About Melanie Headley
Melanie (@MelanieHeadley) is a teacher, student council advisor, lifelong learner and the #1 Springsteen fan :). She has an infectiously positive aura and is constantly striving to provide her students with the support they need to reach their full potential.
**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 high performing educator guest on the show is Melanie Headley. Melanie is a educator. She is a teacher and the student council advisor at Bluefield High School. She is an islander by choice, a mom, a wife, a friend, a bobcat, a teacher, a server, a lifelong learner, a runner, and the number one Springsteen fan Melanie has so much energy and so much wisdom and so much insight to provide that she, that she gives in this episode.
Sam Demma (01:14):
And she’s one of the most, I would say, energetic and highly engaged and caring educators that I’ve had the chance to speak to. So I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed the conversation I had with Melanie. And I will see you on the other side. Melanie, thank you so much for coming on the high performing educator podcast. It’s a huge honor and pleasure to have you. I know we just talked about the fact that we know so many similar people. You know, maybe you can even start by sharing this story that you just told me and the hope that Mark might hear it and be a little inspired that people are talking about him.
Melanie Headley (01:49):
Hi, Sam. So nice to meet you. Thank you so much for this opportunity. Before actually that I shared that specific story with you, I also want to include that when Maddie Campbell from CSLA, when she emailed me saying that she had shared my name with you I actually had to go back and read the email a couple times to make sure that it was actually me. But anyway, so I’m very honored to be a part of this. So last Thursday night I had tuned in a little late to the meet the maestros session that CSLA was putting on. And at the end, when, just before we had all signed off and I think it was Dave Conlan who had said, is there any, you know, any final comments, anything else that, you know, we need to share with each other before we sign off.
Melanie Headley (02:45):
And I hope I remember correctly, but I’m pretty sure. It was Lenora that had said, if you haven’t tuned into the High Performance Educator podcast with Sam Demma, put it on your to-do list. She also said Mark England’s was uploaded today. So that was, that was really, really neat and the second that I logged off, stayed up a little later than I probably should have that night, but it was cause I was, I was listening to the lovely and kind gentle soul of Mark England. So that was really sweet because you know, not having had the opportunity to attend CSLC this year, it’s just so, so important that we we have these opportunities and whether it’s through your podcast or through a virtual meet the maestros you know, that we can still connect in those ways.
Sam Demma (03:44):
And now you’re a guest on the show. So why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about who you are and how you got into the work you’re doing with young people today?
Melanie Headley (03:53):
Sure. so again, my name is Melanie Headley and I teach at Bluefield high school Bluefield high, a school is located in the community of Hampshire. But it is about 10 minutes west of Charlottetown. So if you’re familiar with the capital of PEI Bluefield is a school just outside of Charlottetown. And I actually grew up in am Nova Scotia. So I’m not, I’m a CSA, I’m a come from away as it’s called. But the island is my home now. But I grew up in am Nova Scotia and I did my first degree at Mount Allison university. And when I went to Mount a, I was going because my end goal at that time was to be a lawyer. So my path was to go to law school and I took clinical science history and English. And in my third year I started the process of applying to law school.
Melanie Headley (04:57):
Hmm. And that included reference. So I needed two professors to write references and both agreed nice. And however, there’s a little bit of a twist. The day after I had actually crossed paths with one of the two professors that had agreed to, to support me. And when we crossed paths, he said, I need to speak to you for a second. And of course I was like, no, what, what does he wanna tell me? He doesn’t wanna write this, this reference letter. And he says to me, and, and I could honestly, I can still hear his voice in my head. And he says, Melanie, while I think that you would make a good lawyer, I think that you would make a great teacher. Hmm.
