the turnaround of two nonprofit organizations and the startup of another – all with great success.

Since joining Business Professionals of America in April of 2018 as the Executive Director/CEO, Dr. Ross has facilitated numerous leadership development training sessions with organization leaders, advisors, national officers and staff, and has performed an organizational audit to ensure that Business Professionals of America is positioned for success. Her goal for the organization is to inspire and prepare emerging student leaders to discover their passion and change the world by creating unmatched opportunities in learning, professional development and service; and she is committed to taking this ambitious vision to successful reality.

Dr. Ross holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh as well as a certificate in Nonprofit Management. She also holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management (MPPM) from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Additionally, she holds a Master’s degree in Education (MAEd) from East Carolina University, and in June of this year, she completed her Doctorate in Leadership and Administration at Point Park University.

Dr. Ross is driven by a simple desire to do whatever she can to make the world a better place, and continually seeks ways to create that world for all children and youth.

Connect with Dr. Ross: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Business Professionals of America

BPA Alumni

Mr. Rogers, “Many Ways to Say I Love You”

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 Dr. LouAnn Ross. She is the Executive Director and CEO for Business Professionals of America. She has always been inspired by people who do work that make the world a better place for youth, and she has committed her entire life to serving youth because she does. She believes that youth deserve the best that we as adults and everyone else have to offer throughout her career. She led as an unyielding dedication and set of principles that have allowed her the opportunity to not only be successful, but to also learn best practices, cultivate relationships, and expand her breadth of knowledge. She’s a nationally recognized professional with extensive experience in organizational administration, board governance and program management. This includes project management and evaluation, diversified fund development, board governance, corporate, and community relations and fiscal management.


Sam Demma (00:59):
She has led turnaround of two non-profit organizations and the startup of another with a great success. She joined BPA back in 2018. Dr. Ross also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh, as well as a certificate in Nonprofit Management. She also has her Master’s in Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. And she also holds a Master’s degree in Education from East Carolina University. And in June of this year, she completed her Doctorate in Leadership and Administration at Point Park University. Today’s interview is going to be phenomenal, and I hope you really enjoy it. Dr. LouAnn Ross has so much to offer, grab a pen and a paper, and I’ll see you on the other side, Dr. LouAnn, thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educator podcast today. It is a huge honor and pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by sharing with the audience a little bit about who you are and how you ended up doing the work with young people that you’re doing today?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (02:01):
Hi, I am LouAnn Ross and I am the Executive Director of Business Professionals of America. Business Professionals of America is a national career and technical student organization. We really focus on preparing students for business field, for for work in the business and marketing and it fields. It’s been around for about 53 years and I’ve been with the organization for about three years, really, you know, about 10 years ago, I decided that I really wanted to dedicate myself to students and education. And I felt like this, you know, going in that direction was really my life’s calling and I’ve been doing that ever since. And this is just one of those remarkable opportunities where you have an impact where you potentially have an impact on tens of thousands of students. And it’s really makes coming to work every day.


Sam Demma (02:48):
Tell me more about 10 years ago, there, there has to be more to that decision to veer off the beaten path and chart a new direction.


Dr. LouAnn Ross (03:00):
So I have been in the non-profit world for a very long time. You know, I have a very simple philosophy. I just want to make the world a better place. And so I had dedicated my career to the nonprofit sector, and I think, you know, there’s this own expression that says, you know, you spend the first part of your career seeking success and the second part of your career is seeking significance. Right? So I had, I had been working my way up through the non-profit sector and I was an executive leadership and I was doing a great job and I love my work. It’s always good when you have a good mission to do the good work. But I had a moment. I think it was when my kids were about to graduate from high school and all of a sudden the focus didn’t have to be on everything else around me, but instead the direction I was going.


Dr. LouAnn Ross (03:40):

And so, as I thought about the things that mattered to me the most, it gave me the most passion. I thought that really I wanted to work on behalf of students. I wanted to work on behalf of young people and I wanted to work on behalf of students. And so I did some bold things. I actually left executive leadership and I applied to and got accepted into teach for America, which I was the, I always make a joke that I was the only person there that wasn’t 24 and from Harvard I, or mid-level professional. And I just wanted to immerse myself. I knew there were things that I didn’t understand about education or teaching. And so while I was there, I got my Master’s in education. I taught for a few years. But when people looked at my resume, they just kept seeing this executive leadership and nobody could really see me in the classroom. So I thought, well, I’m gonna, I’m just gonna kind of pivot and I’m going to I’m going to work in leadership in education. And so here I am.


