Apprenticeship Programs

Dave Barrett – Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) Coordinator for the Bluewater District School Board and the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board

Dave Barrett - Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) Coordinator for the Bluewater District School Board and the Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board
About Dave Barrett

Dave Barrett is the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) Coordinator for the Bluewater District School Board and the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board. OYAP is a School to Work program that opens the door for students to explore and work in apprenticeship occupations starting in Grade 11 or Grade 12 through Cooperative Education, events and community partnerships.

Prior to Dave’s work with OYAP, he was the Project Manager for the Saugeen Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) for 12 years and worked in many different sectors and industries over his career.

Connect with Dave: Email | Linkedin | Instagram

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP)

Pathways to Apprenticeship (Skills Ontario)

What is Co-operative Education?

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 on the podcast is Dave Barrett. Dave is the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program Coordinator for the Bluewater District School Board and the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board. OYAP is a school to work program that opens the doors for students to explore and work in apprenticeship occupations starting in grade 11 or grade 12 through cooperative education events and community partnerships. Prior to Dave’s work with OYAP he was a project manager for the Saugeen Economic Development Corporation, SEDC for 12 years, and worked in many different sectors and industries over his career. I hope you enjoy this conversation and get a new perspective on future career planning for students with Dave.

Sam Demma (01:28):
Dave, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here with us. Please start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what you do!

Dave Barrett (01:40):
All right. My name is Dave Barrett. I’m the Ontario youth apprenticeship program coordinator for two school boards both Bruce Grey, Catholic district school board and the Bluewater district school board. So we, I cover all of gray and Bruce counties, which is slightly bigger than the province of prince Edward island. And my job is to encourage students to explore the pathway of apprenticeship through co-op education and the great career opportunities in the skilled trades.

Sam Demma (02:05):
What got you into this work? Why OYAP and why are you the person doing it?

Dave Barrett (02:11):
That’s an interesting question because if you looked at my resume, I’m really not qualified to be doing what I’m doing. However in my previous career I worked in economic development and workforce development was a big piece of that. And it was one of the areas where we’d hear all the time that students weren’t participating in these great career opportunities and not exploring the skilled trades. Well, when I took on this role, I found out many were, but we, we opened up more opportunities for them to do it and tried them in different ways. And then through my role in my community contacts, we’ve created all kinds of, of different events for students to come and try it. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the academic college workplace or apprenticeship pathway, if you don’t try it, how can you know, if this is the career for you?

Dave Barrett (02:55):
So that was where sort of my, my role, my expertise, and my background brought to this. And we’ve just continued to raise the numbers of the number of students who are exploring. I don’t think the skilled trades are for everybody, but I also don’t think university is. And I also don’t think colleges, and sometimes you gotta work for a couple years to figure things out all are great pathways. I just wanna make sure people understand the skill old trades before they start thinking that this isn’t the career for them. Cuz there’s some great opportunities here.

Sam Demma (03:24):
I couldn’t agree more. I think every pathway is a valid option. Every student learner is different. You know, my dad is someone who works in skilled trades and half of my family works in skilled trades and it’s a, it’s a great way to make a living. And if you love building things and working with, and why not?

Dave Barrett (03:42):
The what, but if you never tried it before, when you were in elementary school, how can you, how can you know? Well, I don’t want to take tech when I get to high school. Yeah. So that’s, that’s kind of the, the stuff that we work towards

Sam Demma (03:52):
Now, did you grow up working with your hands and very involved in labor and you know, the trades yourself?

Dave Barrett (04:00):
I’ve had a varied background, so I I’m very upfront with students when I do my my OYAP presentation. Cool. And what I talk about is I’m somebody who gets bored after about seven to 10 years of doing anything . So I did work in construction and started an apprenticeship. And then I worked for a cabinet maker for about five years we were talking, we were, I was on the apprenticeship pathway and thought, you know what? I really don’t wanna do this. Then I bounced around. I got into healthcare and I was actually back in the day, they called them orderly, but I was a PSW in a nursing home, still the best job I ever had, but you know, moved on, did college pathway, cuz I wanted to do other things I worked in for a while. I was actually responsible for apprentices at an auto body shop for a number of years that I managed.

Dave Barrett (04:46):
And then I went into community economic development. So I used the university pathway to get my certifications there. And now I’m an OYAP coordinator and you know, that’s what we talk to students is whatever, whatever pathway you decide now you’re not locked in, you know, use the tool. And I, I, what I try and equate is the pathways are actually just tools. Use the tool when you need the tool. So if you need to do an apprenticeship, do an apprenticeship. If you go, you know what? I think I’m smarter than these engineers then great use the tool of university, go become an engineer and show them and move on in your career.

