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Curtis Carmichael – “CC the Futurist”

Curtis Carmichael – “CC the Futurist”
About Curtis Carmichael

Curtis (@CurtisCarmicc) is an award-winning author, keynote speaker, STEM and hip-hop teacher, social entrepreneur, and the founder of Source Code Academy Canada — Canada’s first culture-focused innovation and entrepreneurship academy preparing children and youth for the future of work. Curtis is the critically acclaimed author and mobile app developer for the World’s First Augmented Reality Memoir, Butterflies in the Trenches. As a self taught computer programmer, Curtis built “BITT Smart Book App”, the mobile app that brings his memoir to life. By holding the device over photos throughout the book, readers use the app to unlock hidden audio and visual content. Curtis’ guiding mission of No Child Left Behind ™ provides students, educators, and organizations with tools and actionable strategies to identify their passion, find purpose, and use their gifts to make a difference in their lives, schools, businesses, and communities.

For Curtis, this journey all began with a bicycle. After sacrificing a professional football career, Curtis led a cross-Canada cycling tour called “Ride for Promise” and fundraised $100,000 in 60 days for Toronto Community Housing after-school programs. He was featured in the award-winning documentary, Ride for Promise. Curtis’ journey has been covered by CBC, CP24, Global News, Breakfast Television, CityNews, CTV, Your Morning Show, and TED. In his spare time, he is a Team Canada Duathlete for the 2021 Multi-sport World Championships.

Curtis grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, where he still works. He has dedicated his life to advocating for Black and racialized youth in low- income communities across Toronto, Canada, and globally. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physical and Health Education from Queen’s University and a BEd in STEM education from Ontario Tech University. Curtis has been the recipient of numerous awards including USPORTS National Russ Jackson, 2021 Best Indie Book Award Winner for Inspirational Non-Fiction, Herbert H. Carnegie National Citizenship, City of Toronto Spirit of Sport Diversity and Inclusion, and the City of Toronto Hall of Honour inductee. Curtis believes with conviction that each and every person is gifted, it is just a matter of having the right platform and opportunities to unwrap and use these gifts. 

Connect with Curtis: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

curtiscarmichael.ca

Source Code Academy Canada

Butterflies in the Trenches

No Child Left Behind ™

Ride for Promise

Queens University – Bachelors of Physical and Health Education

Ontario Tech University – Bachelors of Education

USPORTS National Russ Jackson

2021 Best Indie Book Award Winner for Inspirational Non-Fiction

Herbert H. Carnegie National Citizenship

City of Toronto Hall of Honour inductee

The Terry Fox Foundation

The Rick Hansen Foundation

Ubuntu Philosophy

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.


Sam Demma (01:00):
This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today we have on a very special guest. His name is Curtis Carmichael. People call him “CC the futurist.” Curtis is on a mission of improving schools and organizational culture. By helping people realize that they have innate power and gifts to make a difference in their lives and communities. He is so many things; an award-winning author, keynote speaker, stem and hip hop teacher, social entrepreneur, and the founder of source code academy, Canada, which is Canada’s first culture focused innovation and entrepreneurship academy preparing children and youth for the future of work. He’s the critically acclaimed author and mobile app developer for the world’s first augmented reality memoir; “butterflies in the trenches.” As a self-taught computer programmer. Curtis built BITT smart book app; the mobile app that brings his book, his memoir, to life. He is also someone who has traveled across the country. After sacrificing a professional football career,


Sam Demma (02:02):
Curtis led a cross Canada cycling tour called ride for promise, where he and everyone he knew helped fundraise a hundred thousand dollars in 60 days for Toronto community housing after school programs. He has been featured on news, CBC, CT, CTV CP 24 global news, breakfast television, your morning show, and TEDx. In his spare time, get this, in his spare time, he is a team Canada dual athlete for the 2021 multi-sport world champions. There is so much to this powerful young man. Curtis is an inspiration. He is changing the world one speech, one book, one product at a time, and it is our pleasure and honor to have him on the show here today. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Curtis and I’ll see you on the other side. Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today we have a very special guest. I met this individual a few years ago. In a conference room, we were sitting at the same table. We chatted a little bit, but didn’t get into any deep conversation. And recently I read his entire book and I’m so glad that it prompted us to reconnect. Curtis Carmichael is a special guest today. Curtis, please feel free to introduce yourself, explain who you are and why you do the work you do to ensure that no children or child is left behind.


Curtis Carmichael (03:29):
Yeah, for sure. Thank you for having me on. Always a pleasure to reconnect with you. You’re such a bundle of hope so I’m glad I can be here to kind of match that as well. But yeah, when people ask who, who am I, I always say I am a revolutionary. And what does that mean? For me that’s a person or a vessel that brings around radical or complete change. So my radical change is to ensure that no child and no community is left behind. So being a revolutionary kind of unfolds in three separate ways. So one is; I’m author and athlete. So my background is that I sacrificed a pro football career moved back to my public housing project and I ended up biking across Canada raising 100k in 60 days to save three afterschool programs from closing down in Toronto community housing.


Curtis Carmichael (04:11):
So that’s one way of being a revolutionary. The second way of being a revolutionary is I’m a keynote speaker educational consultant and a stem elementary teacher. So on this planet, I feel like I’m here to help students, educators and organizations kind of realize their innate power and gifts that they possess in order to make a difference in their lives and their community. So in doing so in short, I build a culture of service and prepare both students and educators for the future work. And number three what does it mean to be a revolutionary is I’m also a tech founder and self top mobile app developer. So how that unfolds is also created the world force, augmented reality memoir, which is a book that comes with a free augmented reality mobile app, and also founded source code academy, Canada, which is Canada’s first culture focused academy that prepares children and youth for the future of work.


Curtis Carmichael (04:56):
So target population for that is by pocket and low income kids. But yeah, that’s kind of who I am. I think your second question there is why do I do the work that I do? There, there’s a story behind this always want to give you context in a world where our, our systems are designed to oppress and marginalized and limit opportunities for bipo and low income communities. Since I was a kid, I remember looking at a lot of indigenous communities and African people across the diaspora and they always follow this model of a BTU. It’s actually a south African phrase philosophy. That means I am because we are so essentially the, we is more, more important than the I, so the collective kind of highlights that each of us have something of value to contribute to the whole.


Curtis Carmichael (05:38):
So that’s kind of like my grounding of, of where I come from and community circles is something that I believe, you know, were very well as well. Sam demo that most communities, how they operate is they have the most vulnerable at the center of community. So the kids and the toddlers, and then around them are the adults around them are the, the, the older adults around them are the OGs and the grandparents. And this is kind of how they work in community. So foundationally to answer that question, cuz that was long winded. I always wanted to give you the context before I answer, why do I do the work that I do? And because I come from a community that is disenfranchised in Scarborough the most culture and ethically diverse place in north America, I believe my goal here is to build an inclusive world that includes us all inclusive world. That includes all of us, regardless of what communities you come from. So that’s why I always say my mission as a kid was no child left behind. And the mission of source code academy is no child left behind.


Sam Demma (06:30):
When do you sleep Curtis?


Curtis Carmichael (06:33):
Yeah, I do. I do a lot. To be honest I sleep , I try to find moments, but I think when, when I, when I feel like I’m here, I don’t feel like I’m doing something for a resume or anything. I just feel like it’s my responsibility. I’ve been given something to do. So it’s like every day I work up work, wake up with a mission in mind knowing that I’m working for the collective. So I think my six hours of sleep is enough. get me up in the morning.


Sam Demma (07:00):
Hey man, I can attest to your passion and purpose from all the phone calls we’ve had. It’s so apparent that you’re doing the work that you need to be doing. And deep down in your heart know you should be doing. I know you, you mentioned that you’re like the plug and the, the OG for everyone for so many different programs, everyone’s always hitting you up with questions and your phone’s buzzing, nonstop. Even during meetings and calls. You have other people requiring your attention. It seems like you do a really great job to, to balance it all, despite everything going on. What, what inspires the work that you do? So you told me a little bit about the why, but what inspires you to continue going in the moments where things feel overwhelming, extremely challenging? Like, are there role models you look up to or people that, you know, you speak to often to keep you going? What’s your inspiration?


Curtis Carmichael (07:50):
Yeah. I, I have a, I have a few inspirations. One inspiration is that in all the work that I do, which is what infused of informed my book is that when you look around the world, you start to realize that opportunities aren’t universal, but talent is. And once I realized that talent was universal, I started to look at all these communities that were facing like structural racism, structural poverty. I realized that access to resources, information is class based when I realized, despite those realities, that talent still exist here, value still exists here. Passion and power still exists here. That kind of inspires all of my work, cuz I go to these communities that usually people kind of look at them and they don’t understand that they have value and don’t feel like they have value. But when I go there, I see a, like a, a landmine of just of just worth and value and power and purpose and hope.


Curtis Carmichael (08:43):
And I always say like hope is hold on pain ends, right? So if you have that mentality that’s kind of what grounds my work is when I go back to community and I see myself in all these young kids, young boys and girls grandparents and family. So that’s what inspires the work. My role models are interesting. my, one of my biggest models, my mom and my dad, my dad actually used to be a professional cyclist in in guy in south America, but had to stop cycling because he had to make money for his 10 siblings and his parents that are struggling to make ends meet. So he actually gave me the love for biking, hence why I ended up biking across the country. And now I’m actually riding for team Canada, but my mom actually got me into tech and financial literacy at a time of early 2000, we’re the only family that had laptops.


Curtis Carmichael (09:28):
My mom really saw the value that tech was gonna be the future. So she saved up all her money, working multiple jobs to get each, each of us, me and my two older brothers laptops. And that’s kind of what started the early journey. So those are like the role models. Like I talk to all the time. There’s some role models I don’t see as often, right? One of my biggest role models as you see from the book is Nipsey hustle. In short Nipsey hustle is the best global example in history at elevating the social and economic fabric of a community. And at the end of his life at 33 had over 200 million in assets and would’ve helped assisted or hired over 40,000 people. And all his money got reinvested back into his neighborhood, which is a disenfranchised black and brown community. So those are kind of my role models that inspire me that we gotta play chess, not checkers, but we also have to know that services are currency to elevation. So we actually find ourself by losing ourself in the service of others.


Sam Demma (10:19):
Mm. I love it. I really love this idea that talent is universal. Talent is universal. Can you provide an example of a moment where you realize talent is everywhere, especially in one of these situations where opportunities didn’t exist. Maybe even growing up in the, in the, in the hood where you grew up, like give us an example of a story or a person that really brought that idea to life for you. That talent exists everywhere, no matter where you are.


Curtis Carmichael (10:49):
Yeah, definitely. My number one example is my homie, Alex we call him Dr. Alex, cuz we said he has a PhD in the streets, not, not in academia and Alex was that kid who was 12, right? I was 10 years old. He came from a Jamaican background, but in our neighborhood we lived in a food desert. So we were listening who may not know what that is, but in Toronto we have areas that are, that are very far from grocery stores. So the closest grocery store is about 90 minutes away, away. So Alex wanted to solve that problem. He didn’t want us to spend long times walking or, or long time kind of waiting for transit that never comes. So he decided I’m gonna make a motorcycle. So at 12 years old, over the course of several months, he actually invented what we called the hood motorcycle.


Curtis Carmichael (11:26):
So he, he was able to tinker with like a lawnmower engine, a broken toasters, broken microwaves and a bike parts. But he basically made a bike that was powered by a lawnmower engine. So he was able to make a motorcycle at 12 and he also made other people motorcycles, cuz he made a business out of it. He’s like, you know what? Everyone wants this. It’s something of value. I understand it’s solving a problem and a pain point in our community. So we actually gave us all Mo motorcycles. So that’s Alex at 12 years old. And, and I always say that creativity is the mother of necessity, right? So that mentality that we face problems that no one else in the world faces, but we’re able to create innovative solutions that can help add value and help people in the community. So that’s Alex who kind of inspired me to get into business and, and technology all at 10 years old, watching that happen


Sam Demma (12:13):
Is Alex, someone you stay in touch with today, what’s what’s going on in his world.


Curtis Carmichael (12:16):
Yeah. A lot of people ask about him cuz there’s a shopping book about Alex. So Dr. Alex is unfortunately at a time early 2000 before socially media, before I didn’t even know smart phones didn’t even exist yet. So we only had landlines and he moved soon after or about 13 years old. So when I was 11 and we kind of lost touch. So typically speaking when, when neighborhoods are gentrified, usually there’s a force relocation of people to other areas around the city where they don’t know where they’re going. So I’m not in touch with Alex today. It’s only a matter of time with the story out that I’ll be able to reconnect with these kinds of people. So my, my hope is that we, we can reconnect again.


Sam Demma (12:49):
I think it’s a beautiful reason to ensure we stay present in all of our conversations because we never know when our conversation with someone might be the last one for a really long time. Mm-Hmm you mentioned it to me on our last call that you guys haven’t talked. I wanted to ask you just to bring that up. yeah. Sometimes, sometimes inspiration, you know, comes from somebody who may not be around in a week or a month and we don’t know when we’re gonna connect with them. So I think it’s really important. We really value our communication with people and be present with them. And that’s something you do really well. And I think the people you mentioned as role models also did extremely powerful powerfully. Why butterflies in the trenches? I know it’s the name of your book, explain the concept and where that idea came from and share a little bit about the book itself and why you brought it to life.


Curtis Carmichael (13:36):
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Butterflies and trenches is is interesting concept. So I’m a certified stem elementary teacher by trade. So I’ve always been a buff for the first one science and something about butterflies. I always noticed that a lot of people don’t understand certain parts of nature that I think are some of the most profound concepts for us to ground our own life compass on. So when I look at butterflies, I started to realize that the only way they can survive is by eating minerals and nutrients from the mud. So there’s actually something that happens at a chemical level when water interacts with dirt and what it creates is something that’s essential for their survival and reproduction. So that kind of was beautiful for me cuz when you Google butterflies in the mud, you see millions and millions of photos. And that kind of reminded me that these caterpillar once came through the mud and now they return to the mud as a butterfly.


Curtis Carmichael (14:24):
So it made me look at disenfranchised communities globally and say our past is actually the building blocks for our future. So that’s kind of what launched the title of butterflies and the trenches. And, and when I remember as a kid even looking for a book about someone in Canada who broke the psycho poverty and empowered young people to do the same I couldn’t find it. And historically this book didn’t exist. So when I became a teenager and a young adult, I kept looking for the same book. And I couldn’t find it. And I remember becoming an elementary teacher 20 years later after looking for those books since I was a kid and now the kids I was teaching and interacting with in the community were now asking for the same book I was looking for 20 years ago. Mm. So essentially what I did, I followed the, the words of one of the greatest writers over time, Tony Morrison.


Curtis Carmichael (15:05):
And she said that if there’s a book that you wanna read that hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. So I took it as my responsibility to write the first book from a Canadian author about breaking the psycho party, empowering young people to break the psycho party, but also prepare them for the future of work. So cool thing I bought the book is that I, I didn’t only just make one, I, I also designed it as the world’s first augmented reality memoir. So it’s a book that has written text and over a hundred photos. And with the mobile app, you scan photos throughout the book and it displays interactive visual and audio content. And the goal for that is to further immerse readers in the story. So he can feel like you’re right there behind, beside me, right there beside Dr.


Curtis Carmichael (15:42):
Alex, right there beside, when the police raids my house right there at the drive-by shooting. There’s so many other stories that I wanted people to feel like they’re right there in that moment in time. So that was the best thing to do was to make it the world’s first augmented reality memoir. So second question you asked in short was what is the book about? So the way I always explain it, I always say like a couple sentences. I said, if you were to think about me being outside of the book it looks like when I was failing in school, but successful at crime, the book essentially covers what my life was like growing up in Scarborough. So a neighborhood that’s played by poverty, inadequate schooling drugs and violence, but it shows how it broke the cycle I was born into.


Curtis Carmichael (16:19):
So essentially what I do is people see the early stories of a childhood drug dealer all the way to his computer programmer, a social entrepreneur and a tech founder and how I cycled across Canada. So the run memoirs two parts. The first part is me cycling across Canada, but it goes back and forth between the ride and my actual early childhood stories. And then the second part of the book shows other people from around the world who I call butterflies and the trenches who made amazing difference in their lives in their community. And the whole OUS is to show that we all have the power and gifts to make a difference in our lives and communities, all we just need is the right people and the right opportunities and platform kind of like you’re giving me to help unwrap our gifts,


Sam Demma (17:00):
Self, top programmer developed an app that you could use to make the book come to life and I’ve downloaded it, held it up to my book pages and watched the video start playing, which is so freaking cool. I don’t think anyone’s ever done this before. What did the process look like? A bring that app to life, you know, in the book you talk about design process, the design thinking. Did you go through something similar when you were building this app and learning how to code?


Curtis Carmichael (17:26):
Yeah, definitely. Design think is cool. Cause design think is in any, anything, any successful invention that has helped humanity in some way, use the design thinking. So essentially I use the process of design thinking to stumble upon like, Hmm. How do you make people more like immerse themselves in a story that they either haven’t been in that community or they feel outta touch with that community. And that’s what kind of made me kind of spend a lot of time with students all across the country. Cause with me, it’s interesting. A lot of my friends are like, oh, are you speaking still? I’m like, I don’t really post anymore. Like my website’s old. I’m like rebranding that now. So I’ve always still been speaking. I’ve been visiting a lot of places, coast to coast and the kids are telling me that yo, all these books are just with texts and I’m like, oh great.


Curtis Carmichael (18:05):
Then maybe I should add photos. They, once I had the photos, a lot of kids are like, oh, I wish I was there. And then I’m like, I heard a lot of kids go to go say this. So I decided, you know, what, how do you make someone feel like they’re there, if there’s only written context and photos? Mm. So that’s when I’m like the app is just a no brainer. So I went through the exact same process of design thinking, which is essentially a process of how you create a solution to a problem that plagues a certain population. And it’s also user focused.


Sam Demma (18:31):
Dr. Alex did the same thing when he designed the motorcycle, right.


Curtis Carmichael (18:36):
exact same process. Apple did the same thing when they created smartphones, exact same process.


Sam Demma (18:41):
Hmm. You mentioned your dad from guy, he was super into cycling and also inspired your own interests and passionate and dedication in the field. Tell me a little more about when you started biking just in general. And then how that love for biking translated into ride for promise where you raised the a hundred K.


Curtis Carmichael (19:01):
Oh, definitely. Yeah, so my parents are both from Ghana. They they grew up middle class and my dad grew up poor and in his community, biking and farming were huge things. So when he came to Canada they’re working multiple jobs, so we didn’t see them a lot. So usually when your parents are working multiple jobs day and night shift, if your parents don’t parent you, the streets parent you. So while I was in the streets, he wanted to be able to give us something. So one was, he’s taught us about farming. So we had a garden in our backyard. We had like veggie vegetables and fruit for the whole community, but then also he gave us the love for biking. So I can remember being about six years old in region park in Toronto which is the oldest housing project in in north America actually.


Curtis Carmichael (19:42):
And when I was in that community, I just remember him looking at us while we’re trying to learn how to bike. And it wasn’t about, oh, just teaching us how to bike. It felt like he was giving us his life. Like the, the biking was the core of who he was as a professional cyclist and guy who was beating people who had like the best bikes in the world. And he grew up poor and he was beating them on average bike. So I can remember being six years old, him teaching us how to bike. And it felt like it was his life’s mission to teach us farming and biking. So that’s kind of my early story and my dad was working a lot. So our relationship strictly was just through biking, gardening, and that kind of led later in my life where you could see like Dr.


