Student Activity Director

Bridgit Moore – Leadership Teacher and Student Activity Director at Grace Davis High School

Bridgit Moore Student Activity Director Grace Davis High School
About Bridgit Moore

Bridgit Moore (@MooreBridgit) is the Leadership teacher and Activity Director for Grace Davis High School.  She has been an educator for 20 years and has done a variety of positions such as math and psychology teacher, school counselling, and coaching. 

She is married and has 4 kids ages 9, 10, 14, and 16, and this year, opened up her house to a 15-year-old exchange student from Germany.  She loves her job and loves helping inspire students to be leaders!

Connect with Bridgit: Email | Facebook | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Bitmoji’s Explained

Shoe Box Float Parade Idea

Example of the ABS Advisor Manual

PHAST (protecting health and slamming tobacco)

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):
This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest on the podcast is Bridgit Moore. Bridgit Moore is the leadership teacher and activity director for Grace Davis high school. She has been an educator for 20 plus years and has done a variety of positions, such as math and psychology teacher school, counselor, and coaching. She is married and has four kids age 9, 10, 14, and 16. And this year has a 15-year-old exchange student living with her from Germany. She loves her job and enjoys helping and inspiring students to become the best leaders they possibly can. I hope you enjoy this interview with Bridgit. I will see you on the other side, Bridgit. 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?


Bridgit Moore (01:36):
Well, my name is Bridgit Moore and I am a leadership teacher and activities director at Grace Davis high school in Modesto. I have been teaching since 2001. I started out as a math teacher. I actually did do activities that my very first teaching position for a couple of years, but then when I switched schools in 2003 to the school I’m currently at I kind of went out of that role, but I’ve taught math. I’ve taught psychology. I’ve been a school counselor and I’m going on my fifth year now in a row of being the activities, director leadership teacher, which I love. It’s a lot of fun.


Sam Demma (02:16):
That’s awesome. And what, like what brought you to where you are today? Like if you had to go back in time to when you were a student, you know, growing up, kind of tell me the progression of how it went from growing up as a student to getting involved or interested in education and then becoming a teacher.


Bridgit Moore (02:33):
So when I was a student, I kind of always had this feeling of, I want to be a teacher. I would go back and forth between, I want to be a teacher or I want to be a Marine biologist or I want to be a teacher or I want to be I don’t know, I can’t even remember some of the other stuff, but it always came back to wanting to be a teacher. So I finally settled on that. I was a very involved student. I liked getting involved. I was involved in dance production. I was in a whole bunch of clubs. I was in the Raleigh club. They had that at the time. Just various things. I was involved in sports. So I just kind of was always a very involved student. I wasn’t actually in student council when I was a student, but I got involved in homecoming floats and things like that when I was actually attended Davis high school, the school that I work at.


Bridgit Moore (03:24):
So I’m an alumni working at the school, but I went to kind of fun. So I did that. And then when I got to college I had a hard time picking a major. So I did settle on psychology and I thought, oh, well maybe I want to be a school counselor at some point, but I still kind of went back to, I want to teach, took a while to figure out what I wanted to teach and realized, well, I’m pretty good at math. So let’s do that. So I, I, I did major in psychology because I picked math kind of late in my college education career and graduated from UC Davis with my degree in psychology and then wanted to go right into my teaching credential, but I didn’t have enough subject matter competency in math based on what I took at UC Davis. So I went back to Stan state and took a bunch of math classes. And I guess I kind of say I double majored. Cause I took all of the classes for a math major. I just don’t have a piece of paper that says math degree.


Bridgit Moore (04:33):
I have one that says psychology, but I literally have every class that would constitute a math degree. So I did that after my psych degree at UC Davis, I got all the math classes done at Stan. And then I did my teaching credential at San. And then my first teaching job was at Waterford high school and I was offered an 80% math position, but they said, oh, but we can make you a hundred percent if you’re the activities director and teach leadership. So I got one period of leadership there and was the activities director. So I mean, it was fun, but it was a very small school and I was a new teacher. So it was kind of a struggle. But at the time I was also coaching at Davis high where I currently work at the same time. I was coaching diving at the time because I was you know, a big diver back in the day, did gymnastics and diving.


Bridgit Moore (05:29):
And so when I came over here to Davis teaching, they recruited me to come over, Hey, you’re already coaching here, come teach here. We need math teachers. And it was when there was a big boom in education back in 2003, the schools were growing and there were just a ton of kids. So I came over here and just ever since I started teaching at Davis because I was invested in activities at my previous school and because I was very involved student, I just kind of naturally got involved in things. I was the advisor for our fast club, PHAST protecting health and slamming tobacco was kind of a big program. I did that for nine years. We put on red ribbon week and different tobacco prevention days and things like that. We won the Stanislaus county red ribbon week contest a couple of times. So that was pretty fun. And then I also helped out with the programs every 15 minute program where we stage a crash, like a drunk driving crash scene on campus. So I would help with people putting that on and I would help with this activity or that activity. Well, when this position became available, it just kind of seemed like a natural fit because of all the things I had already helped with. Now I’m in charge of that’s kinda what led me to what I do now.


Sam Demma (06:53):
That’s awesome. And for someone who doesn’t understand what a student activity director is and does, like, how do you, how do you explain that role?


Bridgit Moore (07:02):
Okay. So the way I explain it is this, cause this was a very strange role and I’m very alone in my role at my site. Every buddy that has this position, it’s done differently at different schools, but at my site, I’m a hundred percent activities and I teach the zero period as my optional class. I get paid a little extra for that for my leadership and it’s, I oversee the student council. So anything that’s not academic and not a sport is under my umbrella. So like student mentor programs, all the clubs. So like the activity or the athletics director oversees all the sports and the coaches. So I would oversee all the clubs and the club advisors. That’s one piece of mine. I, I helped put on that. Like I said, that every 15 minute program, or I’m also in charge of helping with just overall school culture and helping build up positive school culture within the school climate and coming up with ideas and leading committees on that all the different activities that my leadership kids put on. I’m kind of the background I’m in the, I’m the, the person doing all those things, that kind of thing.


Sam Demma (08:17):
Okay, cool. And when you were growing up, did you have educators in your life that kind of steered you towards teaching? Or where did that initial passion come from to want to be a teacher?


Bridgit Moore (08:29):
It’s kind of funny because as I went through school, the grade or age I was, that was the type of teacher I wanted to be. So, you know, fifth grade, I loved my fifth grade teacher, so I wanted to be a fifth grade teacher, sixth grade, oh, I love sixth grade, my sixth grade. Teacher’s awesome. I’m going to be a sixth grade teacher. Once I got into high school, I kind of struggled with exactly what I wanted to teach still because I science and I loved math and I love this and that. So it wasn’t just one particular teacher. I don’t think I just really loved the idea of teaching. And I had several different teachers in my life that I looked up to. I had a very distinct English teacher, my senior year, who I would never want to teach English, but just the way she taught her class was very inspiring ahead as particular math teacher who, you know, I still remember the circles, the perfect circles that he would draw on the board. Like we would all just blow our mind. He would do a circle and it would be super fast and it would be perfect and the whole class would go crazy.


Sam Demma (09:38):
Wait, wait, is this the guy on YouTube that that’s like 4 million views or something? And he draws a perfect circle?


Bridgit Moore (09:45):
That tired at this point, so.


Sam Demma (09:48):
Oh, okay, cool. That’s awesome. That’s so that’s all amazing.


Bridgit Moore (09:53):
Yeah. He would play chess with us and he wouldn’t be looking at the board. He would just like, look at us and we would be playing chess against him and he wasn’t, he just had the board memorize. So things like that. He’s very inspiring and was kind of, you know, it’s very nerdy math teacher, but very inspiring that teacher and very memorable.


Sam Demma (10:15):
Yeah. Super memorable. It sounds like that’s so cool. You mentioned that your English teacher, the way she taught was really inspiring as well. What about that class kinda stuck out to you?


Bridgit Moore (10:25):
He was very she was very strict, but she had a system, you know, it was very similar every day. She went over this, she had a for vocab we’re on the board and we had to make sure we looked that up and then she would tell stories about mythology and then she would go into some other things. So she had this system where it made things interesting because here we’re learning about these cool mythology stories, but then we’re turning around and learning about now, whatever other story they will. Things like that, that we had to do senior year. She just, she sat on her stool. She had different heels every day that were, I don’t think she ever wore the same pair of heels every day. So just little things about her, but then the way she taught the class, it made it. So, you know, you either thought she was really strict and you’re like, I don’t want to be in this class. Or you were like, this is the best teacher ever. I want to learn from her. She’s inspiring.


Sam Demma (11:26):
I like that. Not the self by 365 pairs of shoes. That’s so awesome. That’s amazing. And then why didn’t a university study university, your first teaching job you said was math.


Bridgit Moore (11:41):
Yeah. My first official teaching job was at a Brett. It was a brand new high school. They were just starting Waterford high school, super small town. And I was teaching algebra four periods of algebra. And then I had my one leadership class that was the fifth class that I taught.


Sam Demma (12:02):
Awesome. That’s so cool. And I’m sure activity directing from that school versus the one you’re in now looks a little bit different especially with COVID and things that have happened over the past two years. It was probably a little challenging for awhile. But what if you could tell your younger self advice, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now in the position?


Bridgit Moore (12:27):
Oh well, honestly, when I first did this position at my first high school, I had no idea what I was doing. So I think I would go back and tell my younger self read the ASB advisor manual, look at all the rules, make sure that you’re proactive in recruiting students who are passionate about leadership and putting on activities. It was, you know, we had a bunch of students, it was a very small school, was brand new. And so we had a very small group of students that were in leadership. And I guess I’ve been know really how to recruit students that were going to be passionate about that kind of thing. And so the students that I had in there, they struggled a little bit with wanting to get things done or wanting to do whatever or being creative. One of the kids that were in there were just kind of in their, for a title. And so it’s really important to get kids in this program because they do put on a lot of work and a lot of time you want kids that are truly passionate about what they’re doing and otherwise you’re going to be the one doing all the work.


Sam Demma (13:42):
Yeah. It makes sense. And what do you think look different about activities over the past two years than maybe three, four years ago because of the pandemic?


Bridgit Moore (13:52):
Oh, so, well, I mean, think about it. So before the pandemic, so go back to 2019, 2020, right? So at the beginning of that school year with like any other normal school year, we had a big event at the beginning of the school year. We had beginning of the school year advance where kids came and danced and we have our big homecoming events where we had royalty and his regressing up and planning activities at school and how to float and did all these things. Right. We had a, we had a winter formal event where the kids came, dressed up and got to do that dance. And then we’ve got to do the same thing for our winter homecoming. Well then COVID hits in March, boom promise, canceled. Every other dance that we have is canceled no more rallies for the rest of the school year.


Bridgit Moore (14:47):
My job at that point became social media market manager because everything that I was able or allowed to do was digital in online social media. So my position definitely shifted and changed right at the beginning, I had to learn all kinds of different programs. I had to learn how to do video editing, which I didn’t really know how to do very well. I had to learn how to compile different videos and helping use that to inspire students, not to lose heart. I mean, at the end of that first school year where COVID hit the, our district was not making kids super accountable for their work because they thought, oh, we can’t really make them accountable at this point. So a bunch of kids weren’t doing anything. And then how do you try to get them to do something, even leadership kits. So they were even losing heart. These are the, you know, the heart and soul of the school. And they’re getting all frustrated because they’re missing out on all the fun things they to do on plan. You know, we didn’t even have a in-person graduation that year.


Sam Demma (15:53):
The district.


Bridgit Moore (15:54):
Yeah. We recorded it and everything. So


Sam Demma (16:00):
Yeah, no, it’s, it’s funny. Same, same stuff happened. All the schools here and in an effort to help, I actually made like a graduating speech for like the graduating class of 2020. I ended up making more than 20, 21 as well because schools here were still shut down. But yeah, it seems like the past two years have been really difficult, but amongst the challenges I’m sure there’s some positives and I’m curious to know like what did work and what did go over well. And maybe some programs you ran or things that you think the school really enjoyed


Bridgit Moore (16:33):
Well with learning how to do all those different new media outlets. We did learn how to do some fun things. We did something called the five days of winning, leading up to Christmas or winter break. And a bunch of kids got up. We just posted a little thing on, Hey, comment on this. What’s your favorite Christmas movie. And then anybody that responded got put into a drawing and we got to post that drawing up on social media and the kids got subpoena fries, things like that. We wouldn’t have come up with, or for winter homecoming, we did a shoe box float parade. So we had all the leadership kids create shoe boxes based on the homecoming theme. And we created a spray or, you know, they can’t come to school and dress up. So for homecoming, we did dress up your Bitmoji.


Sam Demma (17:33):
And for those, and for those, for those people who are like, what the heck is a Bitmoji, you want to explain it real quick.


Bridgit Moore (17:39):
So a bit Moji is this digital character caricature of yourself that people create and you can send them in text messages and stuff like that. And I think it originated from Snapchat, but there’s this whole thing, this whole Bitmoji world and be classrooms and yada yada yada. So we got kids to dress up their Bitmoji or like create a digital background. So we had these kids that created these funny digital backgrounds and for an action adventure. One of them was like, action adventure. Since the thing was Netflix, I want to say. And so this kid had, it looked like a dinosaur was right there. And then she was like, made it look like she was in the movie screening. So that was kind of cool. So different creative ways to dress up. Quote unquote.


Sam Demma (18:29):
That’s so awesome. Yeah. It sounds like you guys got really creative Yeah. And try different things. And what is this year looking like so far?


Bridgit Moore (18:42):
This year is actually looking more like it did previously. You know, I know COVID cases are starting to come up again, but at this point our school is running and functioning close to a normal school year. So as far as my position and my students though, they are planning for a normal homecoming, you know, like what we’ve done in the past. And we got to put on one of our big beginning of the school year events. We just couldn’t allow people to dance at it, but we could do every other piece to it that we used to we’re doing activities at lunch, encouraging kids. The kids did our lunch rally. So they did it outside. This was the first week of school. And so they are getting, you know, they’re kind of being somewhat creative, but also going back to things that we’ve done in the past. So it is good. The kids feel refreshed and re invigorated. They’re, they’re getting excited to be able to do things like they used to do.


Sam Demma (19:47):
That’s awesome. Oh, that’s amazing. That’s really good to hear. And if, you know, I asked you advice on activities directed, like on your role as an activity director, overall, as an educator, there might be someone listening who’s getting into their first year of teaching. Like if you could give a first year educator a piece of advice or a couple of pieces of advice that you think would have been really helpful for you to hear when you first started what would those things be?


Bridgit Moore (20:12):
Don’t be afraid to ask your fellow experienced educators for help and advice. There’s gotta be at least one or two people at your school site. That’s willing to help you out because the first year is daunting. And I think the biggest thing that most educators struggle with when they first start out is how to manage their classroom. And that’s not really something they teach in the classes that they do in the credential program. For some reason, that’s not a class it’s not, oh, cluster management 1 0 1, no, they don’t have that. I don’t understand why they have all these other classes that they want you to take, but they don’t have that one. And that is probably the most important piece that you need to know to be able to actually do all those other things that you learn in the credential program. If you don’t have a functioning classroom, then you’re not going to be able to teach them anything.


Bridgit Moore (21:05):
So just getting advice and getting tips and tricks from different people. And then even just, if you pick one or two things that you like, that somebody else is doing and you implement them in your classroom, and then once you have that down, you go to the next thing. Okay. I really want to try to add this in or, or use this piece. Then you, you add that in and just little by little, they’ll get into a routine and they’ll figure it out for themselves, but also not to get discouraged that first year is hard. The second year is still hard, but a little easier if you don’t kind of really get into that full rhythm until maybe your third year, honestly, you know, it, it takes some time, so just be patient. And if it was your passion, just keep it up. Keep going.


Sam Demma (21:59):
That’s awesome. And if someone’s listening right now and liked any part of this interview and just wants to chat with you or reach out, or it would be the best way for them to do so.


Bridgit Moore (22:11):
Well they could email me, I guess. So my email I’ll give my personal email is bridgit777@gmail.com.


Sam Demma (22:26):
All right. Cool, Bridgit, thank you so much for coming on the show. Keep up the great work. I can’t wait to stay in touch and see what the rest of the year turns out to be like for you.


Sam Demma (22:39):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest and amazing interview on the high-performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you want to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you want to meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Bridgit

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.

Marc England – Teacher and Leadership Advisor at Fleetwood Park Secondary School

Marc England
About Marc England

Marc England (@mreteacher) is a teacher and Leadership Advisor at Fleetwood Park Secondary School in Surrey, British Columbia. He is now in his 23rd year of teaching. For 20 years, he has been involved in Student Leadership as a Student Council Advisor and leadership educator. He is a strong believer of “people first” in schools, and that if we have strong school cultures, the rest will look after itself.  

Marc has presented for many years across Canada at various Student Leadership events. He has worked with the BC Association of Activity Advisors and worked with his students to host a BC Student Leadership Conference in 2017. Since 2008 he has been involved with the Canadian Student Leadership Association in various capacities and helped develop their Leadership Advisor Certification Program. 

He is a husband, an uncle to his amazing nephews and nieces, a sports nut, and still thinks he has the best job in the world. 

Connect with Marc: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Canadian student leadership website
Fleetwood park secondary
Canadian student leadership conference (CSLC)

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 student podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Marc England. Marc is a teacher as well as a student leadership advisor and a director for the Canadian student leadership association. He teaches out in Surrey, BC. In this episode, he talks a lot about school culture and a dozen actionable ideas that you can take with your students in your school to boost student morale, to increase engagement, and bring everyone together to build some real community during this tough, challenging time professional life aside, marc loves hockey, specifically the New York Rangers, his grandfather played in the league and he even draws some parallels along the lines of hockey and student leadership. In this episode. Anyways, I hope you enjoy this episode. It’s packed with nuggets and gems. Get a pen and a sheet of paper and enjoy the interview. I’ll see you on the other side, marc. Thank you so much for coming on the high performing educators podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. We just chatted a little bit about your family lineage with the New York Rangers. Please let everyone know who you are, where you teach and why you got into the work you do with young people today.


Marc England (01:16):
Awesome. Well, first of all, thanks for having me on, this is a great opportunity and you know, to give you a little bit of a shadow before we even start, you were part of the global loose to the global student leadership day therein may, that Stu put on. And when I asked her my kids’ reflections, you were on more than a few about what they had to say about the day. So something about what you said is surely identifying with our kids and that’s important. So a little tip of the hat to you, my friend. So yeah, my name’s Marc England and I work in Surrey, British Columbia at Fleetwood park secondary, and I started out as a humanities and social studies teacher and evolved into student leadership. And right now that’s kind of the hat I wear is teach a little bit of humanities, but run our student leadership program and teach a couple of blocks to that and leadership department head and, and work with some other things around here too.


Marc England (02:06):
So yeah, that’s, that’s my job. And as far as why I do what I do, you know, Conlon always says it best Dave Conlin, a fellow I work with with the Canadian student leadership association says we have the best job in the world. So why would, why would you not want to do and not do the work when you have the best job in the world? I think like most teachers were really in this to see and help kids succeed and to really see their journey. And for our case in BC, at least in Surrey, we don’t have a middle school model. So for five years, we get to see that evolution and see that success grow including the bumps in the road sometimes, but that makes it rewarding at the end. So whatever that might be most for some, it might be graduation and some of it might be a full-ride scholarship to uni.


Marc England (02:51):
Whatever that success is when they leave, that’s what we want. And that’s why we love what we do. I love working with student leaders. It’s honestly, that’s, that’s the part of the job that keeps me going every day still. I mean, I love teaching and teaching humanities and social studies, but 23 years in, I’ve been doing that. And student leadership is different every day and it’s a different group of kids all the time. Those are the kids that are engaged. Those are the kids that are, that want to contribute to their community, contribute to their schools. I mean, who would want to work with those kids? And you know, to be honest with you, I’ve always kind of asked for, for us, we started at eight and go to 12 and I’ve always wanted to have great 8, 10, 12’s, because I, I don’t like just teaching seniors. I want to have the newbies, cause I want to try and get them excited about our school and make them feel, feel belong. So those are a whole bunch of reasons, kind of why I do what I do.


Sam Demma (03:44):
At what point in your life did you make the decision I’m going to be a teacher? Was it because someone else tapped you on the shoulder? Was it because your parents told you to, or was there just an innate feeling that you wanted to teach? One day?


Marc England (03:59):
It’s funny. I didn’t really set out to be a teacher. I went to school, my mom was an instructor in the psychiatric nursing department at a local college university. And so she was fairly academic and there was that pressure to go to school. But I didn’t really set out to be an educator. I kind of was working in the business for a buddy who had his own business. And I pretty soon realized that that wasn’t really something that I wanted to do. Not because I didn’t enjoy the work and being part of a business, but I just didn’t really find it that rewarding profession. Like, you know, you go to work, you kind of go do the grind and, and it just, wasn’t what I kind of was looking for. And I could feel that in my soul. But I had been working, I, part of my youth was working at, with softball, Canada.


Marc England (04:46):
I played ball and then I started umpiring at the age of 11. And as I kind of got older, I got, we got to climb the ranks of the empire world. And I got to work with kids as I got older in a mentor capacity and a local kind of park empire and chief. And so part of that was teaching the clinics. And part of that was working with kids and something with that, just kind of jived with me and being able to see them learn and then see them apply skills. I thought you know what? This is kind of cool. Maybe this is something that I want to do. And a lot of the guys that I kind of hung out with within that world were educators, or either already established, dedicated educators or going in to be educators. And so I thought, well, you know what, this, this might be cool.


Marc England (05:26):

So I reached out to a, to a local, to one of my favorite teachers. And I mean, I think we all have those people in our school lives that really kind of pushed us and drove us and got us and, and really inspired us to do what we do with kids. And for me, the first guy like that was Mr. Jamison in grade five, you know, the brand new kid from Winnipeg just made me feel welcome and was, probably one of the best teachers that I’ve ever seen in my life. And then my 10 English teacher grade eight and 10 English teacher, Mrs. Hilman. I approached her and she was hard. Oh, she was hard, but she was good. And talk about keeping kids at the center of what she did. And I think that’s why I reached out to her and said, you know, I’d like to maybe think about this. She said, come on in. We did some volunteer work. And from then I was hooked. It was, it was, that’s what I wanted to do. So it wasn’t necessarily that I’ve always felt this string, but there is no doubt in my mind that I have ended up doing what I was meant to do.


Sam Demma (06:28):
What did those teachers in your life do for you that made all the difference? Jamison and the teacher you just alluded to?


Marc England (06:35):
Oh, man. Mrs. Hellman. Both of them I’ll tell you the one thing, and this is what I draw. This is what this is at the center is, is relating to kids and keeping it’s the relationships piece, right? Like everything on, you know, Phil boy talks about the relationship pyramid or the leadership pyramid. And at the bottom of it is this is the relationships, it’s the foundation of everything we do. So there was never any, like the first day I walked into school. It wasn’t like, you know, I remember as the new kid from, from December too wasn’t, even in September, I remember he’s like, Hey, how are you? Tell me about yourself. Who are you? Where do you come from? What’s your story? So that was huge, right? What’s your story? Who are the, who are you coming into my room here? And it wasn’t a bad thing.


Marc England (07:13):
It was like, I just want to know you and the other stuff took a back seat. And then the other Mrs. Hilman same thing. But boy, like I said, she was tough. She was firm, she was a hard teacher, a hard marker, but at the center of it was relationships. And you talk to, you know, she sadly passed away a few years ago, but you talk to anybody who went through that school. And some people, you know, didn’t like her class because it was hard, but I don’t think you’d find too many people that didn’t love her. Right. And that’s the key is that you know, it, if you keep the kids at the center of what we do and every kid at the center of what we do, it’s that it’s the success. That’s awesome. That’s the common denominator between those two. I like that.