Sam Demma (05:19):
And how do you think a teacher who is, is not, you know, promoting OYAP and keep in mind, there might be educators listening as well. They’re outside of Ontario. So keep, how would you suggest a teacher promote different pathway opportunities, including the skilled trades to their students?

Dave Barrett (05:38):
I, what I encourage, I talk to my teachers about is I have no expecta that they would understand the skilled traits if they didn’t have family connection to them. Yeah. So use your experts. You know, Mo all teachers pretty well had followed the university pathway. They know it very well. They’re gonna promote it cuz it’s worked well for them. But contact your OYAP coordinator, your tech teachers your community partners and have them come in, cuz they’re the experts in this field. And, and that’s, that’s what we do here is my guidance folks, my student, success, people, careers, teachers all know who I am. They know how to reach me and I’ll come in and present the apprenticeship pathway for them and help them with activities. And then they’re the ones that I send the invitations to come to our hands on events and different events to hear different perspectives, women in skilled trades, indigenous youth in the skilled trades, you know we’ve got a nuclear power plant in our backyard that everybody wants to go work for. How do they get in there? Well, bring them here to say, here’s how you do it. You know, those types of things and use your use your local experts. People who consider, you know, expect teachers to know everything, baloney. They know what they know and their, and what their pathway took. Them, use your experts and, and locally we do pretty well with that. I think.

Sam Demma (06:54):
Yeah, I think you’re so right. Everyone goes into their job or their situation and most of their beliefs are based on their own past experiences. So if you know you

Dave Barrett (07:04):
Past experiences and perceptions. Yeah. And it’s, it’s funny cuz I actually start, I, I started it years ago, but I started my presentation with, I’m not here to recruit you to apprenticeship. I’m here to, to make sure you understand it before you start. Aren’t listening to people who haven’t got a clue, what they’re talking about. and then once we get into it, all of a sudden they’re going, oh, I had no idea the number of teachers that go, why didn’t I do this? You know, it it’s, it’s fascinating. But it’s just one of those things where there’s all these perceptions and I just spend all my time knocking them down so that when a student student hears it from somebody, they go, no, no, that’s not how it is. I do know this. So, and that, that’s how we’re breaking down those barriers. I

Sam Demma (07:45):
Love that. You can see here, no one can see this who’s listening, but there’s a little empty upside down backpack on top of my hat. And , I, I have this belief that every person in life has an invisible bag strapped to their back and is filled with all those perspectives and past experiences that shape their beliefs. And you kind of carry those things with you. And you know, oftentimes sometimes people put things in there that shouldn’t be in there and that could be, you know, perspectives that hold you back or limit you. And you know, if you don’t stop to remove the things that were never yours to begin with, they start to become weights that weigh you down. And I think it’s just a, a cool, a way to put into perspective what you’re saying. It’s like we have to empty our backpacks and be opens to perspectives.

Dave Barrett (08:25):
Sam. I love that. I, I think that’s brilliant. I’m actually gonna steal it from you. I’m really big on R and D Rob and duplicate. Nice. I love that cuz that’s exactly what happens. And I, I see it too often. I got into a a discussion with a student who was certain, he wasn’t allowed to go into the skilled trades because he was on the university pathway. He said, no, no I’m only allowed to go to university, but he truly believed that. So then we have to talk about, and that was a perception that he was carrying in that backpack that you talked about, that we needed to say, here’s the real information. And here are the opportunities for you. We’re not saying don’t go to university. We’re saying all of the pathways are open to you. It’s up to you to figure out what’s gonna get you to where you want to go next.

Sam Demma (09:06):
Love it. Absolutely love it. And if you were to try and con you know, not convince, but trying to educate students about the upper opportunity that exists in, in the trades, like how do you paint them that picture? You know, go ahead and paint that picture now.

Dave Barrett (09:20):
Oh, I’m gonna give you the two minute version then. All right. So the first thing I talk about is in the skilled trades is the money. So when you become a registered apprentice, you have to be paid. There’s no free apprenticeships. So you have to be paid in a block release situation. You’re going to be paid for about a year. Then you’re gonna get a letter in the mail that letter’s gonna say, it’s time for you to go to trade school. Most trade schools are at community colleges. You’re gonna pick the college that you wanna go to. So if aunt milli lives in Ottawa, you can say, I want to go to the Ottawa college that offers my program, cuz I can live with aunt milli for nothing perfect. You don’t apply the ministry of labor training and skills development phones. The college buys your seat and pays 90% of your tuition.