Curtis Carmichael (20:18):
Alex and you could see my bike got stolen at 12. And I ended up instead of complaining about it or asking my parents who couldn’t afford to buy a new one. I actually decided to make my own bike shop with about 10 other great school employees. And we made affordable bikes that were usually thrown out bikes. We renovated them and sold them for profit. So I’ve always been around. Bikes has been my, my core being. So when I ended up this is the ride for promise that you mentioned when I ended up coming back to my neighborhood after Queens university I got an academic athletic ride there for football and I was about to go play pro. I was talking to Hamilton tie cats and the red blacks and the CFO. And at that moment, being back in my neighborhood during the draft, I started to realize nothing had changed.


Curtis Carmichael (20:58):
It was getting worse. So my, my solution was how can I be of service? And the community center said, Hey, we’re closing down three locations potentially, cuz we just lost a hundred K funding to any way you could help. So at that moment I decided, do I wanna have a long impact long term impact and be less known or do I wanna have a short term impact and be well known? I decided to take the other route. So the other route meant hanging up my football cleats, moving back to my community and then making a difference. So when I moved back, I decided, you know, the best way to make noise is to ride across the country. So I ended up riding across the country which was huge. We ended up raising a hundred K and 60 days for these afterschool programs in in high priority Toronto community housing neighborhoods.


Curtis Carmichael (21:41):
But what I realized with that trip, I remember we talked about it before, out of 800 interactions with phone calls, donors meetings, presentations. I only got 16 yeses over the course of a year and that was what made the trip possible. But my motivation was Terry Fox and Rick Canson, Terry decided to run across Canada raised money for cancer research to find a cure, Rick Hanson, wheelchaired around the world over 40,000 kilometers in order to make the world more accessible for all, but also to find a cure for paralysis. So these stories we didn’t have in the hood. So I had to become a story of someone doing something adventurous and sports related in order to inspire young people that success is not making it out. It’s actually making your life and your community better.


Sam Demma (22:22):
Mm let’s talk about success for a second. I think so often today, people, when they hear the word success or chase your dreams or create a life of meaning, the first thing they think about is fame and fun. It’s like, you know, people talk about being getting on and being successful and it’s like, it’s just so societally linked to making money and having fun. And I think that’s so far from the truth. Sure. There’ll be moments when you’re enjoying it because you love the work and you’re pursuing the journey and there’s lots of cool people you’re gonna meet, but there’s gonna be moments where you just gotta sit down and do really difficult work for really long periods of time. How do you define success? You just kind of alluded to it in a world that’s always trying to pitch us their its own idea.


Curtis Carmichael (23:07):
Yeah. I think that’s essentially my definition. I actually learned it from a, a former drug dealer in Baltimore. Actually. He’s one of the original stories of the wire, the HBO series. And he ended up becoming a professor at the university of Baltimore and he is also like a five time, New York times bestselling author. And from going from a drug kingpin to where he is today, he actually defined it as success is not making it out. It’s making your life in your community better. And when I thought of that quote, that had nothing to do with monetary gain, that has nothing to do with, oh, life is all about my ego and filling my ego and getting status, getting popularity, getting followers, it has to do with everything where we go internal to kind of make, make ourselves better. So in sense of taking care of our health, it’s kinda like the compass, the idea of of north is nutrition.


Curtis Carmichael (23:53):
East is exercise. You have south as, as south and west as being, you know, wanna focus on water and you also wanna focus on this idea of like, we need to do things that benefit our health. That’s actually something that’s successful. But then when it comes to the external, you can actually pour from a cup that’s empty. So when I think of success of not making out, it’s not, it’s making your life, your community better. It’s all about focusing on self care and your mental health and improving your mental health and wellbeing. And then from that full cup, you’re able to overflow into other people’s cups. So that’s kind of like my mentality of, of success. It’s, it’s really about focusing on my own mental health and being well with self and then using that well and pouring into other people.


Sam Demma (24:32):
It’s beautiful too, because you mentioned in our last call, sometimes you don’t post on social media for like seven months or even a


Curtis Carmichael (24:42):
Year or


Sam Demma (24:42):
Even a, or even a year. Cause you know, you’re, you’re behind the scenes doing the work. And it’s just, it’s super inspiring, especially during a time where everyone is all about sharing and posting and following and like just, just talking about it and, and you’re doing the reverse, which is really, really inspirational. You talk about this idea of choosing to take the harder path that makes a bigger impact instead of the short success that will get you more well known, like the, you know, the athletic route. You also took that same approach with the ride for promise project, like the ride for promise wasn’t the end goal. It was the thing that you did to raise money, save the programs and generate the attention needed to bring an even bigger, longer term vision to life. Tell us a little bit about what that longer term vision is with source code academy and everything you’re doing moving forward.


Curtis Carmichael (25:35):
No, definitely. Yeah. I’ll tell you about that. So it’s cool with the, when the ride finished I knew the ride was gonna be moment in time. So I actually called my friend because I said, Hey, I have this vision for something in the future, but I think we need to cover the ride for promise journey in a documentary because we’ll be able to use this story to really show people the future of what it looks like to build an inclusive world. That includes us all. So we actually got a, the whole ride is covered in a documentary. I actually sent it to you. It’s a documentary that we won a lot of awards for. And we played at like TIFF and a few other film festivals. And that mentality kind of led me to this point of like, do you want to have short term impact or do you wanna put kind of like the groundwork done and 10 toes down and making something long term that outlives you.


Curtis Carmichael (26:18):
So essentially what I’m doing now, I actually founded with a few other people close to me a lot of well known educators, something called source code academy, Canada. So essentially what source code is it’s Canada’s firsts culture focused academy that prepares children and youth for the future of work. So essentially we work with kids K to 12, primarily in bipo and low income communities. And our goal is to provide all the programming they need in order to prepare for the future that they won’t find at home or in school. So we partner with community organizations with schools and also corporations in order to bridge that gap with educational programming. So our phase one is more so events and workshops and communities we’re currently in my hometown, my home Homeland neighborhood, actually our home office is in my community. I used to sell drugs out of, which is very full circle for me.


Curtis Carmichael (27:02):
So we do events and workshops starting from there for the Toronto community. Our phase two is to do workshops and professional development in schools for students and educators. And in our phase three, we’re actually moving quite fast for that is we’re already getting a lot of attention through that documentary. I mentioned where we wanna purchase the 50,000 square foot building in Scarborough and turning into an innovation and entrepreneurship hub for the community. So that’s kind of what we’re, we’re focused on. Once we secure that space, we’ll be able to scale our programs both across the GTA and across Canada and reach communities globally and in Caribbean and also the us. So in short, our mission for source code academy is to empower the, the next generation of global leaders from bipo and loan from communities. So they can embrace the marketplace and the global innovation economy as owners, builders, and creators.


Curtis Carmichael (27:47):
So what this means is we democratize access to tech, steam education and financial literacy and entrepreneurship programming. So holistically, like we said, we talked about it before, how do you prepare people for the future without caring for them holistically? There’s a lot of programs that do that. So what we’re trying to do is in order to teach you tech financial literacy, steam education and entrepreneurship, we have to holistically have focus areas on creative arts, mental health, literacy, fitness, and nutrition, social, emotional learning, and social justice. So our goal is when he care for the whole child, then we can prepare for their future. Like we said, that’s when we can build a world where no child is left behind.


Sam Demma (28:23):
Hmm. I love that. I really love the analogy of the compass too. I’d never heard of the Northeast Southwest analogy.


Curtis Carmichael (28:29):
That’s Anthony McClean.


Sam Demma (28:31):
No way


Curtis Carmichael (28:33):
Speaker. Yeah. Yeah.


Sam Demma (28:34):
Huge shout out to Anthony. I love that huge


Curtis Carmichael (28:37):
Dude. One of the, one of the greatest man,


Sam Demma (28:39):
That’s amazing. Oh, you have to tell him to tune into this afterwards. yeah. Oh man. That’s so cool. Yeah. I love, I love the idea as someone who grew up athletic athletically and having soccer is centered being the center of my life, I could definitely relate to taking care of your body and how that translates into whatever you choose to do in the future as well. You’ve obviously done that you you’ve stayed extremely fit. So are you currently bike riding for teen Canada right now? I know you mentioned that earlier. Like


Curtis Carmichael (29:07):
Yeah. So my race my race was in 2021. It got canceled.


Sam Demma (29:11):
Oh, wow.


Curtis Carmichael (29:12):
Yeah. So I was I was on a team Canada age group to Athlon team for sprint to Athlon. So it’s 5k run 20 K bike, two 5k run to finish. So I got invited for that. Our whole team was meeting and then it got canceled and postponed to Romania. So it’s actually supposed to be this June, but with everything going on with the Eastern Europe right now it’s not something that I actually feel comfortable going to, so unfortunate part about it. I have to go to another qualifying race this September in order to qualify for year’s world championship. So I have to go through the whole process once again.


Sam Demma (29:45):
Yeah. By any means necessary. Right?


Curtis Carmichael (29:47):
Any means, man


Sam Demma (29:49):
so educators are tuning in loving the story right now wanting to figure out how they can take your life, take your stories, experiences, and bring them back into their classrooms to spark really awesome conversations with students and colleagues. Like how can educators utilize your book, your work to start those conversations and have learning conversations in the classroom?


Curtis Carmichael (30:13):
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So there’s the multiple ways educators can get involved. I think as a certified teacher myself, that’s how I designed the book. So it was a young adult book for kids grades six to 12, the language is very accessible, but it has a lot of benefits for adults as well. So essentially what I did for teachers we actually provided a free high quality curriculum and teaching guide for the book and it’s basically 30 pages and it covers a lot of topics that focus on preparing for the future of work. So there’s areas that focus on mental health, financial literacy, steam education, entrepreneurship creative arts, literacy social, emotional learning, and anti-racism, so that’s kind of like, it’s very all encompassing. That’s why it’s 30 page with the curriculum expectations with the culminating assignments, kind of the discussion questions. It has everything a teacher would need to teach you don’t literal.


Curtis Carmichael (30:58):
You don’t have to do anything. You just need to grab the guide in the book. So I made it easy. So the nice part about it’s free on the website. And it’s also free with the book. So the book’s also purchased only on my website exclusively. And right now there’s a few schools that already have it as retire required reading. So Ontario tech university has it as required reading for all their faculty education graduates. So all the new teachers and the veteran teachers have it as required reading. And there’s also 10 schools into TDSB. So Toronto district school board five schools in Toronto Catholics board here as well. And then there’s teachers in London, England Los Angeles, New York and Australia and the Caribbean reading it. So it’s kind of, it’s cool when you’re indie cuz now I know everyone who’s has their hands on it worldwide, but it’s my goal. Like when they get the book, they’ll learn how to read widely think critically and question everything. That’s kind of the model.


Sam Demma (31:42):
Hmm. I love it man. And the app, where can people check that out? Even if they just wanted to poke around and be impressed by what you built, not knowing any code


Curtis Carmichael (31:52):
, but it’s a code part about it. So the only way for them to actually experience the app is to have the book. So what we did is we did something in tech called we geo lock the experience. So essentially what we do is the, the, the app is only able to come to life with the book in hand, cuz you need to access the photos in the book, scan them with the app and then it displays interactive audio and visual experience. So unfortunately that’s kind of like the, it’s kinda like an NFT approach where it’s like, you have to have the actual physical copy in order to access the app. But the app is available for free on iOS as well as the free guide. I I’m big in giving things for free but yeah, it’s on iOS and then on it’s gonna be on Android soon, later this spring, I’m gonna have to take a break from coding.


Sam Demma (32:33):
Hopefully everyone listening is feeling that FOMO right now.


Curtis Carmichael (32:37):
yeah.


Sam Demma (32:39):
If they are, and they’re wondering where they could purchase a book or a set of books, how can people connect with you, buy books, reach out, ask questions and absorb everything that is Curtis?


Curtis Carmichael (32:49):
Definitely. Yeah. The best way is to just go to curtiscarmichael.ca. You can check out the stuff there and there’ll be a new website we’re launching very soon in the next couple weeks. But yeah, you can check me out there. You go to purchase the book through there; anything speaking related, book related, or you just want to chat, or you need some resources in the community you’re from, regardless if you’re in Canada or the US, I’m pretty well connected. So feel free to reach out and I’ll be be of service.


Sam Demma (33:11):
Awesome. Curtis, thank you so much for coming on here, sharing some of your ideas, insights, philosophies, beliefs. Really appreciate it. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Curtis Carmichael (33:21):
Definitely. Thanks so much, Sam. You’re a golden.


Sam Demma (33:25):
Hey, it’s Sam again. I hope you enjoyed that amazing conversation on the High Performing Educator podcast. If you, or you know, deserves some extra recognition and appreciation for the work they do in education, please consider applying or nominating them for the High Performing Educator awards, go to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. You can also find the link in the show notes. I’m super excited to spotlight and feature 20 people in 2022, and I’m hoping you or someone, you know, can be one of those educators. I’ll talk to you on the next episode, all the best.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Curtis Carmichael

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.

Kelly Karius – Founder of No Such Thing As A Bully

Kelly Karius - Founder of No Such Thing As A Bully
About Kelly Karius

Kelly Karius (@KellyKarius) is an award winning Social Worker, Mediator and Author who is committed to her mission of improving the lives she is able to affect.

Her books include “This is Out of Control! A Practical Guide to Managing Life’s Conflicts”, “The Brief Book of Bullying”, “Burgerslinger”, and “No Such Thing as a Bully; Shred the Label, Save a Child.

Kelly is well versed in First Nations issues in Canada, and is working with elders at Maskwacis, Alberta, to create a Grandfather’s Lessons version of The No Such Thing as a Bully System.

Kelly is also a founder of The Moment of Kindness Foundation, a non-profit foundation, which uses numbered cards and a data base system to promote a program of random acts of kindness meets technology. Kelly drives around in the #kindnesscar a bright green car that people sign with a sharpie marker to pledge kindness.

Connect with Kelly: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

No Such Thing as a Bully System

The Moment of Kindness Foundation

No Such Thing as a Bully; Shred the Label, Save a Child

Burgerslinger

University of Regina – Bachelor of Social Work

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 was recommended by another past guest, and if you are listening to this and there’s someone in your mind, maybe it’s you or someone you know that you think should come on this show, please reach out to me because I will reach out to that person.


Sam Demma (00:53):
Even if it’s you or someone you know, and interview them. I would love for you to reach out to me and let me know who you’d like to hear on this podcast. You can shoot me an email@samsamdemma.com. That is the reason today’s guest is on the show. Her name is Kelly Karius. She’s an award-winning social worker, mediator and author, who is committed to her mission of improving the lives she’s able to affect. Her books include “This is Out of Control! A Practical Guide to Managing Life’s Conflicts”, “The Brief Book of Bullying”, “Burgerslinger”, and “No Such Thing as a Bully; Shred the Label, Save a Child.”. Kelly is well versed in first nations issues in Canada and is working with elders at Maskwacis, Alberta, and I’m sorry if I mispronounced this, to create a grandfather’s lessons version of the no such thing as a bully system.


Sam Demma (01:38):
She’s also the founder of The Moment of Kindness Foundation, a nonprofit which uses numbered cards and a database system to promote a program of random act of kindness meets technology. Kelly drives around in the kindness car; a bright green car that people sign with a Sharpie marker to pledge kindness. I know you’re gonna enjoy this interview. We talk a lot about bullying. You know, what’s, what bullying really is and how to address it in a school. You know, Kelly is a wealth of knowledge on this topic, and I know you’ll enjoy this as much as I enjoyed learning about it myself. I’ll see you on the other side of the interview, talk soon. Kelly, 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, you know, sharing a little bit behind what brought you to where you are today working in education?


Kelly Karius (02:24):
Well, first of all, I’m so glad that you’re having me on your show. So thank you so much for that. My name is Kelly Karius. I’m a social worker from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, and I, I started with No Such Thing As a Bully imagine about 20 years ago. Really recognizing that the way that we are currently dealing with bullying and have been dealing with bullying is not really effective and, and looking at a little, you know, six/seven year old and saying, “hey kid, you’re a bully “creates a box for them that, that they may never actually get out of. And, and so I, I had some really extreme experiences that got me looking at this and, and, and created No Such Thing As a Bully so that we could say we all use bully actions. We all use victim responses, one set of skills solves both, and the labels don’t help and, and really create a whole different format for us to start looking at this.


Sam Demma (03:31):
Can you share a little bit of insight into those experiences you had? And if there’re very extreme ones, you can change their names so that you’re not really, you know, sharing that information, but what are those experiences that led you to create this?


Kelly Karius (03:44):
Yeah, so I was bullied myself kindergarten to grade six, and then when I, when I came back in grade seven to a, to a different school, to a junior high, I I came wearing a Jean jacket with a pack of smokes and my fists clenched and beat up a boy in the boy’s bathroom. Whose name I won’t mention and and, you know, looking back on that, that kind of really displayed how that pendulum swings. Yep. So, you know, grade seven, I would be called a bully, but why? And then as I started my private practice, I, I was just a, a year into my private practice, just with a bachelor’s degree which was a bit of a jump. And, and I was hired as an advocate for 20 sets of parents whose teacher was mistreating the, their Stu the students class.


Kelly Karius (04:41):
And I, I mean, I’m sure when I look back on it, that I did a, a pile of things wrong. But you know, we went through the whole system, the school board, the, the ministry of education children’s advocate, the ombudsman nothing happened. And then at the end of that year, the teacher just moved on to a different school. And then in the summer I had a, a client teen client diagnosed with PTSD from bullying and a letter from a chief psychiatrist saying the bullying in this community is outrageous. Someone has to do something. So I put in a, this was about 20 years ago, 2001, I put in the proposal to do peer mediation. That was kind of all I knew at the time, but I didn’t realize how much I, I made people angry the year before and before I knew it, there was an article in the paper saying that I was being investigated by my ethics committee, that I was banned from all the schools in Melville that I wasn’t qualified to do the work that I was doing.


Kelly Karius (05:41):
And so I spent the next year fighting that. And at the end of it, I, I ended up suing the director of education and, and settling that out of court and then started looking at holy cow, why would we expect our kids not to bully when this is what’s going on with adults? Mm. And again, I’m not saying that my behavior was, was perfect in the situation in any way either. But just that every human being depending on what’s happening for them has the potential to use bully actions and has the, the potential to use victim responses to say, oh, this is a terrible situation. And I can’t do anything about it. Mm-Hmm . And so that, that is the experience that really got me looking at this and, and saying, we need a whole different system. We need a whole different way of, of, of doing this.


Sam Demma (06:38):
And what do you mean when you say one skillset solves both? And can you explain both the bully actions and victim results and how people tend to use them?


Kelly Karius (06:47):
Yeah, absolutely. So bully actions, if you picture if you picture one person in the middle of a circle of 10 people, and each of those 10 people saying one negative thing to that person in the middle we have on the outside of that circle, 10 people that each used one bully action. They’re not gonna say that they’re a bully. They, I just said, this one thing, I’m not a bully. That’s not who I am, but yet there’s a person in the middle who’s bullied.


Sam Demma (07:20):
Mm.