Sam Demma (08:01):
And during COVID it’s a challenging time. How do we still keep students at the center? There are so many things to worry about. There are some challenges you’ve been faced with, how do we make sure students still stay at the center of our focus during these tough times?


Marc England (08:15):
You know, it’s an interesting calm kind of question because we’ve talked about this. One of my hats that I wear is I work with the Canadian student leadership association. I’m part of their board of directors, but you know, really I’ve been working with them for 15 years on, at the board level anyway. And, and, and I’ve been, you know, to go back to your, how did I get into this work question? Can I go back and answer something on that? Of course I just, you know, that I F I feel like there are things in our lives and in our, in our careers, that when they happen, they happen for a reason. And I was in about 2001 as a brand new, not brand new teacher, but new to a school teacher who, and they, the principal said, you know, what would you mind taking over student council?


Marc England (09:07):
And I had never been, I was a wannabe student leader in, in high school. And I, you know, my best friend, she was on student council and I always kind of admired it from afar. And I thought you know what? That would be cool. I would really, that that’s something that I would like to do. And I liked all the events that we were running at the school. I liked the planning stuff. I thought it would be just something that would be right up my alley little did I know that I would be still doing it this many years later? The thing is too, is that the average leadership life teacher’s lifespan is about what Dave says. It’s about three to five years, just simply because it’s all-encompassing, right. And you’re running events all the time and doing all these things, but it’s so amazing.


Marc England (09:51):
And I fluently kind of fell into what I do. So this one principal just kind of said, Hey, do you wanna? I said, sure. And then what, like go back to the empire thing. One of the guys that I was umpiring with when we were kids, he was doing a leadership program in hope, British Columbia, and he and his wife were planning a national conference or part of a committee. And they said, do you want to join us here? And that was, that was how I got hooked into CSLC and the Canadian conference, and the Canadian student leadership association. And that was 2002. So here we are in 2020. And, and it’s something that still is amazing. So, you know, sometimes it’s people that tap you on the shoulder, and sometimes it’s people that you have things in common and, you know, some things just happen at the right time in your life and really guide you in what your path might be.


Marc England (10:37):
So going back to your COVID question. Yeah. You’re the COVID question, you know, it’s I think the struggle question is, is the hardest piece. And the biggest piece that in schools is culture. School culture right now is really, really suffering during COVID-19 and it’s nobody’s fault. Honestly, everybody’s doing the very best that they can, but most events in schools that bring people, kids, staff together are not happening. Yeah. So you have some instances of a little bit of student culture where the kids are interacting and, you know, there may be hanging out at lunch and this kind of thing, and you have some instances of staff culture where the adults in the building might be hanging out, but there’s very little beyond the actual dynamics of the classroom. There’s very little activity between staff and students in those events that really form the basis of school culture. So I think that’s probably our biggest struggle within the school system right now.


Sam Demma (11:38):
Great point. And not that I was going to ask if the school has done anything or had any unique ideas that they’ve tried, maybe you’ve tried something, it hasn’t worked out. Maybe it’s been a home run. I’m just curious to know if you had any ideas that you thought were good or that tried so far.


Marc England (11:53):
Well, you know, it’s interesting. We I have to backtrack and we have to kind of figure out where people are at and now we’re, we’re kind of almost, we’re a month into school out here. We’re in Surrey, we’re three weeks into full-time. This is week four of like full-time classes. We’re on a quarter system. So we’re basically, we switched over and kids are taking two classes at a time for basically two and a half, three hours a day. And one in the morning, one in the afternoon, seniors are remote in the afternoon, except for one day. So, you know, kids are overwhelmed a little bit it’s nobody’s fault. Like I said, it’s kind of the only system that we can make work. And so I think anything that we plan has to work around that, and, you know, the kids we forget about the kids that might have algebra, or, you know, they might have pre-calculus 12 and chemistry 12 in the same quarter and or English 12.


Marc England (12:49):
You know, I have one of my leadership kids has chemistry 12 and English 12, and that’s hard. She’s going home and doing a lot of work right now. So kids are overwhelmed a little bit and especially the seniors. And, you know, the one thing that we have to have to look at when we’re starting to plan how we can make this work is how do we build collegiality? How do we build back that collegiality with kids that collegiality with our colleagues in the building, we have, you know, a hundred plus adults in this building? How do we build that collegiality back? How do we get out of our isolation? Cause it’s easy to stay in, want to be safe in your classroom and close the door and do those kinds of things. And again, Phil boy talks about silos, but how do we do that?


Marc England (13:31):
We don’t have big lunches. You know our PE department, you know, I give them credit. Our PE office was always kind of a magnet for lunch. People went down there and ate lunch. So what they’ve done is, you know, spread some tables out in the small gym so that adults can come and eat lunch together. Our library and our teacher-librarian said you know what, I’ll open up the library. So rather than small prep rooms, people can space out and start to have that collegiality. Because I think by week two, we recognized that it was missing in building our staff culture. So I think in terms of how do we overcome things and creative ideas? I’m lucky that I work in a district with a director of instruction who, I don’t know whether a principal tapped her on the shoulder or somebody that she knew, but she is such a phenomenal educator herself.


Marc England (14:23):

And she you know, Gloria is, was beloved as a principal and now she’s working in the district office and she just said, you know what? I’m going to gather as many people as I can safely together at the district center. And let’s have a brainstorm as to how we can run events safely. So last week, in fact, she held two days where she brought together elementary schools and secondary schools, one administrator and perhaps a leadership teacher, but two people from each school. And she had a list of kind of the main events that would happen. So starting with the Terry Fox run right through to Halloween, right through to Christmas, right through to Valentine’s day. And we kind of the whole year, and you could, it was, she ran it almost like a speed dating thing where you could sit six feet apart and talk safely, but from other schools.


Marc England (15:08):
And then she kept a live document as to how, you know when you get a hundred people brainstorming, how we could do these things safely. And man, some of the ideas that came out of there, you know, Terry Fox run, for example. So rather than having somebody, having the whole school out on the field and say, go and collecting coins that are, you know, we can’t do so how can we do that safely? Well, most schools now have an online payment system. So encouraging your kids to, if the, if they can make a donation through the online payment system, let’s do that. So that’s safe. And then some schools ran staggered walks where the different cohorts were going off at different areas. And they were going at different times and they were starting at different places and they were ending at different places and the teachers were walking with them.


Marc England (15:52):
But they were all in the community and there was kind of marker posts around and it was all done with that Terry Fox run mentality in mind. So it wouldn’t be lost. Hope secondary did something I just found out about yesterday called T Terry Fox 40, this being the 40th year, of course, rather than, you know, they didn’t do their run, but what they had was they contributed each kind of classroom contributed something around 40. So the woodshop made 40 pieces of, you know, their project, the cooking class made 40 cookies. And so they did whatever their kind of curriculum area was, you know, the French class conjugated, 40 verbs, whatever it was, they were doing things around 40. And they made that their number for the day that they were, they were honoring Terry Fox’s purpose.


Marc England (16:43):
And so all sorts of creative ideas that you, you may not be able to do the event that you’ve way you’ve done it. But if there’s a purpose to the event, is there a way that we can do the event and still honor that purpose? So I think that’s kind of the nugget that I took away from last week and through conversations with people and, you know I think I give all the credit in our world to ours, my staff that I work with. I’m fortunate to work with some amazing people. Our biggest event here at the fluid park is something we have run for our grade eight. It’s called the grade eight retreat. And essentially every year we take 250 or 300-grade eights away to camp. And so half of them go have one night and half of them go the next night.


Marc England (17:26):
And it’s just a day of activities, fun team building activities and what it means to be a dragon, and how they give back to their school. Here are the clubs, but it’s all run by our student leaders and they run the sessions. They do the, they do the breakout things. They run the games, you know, teachers, are there, basically to serve lasagna and kind of supervise. It’s awesome. So you talk to any kids when they graduate. What do you remember about the fluid park? It’s always, you know, I wish I may be gotten involved more, but man graded retreat that’s and the kids, the amount of kids that want to sign up when they’re grade 10, 11, 12 to be mentors is incredible. So it truly is one of, it’s probably our secret event. It’s our traditional it’s, it’s rooted in our, in our traditions. And it is part of our culture.


Marc England (18:12):
So obviously we can’t go to camp. We can’t put kids on buses, we can’t do things like trust falls. We can’t do things that are, you know even, even team-building hot potato games where they’re touching the same thing, we can’t do that. How do we, so we asked ourselves, how can we take the mentorship piece? Because when we looked, I said to the colleagues that I was working with on this what’s our purpose with this? What, what purpose does this serve? Well, it really came down to mentorship and it came down to basically having our grades have something coming into our school. So we decided the purpose has to be well, let’s still have them. They’re Fleetwood park shirts that they’re going to wear with pride, and let’s try and do something where we can still have that mentorship piece. So through some creativity our team sat down and they hammered out.


Marc England (18:59):
Basically, each graded cohort of 30 kids is going to have two hours with senior leadership kids this week in, and it’s not retreat at camp, but it’s retreat activities outside on one of our fields. Cause the weather is supposed to be nice. So every grade eight is still going to get two hours of team building and what it means to be a dragon, but it’s going to be done safely. It’s going to be done at a distance. It’s going to be done, but we haven’t lost our purpose. So when I think when you step back and ask you that what’s the purpose of the event, I think that’s, that’s something that you can sometimes overcome.


Sam Demma (19:30):
Tony, Tony Robbins always says the quality of our life is determined by the questions we ask. And when you ask yourself those questions that leads to a positive outcome. If you have enough brains in a room like you did with your brainstorm with your school board and Gloria, of course, you’re going to have some amazing ideas. I think this is a great takeaway for any educator listening, who might be out of province, struggling to come up with ideas. The classic mastermind principle is so key and your school is evident of that. Marc, you’ve obviously built over the past dozen years, an amazing school culture at Fleetwood. I’m sure there’s been dozens of stories of students when they graduate writing you letters and reaching out that you didn’t even know you impacted, but telling you how big of an impact that you had on their life.


Sam Demma (20:16):
Can you think of a story, maybe the first story that pops into your mind of a student who’s been deeply impacted by student leadership work by your work, by your colleagues work. And can you share that student’s story? You can change their name for privacy reasons. If it’s a very deep story, the purpose of sharing, this is in the hope that another educator might be inspired to remember why the work that you do, that we do is so important, especially if this is their first year in education and they’re thinking, oh my goodness, what did I sign up for? So what stories come to mind?


Marc England (20:47):
Oh, Man! You know, so student leadership, like I said, that I keep you’re right. I have, I mean, I hate talking about myself, Sam, I’m not going to lie, but I sometimes show my kids this, when we get too stressful points, I keep what I call my bad day file. And it’s literally, it’s probably too big for one file now, but it’s every card, every note, every piece of every letter that I’ve ever gotten, I just keep it in the file. And then that’s 20 years now of, of stuff. I keep a wall of fame in my classroom with kids that have graduated from various things that we do as far as specific kids there, there’s a few I think, let me, let me answer your question through a little bit of a different lens if that’s okay. Of course.


Marc England (21:40):
Let me tell you about why student leadership’s rewarding for me. And it, it is, it is along the same lines of your question, but here. So I had a kid Brittany that came into my classroom in grade eight and you know, she was like any other grade eight and nervous and self-conscious and all of those things that go along with your first year in high school. And, you know, I think it was grade nine. We tapped her on the shoulder to get involved with the student council and she just started her journey. And, you know, she came from a family of four kids with a single mom. I taught, attended up. I taught all the kids, the whole family, and she, her mom was such a hard worker. Oh, just worked so hard for those kids. And she was always at school doing what she needed to do. A good student.


Marc England (22:30):
You know, she was a good academic student, but just jived on the student council stuff, grade 12, we can, she came to PEI with us, for Canadian student leadership conference. And for her, I could just see the light bulb go off for her. And that was something that she loved. So she’s a great example of, you know, sometimes all it takes is to ask that kid to alter or find a way to get them involved. And it takes them through four or five years of their high school journey. And the reason Brittany’s story is special to me is that, you know, she was one that wrote me this beautiful letter upon her graduation that I put into my bad day file. And it sat there for 5, 6, 7 years and last year or two years ago, I guess it was because she wasn’t here last year.


Marc England (23:21):
Brittany ended up as a colleague at my school and she’s become a teacher. And so here we were from mentor and teacher and student relationship to now colleagues. And, you know, she’s still a pretty special person. She came to my wedding last year. But you know, I showed her, I said, you know, when you’re doubting your purpose as a teacher, don’t forget that you never know what somebody’s journey is. And I pulled that out and I showed her, and I think that reaffirmed for her that because she’s with the student council here and working on some things here in student leadership. So for me, that was a special moment. That’s a special kid that, that I was able to see, go and end up, you know, doing something similar, but just she’s similar to me. And she just loves what she does and keeps kids at the center.


Marc England (24:13):
So there’s been others, there’s been other kids that I’ve seen. You know, I have a student who was with me and was my student council president. Who’s now, you know, one of the local managers, team management, a high up management team with one of the most successful restaurant chains locally. And she’s doing well and succeeding and you know, and those are skills that she learned through student leadership. So whether it’s a kind of personal story and you see the personal growth or whether it’s a professional story and you see the professional growth of these kids, to me, that’s worth everything.


Sam Demma (24:46):
That’s awesome. So cool, marc. I absolutely love the story. And again, I wanted to ask because there might be a teacher who’s starting their first year thinking, what the heck did I sign up for here? And if you could travel back in time to when you were starting your first year, what would you have told your younger self? What pieces of advice would you give your younger self?


Marc England (25:09):
I would say don’t get frustrated by policy and don’t get frustrated by people or things that seem to be in your way. You know, they’re there for a reason I would say, keep working at finding solutions. And I think that’s something that I’ve always pushed for. You know, if something I find, if something frustrates me, I just ask my principal, how can we make this work? What can we do? And nine times out of 10, we find a way to make it work. You know, it may not look as exactly as it is in my brain, but I think, honestly, your question, if I were to go back, I would tell myself, you know, don’t ever stop keeping kids in the center of what you do. When I first started, I was young I was easily relatable to kids and it was easy to kind of get them, right?


Marc England (26:05):
And I got kids, kids got me. And, but now, you know, here we are 23 years later and I still find it relatively easy to relate to kids. And so why is that? Well, I think it’s because kids are the purpose of what we do and it doesn’t necessarily matter that I’m going to get through a, to Z of the curriculum. I’m going to teach all the skills and I’m going to do as much as I can, but some days, some days it’s more important to just ask kids how they’re doing rather than teach that one lesson.


Sam Demma (26:37):
That’s Awesome. I love that so much. And as an off-topic question to wrap this up, your grandfather, New York Rangers mentioned at the beginning, it looks like you’re also wearing a hockey Jersey. First of all, do you see any connection between hockey and student leadership? Could you draw any connections between the sport and the game and two, what makes you so passionate about hockey?


Marc England (27:00):
Well, I grew up, I grew up partly in Winnipeg so, you know, there’s not much else to do besides the sports there, but, yeah, you know what I was, my grandfather played in the New York Rangers, he’s in the hockey hall of fame and, you know, it’s always been, it’s something that as a kid, we took for granted, I won’t make any bones about it. He’s my hero. And my role model. I was lucky to grow up with three incredible male role models in my life. My grandfather and my stepdad and my dad, all three of them had such a profound impact on where I am in life. But for my grandfather, though, hockey player, what, what I learned from him is how to treat people. And he, we would be with him and he would stop. And whether it was somebody that wanted an autograph or somebody that just wanted to chat, he made time for everybody.


Marc England (27:45):
And he was never in a rush, drove my grandmother nuts, but he made time for people. And I think that’s the lesson learned is that I might need to get out the door, but there’s a kid standing at my door that wants to talk, and I need to give that kid that time. Right. And make time for people. And people will make time for you. The other thing I learned about that is his teamwork. You know he was a goaltender, he was kind of the backstop of that team, but it really took, you know, five other guys on the ice at the time or 15 other guys on the bench at the time to find any kind of level of success. And always said that he said, you know what, we, we did, we had didn’t have the greatest the clubs as he would say, but he said, we really got along and we worked hard and we did well together that year.


Marc England (28:31):
And they made it to the Stanley cup final game seven-double overtime. And so he, that’s something that I even take to education is that I’m, you know, I’m part of a team, I’m part of a team of adults in this building. I’m part of a team with our student leadership family around the country. I’m part of a team with my kids. I always say to my kids in class, I’m like, listen, what I do reflects you, what you do reflects me. And so, we’re in this journey together. It’s not me, the teacher, it’s us as this group. And I think the final piece around what I would say from hockey to, and sports to this is that nobody’s bigger than a game and, you know great hockey players retire, and yeah, they’ve made an impact and they’ve done some things, but there’s always somebody else that’s going to move into that position.


Marc England (29:24):
And I’ve learned that I’ve learned that, you know, in my young days I thought, oh, I’m, I’m good at what I do. And, and there was some swagger, but there’s always somebody that’s going to, if I were to be gone tomorrow, somebody would roll into my chair and do a good job and make it different and make it better. And nobody’s bigger than the game. And so sometimes we need to check ourselves as teachers and revisit that relationship piece and revisit that purpose piece. And what drives us. We were talking about this with you know, part of the thing that kind of pushes me as I move forward. And it’s not just kid’s success, but seeing all of our leadership friends, we didn’t get to go to the CSLC this year with Canadian leadership conference. But seeing people post about how special our jobs are and how, how awesome it is to work with kids and, but work with each other and get ideas from all around the country. So, yeah, it’s pretty, pretty awesome.


Sam Demma (30:21):
I think what you said about nobody’s bigger than the game, not only applies to the teacher, but about anyone in life, and it’s a beautiful analogy and I’m glad you pulled it from the sport. And I love the Jersey. I love the backdrop. It’s cool to see the passion for it. Anyways, this has been an incredible interview. The audio sounds great. Shout out to your headphones that no one can see right now, but those are awesome.


Marc England (30:44):
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And you know, oh, sorry. Go ahead, Sam.


Sam Demma (30:48):
I was going to ask you if an educator from around the country wants to reach out and bounce some ideas around what would be the best way for them to do so.


Marc England (30:56):
Oh, probably email. It can be reached at, if you go to the Canadian student leadership website: student leadership.ca under the contact, the team I’m there, or just, my email is england_m@surreyschools.ca that’s, that’s easy as well or DM through Twitter at @mreteacher or Instagram mreteacher27.


Sam Demma (31:19):
Awesome. And any last thoughts? Any last thoughts to share?


Marc England (31:23):
Yeah. You know what I do I’ll share a story a little bit about the struggles that we’re kind of working on. And, and as we kind of, I, you know, this isn’t going away, Sam COVID is not going away anytime soon. And so when I started this, this year, coming back to school, there was a lot of uncertainty, myself included. I was anxious. Like everybody else, there’s a lot of anxiety in our buildings. There’s a lot of anxiety amongst staff. There’s a lot of anxiety amongst kids. My advice and what I, my, I think as we navigate this together, as we are, we are in together. Stu likes to say, we’re all in the same ocean, different boats, which is a good analogy, but we all are on our journey. Kind of experiencing different things in the same way, like the same ocean as he says.


Marc England (32:10):
So, you know, I think for me, it’s about helping colleagues and just say, let’s, let’s not give up. Let’s focus on the, let’s revisit the purpose. When we were in the spring, we had a kid, and again, you kind of your COVID question. You know, we had an email from a dad and this is a shout-out to my colleagues at our school here. We had an email from a dad that said, thank you. And the reason he was saying, thank you was that there was a lot of discussion as to whether you do a synchronous session or an asynchronous session for your academic classes. And the dad simply said you know what, thank you for not making everything synchronous because I have four kids. I’m a single dad. I got four kids in one laptop. And that to me, he really made me step back and say, okay, you know what? Everybody’s circumstances are different, but when we truly are appreciative and we understand, and we help each other through their journey through this, I think we can overcome what we need to overcome. Right? School’s not going to be the same, but let’s revisit our purpose, our events, our culture, and find ways that we can try to make things happen as best we can. If it’s virtual, it’s virtual, if it’s six feet apart is six feet apart, but let’s always kind of keep that purpose at the root of what we do.


Sam Demma (33:29):
Awesome. Thanks so much, marc. This has been a phenomenal interview. I really appreciate you taking some time to share some ideas on the show.


Marc England (33:36):
Oh, thank you. Thanks for having me, Sam, I look forward to, I’ve been listening to some of your work with the student podcasts. So you know, keep doing what you do as well. It’s, it’s inspirational to the kids. And like I said, you’ve made an impact even on my kids, just through your work with the global student leadership day.


Sam Demma (33:52):
Appreciate It, marc. I’ll talk to you soon.


Marc England (33:53):
Okay. Thanks, man.


Sam Demma (33:56):
Wow. What a jam-packed interview with Marc England. He has so much to offer and so much to provide. I’m sure you took so many notes away from this episode. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it was valuable and worth the investment of the time you put in to listen to it. And if you did enjoy it, consider leaving a rating and review on the show. So more educators like yourself, find this. And as always, if you have something to share, please reach out to us at info@samdemma.com so we can get your stories and actionable ideas on the podcast for your colleagues around the world to hear, learn from and implement and as always, I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Marc England

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.

Bob Kline – Leadership Teacher, Speaker, and Advisor of the Year (2019)

Bob Kline - Leadership Teacher, Speaker, and Advisor of the Year (2019)
About Bob Kline

Bob Kline (@klinespeaks) is the Leadership teacher at Huron Heights Secondary School in Kitchener, Ontario. Currently, there are approximately 180 students in his school’s official student leadership program, with over 100 more in connected programs like Husky Pack, our orientation & mentorship crew.  His students, known as the Huskies, have been recognized three times as having the ‘most school spirit’ at the Ontario Student Leadership Conference (OSLC)!  

These days his cup is full, but he’s living the dream. In 2019, Bob was honoured as the Advisor of the Year. Today, he’s teaching Leadership all day every day and is also part of the coaching squad of the boy’s varsity hockey team. In his spare time, he’s an avid reader, runner, local hockey fan, camper, and proud uncle of two boys.

Connect with Bob: Email | Instagram | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Huron Heights Secondary School

Ontario Student Leadership Conference

Jeff Gerber

Terry Fox Run

PickWaste

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. Today’s special guest, Bob Kline was someone that I met back in 2019 at a conference called the Ontario Student Leadership Conference, OSLC. He was awarded the advisor of the year. That’s when I first met him, started talking with him and having amazing conversations. And I’ve come to realize Bob is a one of a kind type of person. You only meet someone like Bob once a lifetime. He has such a huge heart and does such amazing work with the students at Huron Heights Secondary School, where he teaches Bob is a teacher, a leadership teacher in Kitchener at Huron Heights Secondary School here on Heights. There’s approximately 180 students and his student leadership program. He has over a hundred or more and connected programs like Husky pack, their orientation and mentorship crew, and the students at his school known as the Huskies have been recognized three times, it’s having the most school spirit at the conference.


Sam Demma (01:06):
He didn’t understand or imagine that one day he’d be a leadership teacher. But these days his cup is full he’s in his 17th year of teaching. And he says it’s an absolute dream to teach leadership all day long. He’s also a part of the coaching squad for his boys, varsity hockey team. And he’s been developing a partnership with the Polish academy of Canada that facilitates cultural exchanges between European and Canadian students. Professional life aside, you can find Bob reading, running, watching hockey, playing hockey, camping, and being a proud uncle of two boys. This is an interview packed with actionable advice. Enjoy this with Bob Kline, Bob, thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educators podcast. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you on here. I remember when I was sitting in OSLC back before COVID and you won the award for advisor of the year which was phenomenal back then. I didn’t know you well since then we’ve had dozens of conversations and I thought you’d be someone that needs to be on this interview to spread some optimism with fellow colleagues right now, and just some of your good energy with other educators. Can you please introduce yourself, share with the audience who you are and why you got into the work you do with young people today?


