About Darryl Tinney
Darryl Tinney (@DTinney17) is an Indigenous educator and has been in education for 23 years, starting his career as an unqualified supply teacher while working towards his Ba/Bed at Lakehead University. Darryl’s first qualified position was with Pelican Falls First Nations High School in Sioux Lookout, ON.
He did a variety of positions there including classroom teacher, athletic director, vice-principal and principal. Darryl has since joined the dynamic team at Keewatin Patricia District School Board and has been the principal in three communities: Pickle Lake, Red Lake and Sioux Lookout. He can now be found as the proud principal of Sioux North High School in Sioux Lookout.
Darryl focuses on the power of positive relationships and utilizes a team approach in his position. These skills were acquired through years of competitive hockey at the junior A and University levels. When Darryl isn’t busy fostering student success he can be found outdoors in beautiful North Western Ontario.
He is a proud dad to Cesar and Roman and husband to Jennifer, all of whom have helped support him during his educational journey! As a lifelong Toronto Maple Leaf fan, no one can question Darryl’s commitment to the things he is passionate about!
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:01):
Darryl, welcome to the high performing educator. It is a huge pleasure to have you on the show this morning. Please start by introducing yourself.
Darryl Tinney (00:09):
Hi, good morning. My name is Darryl Tinney and I’m the principal at Sioux North High School. And we’re part of the Keewatin-Patricia district school board in Northwestern, Ontario.
Sam Demma (00:20):
When did you figure out education was the career that you wanted to get into and how did it happen?
Darryl Tinney (00:27):
Well, my, my journey’s been an interesting one. I think I first had the seeds planted when I was in high school. And you, you get to grade 12 and back when I was in it grade 13, oh, a C and, and you’re kind of thinking, where am I gonna go from here? And it just so had happened. I was in OAC and I, the way my courses lined up, I never did get an opportunity to take a co-op. And I had a spare and my teacher, one of my teachers had to step in and become an acting vice-principal for a short period of time because the vice principal had become sick with something and they couldn’t get coverages for her art class, her grade nine art class. So art is definitely not my strength or anything, but I, I just watched them kind of struggle for a couple of days.
Darryl Tinney (01:12):
And I just said, Hey, you know, I’ve got a spare this period. And I’d like to just jump in there and see, see what happens. So I I’ve shot, they allowed me to do it. It was a great experience. And I got that was my first dabble in working with students and youth. I was in grade 13 working with grade nine kids, and they kind of planted that seed for me that this might be something I want to do. And then like, you know, when I reflect back too, I had a lot of impactful teachers and even administrators that impacted my, my way in, in career when I was younger. I know in hindsight, a couple of my teachers slash principals, like one of, one of them being Terry Elwood in grade seven and eight and another one being Jack McMaster in high school, they were my principals. They took extra time to like coach and do you know, extended math with plus things like that that were interesting. And both of those principles that I had went on to become like directors of education in multiple boards. So it, it kinda planted that seed for me that, you know, this is something I might be able to do. Yeah. As a teacher, that the administration thing was a totally different avenue, but we, we can get into that if you want.
Sam Demma (02:28):
Yeah, absolutely. So they planted the seed. What was the first school you started at and what was the position and then, yeah, let’s, let’s go through the journey. Tell me how, you know, how it started and what brought you to administration.
Darryl Tinney (03:39):
So when I first began I’m not even gonna exaggerate, but that first year was so overwhelming because what you kinda learn in teachers college is all like the theory and the practical. And sometimes the real learning happens when you’re doing it on the ground. And, and I remember it was Thanksgiving and I was like, wow, is this what I signed up for? And I was really lucky. I had some really strong mentors working with me, one, Darren Lance, he’s now a principal at the Lakehead district school board. I see. And then Wendy, who’s actually one of the teachers I work with now at my current school. And they really helped teach me time management and just the BBDO flows of the job. And you can’t do everything every day and just that the pacing that’s required to be successful in teaching.
Darryl Tinney (02:44):
All right. So when, when I first started teaching, I, I, I did it unqualified for five years. Mm. I I was going through university. I, I would do the Northwestern Ontario thing work at the sawmill in the summer. And then I would supply teach in the Springs and in our region sometimes there’s a shortage of qualified teachers, which allows opportunities for unqualified people, but it was, it was a win-win for me because from my first year university, right through the fifth year, I was able to supply teach at been qualified rate mm. Which gave me some extra experience. And then once I graduated university in 2004, my, my first teaching position was with Pelican falls, first nation high school, which is a federal school in S code here. And, and I spent 10 years there in, in a variety of roles.