Kelly Karius (07:21):
And, and so those, you know, once we each start paying attention to those smaller bully actions that we use, that’s when we can really get a grip on this. And then victim responses is that person in the middle saying, there’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing I can learn. That’s gonna make this better. There’s nothing I can do to get out of this situation. This is, this is a problem of other people. I don’t have to do anything. You know, and, and sort of living in that space that says, I, I, I can’t do anything. And so the set of skills, whether it’s somebody using bully actions or somebody using a victim response, the set of skills are strengthening. Being able to look at those automatic thoughts that pop into your mind and go, you know what, what’s true about this. What’s not true about this. What’s another way of thinking about it. Mm. Being able to set and have goals and to feel good within ourselves, we don’t use bully actions when we’re feeling real good. Yeah. Ourselves. and that is the strengthening. And we are also not, not feeling that victim response when we are feeling really good within ourselves.


Sam Demma (08:38):
Yeah. It’s so true. That’s awesome. It’s funny. I’m writing a spoken word album right now. I’m one of the poems is called empty backpack. And the premise is that people’s words, don’t define your route. You bet on you since day one, you define yourself, it’s time you grab your backpack and empty it out and stop carrying the opinions of everyone else. And it really relates to some of the ideas you’re sharing right now. And I’m actually writing a chapter about it as well. And I was trying to break down why I thought people push their limiting beliefs on you, or would, you know, share or spew negativity at you. And the ideas that came to mind were things that you’re saying, things like low self-confidence superiority complexes or, you know, trauma that they’re personally going through. You know, when you don’t feel good about yourself, you hurt people. And that’s such an interesting thing. So what does the program or curriculum look like? So if, you know, if I was interested in learning more about no such thing as a bully, how could I do that? And if I wanted to engage with you, if I was a school and I wanted to engage with you, what would that look like?


Kelly Karius (09:42):
All right. So the actual curriculum has 25 lessons, things like fight or flight response friendship skills, how to know if you have a good friend, how to be a good friend things like inaccurate thoughts and balancing balancing inaccurate thoughts, and getting a, a grip on automatic thinking. There’s goal setting in there. There is emotions and being able to name how you’re feeling there is looking at the difference between just conflict and bullying and then assault. Because sometimes we call too many things bullying that really are not to engage I’ve got on the website, no such thing as a bully.com for $47 programs that people can grab and just see if it’s for them. And, and the programs are all five lessons to your inbox and then a zoom meeting each week fully proof your home fully that one’s for parents, fully proof your, your classroom that one is for teachers and bully proof, your school for administrators.


Kelly Karius (10:52):
Hmm. When a school wants to get involved, we offer to train five of their staff members and certify them in teaching this material. And it’s, it’s five, not one because the load is too heavy to carry for one. So over a two year period we, we have a school membership. We keep five people in your school trained for two years, if somebody leaves and you wanna put somebody else in under that same contract, you absolutely can. And then we do some meetings with with administrators as well. There’s a whole different policy for schools to use if they, if they join with no such thing as a bully and actually a whole different definition of bullying for schools to use as well. One that has nine points. And you, you have to mindfully look at the situation and see how things fit into those nine points. And that will help you determine is this bullying, is this just everyday conflict? Or is this something even more serious than, than bullying? And, and so it’s really a, a mindful way to look at it. If somebody just says, I want this, and I don’t need those $47 programs to see if, if it’s what we need. Then I would say, just give me an email Kelly, no such thing as a bully.com or a phone call, (403) 447-4404.


Sam Demma (12:22):
I love that. And you mentioned earlier as well, and something that peaked my curiosity, you mentioned that labeling a student as a bully could place him in the box that they never escape. Can you tell me more about that? What did, what did you mean when you, when you said that?


Kelly Karius (12:37):
Yeah. You know what I have, and I have an amazing story that goes with that. And, and this was like the moment that this was right in my face and I went, whoa. So I had started going school to school with no such thing as a bully. And, and often when I enter a classroom, the first question I ask is who in here is a bully. And usually there’ll be some Snickers, you know, maybe one person might put up their hand or, or often they’ll point at somebody else. And and, and then what what’s supposed to happen in my little mind script is then I say, okay, well, who has ever kicked somebody hit, somebody left somebody out on purpose called somebody a name, all these smaller bully actions. And then of course the hound go up and up because we’ve all done that in this case, this was a grade two classroom.


Kelly Karius (13:31):
And so that, so the kids are, you know, seven years old. In this case I asked that question, who in here is a bully and this boy put his hand up, hi, hi. And I said, well, you know what, I bet you have used some bully action, but I don’t think that you’re a bully. And he stands up out of his desk and he said, very firmly, I am a bully. And I was like, Hmm. Okay. And then later on that evening, I was in, so I would, at that time, I was in schools for five days. And so I was just kind of in this little community, I’m in the grocery store, getting, getting some things for supper. And, and I see a little girl in her mom and this little girl is pulling her mom’s hand and saying, mom, mom, look, it’s the bully lady, lady. And, and the mom turns around and she just like, so aggressively says, I’m so glad you’re here because there’s a kid in this school. That’s such a big bully that my kid doesn’t even wanna go to school. And I thought to myself, I bet that that’s that little bully. Mm.


Kelly Karius (14:38):
And then that really got me thinking about the power that he took. First of all, how many times has he been called that? And then, and then now a kid goes, well, that’s who I am. I know, I know because all these growns told me, so that’s who I am. And now I’m gonna hold on tight to that. And all of the qualities that it involves, because clearly I am very, very strong because look at how all of these adults are responding to me.


Sam Demma (15:10):
Mm.


Kelly Karius (15:11):
Now, if we put that kid in a school and we just say, no, there’s no such thing as a bully. You’re you are, you are a little boy that learned how to use bully actions to get what you want, and we’re gonna teach you some other ways.


Sam Demma (15:26):
Mm.


Kelly Karius (15:27):
All the power of that label is gone for, for that little one. And he is put in a position where, okay, I guess I’m, you know, I guess I’m gonna learn these, these other things. And, and so you, you know, you, not only in those small ages, it’s easy to see in those small ages because they’re just little ones, right? Mm. But now that kid grows up to be 12, 13, 14, 15, and is still an adult and is still taking his power from using those bully actions. This is how I get what I want.


Sam Demma (16:03):
Mm.


Kelly Karius (16:03):
This is one way to eliminate that.


Sam Demma (16:06):
And you, you know, you did mention the difference between bully actions and a bully. And I know it’s a part of the package, so we won’t get into it too deep, but what are some of the nine principles or points that a school could use to identify if this is a bully action, or if this is the characteristics of a full blown full blown bully.


Kelly Karius (16:24):
so here’s what I say is that there’s no such thing as a bully. Yeah. But there is bullying.


Sam Demma (16:30):
Mm.


Kelly Karius (16:31):
And so when a school is, is using this definition to look at that, or a parent what they’re looking at is, is what are the qualities in this situation? Mm. And is this something that we need to call bullying? So we’re still never actually saying the kid visibly.


Sam Demma (16:49):
Got it. Yeah.


Kelly Karius (16:51):
So, okay. So here’s how it works. In order for bullying to exist, there needs to be someone with a high bullying value frame of reference. So this is somebody who has the desire to hurt who has the, the takes superior power and enjoyment from what they’re doing. And they have a desire for control and contempt for the other person. So we’re looking at the qualities in the situation, do those exist. Mm. There needs to be an action that is hurtful, and that is repeated. And then there needs to be someone with a high victim response frame of reference. So this is somebody who feels vulnerable, who feels a sense of oppression, who feels unjust treatment. So what this lets us do is change any of those dynamics to change those, the situations. So if we look at the high victim response frame of reference, and we take that person, and we say, you know what, let’s work on some stuff. So you’re not feeling vulnerable. So you’re not feeling oppressed so that if this happens again, you can just walk away and not take any of it home with you.


Sam Demma (17:59):
Mm.


Kelly Karius (18:01):
Now we’re solving bullying by changing that dynamic. Or we work with the, the, the person who has the high bullying frame of re and, and we start working on, you know, why, why do you feel like you need to have this control? Tell me about how you’re contempt for other people, you know, let’s work at changing that. And, and so it gives, it gives a whole bunch of options or solutions when you break it down like this, and the way you define a problem leads to how you’re gonna resolve it. Mm. So we can define problems in ways that we, that really don’t have good resolutions and, and this, and that’s what we’ve done with bullying in the past. And this reverses that


Sam Demma (18:48):
Got it. And, you know, you mentioned that it happens not only with students, but also adults mm-hmm is this a program that you would engage with or potentially consider engaging with in workplaces in the future?


Kelly Karius (19:04):
Absolutely. In my private practice, I did a ton of corporate conflict management work with my first book that came out in 2006 called this is outta control of practical guide to managing life’s conflicts. And, and a lot of those things have made their way over into no such thing as a bully. This is stuff for everyone. And, and even when I’m teaching it my goal is to teach it to adults so that they can teach it to their important kids, to, to have somebody that kids don’t know, come in and stand on a stage and, you know give some tips that is important. And that reaches a certain number of kids in that audience. And I wanna make sure that, you know, when those kids go home, that their parents have that same material and those same ideas to be, to be working with. And so with this, with this system, there is of course the material for schools, but there’s also a book and a membership for parents. You know, so that a school can coordinate, this is what we’re doing at school. This is what we’re doing at home.


Sam Demma (20:19):
And where is Kelly in five years? And what does this program look like then?


Kelly Karius (20:24):
Oh, I’m so excited. So I’m, so I’m starting work on a project. That my goal is to get myself into a bright green motor home that people sign with a Sharpie marker to pledge kindness. Nice. Right, right now I have a kindness car, but it’s a little Honda civic. So I wanna go big and I wanna hit the road with no such thing as a bully and just you know, kind of be going school to school, community, to community and letting people know these ideas and, and what is available. And, and also with the goal of like directing people to other resources, you know, your valuable podcast and other other people that I know that are offering amazing things. Yeah, there’s so much out there and, and the more people know and can educate themselves about communication strategies and emotion strategies, the better off the world’s gonna be.


Sam Demma (21:26):
Love it. And if you could go back in time, I think you said 25 years, you’ve been doing this or 20 years. If you could go back to year one, knowing what, you know now and give your younger self advice, what would you share?


Kelly Karius (21:40):
Oh my goodness. You know what, some, sometimes it’s really good that you don’t know. Mm. Because you know, now I would say, just keep on going and, and, and go through that terrible situation few years after. And I might have said just avoid that whole thing, you know, don’t even take that job. That’s crazy. I think that, that the difference, the difference now in how I would handle it would just straight up be maturity. Mm. You know, understanding human reactions and responses better. Probably not getting, so I can remember times during that, that two year period where my anxiety was just so high anticipating things that never happened, you know? And, and so that would be some of my advice, like just live in the moment and don’t, even though a situation seems like it may be negative. The outcome of that might not be. Mm. And, and so to reserve that judgment and, and be able to just be like, okay, I’m gonna live in this moment and see what happens next. Yeah. That would be good. That would definitely be good advice for me at that time.


Sam Demma (23:00):
And you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast as well, some places where people could find you, but if someone is listening to this and they love the ideas and the content you’re sharing, what would be the easiest way for them to get in touch?


Kelly Karius (23:10):
So hit up the website, if you wanna know more; nosuchthingasabully.com. Kelly@nosuchthingasabully.com to email me, or just gimme an old fashioned phone call (403) 447-4404.


Sam Demma (23:26):
Love that. Kelly, thank you so much for coming on the show. It was so cool hearing this unique perspective on bullying. I can’t wait to see you on the road in your green motor home and hopefully be able to sign it and pledge some kindness to it, but until then keep up the awesome work. And we’ll talk soon.


Kelly Karius (23:40):
Thank you. And thank you for the work that you’re doing with youth. And I appreciate everything you do, Sam.


Sam Demma (23:46):
Thanks, Kelly. 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 want 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. to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Kelly Karius

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.

Ryan Fahey – CEO of Fahey Consulting & Amazon Best-Selling Author

Ryan Fahey - CEO of Fahey Consulting & Amazon Best-Selling Author
About Ryan Fahey

Ryan Fahey (@wellnessrf) is a 3-time author, speaker, and edupreneur who is passionate about personal growth and well-being. He is the Owner of FaheyConsulting which aims to help people and organizations move from good to great.

His latest book, “How To Thrive In Remote Working Environments”, which supports the well-being of remote workers globally recently hit #1 on Amazon in Canada and cracked the top 40 books on entrepreneurship. Originally from Eastern Canada, Ryan has dedicated his life to pursuing wellness and is widely considered a thought leader in the wellness & education sectors. 

Three fun facts about Ryan:

  1. Early in his career, Ryan ran a mobile personal training business out of his Hyundai hatchback.
  1. Ryan has worked in various education delivery roles in a provincial capital, state capital, and national capital.

Ryan owns a small digital publication called, The Canadian Way”.

Connect with Ryan: Email | Website | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Ryan’s Website – Fahey Consulting

How To Thrive In Remote Working Environments (book)

Physical and Health Education Canada (PHE)

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 (00:01):
Ryan welcome to the high performing educator. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Please start by introducing yourself.


Ryan Fahey (00:08):
Hi Sam. Thanks for having me and for everybody tuning in. I hope you’re having a good day. Yeah. My name is Ryan Fahey. I’m a bit of an entrepreneur educator by trade and also a lead for special projects and resources for an organization called physical and health education Canada. So I’m excited to, to get rolling here, Sam, and to share some stuff with your audience today.


Sam Demma (00:32):
Tell me a little bit about why you’re passionate about the work you do with educators and also with schools.


Ryan Fahey (00:39):
Yeah. You know, one of the things that I’ve noticed. So I, when I, when I was in university, I went, I was training to become a physical and health education teacher. And movement has always been a big part of my life growing up, and I’ve always enjoyed the subject area of physical education, health education. And when I got into this field both as an educator now working nationally supporting physical education across the country. You know, when I look back at this, there’s just been so many people that have invested in me. You know, I’ve had some incredible mentors along the way that have supported my journey. And so one of the, one of the pieces, I guess, that drives the work I do is just willing to give back to the community and wanting to give back to this C because they’ve just given me so much, like every step of the way, and I’ll share a little bit more later, but every step of the way, you know, I’ve had people investing in me, people encouraging me, calling me lifting me up when I needed it. And and really, you know, passionate individuals when they get, when they get out there and they get into their gymnasium. So, you know, working at the national office is credible being able to support schools and, and educators, cuz it’s, it is an opportunity to give back that community that really has put me here. So so yeah, that’s a little bit about, I guess, why I do what I do and why I get up in the mornings to support the, the folks that have invested in me.


Sam Demma (02:04):
And how did you get into this work? What did the journey look like for Ryan as a young career aspiring man to Ryan now?


Ryan Fahey (02:16):
Well, so it’s funny. I was actually talking to a guy earlier today about this. We were having a conversation, so it was my last practicum. My teaching practicum at St. Xavier university. I I got approval to go on this trip down to shape America conference, which is the national kind of PhysEd conference in the us. And I was gonna get a job. I was determined, you know, I’m gonna get a job down there. So I went down, I printed off all these resumes, brought my binder. I went to this huge convention center and just started literally handing out, resonates to people. I knew that when I was graduating that I really wanted to travel and I wanted to, you know, I wanted to see the world. I was curious and growing up in small town, Nova Scotia, spending most of my life in Nova Scotia, I wanted to kind of, you know, branch out and, and explore a little bit more.


Ryan Fahey (03:07):
And really from there I got a bite. I ended up getting a job with with an organization called be active kids out of North Carolina and, and, and started there, you know, started my work was supporting early childhood physical literacy through a, a train, the trainer model. And I got to drive. I literally drove across the state in a, in this van, this B active van and would just like hand curriculums and do trainings. And so it’s kind of funny, you know, like, there’d be days I’d have to pinch myself off and be like, I can’t believe I went to school for this and I get to do this work cuz it was just, it was really cool. You know, I guess to kind of fast track from there, I came back to Canada still really was curious about traveling and seeing different parts of Canada at that point.


Ryan Fahey (03:55):
And I was very fortunate to have, get a position with an organization called ever active schools as a school health facilitator, basically going into schools and supporting them through a mentorship model and through a comprehensive school health approach. So whether you’re looking at DPA in schools, daily physical activity, whether you’re looking at being more intentional with comprehensive school health or potentially school, little sport, those were kind of the areas that I would go in across Alberta and support schools in. And you know, when I left, when I left there, I, I was really getting the itch to go international. I was really like, okay, I worked in north America, I worked in Western Canada, Eastern Canada. I grew up there, but you know, what about maybe going abroad? And so this incredible opportunity came forward to teach physical education abroad at a school in Abu Dhabi.


Ryan Fahey (04:51):
And and I jumped on it and it was a, it was pretty much a master’s in education. You know, I don’t have a master’s, but I say I have a real life. Yeah. Experience masters. But the amount I grew, the amount I was challenged and, and, and how I really had to overcome a lot of personal adversity professional adversity at, at that point was, was tremendous. And that’s really where you know, those experiences then combined have kind of led me back to Canada and let me back to, to work here nationally now, to support schools. And again, you know, just having so many unique experiences along the way, it’s, it’s kind of nice to, to be at the national office to be able to share those experiences with others.


Sam Demma (05:37):
You hopped in a van that said be active on it and drove across the country. True. Can you elaborate on that a little bit where that came from and what that initiative was and some of the stories along the way.


Ryan Fahey (05:51):
Yeah. I’ll tell you one, I’ll tell you one day this, you know, I was, I was very passionate. I mean, I’m still very passionate, but I would say I was very passionate at that point, but a little more careless. So there was one day north Carolina’s a very large state, so there’s 101 counties from west tip to, you know, the odor banks. And my role was get, get this curriculum in all 101 counties with this van. And so there was, was one day there was a tornado warning in the central part of the state. And I had a workshop planned in person in Greensboro, which is kind of in the heart of the state. And I remember driving and like my phone going off at the time, like tornado warning, you know, seek shelter and I’m driving. And I remember just like in this van by myself, just like, yeah, but not like in an aggressive way, just in like a prove it prove you wrong way.


Ryan Fahey (06:42):
I was like, you know, physical literacy, doesn’t take a day off education, doesn’t take a day off. Like people need to learn this this curriculum needs to get out there. I’m going like all in, like if this tornado takes me off. So be it. And I just went ever thinking about that. I’m like, I’m a little crazy, like, this is, this is probably not the safest thing, but yeah, I just literally drove around the state in a van and everywhere I went just kind of had some amazing people that would either build me or put me up or show me where to go within the community. And it was a fascinating experience right. At university, for sure.


Sam Demma (07:18):
That’s amazing. And you mentioned a lot of people poured into you along this journey. Talk a little bit about the mentors you’ve had and the impact they’ve made in your own life.


Ryan Fahey (07:29):
Yeah. I’d say, you know, there’s so many, I, unfortunately I lost one a few when I was actually in North Carolina. Oh, wow. And that was really tough. He a, he was a longstanding mentor of mine. But of the mentors that I currently have in my life or have had, you know, I’d say my dad is my biggest for sure. He’s, he’s the, he’s kind of that like he’s got that Sage wisdom to him, you know, it’s like, he’s got this sixth sense about everything that I just can’t seem to figure out how he does it. Yeah. He’s not on social media. You have to like go into the woods to find him. But when he is in there and when you see him, it’s like this Miyagi karate kid experience. And so he’s definitely my, my number one. And then I have a really good friend who is kind of been this pseudo friend mentor for years named Matt McDonald.


