About the Daniel Steckley
Dan is a Physical Education and Leadership teacher at Sir John A. Macdonald S.S. in Waterloo, Ontario. He is in his 11th year of teaching, minus the year he took off to work on the largest cruise ship in the world as a sports staff for Royal Caribbean International.
Dan and his wife recently got married this fall in the middle of the pandemic. He is passionate about fitness, food and a good cup of coffee. Dan has been a Student Leadership Advisor at his school for the last 5 years.
His motivation is to develop a school culture that connects all students and provides them with a platform and a space to do great things.
He has helped to coordinate and host large school and community events such as CSLC, OFSAA, Relay for Life, Horizons, Change Cafe, and various leadership conferences.
Connect with Daniel: Email
Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.
Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School Website (SJAM)
Canadian Student Leadership Conference (CSLC)
Canadian Student Leadership Association (CSLA)
Horizon Leadership Conferences
Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA)
Relay for Life – Canadian Cancer Society
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. I’m really excited again as always to bring you another interview with another high performing educator. Daniel Steckley is a physical education and leadership teacher at Sir John A. Mcdonald’s Seconadary School in Waterloo, Ontario. He is in his 11th year of teaching; minus the year he took off to work on the largest cruise ship in the world as a sports staff for the Royal Caribbean international. That’s a pretty cool job. Dan and his wife recently got married this fall in the middle of the pandemic. He’s passionate about fitness, food, and having good cups of coffee. Dan has been a student leadership advisor at his school for the last five years and his motivation is to develop a school culture that connects all students and provides them with a platform and a space to do great things. He has helped to coordinate and host large school and community events, such as CSLC, OFSAA, relay for life, horizons, change cafe, and various leadership conferences. Please help me in welcoming from your house, your car, your classroom, giving a round of applause to the invisible audience; Dan Steckley.
Sam Demma (01:20):
Dan, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
Daniel Steckley (01:26):
Thanks Sam. I’m excited to be here. Thanks for setting us up.
Sam Demma (01:30):
Of course. Can you take a moment to just tell the audience, you know, who you are and why? Share why you got into the work you do with young people that you’re doing today?
Daniel Steckley (01:39):
Yeah, for sure. I’m a secondary school team with the Waterloo region district school board and teaching at Sir John A. McDonald Secondary School. And right now I currently am teaching student leadership, or I guess otherwise known as interdisciplinary studies. In terms of how I got into this, or why I, I guess why I do this. I think if I narrowed it down, the biggest thing would be, I enjoy doing this because I like helping others, or helping students to do great things and seeing them succeed. I think that’s kind of my why or what motivates me every day, makes me happy is kind of watching, watching others, others succeed and, and go and do amazing things in our, in our world.
Sam Demma (02:28):
Did you have someone in your life push you in the same direction, which led you to becoming an educator or did you know from a young age when I grew up, I want to teach.
Daniel Steckley (02:38):
Yeah. I don’t think I had a, a big life changing event. I think I had lots of, lots of those people in my life. That helped guide me in that direction. Probably not knowingly. I think, yeah, starting out my, my grandpa was actually a, a teacher and a principal. And he started out in a one room back in the day in a one room schoolhouse. So I always enjoyed like, hearing stories about it’s, it’s crazy to think that like how long ago that was, but what it was like to, you know, be a teacher, how many years been what, 70 years ago? Yeah, 60 years ago, teaching in a one room school host and what that was like. I think I had some awesome, I was big into sports. I had some awesome coaches pH ed teachers that I think really played an impact into, in my, in my development and kind of guiding me in this direction in terms encouraging you, telling you, you know, Hey, you’re good at this. Have you considered this, but appreciating the impact they made in my life as well, too.
Sam Demma (03:44):
That’s awesome. And when you think about the current scenario, you know, way different than what school was like 70 years ago in a barn house. Yeah. It, some, some challenges have been placed on the education world in the form of COVID 19 and a global pandemic. I’m curious to know because everyone’s throwing spaghetti against the wall right now and seeing what sticks have you had any challenges with your leadership class and have you tried anything outta the ordinary that has either failed miserably and you’ve learned from it and someone else can, or had a great success with something you’ve tried and wanna share it with the audience?
