Nicole Philp – Consultant, Ministry of Education

Nicole Philp - Consultant, Ministry of Education
About Nicole Philp

Regardless of whether she is teaching ‘Outdoor School’ students how to sleep in a quinzhee during a frigid Saskatchewan winter or working at a desk developing curriculum for the Ministry of Education, Nicole Philp (@Nicole-Philp) believes educators are in the “business of building people.”

The awards Nicole has won for her work with kids and the community are testament to the success she has had in the people-building business. Through coaching kids in sports, advising them on student leadership councils, volunteering with them in their community, paddling with them on the mighty Churchill, and yes, even teaching them in the classroom, Nicole has realized that the critical element to working with kids is building relationships.

Connect with Nicole: Email | Twitter | Facebook

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Churchill river canoe trip

Saskatchewan Student Leadership Conference

Ministry of Education – Government of Saskatchewan

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’s guest is Nicole Philp. Regardless of whether she is teaching outdoor school students, how to sleep in a quinzhee during a Frid, Saskatchewan, winter, or working at a desk development curriculum for the ministry of education, Nicole believes educators are in the business of building people.

Sam Demma (01:02):
The awards Nicole has won for her work with kids and community are testament to the success she has had in the people building business. Through coaching kids in sports, advising them on student leadership councils, volunteering with them in their community, paddling with them on the mighty Churchill, and yes, even teaching them in the classroom, Nicole has realized that the critical elements to working with kids is building relationships.

Sam Demma (01:26):
I hope you enjoy this people building conversation with Nicole Philp, and I will see you on the other side… Nicole, 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 more about the work you do with the educators who might be tuning in today?

Nicole Philp (01:45):
Sure. First of all, thank you, Sam. I think what you’re doing with these podcasts is an amazing opportunity for us as teachers to listen into each other’s stories. I think, I think that we learn the best when we learn from each other. And, and so this is just such a, an insightful way of, of sharing people’s stories. So thank you for facilitating all of these and, and for the, the invitation to join you today. A little bit about me, I guess I, I hail from small town, she Saskatchewan with in a community of about 1500 people. I’ve had some great experiences in education over the years, including teaching at a large urban high school of 2000 kids teaching an outdoor school program where I got to travel the province with a Hardy group of great 11 kids who were willing to camp and every kind of weather condition imaginable from hot sun to rain, to snowing and building their snow cleans in January. And, and most recently working in my own community and teaching in a, in a small town of 200 kids in the school. And and I’m now working in a position with the ministry of education in Saskatchewan. So I have a huge passion for education. I’ve been very blessed in my life to have all sorts of different educational experiences and just love working with kids. So that’s a, that’s a bit about me

Sam Demma (03:02):
And, and growing up in your, your own small town, did you have dreams and ambitions to become a teacher or like, you know, as a kid yourself, how did you stumble upon getting into education? How did you choose that path?

Nicole Philp (03:16):
Yeah, funny question. So my mom would tell you that it was just always what I was going to be when I was a kid. I would line my stuffed animals up on the couch and have a little chalkboard, and I would teach my little stuffed animals because my brothers refused to sit and listen to me. So I think teaching and, and working with kids is just kind of always been in my blood. I I’ve always wanted to do it. I, I can’t imagine really doing anything else. I had an older brother who was determined that rather than waste my good marks as he saw it on being a teacher, I should go and do something that would make me a pile of money and rich, and he would live off my coattails and, and that just didn’t interest me. I, I really only ever wanted to be in a school.

Sam Demma (04:00):
Hmm. That’s amazing. And did you have educators along the journey that confirmed your own desire and told you, Hey, Nicole, you know, when you, when you grow up, you should consider getting into teaching.