Ryan Fahey (08:19):
And we were actually just chatting the other day and he’s, you know, he is so different than me. And when we were younger, we would sometimes have our differences. And, and now like at the older I get and the older he gets, even though our lives kind of have went in multiple directions. I just appreciate that so much more. I appreciate questioning thought. I appreciate diversity of thinking. I just appreciate these multiple perspectives. And he always will be the one to ask the questions that no one else will ask. And, and I think that’s, that’s been huge for me in my life and, and it’s allowed me to sometimes walk away frustrated, but also walk away being like, okay, like I really need to think this through because Matt really asked me some great questions. So those would definitely be my top two.


Sam Demma (09:04):
That’s awesome. And for an educator who doesn’t know much about PhD Canada, and what they have to offer schools, go ahead and give a little breakdown of what pH does and how school could get involved in a partnership, a collaboration with pH or what you guys have to offer.


Ryan Fahey (09:25):
Yeah. So the organization, physical health education Canada has been around for almost a hundred years actually. Which is which crazy when you think about it. But yeah, it, you know, the organization basically seeks to support healthy, healthy, active kids through physical and health education and quality physical and health education experiences. Over the years, the work obviously has changed a lot. You know, I think, you know, a few years ago was there, there was a lot of support specifically around curriculum many years ago. And obviously there’s a big need there to support advocacy and, and, and curriculum development, curriculum improvement, things like that. And we still do a bit of that, but I would say the, the biggest piece that I carry and and for the listeners listening in that, that might be of value is the amount of projects, programs, and resources that we have.


Ryan Fahey (10:21):
So we, we, we’re very grateful in that we have a lot of great funders, including, you know, the CFL is one MBA obviously the government and, and other corporate funders as well. And, and one of the pieces I just actually developed was a K to three physical literacy resource that is focused on football. So it’s in partnership with the CFO, it’s an earlier introduction to football and it’s kind of this two pronged approach and that kids are gonna learn about football, but they’re also gonna develop the, their fundamental movement skills, like hop in and, and jumping and kicking and throwing, which are all the skills that we see in the super bowl. Right? So it’s kind of this fun project that, that we were able to work on together with them and, and to support and to get the next generation of Canadians excited about the sport of football I think is huge. And so any of the listeners tuning in there’s, there’s tons of free resources across the website, go check it out. And whatever you’re teaching, we, we probably have something to support your needs. For sure.


Sam Demma (11:28):
That’s amazing. That sounds like a great program. What’s happened during COVID with the pivot, if I’m a, had to use that word with physical education, have you guys worked on some virtual resources as well for gym teachers wondering like, what the heck do I even do with my students right now?


Ryan Fahey (11:50):
Yeah, absolutely. So when, when COVID first hit, we, we kind of went into startup mode where we’re like, okay, we need to be equally as disruptive in terms of how we operate, what we do and, and how we deliver, right? Because everything just changed so quick for everyone. And, and, you know, again, peach, Canada being so old, we’re, we’re often looked to as that, that, that lead voice. And so it was important for us to do that and to meet the needs of the teachers. So when COVID first hit, we were doing a lot of advocacy for the at-home learning mandates writing letters to many of the provinces territories in partnership with partners there to say, Hey, look, you know, in your at-home learning mandates, you need to have some form of physical education. Because that’s, that’s, you can’t just drop that.


Ryan Fahey (12:39):
Like you can’t just go away. Yeah. So that was some of the initial work. And, and then as folks began to return back to school, we created these return to school guidelines just to really help physical health education teachers on navigating policy, navigating some of decisions that they need to make navigating gym gym sizes, or how many students can be in a gym, those types of things that we’re really looking for clarity. And so we, we try to just support and guide them you know, with, with compiling resources like that. I would say we we’ve completely moved a digitally right with conferences. We’re, we’re fully digital. We have a conference coming up here in February, that’s fully virtual.


Sam Demma (13:17):
Nice.


Ryan Fahey (13:18):
And, you know, I, a big credit to the team, you know, there there’s a mix of educators on the team. There’s business folks, there’s kind of multiple backgrounds, but everybody’s just come together and said, we need to support this community. And we need to continue to listen. Because there’s, there’s a lot being thrown at teachers right now. And we need to sift through that and find clarity and develop high quality resources and supports for them.


Sam Demma (13:42):
Physical education changed my life, growing up as an athlete. I, I don’t know if I would be the same person I am today without it. So the work is extremely important and something that can’t be dismissed no matter what the world it is going through, we don’t move our bodies. We lose our mental health. And I think they’re very interconnected. There’s probably dozens of studies that link the, the mind to physical movement. Yeah, it’s just such important work. Tell me about a, a situation or a story where you heard positive feedback from a program making an impact in a, or an educator reaching out and letting you guys know.


Ryan Fahey (14:19):
Yeah. So we ran this grant campaign for a couple years, my first few years at PhD Canada. And it was incredible. It was called share to care, and it was a mental health campaign to support schools with their mental health needs. And so what we would do is we would grant funding to those schools. I think we had like maybe five or 10 schools across the country each year. And then we would highlight those school profiles as promising practices as well, and publish them on our, on our website. So that was incredible because teachers would come in and they’d be like, I didn’t know, other schools were doing this. This is amazing. So we were able to surface some of that knowledge that was happening locally so that other schools across the country could take it and run with it.


Ryan Fahey (15:05):
But it was really neat being a part of that, that campaign as the, as kind of the lead person on it. Because like, I remember one school, I went to a school in Brampton. They were a recipient and they were just so overjoyed to have us in there. Like we would come in with this jumbo check and the kids were so excited. There’s a guest in there and he’s got a big check and, you know, and I’m like excited to be in a school cause I love schools. And, and so that was a lot of fun, like to get up in the gym, they would have an assembly. We present the check and have the funder there, do a few words and whatnot. I mean, this is all stuff, I’m sure you, you know, you you’ve been in some schools, you, you know what I’m talking about, but just to see the look on these kids’ faces and the teachers as well being like, there’s hope you there, there’s, there’s groups out, out there that are gonna support us in our, you know, cause a lot of them are just doing this from the deep Wells of their heart and they’re not getting paid for these extra things and these extra initiatives and you know, all of these, these things that they’re assets that they’re bringing to their, to their work.


Ryan Fahey (16:08):
And when you get these beautiful initiatives that pop up, it’s so awesome to be able to celebrate them. So that was one just being at that school in Branford was, was one one really neat way to see the impact of the work that we do and how important it is. And I mean, sometimes it’s like a school just needs to know that that there’s hope right. And it’s so challenging right now. But but how having grant programs like that, I think that I think provides that hope.


Sam Demma (16:36):
A hundred percent on the topic of hope. What do you think are some of the opportunities that exist in education right now? I think whenever there’s a challenge, you don’t have to find the silver lining in that specific individual challenge, but somewhere within the industry as a whole, that become some opportunities. Do you think any of these opportunities are starting to pop up because of the shift in education that has happened over the past two years?


Ryan Fahey (17:03):
Yeah. I’ll give you a great example. So when I was with ever active schools out in Alberta, we were piloting this new resource at the time called don’t walk in the hallways and essentially they were different colored sticky tiles that you would put through the hallways and it would create this kind of makeshift hop scotch. So as opposed to the kids, you know, hand on the hip finger on the lip or something like that, you know, like be quiet walking down the hallway, this was a culture shift for many schools to say, maybe the kids can hop or Gallop or skip. They go, you know, from point a to point B and have a little bit more play within their day and the amount of pushback that we got at the time, not from every school. I mean, we had early adopters for sure.


Ryan Fahey (17:46):
But, you know, there were some schools that were like, oh, it’s not gonna work. You know, the, the floors it’s too, they’re too sticky. They leave a residue and it’s not clean. And now think about this, Sam. Now you go anywhere and there’s like stickers on the floor. Like stand here, don’t stand here. Here’s another arrow. So I’m like, I think we were just too early with that. But you know, now it’s like this, this would be so much easier because schools are already used to having to have things marked on the floor right now. Now the, the leap is less large because they they’ve already been doing this with, with COVID. So I think in that sense, like the disruption has allowed space for a quicker conversation, right. To say, you know what? Yeah, we don’t need to worry about all these things anymore because they’re really not that important.


Ryan Fahey (18:37):
Like we know that these things are important, so let’s just go and make this decision. So I think that’s one thing. I think it, second thing that that’s really important and this kind of goes with that is I think teacher voices have never been louder. And I think it’s amazing. I mean, you’re, you’re, you’re on social media as well as, as, as myself and seeing educators being able to stand up and say, you know, what they feel, what they want, what they need. I think we need more of that. We need more teachers coming forward saying, look, this is just like this policy to doesn’t make sense. Or this policy doesn’t make sense or this look at this best practice and like, you know, call me and you know, we’ll talk about how to, you know, replicate this. Yeah. I think that that collective voices are huge right now. And I, I, you know, go going through the remainder of this pandemic. I hope that teachers don’t remain silent. I hope that they continue to provide a ground for all wise practices and what’s working. What’s not working and really advocate for what they need, because I think that’s really important.


Sam Demma (19:40):
I tell educators all the time that I think if they choose to share their experiences, it helps everyone else in the field because it may be a situation that someone else is experiencing right now that they’ve already figured out or solved and their sharing will open a door for somebody else who’s tuning in, whether it’s listening or reading. At the beginning of this interview, you introduce yourself as an ed entrepreneur, someone who works in education and is also an entrepreneur. One of the ways that a lot of educators, at some point in their life consider using their voice is by writing a book. And I know you’ve published. Self-Published a few of them. Can you tell me a little bit about your impetus or an inspiration to writing books and what it’s like being both an educator and an author?


Ryan Fahey (20:34):
Yeah, this is it’s very interesting. So I started out with a blog. I, I was in university and I wrote this blog. It was terrible. So if anybody Googles it, it was called wellness network blog. It was terrible. The visuals were awful. But the content was okay. So, you know, I remember I fast forward a few years from that I shut down the blog. I was kind of, you know, starting my career, doing things in education, but I was driving to a school in Northern Alberta and, you know, inspiration just hit. And I being like, I need to write these, I need to write this down. This is gonna be my book. And so I pulled over the side of the highway and I literally wrote down every chapter of the book that I was gonna write. And and that’s, that’s really where it started.


Ryan Fahey (21:21):
You know, I ended up actually finishing the book and really doing the, the groundwork of the book when I was in a Abu Dhabi. So I would come home from school. And literally just, I was in a hotel and I would just put my feet up and just write for hours and hours. Sometimes I wouldn’t even know what time it was. And just put myself in this space, cuz I knew that that was the time in my life to do that. I, you know, we had, didn’t have kids at that point. Weren’t married at that point or I wasn’t married at that point. So I just knew that this is the time to do it. And so that was, that was where my, my first and second book were, were created. The third one was very interesting because I knew I always was going to write a third one Sam, but it was March of 20, 20, everything had happened and I was looking around and I, I wasn’t seeing much for or many, many kind of resources and books out there to support the wellbeing of remote workers.


Ryan Fahey (22:16):
Mm. There was a few and remote workers already in, in our, our way of life. I think, you know, there were a lot of businesses that were offering that, but not to this extent that COVID put us in. And so it was actually last the last Christmas season where I wrote it, I, I sat down, I said, I need to write a book to support the wellbeing of remote workers and I need to get another resource out there. And so I literally locked myself in quarantine for 14 days. And I was staying at my sister’s place in, this is kind of funny cuz she has a couple of cats and I felt like mark Twain, you know, like he was out in a cabin and Maine the cat and the wood stove. Like that was literally me like except no wood stove, but two cats.


Ryan Fahey (23:00):
And yeah. So anyway, I ended up cranking this thing out, but you know, to your, to your second point on what’s it like being an author it’s it’s and an educator? It’s kind of interesting when I published a second one, I had a lot of people think I was, or, you know, kind of mentioned that I was too young to be an author. Mm. And, and that really played with me, you know, play with my psyche play with the imposter syndrome. And I remember, you know, really having to, to struggle with and work through that. And then I just got to a point where it’s like anything when you’re changing an identity and you’re deconstructing one and reconstructing another, that you’ve just, there’s a shift at some point that happens. And that shift for me, I would say happened probably last year where where I said, okay, I’m gonna fully step into this identity, no matter what age I am, no matter how you know, how gray my hair is or how many letters are behind my name, I, you know, I’ve written multiple books. So that one was definitely a learning learning moment for me. And, and you really, you really open yourself up. I mean, it’s a vulnerable experience and you know, any, any day now somebody could just rip, rip my books apart on Amazon and, and I just have to be okay with that. So it’s it’s definitely an interesting journey for sure.


Sam Demma (24:16):
Putting out your own stuff is always an interesting journey. You can work for somebody else and sell their products and have someone turn you down a thousand times and wake up the next day. Totally excited to try again, but you push your own stuff out. And one day someone rips it apart. It’s like what? And it has this totally different effect on your brain. What’s interesting to me is a thousand people could tell you it’s amazing and one person rip it part. And sometimes we focus on that one negative comment rather than the thousand people that loved it and that it helped regardless of the feedback at all, putting out things that you truly believe will be valuable to others is such an interesting experience. And I’m sure writing a book helped you clarify your thought and sharpen your ideas and keeps that fire lit within you to continually learn and be curious, which is invaluable as well. What is your best advice for an author who, or an educator who wants to write a book and journey into becoming an author as well?


Ryan Fahey (25:26):
Yeah, when I was back, you know, if we go back to the van, North Carolina days I, this family that I was living with at the time the, the father was an author and that book was called taking on Goliath. And it’s actually very fascinating read for anyone who’s interested, but we were running together one day and he said to, I asked him similar question, like what, like what kind of led you to writing a book? Like how did this happen? And he said, you know, Ryan, I got to a point where I realized I’m not an author, but I have a story to tell. And I think that’s so important for an educator out there. You have a unique story. You have your unique individual, you have unique value that you can add to the world and you need to add it.


Ryan Fahey (26:08):
You know, we live in this time that it’s so easy, like to write a book or to get, you know, get your resources on teachers, pay teachers or whatever, you know, platform is out there to share your talent, share your insight and value with the world. And I find it, it’s so interesting because as educators, we time inspiring the next generation and telling kids to live their dreams. But sometimes we, we, you know, through life and challenges and whatnot, they get snuffed out in their own lives. Yeah. And I think it’s important that we, you know, we just start something small, start something simple. And, and like you said about adding the value to adding value through your gifts and talents to the world, like putting yourself out there. I think it’s a super rewarding experience and, and it just makes the world a better place.


Sam Demma (26:56):
I couldn’t agree more. And if someone wants to ask you a question about anything we discussed or during this interview wants to pick up some of your books purchase, some of them wants to learn more about the process of becoming an author. What would be the best way for them to reach out or get in touch with you? Or send you an email?


Ryan Fahey (27:16):
Yeah. Great question. So they can come to my website just https://www.faheyconsulting.org/. I’m also on LinkedIn (ryanbfahey/) with Twitter as well at (@wellnessrf). I love Twitter. I think we’re now following each other Sam. So you might get some tweets from me about how exciting this conversation was. But yeah, I’m always open to chat, you know, I even put it in both of my books, I think like, or one of my, of books I put in temperature check, you know, you halfway through the book, you send me an email and I put my email in there, like, let’s talk, like what, how are you feeling? What have you taken away? What, you know, what more could I have done cuz I think, you know, keeping those conversations and lines open is huge.


Sam Demma (28:00):
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much again, Ryan, for doing this. Keep up the great work. I look forward to your next book and I, yeah, I look forward to staying connected and seeing all the great work you’re up to keep it up and we’ll talk soon.


Ryan Fahey (28:13):
Thank you, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Ryan Fahey

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.

Peter LeBlanc – Author and Retired Ontario and International principal

Peter LeBlanc - Author and Retired Ontario and International principal
About Peter LeBlanc

Peter LeBlanc (@LeBlancPeter) is a retired Ontario and International principal. His most recent work was as principal of the Canadian Section of the SHAPE International School for the Canadian Armed Forces in Casteau, Belgium. This was his fourth and final school as principal and was certainly his most unique. Peter has also served as a system-level principal and spent 11 years teaching at the elementary level. Peter currently works as a Provincial Trainer for Behaviour Management Systems / Systèmes de Gestion du comportement.

Peter is currently writing his first book on visible educational leadership to be published sometime in 2022 via CodeBreakerEdu! He is involved in the leadership branch of The Mentoree. He is an occasional podcast guest both in Canada and internationally. He delivered a TEDx Talk in 2016 about a teacher’s role as the master of relationship, relevancy and pedagogy and was a recipient of The Learning Partnership’s Outstanding Principal Award in 2015.

He is now an ‘extreme snowbird’, spending the winter months in Australia and the rest of his time in southern Ontario. He is the proud father of two adult children and is also an avid amateur musician, currently vying for the title of either Synthesizer Master or Acoustic Rock King and has more musical toys than he knows what to do with! 

You can learn more about Peter and follow along as he reflects on his most recent work overseas at www.peterjleblanc.com

Connect with Peter: Email | Twitter | Website

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Education: moving at the speed of…? | Peter LeBlanc | TEDxKitchenerED

SHAPE International School

CodeBreakerEdu

Principal Learning Blog

Rita Pearson TED Talk – Every kid needs a champion

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 (00:01):
Peter welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show all the way from Australia. Please introduce yourself.


Peter LeBlanc (00:11):
Okay. Thanks Sam. So my name is Peter LeBlanc, and I’m a retired principal, although I I’m trying to figure out almost a better title cause I mean, it, it’s what I was and not necessarily what I am, but I’m struggling with that. So I’ll stick with the retired principal for now. I spent 28 years in education, you know, like a lot of people I started out as a classroom teacher, I, I taught extended French, French immersion, special education, core French mostly in the elementary area. So grades three to, to eight seven and eight was my absolute passion while teaching. And then I moved into a I moved boards and then moved into a vice principal role and, and spent the last 17 years doing that. And again, you know, varied positions, small schools, large schools system level principal for two years.


Peter LeBlanc (01:02):
And then my last, but I always think was, you know, my my most unique, I was on loan with the Canadian military and was the principal of their overseas school in Belgium. So that’s a school that actually sits on NATO’s headquarter base and services, the children of Canadian military, who are either working directly for NATO or serving in some kind of capacity as well as other international students who kind of applied to come to the Canadian section. So it, it was a really unique experience. It’s, it’s actually all, almost all Ontario educators that are on loan from their school boards, from Catholic boards, public awards, French boards. And, and yeah, that’s, I finished my last two years off there and then moved back to Ontario in July. And I know, you know, you said from Australia I’m, I do live in Ontario, but my wife is Australian. So I do the, what I call extreme snowbirding. And we’re now committed for me in retirement while you know, work is, is looking a little bit differently spending two or three months of the Australian summer here. So anyways, that’s, that’s kind of that’s me in a nutshell. So thank you for asking


Sam Demma (02:16):
Before our interview started. Just so you know, Peter showed me the view outside his window, freaking beautiful place, no snow, no bus cancellations because of the snow. It’s, it’s really awesome. And I’m glad that technology can make this possible. What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of your career in education or some of the most rewarding aspects of your career in education?