Bob Kline (02:24):
Sure. well, thanks Sam. It’s really great to join you on the podcast. I’m really excited. This is my first podcast ever. So, so yeah, like you said, I teach leadership. I teach in Kitchener, Ontario at an awesome school called Huron Heights. I’ve been teaching for about 18 years now. And the way I got into teaching was honestly like I used to teach swimming lessons to little kids when, when I was a teenager and I just loved working with kids. So I became an English teacher first. I taught English for about 15 years and I loved every day of it. And then I stumbled into this amazing, magical world of leadership. And now every day, all the time, all I do is teach leadership at Huron. And I think it’s every leadership teacher’s dream. So I guess I’m living the leadership life and the leadership dream right now. That’s awesome.


Sam Demma (03:26):
Can you define leadership? What, what is leadership? How do you define leadership on a shot at something you’re passionate about sharing?


Bob Kline (03:35):
Wow, so you’re, you’re starting with the big question a, well, I guess something that I always say to my students at the very start of a semester of leadership is you could go on Amazon and search for leadership books and literally you’ll get thousands upon thousands of possible books that you can read. And there’s different. There’s different angles that you can come at leadership from. And I guess the, the teaching of leadership is, is a really, it’s a personal endeavor for all of us who are in this line of work. So I guess for me, like the foundation of leadership is, is for me just teaching kids, how to be a decent human being everything that we do, whether it’s, whether it’s planning a semi-formal dance or doing bingo at lunchtime, all of our work together comes back to us being decent human beings with each other and creating an environment where, where kids can thrive, kids can be themselves and, and PE kids can enjoy it themselves.


Sam Demma (04:52):
Yeah, I think that’s a beautiful definition. And, you know, I talked to other educators, Jeff Gerber talks about the importance of relationship. There’s no leadership without relationships. Everyone I talked to has a very personal definition, which is why I was curious to know your own. And I think just creating, you know, a holistic humans, great people is such an important way to look at it. And I’m curious to know right now during COVID, it’s tougher than ever to continue to do the activities you want to do. How can you still live out that mission of creating awesome humans during a time like COVID-19?


Bob Kline (05:29):
Oh yeah. Ah that’s. That is, that is the, that’s the hot topic right now? Well, in my school, we’re in a unique position, Sam like we, we just had our fifth case of the virus in our school and, and it’s a, it’s a very, very challenging day to day environment. There’s, there’s a lot of stress and so on. The nature of what we do in leadership at high schools has really changed. I’ve been, I’ve been telling people that it’s a, it’s a paradigm shift in education, but it’s also a paradigm shift in student activities across north America and across the world. And it seems like all of us are trying to, to make our way through this situation and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. So for, for us, we, we haven’t been able to do events what, what we’ve done, our approaches we’ve, we’ve started off by just focusing on getting all the students into the building and getting everybody comfortable being in that place.


Bob Kline (06:43):
Again we’re starting to enroll some things this week, like we’re, we’re going back to a very traditional thing at my school. We’re doing, we’re doing door holding and we’re going to do greeters at the door and creating energy in a welcoming environment at the, at the door, which is kind of a, a back to basics thing for us. We’re doing a food drive so that we can give back to the communities. So, so those things are, I guess, things that we can do that, that bring us back to the basics in terms of kind of doing leadership and, and getting the student body through it. I think just talking to kids is, is critical. It seems like the most basic thing. But just having conversations with them and figuring out where they’re at what their hopes and dreams are and, and what they want to do. I think young people also have a lot of ideas for, for what we can do right now, and we really have to tap into that. So, so yeah, it’s a complex beast that we’re, we’re dealing with right now. Isn’t it?


Sam Demma (07:51):
Yeah. I was going to ask, tell me a story where maybe the school or yourself has tried something, you know, the saying, throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks have you experimented with anything just yet, or do you know if someone who’s given something a shot and it could have totally failed. But we can all learn from the mistake. I’m curious to know if any story comes to mind?


Bob Kline (08:17):
Well, I guess something specific to our school is I really feel right now, like, like we’re starting a little bit too late. I was, I was thinking about this and I’ve had a lot of conversations with staff in my building and this, the same conversation keeps happening. It’s nothing fun is happening right now. And what is leadership doing to create fun in the building? And I think a mistake that our, our, our leadership team made is that we, we waited a little bit too long to start doing. And I, I think it would have been okay to start some of our, some of our stuff a little sooner. So, so that’s one thing because what we’ve experienced is we, we’ve completely focused on safety and we’ve completely focused on procedure from the beginning, but the cases are still rising within our school.


Bob Kline (09:18):
So we, we probably could have, and should have done some, some fun stuff to build that community a little bit sooner. And I, I think it’s okay to look critically and think critically about, about yourself and what you’re doing. So, so that’s okay. It’s, it’s never too late to start. But just where we’re a little behind and starting in terms of like ideas and cool stuff that people are doing, there’s, there’s lots of stuff that is going on across Canada, where, where people are doing digital stuff. Something interesting though right now is that students are really craving the human stuff. They want to do the human stuff, and that’s where we have to find our way.


Sam Demma (10:06):
That’s awesome. What is the human stuff? Is, is this like giving back is it, is it just talking to people? What is the human stuff and how like, yeah, I want to know more.


Bob Kline (10:21):
Well first of all, like at a really basic level, we know that students want to be together physically and the ones who are in our building right now the ones who opted to do in-person classes, they opted to do that because they want to see their friends and they want to be with their friends. So that’s the big challenge is, is finding stuff that they can do where they can be together. So one thing that a really awesome teacher at my school did was for Terry Fox throughout September, she created this school-wide spreadsheet and you could take your class out for a walk. She, she mapped out a one kilometer loop on campus, and that ended up being the highlight of the day. Often with my leadership class was when we would take a break from our discussion and our reading and our watching Ted talks, and actually just went outside and just went for a one loop or, or a couple of loops on campus. And the kids could just talk and connect and have that free time. And what we started to see was a lot of classes caught on, and a lot of classes started to do that. And not only did it kind of benefit us in mind and body, but it also gave us a chance to learn a little bit about Terry Fox and participate in the spirit of Terry Fox. So, you know, simple human stuff like that, where it’s a safer environment outside is it is a really great, important thing to do.


Sam Demma (12:01):
That’s awesome. I love that. I know some schools are doing staggered, staggered, Terry Fox runs or walks, which sounds pretty similar, but that’s awesome. And anyone who’s listening, you know, I think it’s a matter of going back to the basics. Walking is basic opening the door and greeting people is basic. What are the basic things we can do to, to greet these kids and make them feel welcomed on the same topic of helping students feel more human and do human things. Do you have a story, Bob, maybe over the past 15, 10, 15 years that you’ve been teaching? I might be even low-balling it. I don’t know how long you’ve been a teacher for now. You look certainly good for if you have been doing it longer than that.


Bob Kline (12:47):
Oh my gosh.


Sam Demma (12:49):
Do you have a story that you can share of a student who’s been just deeply touched and impacted by leadership? And if it’s a story that’s very serious and private and you can change the student’s name to share it, but I want something that’s hardy and vulnerable because when we share a story like this, it reminds our fellow educators, why it’s so important to do the work we do, despite the challenges we’re faced with. It gives other educators hope and inspiration. And do you know of any stories? Does any story come to mind when I asked that question?


Bob Kline (13:22):
Oh, so many, so many, like, you know, Sam, like I know that after you speak kids come up to you and they come up to you and they say, I just have to tell you this. I just have to tell you what happened. And sometimes it’s like this big deep thing. And other times it’s this simple, awesome story. Right? And all of those things that can tell you are, are truly amazing and truly valuable. So same thing, like we’re blessed stay in this line of work. We’re blessed to, to have kids sharing, sharing back with us, how leadership’s impacted them. But one thing that that often comes to mind is, is a story about this student. I, I taught a few times and I coached him on the track team and cross country. His name is Noah and Noah. When, when he was going for his license, he told me that the only thing that he wanted to do, like the first thing he wanted to do when he got his license was drive to McDonald’s and he wanted to go by himself for a meal.


Bob Kline (14:29):
And he wanted to go in and sit in, McDonald’s have the meal and then drive home. Like that was his thing. It’s it sounds silly and fun, but that was his thing. So Noah, a few days after he got his license, he came up to me and he said, I have to tell you about what happened at McDonald’s. I said, okay, great. So Noah went, he drove by himself and went in and had his meal. And as he was coming out of McDonald’s, he passed a homeless guy and the homeless guy said, do you have any change? And Noah said, the thing that most of us say is, sorry, man, I use debit. I don’t have any cash. So Noah told me that he got to his car and he just felt like garbage for just passing this guy by. So he went back and he invited the man into McDonald’s and said, how about, how about I buy you a meal?


Bob Kline (15:27):
So they ended up sitting together in the McDonald’s for about an hour and just having a conversation about life and the man shared with Noah, where he had been and how he ended up homeless, how his life ended up that way. And Noah learned tremendous human lessons from, from just that snap decision that, that simple snap decision that he made and Noah really, really was a changed person. After that. He, he got into global development work. He, he, he joined a class at our school called outreach and traveled to South America to, to actually do some youth development on the ground internationally. And you know, Noah was just, he talked differently. He thought differently has his worldview changed from that situation? And all of that was from a simple act of what I call personal leadership. So you know, like that, that’s one of the biggest stories that stands out to me that I love to tell.


Sam Demma (16:36):
That’s an awesome, awesome story. What prompted that thinking in Noah? Do you think it was from leadership class or the years of teachers that he had? Was it a characteristic that was driven into him by the school? What prompted that selfless act in Noah?


Bob Kline (16:54):
Oh, man. I, I don’t know. It’s hard to know kind of what drives people to do what they do. And you know, I think like in leadership, it’s, it’s funny because it, it, it seems like sometimes leadership and school spirit is all about wearing your colors and doing the rah rah stuff. And, you know, Noah came to OSLC with us, the Ontario Student Leadership Conference, and he heard, he heard all the great speakers and maybe it was just the, the accumulation of all those positive messages that was just inside him that, you know, prompted him to do something good himself. I think I don’t know, Sam, like knowing, knowing about your story and, and how you guys founded PickWaste. I mean, it’s almost a very similar thing. It’s like this, this simple act of, of picking up garbage and just going about that ends up looking and feeling amazing when more and more people do it and, and it feels amazing for yourself. Right. I think that’s maybe what was going on inside Noah’s mind.


Sam Demma (18:11):
Oh, that’s awesome. I love that. I, I want to talk to Noah now.


Bob Kline (18:17):
I can connect you. We’re still connected. He’s finishing university and he’s applying for the police. He wants to be a police officer.


Sam Demma (18:26):
Very cool. That’s awesome. Well, Bob, if you could travel back in time to the first year you were a teacher and give yourself advice based off the wisdom you’ve gained teaching over the past, however many years you’ve been teaching. What advice would you give yourself? Because there might be an educator listening who is in their first year of education right now, and they’re kind of scrambling, they’re lacking hope. They’re not sure what to do or what they signed up for. What pieces of advice could you share from an educator’s perspective?


Bob Kline (19:04):
Well honestly, Sam, I would pass on the best piece of advice that was ever passed on to me. I heard this from a teacher who retired. He was a math teacher and just an awesome guy. And in his retirement speech, he said in this line of work, you have to have fun every day to survive and on so many levels, that means so many different things. But you know, in your first year, you’re, you’re worried about the details. You’re worried about doing, doing things properly. You want the students to like you let alone teaching them the content. But honestly, a lot of times we can just let go and have fun. Some of the best lessons happen when you let go of what you had planned that day. And you’re just with the students. So, you know, like I’m in my 18th year now and you know, 18 years ago, my very first job was, was in Brampton at a really big school called Turner Fenton Secondary School. And I had hard time in that job. I was an English teacher and I was teaching basic English to grade nine. I was in grade 12, so it was tough. I couldn’t even relate to my students. And I wish, I guess that’s what I would have told myself is just have fun with those kids. I would definitely redo that if I could.


Sam Demma (20:45):
Tell me a story where you had fun, I want to amplify the feeling right now for you and hopefully in the minds of other educators that are listening, just to bring some hope back about this school situation.


Bob Kline (20:58):
Holy cow, I’m having fun right now. Ooh man. I like a lot of the fun comes from discussion and we have big life, life chats. Cool. And I mean, that is a form of fun, but it’s also a way of getting, getting to know students deeper or more deeply and, and them getting to know you, their future.


Sam Demma (21:27):
How do you start like a, a life chat? Do you just open up a discussion? What does that look like in your class?


Bob Kline (21:35):
So, so one thing that I did was I created a Google form and put question categories almost like a, a trivia game or a board game. So I just had cut glories, like friendship, family, relationships, sports fun and random pandemic. So I had a list of kind of the questions on the Google form, where we’re just basically topics and the students generated random questions that they came up with that they think would be fun to talk about. So one of the questions yesterday was what’s a food that you always crave. And so what I did was I, the Google forms is awesome because it populates a spreadsheet. So I would sit there with a spreadsheet and then the kids would pick a category almost like you’re playing a board game. And then you’d pick a random question to just toss out there.


Bob Kline (22:40):
And there’s ways that you could go into the discussion. You can have them turn and talk first to someone around them. And then everybody has a chance to say something and then kind of discuss as a whole class and say, well, what were the fun things or what was, what were the big things that you heard? You could even have them like use them as writing prompts and have students write down their thoughts again, so that everybody is thinking about the question and then have them share. So you know, it’s, it’s one of those tested in true teaching strategies to get kids to share and talk, I guess.


Sam Demma (23:17):
That’s awesome. No, thanks for sharing. I kept digging cause I knew there’d be some great information coming out and I think that’s a really cool, unique way to engage your class in a conversation right now. And Google forms is free for anyone listening. And if anyone wants to reach out to you, Bob and bounce, some more ideas around, maybe even pick your brain on that specific idea, how can they reach out to you and let you know, one that this episode inspired them and two, to get some advice from you?


Bob Kline (23:45):
Yeah. I love connecting actually. One thing Sam that I think you’re noticing about leadership teachers across Canada, as you connect with us, we all follow each other and we all like we look at each other’s Instagram and Twitter feed to get ideas, which is the best way to become a better teacher. So I particularly love Instagram. My Instagram and Twitter handle is @klinespeaks. Yeah, I have a website with the same name, www.klinespeaks.ca, which I use for just a couple of different things. I always love connecting with, with anyone really to talk about leadership and life and so on.


Sam Demma (24:11):
Awesome. Cool, Bob, thanks so much for taking some time to chat. It’s been a pleasure and I really appreciate all the energy you brought on the show.


Bob Kline (24:43):
Thanks Sam. It’s great to be with you. And I wish you all the best.


Sam Demma (24:48):
Talk to him though. You have it full interview with my good friend and colleague Bob Kline. He’s packed with ideas, packed with information and just has the biggest heart. So if you’re on the edge about reaching out, stopping on the edge, make the jump. I promise you, Bob will be someone who will impress you and turn into a lifelong friend. Anyways, hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did consider leaving a rating and review on the podcast to more educators like yourself can find it. And if you have ideas, if you have actionable inspirational stories that you’d like to share, please shoot me an email at info@samdemma.com, so we can get you on the podcast as well. Talk soon, all the best.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Bob Kline

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.

Angelo Minardi – High Energy Educator, Chaplain and Student Council Advisor

Angelo Minardi - High Energy Educator, Student Council Advisor
About Angelo Minardi

Angelo Minardi (@AmbrozicChap) is a chaplain at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School. He is a Husband, Father, Educator, Sports junkie and passionate about his faith and catholic education. Angelo is also a High Energy Educator and Student Council Advisor.

Angelo is one of the most kind-hearted and purpose-driven educators you’ll ever meet. His high energy is infectious, and his ideas are actionable. He also currently serves as a Chaplaincy Leader at the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board.

Connect with Angelo: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School

Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board

St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School

Angelo Minardi 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 (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today we have another friend and guest from education on the show. His name is Angelo Minardi and fun fact, his wife actually worked at the school at which I graduated from Saint Mary Catholic secondary school in Pickering. So it’s a very small world, as I’m sure you already know, as you make more friends and colleagues in this industry, Angelo was a chaplain at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic secondary school. He is a husband, father, educator, sports junkie, and very passionate about his faith and public education. Angela was one of the most kindhearted and purpose-driven educators you’ll ever meet. And I hope you do meet him. Please reach out to him after this episode, he’d be more than happy to connect with you. His high energy is infectious as I’m sure you’ll find out and his ideas very actionable. Let’s get into this episode right now with a good friend Angelo Minardi I’ll see you on the other side, Angela. Thank you so much for coming on to the high-performing educators podcast. It’s a pleasure to see you. I know we talked earlier in the summer and we’re connecting again and hopefully again, in the future what got you into the work that you do with the youth today and how are you doing


Angelo Minardi (01:17):
Right? Good. Well, first of all, thanks so much Sam for having me on. And it’s exciting, especially knowing that you are, you’re a product of St. Mary’s in Pickering. I have a lot of friends there. My wife works there so exciting to be on with you look you know, young people in terms of my work with them and, and why I I got myself involved with young people. My studies were in sociology and history when I left the university of Toronto. And then I was working at the bank of Montreal right after, but very quickly I found out that I wasn’t really using my gifts. You know, I had the many other gifts and I, and I thought, you know, how do I begin to explore for this? And it was just in conversations with my local pastor and conversation with some friends in conversations with my girlfriend at the time, who’s now my wife Katia where, you know, they people said, Hey, listen, we see a gift in you.


Angelo Minardi (02:05):
You have a lot of enthusiasm and joy and you seem to be great around young people. Have you thought about working with young people and that’s kind of where it started really, that’s where it was planted. And I remember when world youth, they was in Toronto, it’s a big celebration of young people across the Catholic church. And I attended it. And I remember meeting people from all across the world, young people from Mexico and Germany and Switzerland and USA all over the place. And I just found myself immersed in this, you know, th th this Nirvana, if you will, you know, this is like amazing place where young people were, you know, together sharing, singing, laughing, and it just kind of kicked off from there. And then I got myself into high school ministry and haven’t looked back ever since


Sam Demma (02:51):
It’s about enthusiasm, it’s definitely a trait that you don’t lack. It’s evident even just talking to you over this. And it’s, it’s funny because the biggest impact that my world issues and religion teacher had on me was the, was the fact that he was passionate. And I want to ask you when you were a young person and you were in school, what are some educators? And if I asked this question, you probably have some names that pop in mind right away, who are some educators that made a huge impact on you. And why? Like, what was the trait or the reason why you still remember them to this day and how do you try and have that same impact on your kids?


Angelo Minardi (03:28):
Very good. Yeah. That’s an excellent question. And you’re right. I think instinctually, you remember right away. So there’s two teachers that come to mind. First teacher was my grade eight teacher. Peter Gane was his name. And he was also my basketball coach and I’m an avid basketball player played right up until the university level. And I remember I was in grade eight and I was kind of one of the better playing guys, but there was something missing that was taken me to the next level. And I remember Mr. Gain would always pull me aside and say, Angela, you have a gift in playing basketball. You need to work on that gift. You need to work harder and you’ll, you’ll have much more success. And really that’s what kind of that mindset changed everything for me, because when I got to high school level suddenly I emerged as one of the better players in, in high school that was playing over at or attending new McNeil high school in Scarborough and was having great success there.


Angelo Minardi (04:20):
And then a coach there was coach day pat day. And I’ll never forget him were same idea. You know, you can do a lot of good stuff here. Have you thought about playing, you know basketball at the varsity level and, and you know, if you do, you’ve got to start thinking ahead. And, but it, wasn’t only the sports, you know, these coaches, the great thing about sports is it unifies, right? It kind of helps build you up as a person, but then it also helps your life improve too. So not only am I becoming a better basketball player, I’m beginning, I’m becoming a better person. Right. And so I finally remember those two coaches. I remember also Mr. Vander Steen, my grade 12 religion teacher, who was so random, but he had enthusiasm and passion that could bury anyone, right? Like he just would never stop with it.


Angelo Minardi (05:05):
And I ran into him at a McDonald’s years ago. He was, we were in a drive-thru and there’s this chaos in front of me, this vehicle in front of me, kids all over the place. And and this car is taking forever to move ahead. Finally, he moves ahead. Well, he recognizes that as me behind him, and he gets out of the car and gives me a big hug. It’s like, how you doing? And so these are kind of the, the, the memories you have the relationships that you’ve formed. And I tell you, my wife’s a teacher, of course, I’m, I’m in high school chaplaincy, but so many great people in education. Right. And, and so many great role models for sure.


Sam Demma (05:40):
No, I love that. And it seems just talking to you and I’m sure an educator listening to this right now probably thinks the same thing. You took the same passion that you saw from your teachers and apply it to your own work now. And it’s, it’s fascinating to me because I think there’s always teachers that we never forget for a very reasons like the ones you shared. And I’m curious to know if through your own enthusiasm and passion, you’ve touched on some young people’s lives. And for the sake of this interview, you don’t have to use their name if you don’t want to. But I’m curious to know if you have a story that you could think of, of a young person who maybe was transformed by some work that you’ve done with them or with the school.


Angelo Minardi (06:18):
Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, there’s a few that come to mind. One in particular of which I’m still in contact with today. So I met her, I met the student when I was at all saints high school in Whitby. I was the chaplain there. And you know, she was struggling. It was a lot of issues at home between mom and dad, mom and dad were thinking of maybe possibly getting divorced. And you know, she would come into my room and just want to chat. You know, I could never resolve the issue for her. There wasn’t anything I could do other than listen. So that was one issue, but she also, academically, she wasn’t, you know, your model, a student, she worked harder than any student, but just couldn’t achieve the grades she needed. She always wanted to be a teacher.


Angelo Minardi (07:02):
And she was always told she couldn’t, and I would work with her, you know, all at pretty much, every, every other day she was in my office working on this. And anyway, she moved on to post-secondary kept applying herself. We had many conversations, good and bad, many tears. Laughter. and she just kept going. And I remember she, she called me, we had drawn apart for a few years. We had stopped communicating and then she contacted me and she basically said, thank you. And I said, for what? Well, just for being there for being present for listening, I said, I didn’t do anything. She goes, no, you don’t understand. She goes, I’m a teacher. I got into teacher’s college. I’m graduating. I’m like what? She goes, yeah, I’m graduate. I’m going to be a teacher. She’s now living in Quebec and she’s teaching in Quebec.


Angelo Minardi (07:48):
And, and again, that’s one of many stories, right? Cause you don’t realize the impact you’re making on lives of people. Not only students, but even people you meet every day. Like the words you say, how you interact, how you respond to them. And the thing about education or even working with people is that you don’t, you don’t know you can’t, it’s not tangible. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. You don’t know the benefit right. To that conversation or to that, that relationship. But there’s an example. And we just spoke the other day. She was telling me how she was very nervous because there were 562 cases of COVID in Quebec and they were shutting down schools and you know, she’s an elementary teacher. She was worried. Right. So yeah. W that’s someone, gosh, I love her. I tell her all the time that, you know, I’m so proud of her and yeah. That’s someone I think of immediately. Yeah, for sure.