Dave Barrett (10:04):
Most apprentices pay about $500 whenever they go to trade school, wow, you finish trade school. You go back to work. The interesting part is, before you go to trade school, you’ve been working for a year. You qualify for employment insurance. So right before to go to trade school, you and your employer will go to the employment office. Your employer will lay you off. You get fast tracked onto employment insurance. So you get paid while you’re going to trade school. And if you need it, there’s living allowance. There’s mileage allowance and there’s childcare allowance. If you have to put kids in daycare in order for you to attend, this is usually the part where I see parents elbowing their students going. You should look at this. So this is the way apprenticeship works. Block release. There’s some other ones where you can continue to work. And then you go to school in the evenings.

Dave Barrett (10:50):
And one Saturday, a month, my nephew did one where he worked the first three, four weeks of the month. And then the last week of every month, he went to Trey aid school. So there’s variations, but most of them are like that. So this is an opportunity for students to get in. And if you read the papers and the statistics, there is a skilled trade shortage and this isn’t just Ontario, Canada, north America. This is a worldwide issue. So if you wanna stay local in the skilled trades, you can, if you wanna, and locally, you can do that. If you wanna see your country, you can do your skilled trades and your ticket can get you across the country. If you wanna go international, skilled trades can get you there as well. So it opens all kinds of doors. And again, it’s one tool. And the argument that I always talk to students about is if you wanna argue with me on smarts, wages knowledge, and you think someone with a university degree is better than someone that has a college diploma is better than somebody that has a, a journey person license.

Dave Barrett (11:48):
I can win the argument in every direction, whether you wanna talk on wage. I know people from university with university degrees that are the smartest people that I know. And I know people with university degrees that are like talking to a bag of hammers. well, it’s the same in the skilled trades. Yeah. I know skilled trades people. Yes. They didn’t go to university, but they’re some of the smartest people you’ve ever and they’ve put in the time to really know their craft and they make all kinds of money and they love what they do. And that’s what I talk to students about is don’t go into this for the money. Don’t go into it just cuz I’m talking to you like that, go into it because you have a passion for it. And if you ask me which one I should get into, I’m gonna correspond right back and say, what do you wanna try next? Cause if you spark an arc and go welding it let’s talk. If you spark an art and go, I hate this. Perfect. Now, you know, don’t become a welder. Let’s go try something else until you figure it out. So there’s my two minute pitch for the skilled trades.

Sam Demma (12:45):
I love it. I love it. Right. It’s the idea that generalizations aren’t okay. It’s like, you know, there are people in the trades who are brilliant. There are also people in the trades who Aren, there are people in university who are brilliant and there’s people in university who are brilliant. exactly.

Dave Barrett (12:58):
No, but it’s perceptions, right? It is. And, and it’s this hierarchy that we’ve somehow built for ourselves. And, and I, I disagree with it and it’s really fun to disprove that I don’t have to pick on anybody, but it’s very easy when we talk salaries, when we taught knowledge. One of the things I just added two years ago to my presentation is science, technology engineering and mathematics. Stem is huge in education right now. Well stem, the skilled trades is where stem hits the road. Cause if you don’t understand OMS law and boils law, you’re not gonna do well in the skilled trades, particularly in welding and electrical engineers are the ones that draw the drawings who takes those drawings and actually builds them skilled trades people. They have to understand engineering, mathematics, PHA, and theorem. Oh, they used to throw that on the chalkboard.

Dave Barrett (13:46):
And I go, oh, when am I ever gonna use this in my life? Become a carpenter. That’s how you square wall 3, 4, 5, come on man. That’s and it’s just making those connections that you can actually do it. So that’s, you know, mathematics, perimeters volumes just had a friend of mine complaining about the, they had to completely redo their plumbing cuz their plumber couldn’t do the math. It’s important that you know these things and it’s not for somebody that doesn’t do well in the classroom. They have to understand what they’re getting into. And one, they have the passion, the math, the engineering, the science technology all makes sense. That’s awesome. Plus we use really cool equipment in the skill trades like

Sam Demma (14:24):
Yep. I’ve heard stories even in my own high school of kids repairing a teacher’s car and then getting to drive around the block. And that? Not that this is what happens

Dave Barrett (14:32):
Everywhere. No, they, oh no, that never happens. But yeah, exactly. You know, and the in it’s really cool. Like I looked, I visited a training center locally and they had what were called dark rooms and inside the dark rooms were mill rights and boiler makers who were operating robots inside nuclear vaults, I’m going and they had to be skilled trades people in order to do this. So you’re using the coolest equipment and their supervisors were flying drones around to do the inspections. I mean, what a great, you know, so gaming skills when mom and dad said, Hey, your gaming skills will never Mount to anything, get into the skilled trades. You might just find out they will

Sam Demma (15:08):
Buy some drones.