Peter LeBlanc (02:44):
Wow. So, so, so for me, and, and, you know, having, you know, just retired eight months ago, I, I reflected a lot on, well, you know, what, what is it that, you know, brought me joy and, and I’d have to say it, it is probably the individual connections with students and, and with teachers and, and even sometimes those, those experiences where you find out that a small action of yours, you know, made, made a difference. So, you know, I always think if it’s a, if it’s a staff member, you know, it might be, you know, mentoring them into, you know, something different, whether it’s a practice inside their classroom, whether it’s an actual position change and then hearing afterwards and saying, you know, Peter, I just wanted to let you know that, you know, the permission you gave me to do X, Y, and Z really had an impact on the direction of my career or a student.


Peter LeBlanc (03:34):
And, and, and if I can, you know, just a, a kind of a brief story, I got a, I got a, an X student who, you know, fell into my DM on, on, on Instagram and just said, you know, and look, it was a student. I was at the school for a year, and this was a student who I, you know, provided support for, but more in the way of, you know, just making the office a safe space for them to come when, when they needed it. I didn’t think that I had done to anything of any great significance. You know, other than like I said, you know, being, being an ear and, and a space, and I got a lovely message that, that said, you know, I just wanted to let you know this was, you know, a few years after I had been at the school, I just wanted to let you know Mr.


Peter LeBlanc (04:17):
LeBlanc, I have just been made the valedictorian of my school. And I wanted to thank you for your support. I, I, I knew exactly who the student was, but the the sentiment that came from them, it was both genuine and unexpected. I, I was like, I had them reflect, oh my goodness. Well, well, what did I do? And then when I thought about it you know, it, it really did. It brought me way. So it’s those kinds of things. It’s students that I connect with on, you know, on Facebook and on Instagram. And my son tells me I should go on TikTok, not there, you know, yet, but on, on, in, in spaces who, who talk about the impact of the work that we would have done together and, and, you know, with teaching staff, the same thing, and, and now people who are going into to more leadership roles, you know, that same thing.


Peter LeBlanc (05:05):
So it it’s to be able to provide that, that sort of support, even mentorship, you know, that, that I get to reflect on and, and, and may have changed either the course, you know, the path of their careers, or, you know, it, it, to, to not, it almost sounds arrogant when you say it that the path of lives, but, you know, like really to have to have kind of guided them in particular direction and, and to be able to have been a positive impact on that. I, I think that’s probably brought me the biggest joy, you know, of all the positions I’ve done, whether it’s, you know, classroom teacher, classroom support, whether vice principal, principal system level, like whatever it happens to be,


Sam Demma (05:41):
You’re a huge relationship advocate. You talk about it in your TEDx talk as well. Why do you think building relationships should be the heart of this work? And what do you think the impact of building a relationship is on a student or staff?


Peter LeBlanc (05:56):
Well, yeah, I, I think it’s critical. I always, I kind of go back to, you know, thank you for mentioning my TEDx talk. I always laugh, cuz I say, you know, my goal would be to have a million views. And I always say, you know, right now I’m 999,000 away from that goal.


Peter LeBlanc (06:14):
It, it, but yeah, I, I think relat ships are, are critical. And I go back to a, a Ted talk by by an American teacher who has now passed R Pearson who, who has the line kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. And, and, and I think that idea of like, you know, we kind of think of that from an adult perspective, right. Well, you know, do they like me? Do they know? And I think for a student, I think that like is broader than that. It’s, it may be, it, it encompasses respect, but I think it encompasses a place where students feel safe and secure perhaps to be themselves. And I think it’s incumbent on a teacher to be able to establish that through the relationship that they have with a student. And then I think, you know, as, as, as a teacher moves into perhaps a more formal role of leadership, whether it’s a vice principal or a principal or a superintendent or director that they, they still have that responsibility to foster those relationships.


Peter LeBlanc (07:12):
And, and, and that’s, that’s hard work, but I think it’s absolutely critical to learning in a school environment. You know, you, I was listening to, to, to some of your past podcasts and you were talking to, I think it was Mr. O’neil, who is now a superintendent with the Durham board and, you know, was, was your principal. And you described him as you know, and, and you were very respectful. And I, you know, I appreciate that, but you said, you know, he was probably the most fun principal you had. And, and, and I think, you know, that’s, that’s a word that a student might use to describe somebody who’s like, Hey, you know, we might say, well, that’s approachable or it’s accessible, or it’s visible. And, you know, you wouldn’t have known fun or not. If the principal had been sitting in their office doing their job from there, it, it sounds like this would’ve been a person who would’ve been inside the building, fostering relationships, knowing a little bit about you, you know, he talk about your love of the soccer ball and how would he have known that if he had have been sitting in his office kind of leading the school.


Peter LeBlanc (08:12):
Yeah. So, you know, and same right. Teachers are the same thing when, when they’re inside the classroom, when, when they’re fostering a relat should with their students. I think the students know that they know that the teacher, you know, that they, they care about them as a person. And when they know that, then I think there’s an openness to be able to learn whatever learning happens to be. Right. So, you know, and if I just, one more thing, like you talk about my Ted talks, I always think, you know, one of the other premises to that is although we have to master the relationship, we have to master pedagogy too. In the end, we are experts in learning. So we have to figure out how students learn best. And we have to sharpen that skill. We gotta make sure that, you know, that, that we are at our best in that regard, but, but we do that so much better when, when it’s based on when it’s based on the relationships that we have with our students and then with our staff and then our communities and the, you know, students, caregivers, and their, their families, whatever that looks like that, that is absolutely critical


Sam Demma (09:07):
As an educator. It’s almost like you have two jobs, one to teach and build a relationship with a student, but secondly, to be on a lifelong journey of education yourself, or consistently learning, how did you balance the pursuit of knowledge yourself with, you know, teaching every day?


Peter LeBlanc (09:30):
Yeah. I, my kids would probably say, I, you know, it cost me my, my home life balance for, for the longest time. I, I just I, I don’t, how did I manage, I, I don’t know. I made time and space to, to try and continue, you know, my own learning both formally. So, you know, I would say I don’t have a master’s degree, but I think I have 16 or 17 master’s degree credits in five different programs. So, you know, it’s like at one point, I’d say, all right, I’m gonna start formal education. Ah, it’s not quite for me. And then I go, I’m gonna try it again. Nah, not quite for me. But you know, I, I try and find resources or people to just always, you know, dig into different kinds of learning. Sometimes it was hard. You know like being a teacher, you know, in whatever could, whether it’s teacher in a classroom, whether it’s no teacher in, in a principal’s office is a, is a hard job.


Peter LeBlanc (10:22):
So there are times when the job itself is all encompassing. I would think now, you know, with teachers sort of leading in, in a very uncertain time trying to, you know, go back and forth, I won’t use the word pivot, cuz it’s not pivot it’s, you know, teaching an online model, all teaching an in-person model, which are two different things. That’s a huge amount of work. So I would imagine that the kind of learning that happens outside of, you know outside of your classroom hours is probably, you know, maybe happening a lot less or not at all for people. Cause they’re focused on their own wellbeing of their job. Would’ve been the same for me. There would’ve been times where it’s like, I can’t do the learning, but I think I’ve always been, I’ve always enjoyed learning it, it, you know, like right now I’m, I’m not working.


Peter LeBlanc (11:06):
There’s no, I have no work obligation. I’m I’m, I’m not an active principal. I don’t work for a particular school board. I do some, you know, kind of, you know, work whether it’s, you know volunteering and advising on the side or, you know, whether it’s paid work, but I’m still, I’m still involved in learning. I, I enjoyed, you know, this, this particular experience cuz I’ll learn from you and our interaction. I, you know, I’m picking up books all the time. I I’m just trying to continuously make my own mindset as an educator better even though my kind of practice as an educator has changed. I, I don’t know if that Sam don’t know if that answered your question or if, you know, I went in a different direction or if not, you’ll, you’ll pull me back in and ask me to follow up and


Sam Demma (11:45):
Yeah, you did answer it. It sounds like your life is your life and all the pieces are always fluctuating, right? There’s certain times where learning is very high and there’s certain times where learning is a little lesser and you’re focused on teaching. And I feel like that will change throughout your entire career. And it sounds like it, it did for you too.


Peter LeBlanc (12:08):
Yeah. And doesn’t it change throughout everyone’s, you know, almost life. And I think, you know, to go back to the idea of a relationship, right? So if I’m, if I’m in a school working with staff or I’m in a school working with students and if I know them and I know a piece of their life, then I’m going to be attuned to those kind of needs as well. Sometimes the students that are in front of us in our classrooms are not at their best when it comes to learning. So, you know, maybe they have an awful lot on their plate and maybe right now is not the time for them to dig into of learning. And, and other times it is you know, a good time for them to learn. So I think we all have those sort of learning cycles. So, you know, I just, I, I think for me, I just, I did what I could when I could you know, to try and, and, and, and hone, you know, my own skill.


Peter LeBlanc (12:49):
And, and then I would surround myself with people who knew an awful lot. Like I’ve been lucky through social media to, you know, connect with some incredible, you know, incredible people that are exceptionally knowledgeable about their craft, whether you know, it’s math education or, you know, whether it’s you know, decolonizing the curriculum. I think of somebody like a client in Ontario, who’s just doing some incredible work around making, you know, around awareness and action, you know, the inequities in, in, in education, you know? It is just, yeah. So, I mean, I think I could go on because I am passionate about learning it. I think that’s probably why I went into education. Yeah. you know, so I’m still passionate about it.


Sam Demma (13:32):
You, you quoted an to start this interview, you also just mentioned the importance of people who are some of the educators whose work has really inspired you. And why.


Peter LeBlanc (13:48):
Okay. Well, that’s a, that’s a good question. So it’s probably changed over the course of my over the course of my career. Right now I, I look at, so there’d be a few people Sunil sing whose work on, on sort of really thinking outside the box in mathematical education has been a huge impact on, on me. Yeah. And then some of the work that, you know, I, I, that I’m involved in, but also learning from, in, in the mentoree, which is, you know sort of a, a mentorship environment that connects different kinds of, of people. I don’t know, like I are there, there people out there, there probably are. And when we’re done talking, I probably have a list of about 20. But I, I don’t know. So, and, and sometimes it, you know, you, you, you, you, you sort of find someone, you know, I talk about the rabbit hole on online, right?


Peter LeBlanc (14:50):
You, you find somebody online and you’re like, oh, I’m gonna go and take a look. I might download a sample of their book. I’m gonna go and take a look at their, their website. And then sometimes the learning doesn’t stick. Sometimes it sticks for a little bit, and then sometimes it has a significant impact, you know, on, on career. You know, so I, like, I know for me in the early stages of leadership development, I, I, would’ve taken a lot a look at a lot of the work of Steven Covey, for example. So, you know, the idea of the you know, seven sort of steps to effective leadership, the idea of, you know, everything from sharpening the saw to begin with the end in mind that would’ve had a big impact on the early stages of, of, you know, my own leadership development, but then I would’ve looked at it less and less and, you know, found, you know, a kind of other, you know, other things as well. Robin Jackson, who is an American principal, and probably now superintendent whatnot had some work around, you know, moving people from a, to B inside of a school. And, you know, the idea of you know, of, of, of leadership and coaching. But, but again, right. You know, tho those kind of influence they, they come and go depending on, on the need to stare though.


Sam Demma (15:54):
Yeah. I think if your influence stayed the same, your whole life too, you wouldn’t be exercising that muscle of curiosity, you know, and being curious about new things that you aren’t already learning about. Yeah. You also have a blog at what stage in your educational journey. Did you start writing that blog? Oh, and what was the purpose for starting it?


Peter LeBlanc (16:17):
Well, I, I think the purpose for starting it, and this would’ve been another one of these, you know, kind of names that would’ve had an influence on my career. George Kuro, who at the time, you know, was I think the principle of it was, might have been innovation in technology G for, I think the Parkland school you know, in Alberta, I know he shifted now he’s written, you know, three or four books. He, you know, has all kinds of things that are going on, but he would’ve talked about the idea of a digital portfolio. And, and I thought that was fascinating. The idea that, you know, we can sort of reflect and write about our experiences in it education and that someone might actually be interested, you know, or might be even curious enough to, to read about it. So I’m, I’m not a prolific blogger, but I probably, it’s probably been close to 10 years since I would’ve written my first blog post.


Peter LeBlanc (17:08):
It might even be longer than that. Right now I’m focused on reflecting on the experience of kind of leading a, a very unique school and trying to be as upfront as I can. So, you know, sometimes as well, and, and, you know, we do this on, on whatever social media platform we’re on, or we do it on our blogs. We, we put our best self forward. And what I’m trying to do in this reflection is, is, you know, without going into significant detail is, is talk about both the, the things that went well, and then the things that might not have gone, you know, so well upon reflection and, you know, the, the, those opportunities that, oh, if I could do it over again, you know, I would, and I’m, I’m about halfway through the journey. I, you know, I was thinking I’d be six or seven blog posts, and I sort of wrote an outline and then life gets in the way, and I’ve done three of those six posts.


Peter LeBlanc (18:00):
And, you know, the fourth one is, is, is kind of ready to go soon. But, you know, as you said, I’m, I’m in Australia for a couple of months right now and trying to enjoy of that experience too. So I dunno, I would, I would encourage I know when I was working with staff at one point in time, you know, we had talked about trying to share our experiences with each other and, you know, it, it, it comes to the idea that when we work inside of a school, whether it’s the students or, or, or the staff or, or the greater community, we have experts on all kinds of things. And if we don’t give them an opportunity to be able to express themselves, whether that’s through through a written blog or, you know, I think of the work that you know, cha and pav do on the the staff from podcast.


Peter LeBlanc (18:42):
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with them or not, but they’re incredible educators. They just put themselves out there and that they, they genuinely share the work that they do. And by that simple act of putting their work out there, other people are both learning from and inspired by the work that happens. So, you know, why not give students the opportunity to do that? Why not take on that opportunity, you know, ourselves. So the blog kind of came from that. It came from, you know, creation of digital portfolio. It came from trying to model the idea of putting your learning out there, even though, you know, nobody, but my mom and my wife might read it, you know?


Sam Demma (19:17):
Yeah. Well, plus another 3,500 people now!


Peter LeBlanc (19:22):
Oh, there you go.


Sam Demma (19:23):
Then when you first started, there was perfect. But so what has writing done for you personally? I am a big advocate of journaling because I find that one, it sharpens my thoughts and ideas, and two, it gets certain emotions also out of my head. Yeah. I don’t have to deal with them as much. How, what has your experience been with longform writing and posting blog?


Peter LeBlanc (19:49):
Yeah, it probably very similar. It, it, it takes it, you know, if, if, if, and I tend to be somebody who sits in my head a lot you know, it, I guess the negative side of that would be, you know, a Mueller or a Brer, but, you know, I, I think the positive side of that is, you know you know, I won’t say visionary cuz that’s that I think has a different connotation, but you know, somebody who’s always trying to think of, of big ideas and, and I think it allows me at the pace of writing to take my ideas and to put them down. So, so there’s no, there’s no rush to it. I can, I can take my time and I can think about what I’m gonna say. I can kind of, you know, Smith my words a little bit. And, and I like you, I love the written word for, for kind of getting my ideas out there.


Peter LeBlanc (20:35):
You, you talk about journaling and, and you know, almost, it’s almost the way of emptying your head and kind of putting it, putting it on paper and, you know, sometimes I’ll go back over it and all, it’s not quite what I had wanted to say. So it, it, it’s a, it’s a great place to record thoughts and then maybe go back on them and, and reflect on them. You know, I talk about my, my children, my, I have a son who’s probably just a little bit older than you are, but not much. And for Christmas, one of the things I bought him was actually the men’s journal. Cause I said, you know, nobody had talked to me as a young man about the, the idea of trying to put my thoughts down in writing. And I wish they had, because as a, you know, as a less young man that, that idea of being able to put those, those ideas down has been exceptionally, exceptionally helpful.


Peter LeBlanc (21:22):
Exceptionally helpful, cuz I, I think it’s, it’s both a productive practice, you know, and of course I’m, you know, I’m, I’m currently working on on a book on visible educational leadership, which, you know, lets me sort of, you know, work on my, my writing craft, but you know, it’s also going slower than I had anticipated because I wanna make sure that, you know, the words are there in, in a way I anticipate it, but that they’re also, you know, helpful to others who may, you know, who may pick up the book at some point, you know, when it’s done that it that it reflects my passion about, you know, being out there in a community, you know, you use the word fun to describe a principle. I would do the same thing, but I talk about, you know, accessible and visible and supportive and you know, and kind of out there so that, you know, people sort of know who you are.


Peter LeBlanc (22:04):
Yeah. And I wanna make sure that, that, that, that process, you know, that, that writing process supports that. But you know, I also think too, like right now what you are doing, so, you know, the idea of, of any kind of recording of ideas. So, you know, if it’s a podcast or of log, you know, even if it’s reals, if it’s, you know you know, if, if it’s, you know you know, TikTok videos, whatever it happens to be, it allows people able to be able to record, you know what they’re, they’re what they’re thinking. It, it lets ’em kind of put them a little piece of themselves out there and then maybe go back and sort of reflect on it that I think that’s a good thing if we do it cautious, sometimes it’s not necessarily a good thing when we’ve got a record of, you know, everything we’re thinking and everything we’re doing, but, but I think it has the potential to, to be, to be great, no,


Sam Demma (22:50):
Right around the holiday season, I started seeing these sponsored ads for this new book. And it’s a book you buy for your parents and the book every single day has a question that prompts your parents to write about stories throughout their life. And when the book is done, they hand it to you. And the goal is that you have 365 stories that they may have never told you before. So that by the end of their life, when they do pass away every single year, you give them one of these books, you have like a recollection of all of their experiences. And I thought it was such a cool idea. And it reminded me of the fact, you know, when you mentioned that you bought your, your son a journal and my, my question for you is if you could take all the experience you’ve had in education, you haven’t potentially written it all down in books every single year, but you could take the experience you have in education transport back in time and walk into your own classroom. One of the first classes that you taught in, tap yourself on the shoulder and say, Hey Peter, this is what you needed to know. What advice would you have given your younger self? Wow,


Peter LeBlanc (24:04):
Wow. So to me, I guess that the, the first thing I would probably tell myself would be, you know, one is don’t, don’t doubt yourself. When you think that the relationship with students is critical. Because I think sometimes the, the push for covering curriculum or, you know, and, and I’m not, I’m not saying that isn’t important. I think we have to revise what it is that we, what we talk about is being important. But I tap myself on the shoulder and say, you know, when you are thinking that all students need is, is you to kind of support them that that’s enough that, you know, don’t beat yourself up if you know, X does and get covered in the way that you want it to, because that’s not what the students sitting in front of you needs now. And, and the other thing I, I would tell myself is you’re gonna, you’re gonna make mistakes, that there are some things that you’re gonna do that you’re gonna go, whoa, like O you’re gonna have some cringe worth moments and you’re gonna come out.