Daniel Steckley (04:22):
Yeah, I think obviously tons of challenges right now. I think the biggest is the missing the face to face interaction with, with the students. The ability to collaborate work together learn from each other. I think the in person, especially with the way technology is great, but I think in our world we can’t lose lose sight of how important those face to face relationships are. That’s how you build, that’s how you develop trust. That’s how you build relationships. And I think that’s what allows people to achieve great things. So I think having to shift virtual online there are some challenges, challenges with with that. I think the other important thing that I’ve kind of helped remind myself is that our kind of why our end goal as educators has not changed, right? We’re still working with students to, you know, help them do great things, help them, help, help them realize their full potential, help them be be DRS of change in our worlds and, and to be, and grow into these awesome human beings who who, yeah, who make a difference in our world. And that has not changed. So the platform which we are are doing that maybe has changed and we’re delivering our content and our instruction has maybe changed slightly, but really what we do is not changing at all and hasn’t changed. So I think that’s one important thing reminding myself, and has helped helped out a lot too.
Sam Demma (05:46):
Okay. That’s cool. And speaking that the purpose of education hasn’t changed, I’m sure over the years, you’ve had dozens of students reach out to you and tell you how big of an impact you’ve had on them. And you have to see that firsthand. Some other educators tell me they keep a, a bad day file on their desk, where they keep all the notes they’ve received. And if they’re having a bad day, they pull out a note and they read it to remind themselves, you know, this is really important work. Do you have a story in mind of a student who maybe has been impacted by you do with leadership and you, if it’s a serious story, you can change their name for the purpose of privacy reasons, but it would be cool if you could share it. So other educators can also be reminded why this work is, is so important and needed now more than ever.
Daniel Steckley (06:30):
Yeah. I think kind of going along with that is, is as educators, we never really know that you’re impacted. We have sure. I think that’s one cool thing about our cool thing about our job, right? We might not realize that till 20 years down the road we might never hear about the, the difference or maybe impact you had in a kid’s life. I guess thing for me that knows when you’re making difference, is those proud moments when you see your students kind of achieve and do do great things like the, the notes, the written reminders, thank yous that like, I love those. Those are always great, but I think the real thing that makes me happy is seeing kids do great things. Mm. So I know that yeah, one example to share is a student of mine. We’ve been joining in, I think you’ve been a part of it too.
Daniel Steckley (07:17):
Some of these on online leadership conferences and one conference we had had the opportunity for students to be actually present as a keynote speaker, do like a mini presentation, four or five minutes. Yeah. And one of my students did a keynote presentation there did the last four or five minutes. And like absolutely blew it away. Like his message, his story was, was awesome. So impactful. The number of like the amount of feedback he received and we received on like kind of, I received saying how amazing like that student is and how great or impactful the story was. There was a story about, he shared about his grandma passing away and living life with regrets and stuff like this, and to take and take advantage of opportunities and seize the moment and seize those seize those opportunities. But just seeing that student grow through that experience.
Daniel Steckley (08:12):
Right. And having the platform, the opportunity to to share like a keynote message in front of whether it’s virtual online in front of tons of people. Yeah. That’s, what’s really cool as an educator to see, see students grow kind of grow and, and see them realize their potential in that way. One example another like recent more simple example is I got my kids through an activity. We’ve kind of talked about how how everyone wants to get back to a new normal right now. Right. We wanna get back to life as normal and, and live life, how we used to, we wanna be able to, you know, hang out with people. If school is normal, play basketball after school sports, drama, activities, all that kind of stuff. So we didn’t exercise with our students where I got them to to look at the idea that we don’t wanna get back to normal as we, as we left it.
Daniel Steckley (09:04):
But this is a good opportunity to press pause and create like a new normal, right. So what can we leave behind from our old normal that maybe wasn’t healthy or or great, right. And how can we create a better new normal where we kind of reevaluate what’s important in life. As we move forward and the student just sent a message saying like, thank you, this op, like this assignment was like, was amazing. I learned so much. And it really got me to think about what I value in life. Kind of like moving forward. So that was one of those messages where you get where it’s like, just seems like a simple little assignment, but the kids reaching out and, you know, saying, I actually enjoy doing work in your course is kind of cool to cool to see.
Sam Demma (09:49):
That’s really awesome. And the topic of activities. Do you have any other things that might be worth sharing with others that you’ve tried ride with your class that have just been a home run? Maybe, maybe it’s a simple question or reflection or something virtually, if anything comes to mind, it would be cool to, to hear about it.
Daniel Steckley (10:06):
Yeah. I guess I, I don’t have one one amazing thing, but I guess I’m just trying to bring it back and think about when I’m doing activities, lessons with my kids, what are, what are simple skills or activities we can do that set them up for success in the future? Sure. We talk about our world is changing so quickly in the, in terms of like content, what they’re learning now, by the time they get a job seven or eight years from now content might be completely irrelevant. So what are these kind of soft skills that are important in developing in students? So I guess a few things that I’ve been doing with my kids in the virtual online world that have been really cool to see the results of one is I’ve been getting them to do interviews. So similar to the podcast style we’re doing, but it’s amazing seeing them reach out and practice the skill or art of asking questions and listening to people’s stories.