Dave Barrett (15:09):
exactly fly drones, working robots, real ones. Yeah. It’s kind of cool.

Sam Demma (15:13):
So how did you get into this position? Tell me more about your journey through education yourself. So

Dave Barrett (15:19):
I like, as I said, I was I was working in community economic development and I did, you know, again, I got bored after I was there for 12 years, but I started to do a lot of work with my, a local school boards. So the person who was in the Ontario youth apprenticeship program position was retiring and I’d done a lot of work with her and she said, you should apply for my job. And I’m going look at my resume. There is no way, but I applied anyway. And I had worked with some of the people that were on the hiring team and they said, yeah, let’s take a shot. And that’s worked out really well. So I’m actually not a teacher. Mm-Hmm I come to the position from industry, but I’ve worked in the auto industry, construction industry. I, you know, did some work in manufacturing.

Dave Barrett (16:03):
So all of these things culminated in my position and I think it’s, I’ve got a passion for it. And again, you talk about percept, you come into it and I hear this kids today, baloney kids, they are more engaged. They’re they’re the same as I was when I was there. They just look funny. I look funny to the generation ahead of me. Yeah. They look funny to me, but talking with them and especially when they get a passion for culinary, we run a culinary program. It’s fun to talk to them cuz they know, know their craft and they can’t wait to get into the industry. And that’s, that’s what I love about this position.

Sam Demma (16:37):
Someone recently told me experience comes from age is, you know, is not true. It’s experience comes from experience. And I would also argue experience. Doesn’t also come from a paper, you know, sometimes it comes from experience and you know exactly the fact that you’ve worked in all the different, like various, you know, industries in the field that are the same fields that these kids are gonna get into, gives you the opportunity to give people a very clear picture of each and every one of them. Right. Exactly. And

Dave Barrett (17:05):
That’s it. I bring that, that perspective to it that I didn’t, I couldn’t read in a book or I lived it. So I, I can honestly say here’s what I experienced and here’s how I overcame it, whether I needed to overcome it or not. And, and I, I do think that is valuable. It’s, it’s interesting because in my presentation I actually took that piece out about my, my pathway and all the teachers said, put it back in. That’s the part where the kids went, this guy’s credible. Yeah. So I, I talk about my own faults, my own indecisions, my own bad decisions and my own good decisions. And, and through that they go, okay. Yeah. I, he still, he looks like he’s doing all right. And he’s still living his life. So carry on. Exactly.

Sam Demma (17:47):
Yeah. That’s awesome. And how do you approach a student who is in class and is, or who’s coming to you and, and telling you Dave? I have absolutely no idea what I wanna do with my life. like, I feel like that’s a common conversation you probably have with students.

Dave Barrett (18:02):
And it’s, I, I go back to what I said or what do you wanna try next? So have you been to my events? Have you tried? And, and if some of the things that we’ve created with our local partners is I shops are expensive to run. So they’re only in our high schools. So elementary students don’t have a chance to be exposed to them, but we live in a day and age where technology rules. So I’ve got welding simulators, I’ve got an excavator simulator, I’ve got all kinds of dexterity challenges. I’ve got robots and things like that, that we take into the elementary schools and we let those students try these things. And what I find cool about that is you see students who are, you know, not the athlete, not the academic, all of a sudden excelling in their grade seven, eight class.

Dave Barrett (18:47):
And they’re going, how, how do you know how to do that? Because they’re the hands on learners that have been building stuff since they were four, but this gives them the chance to try it. And once they try it, then we start having the conversations about what parts of, of skilled trades do you like. And, and that’s how we sort of build that model. So when I have the conversation with students, it it’s more around, okay, how can I help you try some of these things? So I’ve, I’ve had, you know, you’re right. I, not long ago I had a student who wasn’t sure if you wanted to be a carpenter or a chef and I’m kind of going, okay, we have some work to do here, cuz that’s pretty diverse. Yeah. but let’s, let’s talk about trying stuff. And what is it you like about this and what is like about that?

Dave Barrett (19:32):
And then we built them from there and they’re actually in my level one cook program right now. Cause they that’s awesome. They kind of decide. And I said, at the end of it, if you, if you hate the level one cook program, you get the end of the day going, this isn’t for me. Perfect. Now, you know, didn’t cost you dime. You’re just gonna be stuck cooking Easter dinner and Thanksgiving for the rest of your life. But other than that, you can go become a carpenter. Now, you know, that’s it’s you got some great skills.