Darryl Tinney (04:27):
And then, so I, I did that. I, I did a number of different courses over, over the years. I got into, even though I never took PHED in university in a small school, sometimes opportunities present themselves. And before long I was teaching Fyed in, in an athletic director. So I, I got a lot of experience very early in my career. And I remember I was in my fourth year of teaching. And in that particular school, I had four different principals in four different vice principals in four years. Wow. So it was, it was really challenging for the whole staff. It was like every year you’d have a new person leading the ship, new visions, new things you had to navigate. And then at the end of the year, you started all again. Right. So I, I remember I was at a meeting where the board kinda brought all the staff together from our school and just kinda brainstormed what what’s up.
Darryl Tinney (05:23):
And again, I was a fourth year teacher, but what I didn’t realize at the time was when, when it was my turn to speak, I, I kind of identified what some of the challenges were, but I also provided some solutions, some suggestions, some out the box ideas. And I remember after that meeting, I got called into the directors office. I’m like, oh man, what did I say? And as it turns out, they just said, Hey, look everybody had a chance to speak. And you’re the only person that provided solutions and suggestions, and didn’t just complain. So we really want you to consider the bacon vice principal position and apply for it. Nice. And as a fourth year teacher, that was overwhelming. It’s like, ah, I don’t know about that. Right. Yeah. But I, you know, I, I, I really put some thought into it and I said, I’ll give it a shot. And that’s kind of where my administration career took off.
Sam Demma (06:13):
That’s awesome. You have four letter is on your shirt, SHSM for the Ontario principles tuning in and for the ones outside of Ontario who aren’t familiar with, what SHS< is, are you involved in it personally and tell, tell us a little bit about SHSM.
Darryl Tinney (06:31):
Sure. Yeah. So SHSM is a program we have in Ontario that kind of opens the, the door to some red seals and different apprenticeship opportunities for students as they work through their high school career. So in our particular school, we have four SCHs we have construction auto health and wellness and business. And then as you get into grade 11 and 12, you kind of have of complimentary courses to your core courses that are the, the SHSM courses. And, and they when you graduate, you get like the red seal, it helps you to get into those fields. And it’s great experience. So yeah, I figured today I would wear like, you know, some promotional things for the, for the school, the board in the province. Yeah. Awesome. All people weren’t here.
Sam Demma (07:20):
No, it’s amazing. I I’ve done some work in SHSM with other schools before, and I think the program is phenomenal and is an amazing way for students to explore different career paths and opportunities before they even leave high school. So it’s cool to hear that your school has a couple of those programs in place. You, you mentioned at the beginning of the interview that you had teachers and educators that played a big role in your own life, who are some of those people and what impact did they have on you or, you know, when you were a student, how did they influence you and have an impact on you?
Darryl Tinney (07:58):
When, when I was in high school, I played hockey as well. So I, I jumped schools a little bit, so I got to see a wide range of teachers. I played triple a hockey Kenora. So I went to beaver bay, high school there, but then part of the year, I, I remained in my home community here, Sula coat, which at the time was queen Elizabeth district high school. We we’re now in a brand new school called to north high school. But when I, when I think back to some of the teachers I’ve had in both of those schools, to me, it was always the, the ones that took a, a vested interest in not just me, but all kids and, and found ways to get through to them, motivate them just bring out the best in them. And, and to me, that always resonated with me cuz it’s all about helping people in, in the importance of relationships.
Darryl Tinney (08:44):
Right. And but also challenging people to do the best that they can. I remember I had one teacher in particular where I had transferred from Kenora at the midterm mark and I had like a 92 and finite math or something and I’m thinking, oh yeah, I’m just gonna cruise control right into a 90. Right. And then I came into his class halfway through and we were doing stuff I had already done, but it was like next level stuff. It wasn’t just a basics. He was trying to like really build on what we already knew and challenge us to do to do more with that math. And at the time I was like, oh, what, what are you doing? I just wanna get this 90 and, and call it a day. But like in, in hindsight, he, he was, he saw more potential in, in some of the students and wanted to help us get to that next level. Right. For whether it be university or life or whatever.