Sam Demma (04:33):
That’s so awesome. And you’ve been with a BPA for three years now. What are some of your happiest moments or proudest moments so far that the organization has been able to achieve or accomplish, or maybe even just some learnings?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (04:48):
Well, you know, learning is lifelong. You continue to learn even as you continue to lead and leading is learning and, and, and vice versa. So, but you know, when I started the organization, you know, you’re new in the organization, hadn’t done a strategic plan a little while. So the very first thing I did, and it just kind of jumped in where the listening and learning tour, but it was more like a SWOT analysis. And I met with, you know advisor from around the nation students from around the nation, our board, our state directors, our classroom advisors. And we have a national officer team, which is student leaders. And I met with each and every one of them. And I started out with the most important question. Why, why do we do what we do? Why do you do what you do?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (05:32):
What brings you to BPA and what keeps you at VPA? And I learned so much about that, but you know, the most important some, one student said to me and I haven’t had a little sticky cause I made everybody put their wives on a sticky and I keep those stickies for when the work kind of with the administrative work, bogs me down. And it said before BPA, I had no place in double purpose. And that’s just so that’s everything for, it’s a matter of fact, it’s now part of our tagline, our tagline is giving purpose to potential and that is student driven tagline, you know?


Sam Demma (06:04):
That’s awesome. Why do you do what you do? Why do you do work with young people?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (06:10):
So let’s, let’s begin at the beginning. Working with young people is an exercise in hope, right? It’s corny, but it’s true that, you know, it’s about students are about the future and making the difference in the life of the student is about changing their trajectory and hopefully changing the trajectory of the world. But I’m happy to be honest. I would say that I probably gained more from working with students and they gained from me in my role. I can spend a lot of time doing administrative tasks and when they get to hang out with the student members, when I get to talk with them, that’s the inspiration. That’s what keeps me going. So in the end, part of it is because I want to do my part to make the world a better place. The other part of it is I have to go to work every day and it’s really nice to be in a place where I’m inspired and I have.


Sam Demma (06:58):
Ah, I love that. And the place you’re in right now, I’m sure is a little bit different this year than it was two years ago or three years ago. When you initially started with the organization, what current challenges is BPA faced with and how have you been working to overcome them or already overcame some of them?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (07:15):
Well, yeah, and I think it’s a different place in, for every single person. And so, you know, if you think about it there are so many challenges that the COVID situation is taking on families on the economy, on schools, on students. So from our perspective, right students were alive and then they’re online and then they’re hybrid. And just when you get all settled in, everything changes again. So I keep thinking two things. I keep thinking that one, we’re all in a collective state of trauma. And I think that it’s been long and it’s been hard and it’s not over. And none of us know when it’s going to be over. And the sheer uncertainty of all of it just makes it so difficult to navigate through. And so part of my, you know, my, my overall philosophy of making the world a better place is also that you have to do what you can do.


Dr. LouAnn Ross (08:05):
So what can we do as BPA we’ve tried to reach out, we’ve tried to be a constant in the lives of our students to be there, to provide what students have become accustomed to, to give him some normality. But at the same time, how do we stay flexible and, you know, connect with people in the way we continue to try to strive to understand what the challenges are. So we’ve had conversations with our students. We’ve had conversations through a variety of methods with our classroom advisors. We’ve had conversations with our state leaders, just trying to figure out like staying connected, staying you know, it changes every day. So you just have to be nimble right now. You have to operate from a state of a place of grace and, and keep on keeping on.


Sam Demma (08:49):
Ah, I love that you sound and seem like someone who’s very principled and I know the organization the organization has, but you sound like you have some great guiding philosophies and principles as well. And I’m curious to know more about some of your personal principles around, you know, life and leadership. If any, come to mind that you think are worth sharing with other educators who are listening right now, we would love to hear some.


Dr. LouAnn Ross (09:13):
Well, I’d like to believe I’m principled. And I’d like to believe that those principles are aligned with my actions. And I think that’s really the most important thing, right? And I think about these things all the time, but I think, you know, leaving is learning and learning is leading. If you never quit learning. And the way that you learn is by listening. So I think that’s probably the single most important thing you can go. And the one thing that I would say, the one thing that I, I really believe that I believe, but learned wholeheartedly when I became an educator, is that you have to meet people where they are, you know, from a place of no judgment or a place of an open heart and open mind because what we don’t know about people and their circumstances, good, just about filling the grand canyon. And you can get the, you can bring the best to people and get the best from people. If, if you are in a place of open-minded.


Sam Demma (10:04):
I love that. That’s awesome. And when you were a student, we’re going to go back in time for a minute. Did you have an educator or an advisor in your life who pushed you in a certain direction or did your urge to work with students and to be in a leadership position, start to develop in yourself after your high school and university days?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (10:26):
Well, you know, so I’ve probably never really quick. I’m going to school. I have two master’s degrees and a doctorate, and I just keep going back and I’m actually thinking, I was just looking at some programs because I, I just love learning. So I grew up in poverty and I didn’t go to a school that had anything. I never took a science course. Until I went to high school, they just didn’t have access to that kind of thing. So I think more than, than anything, my desire to do all of this come from a place of not having more than having and, and trying to make sure that other people have those things that I didn’t have so that I could be a more positive impact.