Peter LeBlanc (25:11):
Okay. You know, in, in the end, you’re gonna come out. Okay. Those cringeworthy moments will, you know, will, will, will shape you and might push you in different directions, but you’re gonna be all right. So I, I probably do that. I, I I’d let myself know right. At the beginning, the importance of relationship, I think I, it took me a while to develop up that, that understanding. I I’d make sure that I knew that right from the get go that, that, that students want and need really need to feel that that support system from, from you, you know, in, in some ways is one of the primary adults in their lives for 10 months. They need to feel that from you. So don’t, you know, don’t don’t diminish or dismiss the importance of that, of that role. Does that, does that make sense, Sam? Is that,


Sam Demma (26:01):
Yeah. Three key words that keep coming to mind and throwout this entire conversation are visibility, accessibility, and relationships. Yeah. And I’m sure there’s many more, ah, some ideas and topics that will come out in your book for people who are interested in following along your journey. One, where can they find your blog and two, where can they reach out if they have some questions or like to stay up to date about the book?


Peter LeBlanc (26:25):
Okay. So I’ll talk about the reaching out first. So I, I always say I’m more or less physic, well, I was thinking at one point in time, I was probably more visible on social media or more, you know but as always happens, you’ve got innovators and people who push practice forward. So I’m, I’m there but less visible. I would encourage people to reach out as a matter of fact when the school systems in Ontario kind of, you know, shifted and made a, a very quick decision to go, you know, back online, I’d actually put an invitation out there to, to school leaders and said, look, you know, I’m sitting on the sidelines, I’m not connected to any school, or, you know, jumping into my DM on Twitter and message me. I’m happy to help out in any way I can. I’ve got 28 years of experience, 17 of them, you know, at the helm of the school.


Peter LeBlanc (27:11):
So, you know, I don’t work for your school board. So, you know, if you trust me, go ahead and ask those questions. So I’m happy to have people reach out in any capacity, as far as where to reach me from a social media perspective, I’m probably more active professionally on Twitter than anywhere else. My Twitter handle is just my last name. So @LeBlancPeter. So LeBlanc Peter I’m, I’m on Instagram as well. And I would say, you know, those are two sort of open channels. They’re, they’re public, Instagram is sort more a blend of personal and professional life. If you’re gonna feel bad sitting in minus 20 degree weather in Toronto, about me putting pictures up, you know, of Sydney Harbor in January, then don’t, don’t go to @PeterJLAN on Instagram. That’s not the place to go.


Peter LeBlanc (27:59):
And as far as my, my blog goes, my blog and, and, and website, it would just be www.peterjleblanc.com. Right now I’m three parts into sort of that reflection on my work being SED by the Canadian military, which like I said, was an absolutely incredible and unique work experience. There really are only two Ontario prince schools on the planet, you know, who do that job. And, and then I, you know, I, I did it like, I, I, I worked with, you know, staff and with the military community, you know, in the, at the start of, and, you know, all basically through 18 months, the global pandemic. So that presented its kind of leadership challenges. So, you know, I invite people along to, to come and read about that experience. I’m writing about that.


Peter LeBlanc (28:45):
And then the book, I mean the working title is, is visible educational leadership. And interesting. You talk about the idea of, you know, of accessibility and visibility. Because that, that really is the, the, the, the premise of the book itself, it’s it it’s being published by Codebreaker EDU, which is organiz that’s you know kind of run by Brian aspenall and Davene MCNA MC and you know, it has a, a wealth of and a, you know, a large group of, of kind of educational, you know, leaders and thinkers and, and, and, and people including, you know, chain PAB on the, on the staff and podcast and, you know, all just all kinds of all kinds of people all kinds of people to learn from that book should be published at some point in 2022.


Peter LeBlanc (29:35):
I have to finish writing it first. I but it will be, you know, it, it kind of be the focus of the who, what, where, when, why, and how you know, of, of visible leadership and, and not just the idea of being visible inside your school, but, you know, how do you support teaching staff inside a classroom? How are you there for students? How do you amplify a student’s voice, particularly students who need you as a principal to be the amplifier, you know, of, of, of their voice. How do you do that in your, your community? You know, how can you, you know, take on that truly visible leadership role. Cause I always say, you know, do you really want to be the opposite of a visible leader? Cuz the opposite of a visible leader is an invisible leader and that’s, I, it’s impossible to have that stance as a leader, you cannot lead and be invisible.


Peter LeBlanc (30:18):
That’s that’s impossible. So I just wanna make sure of that. So yeah, Twitter primarily and, and you know, my I mean my email address is on my website, so you can always go there, but if you wanted to jump into my email address by all means, go ahead. It’s principallearning@gmail.com note that, you know, right now my time zone is 16 hours ahead. So there’s pretty good luck likelihood that you know, I’ll be sleeping when you’re awake, but yeah, I’m, even if it’s just a question even just to say, Hey, you know, you know, I, I heard what you had to say, you know, with, with Sam and you know, I enjoy that. Or you know, even, even people questioning and pushing my own learning, I always open to that as well. When we, if, if yeah, we’re not pushing our own learning, then we’re not we learning.


Sam Demma (31:03):
I agree, Peter, this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for making the time. I know you could be outside this morning sitting on a beach, but you chose to be here. I appreciate it. And well, I look forward to picking up a copy of your book when it comes out, by the time this episode gets released, your blog series should be done as well. So people will be able to check out the whole thing. So keep it up and stay in touch and we’ll talk to indeed.


Peter LeBlanc (31:30):
All right. So sign copy for you then Sam, when it’s done. All right.


Sam Demma (31:33):
Sounds good.


Peter LeBlanc (31:35):
Thanks.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Peter LeBlanc

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.

Karen Kettle – Retired Science Teacher, Speaker and Author of Countdown To Camp

Karen Kettle - Retired Science Teacher and Author of Countdown To Camp
About Karen Kettle

Karen Kettle is passionate about the power of student-led leadership programs. Throughout her career with the Durham District School Board, Karen has been a high school science teacher, a consultant, an international presenter, an author, and a course director for the York University Faculty of Education.

She has worked beside talented student leaders and dedicated colleagues to create and implement the Eastdale Eagles Leadership Camp and the Port Perry Rebels Leadership Camp. In retirement, Karen continues to explore new and creative pathways to share her love of leadership with the next generation!

Connect with Karen: Email


Personal note from Karen

Leadership Camp is a collaborative effort.  I would like to thank all of the people who are partners in making camp happen.

Camp Heads
Camp Committee Members
Team Leaders
Student Leaders
Parents/Guardians
Teachers
Camp & Club Advisors
Camp Program Staff
Secretaries & Custodians
Administrators
Sponsors  

A very special thank you goes out to the two camps that I have had the privilege of working with: Kilcoo Camp (Eastdale Eagles Leadership Camp) and Youth Leadership Camps Canada or YLCC (Port Perry Leadership Camp). Having talented camp staff to work with is priceless!


Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Countdown to Camp (Karen’s Most Recent Book)
The book Countdown to Camp is available at volumesdirect.com for $20

Youth Leadership Camps Canada

Port Perry High School

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 (00:02):
Karen welcome to the High Performing Educator Podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about who you are and why you’re passionate about the work you do with youth.


Karen Kettle (00:15):
Okay. my name is Karen Kettle and I am a retired science teacher. I taught for 30 years in the Durham school board. And my passion outside of science education is working with students to run student-led leadership camps. And I’ve had the opportunity to do that twice. I worked with a group of kids at Eastdale and also at port Perry high school. And we ran camps for about 130 or 140 students from the school that were mainly student run. So that’s, that’s my leadership passion outside of the biology classroom.


Sam Demma (01:06):
What brought you to that passion? How did you discover it and why do you think it’s important that students get involved in camp?


Karen Kettle (01:15):
Well, I spent a lot of time at summer camp growing up. I first went to camp when I was nine years old and I really badly wanted to come home on visitor’s day. And my mom left me there crying on the dock and told me I would learn to like it. And after that I went back every summer to that camp and also to the Ontario camp leadership center at bark lake until I was well in my twenties. And when I decided that I wanted to become a high school teacher, I wanted to be able to bring the best of that camp, spirit, that transformative experience into my teaching career.


Sam Demma (02:04):
That is awesome. And what, what, what were the steps you took to start building camp? So I would imagine being involved in a camp as a student is a different experience than organizing a camp as an educator. What, what were the initial steps you started taking to build the camp and tell, yeah, tell me a little bit more about that process on how it turned into its its own thing.


Karen Kettle (02:30):
Well, I was very lucky when I got to Eastdale I knew the principal very well and he was a principal that was a camp director in the summertime. And the year before a very talented leader had started a student retreat as part of a course. And so they wanted to continue it and they were looking for someone else with camp experience, there were some great teachers involved with it. And so I joined their team and then we just started to increase the length of time. We took students away until we were up to a four day camp and involve all sorts of different students from the school, from all sorts of clubs, like student council and music council and meet and we and athletic council and all of the social justice clubs and geeks unlimited and the gay straight Alliance and the ambassadors and the environment club and the business club. And so it became sort of an umbrella training ground for student leaders in the school. So that was my, that was my first experience with leadership camp. And then when I left and went to port Perry high school, I started from scratch again.


Sam Demma (04:06):
And now you are a camp pro or a camp in ninja, or I don’t even know what to call it, but you, you you’ve built out so many supports for camp and encouraging students to get involved in camps and encouraging students to lead camps and encouraging educators to understand the importance of camp. You’ve even, you know, written books about it. One that’s very, you know, new and fresh. Can you share a little bit about what inspired you to write the book and also why you think student led leadership camps are also really important?


Karen Kettle (04:45):
Okay, well in working with students over the years one of the things that they use to say to me is I kind of know what we need to do, but I sort of need a checklist to get there. And so during the, a pandemic, because I had lots of creative alone time I sat down and tried to pull all of the collective wisdom together from all of the other advisors I’d worked with and camp heads and camp committee members and my colleagues and support staff and put it together just in a way that someone who had never run a leadership camp could pick it up and know that they could start with simple steps. And then as their school got more involved and the student leaders in the school got more involved, all they could build it into whatever it was that they wanted and needed for the school.


Karen Kettle (05:51):
I think student leaders are incredible role models for their peers because the camp committee, which works together all year to get camp ready by designing it and implementing it and, and running everything other than high ropes course and waterfront they are just that little bit better at, at some of the leadership skills than their peers. And so it’s kind of like if you’re an athlete and you wanna learn to get better at tennis, you don’t want to play against world champions. You wanna play against someone who’s just that little bit better than you are and makes you stretch your skills. So the senior students are great role models for their less experienced peers, cuz the kids can look at them and say, you know, in two or three years, that’s who I wanna be. That’s what I wanna do. And it also keeps the ownership of the camp program in the, in the school. It, they’re not going somewhere and having someone else run everything, they’re working with a camp staff to, to run a program and, and the program belongs to them.


Sam Demma (07:16):
That makes a lot of sense. And, and I think giving students a voice is so important because thinking back to the educators that made a big impact on my life, their class was more so a discussion than it was a lecture. And because I was given a voice, I was more interested in the content they were teaching and speaking about out. And if I was running or organizing an event, I would be more inclined to get involved and also to promote it to my friends and to get other students in the school involved. Because I, I feel like ownership and interest are kind of tied together. Something you do a great job at, in your book countdown to can a, is breaking down this idea that student leadership is a year long process. What do you mean by that? And what does it look like? Or what does a typical year of planning in a student leadership position look like?


Karen Kettle (08:17):
Okay. well what would happen is at the beginning of the year students would apply to be on camp committee and this would be a group of about 20 students that really wanna put in the time because it takes a lot of time. They, they meet once a week for an hour and a half or two hours as a group. And so they go through a, a process where they start off with lots of team building within their group and getting to know each other, figuring out who has what skills and who can bring music who can bring organization, who can bring humor to the group. And then we basically start through a process where we develop a theme which holds camp together. And some of our past themes have been things like Dr. Sue or Harry Potter or Beatlemania or clue.


Karen Kettle (09:26):
And so they have to brainstorm all sorts of different themes and come up with what it might look like. And we take a lot of time to make sure that all of the themes are, are really, really strong. And then we have a process, a decision making process that we go through to help them come to a consensus on theme. And then after that’s done, we start through the same process again, to trying to decide what workshops we’re going to put into camp. And that is one of the places where you can really tailor camp to your own individual school, because you can pick out knowledge elements that the kids in your are clubs might need, they might wanna learn something about emotional intelligence or mental health. You can pick out skills that they might wanna develop, like communication skills or delegation or creativity.


Karen Kettle (10:33):
You can work on some values like attitude or kindness, and then you can also look at issues like inclusion or consent or anti-bullying or environmental issues. And so that becomes the, the part of camp. That’s the learning part of camp. The, we would then organize students in the teams, workshop teams, and they’d pick from the ones that they’d brainstorm and they’d work to put together their interactive workshops. And then we get to plan all the fun things at camp. And those are things like campfires and large group games and talent shows banquet. So there’s, there’s a lot of organization that goes on throughout the year. We also do a lot of fundraising to make sure that we can support kids financially, who might not otherwise be able to attend and that’s kind of fund too, because there’s a lot of experiential learning in, in running a, a fundraiser.


Karen Kettle (11:45):
Quite often the camp committee takes on some other challenges at port Perry high school. We used to run a minicamp day for the grade eight that were gonna come to our school the following year and run through our workshops with them and just help them come into the high school and feel comfortable in the high school. So all of that goes on throughout the year. And the culminate activity is the three day or four day experience with a camp partner where we take somewhere between a hundred and hundred 40 kids from the school. And, and they get to share in the experience.


Sam Demma (12:31):
What do you think are some of the really positive outcomes on a school’s culture when students within that school participate in a camp experience?


Karen Kettle (12:44):
Well, there’s a lot of them because there there’s individual learning and individual development with the people, especially the people of who are on camp committee. There are the skills and knowledge that advisors can take back with their students in their own clubs and apply those. But also I think students find that it’s, it’s intrinsically rewarding to do something that is sort of in the service of others. And, and so there’s, there’s a, a good feeling there. You get a large group and, and that’s, what’s different about student led leadership camp rather than sending an individual student to a conference is that you come back with like a hundred kids that have shared the experience and that increases cooperation and trust among the students. It increases cooperation with staff cause once you’ve boosted your vice principal up onto the ropes course, or you’ve, you know, what had your principal walk the plank because he was the villain story.


Karen Kettle (14:03):
They come back with a different sense of understanding that, you know, that the teachers and administrators are, are people and they’re there to, to help. So you get this sort of shared vision of, of what you can do as a, as a team. If everybody works together student thoughts will meet and interact and live with students that they wouldn’t otherwise meet at school. And so it breaks down social barriers in the building. It there’s more cooperation between clubs because each club knows what the other club is doing and what their purpose is and why they’re there. And then the other thing I find is that student leaders, when they come back, they look for or understand the deeper meaning in some of the activities that they’re running at the school. So they might be running like something really fun and silly on a Friday, but they know that they’re doing it to build community. Yeah. And they know if they put together something on study skills that they know that they’re providing a, a service for other students in the building, or they, sometimes they do things like they’ll come back and put up a kindness tree or something like that. So they understand that there’s a deeper purpose behind all of the extracurricular activities that, that they’re doing.


Sam Demma (15:41):
And how do you go about selecting what students in a school would get to participate in a camp? I would imagine that’s probably one of the most difficult aspects because you want everyone to have the experience, but you might have a li limited budget and a limited amount of students that you can bring with you to these four, five-day experiences.


Karen Kettle (16:03):
Yes. Well, one of the things is that with leadership camps, again, because you can fine tune it to your school, different schools have slightly different selection criteria. But the way we’ve always gone about getting students is that any student who’s already involved in the leadership club in the school gets an invitation to go grade nine and 10 students who are involved go through that process, or they can also self nominate themselves. So if you have maybe a shy grade nine student, who’s not yet involved in anything, they can just fill out an application form for an invitation and they get an invitation. We all also have our teachers that teach a lot of grade nine and 10 students nominate students that they think would benefit from the experience. And some of our teachers are really good at that.


Karen Kettle (17:08):
Really seeing that, you know, the little kid at the back of the room, who’s got all sorts of energy, but no focus might actually benefit from camp because once they find that focus then, then they’re set. They know what they wanna do. We also go to our teachers and coaches and guidance department and special ed department and adminis and ask if they wanna nominate kids. Sometimes students who are a little bit at risk because they’ve just moved into the area or something has happened in their family life. And they might just need that really to be part of a really supportive group. Sometimes kids who are just sort of there after school all the time, cuz they don’t really have anywhere else to go will get those kinds of students that are nominated. And then it basically becomes a first come first serve basis. After everyone who is interested through those categories receives an invitation,


Sam Demma (18:23):
Got you. And something else. Okay. Oh, go ahead. Some,


Karen Kettle (18:27):
Okay. Some schools because they wanna have they want diversify between grade nines, tens elevens and 12 do first come first serve based on grade. Mm. We, we’ve never done that. And we normally find that about 50%, 60% of our camp is grade nines and tens.


Sam Demma (18:48):
Got you. You mentioned briefly fundraising and you also do an amazing job in your book providing, you know, literally a template that you use in terms of a sponsorship letter. How, yeah. Can an educator who’s listening to this that wants to run a camp. What should they be thinking about in terms of sponsorship, how do obtain it and also what the letter it should include that they’re thinking to send outside of obviously buying your booking, check, checking it out.


Karen Kettle (19:17):
Well sponsorships are a good way to go sometimes what our sponsors do is they just provide items. So for example, our, our camp committee would go down the main street of port Perry with a letter explaining that we’re raising money to provide scholarships for students who might not be able to afford to go to camp. And quite often they will give us, you know, small items like candy or a t-shirt or something from their, their business. And so we put those together into something like a a draw or a silent auction, something like that. So that’s one way of, of finding sponsorship ships. We’ve also had service groups who have provided us with money sometimes connected to a, a, a service. So we went and helped out with a pancake breakfast and that group donated some money to our, our camp scholarship fund.


Karen Kettle (20:30):
I think if you’re writing a sending a letter to organizations, it has to really clearly state what your, what your leadership camp is, how it serves people. We put down a breakdown of costs per individual student. And then we basically just said, you know, if you’d like to make a contribution, here’s the, the camp advisors contact information and it’s sort of a contribution of whatever they would like to make. And we just basically had a bank account and we put money in from that and from our fundraisers, cuz we like to do silly fundraisers. And then on our application form for parents, there was a little line that sort of said we know that economic are tough for people. If your son or daughter requires some financial assistance, please contact. And there was a camp advisor’s email.


Karen Kettle (21:38):
And then when we got in touch with the parent, we basically said you know, what can you afford to pay towards your child going to camp? And then we can cover the rest of it. And, and that worked really well because it let us spread out the funds among the, the students who really needed it. For me, that, that I came to that realization when I actually had a parent call me and ask if she could pay for her son’s best friend to go to camp. Mm. And until that time we had sort of been fundraising to lower the cost for everyone. And after that experience I realized that it was probably better to target the money because some parents could easily afford to send their kids. And for some parents it was prohibitive. Mm. So that’s why we came up with that idea of, of scholarship funds.


Sam Demma (22:41):
That’s amazing. Another great resource that I pulled out of your book. I know I’m referring to it a lot and it’s because it’s jampacked with great stuff, the workshop topics, that was a phenomenal section that you created that, you know, encapsulated dozens of ideas that people could think about presenting or even bringing in someone else to present at their camps. What are some of the ideas that you found the great success with or would recommend that someone who’s planning their first camp should include in the programming somewhere?