Melanie Headley (05:47):
So after I graduated from Mount a, I did not go to law school. I moved to Halifax where I worked for the year. But even more so than working, I volunteered at a junior high school. And it was through that volunteer work that I made the decision to apply to the education program at U P I. So the following September I started the program and later that my, we found out where our teaching practicums would be. And when I was told Bluefield high school, I had no idea where it was located, how I was gonna get there. So lo and behold, I did my practicum at Bluefield with two fabulous list educators who to this day have become great friends of mine. So Jennifer Gill and Brett wood both took me under their wing. And I completed my first teaching practicum with the two of them. I went on to do two more practicums, cuz at that time, U P E I, the education program was two years. And then in my second year, right before, about a week before convocation I would, I was now certified and so I was very, very keen to start substituting. So I came out to Bluefield to let them know that I would be available and the vice principal here at the time she says to me, can you start tomorrow?
Melanie Headley (07:27):
And that was in may of 2002. Mm. And I have been here ever since. Wow. And my current teaching assignment includes grade 10 English and grade 11 law.
Sam Demma (07:41):
Melanie Headley (07:44):
Best of both worlds is right. It’s pretty great. So that’s a little bit of my my back story in terms of how we came to be an is or live on PEI anyway. And and teaching at Bluefield high school.
Sam Demma (07:58):
And at what point did you get involved in student leadership? You know, you attended the Mero session with Dave Conlan, you’re involved with the CSLA, where did all that passion and desire and decision come from?
Melanie Headley (08:11):
So even before becoming a teacher when I was in high school I was involved with student and council. Nice. And when I started teaching you know, initially my priority was the classroom. It really, really was to ensure that I delivered the curriculum well and that it was meaningful and that I, I knew my subject area. And as, as soon as I really had a grasp on that then I started to venture outside the classroom and to see where I could where I could commit outside the classroom. Right. So my, my first real commitment was actually with our, our prom, our graduation dance. Oh, cool. So myself and a few other teachers we were the teacher advisors for the grad dance for a number of years. And actually in 2015 our students, parents took over the grad dance, but that was my first, that was really my first commitment outside the classroom.
Melanie Headley (09:21):
In addition to that and this I hope to connect this to student leadership mm-hmm but prior to my involvement with our student council is myself and a few other teacher, Jennifer Gill, who I had mentioned earlier as being one of my my practicum teachers. We started what was called the rap team. Hmm. And rap stands for respect accept and protect, and the crew of us along with a group of students, we develop a program and a presentations or assembly, so to speak mm-hmm that addressed anti-bullying and character development. I love it. I love it. So we did that for a number of years. We did it within our own school, but then when other island schools started to find out what we, they wanted us to come to their schools and to present. I see.
Melanie Headley (10:21):
So kind of that character development you know, servant, servant leadership was definitely a big part of that initiative. And then about 10 years ago, the student council advisors at that time who are absolutely fantastic people and have been incredible mentors to me one of whom was presented with this year CS, a leader of distinction award for PEI. Oh, wow. Wow. His name’s Paul MCCA and yes, students call students, call him P Mac. So he had run our student council for a number of years. But then when he stepped down, he still, he, you know, I took it over. He still helped me and continues to help me to this, this day. And he’s an incredible mentor. You know, any ideas that we have, he’s always available, you know, to listen and, and run things by. And he’s been great, but 10 years ago he was ready for a break.
Melanie Headley (11:27):
So I took that on, but then I was really, really, really quick to realize I can’t do this on my own, you know, student council. It’s, it’s even like, not just even a September to June commitment, it’s really, it can be full it’s full time. Yeah. Year round. But I love it. Yeah. So Lynn cl she came on board to support me and the two of us do it together. And without her we wouldn’t be able to do, to do the things that we do. Hmm. I dunno. Did that answer the question?
Sam Demma (12:04):
Yeah. I asked how you got involved and told me that you started off by putting basketballs in between young women and men, so they don’t get too close us while they dance right. That’s awesome. I love that story and I’m sure the work that you’re doing in the school right now, it’s a little different than it was years ago, or even one year ago. Can you shed some light on what, you know, challenges you currently face with, and maybe some challenges your school or certain classrooms have been able to over, and maybe there’s some unique ideas you can share.