Nicole Philp (04:12):
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And that’s, that’s a great question. I actually have kind of, I see him as a mentor. He was my middle years math teacher. And as an adult now, he is still a volunteer in the community. He has probably more provincial titles as a coach for hockey and baseball and, or softball and, and different sports than anyone I’ve ever met. And, and he’s just become kind of a mentor to me. And, and I bring him up not only an answer to your, but also because he’s kind of coined a phrase for me that I always have in the back of my head. And he talks about teaching and coaching as being in the business of building people. Mm-Hmm. And I just, I love that phrase because it encounters exactly what I think our role is. Educators is yes. We’re there to teach curriculum. Yes. We’re there to you, you know, help kids kind of get through the academic part of life. But if we can even a tiny bit contribute to building the people that they’re becoming and, and the people that they’re gonna be to contribute to our society, then gosh, what a humbling experience for us is teachers to be a part of that. So, yeah. So, so certainly I, I have a mentor that I definitely think of and answer to that question. And, and that’s why building people…

Sam Demma (05:28):
And how do you think you build people in the classroom? Like I, I’m curious to, if you could go back to when you were a student, did you have any teachers as well during that time that, you know, poured into you that had a big impact on your self belief, your confidence or your own just, you know, journey through school as a kid mm-hmm and if so, like what did they do for you that made an impact and a difference that allowed you to build yourself as a kid in their class?

Nicole Philp (05:54):
Well, I think building people can only happen if you first build relationships. I don’t think that you can start creating any kind of development unless you first have that foundation of trust and, and a relationship with the kids that you’re working with, or, or as a kid with the teacher that you’re, that you’re working with in the classroom. And so I, I really think that that is the foundation of all of it that you have to make yourself vulnerable too, as an educator, in order for kids to see that you’re real, you’re authentic, you are in a sense, one of them still learning and growing on this, on this journey. And, and I think that making yourself real and authentic and vulnerable with kids helps them trust you in a sense and helps kind of build that beginning, found that will then flourish and grow into something where we can start that work on, on building people.

Nicole Philp (06:44):
And that was certainly the case for me. I, I had several teachers that I would say I recognized as, as just being real with us as students and, and understood them to be someone that existed outside of the classroom too, and in their lives and that they were willing to share their time with us and, and do some volunteer work with us and teach us about serving and giving of ourselves beyond the classroom. All of those things definitely contributed to my trust of them which was then a great modeling experience for me to take when I became a teacher and, and recognized that if I wanted to build those relationships and begin working on that building people business that my mentor talks about I needed to do the same and, and make myself vulnerable and authentic with kids.

Sam Demma (07:30):
I love that. And what do you think like vulnerability looks like in the classroom as a teacher? Is it like, you know, sharing when you’re, when you’re going through good time and bad times, or like, how do you show up vulnerably as an educator?

Nicole Philp (07:43):
Yeah, and easier for some than others, for sure. And I, and I think it also looks different for some than others. For me, it’s, it’s absolutely that it’s sharing with kids. What’s kind of going on. If I’m having a rough day, I, I certainly don’t mind letting them know, and yet I will also do my best, never to let that impede what’s going on in the classroom. Right. But I think kids need to know and understand that that it’s okay to have those Fs and downs and, and work through them and talk about them and, and experience them, not just kind of box it in. There are certainly lots of kids sitting in our classroom that are going through things that we never know about because they don’t talk about it. And, and nor will they, unless they recognize that it’s okay to do so. And it’s, and it’s a safe place and a trusting place to do that. So yeah, just kind of being willing to be outside of your, your comfort zone and, and share stuff, kids, and, and ensure that then it becomes a safe place for them to share it with you.

Sam Demma (08:45):
That’s awesome. So take me back to yourself, you know, you finish high school, you got teachers, I’m assuming teachers college. So after teachers college, what did the path look like for you throughout education? Like bring me through the various roles you worked and also where you started and where you are now.

Nicole Philp (09:04):
Sure. Yeah. So I graduated a bit early, so I ended up looking for a position right after Christmas, when, when I was done university. And I was fortunate enough to, to land a physician at the, the biggest high school in Saskatchewan. So, like I said, I’m from a town of 1500 people, and I was walking into my first day of work in a school that had over 2000 kids in it. So to say I was overwhelmed and feeling a little bit out of my league is to put it lightly. I remember just like I knew one way to get to my classroom and that building from my car. And I would only take that one way through the same hallway, same doors until I was confident enough in myself to get lost in the maze of hallways of such a large school.

Nicole Philp (09:52):
But what an experience, because as a first year teacher, I was surrounded by, at that time I was teaching just math and I was surrounded by about 12 other math teachers. So all of that experience and, and knowledge and wisdom to learn from and build on was just phenomenal for my kind of professional development. And then while I was at that school it became kind of known that I had this passion for the outdoors and passion for adventures and that kind of thing. So I got invited to co-teach an outdoor school program which I alluded to before. And so we had 11 grade 11 students that would apply for it from kind of all over the division. And and we would count from September till till January. And they would learn math as we were pedaling a Churchill, and they would learn English and we’d read poetry.