Karen Kettle (23:19):
Well workshops that that list of workshops came about because one of the, the issues when you’re working with young people on a camp committee is that the only work ups they’ve seen are the workshops that were presented the year before the, or the two years before. Mm. And so they, and so they kept reinventing the same workshop and just changing its name. And it was normally about pushing your comfort zone. And it got to the point it’s like, we pushed our comfort zone enough. We know now need actually to do something else because you really want to not repeat anything sort of within the four years that that’s students could be in the school because we have some students that go for four, for three or four years. And so what I did is I basically just sat down and wrote like little teaser for 99 different workshops.


Karen Kettle (24:21):
And I think, I don’t really think that there are any, that you are essential that you start with. I think it’s more about giving the kids a, a list of a whole bunch of different things they could do, and then letting them select the ones that they have, that they truly have an interest in. Mm. And quite often what we used to do is we let the camp, if we, if we needed, let’s say six workshops, we let the camp committee pick four. We let the camp heads pick one. And then the camp advisors pick one because they do tend sometimes depending on the, the group of kids to try and they sometimes stay away from some of the more difficult topics. And so sometimes you need a little bit a push in that direction. And then the other thing we did with workshops is that we to connect them to our theme.


Karen Kettle (25:30):
So for example, the year we did Harry Potter, the mental health workshop became defense against the dark arts. Ah, and, and the, when we did Dr. Suess, the environment workshop became Lorax lesson. Mm. So you want tie in and, and tie it to to the theme, but it also, it depends on what the school needs like, do they need to do something on anti-bullying? Do they need to do something on digital leadership? Because really it’s what you do as workshops is completely wide open, as long as you have a mix of some that are really thought provoking and, and some that are, that are fun. Hmm. And we also try to make sure that, you know, if one workshop focused on skits that maybe the next one was gonna focus on a craft activity, or it was gonna focus on some kind of debate or discussion so that when students went from workshop to workshop, they were interactive and they were different. And it wasn’t like they weren’t being talked to, they, they were very HandsOn and involved in, in act in activities that brought them to the point of what the workshop was about. Understand. I don’t know what the, that


Sam Demma (27:04):
Yeah, it does. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all option. I was just really intrigued and impressed by how many ideas you pulled together and was wondering kinda well in


Karen Kettle (27:15):
A lot of the ones in the book we’ve actually done. And, and students come in with very distinct interest. And they take you places that as an advisor, you never thought you would be going because they have an interest in that area that, that resonates with their peers.


Sam Demma (27:39):
And what’s also interesting is extracurricular activities are not only the beneficial for students, but they’re also beneficial for teachers, you know, teachers benefit from being involved. What do you think are some of the benefits of the extracurricular involvement for teachers?


Karen Kettle (27:58):
Well, I think that they brought a lot of a joy in, into my life. I, I love the time that I spent with students outside of the classroom, because it gives you a different opportunity to mentor young people and also to learn from them. As teachers, you get to pick your extracurriculars. So if you are interested in sports coaching, a sport is great. Poor Perry high school had a phenomenal music program. And there were like some of the kids that were in that music program will be musicians throughout their lives, either as a career or as a, as a, as a joy, just for personal growth. So you get to follow your passion as a teacher and you meet up with kids that are also interested in it, and that’s sort of where that mentorship relationship comes from, because it, when you have someone who, who has knowledge in an area and someone who wants knowledge in the same area then that becomes a rich experience.


Karen Kettle (29:16):
It also has tremendous impacts on your classroom. I can remember on a grade eight tour day, listening to someone outside of my classroom going, this is Mrs. Kell’s classroom. She teaches science. I had her in grade nine. I really liked her. And then she takes us to camp. Well, if you have that kind of advertisement going on, when the kids come to your classroom, the next year, they expect that they’re gonna enjoy it. And all sorts of management issues just never come through your door because they know that even if it’s not something they wanna do, they know that you’re are interested in students in the school and that you are willing to put time in outside of the classroom. And it’s fun. Some of the students that I’ve worked with over the year have become really good friends. Some of them have become colleagues because a lot of the skills you learn at leadership camp work really well in the classroom. And so I, I think it’s a, it has a, a huge impact on your enjoyment of your teaching career. Yeah, and, and for kids, it’s great because they really get to interact in something that they’ve chosen, that they have ownership of, and they meet a positive peer group there that has similar interests.


Sam Demma (30:59):
Hmm. Kinda agree more if so, is interested in learning more about camps, more about the work you’ve done, where can they one pick up a copy of your book and two, get in touch with you.


Karen Kettle (31:13):
Okay. If they wanted to pick up up a copy of the book, the easiest way to do it is right from the publisher and the way to do that would be to Google volumesdirect.com. Countdown to camp is listed there. And you can just purchase it from that website if they want to contact me my email address and I’d be happy to talk to people. My email address is Karenkettle@gmail.com.


Sam Demma (32:05):
Awesome. Karen, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, talking about camps, your experience teaching, and also being involved in student leadership. Keep up the amazing work. I look forward to staying in touch and watching your, you know, adventures and work evolve. Thank you so much.


Karen Kettle (32:24):
Well, okay. And thank you very much. It’s lovely to talk to someone who is actually putting leadership into action at a fairly young age. And it sounds like you’re doing a great job.


Sam Demma (32:43):
Thanks so much, Karen.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Karen Kettle

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.

Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. – Past School District Superintendent, Speaker, Author, and Leadership Consultant

Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. – School District Superintendent, Speaker, Author, and Leadership Consultant
About Darrin M Peppard Ed.D.

Darrin Peppard (@DarrinMPeppard) is an author, publisher, speaker, and consultant focused on what matters most in leadership and education. Darrin is an expert in school culture and climate, as well as coaching and growing emerging leaders, and is the author of the best-selling book Road to Awesome: Empower, Lead, Change the Game.

Darrin was named the 2016 Wyoming Secondary School Principal of the Year by WASSP/NASSP and was the 2015 Jostens Renaissance Educator of the Year. In 2017, Darrin earned his Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Wyoming. Darrin was inducted into the Jostens Renaissance Hall of Fame in 2019. 

Darrin now shares his experiences from over 25 years in education, specifically those learned as an education leader during the past 13 years. As a ‘recovering’ high school principal, Darrin shares lessons learned and effective strategies from over 25 years in public education to help leaders (both adults and students) to become more effective and positively impact the world around them.

Connect with Dr. Peppard: Website | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Road To Awesome

Jostens Renaissance

Bradley Skinner

Kid President

Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Rock Springs High School

Dr. Ivan Joseph, The skill of self confidence – TEDxRyersonU

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. I’m super excited to share with you today’s interview. Darrin is someone that I was introduced to by another High Performing Educator, as someone they thought I should interview on the show. And after having the some conversation with him, I can wholeheartedly and honestly tell you, Darrin is one of the most kindhearted, most influential and most open people that I’ve ever had the chance to speak to and interview on this show. His stories are amazing. His passion, his energy, his lessons, his advice. There’s just so much wisdom packed in this man. I would say he’s made a dent in education, but I don’t think a dent is a big enough representation of the impact he’s made. Darrin Peppard is a school district superintendent, a speaker and author, and a consultant who focuses on what matters most in leadership.


Sam Demma (01:00):
Darrin’s an expert in school, culture and climate, as well as coaching and growing emerging leaders. He is known for his keen insight culture. First leadership style and dynamic personality. He’s won numerous awards, been named principle of the year. He’s been added into the Johnson’s Renaissance educator of the year, and then the hall of fame. There’s so many accolades this man has collected and achieved and accomplished over the years, but on all honesty, all those things aside, Darrin’s just an amazing human being who has a lot of great stories to share. And I hope you get just a peak into some of those stories listening to this episode. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll see you on the other side, Darrin, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. It’s a huge honor to have you on the show today. Why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about yourself and your recovering principle mindset and how you got into this work you’re doing in education today?


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (01:57):

Yeah, absolutely. Sam, thanks so much for having me on this is this is really a treat. So, so yeah, I, I consider myself a recovering high school principal you know like you and I were talking before we came on. It’s a, it’s a winding journey. And you know, certainly an interesting road that has led me to where I am now and, you know, being being through being a coach being a, a principal and now superintendent that principal role, I is still the role that I look at. And you know, it’s, it’s the time that I probably cherish the most in my professional career. Certainly a great opportunity to impact kids, a great opportunity to, to impact adults. But then also to work, you know around systems and being able to work, you know, work in and affect systems.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (02:49):

You know, we were talking a again right before we started, you know, I go back to what really got me into education was when somebody asked me to help ’em coach a, a basketball team and I’m like, yeah, absolutely let’s do this. And it was a fifth grade girls basketball team. And so, you know, that is not a lot of high level in depth basketball, but it’s more, it’s just relationships and, and having some fun and, and, you know, just getting to be kids and work with kids. And that’s what hooked me to ultimately become, to become an educator. And so yeah, that’s, that’s I guess a little bit about me.


Sam Demma (03:28):

No, that’s awesome. And before your friend asked you to help coach the basketball team, where were you headed in life and was there anything else aside from that ask that he gave you that directed you in that direction?


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (03:42):

Ah, man, that’s a great question. So, so, you know, when I when I started college you know, I, I, I played tennis and basketball in high school. I was a, I was a really good tennis player. I was a basketball player. I was not, I wasn’t a very good player. I was just on the team, but you know then I had some injuries and, and some of those kinds of things. And I honestly, I was a little bit lost when I got into college, you know the person I probably connected with the most, at my high school. At, at a point I’m gonna talk about staff I’m sure. And, and how everybody has an impact on kids, not just teachers. And , this actually even is, is true of my life. Our high school athletic trainer was the person who had the most profound impact on me.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (04:29):

I unfortunately during basketball, I spent more time in the training room than I did actually on the floor in games. I just was, you know, I just had the bad luck of getting injured a lot. And trainer John was, was somebody who really kind of inspired me. And so that’s where I thought I wanted to go. I wanted to be an athletic trainer and I don’t know, somewhere along the line, I kind of lost, lost my path. And, and to be honest with you, I, I actually dropped outta college and I got into the private sector. I was, I was working in retail sales. And yeah, fortunately when when my friend reached out to me and said, you know, Hey, I need somebody to help me coach this team. I don’t know what you know, it was it was a heck of an opportunity to inadvertently you know, or, or maybe there was some kind of destiny there to, to help me find that path. And know he, even after that, it was, you know, Hey, let’s, you know, notice this other team. And, and it really gave me a chance to connect with a passion. I didn’t know I had, and that was working with kids and supporting kids and helping kids as they, as they grow through life.


Sam Demma (05:40):

You’ve been able to experience some multiple roles, principal teacher now, superintendent as well. You just mentioned all staff have the ability to make a difference for educators listening, who might question that, that they have the power to also play a huge impact. What would you have to say? You alluded to the fact that you really believe that every member of staff can make a change.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (06:01):

Absolutely. I, I think every single member of of every staff, or again, like I say, staff, you know, staff plus faculty we don’t, we don’t separate ’em in our district. We, we make sure that everybody understands that we’re all in this together and we’re all part of something special. I just, you know, through the course of my career, I, and, and again, I even go back to, to when I was a student, you know, I’ve seen those moments where it’s the coach that is impacting a kid more than the classroom teacher. Certainly they’re classroom teachers that make profound, profound impacts on kids. I absolutely don’t want to downplay that, but I think about man, when, when I was a high school principal, one of the people in my building who was probably as impactful as anybody else was a guy named Cleve and Cleve was our maintenance guy.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (06:53):

Cleve was a retired engineer and just came to work at the, because he just wanted to make an impact to be around kids. And you know, so the role we gave him was in addition to just some general maintenance, he was our guy who set up for all of our athletic contests. And he was the guy who was there to, you know, make sure the water jugs were filled. And, and yeah, he did all of that, but man, that, that guy just, he just cheered his face off for every single one of our kids and our kids knew him and they loved him. He knew every kid by name. And then every one of our schools, there’s a Cleve, whether it’s a maintenance person or it’s somebody who’s working in food service, or it’s a bus driver we don’t, we don’t realize sometimes just because we get into routines and we get into our day to day, you know, I, I drive my bus and this is my route, or you know, I, I’m a special education para and these are the kids I go and work with.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (07:51):

And this is my schedule. We don’t realize just how many eyes are on us and how much the things that we do every day impact, impact kids. And, and you don’t know until, until years later I I’ll share a quick story with you that here probably I’m gonna say six months ago, I got a message on Facebook from a former student. And I mean, it’s a kid that I had as a high school student. I, I had him from one year. He was part of a group of kids that I actually had at both junior high. And then when I moved to high school, those kids then were there a year later, but I only had this student one year and I never really thought that we built much of a relationship. I mean, we knew each other, but you know, it wasn’t like some of the other kids in that group because I’d only once, but he reached out to me and it was a really profound thing that, that he said to me, he, he shared with me that he felt he owed me an apology over.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (08:55):

Just the way he had been as a student. He said, you know, I didn’t tell a lot of people this he said, in fact, you probably don’t remember me, but you’ll remember my girlfriend. And I, I mean, I remembered him instantly, but he said, what you don’t know is I was homeless. What you don’t know is I lived in a car and I was embarrassed. And, and so I acted out so that people didn’t know those other things about me. And I mean, this is, you know, I don’t know, 15 years later. And he felt compelled to reach out and tell me the story. Wow. And, you know, to know, to know that I had an impact on, on that young. And and for that matter that I still have an opportunity too. You know, we’re still, we’re still in contact. Yeah. What I, I guess I tell that story for this reason, whether you’re a teacher or in any other role office, secretary, principal, you don’t know the impact you have on kids until much, much later. And sometimes you never know, there’s so many hundreds and thousands of kids that every educator touches every day. And you’re making a difference and you know, right now it’s hard. Holy cow, is it hard right now, but you’re making a difference and you’re changing lives one kid at a time.


Sam Demma (10:20):

What a powerful story. Tell me how you felt when you read that message in your inbox.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (10:29):

Well, I mean, as we’re talking about it, six months later, I’m tearing up about it. So, I mean, you can probably imagine you know, first we’re and I saw his name, I thought, no way wow. I haven’t heard from him in forever. And and then as I started reading that, I, I just, you know, I had to sit down. I was like, oh my goodness. And certainly, you know, I was, I was grateful that he reached out to me is filled with a little bit of pride, you know, certainly that, that I had made an impact with him. But then I also, I guess, as I reflected through the, through the course of the next few days, I also kind of was maybe a little bit upset with myself or disappointed in myself because why didn’t I know, is it possible that I didn’t take the time?


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (11:28):

I should have to maybe get to know him better? And I don’t know, maybe I could have helped him that because, you know, as he went forward in his life, there were some struggles with substance. There was some struggles with other things. And, and I don’t know, maybe I could have made a difference, maybe I could of to help him in that regard. But I don’t know. I guess I would say it was mixed emotions. But, but ultimately, you know, I still go back to what what I, what I cling to with that story is whether I realized it or not, I was making an impact on that kid.


Sam Demma (12:03):

Yeah. And sometimes we’re a harshest critic, so mm-hmm, , don’t be too critical on yourself. Yeah. How do we make sure as educators, we can be that cleave, we can be that Darrin for our students, especially in a time like COVID 19, how do we ensure our youth feel appreciated, cared for and heard?


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (12:24):

Man, that’s a really good question because, you know, one of the most difficult things, I think all of us face right now is it’s really, it’s challenging, I guess, to fill the cups of others when your cup is empty. And so one of the most important things I would say, and, and I’m probably, I’m gonna say something and I’m not doing a good job of right now. And so I’m gonna challenge myself to, to, to refocus on this, but we’ve gotta take care of ourselves. If we want to continue to make a difference in this super challenging time, we have to take care of ourselves whether that’s, you know good eating habits or, you know, getting some exercise, getting enough, sleep, drinking enough water drinking enough water. So one, I’m not doing a good job with probably not getting enough exercise, but we have to be able to make sure that that physically and mentally we’re ready to answer the bell every morning.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (13:23):

And if we’re able to do that, then I would say the next thing is, you know, focus on relationships. You know, the academic piece doesn’t work without the relation anyway. And right now we probably need to put twice as much time into relationships. I mean, we, we hear the phrase, social, emotional learning right now. A lot. It is very much an in Vogue term. It’s an appropriate term but really at its core, it’s about having those relationships in place. So we recognize those challenges kids are going through. And so that kids feel comfortable reached out saying something, you know, or asking a question. I think that’s, that’s just the biggest, biggest things we can be doing for ourselves right now. You know, there’s, there’s all kinds of training and all kinds of, you know, other things we can do books we can read, but if we don’t number one, take care of ourselves and number two, build those relationships. None of that other stuff matters.


Sam Demma (14:23):

It’s foundational. It’s definitely foundational. Speaking of books, what is the Road to Awesome? What does, what does that mean to you and explain why you are compelled to write a book with that title?


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (14:36):

Yeah. So Road to Awesome. And there’s, there is, there’s definitely a story behind that. So and it’s like, like the road awesome itself, it’s long and winding, but so I’ll tell you when, when I go back to my first year as a as an assistant principal, so my first administrative job we, we had a pretty challenging culture in, in our school. We really had well, I’ll just put it this way. The, the philosophy in our school was catch, ’em doing it wrong. And that might be kids and it might be adults. You know, we even as a leadership team and I don’t think we were intentional with this, but this is just how it worked. I mean, the phrase that the other administrators used and, and I, I know I picked up on it very quickly and fell right into the culture.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (15:30):

I’m not saying I, I stepped away from it. I fell right into it too, you know, was, I’m gonna ding that kid. I’m gonna ding that teacher. You know, it, it was all about catching people, doing things wrong. And we were in this staff meeting middle part of my first year. And this particular part of the meeting was mine to facilitate cuz we were talking about, you know, what are we gonna do about hats and cell phones? You know, really, you know, important stuff used foundational. So yeah, that’s yeah, facetiously that’s, it’s not foundational that’s, those are things we really should be wasting time on, but that’s, that’s what we were focused on. You know, kids have their cellphones out and you know, they’re wearing hats, what are we gonna do about it? So somewhere between, you know, if we start hanging ’em up on the little on the wall and those little calculator holders, or I don’t know, suspending kids or wherever, you know, people were chasing this, somebody raised their hand and just said, why does it always have to be about what they do wrong?