Sam Demma (08:40):
It’s amazing. It’s an amazing story. And the reason I wanted you to share was because so many teachers right now are experiencing burnout or facing instrumentable or what seems like instrumentable challenge. Like you mentioned with COVID there’s so many, so many unfortunate things happening in education right now. It’s hard to get a pulse on what we need to do. It’s like, you know, education’s around peg and now the peg hole is a square and nothing’s fitting properly. There’s no rules of the game. Imagine showing up to a basketball game with no raft, there’s no lines. There’s five nets. You’re like, what are we supposed to do here? Right. So many educators feel like that. The story you shared, hopefully brings them some hope and reminds them why they’re doing what they’re doing. So I want to ask you the reverse. What brings you hope? Why do you keep working so hard? Why do you keep inspiring all these young people and, and show up every day, excited with enthusiasm to your job? What motivates you?


Angelo Minardi (09:32):
Listen, man, I, you know, I, every day when I get up, I think, you know, how can I make a difference today? And I really mean that I’m not, it’s not cliche. Like I, I mean, I, you know, I wake up every morning and I’m just grateful, right? That I’m healthy. That, that there’s another day here place before me. And you know, young people inspire me, man. Like, it’s just, I find that young people are not judgmental. You know, young people don’t carry, you know burdens in the sense that that weigh them down when they’re around other people, young people do have hope. They have compassion, they are empathetic. And so when I surround myself with young people, when I see a young person I’m, I’m filled with joy, man, I just want to do more. I want to give them more.


Angelo Minardi (10:15):
How much more can I give? How much more of an example can I be? But I get it from them. Like they’re giving me the energy. They’re giving me the hope, right? It’s not what I’m doing. I don’t do anything. Right. It’s their presence. It’s their ability to answer me. It’s their desire to want to go out in the community with me and do good. You know, at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. I’ll be honest with you sometimes. I think, man, how much more can I do? But this is my 19th year that I’ve been working as a high school chaplain. And I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Right. it’s so life-giving gives me so much hope. So, you know, students give me hope, but even teachers and again, yes, my wife’s a teacher and I’ve been working with teachers for 19 years, but even amidst this whole pandemic, there’s been so much negativity around teachers and what they do.


Angelo Minardi (11:02):
And I can tell you working with teachers for the last 19 years, these are amazing people. Like they are. They’re amazing people. And they give so much to children that are not their own right to young people that are not their own. And I know my wife will be up day and night asking how much more can I give to these kids? And so teachers inspire me, right? The work of an educator inspires me that somehow, who am I to be able to share with someone, my, my gifts or my wisdom, like who am I in the grand scheme of things. And yet for, for young people, they look up to us, right? They want to hear us, they want us around. And so that’s where I find hope. I find hope and enjoy. I find hope in youth. I find hope in, you know, educators people that, that selflessly give Sam, that’s what you’re doing. I see that you’re selflessly giving. And that’s what makes the world always a better place, right? That’s what makes there’s always more good than there is bad in the world. Because of that,


Sam Demma (12:00):
I love it. There’s a book. I was recently reading called how to sell your way through life. And it has nothing to do with sales, but everything to do with developing a very sound and integrity based personality. And one of the traits was get into the habit of doing more work than you’re expected. And there was another habit that was just embodying the golden rule, right? Cheat your neighbor as it can be treated. And, and he said that if this was the basis of all of humanity, almost all of our problems would be solved. And you raise a good point about service. You also mentioned that you’ve been doing this for 19 years. That’s almost as long as I’ve been alive.


Angelo Minardi (12:39):
Imagine.


Sam Demma (12:41):
And I say that not to position you as an older gentleman, but to show your experience, you know, you’ve been doing this a very long time. You’ve been, you’ve been doing this. You’ve, you’ve worked with hundreds of students. You’ve also worked with a, probably a lot of outside different events and partners to bring into a school. And I’m really curious to pick your brain for a second. What do you think is the most important characteristic or trait of an external presenter or speaker that you bring in front of your student audience? If you’re going to share an idea, you know, how do you choose which ones to share?


Angelo Minardi (13:13):
Well, th th that’s a great question because, you know, there’s never a shortage right. Of, of people that we bring in experts, if you will, in a field or whatever, I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of a young person. Right. So if someone shows up in my school and presents to me, you know, what am I, what am I looking for? What do I want to see? You know, I think the first thing I would, I would look for is an authentic person. Right. Then authentic message. What is it that this person wants to communicate? Is it just another item on their agenda or another another group on their, on their list as they rise, you know, in stature, arise in their work? You know, what is the message? And is it authentic? Right. But there also has to be a personal site to, can this person connect with young people and listen, I know many older people than me that are excellent with young people, but it’s because there’s the gift, right.


Angelo Minardi (14:02):
There’s gotta be a gift there. There’s gotta be some connection mate. And so that’s important to me too. Right. So authentic message, you know, is there a personal side where they can connect with these people? You know, ultimately is there a love of, of, of, of the group that they’re speaking to? So when I’m looking for a speaker, you know, do I see from that speaker love to be with young people or a desire to want to help young people become better young people. And so, you know, that’s kinda my approach. Usually, you know, I try to find someone with the same enthusiasm to, if I can, you know, just imagine two of us standing up there. Right. And then the kids are wild now they’re wild. Right. But that’s okay. We got them, we got them. Right. And they’ll listen when you tell them to, but yeah, that’s also important, right. Otherwise there’s no connection Sam. Right. Otherwise we’re just up there talking just like any other person talking. Right. So,


Sam Demma (14:53):
Yeah. I love that. That’s a great point. And right now, unfortunately, it’s tough to bring people in due to COVID you mentioned you’re the girl that you taught is having the same difficulty out in Quebec. I’m really curious to know how you’ve approached school during these times. Have you had any ideas that are generated by you, your staff or your students that have helped increase student morale, increased student engagement during these times? Or what just general tips would you have for other educators to push through during COVID-19?


Angelo Minardi (15:23):
Right. So, you know, I think we, we, we need to begin by, by saying that this is something we’ve never experienced before, right? Like we absolutely have no idea from day to day kind of how to go forward or what, what to do next. That being said you know, I’m always a guy glass half full, right. So I see this as an incredible opportunity to be present. And let me explain that for a second. So usually in a typical high school year as a chaplain, I would be out of the school of three to four days a week, whether it’s leading a retreat meeting with a pastor having to attend the board office for a meeting because of COVID-19. I have actually been in the school every day, since first day since September eight. And so it’s given me this incredible opportunity to be present and presence, meaning my physical presence in the school as the spiritual leader, you know, like being able to visit students just to drop into their class, being able to spend more time with teachers.


Angelo Minardi (16:21):
I’ve never had this much time with teachers in all these years because our students in high school, they usually only come in for a couple of hours. So they’re gone by lunch and I’ve got the rest of the school day with teachers now. Yes, they still have to continue teaching online, but they do have launched. They do have a work period where I can connect with them. So it’s been an incredible opportunity in that time. I also been able to continue meeting with our students online. And so I work with a group of core kids, which is a, a group of identified students from grade 10 to 12 that work with me more closely in chaplaincy. And this group of core kids, we’re about 180 this year. We have weekly check-ins, so we’ve started last week. We continue. We’re continuing again this week where we just check in, how are you doing?


Angelo Minardi (17:09):
What are you hearing in the community? How do we continue to be a caring, inclusive and, and, and compassionate community? And I tell you, Sam, the, the things that these young people are telling us, and I’m talking about 15 and 16 year olds, right. Which the world would say don’t mean anything don’t count, have nothing to contribute. I tell you what this generation, as far as I’m concerned is as more as, as compassionate, as empathetic as a generation. I know I would even say more so than my generation. I know a lot of adults, you know, in my age group you know, that would not have the compassion nearly have the compassion or empathy these young people have. So in terms of, you know how have I approached it or what opportunity has been presented? It’s been presence, presence with, with, with teachers in particular, but it’s been that constant right.


Angelo Minardi (17:58):
Weekly check-ins daily. Check-Ins for some students, you know, we’re here, you know, we love you. We support you, you know, how can we help you? Because that’s the reality, right? We’ve got to accept, what’s been given. And so rather than complaining about it and finding other ways to ignore the issue, or just further isolate ourselves, you know, how do we, how do we kind of continue to build that community and that relationship with, with what’s, with what’s given in terms of the pandemic. So that’s kind of it, I, again, glass half full, right. I always try to be positive. Cause when I’m negative, I always, I always joke around with my own kids at home, but also the kids at school, I say, listen, when minority’s negative, it’s always in the car, on the drive home. Right. So if I need to cry or scream or whatever, I’m by myself in the car. Right. And you know, then I’m, once I’m out of the car, I’m back. Right. I’m I’m ready again. So that’s, that’s pretty much it. Yeah.


Sam Demma (18:51):
I like how you opened it by saying we have to all agree and understand that it’s a new experience. Something we’ve never experienced before. And with that perspective, no idea is a stupid idea because it’s a brand new situation and you just mentioned the positive side of it, as you, as you explained, I’m curious to know if there are any mistakes, you have also seen things that maybe you have been tried and didn’t work out or things that educators have tried, but aren’t really maybe, maybe not the right time to do something. Like what have you seen on the mistakes? I think, and the reason we share this is so someone else can avoid the same thing you can write.


Angelo Minardi (19:27):
And there is, there’s always two sides to a coin, right? And, and you know, sometimes we have to be careful when we talk about what’s not working because if we’re not in the right frame of mind, or if we don’t have the right perspective, we can get trapped in it. But yeah, there’s a lot that hasn’t worked. I can tell you this hybrid model of learning that we’re currently going through, which is, you know, students coming in in the morning for a couple of hours, so they can have some FaceTime with their teachers and then heading home and, and going online the rest of the day, it’s not working because number one, our students tell us it’s not working. Right. And it’s not working because our students come in they’re quickly ushered to their class. They’re not to leave their class unless they need to go to the washroom.


Angelo Minardi (20:11):
And then they’re quickly ushered out. No conversations allowed in the hallways, no contact within two feet in the hallways. And there quickly, I should also the whole social aspect, the whole social piece is gone. And it’s funny, Sam, because here we had, and again, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist and not a psychologist, but here we have, you know, psych lead psychologist from the hospital for sick children at the end of the summer, saying for the old, for the wellbeing of our young people, for their mental health, you know, we need to get them back to school. Why can tell you Sam, not only in my board, but you can see what’s happening in Toronto. We don’t have enough teachers for online. We have more and more students leaving in class and going online because there’s no social piece. And so where does that leave us?


Angelo Minardi (20:58):
You know, so what’s happening is that’s one piece. The other piece is we seem to be isolating ourselves more and more at least isolated in our students. More and more for me, Sam, and this is my own personal opinion. And, and hopefully no one calls me out of this, on the board level, but you know, where, where, you know, where’s the concern of our kids. When have we spoken to our students, we’re talking to ministers of education, we’re talking to politicians, we’re talking to teachers, but what are we talking to our students? Are we asking our students what they need, what they would like to see? We’re not, we’re not, you know, so there’s that. And then at the end, I would just say this whole process, you know, where we’re continually daily, introducing new documents or daily, introducing new approaches, where is it getting us?


Angelo Minardi (21:46):
Like, what is it doing to us? Right. And so again, like I said earlier, I don’t want to, don’t want to sound like I’m kind of trapping myself in this negativity, but let’s Sam, if we’re going to speak clearly. And honestly, then we have to be, you know, we have to be, you know, speak with truth, right. Speak with what we believe. And so I think we’re losing the battle, man. I think we need to maybe just get everyone back online, do our best that way, but find approaches online to have check-ins, to have mental health checks, to have, you know opportunities for kids on a more social level to just hang out in a zoom breakout room and just talk about whatever, you know? So yeah, so I think, I, I think those are some of the mistakes and again, we’ve never been on this path before, right? We’ve never had this journey before. And so maybe looking back in 50, 60, a hundred years, one week, you know, when we’re no longer here, we can leave some stuff behind to say, Hey, if a pandemic happens again, this is what we learned, right?


Sam Demma (22:47):
Yeah. It’s that old, it’s that old proverb that says, when you chase two rabbits, you catch none. And you’re trying to, you’re trying to do this integrated learning with online and in-person, you’re losing it, both of them right now because you’re dividing the attention maybe. And I love the candid approach. I love the honest open truth because that’s what other educators want to hear, including myself and the students. I’m sure if I was in school right now, I would be saying minorities, the best job, whatever, whatever I gotta, I gotta take the consideration of, of their point of views into the bucket of opinions as well. So I love that. You’re considering that Angelo, look, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting with you briefly today. You know, it’s, it’s already been 30 minutes. That’s crazy. Yeah. Why is it we’re having a good conversation? And if any educator from around the globe listening to this wants to reach out to you, where can they just, you know, email you or


Angelo Minardi (23:42):
Get into the app? Absolutely. So email, just angelo.minardi@dpcdsb.org. I’m on social media as much as I can. So on Instagram @ambrozicchaplaincy on Twitter @ambrozikchap. And recently students have encouraged me to start up a YouTube channel. I’m not, not quite sure how to use that yet. I’ve just got daily prayers on there, but I’m even on YouTube as Cardinal Ambrozic CSS Office of Chaplaincy So yeah, you can certainly try there as well.


Sam Demma (24:14):
If anyone has some unique advice to share with Angelo on using YouTube more effectively, please do reach out.


Angelo Minardi (24:21):
I’m reading it. I’d love to be an expert please. Yeah, man, for sure.


Sam Demma (24:25):
Awesome. Angelo again, thank you so much for taking the time. It’s been an absolute pleasure.


Angelo Minardi (24:29):

Hey, thank you, Sam. All the best with your stuff too. You’re doing great, man. Thanks so much.


Sam Demma (24:34):
Another jam packed interview with yet again, another high-performing educator Angelo, again, would love to hear from you and have an amazing conversation. So please be sure to reach out. And if you enjoyed this episode as always, please leave a rating and review. Let me know how you liked it. Some more educators can find it or even better yet. Tell your colleagues about this show. And if you know someone or you are someone who has inspirational stories and actionable ideas, we would love to interview you. I would love to interview on the podcast. So shoot an email to info@samdemma.com and let’s make it happen. Thank you.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Angelo Minardi

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.

Kelly Weaver – Director of Student Activities at Iolani School & Fo under of Soulvivor808

Kelly Weaver, Director of Student Activities lolani school
About Kelly Weaver

Kelly Weaver (@NaturalRedHead) is the student activities director at Iolani School in Hawaii. When she’s not in the school building, Kelly is a certified Law of Attraction Life Purpose Coach, solopreneur, writer, speaker, wife, and mother of two beautiful daughters. For almost two decades she has taught middle and high school students in both public and private schools.

In 2014, she finally took her own advice and moved from inner-city Reading, Pennsylvania to Honolulu, Hawaii to pursue HER dreams! Let her teach you how to reach new heights in all areas of your life through her amazing book, “Living Your Own Aloha: 5 Steps to Manifesting Your Dreams” and personal coaching services.

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

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The Law of Attraction Explained

Living Your Own Aloha: 5 Steps to Manifesting Your Dreams

The Dream Machine Tour USA

Charlie Rocket

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 (00:05):
Kelly, Aloha, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by just introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what brought you to where you are in education today?


Kelly Weaver (00:23):
Sure. Well, Aloha Sam. Thank you so much for this opportunity. My name is Kelly Weaver. I currently live and teach in Honolulu, Hawaii at a private school. I actually am the director of student activities, but I had taught English for 16 years and my heart and soul was at the middle school level. I actually do work at both the local and national and state level for the middle school association. And so my career started right out of high right out of college, like most educators, and this is my 23rd year.


Sam Demma (01:06):
Wow. That’s amazing. I have to give you a round of applause for that. That’s amazing. And so tell me more about, you mentioned that middle school is it’s the heart of everything you do. And what brought you to that realization? Tell me more about where that passion grew from.


Kelly Weaver (01:26):
That actually grew from my own experience as a middle school student. So I had an incredible middle school experience, which I know most people that is like an oxymoron that doesn’t happen. But my favorites teacher, the reason I became a teacher I had both in seventh and eighth grade, my school did a looping, so the teachers really got to know us developed relationships with us and it was then that I just knew when I, when I student taught, I specifically said, I really want to teach middle school because I know that that’s what I want to do. And then it was exactly where I was supposed to be. I feel like those kids are in the middle, they’re misunderstood. I had a pretty rough growing up and if it hadn’t been for my middle school teachers and that age, those teachers that were supporting me, I would not be the success that I am today. So I kind of felt like I wanted to return it to those students. And yes, they are full of energy. Some days are hard, some days are crazy, but they really wants an adults and they need someone that cares about them. And so I just committed most of my career to really learning everything that I could about that developmental age.


Sam Demma (02:39):
That’s amazing. And I want to, I want to go back to when you were that student again for a second those teachers that had a huge impact on you, what is it specifically that they did, if you can think back and remember that you think made a big impact on you when you were going through those tough times? I’m just wondering, because if another educator is listening and wondering, they can be there for their kids or be that teacher like they were for you. Yeah. I’m just curious to know what those things might’ve been.


Kelly Weaver (03:06):
I know exactly what it was, and it’s one of the things that was always my philosophy as a teacher. They don’t care how much, you know, until they know how much you care. And I was going, like I said, through a very tough time in my childhood. And if it hadn’t been for them, recognizing it and taking a moment to say, you know, some of the things going on with this, with a student outside of the classroom, let’s develop a great relationship with her. Let’s figure out what’s going on. No one would have known what was going on. And so, and I don’t think I would be where I am today without that guidance. So I really encourage people. It’s building relationships is the absolute first key. And I spent a lot of time when I was in the classroom, making sure that I spent a lot of time getting to know my students as, as people and what motivates them before I could teach them pronouns and adjectives. They just, they’re not going to care about that stuff. That’s not what they’re going to remember about you. They’re going to remember how much you cared about them.


Sam Demma (04:10):
Yeah. It’s so true. And what does that look like in the classroom? Getting to know your students? Is it just like having everyone share a story or how do you encourage students to share about themselves so that you can kind of learn some more and start building that, that, that personal relationship?


Kelly Weaver (04:26):
It starts, the minute they walk in the door, it’s a personal greeting. It’s knowing their names, getting to know their names. I can say is the absolute first thing, you know, especially, I know it’s hard with teachers. We, a lot of us teach, you know, hundreds. Literally. I remember when I was in the classroom, I had, you know, like 180 kids on my team. You got to get to know their names. You got to ask questions every day. You have to be cognizant when they come in, you know, do you see them smiling? Do they look sad? Just really talking to them and getting to know them. And one of the other really cool activities that I used to do was actually involved the parents. It was called in a million words or fewer. So one of the first things I would send out to parents was asking the parents to write a, basically an essay about their kid.


Kelly Weaver (05:10):
And they could tell me in, you know, just a few sentences or I had people write pages, but that really got me to know the kid on a level that I would not have known. And then as a team I would share, I would share that with our team. So we would really get to know. And one of my favorite stories about that was a mother who wrote in that when she was in labor, she was a professor and she was actually in labor during a final exam and she couldn’t leave. She felt like she couldn’t leave. So she watched a Palm tree swaying in the wind to concentrate on her breath. And she swears the that’s why her son has such an easygoing and loving personality. So things like that, you wouldn’t learn right about your, about your students, but really cool stories and sometimes some really good information.


Sam Demma (05:59):
That’s so cool. And did you know when you were going through school that you wanted to be in working in a school in the future and be an educator yourself, or where did that career passion stem from?


Kelly Weaver (06:12):
A million percent. I wanted to be a teacher since I probably could talk. I just loved school. I loved it. But it wasn’t until middle school that I, I loved writing and I loved reading and it wasn’t until middle school. When I met my favorite teacher, the reason that I became a teacher, Mrs. Henrik, that I realized I could combine both love for reading and writing and be a teacher and teach that to other students.


Sam Demma (06:39):
Wow. That’s awesome. And did you have people or teachers in your life direct you in that direction and say, you know, Kelly, when you grew up, you know, please get into teaching. Did you ever consider anything else or was it just a straight arrow path? Like you’re saying like high school university, you go to teacher’s college, boom, boom, boom. Get into teaching.


Kelly Weaver (07:01):
There was one time. So when I got into high school, I was interviewed for the, our we had a wonderful TV program and I was interviewed about something that I did and the teacher of that came up to me and was like, you know, you did such an amazing job and you feel so comfortable on TV. Would you like to be a news anchor for our show? And so I did do TV news, both in in high school and then in college I did for a semester. And so I was really considering communication and maybe switching. But to me, honest with you, I’m glad that I didn’t because teaching is where it was supposed to be for sure.


Sam Demma (07:42):
That’s amazing. I love to hear that. And what did the first role that you took on in school? What was it, and then tell us about, like, tell me about the other positions you’ve worked in and then also what you’re doing now.


Kelly Weaver (07:57):
Oh my goodness. So my first year was the typical first year teacher. Where, how do you survive? I actually was teaching eighth grade and ninth grade and I was teaching journalism and speech. So I had four preps as a brand new teacher to different grade levels. It was a junior high model. So it wasn’t like the teaming model that we had. I coached track. I helped with the school play. Like I remember when I got the job, right. It was what you do as a new teacher. You do everything because you’re lucky to have a job. But my student teaching actually really prepared me for those preps. You know, I didn’t realize that at the time, but my mentor was losing her mind and administration saying, this is not fair to give those poor 22 year old. And you know, it was, I’m not gonna lie.


Kelly Weaver (08:45):
I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but it was a tough year because here I am 22, these kids are not that far in age, you know, ninth grade, they’re 14 and 15. And they gave me a run for by money for sure. But it’s solidified that absolutely. This is what I was supposed to be doing. So I started out at a small school, so I grew up, I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. So that’s where my career started. And then I got pregnant with my first daughter and I transitioned to a school that was much closer to my home. And I, I took on a reading course. So I was teaching reading for a year. Then I went back into teaching eighth grade on a team level. And throughout my career, I’ve taught seventh, eighth and ninth grade. I’ve taught English, journalism, drama, speech a class called communications. And then I had a dream and I wanted to move to Hawaii and I wanted to teach here. And so I applied and I taught English for one year. And then I moved into my dream job of student activities, where I direct all of the activities from grade seven to 12. So I like to say on the director of fun.


Sam Demma (10:04):
That’s amazing. And so your dream was to move to Hawaii. Where did the rest of the dream come from to do student activities? At what point in your career did you want to get more involved and be the director of fun?


Kelly Weaver (10:17):
Well, I did not know that that position existed because on the mainland, that’s not really a thing. And maybe it is, and I apologize to anyone listening that, but it wasn’t on the east coast. Right? I did all the things that I did on top of teaching, but all I do now is focused on student leadership and activities. So it wasn’t really that I was looking for the dream job in Hawaii. I didn’t, like I said, I didn’t know existed. I was moving thinking. I was going to just teach English. And that was my passion. And that was what I thought I was wanting to do. Actually, I started to get an itch that I wanted to get out of the classroom. I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted to do leadership. And so initially I started looking at becoming a middle school. I really wanted to move into the private sector because what I liked about the private sector was you could actually become a middle school director or the principal.


Kelly Weaver (11:09):
If, if public school people are watching, but you still could teach a class, you still had that realm in the, in the classroom, which I always felt as an administrator is important. You can’t lose touch with what it’s like in the trenches. So for me, I wanted another leadership position. And to be honest with you, the more I looked, I was like, it’s taking me away from the students. And that’s where my love is. So this job was perfect because it’s a leadership position, but my, my day involves kids. And that’s my focus all day, not all the politics and red tape, put the bureaucracy to the side, focus on the fun and the students.


Sam Demma (11:42):
I love it. You know, all of the educators that are tuning in potentially from Canada and some places in Ontario, they’re probably like student directors of fund student activities. Like what does this entail? It might be called something different in Canadian schools. So if you want to break it down, what do the roles and responsibilities look like for a, you know, director of student activities? Sure.