Sam Demma (09:32):
That’s awesome. I even think back to teachers I had, who made a big difference. I often quote Mike loud foot is one educator who really got to know each and every one of the students, like you’re saying, had a vested interest in us as individuals and would take his content and curriculum, teach it and then figure out a way to tie it into our interests. So he would teach a lesson and then say for, for Sam, for you, this means X. And for John, for you, this means X. And for Olivia, for you, this would mean X. And that really made all of us as students bought into the lessons he was teaching. Right now I would argue that things are a little different. They look a little different in education. What are some of the ch challenges that your school community is currently faced with?
Darryl Tinney (10:21):
Yeah, I, I would say some of the challenges most recently are definitely some of the the COVID challenges. And then I would even throw in some of the, the buzzword that, that come with COVID like pivoting and empowering and, and things like that. Right. Like it it’s really like for our school board, the last two years we’ve been doing something called quadmesters where instead of taking the traditional four courses over half a year, you’re taking two for half a day for a quarter of the year. And, and it’s worked out fairly well for our students in success and retention. But it’s interesting as we were debating going back to semesters right before hit, some of the students were like, what’s a semester. Like we, we’ve never done that. So then like, to me, I look at the challenges, but also what could come from those challenges.
Darryl Tinney (11:13):
And, and we’re really given an opportunity here with COVID to look at education, the whole thing, and hit the reset button and look at some best practices that might be able to shift how we’ve traditionally done things, including the timing of the year and, and whatnot. I’ve seen some interesting things with collaboration, innovation, like even most recently when we started January for I’m a distance in, in continuing with remote learning. I, I saw teachers through different social media platforms and different boards, Toronto peel, Durham, our board sharing resources with the whole province like, Hey, this is tough. Here’s some templates, here’s some best practices, feel free to try it, feel free to add to it. And, and I, I’ve never seen that in education. Like I see the past couple years. And, and I, I think in, in the past it might have been more of a guarded thing. Like these are my resources. I worked hard for them. I don’t really want to just share them. And, and you know, there used to be that concept of teachers paid teachers, those kind of resources, but this is all just people sharing their best practices to try to make it easier for someone else who might be having a hard time. And to me, that really resonates with me that that gives me a lot of hope for, for how we can tackle challenges in the future.
Sam Demma (12:34):
So collaboration, teamwork are two things that give you hope. What else keeps you motivated every day to show up despite the challenges and try and do the best work possible for your school community?
Darryl Tinney (12:51):
For me personally, like I’m competitive in nature. Like I, I played some, you know, competitive sports when I was younger junior hockey, university hockey and nice with that too. It helped shape who I am today with the whole concept of the importance of a team. Right. And, and working together to a common goal. So for me I’ve had the privilege of working in five schools now as, as a principal and each of those schools was D for different challenges, different staff with their strengths and, and whatnot. And, and my job isn’t to be someone that sits above, but someone that sits within with a different role, I’ve, I’ve always viewed myself as like a coach GM when, when I’m the principal of a schooler, right? Like not like as a authority figure, right. I’m part of the team.
Darryl Tinney (13:39):
I just have a different role. And part of my role is to try to bring out the best in the team and, and to do that, you, you have to know your team. And, and for me, it’s the importance of relationships. I, I really value that. And so some of the, like, I, you know, following other educators on, on Twitter and social media, attending some conferences and stuff, you, you pick up little nuggets and quotes over the years, but like most recently for me, I would say, I, I read a quote re I think it was last week a gentleman by the name of dot Brad Johnson. And he was talking about school culture. And that minutes, after walking into a school, you, you can see the school culture by the demeanor and interactions of staff and students, and everyone impacts culture, but the leader is the thermostat. And to me, that that’s true. Like we, we do have that responsibility of setting a positive tone for everybody. And I, I, I don’t take that lightly with my role.
Sam Demma (14:43):
Yeah. I think it’s a really important role as well. And it definitely trickles down very quickly. What, what resources, and you just gave us one, which is awesome, what resources or different learning have you been through throughout your entire career that you think was really valuable for your own personal development that may also be beneficial for other educators or teachers, and it could be absolutely anything or it could also be a, a mindset shift or maybe the importance of mentorship, whatever you feel is valuable, feel free to share.
