About Michelle Lowey
Michelle Lowey (@Ms_Lowey) is the teacher of Physical Education & Sports Medicine at Dr. E.P Scarlett High School. She is HIGH energy and has so much to offer throughout this conversation.
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Michelle, Michelle Lowey. She is a teacher of physical education and sports medicine. She has her BA and her BEd major in physical education and kinesiology. She teaches at Dr. E.P Scarlett and is also the learning leader of student activities.
Sam Demma (01:00):
This conversation was filled with awesome stories and actionable advice and tips so make sure you have a note and a notepad and a pen beside you so you can take down all the different takeaways that you hear during this conversation. I’ll see you on the other side of the interview, talk soon. Michelle, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show, why don’t you start by sharing with the listener who you are and how you got into the work with young people that you do today?
Michelle Lowey (01:30):
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Sam. I’m so happy to be here. So my name is Michelle Lowey. I’m a teacher at EP Scarlett. I’m actually new to EP Scarlet. So that’s in Calgary. I’m new to Scarlet this year, I’m just taking on a new role of learning leader of student activities. I also teach leadership and sports medicine and I’ve been in the leadership world for probably about five years. So when I was a student teacher, I was working at Centennial High School and, you know, like I, I knew what a leadership program was, but I didn’t really know the full extent and the depth of what what it all entailed. So when I was a student teacher at Centennial, I worked with a man by the name of Brent Dixon.
Michelle Lowey (02:20):
He’s you know, a fairly big figure in the, in the leadership world. And he has been just a phenomenal mentor to me for the last five years. And he showed me what true student leadership was and the impact it can have and just, you know, the amazing connections that you build with students and that you build in the community. And ever since then, and I saw this model to me as a student teacher, I’ve been all in and it’s been, it’s been incredible. I’ve been involved in the leadership world with Brent, at Centennial for about five years, and now I’m kind of, you know, carving out my own journey now and you know learning leader, student activities at Scarlet, and yeah, really excited to be involved in this world and to be exposed to it because like I said, prior to that, like, you know, I was a kinesiology major and a Phys ed teacher and, and all those things, which I still love. But prior to that, I, I didn’t know the depth of, of what it meant to run a leadership program. And I’m just, I’m so fulfilled to, to be a part of that.
Sam Demma (03:24):
I was gonna say the listener, obviously can’t tell, but there’s a beautiful skeleton over your left shoulder, which definitely relates to your love for kinesiology, which is awesome. Sure. Which makes me really curious, can major turn leadership teacher. What , what led you down this path at what moment in your own career exploration, did you know, I wanna be a teacher, like, was there a defining moment, was there a teacher that spurred you in this path or did you just stumble into it and realize how much you love it now?
Michelle Lowey (03:54):
You know what I always kind of like all throughout high school in that I always, in the back of my mind, I wanted to be a teacher. My journey to, to get there was a little bit longer. I kind of, you know, I did the whole typical gap year thing that a lot of kids do me too. And I ended up kind of getting into a job that was, you know, stable and I was making decent money and, you know, that sort of thing. And, and I, one day, you know, I was kind of at the top of the ladder already in that job that I was at. And one day I just realized I’m like, I, I need more than this in life. And I need to have an opportunity to, to impact others and, and to connect more. And so I was a bit older, but I, I went back to university and, and here we are today. So it was absolutely the right decision and I’m in a career that’s, you know very, very fulfilling. And I, I feel very blessed to be involved in this world.
Sam Demma (04:50):
I love it. And the world has changed specifically education and the whole world with the pandemic. Things have shifted, things have adjusted. There’s been, if I can even use that word anymore. A lot of pivots. Yeah. what are some of the, what are some of the challenges, but also unique opportunities? And I wanna use that word because I feel like there’s, there’s lots of opportunities as well. What are some of the challenges and unique opportunities that you’ve been seeing and experiencing over the past couple of months?
Michelle Lowey (05:20):
Yeah. You know, so I, I think the challenge and, and for, for me, for teachers for students and for, for everybody has been you know, that lack of real human connection. Mm. I was thinking the other day, I was like, it has been 10 months since I’ve hugged somebody other than my significant other. Yeah. And I think that’s, that’s, that can be really challenging for people and it, it can start to kind of wear you down. But I think, you know, many people are feeling this way and I think we, we do what we can. Right. you know, we’ve been super limited in terms of the activities that we’ve been able to run at school leadership and, and what we do in leadership looks nothing like it did last year. But we’ve adapt adapted, right. We, we seek out opportunities to still find ways to connect.