Sam Demma (19:56):
I, I try and here’s another thing you can Rob, maybe an analogy but I, I, I think of it like career search, like a buffet, right? You go to a buffet and you, you walk around, you take a little bit of everything they have to offer and you go sit down, you eat some of it. And certain foods you hate and you don’t grab that ever again. And other foods you end up loving and you know, you keep going back for those. And it’s like the same with trades, the same with jobs, any anything in life. It’s like, you figure out what you love doing, not by theory, but by doing the thing, you know,

Dave Barrett (20:28):
Consider that stolen. I love that’s you’re you nailed it. That’s a, exactly what it is, is keep trying stuff. And I, and I talked to the students that way. I said, your job is the students to try everything you can in the next four to five years, that’s your job. And then from there, you’ll sort of maybe figure it out and be honest. When you, when I talk about my career pathway, I was probably close to 30 before I kind of nailed it. Yep. Cause I’d done construction. I’d done healthcare. I’d done manufacturing. I’d done. These other things went, eh, no, no. Yeah. And then all of a sudden I got into community stuff and I went, Hmm, this makes sense to me. And then workforce development and guiding people to, to careers and helping my community grow. And I went, yeah, I really like this. And then that’s, that’s where I went from there. But it took a while to get there. Remind me, don’t be afraid of

Sam Demma (21:15):
That. Remind me how many years you’ve been in the OYAP position, helping students, you know, figure out different pathways.

Dave Barrett (21:21):
I just started my 10th year.

Sam Demma (21:24):
If you could go back to year one, knowing what, you know, being in this role for 10 years, what would you have told year, Dave?

Dave Barrett (21:31):
Honestly I would’ve said try more stuff, make more mistakes. Mm. Keep trying, keep trying I, some of the programs that came that we’re doing now that are really successful, I really wish I would’ve started them earlier. And a lot of them came from just doing so a good example. We had, we had young women’s events where I would get a couple schools. We’d, you know, they’d pick young women to get on a bus and we’d take them to different industries just to see what they were like. And I thought, well, geez, aren’t I hero? I had 40 young ladies on a bus and we took them into the auto industry, the agricultural industry and these different ones. We talk skilled trades. And then my colleague said, well, why don’t we just do this at their high schools? And that way they can all come.

Dave Barrett (22:18):
Geez. That makes sense. So we started doing young women’s nights where the students would come. We’d allow them to invite their favorite aunt, their mother, their, you know, best friend to come with them. And then we put them into the welding shop and then into the auto shop and we’d circulate them around. And all of a sudden we were having 80 and 90 young ladies trying to skill trades at nine of our high schools. And we’re going, okay, this is better. Well, that’s that kind of grew. But that only happened in the last, before the pandemic three years of the first five years, we weren’t doing it. So it’s stuff like that. Where I’m I like trying stuff. I don’t let the bureau bureaucracy get in the way. Let’s try it. We pilot it, make all of our mistakes and then run with it.

Sam Demma (23:03):
That’s awesome. Love that this has been a exciting conversation. It’s already been 25 minutes time flies in when you’re having a good chat. But if another educator is listening, wants to learn a little more about how they can encourage skill trades and their students, and wants to ask you a question, what would be the best way for them to reach out and get in touch with you?

Dave Barrett (23:22):
If you want to email me: dave_barrett@bwdsb.on.ca. Shoot me an email and I’ll respond. I’ll talk to anybody about skilled trades and events and share anything. I, I think these are great pathways. I don’t think they’re for everyone, but if you are interested in an event or how we do things more than happy to share.

Sam Demma (24:06):
Awesome, Dave. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Really appreciate it. Keep up with the awesome work and we’ll

Dave Barrett (24:10):
Talk soon. All right, Sam, thank you so much for the opportunity you take care too,

Sam Demma (24:14):
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 view. 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.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Dave

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Christa Ray – Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) Coordinator at the Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB)

Christa Ray - Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator at ALCDSB
About Christa Ray

Christa is passionate not only about teaching & guiding the next generation but also intently interested in anything related to sustainability and the environment. She is also an Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator(OYAP) at the ALCDSB. Her career path has been very rewarding so far and she always looks forward to the lifelong learning afforded by having a job in the education sector! 