Darryl Tinney (15:22):
Yeah. I mean, I, I think whether you’re a teacher, a principal, anybody in the education field you’re, you’re in there partially because you’re a lifelong learner. Mm. And I, I think we have an obligation to continue to learn ourselves. Right. So for me, I I’ve I I’ve done that a number of ways reading books authors who have like currently, you know, in leadership, I, I read, you know, some Simon Sonic and some different authors that promote leadership and best strategy is I I’ve gone to some conferences earlier in my career. Like, I know there’s an organization called solution tree. They have a, a wide library of different topics that are education relevant. And top-notch speakers. I I’ve actually met, met a couple of those speakers over the years, and I do consider them like professional colleagues, not like, like, you know, hang out and, and have coffee together.
Darryl Tinney (16:15):
But like, we stay connected, right? Like, there’s one, one guy in, in BC, Tom, her, he, he, some of his work on relationships and Ken Williams, they, they just, those lessons, they stick with you and then they, they help you reflect and form your own practice and, and whatnot, but also you know, just AQ courses as well. Like a number of universities have some really top-notch courses that can expand your learning. I I’ve taken a number of them, like based on interest, but also sometimes based on things I need here, here’s what I would say, like the, the P Q P courses, like if anybody’s interested in school level leadership, even if it’s not to be a vice vice principal or a principal, it’s, it’s a great course to just learn kind of why maybe sometimes decisions are made and, and then you have that context. Right. And like currently right now, I I’m taking the so Q P modules. Not that I want to be an so Q P tomorrow or an so, but it, it just, it helps you to understand why sometimes at that 30,000 foot level things are, are happening the way they are and how they connect with the bigger picture with the ministry and things like that just helps you to understand your context and apply it in your local context.
Sam Demma (17:31):
Got it. For educators outside of Ontario who may have slightly different abbreviations, what is a SO and a PQP?
Darryl Tinney (17:40):
Yes. Yes. So supervisory officer qualification program. Cool. And then the PQP is the principal qualification program.
Sam Demma (17:47):
Got it. Awesome. And if, if you could go back into your first year class with the advice, the first year class that you taught with the advice and experience that you have now, if you tapped yourself on the shoulder, what advice would you have given your younger self? Or what if wish you would’ve heard?
Darryl Tinney (18:07):
Well, yeah, I, here, here’s some advice, I would say, say whether I was beginning teaching or whether I was beginning into administration, you don’t know everything. And, and once you can say that and say it with confidence and not as like a demeaning quality, but actually a liberating quality, it makes your job a lot easier. I I’ve had colleagues before, or, or I just, you see them with someone asks the question that they don’t know the answer to. They take it personal, like they’re out to get me, they pulled out the hand grenade and pulled the pin out and dropped it in my lap kind of thing. Right. And that’s not, you can’t look at it like that way. Like sometimes those are legitimate questions and that’s their problem and practice for the day. And if you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say that. And again a quote I, I saw here is one second here.
Sam Demma (19:02):
Oh, no worries.
Darryl Tinney (19:03):
If this is a Simon Sinek quote, when we admit we don’t know the answer, it increases the chances that someone will offer to help. Mm. And then you know, leadership is not boasting about what, you know, it’s about having the confidence to admit what you don’t know, but committed to finding the solutions. Mm. So for me, I think when, when I started my education journey, if a student asked me a question and I didn’t know, like re reality, you you’re teaching sometimes you’re a, a week ahead of where they are. Right. You’re, you’re learning a new course and how to flow it. And things like that, just be, be honest, be, be authentic. And I think people, they, they gravitate to that. And it, it helps with the other things I’ve been talking about, like the importance of relationships. Like for me, I I’m a secondary educator.
Darryl Tinney (19:54):
I’m a secondary principal, but a couple years ago, I, I was asked to do an assignment, which was a elementary principal at the time was the biggest elementary school in our board. And it had a number of number of challenges with with students and, and a high special ed population, things like that. And if I went in there, if they, I knew it all, I, I wouldn’t have lasted the year. Mm. But you, you have a strong team, you have to trust the team. And to me, that was a really a growth opportunity for me. It was outta my comfort zone. I, I do think we had success for the two years. I was there, but not, not because of me, just because I was able to tap in with the the team that we had and, and find the common areas we wanted to work towards and trust them. And they trusted me. And it, it worked.