Michelle Lowey (06:10):
And, you know, we you have to get creative, you have to get creative, you have to use your imagination. When I, when I first came into this position, you know, again, new school, new position, I had many people tell me as, as learning leader of student activities. Oh, well, you know, you’re not gonna do, you’re not gonna do anything this year. Like, oh, it’s gonna be a cake walk. You won’t have any actual particular. And, and I’m kind of like, not a chance, like, no, like we will find a way to still, you know, do amazing things. And I, and I think we have, I rely heavily on my students for fun and fresh ideas. You know, especially as it pertains to things, you know, social media and pop culture and, you know, those kind of ways to connect you know, we’ve, we’ve taken our, our traditional events, you know, things like, you know, the Terry Fox run, which is normally, you know, 2000 people exiting the school and running together.
Michelle Lowey (07:04):
And, you know, that obviously wasn’t an option, but we, we made it work. So we we did it. So students and teachers could donate and we set a goal $2,000. And if we beat that goal, we had two very generous teachers that offered to run the, the Terry Fox run on behalf of BP Scarlet. Nice. And they did so in very fun costumes. So there was tutus involved and mullet wigs and pub onesies and all the great stuff. And so we raised, I think just over $2,200, which is incredible in these times, and we had, these two is running in this obstacle course and we’ve videoed it. And there’s kids outside everywhere watching, and we made a fun video with it. And, you know, so I really believe that when there’s a will, there’s a way. And although there’s been, you know, unique challenges and I think you know, it’s, it has been tough times.
Michelle Lowey (07:55):
I think there’s been, you know, things that I have learned through all of this that I never would’ve learned. If COVID, you know, wasn’t a thing, there’s things that I will, I will permanently change moving forward into next school year. Mm. Whether, whether COVID is here, here or not. And, you know, whether it’s my virtual presence, my online presence, that’s been a huge thing like running our school, Instagram accounts has been nice. You incredible way to connect. And so yeah, I think there there’s challenges, but with those challenges, it becomes opportunities to learn and opportunities to grow and, you know, rise to the occasion.
Sam Demma (08:31):
My grandfather always used to tell me if there’s a will, there’s a way, if you want something, you know, work hard for it and change, change what you believe about the situation, because your beliefs will to how you feel about it, how you feel leads to your actions and your actions will lead to the result that you get. And it’s obvious that you’ve been staying optimistic as much as you can in positive. You’re smiling throughout this whole conversation, which is awesome. I keep smiling. Yeah. Although they, although the listener can’t see it, but that’s totally fine. Despite the, the challenges you talked about, your students and yourself coming up with fresh ideas, and some of them have been, you know, really well received. And I’m curious to know out of all the ideas that you have tried out all the spaghetti, you’ve thrown against the wall to see what sticks, what are like one to two, or maybe even like three other small things and no pressure to share three. But if you have one or two ideas that you think are worth sharing, that, that have worked well for you in the school I would love to hear about them.
Michelle Lowey (09:29):
Yeah. So we yeah, we’ve done a variety of things. And again, kind of coming back to that Instagram, that’s been been our biggest thing. And our, our school actually didn’t have an Instagram account prior to this year. And, and thank goodness we have that, that ability to connect in those ways. So we ended up, we ran a virtual spirit week which was, and I know a lot of schools, this isn’t super unique. A lot of schools have been, been doing similar things. So we had, you know, your dress up days, your, your pajama days, your Lancer gear days and things like that. And it was kind of funny because every morning I would have the students, so they would be set up in the front foyer and we would, you know, pump some, some good pump up energy music versus in the morning, you know, eight 30 and the kids are walking in the half asleep still.
Michelle Lowey (10:16):
And the first day they, they came, the kids came through the doors and they were kind of like, what the heck is this? they were, they were a little bit like, you know, a little thrown off by it. Yeah. And, you know, and I had my leadership kids in, out there and their they’re dressed to the nines and whatever spirit day it was. And I, and they’re, you know, wishing kids have a great day, you know, spirit week this week when gift cards do this, do that, like all these online activities that we were running the stories on Instagram, all that stuff. And by day two, it was like, okay, the kids were coming through the door. They were less shocked. They were a little bit happier. They were smiling. They engaging in whatever, you know, dress update. It was. And by the end of the week, it was absolutely incredible to see.