Nicole Philp (10:40):
We’re sitting around the fire somewhere down in grassland, national parks, Saskatchewan. And, you know, it was just in terms of place based learning and, and inquiry kind of learning. It was the most incredible experience for those kids and for myself. And then, and then from there, I, and ended up getting, you know, pregnant with my first child and I couldn’t be on the road like that. So I applied for a position in my own small town, so I wouldn’t be commuting and I wouldn’t be traveling. And, and I was very fortunate to get it and spent the next 10 years just teaching in my community, which I, I can’t speak enough about that. I just being able to work with the kids in your community and, and the biggest piece for me during that experience has been making the connections between school and community I’m

Nicole Philp (11:27):
So such a believer, I guess, in, in the phrase that it not only takes a village to raise a child as the old saying goes, but I think it takes a village to educate one. And so during my time teaching in my community, I, I made every effort I possibly could think of to either bring the community into the school so that my kids were learning from people who are, who are better than me. People who know more and people who can speak to different things in, in a way that I can’t, and then also taking the kids out into the community in that reciprocal relationship and, and teaching them about what does the community I offer and, and who is doing the work that makes this community such a great place. And having them learn about about the different people and the amount of work that goes into creating this sense of community. So, for me, it was working in my own community was really about that opportunity to build relationships between the school and the community.

Sam Demma (12:22):
That’s amazing. And did you grow up with a passion for the outdoors, or is that something you developed when you started teaching?

Nicole Philp (12:30):
Yeah, yeah. A bit of both. So, I mean, I’m a true farm kid. I grew up riding in grain trucks with my parents when I was little and, and certainly, you know, working with cattle and horses and all that kind of stuff, and definitely a, a true farm kid who spent most of my time outside. And when I wasn’t working on the farm, I was building forts in the Bush. So that kind of thing. But in terms of like these survivalistic type of camping experiences, I had a, a friend whose family did this every year and they invited me on my first Churchill river canoe trip when I was about 15 years old and never looked back. That was always, always my thing. So yeah, it, to be able to incorporate that into my teaching and, and to teach while something that I’m so passionate about. I mean, it’s just a huge highlight of my career, so yeah, definitely, definitely a lifelong passion for sure.

Sam Demma (13:23):
And, you know, at some point you also started getting heavily involved in student activities and student leadership. What, what, when did that happen for you and what kind of pushed you in that direction?

Nicole Philp (13:35):
So, I mean, it started for me when I was in high school myself and I was fortunate enough to be part of a, a very active student council and we attended all sorts of provincial leadership conferences. So it was for me, just kind of a no brainer that as soon as I became a teacher, I would definitely get involved in that kind of leadership activity counsels and that kind of thing. And so I did right away when I started at, at this large urban high school in, in prince Albert and had some great mentors to learn from in terms of how to be an advisor of a, of a large student council. And then brought that experience when I came to, came to she and came to teach my own community. And, and certainly this is where that kind of sense of community and student leadership kind of relationship building with community really flourished.

Nicole Philp (14:26):
The community has just been so embracing of everything that the student leadership council ever wanted to attempt or, or try or do in terms of eat hockey tournaments, to having a mud pit where the kids just like get down and dirty into this mud pit and wrestling. And it’s just a blast to yeah, to hosting a relay for life. We had this amazing group of kids that decided they were going to, they were gonna do their own relay for life in Shere which is normally done just in large centers. And they raised over $14,000 the first year they did it in a, in a community of 1500 kids. It’s, it’s pretty incredible. So it’s just a Testament to how embracing this community is of the work that the kids are trying to do. And again, it just goes back to that sense of relationships, right. And, and seeing that the kids are serving and are, are wanting to serve this community they just, yeah. Support that wholeheartedly, which is an incredible.

Sam Demma (15:25):
That’s so cool. And doing the relay for life in such a small town and having such a large impact is a test meant to how a small group of kids or a small group of people in general can really make a difference, which is like, yeah, such an awesome story. And then how did things transition? I know you, you moved and started working with the ministry of education as well. What did that transition look like and what does the work you’re doing now kind of, how does it differ from what you were doing previously into schools?