Connect with Christa: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program

Queens University Bachelor of Education Degree

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):
Do you want access to all the past guests on this show? Do you want to network with like-minded individuals and meet other high performing educators from around the world? If so, go to www.highperformingeducator.com, sign up to join the exclusive network and you’ll get access to live virtual networking events and other special opportunities that will come out throughout 2021. I promise you I will not fill your inbox. you might get one email a month. If that sounds interesting, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Christa Ray. Christa is the Ontario youth apprenticeship coordinator at the ALCDSB, the Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District School Board. She’s passionate, not only about teaching and guiding the next generation, but also interested in anything related to sustainability and the environment.

Sam Demma (01:01):
Her career path has been very rewarding so far, and she’s always looking forward to the lifelong learning afforded by having a job in the education sector. I hope you enjoy today’s interview as much as I enjoy doing it and I’ll see you on the other side. Christa, thank you so much for coming on the high performing educator podcast. It’s a huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by sharing with the audience a little bit about who you are and how you got into the work you’re doing with young people today?

Christa Ray (01:27):
Sure. Thanks Sam. It’s it’s great to be here with you today. I, I’ve been in education for about 17 years now. I started at the high school that I actually graduated from and initially I was a geography teacher among a few other things, and then I jumped into guidance shortly after my career started. So I was a guidance counselor for about 10 years and then I decided to take a leap of faith and I left the school that I loved and a job that I loved and I came to the board office. And now for the last three years I’ve been working with five high schools and a couple of college, local colleges. And for the first two years, I worked with student success teachers mainly. And this year starting in September, I have a new role called the OYAP(Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program) coordinator. So those that’s rounded out the last three years of my career.

Sam Demma (02:20):
Awesome. And what made you take, tell me more about what made you take the leap of faith. Why did you make that decision? Was there anything behind that?

Christa Ray (02:30):
Oh, that’s a good question. I, I loved what I was doing in the high school and I was coaching and I was doing a few clubs, but I was getting tired and I had needed a change of scenery and had young children at home. And so I thought I would try a different venue. And it was very nerve wracking, actually. I, I didn’t, you know, normally people change jobs when they don’t like something, but I was leaving something that I really liked to the unknown. And so it, it turned out it’s been really great for not just myself. And I’ve learned probably more in the last three years than I have in the, in the full 17 years that I’ve been teaching. So it’s, it’s been a good, a good move for me.

Sam Demma (03:16):
Oh, that’s awesome. And at what point in your own career journey, did you know, I wanna work in education. Was this something you knew from a young age? Did you stumble upon it? Did someone kind of guide you in that direction? Or how did you come to that decision that you wanted to work in schools?

Christa Ray (03:31):
You know, my sister and I always had a little Blackboard in our house growing up and we would always play school as I’m sure a lot of people do. So that was a something that we just enjoyed. But I don’t think it was really until my third or fourth year of university that I had confirmed with myself that I wanted to get into education. And my main driver was was geography actually, because I had an amazing geography teacher in high school who really propelled me into not, not the world of teaching, but the world of geography. Thanks and sustainability. And I mean, I know you have your pick waste initiative. Those, those were all things that I really wanted to to talk about with students. And I felt that the, maybe the biggest way I could have an impact on the world would be to spread my love for the environment with kids. So that’s why I mainly got into it and I didn’t foresee myself getting into guidance, but that just sort of fell into my lap. And I love that just as much so.

Sam Demma (04:29):
Oh, that’s awesome. And I’m sure the first 10, 15 years are a lot different than what school looks like specifically this year. as you exhale that’s right. I’m curious. What, what is different? I mean, what, what are the challenges that you’ve been currently faced with? I know you you’ve put put in a slightly different role this year, but what are the challenges specifically that your school board is facing?

Christa Ray (04:54):
Being the OYAP coordinator? I really rely heavily on hands on activities with students you know, bill building things and talking about the trades and the importance of tools. And so that’s probably my personal big, biggest challenge would be not being able to do the traditional activities with students. We generally try and work with our two local colleges, as I mentioned earlier, and we get students bused into the colleges to see the programs there. We’re not allowed to be busing students. So we are really having to think outside the box and do some alternative planning. And I have been going into schools and I’ve been doing like smaller presentations because I’m still allowed to travel into schools. But I find even just a small thing would be students wearing masks and myself wearing a mask while I present. It’s very unusual for teachers to see a room full of masks in front of you. And you don’t really necessarily get I mean, I’m only in a classroom for an hour at a time doing my presentation. So I feel like I don’t get to know the students very well, especially when they’re have their faces half covered.