Michelle Lowey (11:04):
And I think, I think it was so important to do that. And I think that was, that was kind of a pivotal moment and still being able to build that school culture. I think a lot kids and a lot of staff have, have come into the school year thinking, you know, oh, it’s, it’s not the same and it’s gonna be this, and it’s gonna be that. And, and you know, with, with kind of that negative mindset and not that I can blame them at all, we’ve all been there. It’s hard to, it’s hard to stay positive, but I think that was a pivotal moment. I really, really all throughout the course of that week teachers getting involved and they’re out in the foyer and we have this music pumping and the kids are coming in and it just, it really sets the tone for the day.
Michelle Lowey (11:48):
And it was just, it was incredible to see the transformation over the five days of doing it from, from day one to day five of just how the kids were receiving it. And they were, you know, just dying to have their picture taken, to be featured on Instagram. And, you know, whereas day one, they were running away from the camera. They wanted nothing to do with it. So it was kind of really creating that environment and saying, you know what? Yes, COVID is here. Yes. your school year does not look the same, but we got you. And, and we’re still gonna make this the best experience that we can. So I think that the spirit week was a really good one. We had helping hampers. Nice. So it was really unfortunate. We were, my class was, was right in the middle of, of plan for, for helping hampers.
Michelle Lowey (12:34):
And we had great stuff planned. It was like for every $4 a student donated they would get a ballot entry and the, the entry was for a ton of different prizes. You had your, like your regular, like your gift cards and things like that. But we had fun stuff too, where you win like a Lazyboy recliner that follows you for the day students were gonna break down to these kids classes from class to class. We had they could win movie lunch. So normally at lunch with COVID, the kids have to go outside or they have to stay in their classroom, which, you know, isn’t always the most fun. And so we had a movie lunch where kids could, you know, win a movie lunch in the Hilary gym, and we would put on their, their favorite movie and give them COVID friendly snacks, and they could invite six of their buds and, and hang out in the gym.
Michelle Lowey (13:21):
So we had all these wonderful things planned and then boom within a day you’re moving to online learning. And so that was no more so everything that we had been planning for kind of went out the window in an instant. So we had three days before we were moving to an online platform. And let me tell you, my kids rose to the occasion. Nice. And we, we hammered the advertising and we did so many creative things on Instagram, and we had teachers involved and, you know, putting this stuff in D two L shells. And anyways, so I just I delivered hampers actually yesterday. We did up five hampers plus we had a thousand dollars left over for an emergency fund. We raised over $3,300 and we did it in, in two days essentially.
Sam Demma (14:09):
Wow, that’s crazy.
Michelle Lowey (14:11):
Yeah. So it was, it was awesome. And, you know, my kids did, they did all that footwork and I felt bad for them because it didn’t, it didn’t turn out like we thought, but like I said, kind of going back to that, that ability to pivot and to be flexible and to, to learn from these opportunities. And then, you know, to think, you know, it’s, it’s such tough times right now, and yet people are still so charitable and so giving and loving and caring. And so it’s really, really inspiring to see.
Sam Demma (14:38):
You mentioned school culture as well. And it it’s obvious that you’ve cultivated with the help of other staff and students and amazing school culture, despite the fact that it’s virtual right now. I think one of the main ingredients of school culture is hope. And when students have hope, things will happen. And when teachers have hope things will happen. And when administration has hope, you know, they’ll take action and things will happen. How do you personally stay hopeful despite challenges and, and what keeps you motivated during this time?
Michelle Lowey (15:08):
Yeah, so, you know, I think that the that’s a variety of things, Sam, like , would it be bad if I said that a vaccine keeps me hopeful?
Sam Demma (15:17):
Michelle Lowey (15:18):
Yeah. Oh man. I was supposed to get married last, last summer. Yeah. And our wedding got postponed. And so I’m supposed to get married this summer. So fingers crossed, you know, that vaccine is coming. Yeah. But I think, you know, even much bigger picture than on that. My students gimme hope. Right. And being able to see them and see them be so resilient and, and gritty and still empathetic and caring through all these times. That’s what gives me hope. And, you know, we did a little thing on, on acts of the kindness last week. And I had students that, that wrote like all the like beautiful letters to senior homes. Mm-Hmm, they did these gratitude chains, you know, with the little strips of paper that you linked together. And they, they wrote what they’re grateful for and these huge gratitude chains that they decorated their houses with. I had one, one student wrote over 40 handmade letters to the troops. Wow. And we had pictures of them. She showed me, I was just like, I was blown away and she sent them off to, to wherever. And they’re being sent overseas. There was sidewalk chalk and window posters and homemade cards. And it’s like, how do you look at that? And lose hope.