Kelly Weaver (12:07):
So our school, it’s basically student council, student government. So each class seven through 12th has their own election for president vice president, secretary and treasurer. And then we as a school community, elect what we call three pro councils, which are basically the student body presidents. There’s three of them. And then we have committees. We actually have 10 committees and they are different. They’re like spirit, big spirits, small. And all of those are very focused on something. So I’ll give you one example. We have a faculty relations committee, those students apply to be on the committee. They there’s an application process. And then we go through and vet them out. And what they focus on is strictly our faculty. So they create activities and all kinds of different things just for the faculty. So for example, right now we just welcomed a whole bunch of new teachers.


Kelly Weaver (13:01):
So they bought popcorn bags and they created this little tag that said, just popping in to say, have a great year. And we put that in all of the new teacher’s mailboxes. This will make some people very jealous listening out there, but because we are a private school and we have some funding, we actually have, what’s called one teen week, which is our teacher appreciation week. And that’s the week that my faculty relations committee really delves into. So they plan teacher dress stays like fun days. Like it might be what we call fashion. No, no day. They we’ve. We’ve done gone so far as we’ve brought massage therapists for our teachers, we do food giveaway, we have lunches. So basically it’s, what’s the kid’s imagination is the limit. And they come up with really amazing things to do, you know, in that particular committee. And that’s one committee, but I have nine others that focus on other aspects of the school. So we really make sure we reach the student body as well as our teachers and stuff.


Sam Demma (14:03):
Oh, that’s amazing. And


Kelly Weaver (14:04):
Then we do all the activities. We do, homecoming proms dances any kind of activity nights assemblies. We do it all from my office. So we really teach students the leadership skills and the qualities that they need to run events and what’s required of those so that they have those skills when they go on to college and do things like that.


Sam Demma (14:27):
That’s amazing. And is this your, this, this doesn’t sound like it’s your first year in this position? How long have you been doing school activities?


Kelly Weaver (14:35):
This is my seventh year in student activities.


Sam Demma (14:38):
What was it like on year one?


Kelly Weaver (14:40):
Oh, my gosh, year one was like my first year teaching. I remember sitting down in front of, so my, I have a partner and she actually is, what’s called daughter of the school. So when a student goes from K to 12 and graduates, they are a son or daughter of the school. So she is an alumni. So she knows the school and the culture very well. And I remember the first year I sat in front of my computer and it was the first time. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. And I mean that sincerely, I was like, I’m looking at her. Like, I don’t even know what to do. You know, with teaching, didn’t matter what school you went to, you learned the school and you learn their systems, but I knew, okay, I got to do a lesson on this.


Kelly Weaver (15:25):
This was like, what? So thankfully the person before me wrote meticulous notes and a blueprint, and I had been here you’re for one year as an English teacher. So I saw all of the activities that we did, but it was very, very overwhelming. But now my partner and I, we are a well-oiled machine. We don’t even have to like, it’s like, she knows, this is my lane. This is what I’m working on. I know this is what she’s working on. You know, things we do together, but we really are an amazing team. And then we have amazing students. It’s like, I can’t shout them out enough because if it weren’t for our students and their ideas and creativity, my job would be way harder.


Sam Demma (16:08):
Oh, that’s awesome. I love that. And you can tell that you enjoy the job. Like, even while you’re talking right now, you seem so happy and like energetic about it, which is so important. You know, putting teachers in positions that they actually love. And you’re definitely going to make teachers jealous, talking about massage therapists, bringing them in.


Kelly Weaver (16:27):
I can’t believe I lived this life. I’m just like really


Sam Demma (16:30):
Well, you know, it goes to show that you, I mean, it started in your head, right? You created it. It started in your head. You, you decided what you were going to do and Aloha now we’re here. You know?


Kelly Weaver (16:41):
Well, if I could say something to that, cause you just triggered down my next love. So I’m also in my free time, which I really don’t have free time. I’m a law of attraction coach. So I believe very much in deliberate creation. And I actually wrote a book, my first book called living your own, aloha five steps to manifesting your dreams, which is on Amazon. And it’s the method and the steps that I created to use to manifest my dream life here in Hawaii and my dream job. So I love that you said that because you’re exactly right. We have a vision, we take action toward those steps and we can really create the life that we love


Sam Demma (17:18):
Kelly, you and I are going to be best friends!!


Kelly Weaver (17:24):
Together for a reason.


Sam Demma (17:25):
Right. It has. This is so cool. And what when in your career did you write your book and what prompted the creation of it?


Kelly Weaver (17:32):
So I wrote the book it just got published in March, so it’s been out. I started the book actually finished it really during COVID. I was writing every single Sunday. I was making a point to it. What started? It was just that I just love the law of attraction. I love how it has actually, to be honest with you. I know this is not about teaching, but I had my spiritual awakening in 2009 here in Hawaii. I dislocated my ankle in the airport, coming home from a 10 year wedding anniversary trip with my husband. And it really broke me open to healing that I needed to do. Like I told you about my childhood and I wanted other people. I just, I saw so many people and teachers, especially, especially during COVID so burnt out, not feeling like they have any control in what they can create in their life.


Kelly Weaver (18:23):
And I was like, you know what? I need to share this with people, how I did it. They need to know that no matter what their life has started as, as a child or whatever they’re going through, they can, they can create this beautiful life that they want to live. And it’s what I’ve taught my students over the years. Like I use these principles with my students and I’ve helped them get into colleges and help them get more money for college. And so it’s just something that I love to pass on to people. And I thought, you know what a book is the best way. It’s the fastest way. It’s the cheapest way. Let’s get this information out.


Sam Demma (18:55):
And how do you explain the law of attraction to a teacher? So there’s an educator listening right now and maybe they’re not familiar with the concept. Can you break it down a little bit or maybe even using some of the ideas from your book?


Kelly Weaver (19:05):
Yeah. So law of attraction is just about what you put out. You get back, whether that’s good or bad, and you are a Dilbert creator, you have the ability to create your own life. So in the book I use the word Aloha this and see, this is where my teaching has paid off because my book is very much a handbook, a guide. I give you very tangible tools. That was very important to me as an educator. It’s like, I don’t want to just spell, you know, theory and rhetoric to you. I want to give you tangible what I call inspired assignments that you can actually do. And so the five-step process is a low hot ask. Listen opportunities, how, and act as if, and those are all the principles of the law of attraction that you can take. So basically you set an intention.


Kelly Weaver (19:51):
You believe, you feel that you’re going to receive it and you trust in divine timing. You don’t know, worry about how it’s going to come and you bring it into your life. That is how I got the job here. When I was initially hired here, I applied for the student activities job. I did not get it. I went home. I was convinced Sam. I was like, I told my husband, I’m like pack your bags. The guy that I met here had family and connections in Pennsylvania. We had this amazing connection. My husband’s like, I can’t believe you’re going to get this job just because you know someone at Pennsylvania, I didn’t get it. I was, I was, I was denied the job. And then I, I was so angry at the universe. God, higher power, whatever you believe in. I, I was like, that’s it.


Kelly Weaver (20:35):
I throw in the towel, I’m over this. Why is nothing happening? I had been trying to get a new job. And a week later they called me from the school and they said, we know you were looking to move into leadership. And we know you applied for this other job, but you, you amazed us at the interview. And we would love to have you as an English teacher here. And at first my husband said, we’re not moving for you to teach English. We’re not moving all those miles away. You’re teaching English now. And I said, that job is going to be mine. And guess what happened? I had the clear intention. I knew it was mine. And several months later the man that interviewed me he left, he left the island. And not only did he leave, but his assistant left. So not only was there one job now, there were two. So it works. You know, it works how it comes about and what timing. That’s what we have to let go of. But if we are, if we know and we have a sense, it will work out. And so I want to encourage educators. If there’s other things out there that you’re passionate about, that you love, like put it out there, you know, and take some action. You gotta take some steps. You can’t just sit around, but you can make it happen a hundred percent


Sam Demma (21:48):
And Aloha act as if is that for acting as if it’s already happened?


Kelly Weaver (21:52):
Yeah, this is really weird. But I write about this in the book. I literally, when I got, when I found out that the job was open again, I actually would, anytime I would pretend to answer the phone, I would say, hi, this is Kelly. Student activities would say that all the time. I envisioned myself in the, in the deck at the desk. I mean, just really put myself and my feelings into that. And I’m telling you, it worked multiple stories like that in the book of like, that’s the other thing in the book. I don’t just, this, isn’t all just theory. This is what I’ve had to go through. And what I’ve done to prove to you that, that whatever that assignment is, it works


Sam Demma (22:37):
Well. I have goosebumps because I live by the same philosophies and there’s a guy actually, who’s going to be driving through who I assume named Charlie rocket. And he has this bus called the dream machine. And he goes around in the U S and make people’s dreams come true. And I wanted to reach out to him because I speak in schools and he was doing all this work, but he wasn’t talking to students and I had this idea and this was like a year ago. Wouldn’t it be so cool. If in all the states he stops in while he’s doing amazing work, I kept like, you know, speak to the students of the schools in the local cities and spread the, you know, initiative on the ground. But the issue was, you know, he has 500,000 followers. You know, he’s super big. And it’s like, how is, how am I going to get ahold of this guy?


Sam Demma (23:18):
And so I started writing down in my notebook, Charlie and I are working together. He just doesn’t know it yet. Charlie and I are working together. He just doesn’t know it yet. And low and behold, I got so obsessed with the idea because I was acting as if it already happened. Your mind starts racing and the obsession led to some ideas. And so I realized he had his own podcast was 62 episodes. So I made a, I took two weeks to listen to all 62, made a page of notes of every single episode, stapled them together, put a cover letter on it that said, Hey, Charlie, my onboarding is done. When can we get started? Put the notes inside a custom printed box with his logo all over it. Then I interviewed his co-founder, who was more of a behind the scenes kind of guy to try and get a mailing address.


Sam Demma (23:58):
We had a phenomenal conversation at the end and he’s like, here’s the mailing address? I got the mailing address, got the box, shipped it off a week and a half, two weeks later, Charlie FaceTime me on my phone. We had a full hour and a half conversation and, you know, things didn’t work out for different reasons, but I wanted to share that story with you because I think that I manifested that into my life. The same way you’re explaining you as an educator manifested your role and the work you’re doing now. And I think it’s such an important thing to remind ourselves that we are the creators of our destinies. And at any moment we can change something we’re not happy about. So I just want to share that story as well. Real quick.


Kelly Weaver (24:36):
Yeah. I literally, they had, they called chicken skin here in Hawaii. I mean, that is a cry. Yes, you totally did. And you know what, that’s another good point. Even if something doesn’t happen at the end of it, right. You just never know what it’s going to eventually, you don’t know, like it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over. It could, it happened to me. Like I won’t bore you with another story, but I do a radio segment here in Hawaii on Tuesdays. And I initially, you know, was asked to just do one episode and they weren’t they weren’t calling me back and they were calling me back and I like got really upset. I’m like they said, they were going to put me on. It was, you know, to help me promote my book. And then sure enough now only am I now on one episode, if through a whole other story, I’m now on the show on Tuesdays. So again, when I thought I was mad that they weren’t calling me for one thing, the universe was like, you said, you want it to be on radio. It was already working in the background for me. And it was working better than I expected. So sometimes you just want to say, okay, you know,


Sam Demma (25:40):
Yep. What if things could turn out better than you expected? That’s the question you ask yourself. Right. And, and it’s funny, like, I, I was thinking the same thing. So like what ended up happening is I had the choice to make it was to leave what I was doing now and do something very different that I wasn’t as passionate about or to continue doing the work I’m doing now. And so I ended up not going, so I didn’t want to give up something that I love here, but we still stay in touch and who knows what’s going to happen four or five years down the road. Right.


Sam Demma (26:09):
So we just keep living the Aloha lifestyle. I love it. Well, this interview is taking an amazing turn. I’m so glad we touched upon this. If you could give your younger education self one piece of advice, if you could go back 23 years and speak to Kelly, when she just started teaching, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?


Kelly Weaver (26:31):
Oh, my that’s a great question. I think it would be to not to be able to say, and I know that that maybe sounds counterintuitive, but I now live by the mantra. Does it tire or does it inspire me? And I think early on in our careers, as you know, we want it, we want to be the model teacher, which is great. We want to do all the things, but we burn ourselves out, you know, when we take away from ourselves and our own self care. And so it would just be that it’s, it’s okay to say, no, you’re not a bad person. You’re setting you’re setting boundaries because you need that. And I think it with COVID this past year, I’m hoping a lot of educators were able to do that. They were able to set those boundaries because otherwise, you know, I think that’s, you know, you just would burn out. And I see that in so many younger people, they feel obligated to say yes to everything, you know? So I would just tell myself it’s okay to say no, sometimes


Sam Demma (27:39):
Amazing love that. Awesome. And if someone’s listening to this love, the conversation wants to either buy your book, get in touch with you, ask a question, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you?


Kelly Weaver (27:50):
I do actually have a website so they could, you know, email me on there. It’s www.soulvivor808.com. And you can also just email me at soulvivor808@gmail.com as well. I’d love to connect if anyone has any questions at all.


Sam Demma (28:16):
Amazing Kelly, thank you so much again for taking some time to chat about all this on the show. Enjoy the rest of your school year and well, we’ll talk soon.


Kelly Weaver (28:25):
Aloha. Thank you, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Kelly Weaver

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.

Erika Rath – Director of Student Services at The Sacred Heart School of Montreal

Erika Rath Director of Student Services The Sacred Heart School of Montreal
About Erika Rath

Erika Rath joined the Sacred Heart School of Montreal in 2012 as an English teacher and later became the Director of Student Services. She was recently awarded the 2021 award for teaching excellence by the Prime Minister for her outstanding work in empowering girls to become transformative leaders

Erika’s primary focus is ensuring that all students are successful at Sacred Heart. Her definition of student success is not based on grades or university acceptance, but rather on the belief that every student must be equipped with the tools needed to succeed beyond high school – namely confidence, determination, and resilience. Erika encourages students to think differently by helping them identify their strengths and their passions, and how the two synergistically work together to help lead a purposeful life.

She organizes dozens of events each year to improve student life and support services.  She also teaches a personal development course and works closely with her students to understand their challenges and co-create unique solutions.

Connect with Erika Rath: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Erika Rath Personal Blog

Master of Arts in Educational Psychology at McGill University

Trunk or Treat

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 your speaker Sam Demma. On today’s episode our special guest is Erica Rath. She is the director of student services at the sacred heart school of Montreal. This conversation happened literally yesterday, but there was so many gems and timely information related to Halloween ideas that I decided it needed to be posted. Right now there’s so much insight and actionable tips that Erica provided on this episode. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you take something away from it and make sure you listen to the end. So you can reach out to Erica and have a educator to educator conversation. Anyways, I’ll see you on the other side, here’s the interview, Erica. Welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. It is an absolute pleasure to have you on here. Why don’t you start by telling the audience a little bit about yourself and how you got into the work you’re doing with young people today?


Erika Rath (01:00):
Sure. Thanks Sam. Thanks for having me. So my name is Eric Rath and I’m the director of student services at the sacred heart school of Montreal in Montreal, Quebec. And I’ve been here for eight years. Not always in this role. Actually, I started off here as an English teacher at a 50% contract taking over a mat leave position. And throughout the years that I’ve been at sacred heart, I’ve had a lot of different roles taking on very different and unique opportunities and, and mat leaves filling in whenever I could be of service. And throughout that time gaining a lot of experience and finally getting a permanent full-time role as the director of student services, which really encompasses a lot, all of student life, our residents and boarding program, a student accommodations, international student integration, etc. There’s, there’s so much how did I get into this? Well, you know, I feel like teaching kind of fell into my lap instead of me falling into it. I was running an afterschool program at a school and I was tutoring and just helping some students with homework and realized that I had a passion for helping students, especially students with some learning challenges. And I didn’t have a teaching degree and I was working in a school. And finally I said, I guess I gotta go back to school and get a teaching degree. So I did.


Sam Demma (02:18):
That’s so awesome. And at what point in time did that decision come to mind? Like how long had you been working in a school? Did you know you wanted to be a teacher eventually or work in a school more, I guess professionally, like when did that all come about for you?


Erika Rath (02:34):
Great question. I was actually working in a school just as a resource teacher. So really doing more one-on-one tutorials with students who needed some extra time and maybe learning things in a different way. I realized that I was really good in terms of weaving a story and helping students understand facts not just by memorizing them, but by telling them a story that they can make a connection. And I was doing my masters at McGill in educational psychology. And, but I didn’t have a bachelor’s of education. I had a bachelor’s of arts. So I realized that if I wanted to continue working at a school, I had already been there for five years, but I wasn’t really permitted to teach without a license that I would have to go back to university. And so I actually went to university of Toronto and did the one-year teaching program and realized that even though I kind of did everything backwards, it was the right thing for me, because I had already had the classroom experience. So when I went to U of T and we would do these courses on classroom management, I would kind of laugh because you read these theories in the book, but like no offense to the author. They never really work out the way they’re supposed to. Right. I mean, I had like real life experience. But my stashes and my practicums were so meaningful and so beneficial. I loved working at the TDSB. It was incredible experience for me.


Sam Demma (04:02):
You said something so important. You knew it was right for you. And I feel like even students today, they have an idea of what their future might be. And although it might be a little controversial or different or unconventional, it’s important to encourage students to go for those dreams, even if it is backwards because everyone’s timeline of life is always different during a time. Like COVID-19, how do we ensure our students feel appreciated, heard, and supported although in a different format, if it’s virtual school or in-person


Erika Rath (04:36):
For sure, I completely hear you. So first we always tell our students that there’s no right or wrong way, way everybody’s path is different, right? So, you know, in Quebec students graduate from high school and grade 11, and they usually do a grade 12 or CGEP. And, you know, students are kind of forced to make decisions really on early on in their lives. And it’s kind of not fair because you really know at the age of 15, what you want to do for the rest of your life. I mean, I certainly didn’t know. And so I always say to students there’s never a wrong or right choice. And there’s always way to change your mind. You know, I have friends who in their twenties and thirties decided they wanted to go into medicine and they had to go back and do their high school courses.


Erika Rath (05:18):
So does it take you a little bit longer to get there? Yes. but is it possible? Yes. So that’s the first thing there’s never a wrong path. The other way it, the other thing is, is I think we need to listen more to our students right now. I think we’ve always needed to listen to them. But at sacred heart, I think we do a really good job of that because we put our students first and I think we need to meet our students where they are right now. And not pretend that this is just going to blow over in a day or in a week or in a month because it’s not. And we need to really hear what our students are telling us and meet their needs, head on, if can do that. Then I think together, we can overcome these challenges, but if we’re not ready to do that, then I think there’s just going to be you know, there won’t be opportunities for collaboration, which is what we need.


Sam Demma (06:11):
That’s amazing. And you know, it’s been a few months now into school and I’m sure you’ve been listening to students and hearing from students and having them sit in your office. What have you been hearing so far? Tell me more about what the students are saying.


Erika Rath (06:24):
Sure. I think students are telling us that there’s a lot of COVID fatigue, right? As I think we’re all suffering from, but I think they suffer from it in a different way. I think as adults, we have a different sense or a different level of resilience and flexibility. Not that it’s better or worse, just that we, we can carp compartmentalize a little bit differently and, and put things on a shelf and put them aside for a while where students are kind of still learning how to do that. In Montreal right now in Quebec, students are on a one day one-off type of cycle. So they’re in school one day, physically, and then they’re online at home. And I think that’s hard for them. I, I, I feel for my students because this is not what high school is supposed to be like, right.


Erika Rath (07:09):
High school is supposed to be fun all the time and lots of activities and being together and not having to keep your distance. But I think we’re trying our best, what are, what my students are telling me is they still want to have fun. They totally understand that we need to be safe, but so how can we still have fun while being safe? Does it require a lot more planning? Oh yes it does. And the logistics, I’ve never worked on so many logistics in my life, but I think we’re capable of doing it because we’re all creative and we just need to work together to do it. And so the students are telling me, you know, Ms. Roth, let’s still work together. Let’s still be creative. We still want to do this for the students. We appreciate it, but we need to work on it even harder.


Sam Demma (07:54):
I love that if there’s a will, there’s a way. Exactly, exactly. That was something my grandfather always used to tell me. And I think it’s true now more than ever. It sounds like, and seems like you guys are really putting an effort into making things still happen at the school for the students. Someone recently described education to me as throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. And I really curious to know what has stuck so far. So have you tried some online things that worked and on the, on the opposite hand, have you done something and learn from it? Maybe it didn’t go as planned and you learned something. I think both of those, a huge win in a learning experience might be valuable for another educator listening.


Erika Rath (08:38):
Sure. So I think there’s a lot of the things that are working right now. I think we’re doing a really great job of engaging our community, our sacred heart community and not just the students, but their families as well. So we’ve done online bingo nights. We’ve done online Kahoot nights. We have online mass because we’re at Catholic school. And so what’s really unique about this is that our mass used to be on a Tuesday morning, let’s say at eight 30. And we would always invite parents, but you know, to physically come downtown to a school and, and to find parking, maybe it just wasn’t convenient. Now with parents working at home, they can log on through zoom. They can join our mass and feel a sense of belonging and a part of our community. So I think that more than anything has opened the door to community engagement, the second thing is, is I think parents are also suffering from COVID fatigue.


Erika Rath (09:25):
Like, what am I going to do with my kids this weekend? So you know, these online bingo nights or cahoots is a time for family fun. And it also is a lot of great engagement with the school. This weekend we’re super excited for Halloween, we’re doing an event called trunk or treat. And so we’re doing a drive-through haunted house at our school. So it’s totally contactless, totally safe cars enter our building. They’re supposed to have decorations and we’re going to judge the car. And then our prefects, our student and council are going to take cars through kind of like a story telling and show them like little spooky vignettes and run them through a, a haunted house. And, and there’s going to be tons of candy for all. And so it will be totally fun. We’re taking a real chance here. You know, we, we’re creative, we’re, we’re putting our minds together.


Erika Rath (10:19):
We’re trying to figure out how to be safe how to respect the government guidelines and of course had engaged community. So we’re really looking forward to that. I can’t tell you how it went because it’s going to happen this weekend, but I can let you know how it goes. Things that have been challenging are, you know, ensuring that students are engaged all the time when they’re online, you know, what is really stopping a student from yes. Getting out of bed and making sure she’s online for attendance, then kind of rolling over and half listening throughout a class. I think our teachers are doing an amazing job of trying to be as engaging as possible. But again, this is not the way that we signed up to teach. So like you said, what is sticking on that wall? I think the activities are sticking to the engagement, but I think there’s also only so much there’s, there’s online fatigue as well. And so the more that we go through this, you know, I think there’s going to be ebbs and flows about participation.


Sam Demma (11:19):
That’s awesome. And for any educator listening, thinking, wow, that Halloween idea is pretty cool. I don’t know if we can pull off building a haunted house. I have an idea as well. So my co-founder and I, we started this organization called pick waste his name’s Dylan, and we pick up garbage for the past three years. Every Saturday morning, we launched an initiative here called trick or trash, and the idea is kids still dress up. They go outside, fill the bag of garbage. And instead of going to a neighbor’s house to get candy, you bring the garbage, the bay for the trash back home, and then your parents reward you with candy that they bought. So, you know, if you can build a haunted house, go for it, you can always reach out and, and and ask Erica how she did it and how they planned it. I’m sure she’d be happy to help. And if that’s too audacious, try picking up some garbage.


Erika Rath (12:13):
I love this idea and I’m going to tell you, I’m going to steal it and I’m going to present it to our green team and they’re going to probably run with it. So I love this.


Sam Demma (12:19):
Tell them, so the time is the 31st 5:00 PM dress up take pictures of yourself after you clean up the trash and use the hashtag trick or trash. Yeah. You know what? This is a podcast is all about sharing ideas. So I thought I would chime in there really quick, but yeah, no, it’s, it’s refreshing to hear the optimism, despite the challenges, because every single educator I’ve talked to, despite the challenges right now seem to remain grounded in this hope. And I’m really curious to know what for you specifically keeps you hopeful about the work despite the challenges.