Nicole Philp (15:53):
Yeah, that’s a, that’s a tough one to answer for me in a sense that this was not a job change that I was looking for. I was loving the work that I was doing in my community and in my school and, and with the kids that I was teaching and working with. So it was not an easy decision for me, but I received a phone call in the summer of 2019 with an offer for this subcontinent position, with the ministry to do some work around the province with school community councils. And after a lot of soul searching and a lot of conversations with my family, we decided, you know what, let’s, let’s give this a try. So I, I took that opportunity and, and wow, what experience I got to travel to 27 different school divisions in the province and meet with their parents and community members and people who are just so invested in education and wanting the best for their kids.

Nicole Philp (16:45):
Mm. And so to listen to those conversations and to hear the different points of view and different perspectives from small towns to urban centers and the different needs and the different challenges people are facing that was just such an incredible experience for me, that I certainly don’t regret making that decision. And now the work I’m doing is just giving me such a, a wider view of education in general. I, you know, I’ve worked urban and I’ve worked in rural and I’ve worked in this outdoor school program, but to see education kind of from that provincial level and from a, a different perspective and see the work that kind of goes on behind the scenes has also been incredible. I do see myself going back to the classroom. I desperately miss kids. Mm-Hmm, , I often have a group of kids around my kitchen table, actually, whether they’re coming for math help or just coming for lunch, cuz we wanna have a catch up visit or, or whatever it might be. We’re currently actually planning a Halloween activity. So yeah, I just, I miss kids, I miss working with kids and, and I know that that’s really where I need to get back to, but this has been just kind of a, a really neat break in the career and a different experience to, to build myself as a, an educator when I go back.

Sam Demma (17:57):
That gives you more holistic viewpoint or perspective.

Nicole Philp (18:00):
Right. It really does. Yeah.

Sam Demma (18:02):
Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s so cool. And if you could travel back in time and speak to on year one of teaching, knowing what you know now and having a different perspective, like what advice would you give your younger self or any of the educators listening who might be in their first few years of teaching?

Nicole Philp (18:21):
I think I would tell myself you can’t do it all. Hmm. And, and so I’m, I’m one of those type a personalities. And I like when I have a, a plan or a vision, I like to make sure that it’s all done and it’s all done. Right. and, and yet there’s so many negative repercussions for that. Kids, you, you, you build people a lot, a lot better if you allow them to do the work and if you allow them to make the mistakes and if you allow them to grow from all of that. And so when I first started in student leadership and started doing some of those activity planning events and, and that kind of thing, I would try to always kind of have my thumb on all of the different components and make sure that everything was being done.

Nicole Philp (19:00):
And, and and as an organizer, you need to do that to some extent, there’s, there’s no doubt about it. You don’t really want your kids to fail, but but yeah, I re remember there were things that I would do and I would just try and make sure that I was kind of covering all of it. And, and so that’s definitely something that I would have, I would like to tell myself now let it go because kids can do amazing things and, and you need to trust them. And yeah, you need to let them learn from, from the different things that happen when they’re playing, learning these kinds of events and, and involved with community and, and they’re all great learning experiences.

Sam Demma (19:36):
Love that. That’s great. Last piece of advice. Nicole, thank you so much for taking some time outta your data. Come on the show and share your perspectives and your stories. If there is an educator listening, who’s feeling inspired or intrigued in any way, what would be the best way for them reach out to you and get in touch for a conversation?

Nicole Philp (19:55):
Hmm. Great question. I’m on Facebook looking me up on Facebook. Can you shoot me an email or a text? I love to love to chat with other educators and, and learn from them. Like I said, that’s what I’ve thoroughly enjoyed about your podcast. I’ve just gotten so many ideas and chatted, so many notes to on as I’ve listened to different people and their experiences and what they’ve done with kids and where they’ve, their imagination has taken them. So yeah, this is just such a, a neat opportunity for all of us.

Sam Demma (20:22):
Awesome. I’ll put your email in the show notes so people can find it if they’re interested in shooting you a note. But yeah. Thank you again so much. This has been great. We’ll stay in touch and keep up it work.

Nicole Philp (20:32):
Fantastic. Thanks Sam. And likewise, have a great day.

Sam Demma (20:36):
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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