Sam Demma (11:05):
I love that. It’s amazing. And in the topic of being that supporter or being that person for others, you mentioned that one sticky where the students said, BPA gives me purpose. Do you have any other examples? I know there’s probably thousands of examples of students who have been impacted by the work that your whole organization is doing. Is there any other story that comes to mind that you think might be worthwhile to share, to remind an educator, the power that they have over young people in the work that they’re doing? And you can change the student’s name if it’s a very personal story, just for privacy reasons, but does any specific story come to mind?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (11:43):
You know, so I have a specific service. I want to just tell you a general story is that we are an organization that’s 53 years old serving, you know, tens of thousands of students every year. And there’s lots and lots and lots of students. And we have a remarkable alumni core, and those are people who say without BPA, I’m not where I am without BPA. I don’t do what I’m doing. And so just this year, because of COVID because of the financial impact that we anticipated, students might experience our alumni core made up of all kinds of people that believe that BPA changed their lives started. I don’t want to get the name wrong. I’m sorry, the financial I went to look it up because I don’t want to get it wrong.


Sam Demma (12:36):
No, yea of course. So a bunch of alumni students started…They launched the national dude’s assistance program. Wow.


Dr. LouAnn Ross (12:38):
They launched the They have been collecting money, raising money, donating money, asking other people to donate money so that our students who otherwise cannot afford membership can still join. And because of that, we’ve had partners like the AACPA and stoking that have also donated money. And so now we have a fund that we’re a substantial number of students, and we’re going to roll it out. Actually this month are going to be able to, and that really is a testimony to the impact that BPA has had on us. The alumni is lives. Those students who we serve throughout the last 50 years and who without a second hesitation said, yes, this is what we want to do, because we believe that the BPA experience is so important that we want to do this.


Sam Demma (13:26):
Oh, I love that. That’s such a, that’s such a great success story of, you know, the students being impacted and then, you know, returning and, and helping out. Are they still actively very actively involved in the organization with events and conferences and whatnot?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (13:41):
Right. You know, we have a conference, well, we typically have a conference of, you know, 7,000 people or more. And it is, you know, we’re a small staff, we have a team of eight and you don’t hold a conference for 7,000 people. We’ve got a whole lot of volunteers. And most of those volunteers are, are former officers and lots of other folks like that are former alumni. I mean, they’re just wonderful. They comment in droves and they’re wonderful and they support the students. It’s, it’s really inspirational.


Sam Demma (14:11):
And that’s awesome. And if there’s an educator listening right now who’s in their initial years in education, maybe they just started teaching with all the wisdom that you’ve gained over the years that you’ve been teaching. What pieces of advice would you give your younger self or someone else who’s just getting into this amazing work?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (14:31):
I think I said it before I meet them where they are, you know, open heart, open mind. I, I don’t believe anybody comes to school, not really wanting to succeed the, the guard they might put up that it looks like they don’t, it’s just a guard for whatever reason everybody’s there because they want to do well. And if you approach that student with the belief that they want to do well, and that’s the relationship from the very beginning, you’re going to get the best out of them. And it’s the same with family members. I’ve heard people be fairly, I’ve heard educators be fairly critical with family members. And I would say that all parents want their kids to be the best they can be. And so if you truly approach every person that you deal with, knowing that everybody’s doing the best they can and supporting them where they are, you’re going to get the most from them. And you’re going to have a really successful and meaningful career.


Sam Demma (15:20):
That and there’s a little bookshelf behind you. No one can see it because they’re just listening through audio over your left-hand shoulder. What’s one of your favorite books? Do you have one that you could, you could point out or recommend?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (15:35):
Mr. Rogers, Many ways to say I love you.


Sam Demma (15:39):
I love that. That’s awesome. Very cool. Dr. LouAnn, thank you so much for coming and chatting with me on the podcast here today. I really appreciate you making the time. It’s been a great conversation. If someone wants to reach out and bounce some ideas around, or have a conversation or hear more about BPA, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Dr. LouAnn Ross (15:58):
I’m LouAnn Ross. I’m at Business Professionals of America, and this is really easy. My email is lross@bpa.org. And I would love to talk to anybody who has any questions about the work that we do, or the work that they’re doing and ways that we can work together to make the world a better place.


Sam Demma (16:13):

Awesome. Thank you so much. And I’ll talk to you soon.


Dr. LouAnn Ross (16:16):
Sam. It was a pleasure. Thanks so much.


Sam Demma (16:18):
And you have it, the full interview with Dr. LouAnn Ross. I hope you took notes. I hope you feel inspired. I hope you feel energized and motivated and just ready to continue tackling your job in education. There are so many challenges right now, but that means there’s also so many opportunities and like Dr. LouAnn Ross, let’s try our best to take advantage of those opportunities and see the best in things. And remember why we initially got into this work in the first place. Anyways, I’ll see you on the next episode. If you are someone who is enjoying this content, consider leaving a rating and review or reaching out at info@samdemma.com. So we can get your inspiring insights and stories on the podcast as well. Talk to you soon. Bye.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Dr. LouAnn Ross

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.

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

Aubrey Patterson, CEO Warm Demanders
About Aubrey Patterson

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

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

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

Connect with Aubrey: Email | Linkedin | Website | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The Principals Seminar

Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk

David Allen; Getting Things Done (book)

Getting to Inbox Zero

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:03):
Aubrey, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and also sharing a little bit behind your journey? What brought you to do the work you’re doing today?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Aubrey Patterson (09:25):
Right.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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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.