Erika Rath (12:56):
I I’d like to say that I’m so happy to hear that educators are still remaining positive. I think that’s incredible. I also think that we have to, I mean, let’s be honest if we’re not positive, I am kind of concerned about what the alternative would be. Also we’re role models for students. So if we’re not positive, we’re not saying, you know, things are going to be okay, then what’s the messaging that we’re sending for our students. So, you know, I still enjoy coming to work every day. I still really love being with the kids. COVID makes it a little bit harder. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy being here and I want to be here for them. So that’s part of why I’m, I’m still very optimistic. What gives me hope is that I think we need to use this time to really examine the purpose of education.


Erika Rath (13:41):
What is working? What is not, what can we improve on? What can we do better? What can we leave in the past? I think there’s a lot of lessons here. If we don’t take this time to examine that we are doing ourselves a disservice, but we also need to realize that we might need to do education a little bit differently than we’ve been doing it. And that’s okay. It’s a bit scary to think about that. Cause we’ve, we’re creatures of habit and we’ve all been doing the same thing. If we look back at school for the last hundred years, it hasn’t changed that much, right? The desk design has changed. Maybe some ergonomic chairs. Maybe we’re sitting in groups a little bit more, but there’s still a board there’s, there’s still, it’s still that same feeling. Right? So in terms of education, we might need to do it a little differently in terms of what we’re teaching.


Erika Rath (14:30):
I think we need to learn and show students that, and I know this is a buzzword, but how do we ensure that they are resilient? Because without resilience, I’m not sure that there is a way to move forward. How can we take this time and say, look, life is going to be different from what we know it. And even when COVID is over, it will have a lasting mark. So how can we take what we learned and move forward with it? But I’m hopeful because I think kids are very creative and they are resilient and the things that are coming out of this time, I’m, I’m blown away by the creativity and passion. I really am.


Sam Demma (15:12):
That’s awesome. Yeah. There’s, there’s so much to unpack in the piece. You mentioned about resiliency. I think it’s so true. I had a conversation with a superintendent of a school board here, the upper grand district school board. And he told me one of the biggest challenges that they thought they were going to face was getting kindergarteners to wear face masks. And you said lo and behold, you know, you tell them once, explain why they need to do it. And he says, all of these kids, these young, tiny little kids had no problem wearing masks all day long. And he’s like, you know, the resilience in those little kids just blew his mind. And I’m sure you’re seeing the same things in your school. Do you have any examples of how resiliency or anything that you guys have done in terms of activities have had a positive impact on your students?


Sam Demma (16:01):
And it could be a specific student who’s come to you and said, you know, this really helped me right now. I needed to hear this, or I needed to do this right now. And it could be a moment that wasn’t during COVID as well. The reason I ask is because I think one of the main purposes of education is to help students realize that they can make a difference, that they are, they are worthy, that they, that they matter that they have the ability to do whatever it is they want to do. And you know, you probably have this little folder on your desk or somewhere at home with all the notes that students have sent over the years saying, you know, thank you so much for this or that. Is there any stories out of those stories or examples that sticks out in your mind as a story worth sharing and you can change their name for privacy reasons. If it’s a serious one, I just think it might help. Re-inspire another educator to remember why this work is so important and why they should keep going.


Erika Rath (16:55):
Sure. So there’s a lot to say here. I mean, it’s not just one student, but I’ll, I’ll give like a few brief ones. So the first is something I do in in my class, I teach a very unique course called PD personal development. So we look at the whole student. And so what I do is I do an anonymous survey and basically I say to the students, tell me something that’s going well in school right now. And tell me something that you think we can improve on, but something realistic, not like, oh, it’s super hot. Let’s buy air conditioning units for all the classrooms, right. That’s not going to happen tomorrow. So it’s totally anonymous. And as I leave through, you know, 50, 60 comments I get to see what we’re doing well, according to them, you know, a lot of, I feel safe or I don’t like wearing the mask, but I, I appreciate why we’re wearing it.


Erika Rath (17:44):
It makes me feel safe. Oh, I can tell you’ve ramped up the cleaning that makes me feel good. So things like that. And then we used to improve would be like you know, Mr. Wrath at the next assembly. Could you do a, like another education spotlight on why the mask is important? My friends and I know it’s important, but I see other girls and they don’t think it’s as important. So it’s like, thank you. I didn’t know that part of my job needed to be done a little bit better. I need to know that if, for me to grow, I need feedback. So I really like that piece. The other thing is we had a student who was I would say withdrawing a little bit too much, not wanting to leave her house and feeling, you know, maybe a little insecure and maybe a little scared and, and that’s totally natural, you know, to have the unknown.


Erika Rath (18:35):
And so another faculty member and I realized we don’t live too far from her. So with permission from her parents, we said, you know, on our, one of our walks, how would you feel about us ringing your doorbell and saying, hi. And so she said, oh my God, you would do that for us. And I said, well, why not? Like we’re going to be out, no problem. And so I think it just really made her day to know that her teachers were taking their own time to come and visit and spend some time with her and make sure that she was okay. I mean, if a teacher had ever done that for me, I would feel so special. I’m so worthy of, of that person’s attention. Something else we did is at graduation last year, we hand delivered 40 plus cap and gowns to each of our students and their diplomas.


Erika Rath (19:23):
And then we got, we, we, we made appointments with all the families. They got dressed up, they had grandparents over aunts and uncles. They got balloons. They, it was really like a bit of a party scene safely, of course. And we took photos and we made it into a slideshow, which we showed at virtual convocation, but just them seeing us and not having seen us in months it was exciting and it, it made them feel good that they were graduating and that we cared about them to do this. I think it’s the small things that count. Is it easy to drive all over the city, you know, figuring out where kids live and organizing this? No, but it’s so rewarding. And I think for both parties, you know, I think there’s a little bit of selfishness in there. Like, yeah, it made me feel good when I showed up at so-and-so’s house and she had a big smile on her face. That’s some of the things that I could share with you.


Sam Demma (20:16):
No, that’s the whole win-win win of philanthropy, right? It’s, it’s like you win because you feel good. The other person wins because you make them feel good and the community becomes a better place. It’s like, it just, it’s a win-win win. So despite the, I guess the psychological selfishness of giving back it’s, it’s, it’s such a great thing to do. And I think when you can create a, a school culture where everyone strives to take those small actions for each other, you can’t lose. And you know, I think that’s an amazing, amazing way to do so love that you drove to her house. That’s so cool. I’ve never had a teacher do that for me. So that’s really cool. My, my curiosity I have a curious, curious question for you in regards to if a teacher ever did something like that for you. So you mentioned, you know, it would have been so cool if you had a teacher who did that, I’m guessing no one ever drove to your house either, but did you have any educators in your life that made a huge impact on you that you can remember? And what was it that they did for you that made a huge, a huge change or a difference?


Erika Rath (21:21):
There actually is one, I kind of grew up in a family where math should have been, my forte has, my father was an accountant and he kind of expected that math would come naturally to me. Unfortunately it didn’t, and he really couldn’t wrap his head around that. I couldn’t figure it out numbers. And so I was just really never great at math, even with tutors and such and, and doing pretty poorly in math at high, in high school until going into grade nine, I had a teacher named Hayley and I don’t know, she just, her charisma and her willingness to help and be encouraging. It’s not like overnight, I got 90, but, you know, I stopped failing tests and then I started doing better. I think her willingness to help and just knowing that she cared, changed everything for me. And I just remember her being such a prominent figure that year and just changing things around and also re like finally feeling proud to come home with a good mark to show my parents, knowing that she had helped me. And no, she never came to my house, but we developed a pretty special bond that when she had kids, she started asking me to babysit and I got to go to her house, but it was special to know that she thought I was responsible enough to come and take care of her children. That made me feel pretty special.


Sam Demma (22:46):
That is so cool. That’s true. Cool. Round circle story, you know, full circle story. You don’t like being the student and then becoming almost like the parent figure.


Erika Rath (22:58):
Yeah, it was really special. Like she let me into her home. That’s, that’s kind of giving up some privacy there that I think, you know, teachers don’t always do because they want to keep like home life and school life separate. So I think she knew that I respected her enough to keep it separate that I wasn’t going to go and tell all my friends, you know, like this is what’s at Hailey’s house, you know, just kind of like keeping it a little bit not hidden but respectful.


Sam Demma (23:23):
Yeah. It also sheds light on the fact that the teacher’s role is not only to teach curriculum, but to almost be a mentor and a guidance counselor to each student that they have. Now, you know, you don’t have to change the world or change everyone’s life. Like don’t take on that responsibility, but it definitely goes to show there’s so many layers to teaching.


Erika Rath (23:43):
We do wear a lot of hats as, as everyone always says, right.


Sam Demma (23:48):
If another educator listening to this wants to reach out bounce ideas around here, a little bit more about your Halloween house and how it went what would be the best way for them to do so?


Erika Rath (23:58):
Sure. My email is the best. I check it all the time. It’s pretty much attached to my hip. It’s erath@sacredheart.qc.ca. So it’s my first name, Erica last name Rath @ sacredheart.qc.ca. I check it all the time. And I’d love to hear from other educators. I love sharing ideas and hearing from others about what works and doesn’t, I’m definitely taking your tricker or trash idea. So I’d love to hear from other teachers out there about what they’re doing as well.


Sam Demma (24:28):
Awesome. Erica, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been a great conversation. Thanks.


Erika Rath (24:32):
You so much for having me. I really appreciate it.


Sam Demma (24:35):
There’s the full interview with Erica. I hope you took away actionable ideas and really enjoyed the episode. If you did, please consider leaving a rating and review so more educators can find this content and take action on these ideas and build a bigger network during this challenging time. And if you’re someone who has unique ideas, inspiring stories or actionable advice that you’d like to share on the podcast, please reach out. Shoot me an email at info@samdemma.com. And we’ll schedule a time to get you on the podcast as well, either way. I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Erika Rath

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.

Joshua Sable – Student Activity Director at TanenbaumCHAT

Joshua Sable Student Activity Director at TanenbaumCHAT
About Joshua Sable

Joshua Sable is a veteran educator, speaker and memory maker. His personal teaching philosophy is to: “give students a reason to come to school tomorrow.” Joshua is also the Student Activity Director at TanebaumCHAT.

The way he fulfills this philosophy is through the memory-making machine of student activities and school culture. In this episode, Josh shares actionable strategies to help you students make memories, right now!

Connect with Joshua: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Tanenbaum Chat High School

Theater and Performing Arts at York University

Mentor College

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 we have on a very purpose driven and passionate educator. His name is Joshua Sable. He is a veteran teacher, speaker, and memory maker. As you’ll hear about on this show, his personal teaching philosophy is to give students a reason to come to school tomorrow. And the way he fulfills this philosophy is through something he calls the memory making machine of student activities and school culture. In this episode, Josh shares actionable strategies to help your students make more memories right now. I’ll see you on the other side, Josh, thank you so much for coming onto the high-performing educators podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. I want you to first introduce yourself to the audience, tell everyone who you are, what you’ve done in education up until this point and why you initially got started in the work that you’re doing today with young people.


Joshua Sable (01:03):
Thanks so much for having me here today Sam. Its a real, real pleasure. My name is Josh Sable. This is my, let me do the math. This is my 26th year teaching. So I’ve been teaching for 26 years. I’ve spent the last 23 years at a school called chats or TanenbaumChat in Toronto, which is a high school in Toronto. And I’ve spent most of those years as a teacher of dramatic arts in English, but mainly as the director of student activities, which I’ve been doing there for the last 22 of my 23 years.


Sam Demma (01:42):
Nice. That’s so cool. What initially got you into education. Was there a teacher in your life that heavily impacted you and swayed you in that direction? Is it something you knew you wanted to do since you were a little kid? Everyone’s story is totally different. I’m just curious what yours is.


Joshua Sable (02:00):
It’s a great question. I was really into performing theater drama entertainments as a teenager. And a young person was very involved in student leadership, sports arts at my high school and outside of the high school. And then when I went to university, I knew I wanted to study theater. I wanted to study performance. I wanted to develop my craft, but when I finished my four-year degree in theater and performing arts at York university, I knew that there was something else I still wanted to do. I was working at summer camps at the time and I loved working with young people. And the idea of working in the arts exclusively was exciting. But at the same time, I knew that there were other things that I wanted to accomplish and other things that I wanted to do. And all of those seem to surround working with young people.


Joshua Sable (02:51):
So I got my teaching degree, started teaching right away at the age of 22 and I’ve been teaching ever since. That’s awesome. That’s great. And then my first year asking about teaching philosophy and what got me started or what got me energized. Can I tell you a quick story about my first year teaching? Absolutely. That’s why we’re here. My first year teaching, I was teaching grade seven. So my first three years I taught at a school called Mentor College in Mississauga, which is a great school. And I was teaching a homeroom. I was teaching grade seven and I was, I wasn’t feeling that inspired. I knew why I got into teaching. I didn’t know if I was making a difference. I didn’t know what sort of impact I was having on the young people in my classroom. And I was, I was struggling a little bit going through a little bit of a down period in my first year teaching.


Joshua Sable (03:43):
And one of the things we had to do on a regular basis at this private school was called parents once a month, just to check in, give them an update about how their students, how their children were doing. So I called one student in particular, not on our regular day and not as part of our regular monthly call because he had been missing a number of days. And I introduced myself. Mum recognized me. We had met before and I said, is everything okay with Chris? I haven’t, haven’t seen him as frequently as we normally see him is everything okay? And mum then starts to tell me how Chris Chris’s parents, mom and dad were, were going through a really bad divorce. And I didn’t know. And Chris was really, really struggling with it. So I said to mom, I said, look, tell Chris to take as much time as he needs.


Joshua Sable (04:38):
You know, we’ll be here for him whenever he comes back to school, how can I help? What can I do to help? I am happy to do anything that you need me to do. I can call him over the phone. We can, we can work on his math, his English on the phone. What can I do to help? And she said, well, she said, no, you don’t understand. She said, the only reason that he wants to come back to school is to see you and to hear your jokes and to be part of your classroom experience. She said, thank you for giving Chris a reason to come back to school. And I got those goosebumps like we do sometimes. And I had no idea that I had been part had played any role in having such an impact on him. And it hit me, hit me pretty hard.


Joshua Sable (05:29):
And at the time I was taking some courses at Boise for personal education and development and they kept asking us, what’s your personal teaching philosophy? I don’t know, be nice. You know, so don’t, don’t get hit by the chalk. You know, I, I didn’t know what my teaching philosophy was. And it was at that moment, not to sound too cheesy, but I really had an aha moment there where I said, that’s it? What Chris, what Chris’s mom said to me was, was my PR became my personal teaching philosophy, which was give someone a reason to come back tomorrow. And I started to think, how, how cool would it be? If everyone in our schools, student leaders, staff, custodian, support staff, if each of us just gave one person a reason to come back to school tomorrow, how much better what our school environment be. And, and you can have that impact in so many different ways, small, medium, or large, but that became a personal teaching philosophy for me.


Sam Demma (06:32):
I love that. And sometimes teachers and educators don’t see the impact they’re having until decades down the road. So I think it’s so cool that you highlighted that was in your first year that’s, that’s phenomenal. And I’m sure you’ve had dozens upon dozens of more stories, just like that one. And I was actually going to ask you that later in the podcast, if you want to hold on to one or two more stories that you have, that you think would be really impactful, and we’ll share them a little bit down this down, this journey that we’re going on with this podcast right now, a lot of teachers are faced with challenges. One of the challenges being to give students like the student, you just mentioned those opportunities to want to come back to school during COVID. How do we create those scenarios? How do we make a student feel appreciated and cared for when sometimes you can’t do it in person and the virtual stuff is kind of different and difficult?


Joshua Sable (07:23):
Well, first of all, it’s not easy. None of us have a magic wand or a genie in a bottle where we’re all trying. And there’s so many amazing educators across the province, across the country who are doing whatever they can to create a sense of comfort, a sense of peace, a sense of fun in their classroom and in their schools. We’re all trying, everyone’s trying their best. I start by trying to smile with my eyes because we are now limited in terms of our smile, our smiles now go from about the bridge of your nose up to the top of your forehead. So I, I honestly try to smile with my eyes when I walked down the halls, when I’m in the classroom, when we’re engaging with students and student activities I really try to do that. I, I’m trying to learn as many names as I can, which we should all do as educators.


Joshua Sable (08:16):
People, people need to know that other people know your name. And it’s so hard in a time when once again, you’re only limited with the top party or face to face threat face recognition is even more difficult. So I’m trying to learn as many names as I can. We’re giving out as much free food as we can, even with the limitations due to COVID. So, first day of school, we gave our students a wrapped fortune cookies, and they were personalized fortune cookies, not personalized, but they were personalized for our school. So we had our student council come up with 25 specific fortunes that would be heard for our school environment. And we handed them out to the students on the way. And normally we’d be handing out free food, like cookies or chips or things that we putting our hands into. And obviously we can’t do that right now.


Joshua Sable (09:03):
So we’re trying to find rap snacks that still have a sense of fun in the sense of a culture we did pajama day, the other day, we usually do cookies and milk. So we found some packaged cookies that we got donated, and we were given out free packaged cookies for anyone who was wearing their, their PJ’s. A couple of other COVID ideas just before the summer, we were looking to do some, like everyone’s doing a lot of videos of social media during COVID for sure. The mass singer was big. So we came up with our own version of the mass singer, where we got as many teachers as possible to record themselves singing, wearing masks of any kind they could be wearing their they could be wearing a Darth Vader mask. They could be wearing their kid’s sweatshirt over their head COVID mask, whatever they prefer.


Joshua Sable (09:54):
And I had them record themselves, singing twice one with the mask and then a big reveal where they take off their mask. So we edited it together. We sent it out to the student body. Students had to guess whose voice belong to whom. And then we had a second episode of the mass singer where we revealed the identity of the mass. So we’re just trying to keep things moving, keep them light, look, students, they’re smart. They know we’re in the middle of the pandemic. They’re not expecting us to move mountains and perform miracles, but what they appreciate is any student leader or staff member who is trying to make a difference to connect with them, to learn their name and to give them a reason to come back tomorrow night.


Sam Demma (10:36):
I love it. The philosophy rings through even in all those principles. And it’s evident, you’ve practiced this for a long time and people would argue smiling with your eyes. How do you do that? Well, the first thing is with an intention, if you have the intention to do so, it comes across that you’re caring that you’re happy. You know, maybe we get some see-through mask or some magic material that allows you to see the mouth. But without that again, it’s just the intention behind it. And you have all the right ones, which is awesome. What are some of the challenges that you’ve seen in your school so far? I know virtual engagements, definitely one common one among all the educators I’ve spoke to. But what are some of the challenges you’ve been presented with or have faced?


Joshua Sable (11:18):
Well, like most high schools, we, we have limited our attendance on a daily basis. So at our school, we’ve got 50% of the student body attending each day and they’re only attending to lunch afternoons or virtual learning, which is similar to what other schools across Ontario are doing. But the biggest challenge, look, we all, we’re, we’re human beings. We crave social interaction, human interaction. We need to get close to people. We need to sense that they care about us. We need to interact. Sometimes we need a high five, a hug, a handshake, whatever way we’re comfortable communicating. And I think that’s, that’s difficult. It’s been really difficult for people to not be able to gather together as a community in the ways that they are used to gathering together at our school. Especially we have a great sense of community sense of traditions and at lunchtime or during break times, we gathered the students together or as many as we can in common spaces to do fun things.


Joshua Sable (12:24):
And it’s been really challenging, not being able to congregate as a group. So especially once again, we’re only half the student body as attending on day one and half the other half is at home. So that’s been really, really challenging. But as I said before, everyone’s frying, whether it’s synchronous, learning, asynchronous learning reaching out to the students, I have noticed an increased level of kindness and tolerance amongst people in educational settings, getting less frustrated in front of students or at students, because I think most people do realize that yes, we’re all in this together. Be this too shall pass. But see, the biggest thing we all need right now is human kindness, a little bit of tolerance, support and understanding, and, and not, not to be short with people or a short tempered person.


Sam Demma (13:20):
Showing us what really matters. And it’s about the relationships with our students and our fellow educators or student leaders. What keeps you going? What keeps you hopeful? You have this positive aura, this enthusiasm, this energy, even when things are difficult, I would imagine you’re the teacher lifting everyone else up. What, what keeps you hopeful and motivated?


Joshua Sable (13:40):
Well, I, you know, I mentioned before this, you know, part, one of the teaching philosophy, this idea of, of giving people a reason to come back tomorrow, when we meet with student leadership at our school at the beginning of the year, I often ask them, what’s, what’s, what’s your role this year? And they’ll say, oh, I’m, I’m the VP or I’m the treasurer I’m in charge of communications. And they usually don’t guess the next question, which is, well, that’s, that’s your title, but what’s, what’s your role within the school? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to do? What sort of difference do you want to make in other people’s lives? And one of the things we talk about is this amazing opportunity that we have to make memories for other people. And I call student activities and student leadership, the memory making machine, you know, we’re in our school and yeah, as a teacher, it’s great.


Joshua Sable (14:32):
If you teach French, you can teach them how to conjugate a verb. If you teach math how to do algebra, if you teach science, you know, how to dissect a pig. But we all have this other amazing opportunity to actually create memories for other people. And yes, the memory can take different shapes and forms. The memory can be doing this great program at lunchtime and a kid got to wear a funny hat or get five more face or pay money to his teacher in the face with a sponge. And that’s part of the memory making machine. But part of the memory making machine is also opening the door for someone or, you know, smiling thumb when they’re having a bad day or asking them how their test was last period, or talking to them about the leaf game, because, you know, that’ll be a good distraction from whatever else is going on in their life.


Joshua Sable (15:25):
So making memories is not limited to being the most creative dynamic person who grabs the mic and talks in a big, you know, game show book. It’s about who’s overstayed checks, you know, which some of us can do, but that’s, that’s only a small piece of the memory making machine. So I encourage our student leaders to make memories and so own this idea of the memory making machine as much as possible. And, and that’s what keeps me going. This is challenge to make a difference in young people’s lives and to give them a reason to come back tomorrow through the memory making machine. That’s all


Sam Demma (16:01):
Awesome. And I want you to recall those stories now where you have helped other students make their own memories for themselves. Maybe they wrote, you wrote you a letter, 10 years down the road. Maybe they told you right when it had an impact on them, but recall a couple more of those stories that you think would be worth sharing to remind some fellow educators why it’s so important, the work they’re doing.


Joshua Sable (16:20):
Sure. And, and, you know, educators don’t do these things for the letters. We do everything just for the money. No. we don’t do things for the paycheck. We don’t do things for the, for the nice letters we do it because, you know, generally we, we care about young people and we were trying to give them an experience that’s maybe a little bit better than the experience of the students the year before or better than our experience. And we’re just trying to leave this school, this world a little bit better than, than how we found it. So. Sure. Yeah. I’ve got a bunch of stories. I’ll share a few and you can cut me off or tell me to keep going your, your, your call. Th the, the other thing I challenged student leaders to do when we come into meetings, I tell them my, my five favorite words to hear at the beginning of a student council meeting are, wouldn’t it be cool?


Joshua Sable (17:10):
If so, I want them to start a phrase with, wouldn’t it be cool if, and they finish that sentence. So oftentimes they’ll come into a meeting and they’ll say, and we had a student council president about 15 years ago, who said, wouldn’t it be cool if we slept at the school? And he was a bit of a, I don’t know, he was a bit of a showman. And he had all these crazy ideas. And sometimes the ideas didn’t necessarily come to fruition, but we all sort of laughed. And he said, no, no, no, I’m serious. Wouldn’t it be cool if we have a sleepover at the school? And we talked about it at first, everyone thought he was joking. And I said, well, you know what, Adam, we run a United way fundraiser single year. We don’t have a kickoff event for it. What if we had students pay money or raise money through their neighbors, friends, family, to sleep at school and we can run, you know a sleep over in the gym.