Michelle Lowey (16:34):
Right. Like you don’t, and it’s, it’s just amazing. So honestly what gives me hope my students gimme hope and that youth and that energy and, and all that great stuff is, is just so lovely to see. And I’ve had, you know, I’ve had bad days and I think we all had through this, but more often than not, , you know, I leave teaching my class and, and my heart is full and I love it. Yeah. That, that brings a lot of hope.
Sam Demma (17:00):
Ah, that’s awesome. And I’m sure, you know, you’re listening right now thinking the same thing your students probably give you a ton of hope. The work is I don’t even wanna call it work. It’s more of like a calling a vocation because you have such an opportunity to impact the future of a young person, young people, hundreds of them, thousands in your entire school. If you could go back though and speak to your younger self, when you just started teaching and you know, you’re frazzled, you’re not sure what to do. You’re overwhelmed, you’re anxious. You, maybe some of the emotions that we all felt when COVID hit again. But what would you have told yourself? What advice would you have given your younger self before you got into teaching?
Michelle Lowey (17:43):
Oh relaxed. yeah.
Sam Demma (17:49):
I love it.
Michelle Lowey (17:51):
It all works out. Mm. I’m, I’m pretty a type and I’m the perfectionist type. And I, I I like things to be a certain way. And I think with, with student leadership and with teaching in general you need to let go of that perfectionist mindset. You need to be willing to accept that, you know, on some days mediocrity is, is all you can sustain and that’s okay. Right. And be kind to yourself, be kind to yourself would be a big one for sure. I think that you know, it’s really, really important in this profession and working with young people and especially, especially in these times, you know, is that, that acceptance of yourself, that acceptance of, of the work that you’re able to do, you know, like I often I’ll find myself and I’m, you know, running the school Instagram account and I’m looking at other schools, Instagram accounts, and it’s a constant comparison like, oh man, look at these great things for are doing and, oh, we should be doing this and why aren’t we doing that?
Michelle Lowey (18:52):
And, oh, they did that better than us. And yeah. And I think that, you know, it, it’s good to get ideas certainly, and to, to be able to collaborate and, and grow. But I think that can also push you into a bit of an unhealthy mindset. So I think it’s important to balance, you know, work ethic and drive and, and commitment to that craft and commitment to be better. And to balance that too, with, with you know, the, the understanding that what you’re doing in this moment, it is good. Right. And to believe in that and to believe in yourself and to know that, you know, it, it always finds a way of working itself out.
Sam Demma (19:29):
I think that advice is so necessary, not only for you listening, but also for your students, because jealousy comparison, those feelings that you get when looking on Instagram is something that we all experience. And right now we’re using devices and you’re using devices way more than typically we would. And in fact, that’s actually one of the reasons why I decide I was gonna take time away from social media. Now, of course you have to continue running the school account. But I had those similar feelings when I was speaking and I would see another speaker and I was like, wow, they’re doing so great. And their work so amazing. And it just makes you feel like you’re not doing the right thing. And yeah, I think comparison kills creativity and comparison your own unique gifts and talents that you could be using to make an amazing experience for your students. So I like that you brought that up and were vulnerable enough to share that because it’s something that everyone goes through.
Michelle Lowey (20:23):
It’s funny, cuz you spoke to my class at the horizons conference and you oh, no way that you were you were gonna go through your little social media detox and actually that inspired me to do the same. Oh cool. I’ve, I’ve taken a, a hiatus obviously other than the school accounts. Yeah. I’ve taken this from the the social media and, and for those reasons, like it’s just, you know, it was a lot of time and an inability to not engage with some of those negative things. Yeah. And I needed to, I needed a break. Yeah. I think that’s okay.
Sam Demma (21:00):
No, I hear you. And if someone wants to use their phone for good to connect with you and, and steal us some of your positive energy and share some ideas and be a soundboard, where can another educator reach out to you? Would you prefer an email or a social account? Like what would be the best way?
Michelle Lowey (21:15):
I think email’s probably the best. I am kind of planning on getting back on my, my professional Instagram after the new year. So my handle for Instagram @ms_lowey. But again, I won’t be on there till after the new year. But probably the best way would be email. So my school email, which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sam Demma (21:42):
All right. Perfect. Michelle, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing some of your wisdom and insights. I really appreciate it.
Michelle Lowey (21:48):
Thank you so much, Sam. My pleasure.
Sam Demma (21:50):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the high performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating in review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of this show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.
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