Melanie Headley (12:36):
So, first of all, to answer that question is living on PEI. We are very, very, very fortunate. So we’ve, we’ve only had, I shouldn’t say only, but we’ve had 66 cases of COVID 19. Oh, wow. So prince Edward island is probably not only the best place to live in our country, but probably probably in the world worldly . Yeah. So we are in school full time. Okay. And after March break last year, so March 13th, Friday, the we were, it was pretty soon to find out that we wouldn’t be returning. Yeah. And then I guess it was around may early may that we found out that we wouldn’t be returning for the rest of the year. But then in August we found out that we would be coming back to school full time. So we are in, in classes full time.
Melanie Headley (13:37):
But with, with, with that said, there’s still guidelines in place, right. So there’s no large gatherings at lunchtime. So anything that student council did in the past where, you know, large groups of students could come together was in our cafeteria or outside or in the gymnasium, those things are not, are not happening. But we’re making it work. Hmm. Yep. We’re definitely making it work. Our student council has been absolutely fantastic in the way that they embrace the op opportunity to do things differently. They’ve been really creative and the, the feedback, the feedback has been terrific as well.
Sam Demma (14:24):
That’s awesome. And you know, what are those things specifically that are working? How have some of the things shifted you, does any examples or ideas come to mind that wow. You and make you say, wow, great job. That’s really cool.
Melanie Headley (14:38):
So right outta the gate our frost week, so we have an annual week where Monday to Friday, it’s usually the first full week that we’re back at school. Every single day at lunch, there would be activities in the past, there’d be activities to welcome our grade 10 students. So what we’ve done this year to abide by the guidelines is that other than having the activities at lunchtime, our homeroom teachers have graciously allowed student council to command to their classes about 15 minutes before classes over. Mm. And they’re, they’re running those activities during home room. And so when I see the feedback has been really great, what teachers are coming to me and saying is that the, the bonds that are being formed in their home room are like never before, because in the past, when they would leave their morning class to go, you know, participate in the, the lunchtime activity, maybe they wouldn’t even go to participate.
Melanie Headley (15:57):
Right. And if they did, they were going with the people that they already know, right. They’re going with their friends this way in the homeroom. Everybody’s participating for the most part and the homeroom teach and the student council a person that’s assigned to that specific room. They’re just forming these bonds that they wouldn’t form otherwise. Yeah, that’s awesome. So what we did is on the Monday of frost week, we had what was called movie Monday. Nice. So every grade 10 in homeroom when the student council representative would come into the homeroom, and again, it was like the last 10 or 15 minutes of class and our student council has a Google classroom. So all of the events are that students just have to access it through Google classroom. Cool. And there was 10 different movie images. Hmm. So the student council member would lead the activity, but then the class as a collective would just have to decide on the title of that movie.
Melanie Headley (17:05):
Cool. And then, so we have 12 different grade 10 home rooms, and so student council would get together at lunchtime at add up, you know, their scores. And then we go over the announcements to say, for example, miss MC Nevins, homeroom had 10 outta 10, or, you know, Mr. Craig’s homeroom had nine outta 10. And that sort of thing then on the Tuesday was trivia. So trivia Tuesday, we like our alliteration. Nice. So movie Mon movie, Monday trivia Tuesday, Wednesday was Wes wisdom Wednesday. Mm. Where a quote or a song lyric or a saying would be posted. And again, the students would have to decide who said that piece of wisdom? Thursday, we didn’t name that tune. Nice. And then on Friday what we were able to do is in the Friday, we wanted to do something really fun and memorable to kind of wrap up the week, but we would call two homeroom outside at a time. And we had pylons in the shape of a 23. Cause our grade tens will be the class of 20, 23. Yeah. So we, so we had the students they would stand beside a pylon and then another teacher who’s also a photographer. He had agreed to take class photos with his drone. Nice.
Melanie Headley (18:34):
So we might have 240 grade tens, but we weren’t able to bring those 240 together to do that. Yeah. But what we were able to do the alternative was to bring out two class at a time. So one class would be the two, the other class would be the three and then we’ll get their picture taken.