Joshua Sable (18:04):
We could have all these activities, we can play sports, play games. We can also decorate the school for United way. And then in the morning when people get up in the morning we’ll give everyone shirts that say, I slept at school for United way, and they’ll be wearing these big red shirts. And throughout the day, yeah, their eyes will be closed. They’ll be sleepy. There’ll be yawning and flat because they didn’t get much sleep, but that will be our big kickoff. Sure enough, the event came to fruition. Adam had the biggest smile on his face. He felt so good that this program was his idea. Sure. It’s our job as educators to help deal with logistics, to make sure the custodians know where to be, to make sure, you know, no one gets hurt, but we need to develop our ideas or to be energized by student ideas.


Joshua Sable (18:50):
And that was a classic example of that, you know a couple of years ago during the winter Olympics, students said, wouldn’t it be cool if we gave out some gold medals to to students for being great leaders at the school. So we brainstormed this at a student council meeting, we talked about it and they said, oh yeah. So how many would we do? Well, let’s do one per grade. We’ll give it to one student per grade. And another student said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if every student in the grade got a gold medal and that they, the kids said, yeah, that would be great. That would be amazing. And then other ones said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if each gold metal was actually personalized for the individual student? And they said, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then they said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if it were not only personalized, but referenced a specific skill or traits or characteristic that the person had and the kids say, yeah, let’s do it. So we’ve got a thousand kids in our school. We took these student council members from each grade. They’ve divided themselves up. They took old CDs, which if you have a young audience members there, I don’t know. How would you describe it, Sam? What’s, what’s a CD.


Sam Demma (20:02):
It looks like a disk, the hole in the middle.


Joshua Sable (20:08):
Oh, we got our computer. Some departments that donate all these old CDs that they weren’t using anymore. We took a grade list. We had the students write down something specific about every single student in their grade. So it said, let’s say your name was John Smith says John Smith, great smile, right. Or Toby Toby Rosen is you know, great at dance or whatever it is, you know, has a great slapshot, nice hair, whatever it is. Then we had the student council come and set up all the classes all at the same time. And they handed out these specific metals on strings, put them around the kids. And every single kid in the school had their moment, their gold metal with these personalized metals around their neck. And I remember a moment where I was peeking into a class, taking some pictures during this. And one of the kids looked at his metal and he looked at someone else’s and he said, Hey, my mine’s different from yours. And he said, do you think that they wrote a specific trait or manual for every single student in the grade? And the kids said, yeah. And then said, how cool is that? So it was a great moment for the student leadership because they got to see a program start from the ground up and come to fruition. But it was a great moment for the students who received the metals, which was really, really, really awesome. Really great.


Sam Demma (21:31):
No, that’s amazing. I love that story. And I was just on the cusp of being too old to know what a CD was, but I did use them in my former earlier years for sure. That’s awesome. Now you’re also somebody who’s been responsible for bringing in external presenters, bringing in organizations from the community to come and work with students. Do projects, fundraise, someone that we both know you brought in was Blake fly. I remember I was there watching him when he presented over your 26 years of education, you’ve probably worked with dozens of speakers. How do you bring someone in, or what are your grounds for deciding, you know, this is a message that I want my students to hear. And I want to put her in front of them.


Joshua Sable (22:13):
There’s so many events, six speakers out there, and we know the impact that a great speaker like yourself or someone who has a message and idea that they want to share. How, how, how impactful that can be. So we just look for someone that we think is going to connect with young people, someone that has a message and idea, something that’s going to make a difference in a young person’s life. Sometimes they can inspire a hundred percent of the audience. Sometimes they’re only inspiring 5% of the audience to make change, but if they can help just a few people in the audience make their day a little bit better, switch their perspective, switch their focus, give them a new angle, a new, take, a new taste. We’re excited about it. So, yeah, I, I, you know, every once in a while we try to bring in someone and whether it’s to work with a specific grade or leadership group or with the entire student body we’re happy to bring that in because it can make a huge difference.


Sam Demma (23:10):
Cool. Yeah. It’s helpful for people who maybe just be getting into a role or into education to hear that kind of stuff. And in relation to the messages that you’ve seen that have had the biggest impact, is it the message itself, the delivery, is it how they interact with the students? What leaves the greatest impact on the audience?


Joshua Sable (23:28):
Look, it’s it’s, you know, as, as the audience may guess who are listening today, it’s, it’s oftentimes a combination of those things, combination of the contents and the delivery. But young people are smart. They know when they’re being talked down to, they know they want to be respected in the same way that you were, I want to be respected and they want that sense of trust and that sense of community we all want to be liked. So I think if they feel like there are parts of the speaker’s worlds and that they are not being talked down to that they’re being respected as an interesting young adult with ideas and plans and hopes and dreams for the future. There’s a good shot that we’re going to, we’re going to have a connection along the way. Cool.


Sam Demma (24:13):
Awesome. And there’s an educator listening right now. Who’s been enjoying the entire conversation. We’ve almost been talking for 30 minutes now, but I want you to imagine they were your age when you just started there 22 years old listening, just start in education. And this is their first year teaching, very different from your first year, very different from so many other educators. First year of teaching. What would you tell your younger self, if this was your first year, what words of advice would you have?


Joshua Sable (24:41):
Three words, take a nap. You got to rest up, you know and I’m not joking. What I mean by that is we, we all want every lesson, every program, every game, every show, anything we do in school to be perfect, to be 100% and it won’t always work out. So yeah, you can prepare for your English class or your math class or your history class or the game you’re about to coach or the kids. You’re about to direct in a play. You can do all that, but there are going to be curve balls along the way that you’re going to have to adjust to. So you need to be in it for the long haul. You need to have patients, you need to be able to have the resilience to bounce back on a daily basis. And if, and if you can do that, if you can stick with it for the long haul, the rewards are, are unbelievable.


Joshua Sable (25:40):
And, and many of them fall in that memory making machine worlds, because you get to hold onto this unbelievable collection of memories from your career, and you get to make a difference in the life of a young person and perhaps be ingrained in their memory as a person who made a difference or a program who made that made a difference or an idea that inspired them to get into politics or teaching or mathematics or construction or whatever they want to get into. We have this amazing responsibility as educators to pass these people on to the next stage in their life. And it’s, and it’s an amazing opportunity to make a difference and to ultimately make the world a better place.


Sam Demma (26:25):
Some of them wants to reach out to you and hear a little bit more about anything that we talked to today. That could be from a different province, different country, want to bounce some ideas around what’s the best way to reach out to you and have that conversation.


Joshua Sable (26:36):
Yeah. I, you know, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that you can’t find me on Facebook. You can find me on my wife’s Facebook. I do have an Instagram account, but it’s not public it’s private. Email is the number one best way to do that right now. I probably will have a website coming out a little bit later on this year for student leadership and training and workshops and all that fun stuff, but that’s not out yet. So the best way is through email I’ll it’s a long one. So I’ll say it a bit slowly. It’s jsable@tenembaumchat.org, and hopefully no one falls asleep or takes a nap now. So it’s great. S as in Sam, a B as in Bob, L as in Larry E that’s my name jsable@tanenbaumchat.org, which is my school. She hasn’t Tom a N as in Nancy, E N as in Nancy, B as in Bob eight U M as in Mary, C as in Charles, H as in hello, a T as in tom.org.


Sam Demma (27:37):
Awesome. Josh, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. This has been phenomenal, and you’ve definitely done many interviews before, and I can’t wait to see your website.


Joshua Sable (27:46):
Thanks so much for having me, Sam and good luck with everything. You’re you’re an inspiration for many people. So thanks for, thanks for doing this.


Sam Demma (27:54):
Another action packed interview with veteran teacher and memory maker, Joshua Sable. So many actionable ideas that you can take away from this episode. If you want more, definitely reach out to Josh and please consider if you enjoyed this taking a minute out of your day to leave a rating and review some more educators. Like you can find these episodes of this podcast and benefit from the conversations we’re having right now with all these educators. And if you are someone who has ideas to share an inspiring stories about the impact of education on young people, please reach out, you know, email us, info@samdema.com. So we can get your stories and actionable ideas out on the show ASAP. I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Joshua Sable

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.

Dulcie Belchior-Demedeiros – Principal of Student Success at the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Dulcie Belchior
About Dulcie Belchior-Demedeiros

Dulcie Belchior (@MsDBelchior) has been in education for the past 20 years. She is currently the Principal of Student Success, Learning to 18 and Secondary Program at the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board where she is able to share her passion for instructional leadership, teacher development and student success. Wife, mother, educator, and bookworm!

Connect with Dulcie: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Specialist High Skills Major Programs

Principal’s Qualification Courses

The Edwin Platform

Bee-Bot Programmable Robot

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):
Dulcie, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind what brought you to where you are in education today?


Dulcie Belchior (00:14):
Sure. Thank you for having me, Sam. So my name is Dulcie Belchior. I’m currently the principal of student success learning to 18 and secondary program at Dufferin-Peel Catholic district school board. And how I got here. Wow. That’s very complicated. I think sometimes when you talk to teachers in terms of how they, you know, they decide on their vocation, it’s kind of a twisty, twisty, turny path, and there’s so many different things that happened in their life that, you know, make them reflect on the fact that, you know, you know, I can, I can do this type of job. I can work with kids. I can be a teacher and for me, I think it, it did start early. And I think if you ask a lot of teachers and starts early, when you’re a small child, when I was four years old going into JK, I grew up in a family that spoke Portuguese.


Dulcie Belchior (01:16):
So I went to school, basically. I was born in Canada. I was born in Toronto, but I only spoke Portuguese. So I basically entered school as an ELL student. And what happened from there is I did, was able to learn the English language quickly. And so in JK, I became a mentor for the other ELL students by the end of the year, trying to teach them to speaking with, Hey, you say this, do this. This is how you say that. So I think I remember that experience even though I was very young because I think it was very important to how I became a teacher. And so it started very early there, I think in elementary school too. I was that student that kids could go to for help. So if you didn’t want to go, you know, some kids don’t want to ask the teacher, they want to ask a friend or student.


Dulcie Belchior (02:11):
So I was that kind of go-to student, but they knew that if you went to Dulcey, you weren’t going to get the answer. That’s not what you went to Dawson. I was like, I’m not going to give you the answer. I will show you how to do this. For me. That’s very important. I think as a teacher, as a person, you know, that old saying where if you teach a person to fish, you know, they will be able to survive their entire life. You don’t just give them a fish. And so even in elementary school, I, I would show them how to do it. This is how you do the math problem, for example. And I think that was, you know, that helped them more than just giving them an answer and them walking away. So I think that’s another as to, you know, my reflection as, so I can be a teacher.


Dulcie Belchior (03:03):
I, I think that’s a good vocation for me in grade seven and eight, I helped in the JK class, you know, yours do that volunteer work in, in junior kindergarten class. When I was in university, I took a bachelor of science. But throughout university, I, you know, I was able to be lucky enough to teach international language program. So I taught elementary school kids, Portuguese. So I was doing that, not as a teacher, but as a late person, teaching them the language working for Dufferin-Peel at the time. And and I am a student of deaf from as well. I know a lot of teachers go back to the board that they were a student at and that’s the same with me. So I’m a different field graduate and very proud of that. And also in university at that time, they still had emergency supply teachers.


Dulcie Belchior (03:53):
So I was doing that throughout university, even though I was taking my bachelor of science. And after graduating with a bachelor of science, then you decide, okay, well, what can I do with the bachelor of science? What, or where am I going to go? So I had my eyes set on probably maybe pharmacy. I did work at shopper’s drug Mart in the pharmacy as an assistant pharmacy assistant for my whole entire high school career in university career. So again, you know, you’re doing something, you know, you can do it, you fall into that. Maybe I’ll be a pharmacist. So that was a choice that, you know, and in life sometimes you have disappointments and that was a disappointment because I was never able to get into the program. So I did apply then to nursing and I applied to teaching. So I did have a choice then between teaching and nursing.


Dulcie Belchior (04:52):
And that’s, I think, you know, where you get to that point where you really truly have to reflect, this is my future. One of my best stat. And I think both of those careers, their careers, where you can help people in different ways, but you can help people. So I, you know, there was a lot of conversations with family, with my fiance. Who’s now my husband with some teachers. And I did decide that teaching was probably the best vocation for me. And so with all of that that long journey, I went into the bachelor of education program at York university. So that is my complicated story of how I got into teaching.


Sam Demma (05:34):
Oh, that’s not such an awesome story. I’ve never had someone tell me about mentoring other students in JK. So that’s such a cool, like origin for the story. Thank you so much for sharing. No problem. Like what happened after university? So you go into your bachelor’s at York, did you return directly to Dufferin-Peel and what different positions did you work in before getting into student success? Right.


Dulcie Belchior (05:57):
So after I graduated from New York with my bachelor of education, I was lucky enough to get a position as a teacher at Jefferson Peele. So I started my career teaching grade seven and eight at a school which no longer exists in the board. So it was near the airport in Mississauga, and it was actually called our lady of the airways, which I think is such a beautiful name for a school. But that school sends closed down. So I taught grade seven and eight for two years, and I was teaching science as well. So I was doing some rotation science because I was lucky enough to have that background. So that was an opportunity to share my talent and my joy, because I love science with the students there. So I did that for two years and in those two years, I decided to apply for the master’s program at Boise.


Dulcie Belchior (06:53):
So I started doing that part-time within the first two years of me starting teaching. So I got my master’s a couple of years later, curriculum teaching, learning department and specialized in teacher development. So I started that in my first couple of years of teaching. After that, I I applied for a position at St. Francis Xavier secondary school in Mississauga. So I was successful with the interview. So I became a high school teacher teaching science, which I love. So I was able to teach chemistry, biology grade nine and 10 science. And I was also trained to teach in the international baccalaureate program there. So I taught biology with the students there. So I got a lot of different types of experience there as well. I was able to help support the student council there cause I love student council because I was the president of student council at father Michael Gates when I was a high school student.


Dulcie Belchior (07:57):
So I thought, you know, I think that’s something that I can help students with. So I supported them there as well after teaching at St. Francis Xavier for many years, I decided it was time for a change time for another challenge. So I started taking my principal’s qualification courses and I got my PQP part one and part two. And I went into the interviews for a vice principal position at the board and was successful. And my first position as a vice principal was at St. Margaritaville secondary school in Brampton. So I worked there for approximately four years, and then I was a vice principal at father Michael Gates. The school that I actually graduated high school from, which was a little weird sometimes, sometimes going back as a VP within some of the teachers who were still there, but it was a great experience. So I was a VP there for years. Then I became a principal and I was a principal at St. A Dustin secondary school in Brampton for one year. And from there, I became the, my current time in the current position. Now the principal student success learning to 18 and secondary program. So that’s how, again, I found myself where I am to.


Sam Demma (09:18):
That’s awesome. What does the role entail? You know, student success and secondary programs, you know, certain educators are sitting might not be familiar with it, especially if they’re outside of Canada. So what does it, what does it entail? What does it look like and why are you passionate about it? What do you think student success means?


Dulcie Belchior (09:38):
I’m passionate about student success because my model, or, you know, what motivates me is that I want to inspire a love of learning in every student. Students need to see themselves in the learning. They need to see themselves be successful in the learning and our jobs. As teachers, as educators, is to provide the environment where they will be successful, not where they can meet, where they will be successful. And I think having this position at a system level really helps me help the principals, the administrators in the schools, and helps the teachers in the schools as well to provide professional development, to provide resources, to provide critical and culturally responsive resources for schools that will have students be able to number one, see themselves in the learning and number two, be successful at that learning. So again, that student success encompasses a lot of things that are in campuses, programs like, oh, yeah.


Dulcie Belchior (10:45):
Program programs like SHSM and even programs where students who may not have been successful in the past, I may have left school without graduating can come back and we invite them back to finish and to graduate and to get that opportunity to do that at a time in their life where they’re ready to do that. So I think there’s so many layers to this job where it it’s exciting. It’s exciting. And it’s a job where you can show people that teaching is not just filling a bucket full of knowledge. And here you go, that’s your knowledge, okay. It’s igniting a flame in students and in teachers and in all educators where everyone loves to learn, they see themselves as learners, they see themselves being successful and they can move forward and do what they are passionate about. So they have an opportunity to actually see what they’re passionate about, to experience things, different things so that they can make choices for their future, which is the most important thing.


Sam Demma (11:54):
I love that. And where did your passion for student success come from? Was it originally something that you wanted to explore and try, or did you know that it was something you were, you know, extremely passionate about?


Dulcie Belchior (12:07):
It’s something I’ve always been extremely passionate about. And as you know, when I became an administrator was an opportunity to become that instructional leader for teachers. And so when I started having that opportunity to pass on this passion, I guess, for students success for, you know, instructional leadership for assessment, for evaluation, for rich tasks, just doing a lot of great teaching whenever I had the opportunity to share that with others, I took it. And I think now in this position, it’s, it’s just a perfect place where I’d love to share different experiences, different resources, different opportunities, different types of professional development so that our educators can, you know, we’ll be able to ignite that flame in all of our students.


Sam Demma (13:05):
I love that. That’s awesome. That’s so cool. And what do you think right now are some of the challenges that we’re faced with in education and on the other coin, also some of the opportunities that these challenges may be bringing to us and, you know, a very difficult scenario.


Dulcie Belchior (13:23):
Well, I think, you know, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, which is COVID-19. And I think that’s been a huge challenge in education, especially since we’ve had to pivot sometimes on a daily basis and where educators have had to really, really change their mindset on what teaching and learning looks like. And students have had to change their mindset on what learning looks like. And, you know, going into a digital type, only learning has really pushed everyone to a new level. We really have been forced to become 21st century learners. And I think that is an opportunity in itself. So it is a great positive where we’ve learned how we can leverage digital technology as a wonderful tool to help students learn because that’s how they learn. That’s how they interact. That’s how they socialize. So it’s something they’re familiar with, which helps them be successful.


Dulcie Belchior (14:29):
Now, I don’t think that it should become the only thing that’s not what teaching and learning is about, but it is a wonderful tool that we can leverage in our classrooms. And I think so that’s been a challenge in itself, and I think it’s also an opportunity for the future. I think coming back in September, some of the challenges are going to be that, you know, students and staff, even though, and we’ve heard this before, we’ve all been in the same storm of COVID-19. People have been traveling through this storm in different vessels, different boats, sometimes a dinghy, sometimes a piece of driftwood. And now they’re coming back and we’re all going to be interacting with each other and we need to be kind, we need to be compassionate. We need to listen, and we need to understand that everyone is coming from a different place.


Dulcie Belchior (15:26):
So we are, we cannot, we cannot come back into our classrooms and expect everyone to be at the same level of learning at the same level of knowledge, at the same level of mental health and wellbeing, we are going to all be in different places. And I think so we have to come back with that understanding. And I think that’s the most important thing is to go slow, move slowly, listen, talk to students, get to know your learners, who’s in your classroom and what are the needs of every student in your classroom. We’re not going to go forward until we know what the needs of all of these students are because they’re all going to be different. And I think we have to change our mindset. We can’t think about it as a deficit. So, you know, the knowledge that they don’t bring in now because of COVID, that’s a deficit.


Dulcie Belchior (16:18):
No, we have to look at it as what are they coming in with and how can we move them forward? So how will we move them forward from where they’re at? So it’s not a deficit model, it’s a model of where are you at? We’re going to move you forward from there and we’re going to move everyone forward. And we’re going to use the best of our abilities to do that, but we have to do that with kindness and we have to do that with patients. And we have to know that it’s not going to happen in a day and it’s going to take a long time and that’s okay. That’s okay. Because we need to ensure that our students in our classrooms are healthy and that their well-being is taken care of and also our educators. Okay.


Sam Demma (17:06):
That’s amazing. The, you know, the cool thing, I think about student successes, that you have an opportunity to really impact a young person and not to not to say that, you know, every educator doesn’t have that opportunity. They all do, but when you’re focused solely on the success of the students, it’s, it’s a cool opportunity to make a big difference. Have you, you know, over the past couple of years being able to see the impact of some of the programs on the students directly and maybe you can share a story of one in particular that sticks out in your mind, and if it’s a serious individual, you can just change their name or just use Bob or something. Yeah.


Dulcie Belchior (17:45):
And, and in general, you’re right. It’s a great opportunity to see success and to see successes everywhere in the board. So it’s not just, you know, in one school it’s, if you have a, a program that you introduce, it’s how this supports a larger group of students or educators. So some of the things that we have done through program, number one, it has been we introduced the Edwin platform in our board for elementary students. So for grade seven and eight students, and what this platform did was actually provide students with one-on-one technology. So every student gets a laptop, a Chromebook, and the amazing things that I have been able to see, the amazing presentations, the research projects, just everything that’s coming out of the ability to change the mindset of learning and having students able to work together in a different way. And to have that one-to-one technology as a tool, it’s also helped the teachers change their mindset in how they teach in the classroom.


Dulcie Belchior (18:59):
And this was introduced before COVID. And I think that it benefited when we went into COVID with students already being kind of immersed in this type of learning. So it changes the way that they learn. It changes the way that they can present their ideas. You can do so many rich tasks using technology when students have it one on one. So I think that’s been great. And you see it, I see it in a large capacity, right? And students in general, families in general teachers saying how wonderful it is to have these things in their classrooms and how it has opened their minds to so many different ways of teaching and the different things that students can do. Students in JK, for example, coding, using the computers, we introduced a lot of different types of coding resources. And we, for example, the Bee-Bots, so it’s a little B that junior kindergarten students can actually code to move around a carpet or a floor.


Dulcie Belchior (20:15):
And they are learning coding at four years old, five years old. And that’s just, it’s amazing. So when you see videos that teacher’s tweaked videos, that teachers send us of their students working together in groups using these, Bee-Bots knowing that number one, they’re having fun. You can see that they’re having fun. Number two, they love to do it. And they’re learning a new language. This is a completely new language, and they’re learning it at four years old. It’s just amazing to that happening. So that was another thing that we did. I think another important thing in program that we’ve worked on is ensuring that, you know, we’re working on getting co culturally responsive and relevant resources into our secondary classrooms and our elementary libraries as well. But especially into our English classes, getting books where students can feel like they’re being represented, like they’re being reflected in the learning different characters relevant topics.


Dulcie Belchior (21:25):
And, you know, the letters that we have received from different students who were asked, here’s a book, let’s read it as a class. Give us your feedback on the book. What do you think, do you think students in your grade will like this book? Do you think it’s culturally responsive? Do you think it’s relevant to your generation right now? And the letters that I received from students saying, wow, thank you for actually asking that question. Thank you for having students involved in what we’re going to learn. You know, thank you for asking us, is this relevant to me as a student? And so again, I come back to that listening, understanding, knowing where kids are and, and asking the questions, you know, is this good for you? Will this help you learn? Will this help you love learning? Will this help you be successful? And I think that’s one of the biggest things that we’ve worked on that I find has been very rewarding. And we’re still working on that. It’s a large project obviously, and, you know, it takes time, but we’re working on it. So I think that’s been wonderful.


Sam Demma (22:37):
That’s amazing. And if you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, like, you know, first year teaching, but what the advice and knowledge you have now, what advice would you give to your younger self?