Sam Demma (06:11):
No, that’s so true. yeah. It’s so, so true. I, I know they come out with these masks and now called mingle mask, which is like a, it’s like a clear visor. Okay. But then it has other problems, like it’s not close to the nose. It’s like, it’s a whole disaster , but it might be too early to ask, but someone described to me education, like throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks. And I’m curious to know if there’s anything that your school board has done or tried that has stuck so far. Maybe there’s maybe one little nugget or one thing you might share about teaching online or something the schools have tried.

Christa Ray (06:49):
Yeah, I, I feel like our school is still forging ahead with some plans we have to downscale it a little bit and because we can’t get together in large groups due to COVID we are targeting a smaller classroom type activities. So for example, there’s an activity that we’re going to be doing in December, just building a birdhouse with some grade seven, eight students. Oh, cool. And hopefully they’ll be able to, to put that together. It prefab kit actually from one of our local colleges and we’ll take those out and then students can build them and maybe wrap them up and put them under the Christmas tree as gifts. Nice. And and that’ll tie in nicely with when I have my OAP presentation and where I, you know, cuz my job this year is to promote the trades with students.

Christa Ray (07:37):
And oftentimes college and university pathways are really well spoken about in school with guidance counselors, but sometimes the apprenticeship doesn’t doesn’t get highlighted the way it should. So that’s one thing that I feel even though we’re not be allowed to have 300 kids in a room at a time building a bird house, we can still have 20 or 25 building. Yeah. And, and you know, we might have to sanitize things a little more frequently than we normally would, but it’s just one of those challenges that we will, we will overcome.

Sam Demma (08:10):
That’s awesome. I love that. Mm-Hmm and I wanna go back to your geography teacher for a second. What made that teacher really impactful for you? I’m sure the content was great and, and they taught it really well, but there was probably some other characteristics that made this teacher really impactful for you personally. Is there any traits that stick out when you think about this teacher that you think made it such an impactful class?

Christa Ray (08:32):
Yeah, actually as you’re asking that question, I just got goosebumps because he was pretty amazing and I still work with him. Oh fun. Because the irony is he was my geography teacher. I went away for five years. Got my geography degree, came back to the same high school and he was still teaching. Nice. So I was his student and his colleague and I just saw him the other day, but he, I don’t know, he just made learning really fun because he was a storyteller. Mm. He had a story for almost anything and everything, any of our lessons, he, he had done a lot of traveling and I just thought that that was really really interesting. And he was very passionate. Even when he talked about things, places that he had never traveled, he, he made you feel like you were there anyway.

Christa Ray (09:19):
Mm. And so I just felt like you know, that was something that he really instilled in us was to become knowledgeable global citizens. Even though, even if you’re not traveling, you can still do a lot of research. And obviously the worldwide web is really good for checking out initiatives across across the world. And I tried to do that with my students as well. You know, we talked about some of the people that really make a difference. I mean, I was so interested to read a little bit more about your pick waste initiative that you did with your friend and you know, that it’s just two high school students picking up trash. It seems insignificant, but when you get a, when you get a bit of a following, especially now with social media, mm-hmm, you find out that you can really make a difference really fast. Yeah.

Sam Demma (10:08):
So, so small actions compounded over time. Right? Small, consistent actions. exactly. Yeah. That’s awesome. And you know, your teacher had a huge impact on you. I’m sure there’s so many stories that you’ve seen of students transforming due to education. And I’m curious to know if any story that you know of, whether it’s a student that you had, or it’s a student that you’ve heard of that had a huge transformation due to the support and care of a teacher. And the reason I ask is because there might be an educator listening right now, who’s a little bit burnt out who is maybe on the edge of even getting out of this calling and, and getting into a new job or career because they’re totally stressed out, but those stories are transformation might remind them why it’s extremely important and why the work they’re doing is so necessary and needed now more than ever. And if it’s a serious story, feel free to totally change the name to John DOE or whatever. You’d like . And anyways, yeah. Does any story come to mind?

Christa Ray (11:09):
Oh, I have a few. But one in particular that really sticks out in my mind was a student that came to our high school. He was a, a grade 12 student at the time. He came from Toronto to a small town in Beville to finish up his high school diploma. And when he came to my class, he was a grade 12 student in my grade nine geography class, cuz he had failed geography a few years prior and I’d never had a Stu an old, older student in my class and I was a little worried, but I realized really soon that he became he was kind of like a role model for the younger students. So even though the everybody else was in grade nine and he was in grade 12 and about a foot taller than everybody I, I realized that he was a really good resource for me to have.