Sam Demma (20:45):
Teamwork feels like a main theme of this interview, which I really love. I think it’s important now more than ever, especially because things are changing left right center every single day. So being connected is super important. Final question here to wrap up the interview. Tell me about a time where a program that you brought into your school, or you and your team brought into the school made an impact, maybe on the school culture, on the students, on the staff feel free to choose whatever type of impact you wanna share.
Darryl Tinney (21:24):
Sure. I, I, I have a couple different programs I can kinda highlight, but I guess one that our board is pretty proud about and, and I can’t take any credit in developing it. It was developed at Dryden high school, but I’ve now worked in two schools that have benefited from that. And we have the position as well. And that’s the the grad coach program, the indigenous grad coach. Mm. So in, in in our region, there there’s a high indigenous population in a number of our, our schools, including ours, which is like 78%. And, and there’s lots of research and data over the years where there’s like, I hate to use the term like a gap, right. But in success rates. So Dr. High school at the time, they, they recognized that. And they came up with this idea of an indigenous grad coach who would assist the students to try to remove the barriers to their success, whether it be sitting in a class and, you know, the, the students just aren’t learning the way you’re teaching them or whether it’s, they, they need supplies, they need food, they need to get a taxi to get to school and try to remove the barriers and support them.
Darryl Tinney (22:37):
So for, for us in our school board that’s been a program that’s had huge impacts on student success for a number of students in a number of communities. The grad coach program grew to four of our schools now. So north high school, beaver bra, and red lake school. Wow. And it’s been the template for other boards in the province now to also have those programs. And we were kind of like the champion pilot at the beginning, working with the ministry, it is ministry funded. So I, I think that is something we’re, we’re pretty proud about in our board our work around reconciliation. We, you know, you always have more work you can do around it, but it’s something we’ve, we pride ourselves in working with our indigenous partners to try to move that work forward. And then like on, on a lower scale, like, just like I talked about earlier, looking at out of the box innovation, we, when I was in red lake the vice principal myself there, Sean de Norac, we had a partnership with the M and R where they would provide the S SP 100 course for the outdoor ed students.
Darryl Tinney (23:40):
And they, they did that free pro bono as hoping to be a recruitment tool that maybe they would recruit some of our high school students into force firefighting in the summer. Right. So I remember my second year there, they kind of said, Hey, look, you know, we’ve been doing this. It hasn’t really been giving us what we needed and in getting some people back, is there something we can do to kind revisit isn’t that and see if we can enhance our, what we can get out of it. So we, we looked at it and we kind of did this little pilot project where we, we did it so that it was like a paid co-op in the spring when firefighting season started, we switched around their schedules and stuff. And all of a sudden we had like, I think six kids go right from school into firefighting.
Darryl Tinney (24:26):
And just by shifting how we did business and supporting kids it, it was a win-win for them and our, and for our students to the point where like the following year, we randomly got a call from another school board. I think it was superior Greenstone saying, Hey, we were talking with our M and R locally. And they mentioned you, you did something to try to promote this. How, how did you do that? What did it look like? And, and to me, that’s what education’s all about, right. Looking at trying to be innovative and then sharing out your best practices and if it benefits somebody else. Great.
Sam Demma (24:57):
I love it. Dar, thank you so much for sharing a piece of your experience today on the podcast. Some cool ideas and resources. If someone, one wants to reach out, ask you a question or talk about anything that was mentioned, what would be the best way to get in touch and reach out to you?
Darryl Tinney (25:14):
Well, I’m, I’m very active on the Twitter community. So my handles at (twitter) So and again, a lot of the people I mentioned that I follow and you, some of their coach today, I also see on Twitter. Some of them I’ve never met before, but their, their tweets definitely resonate with me and, and give me some suggestions. Alternatively, you can look me up on the KP website, under Sue north high school, and my contact information can be found there.
Sam Demma (25:44):
Awesome. Dar, thank you so much again, keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.
Darryl Tinney (25:48):
Awesome. Thanks so much.
Join the Educator Network & Connect with Darryl Tinney
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.