Dulcie Belchior (22:50):
I think when you’re when you’re a new teacher, and I think back when I was a new teacher, it’s almost like you’re in survival mode and you, you think, oh, I just got to get through all of this information. I just have to teach, you know, I have to ensure that everything in this book is done and the kids get it and they all understand it. And it’s all good and done. So if I’ve covered it, I’m good. I think the advice that I will give is to take it slow, to take that time, to talk to every student, to get to know every student. So get to know what they love, what they’re interested in, how they learn, what they like to learn. What’s their favorite subjects and base your whole year. Everything based on that, because you can teach whatever. It doesn’t matter what you teach, but if you are not connecting with your students, they will not learn.


Dulcie Belchior (23:48):
They will not learn. So I think taking that extra time, cause I know time is always an issue and it is time is always an issue for everyone in every career. But that is so important that time that you take initially with those students will make a difference for the rest of the year and for years to come, they’ll come back. And I think that’s the one thing that students will come back and say is you took the time to know me so that I could be successful. So that’s the advice I give to any new teacher.


Sam Demma (24:21):
Love that. Awesome. They’ll see. Thank you so much for sharing some of your stories, philosophies, perspectives. If another educator is listening right now and wants to reach out to you and bounce some ideas around, talk about cool programs, what would be the best way to get in touch?


Dulcie Belchior (24:36):
Well, they can get in touch with me on Twitter. So it’s at @MsDBelchior, or they can email me at dulcie.belchior@dpcdsb.org.


Sam Demma (24:55):
Keep up the amazing work. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Best of luck with the next school year.


Dulcie Belchior (25:02):
Thanks so much, Sam. Have a great day.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Dulcie Belchior-Demedeiros

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

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

Paulette Lippert Experiential Lead Learner BGCDSB
About Paulette Lippert

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

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

Connect with Paulette: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Rural and Ready

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Do you want access to all the past guests on this show? Do you want to network with like-minded individuals and meet other high-performing educators from around the world? If so, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Sign up to join the exclusive network and you’ll get access to live virtual networking events and other special opportunities that will come out throughout 2021. I promise you I will not fill your inbox. You might get one email a month. If that sounds interesting, go to www dot high-performing educator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Paulette Lippert. Paulette is passionate about all things education. She has been devoting her time and energy to her work in education for the past 27 years. Growing up in a rural area herself, she realized that access to opportunities was a challenge and now strives to bridge these exact gaps for the students in the Bruce grey Catholic district school board.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Sam Demma (26:22):
That’s so cool.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Sam Demma (31:02):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest and amazing interview on the high performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you want to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you want to meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network. You have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode and.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Paulette Lippert

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Melissa Wright – New Brunswick Student Leadership Association President

Melissa Wright New Brunswick Student Leadership Association President
About Melissa Wright

Melissa Wright (@WrightMelissa_)is a passionate educator and speaker that is driven to help schools create a place where students belong and everyone feels like they matter. Melissa is also the president of the New Brunswick Student Leadership Association President.

By sharing ideas that work in her school, she helps educators and students see they can improve their culture and climate. She is known for her passion and desire to see students succeed, and find their inner leader.

Connect with Melissa: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Kennebascis Valley High School

Jostens Renaissance Program

www.melissawright.ca

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):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today we have on a very special guest. Her name is Melissa Wright. She is a passionate educator and speaker that is driven to help schools create a place where students can belong. And everyone feels like they matter by sharing ideas that work in her school. She helps educators and students see they can improve their culture and school climate. She is known for her passion and desire to see students succeed and find their own inner leader. Along with all this, Melissa is also the new Brunswick student leadership association president. And on today’s episode, she has so many unique ideas and inspiring moments to share. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s get in with the interview, Melissa. Thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educator podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you here. We were just talking about some salsa and bachata and dancing early morning. Can you share with the audience who you are and why you got into the work that you do with youth today?


Melissa Wright (01:08):
Yeah. Thanks so much, Sam, for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you’re doing this. I’m so kudos to you. But yeah, a little bit about me. I’m a high school educator at Kennebascis Valley High School. This is year 16. I’ve been fortunate enough to have my whole career here and I mostly teach math, but I also have a local option of dance. So that’s super fun to teach because, you know, we do classical styles like tap and jazz, but then we also have a vice principal in our school that had learned but shadow from a previous relationship. And I had never done that style before. So he taught me and then we taught it to the class. So now he comes in and guest teaches that.


Melissa Wright (01:47):
So that’s a super fun class, but you know, it’s so great every day to be able to come and do something that you love. You know, I got into teaching because of dance. So when I was about 13 or so, I started assisting at my local dance school. And then by the time I was 16, I was teaching classes on my own. So that’s where I fell in love with teaching. And then, you know, I love math as well in school. So I said, well, I’ll become a teacher. And then once I became a teacher saw that, Hey, there’s an opportunity. You can write your own curriculum because in new Brunswick don’t have a dance course it’s written by the province. So I took that opportunity to, to write that and got it approved. So it’s great that we, that we have that here, but also part of what I do in love is, is student leadership as well.


Melissa Wright (02:30):
So when I was in high school, I was fortunate enough to have an educator and she always gets embarrassed every time I say this, but Heather Malco was my student council advisor in high school. And she really, really inspired me to be a teacher and pushed me to be the best version of myself. I could be. She was my, she taught me French in grade 10, but she was my student council advisor in high school. And, you know, it’s just amazing that she got me into that and pushed me to go through that. And we now work together, actually the pneumonic student leadership association. So it’s come completely full circle. And you know, it’s so great to have those people that inspire you to do those things that you know, that you love and that they sometimes can see in you that you can’t see in yourself.


Sam Demma (03:14):
I love that. That’s amazing. I have a similar story with the educator in my school named Michael loud foot. He just retired, although we don’t stay in touch to this day. So I think it’s awesome. And shout out to Heather and make sure you reach out to her after this and tell her that her name’s on another show. I was reading on your website before this interview that you want an award and your whole, your whole messaging in schools and for students is to help them feel like they matter. And I’m curious to know how do we make students feel like they matter during a time like COVID-19?


Melissa Wright (03:50):
Well, you know, it all comes down to relationships. It really, it really, really does. And, you know, I was fortunate enough when we closed in the spring during COVID that, you know, we’d had some time to build those relationships in the classroom so that the students trust you you know, coming into a new school year, that can be a little bit more difficult if you haven’t taught the students before. But I think it’s the fact of, you know, if they know that you’re there and that’s, you’re supporting them, you know if they have things going on outside of school and they come to you and say, you know, can I have an extra day to write before I have this test? You know, give them some grace, right. Then that’s really going to help them feel comfortable. And the thing of it is we are, we’re finding that so many of our kids with this whole cause we’re a hybrid, right?


Melissa Wright (04:35):
We’re there one day in the classroom and then the next day at home. So they’re getting stressed out about, you know, the workload and that sort of thing. But you know, sometimes we just have to take them aside and say, listen, you know, you have this math assignment, but what’s going on outside of school because this math assignment pales in comparison to perhaps the thing that you have going on in your personal life, or, you know, and I always tell the kids, they always ask me, you know, like, where am I ever gonna use this math? And I said, you know sad as it sounds, you might never learn, need to know how to graph a parabola in your everyday life. But I said, the skills that you use to do that, like grit and perseverance, and you know, this is a challenge and working hard, all of those skills, I guarantee you, you can use in any field that you go into. So I think we need to build those relationships with kids and show them that these skills and the resiliency it’s going to take them to get through this situation. And this school year is going to be something that’s going to stick with them for a lifetime.


Sam Demma (05:34):
Awesome. I love it so much that the social emotional learning side of subjects is not talked about enough and you did a great job just now explaining that. So other educators, if you get that objection by your students, definitely quote Melissa, what did Heather do for you when you were a student that pushed you? Did she tap you on the shoulder and tell you to get involved? What was it that she did if he could travel back in time that lit a fire within you that maybe another educator listening might think, wow, let me try and embody that thing, whatever she did to also light a fire under their, their own students.


Melissa Wright (06:10):
Well, when I first had her, she came into our school when I was in grade 10 and I had her for grade 10 fringe and she was just, she was a young teacher, bubbly personality, full of energy. So obviously, you know, her personality for one I gravitated towards right away. But the second thing was, you know, she, I had been involved in student council in grade nine and you know, I was lucky enough to be involved again in grade 10 and she ended up coming to take over. So, but when it came to grade 12, I was like, oh, you know, maybe cause I’d been a rep in grade 9, 10, 11. I was like, well, you know, maybe I’ll run for an executive position, but you know, I’d be okay with just being grateful type thing. And she’s like, no, you know, Melissa, I think you should run for president.


Melissa Wright (06:52):
So she was kind of the one that just said, you know, like the, what if you take those what ifs and turn them into, you know, I can’t, you know what I mean? So she was the one that said, you know, why don’t you run for president? I said, well, I’ll give it a shot. Cause you know, if I didn’t get elected, then the recollections were after that. Right. So I had a, I had a second chance type thing. So because of her just saying, you know, like, why don’t you do this or try this sometimes it’s just planting that little seed and that idea in a person’s head that makes them think a little differently, that things, wow. Maybe I should take this opportunity.


Sam Demma (07:28):
Yeah. That’s a great point. And I think back to my story as well, and my teacher did the same thing, it was a challenge. He challenged us. I think young people love challenges. They always want to show other people up, especially their teachers. So a little tap on the shoulder. A challenge is a great way to do that. Speaking of challenges during COVID, there has been many, I know you’re doing hybrid learning. Has there been a challenge that you have overcome that you think is worth sharing with another educator? Maybe you had a unique idea to solve a certain problem. And then I’ll ask you a follow-up question about, have you had any students who have been impacted during this time in a major way, and you can change their name if you want, but share a story and it doesn’t have to be during COVID.


Sam Demma (08:09):
It could be in your whole journey of education, share a story of a student who has been deeply impacted by something that’s happened in the school. Because another educator might be starting school this year and this might be their first year teaching and they might be thinking, oh my goodness, like what did I just sign up for? And a story like that might just light a fire in their belly to remember, no, the reason we do this is to change lives. And although it’s tough, we develop that grit and resiliency. So long question, first part share some unique ideas about overcoming COVID challenges. Second part student story changed their name for privacy reasons if you’d like,


Melissa Wright (08:43):
Okay. So yeah, ideas for, for COVID. So when I’m actually, I’m involved here at school, we have what’s called a Renaissance. So it’s all about school, culture and climate. So Jocelyn’s, everybody knows Jocelyn’s further rings in yearbooks. They’re kind of the ones that they don’t like determine what your program is, but they help with resources and that sort of thing. So we’re lucky enough to have the Renaissance team here at the school that I, that I run. And the big thing that we did was to make sure that the kids were still connected. So in those first two weeks, when for here in new Brunswick, when they closed in the spring, the first two weeks were kind of treated like snow days. Everybody was just home. There was no schoolwork, but as the advisor, one of the advisors, I have another advisor, we felt it was still important for us to stay connected to our team.


Melissa Wright (09:33):
So we kept continue to meet virtually, even though we didn’t really know what was going to happen in terms of our events and that sort of thing, we said, okay, we still need to meet with you guys because it’s just a, check-in say, Hey, how you doing? Do you need anything? But then the kids were the ones that said we’d brought in a guest speaker and a fellow educator, friend of mine from Wyoming Bradley Skinner. And he sparked them to say, why can’t we still do what we were going to do, but do it virtually. And I’m like, that’s phenomenal. Let’s do it guys. How do you want to do this? So we did all, like, we still did almost all of our events that we would have in the spring virtually. So we did things like in the springtime, we always do something called Kisa grad goodbye.


Melissa Wright (10:15):
So it’s, it’s quite cute. It’s normally it’s a piece of cardstock with a grad cap on it and people can purchase them for 50 cents. They write who it’s to who it’s from. And then they can write a little note on the back and we stick a Hershey’s kiss to it. So, and we usually deliver it to their homeroom class, but we weren’t physically in the building to do that, but we still want it to be able to have that because that’s become a tradition for our grads that, cause it doesn’t matter what grades you have, you know, how long it’s taken you to get to the finish line. Anybody can get a kiss goodbye. And our advisory teachers love it because it’s very affordable because you have the same kids until they graduate. And it’s a nice little, just a little something that they can that they can get.


Melissa Wright (10:59):
And so we said, well, we have to do it digitally. So we set up a Google form and people filled it out and we thought, you know, we shared it on social media. We thought, okay, you know, teachers will fill that out. Probably some students, but it was amazing because not only teachers and students did it, but there were also, you know, grandparents or aunts or uncles or friends that, you know, they might not even have been coming home for graduation, but they were like had normal time, but they were even still able to send those wishes and congratulations virtually. So the, and then we did the opt to look like they did on the paper copy and we emailed them to all their advisory teachers. And then that way they could send them to them through email or teams or however they can get ahold of them.


Melissa Wright (11:40):
So that was something that became very positive. And because of that, I think now this year we’re still, you know, in the building, we will do it like we normally do on paper, but then there’ll be an option for people to also it virtually, it won’t be as fancy. We won’t do it as fancy because it takes a lot of time, but it’ll still be an option. And I think, you know, it’s something important that we give those options because it’s important to celebrate our grads. It’s important to celebrate our students and our staff. So any way that we can continue to do that even during the, especially during these times is, is gonna make a huge impact. Another thing that we normally do in person is called thank a staff number. And we do this in may because everybody knows that may is a grind and educator.


Melissa Wright (12:26):
It really, really is. Everybody is exhausted and you know, they’re looking towards summer vacation. So what we usually do when we’re in the building is in advisory, people get slips of paper and they can write a nice note about any staff member in the building. It could be teacher custodian, cafeteria worker, you know, office staff, anybody that works here at K VHS and kids are allowed to fill up more than one. So, and the kids were like, well, we still have to do this, especially now because the teachers are working like mega overtime more than they normally would. So same thing, we set up a Google form, people filled it out. And then we even had parents that were filling it out, you know, not just students and teachers for other teachers. And it was just so nice to see the appreciation that everybody had and we thought, okay, so we’ll do these up and email them out.


Melissa Wright (13:16):
But we were lucky that teachers came back, just teachers in new Brunswick came back to the building in June. So as the advisors, we were able to hand deliver those, the teachers and some of them were like, what? This still happened. I didn’t even know. Right. And we make sure that every, every single staff member in the building gets at least one, because if, if there isn’t one for them, then members of our Renaissance team take minute, a few minutes and write one for everybody that doesn’t have one. So, you know, I have, I have stacks of them. I found them when we were home at a stacks in the home, I keep them in my desk. Teachers have told us when they’re having a bad day, they pull out and read those notes. And sometimes they’re not signed. Sometimes they’re anonymous and that’s perfectly fine.


Melissa Wright (13:57):
We tell the kids, you don’t have to put your name on it if you don’t want to, but if you want to that’s good. And there’s one other idea I’m going to share with you. And that leads into my student story. So we always do something in the spring called Crusader champion and what that is. It’s a ceremony to recognize students that have made improvement in their attendance, their their behavior or their attendance. So students are nominated by their teachers to come. So we have a population of approximately 1100 students. And the last one that we did in-person we were at about 120 kids. So that’s over 10% of our population got nominated to go to this, which was amazing. So, and they, so they get an invitation in their homeroom class and they don’t know. It just says, you’re invited on this date to the mini gym at this time to be celebrated as a Crusader champion.


Melissa Wright (14:45):
And the kids are like, I thought after 15 years they would start to catch on. They always forget. It’s okay though. So they get the little card and they get to get out a third period class. And they, they love that part, first of all, but they have to have the invitation to show their teacher and to give it to us when they come to the ceremony. So they come to the ceremony and they get free lunch and there’s, you know, door prizes that we draw for, but they also get a bunch of swag. So our parents school support committee sports, we have a little rewards card and they’re the only kids that get that for that month in the school. And there’s six spaces on it. So there’s two that are one more day on a homework assignment, pretty simple. Two of them are best seat in the house.


Melissa Wright (15:24):
So they get to choose where they sit for that class. Most of the time in my class, if they use it, they get, take my teacher comfy chair to their desk. That’s usually what happens, but in the middle of the two in the middle are the favorite. So there’s one, that’s a fi it’s just a five minute break away so they can leave one class five minutes early. But the other one, which is the most coveted square on that card, and I’ve actually had kids try to get their cards early because of it it’s called a KD quick pass because the church at the top of the hill, every Wednesday serves free craft dinner for our whole school population for anybody that wants to come. So after third period, it is a mad rush to get up that hill, get Kraft dinner, like the beat the line.


Melissa Wright (16:07):
So if they have that one space, they get to leave once on a Wednesday, five minutes early to beat the rush. Now, unfortunately this year because of COVID, the church is not doing craft dinner, but we’re hoping that eventually we’ll be able be able to get back to that. And then there’s usually, you know, swag from, we have sponsors like dairy queen gives us gift certificates and that sort of thing that we give them. And then usually there’s some sort of cavies way, whether it’s a t-shirt or a bag or a water bottle or something like that. But they’re kind of when they come into that ceremony, like the deer in the headlights thing, cause one year they walked in and our superintendent was there and a bunch of officials from district office and they were kind of like what’s going on here. So, but when they, when they find out why they’re there and that a teacher has nominated them to be there, it completely changes everything.


Melissa Wright (16:51):
You just see the smiles, you know, on their faces and we, and the wonderful thing about that ceremony, it doesn’t matter what your academics are. Right. You know, teachers just want to nominate you for your improvement. Right. We’ve had all different kinds of students there, you know, from students, you know, special needs students to our we’ve had high academic Florence, but we’ve also had those kids that are the middle of the road, you know, that are working their tail off, making an improvement little by little. But yeah, like I was saying that that leads into my story and I will change the student’s name for privacy. And where’s the student probably, oh gosh, probably three years ago now. And we’ll just call him John. And he, he was having, he was having a rough go. So I had him, I had him first semester in math and his mom came in.


Melissa Wright (17:35):
She said, you know, for me, the teacher, I’m very worried about him. And when I said, you know, don’t worry, we’ll do whatever we can to help them to try to get through. And so the semester came and his attendance wasn’t that great. But when he was in the classroom, like he worked hard, but he wasn’t a behavior problem, but he just missed a lot of time. And so, and you miss so much that, unfortunately he wasn’t going to get the course, but he still came and he wrote the exam and he wrote a note on the exam. You said, you’ll see, I’ll do better next semester. Cause you knew I had the repeater class. So second semester came, he was doing great. He had like 85 working hard. And then one day he came into class and something just seemed off, you know, how you can tell when one of your friends or something that just seems something’s off.


Melissa Wright (18:24):
So I said, you know what, I’m going to call mom and do a positive phone call. So I called her and I said, hello, this is Mrs. Wright calling from KVA. Jess, do you have a moment to talk? Oh yes. Just a second. You can hear like running down a hallway and she’s like, okay, I’m somewhere quiet is everything. Okay. And I said, everything is wonderful. I’m just calling to let you know how proud I am of John and the work he’s doing. And you know, when the improvement and the turnaround that he’s made, and she said, you do not know how much this phone call means to me today. She said, this weekend, John saw his father for the last time. You will not see his dad again. And she said, you know, we’re in the process of selling our house. And this morning, you know, when he went to leave for school, there was a big kerfuffle and he couldn’t find his cell phone.


Melissa Wright (19:11):
She said the things that you guys have done for him, like, cause when they go to that Crusader champion, he had been invited there, they get a certificate. She said, he’s a grade 11 boy. He came home and put that certificate on the fridge. He said he didn’t even do that in elementary school. So we never know what impact, like it was a, it was a piece of paper that we photocopied a slice of pizza at a lunch ceremony. You know what I mean? And our little rewards card, but we don’t, to us, it seems so insignificant. But to that kid, it was everything right. You, you don’t realize the impact sometimes your ha having. And sometimes we don’t hear those types of stories, but when we do, man, those are the little golden nuggets that you, that you have to hold on to. Wow.


Sam Demma (19:59):
A phone call,


Melissa Wright (20:00):
Just a phone call, one simple phone call.


Sam Demma (20:04):
That’s so amazing. And I think even just thinking about most calls home are for negative news. Changing that script and doing, doing a positive phone call can make a huge impact as well. And that’s an amazing story. And for anyone listening, who’s just getting into education. Those stories happen. I spoke to dozens of educators on this show. Melissa is not an anomaly. That’s a great story. But you’re going to change lives. It’s, it’s, it’s a part of this job. You’re not just a teacher, you’re a mentor. You’re sometimes a perinatal figure to some students. I would even believe in a certain to a certain degree and you never know what a student’s going through. So that small action like Mike lab would set a action can make a massive global change. That’s an amazing story. I honestly think we should just end the podcast right here. This is, this is a phenomenal way to close it up. If if another educator is listening, do you have any last words you might want to share with them? Imagine, let me put it this way. Imagine you were starting teaching this year and you wanted to be Heather for yourself and you would give yourself some advice. And this is a crazy first year of teaching. What would you say?


Melissa Wright (21:18):
First of all, just in the teaching world, give yourself some grace. You’re not going to be able to do it all. And that’s okay because those students need you in the classroom. So like you might not have the perfect lesson plan, you know, try something new and if it flops it flops, but you have to take care of yourself so you can take care of your kids. And be there if you have a family as well for your family. You know, and the biggest thing of it is if you see that potential in a student, tap them on the shoulder because you don’t want to regret not doing that. You know, it’s sometimes, you know, sometimes it’s a, it’s a hard thing to approach. Like you’re not sure how to do it. And it might take a couple of times a tapping the kid on the shoulder, but don’t lose sight of that.


Melissa Wright (22:06):
Like seriously do that. And you know what I mean? You have to find when you’re a teacher, especially in your first couple of years, find your thing and find your people. Like you need to find those people that lift you up and inspire you to want to be better every single day in that building because yeah, teaching is tough. Teaching and COVID-19 is even tougher. It’s seriously, seriously is. And those people that support you and are going to be there for you. Those are the ones you always want to have around you. If they inspire you to be better, those are the people you need to be hanging out with. And don’t, and don’t lose, lose sight of who you are. You know, if ever, you know, I’m myself, I’m a very positive person. And in these times it’s so easy to get sucked into the negative.


Melissa Wright (22:53):
Try not to find the joy and every single day that you can, even if it’s one little nugget, like maybe a kid told a funny joke in class, I had a kid last week, somehow he got off topic and was talking about Donald Trump and his dad sent him a text and said, stop talking about Donald Trump in class. So he was short. So that was a funny for me that day that I took home and was laughing about it. You got to find those little moments of joy and seriously, seriously, you will make an impact even though you might not hear about it until years later. So they take it one day at a time and drink lots of water.


Sam Demma (23:33):
That’s awesome. I did a recent podcast with Dr. Greg Wells. It’s like a performance expert and he said the biggest biohack is a drinking water, drink, more water. I, that was a great way to close it. Make students feel like they matter small actions, small acts of kindness. This episode has been amazing. Listen, thank you so much for spending some time on the show with me. If another educator, maybe from another province or country is listening and wants to reach out to you to just bounce some ideas around and borrow some of your joy and enthusiasm. How can they do that?


Melissa Wright (24:07):
Well first they can, you can find me on my website, just www.melissawright.ca, or you can find me on social media. I’m on Twitter and Instagram. It’s @wrightmelissa_ on both Twitter and Instagram, or if I’m on Facebook, I’m under Melissa Sue Right.


Sam Demma (24:24):
Awesome. Thank you so much, Melissa. It’s been a pleasure.


Melissa Wright (24:26):
My pleasure. Thanks


Sam Demma (24:28):
There you have it. Another action packed interview on the high performing educator podcast, Melissa would love to hear for you from you and have a conversation. So definitely reach out if you have the time and also consider leaving a review on the podcast so that more educators like yourself can find these conversations and benefit from the inspiration and ideas. And if you are someone who has either of those things to share on this podcast, either inspiration or ideas, or, you know, somebody who would be a perfect guest, please email us, info@samdemma.com. So we can share those stories and ideas on the show until then I’ll see you on the next episode.

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