Christa Ray (11:58):
And I mean, as a guidance counselor, I could see his transcript and I knew that it wasn’t very shiny. He hadn’t been doing really well. Due to many circumstances his life in Toronto was very difficult and not to get into too many details. He, he was trying to make his life better for himself. Hence the reason why he had moved to Bellville. And so when he came I, I think my biggest mistake was kind of pre-judging him, mm-hmm , you know, this is, this is gonna be a student where I’m really gonna have a lot of troubles and I actually didn’t at all. So near the end of his grade 12 year when he had accumulated his geography credit, which is a prerequisite to graduate in Ontario. Yeah. And he had accumulated other credits. He, he, I was so proud of him and I think he was proud of himself.

Christa Ray (12:52):
And I, I told him specifically that I don’t know what I would’ve done without him because he was a good motivator. He always had his homework done. When other students didn’t, he would sit with them and ex like, say, you know, I, I like to help you, which baffled my mind because I thought that he would just stick to himself, but he literally was a, like an older role model for the students. And he helped a few other students get through my class as well. It was like having a peer helper. Yeah. Actually, and I he went on to do welding at a college program. That’s and I’ve since lost track of him. I, I always wonder what he’s up to, but I don’t know. He, he is definitely one story that sticks out in my mind and I will remember him for as long as I live, actually.

Sam Demma (13:42):
That’s awesome. That’s such a beautiful story. And maybe this podcast is a reason to try and reach out and figure out what he’s up to these days. And if, you know, if you’re listening to this, remember that these stories are not far in between that, I think so much transformation happens inside schools or even outside the school walls with conversations because you, as an educator, you take on the role of parent. Sometimes you take on the role of teacher. Sometimes you take on the role of coach. It’s like, you’re so many things to these young minds and you can have such a huge impact. And it sometimes transforms students lives, which is pretty cool. Anyways, this has been really, really awesome. If you could travel back in time and speak to your younger self, when you were just starting teaching with all the wisdom you have now, what advice would you, would you share when you were just starting?

Christa Ray (14:36):
Hmm. I think, well, I mean, you learn more and more each year. So even though I’ve been teaching for quite some time I would tell my younger self that you’re, you’re basically on a journey. You’re not gonna know all of the answers. You’re not gonna have it all figured out in your first fifth or even 10th year of teaching. And as we all are very aware of this year has thrown everybody for a loop and we’ve had to change our teaching style significantly, especially earlier in the spring when we went to remote learning. But I just think that teachers need to not be so hard on themselves. Mm. They need to you know they need to take care of themselves so that they can take care of their classrooms. Yeah. And you might not be able to get it all done in a day.

Christa Ray (15:28):
So try not to be too overworked because I know a lot of teachers and myself included, we bring our work home with us. We try to make things as good as we can make them. And sometimes we can’t have perfection a hundred percent of the time. And I think that’s probably the biggest piece of advice I’d give people is you know, doing a good job is okay. You don’t need to do an awesome job every day because it can get very tiring. And so just do as best as you can do. And that’s good enough.

Sam Demma (15:59):
I love that. That’s great advice. And I think it applies in all areas of life. Like if you’re tr if you’re trying to be perfect, 24 7, you’re gonna burn out fast. And then instead of being great each day, you’re gonna be poor on a couple of them now, because you’re not actually able to physically perform and show up for your kids. Correct.

Christa Ray (16:18):
We, we talk a lot about, sorry to interrupt. Like, we talk a lot about mental health with students mm-hmm , but we really should also focus a mental health with teachers because I know a in particular this year, a lot of teachers are feeling very strapped. Our, our schooling system right now is in an Okta master system. So yeah. Credits are being accumulated at a very rapid pace in 23 days. And that’s, it, it’s a very different reality from what we’ve been experiencing in the past. And so I think teachers need to get sleep. They need to eat. Right. they need to do something fun on the weekend yeah. To re-energize their batteries.

Sam Demma (16:59):
So, yeah, I think it’s true. Almost like a teacher retreat or something

Christa Ray (17:03):
If yes, that’s right.

Sam Demma (17:04):
Yeah. That’s awesome. Cool. Well, Christa, thank you so much for taking some time and to come on the show, I really appreciate you sharing some stories and ideas. If another educator listening wants to reach out, have a conversation, what would be the best way for them to do so?

Christa Ray (17:18):
Well, they can email me. My email is raychris@alcdsb.on.ca. And if they want to email me, I can, I can do what I can to help.

Sam Demma (17:34):
Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much. Again, I look forward to staying in touch and watching all the cool things you do with the school board.

Christa Ray (17:40):
Oh, thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate it.

Sam Demma (17:43):
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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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.