Sam Demma (18:52):
I think the important things that you made them feel appreciated and welcomed, and Maya angel always says it, you know, they don’t remember what you did, but they remember how you made them feel. And I’m sure you made them feel really special. And I’m curious to know, as a teacher during this time, how do we ensure your students feel appreciate and, and feel heard and cared for during this time? Should we be taking extra care of touching them on the shoulder and saying, not physically, but of saying, Hey, is everything okay? Or, you know, what’s working right now for you in your class? Well,
Melanie Headley (19:24):
Just in the example that I gave with fr week. Yeah. I think that, you know, some of our, our new as Bobcats were the Bobcats Bluefield Bobcats. Nice. So when they came into grade 10, you know, they had, perhaps they had siblings who had gone through Bluefield or, or still here for that matter, but they had experienced fresh week, you know, like it had under how it unfolded in the past and you, some of them didn’t know what it was gonna look like for them, or even if it was gonna happen at all. Mm. So I think that they were very grateful for the fact that we were able to make it happen. Yeah. So and then continuing to do these things and, you know, just setting up opportunities to, you know, say rather than saying we can’t do that finding alternative ways. So for example we just finished at the end of October, our annual October Fest.
Melanie Headley (20:28):
Mm. So we have a courtyard, a beautiful courtyard that of in the center of our school and each year during Octoberfest we decorate kind of this photo opportunity. Nice. And we had kind of toyed with perhaps not doing that because would it encourage large groups? Our students still wanna get it well, they wanna get their picture taken with a mask on mm-hmm well, they still wanna get their picture taken if they have to be six feet apart from their, from their friend. So we still did it, but instead of doing it for the five days of October Fest, we did it for two. Nice. So I think that they were still grateful that, that we did it rather than not at all. And then another thing that we had to do differently, but again, we were happy. And the results were good was normally during October Fest, we serve hot chocolate, nice in our courtyards.
Melanie Headley (21:26):
And we call it B by L one, bring your own mug. the students need to, they bring their own mug in as long as they do their served hot chocolate. Nice. So this year due to the guidelines we weren’t allowed to do that. So instead we discussed as a council what we could do as an, and knowing that the alternative had to be a prepackaged item of some sort, that’s where our focus went and actually a current member of a council. And he’s in grade 10. His family part of their business includes these very, very well known on PEI anyway, these cinnamon bun. Ah, and anyway, they’re delicious and they’re amazing. And so I said to him, do you think we could do those anyway? So we, we sold a hun, but 110 pre, then they were all prepackaged nice have these amazing cinnamon bonds. And they sold out in about 10 minutes. right. So it wasn’t a hot chocolate, but this was still, still fantastic and memorable.
Sam Demma (22:41):
Yeah. It’s that, it’s that mentality of, we’re not gonna cancel it this year. We’re gonna figure it out. Right. It might be something different, but let’s, let’s still an effort and not just say, okay, it’s canceled and we’ll just wait till next year. It’s like, no, right. We can’t do this, but what can we do? And I think you did a great job and the school has done a great job of, of taking that question and asking themselves and yourself that very often and coming up with new solutions. You know, if, if someone’s listening and is loving these ideas and maybe wants to connect with you and dive a little deeper and ask some questions and connect what would be the best way for them to do so?
Sam Demma (23:38):
Okay, awesome. And if you could travel back in time to wrap up this episode and give your younger self advice in education, what pieces of advice, knowing what, you know now, would you give your younger self?
Melanie Headley (23:50):
Hands down? Not to take myself so seriously. Yeah, honestly that is really, really, but at the same time when I say that looking back like and I, I hope that I teach this to young people as well. And I currently have a student teacher from U P E I nice. But that’s part of growing up. Right. You kind of have to grow through that. And, but I am, I would definitely try not to take, take myself so seriously and yeah, that’s awesome.
Sam Demma (24:20):
Awesome, Melanie, thank you so much for coming on the show. So many actionable ideas. I really, really appreciate it. I appreciate the energy and the, the openness to share, and I hope someone listening does reach out to you and start a conversation.
Melanie Headley (24:34):
Thank you. And thank you for the great work that you’re doing
Sam Demma (24:37):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network. You’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise, I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.
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