Daniel Steckley (10:59):
So yeah, hearing kids like interview their grandparents, their parents, their people, they look up to and being able to learn from other people I found it was really cool. That’s been a cool one. So interviews what else have we done? Storytelling learning how to kind of like do a keynote presentation. Like we talked about earlier, nice has been a really successful one where kids can use stories to share their message. And then we’ve also been working on projects where students have a bit of freedom, but they can, they have to pick something they’re good at and something they wanna see changed in the world and then put those two together into a plan of action somehow. So so some of the results of those projects have been really cool to, to see what they’ve come up with.
Sam Demma (11:47):
That’s awesome. These are great exercises and activities, and there might be some educators listening, who this is their first year in education. And they’re thinking, what the heck did I sign up for? And, you know, they’re, they’re taking notes on this episode and I’m curious to know if you could speak to your younger self and your first year of teaching, what would, what advice would you share with a, with your, with yourself or a fellow educator who might also be in their first year of teaching?
Daniel Steckley (12:15):
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think I have two pieces of advice the first would be to not compare yourself to anyone else. Mm. We like share that message with kids a lot. When we look at like social media and Instagram, it’s easy to, you know, look at other people’s posts and stories and likes and all that kind of stuff. Yeah. But I think as educators, it’s a really important thing that we remember too. As teachers, it’s easy to be, you know, look at man, I can’t believe what that school’s doing or that teacher’s doing, or like, I’m not doing enough. I should be, you know, I should be doing more I’m or like to keep up with what everyone else doing. But just remember that what you’re doing is like, it’s great, right. As long as you’re doing something that’s meaningful and impactful. Yeah. That is good enough. And you don’t need to feel like you’re doing what other schools or other teachers are doing, or other programs are doing that. Just do what you’re good at and do what you find has meaning and, and value. So I think that’s a, that’s an important one that I still need to remind myself of today because yeah. It’s easy to look at other teachers and say, feel that you’re not doing a good job. Me too.
Sam Demma (13:25):
Daniel Steckley (13:26):
Yeah. And you probably, I think we can all yeah. Experience that. Yeah. And then the next thing would be, is to like just take care of yourself. I think that it’s so easy to get there’s so, so much going on. Right. There’s million resources, million things you could be doing. Yeah. But you gotta take care of yourself. Yeah. And make sure you protect your own personal time as well, too. Right. That you don’t take your job with you 24 7, that you’re not staying up till midnight planning lessons. Like it’s good. You care about your job, but in order for you to be an impactful educator teacher, for me to do a good job in my role, I gotta make sure I take care of myself too, which is going to the gym, getting exercise like eating healthy, spending time with my, you know, wife and family. And doing those things are, are really important. Cuz if you don’t take care of yourself, it’s hard to, you’re gonna burn out and it’s hard to be effective in, in your, in your job as an educator.
Sam Demma (14:26):
So, so, so, so true. And I love how you mentioned the piece about comparison and social media. I recently took a decision or made a decision to take a year off social media and you know, for an educator it might not be possible, but you know, if you’re listening, maybe try a detox or of a week or a month and see how your life differs from when you were using it often. And there’s many reasons why it might be good to give it a shot. And you know, one of them is comparison. Another one might be just time spent on the app that could be spent elsewhere. But you bring up an amazing point. And if anyone wants to reach out, if there’s other educators that are listening and have a conversation with you, Dan, what would be the best way for them to do so?
Daniel Steckley (15:08):
The best is to send me an email probably. I’m happy to share that. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. WRDSB stands for the Waterloo region district school board.
Sam Demma (15:29):
Daniel Steckley (15:29):
Well, yeah. Love, love hearing from people and collaborating too. So yeah, happy to share.
Sam Demma (15:34):
Cool. Thank you so much for coming on the show; short but impactful. And hey, I look forward to keeping in touch with you and seeing all the cool stuff that you continue to do.
Daniel Steckley (15:44):
Thanks Sam. Appreciate you having me.
Sam Demma (15:46):
Another high performing educator coming to you on the podcast. I hope you enjoyed this interview with Daniel. If you did, consider reaching out to him to bounce some ideas around. I know he would love to chat and love to be a soundboard for anything related to student culture, school culture, student leadership, student advisors. Please, please do reach out. And as always, if you got something from this and you think it was of value, please consider leaving a rating on the show so other educators just like you can find this content and benefit from it. If you have an idea you wanna share, also shoot me an email @infosamma.com and we’ll get your story and your insights on the show very soon. All the best, 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.