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (16:28):

And I had it be about what they do. Right. and, and I looked back at that now in time and, and I can tell you, the lady’s name is spring. She’s a school social worker, a brilliant young lady. It was like, bang, you know, the, the road splitting two for me right there. You know, we, I can keep going down this path. You know, we, we focus on what people are doing wrong. You know, maybe, maybe we can, we can exit this path and try another one. And let’s, let’s try to focus on what they do. Right. it led me to the Josten’s Renaissance program and, you know, I mean that, that’s a philosophy of recognizing rewarding and reinforcing the things that you respect. And we put that in place and we started working really hard around that and changing the way we did our work and changing the way we focused on things.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (17:23):

And you know, it’s amazing how, you know, people will rise or fold whatever level of expectation you’re willing to hold them to. And if you’re using that recognition and reinforcement at a high level of expectation, they’re gonna meet that level of expectation. They’re gonna come right up to it. I mean adversity for stuff like that, you know? And I mean, let’s, let’s make it about, let’s make it about kids who are doing a great job in the classroom. Let’s make it about kids doing a great job in, in athletics or in activities or whatever, you know, in community service. You know, I mean, we shouldn’t just be focused on, you know, our football team or whatever, you know, know, I mean, we had one of the greatest bands I’ve ever been around as, as a high school principal. And I know a lot of that was we hired a great person for it, but he took that same philosophy.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (18:19):

And, you know, he went from like 60 kids to 130 kids in the band and, you know, superior ratings all the time. And so, so fast forward just a little bit. And I’m at a Josten’s Renaissance Conference and I’m presenting with somebody who at the time was was a teacher I had hired now just genuinely a, a, a true friend of mine a guy named Bradley Skinner. And we showed this little video clip Kid President, who everybody loves Kid President. And he said something along the lines of using the the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” you know, what, what if there are two roads I want to be on the one that leads to awesome . And even though I’d been on this road for a long time, I’d never had a, I’d never had a phrase for it.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (19:06):

And Road to Awesome was born. And we, and we still are using that as a hashtag. It became a hashtag at our school. We had to paint it on our walls. I mean, it just like grew and grew and grew to where everybody knew, you know, Rock Spring High School is we’re all about the Road to Awesome. And when it came to west grand, it brought that with me and we’re on the road to, and so over the last year or two, I, I really had started thinking, thinking, and I really wanna write a book. And I, I wanted to write a book about leadership and about, about what the things that I think, not, not that everybody should follow, but just, I think these are the six things that truly make a difference in leadership. And, and that doesn’t mean being a principal leader.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (19:52):

I mean, that’s any leader that I’m a classroom teacher, teacher leader, I’m in the business world, I’m a leader, I’m whatever. So six things in the book really that I focused on you know, leading with a clear vision building positive culture and climate empowering your student, empowering your adults, telling your story as educators, man, we stink at that. We are not good at telling our story. You know, unfortunately it’s, it’s standardized test scores or, you know, things that people say on Facebook that determine story of our schools. And it shouldn’t, you know, we have great things happening in every school across not only the United States through Canada. I mean, everywhere, there are great things happening in schools and we just have to do a better job of telling them. And then the last one is, is coaching. And, and, and by that, I mean, everybody, everybody can benefit from a coach as a leader. I can benefit from another leader as a, as a principal, as a teacher, whatever I can benefit from an outside perspective supporting me and, and helping me to, to see things differently. So as we’re working through the book it only made sense that the book had to have the title Road to Awesome.


Sam Demma (21:13):

Awesome. No pun intended. Yeah, there you go. I was, I was really, I was really enjoying when you were speaking about the difference between pointing out what the students were doing wrong versus what they were doing. Right. I was actually watching a Ted talk yesterday by someone by the name of Dr. Ivan Joseph. Who’s a self confidence expert and he’s his talk has over 20 million views. It’s a great one. He took on two soccer teams to coach at Ryerson, which is a university here that were both on a five year losing streak. No one wanted the job. He stepped up and took it it and used basically what you just told me to create two winning teams that both won the national championship over the next five years. And what he said was so often coaches, and we can replace that for any human being points out what the athlete does wrong.


Sam Demma (22:04):

You know, you’re not kicking in the ball, right? Get your knee over the ball and lean, you know, lean back and stare down before you kick the ball, or it’s always gonna go too high. And he’s like, instead of doing that, you can point out what someone else on the team did really well. So John goes and does a terrible job, but then, you know, Stacy goes and scores and, you know, beautiful form. He can say, Stacy, well done. Your, you kept your head down. Your knee was over the ball and the student or the soccer player, John who didn’t kick it well is taking in what he’s saying, but not having his ego hurt or feeling bad about himself. And that hit me so hard because, you know, even with pick the, the volunteer initiative, I run, we manage six or seven people. And sometimes we, we don’t think before we SP be to that degree and we can be critical to too hard sometimes on the people we manage or even ourselves.


Sam Demma (22:55):

And I just wanted to highlight that. Cause I think the point you raised is so, so important. I can even pinpoint as a young person when my coach spoke negatively to me and how it affected me personally which is, which is really, really powerful. Anyways, Darrin, this has been a very fruitful conversation. There’s so many nuggets and things that are coming out of this. If you could sum up your entire brain, all the wisdom that you’ve gained over the past, I think you said 26 years teaching and give advice to your younger self when you were just starting in education, what, you know, couple points of advice would you give yourself that you think would be helpful along the journey?


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (23:37):

Well, you know, not, not to keep hammering on the same thing, but I go right back to what you were just talking about. I know there were times where as a classroom teacher or, or as a coach where yeah, I probably focused more on, you know, what we were doing wrong. Mm-Hmm and you know, I think I would, I would remind myself or tell myself that don’t take yourself so seriously, you know, take, take a breath, remember that it’s about relationships. And at the end, at the end of the day, when you’re, when the students that you have in the classroom now, or the kids that you’re coaching on the court are 30 years old. They’re not gonna remember whether or not we won this game or that game. They’re gonna remember how you made ’em feel. Mm they’re gonna remember.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (24:27):

And they’re gonna reach out to you because of the relationships that you built with them. And I mean, I, I know that I did that well, but I know there’s always, you know, I look back there’s ones. I know I could have done better. And so that would be one of them would be to, to just, you know, Don worry about the wins and losses, worry about the relationships because that’s, that’s what it’s really all about. And I don’t know, maybe I would tell myself, maybe you should journal what you’re doing because, because I was writing this book, I know there were stories that slowly came back to me, but I know there’s just hundreds and hundreds and more stories that you know, both good and bad, you know, one’s where I certainly don’t look very good because of, because of what I did, but there’s a lesson that came from it. Mm-Hmm and you know, I, I wish that you know, I would’ve written all that stuff down, you know, but I guess those are probably the two things I would, I would go back and tell myself.


Sam Demma (25:25):

Cool. I love that. That’s so awesome. And I’m guessing you journal every day now.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (25:29):

I do as much as I can. Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s, it’s mostly, it’s mostly the old you know voice journal nice as, as much as it is writing.


Sam Demma (25:39):

Awesome. Well, Darrin, thank you so much for taking the time to chat today. If another educator listening wants to reach out, talk, talk about your book, talk about idea is, and what’s working in your schools right now. What would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (25:53):

So I would say there’s two different ways you know, any and all social media, I’m Darrin M Peppard just write like that, whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, that’s, that’s how you can find me. The other thing too, is, is on my a website. I mean, there’s a way to contract me through the website, which is shockingly roadtoawesome.net. So absolutely those are, those are two great ways to get in touch with me. And by all means, if there’s anything I could do, somebody needs somebody to vent to talk to. If I can share a little bit of advice or wisdom or, you know, even if somebody’s just got a great where they wanna share with me, I’d love to hear it.


Sam Demma (26:30):

Awesome. Darrin, thank you so much for coming on the show today.


Darrin M Peppard Ed.D. (26:33):

Yeah. Thank you, Sam. I really appreciate it.


Sam Demma (26:36):

Such impactful stories. I don’t know if your eyes like mine almost leaked while listening to this episode, but if it touched you, if it moved you, if it inspired you in any way, shape or form, please consider reaching out to Darrin. He’s someone who would love to connect to you. He’s someone who would love to have a conversation. He’s someone who would love to share ideas with and bounce things around and be a soundboard for you. And if you found this valuable considered leaving a rating and review on the podcast, it will help more educators. Like you find these episodes during these times, so they can benefit from the content and the inspiration in the stories. And if you personally have something you, you think should be shared with other educators around the world, please reach out at info@samdemma.com and will get you a spot on the, a podcast. Anyways, I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Darrin M Peppard Ed.D.

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.

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.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Nicole

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.

Kelly Weaver – Director of Student Activities at Iolani School & Fo under of Soulvivor808

Kelly Weaver, Director of Student Activities lolani school
About Kelly Weaver

Kelly Weaver (@NaturalRedHead) is the student activities director at Iolani School in Hawaii. When she’s not in the school building, Kelly is a certified Law of Attraction Life Purpose Coach, solopreneur, writer, speaker, wife, and mother of two beautiful daughters. For almost two decades she has taught middle and high school students in both public and private schools.

In 2014, she finally took her own advice and moved from inner-city Reading, Pennsylvania to Honolulu, Hawaii to pursue HER dreams! Let her teach you how to reach new heights in all areas of your life through her amazing book, “Living Your Own Aloha: 5 Steps to Manifesting Your Dreams” and personal coaching services.

Connect with Kelly: Email | Linkedin | Website | Twitter | Instagram

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The Law of Attraction Explained

Living Your Own Aloha: 5 Steps to Manifesting Your Dreams

The Dream Machine Tour USA

Charlie Rocket

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 (00:05):
Kelly, Aloha, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by just introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what brought you to where you are in education today?


Kelly Weaver (00:23):
Sure. Well, Aloha Sam. Thank you so much for this opportunity. My name is Kelly Weaver. I currently live and teach in Honolulu, Hawaii at a private school. I actually am the director of student activities, but I had taught English for 16 years and my heart and soul was at the middle school level. I actually do work at both the local and national and state level for the middle school association. And so my career started right out of high right out of college, like most educators, and this is my 23rd year.


Sam Demma (01:06):
Wow. That’s amazing. I have to give you a round of applause for that. That’s amazing. And so tell me more about, you mentioned that middle school is it’s the heart of everything you do. And what brought you to that realization? Tell me more about where that passion grew from.


Kelly Weaver (01:26):
That actually grew from my own experience as a middle school student. So I had an incredible middle school experience, which I know most people that is like an oxymoron that doesn’t happen. But my favorites teacher, the reason I became a teacher I had both in seventh and eighth grade, my school did a looping, so the teachers really got to know us developed relationships with us and it was then that I just knew when I, when I student taught, I specifically said, I really want to teach middle school because I know that that’s what I want to do. And then it was exactly where I was supposed to be. I feel like those kids are in the middle, they’re misunderstood. I had a pretty rough growing up and if it hadn’t been for my middle school teachers and that age, those teachers that were supporting me, I would not be the success that I am today. So I kind of felt like I wanted to return it to those students. And yes, they are full of energy. Some days are hard, some days are crazy, but they really wants an adults and they need someone that cares about them. And so I just committed most of my career to really learning everything that I could about that developmental age.


Sam Demma (02:39):
That’s amazing. And I want to, I want to go back to when you were that student again for a second those teachers that had a huge impact on you, what is it specifically that they did, if you can think back and remember that you think made a big impact on you when you were going through those tough times? I’m just wondering, because if another educator is listening and wondering, they can be there for their kids or be that teacher like they were for you. Yeah. I’m just curious to know what those things might’ve been.


Kelly Weaver (03:06):
I know exactly what it was, and it’s one of the things that was always my philosophy as a teacher. They don’t care how much, you know, until they know how much you care. And I was going, like I said, through a very tough time in my childhood. And if it hadn’t been for them, recognizing it and taking a moment to say, you know, some of the things going on with this, with a student outside of the classroom, let’s develop a great relationship with her. Let’s figure out what’s going on. No one would have known what was going on. And so, and I don’t think I would be where I am today without that guidance. So I really encourage people. It’s building relationships is the absolute first key. And I spent a lot of time when I was in the classroom, making sure that I spent a lot of time getting to know my students as, as people and what motivates them before I could teach them pronouns and adjectives. They just, they’re not going to care about that stuff. That’s not what they’re going to remember about you. They’re going to remember how much you cared about them.


Sam Demma (04:10):
Yeah. It’s so true. And what does that look like in the classroom? Getting to know your students? Is it just like having everyone share a story or how do you encourage students to share about themselves so that you can kind of learn some more and start building that, that, that personal relationship?


Kelly Weaver (04:26):
It starts, the minute they walk in the door, it’s a personal greeting. It’s knowing their names, getting to know their names. I can say is the absolute first thing, you know, especially, I know it’s hard with teachers. We, a lot of us teach, you know, hundreds. Literally. I remember when I was in the classroom, I had, you know, like 180 kids on my team. You got to get to know their names. You got to ask questions every day. You have to be cognizant when they come in, you know, do you see them smiling? Do they look sad? Just really talking to them and getting to know them. And one of the other really cool activities that I used to do was actually involved the parents. It was called in a million words or fewer. So one of the first things I would send out to parents was asking the parents to write a, basically an essay about their kid.


Kelly Weaver (05:10):
And they could tell me in, you know, just a few sentences or I had people write pages, but that really got me to know the kid on a level that I would not have known. And then as a team I would share, I would share that with our team. So we would really get to know. And one of my favorite stories about that was a mother who wrote in that when she was in labor, she was a professor and she was actually in labor during a final exam and she couldn’t leave. She felt like she couldn’t leave. So she watched a Palm tree swaying in the wind to concentrate on her breath. And she swears the that’s why her son has such an easygoing and loving personality. So things like that, you wouldn’t learn right about your, about your students, but really cool stories and sometimes some really good information.


Sam Demma (05:59):
That’s so cool. And did you know when you were going through school that you wanted to be in working in a school in the future and be an educator yourself, or where did that career passion stem from?


Kelly Weaver (06:12):
A million percent. I wanted to be a teacher since I probably could talk. I just loved school. I loved it. But it wasn’t until middle school that I, I loved writing and I loved reading and it wasn’t until middle school. When I met my favorite teacher, the reason that I became a teacher, Mrs. Henrik, that I realized I could combine both love for reading and writing and be a teacher and teach that to other students.


Sam Demma (06:39):
Wow. That’s awesome. And did you have people or teachers in your life direct you in that direction and say, you know, Kelly, when you grew up, you know, please get into teaching. Did you ever consider anything else or was it just a straight arrow path? Like you’re saying like high school university, you go to teacher’s college, boom, boom, boom. Get into teaching.


Kelly Weaver (07:01):
There was one time. So when I got into high school, I was interviewed for the, our we had a wonderful TV program and I was interviewed about something that I did and the teacher of that came up to me and was like, you know, you did such an amazing job and you feel so comfortable on TV. Would you like to be a news anchor for our show? And so I did do TV news, both in in high school and then in college I did for a semester. And so I was really considering communication and maybe switching. But to me, honest with you, I’m glad that I didn’t because teaching is where it was supposed to be for sure.


Sam Demma (07:42):
That’s amazing. I love to hear that. And what did the first role that you took on in school? What was it, and then tell us about, like, tell me about the other positions you’ve worked in and then also what you’re doing now.


Kelly Weaver (07:57):
Oh my goodness. So my first year was the typical first year teacher. Where, how do you survive? I actually was teaching eighth grade and ninth grade and I was teaching journalism and speech. So I had four preps as a brand new teacher to different grade levels. It was a junior high model. So it wasn’t like the teaming model that we had. I coached track. I helped with the school play. Like I remember when I got the job, right. It was what you do as a new teacher. You do everything because you’re lucky to have a job. But my student teaching actually really prepared me for those preps. You know, I didn’t realize that at the time, but my mentor was losing her mind and administration saying, this is not fair to give those poor 22 year old. And you know, it was, I’m not gonna lie.


Kelly Weaver (08:45):
I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but it was a tough year because here I am 22, these kids are not that far in age, you know, ninth grade, they’re 14 and 15. And they gave me a run for by money for sure. But it’s solidified that absolutely. This is what I was supposed to be doing. So I started out at a small school, so I grew up, I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. So that’s where my career started. And then I got pregnant with my first daughter and I transitioned to a school that was much closer to my home. And I, I took on a reading course. So I was teaching reading for a year. Then I went back into teaching eighth grade on a team level. And throughout my career, I’ve taught seventh, eighth and ninth grade. I’ve taught English, journalism, drama, speech a class called communications. And then I had a dream and I wanted to move to Hawaii and I wanted to teach here. And so I applied and I taught English for one year. And then I moved into my dream job of student activities, where I direct all of the activities from grade seven to 12. So I like to say on the director of fun.


Sam Demma (10:04):
That’s amazing. And so your dream was to move to Hawaii. Where did the rest of the dream come from to do student activities? At what point in your career did you want to get more involved and be the director of fun?


Kelly Weaver (10:17):
Well, I did not know that that position existed because on the mainland, that’s not really a thing. And maybe it is, and I apologize to anyone listening that, but it wasn’t on the east coast. Right? I did all the things that I did on top of teaching, but all I do now is focused on student leadership and activities. So it wasn’t really that I was looking for the dream job in Hawaii. I didn’t, like I said, I didn’t know existed. I was moving thinking. I was going to just teach English. And that was my passion. And that was what I thought I was wanting to do. Actually, I started to get an itch that I wanted to get out of the classroom. I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted to do leadership. And so initially I started looking at becoming a middle school. I really wanted to move into the private sector because what I liked about the private sector was you could actually become a middle school director or the principal.


Kelly Weaver (11:09):
If, if public school people are watching, but you still could teach a class, you still had that realm in the, in the classroom, which I always felt as an administrator is important. You can’t lose touch with what it’s like in the trenches. So for me, I wanted another leadership position. And to be honest with you, the more I looked, I was like, it’s taking me away from the students. And that’s where my love is. So this job was perfect because it’s a leadership position, but my, my day involves kids. And that’s my focus all day, not all the politics and red tape, put the bureaucracy to the side, focus on the fun and the students.


Sam Demma (11:42):
I love it. You know, all of the educators that are tuning in potentially from Canada and some places in Ontario, they’re probably like student directors of fund student activities. Like what does this entail? It might be called something different in Canadian schools. So if you want to break it down, what do the roles and responsibilities look like for a, you know, director of student activities? Sure.


Kelly Weaver (12:07):
So our school, it’s basically student council, student government. So each class seven through 12th has their own election for president vice president, secretary and treasurer. And then we as a school community, elect what we call three pro councils, which are basically the student body presidents. There’s three of them. And then we have committees. We actually have 10 committees and they are different. They’re like spirit, big spirits, small. And all of those are very focused on something. So I’ll give you one example. We have a faculty relations committee, those students apply to be on the committee. They there’s an application process. And then we go through and vet them out. And what they focus on is strictly our faculty. So they create activities and all kinds of different things just for the faculty. So for example, right now we just welcomed a whole bunch of new teachers.


Kelly Weaver (13:01):
So they bought popcorn bags and they created this little tag that said, just popping in to say, have a great year. And we put that in all of the new teacher’s mailboxes. This will make some people very jealous listening out there, but because we are a private school and we have some funding, we actually have, what’s called one teen week, which is our teacher appreciation week. And that’s the week that my faculty relations committee really delves into. So they plan teacher dress stays like fun days. Like it might be what we call fashion. No, no day. They we’ve. We’ve done gone so far as we’ve brought massage therapists for our teachers, we do food giveaway, we have lunches. So basically it’s, what’s the kid’s imagination is the limit. And they come up with really amazing things to do, you know, in that particular committee. And that’s one committee, but I have nine others that focus on other aspects of the school. So we really make sure we reach the student body as well as our teachers and stuff.


Sam Demma (14:03):
Oh, that’s amazing. And


Kelly Weaver (14:04):
Then we do all the activities. We do, homecoming proms dances any kind of activity nights assemblies. We do it all from my office. So we really teach students the leadership skills and the qualities that they need to run events and what’s required of those so that they have those skills when they go on to college and do things like that.


Sam Demma (14:27):
That’s amazing. And is this your, this, this doesn’t sound like it’s your first year in this position? How long have you been doing school activities?


Kelly Weaver (14:35):
This is my seventh year in student activities.


Sam Demma (14:38):
What was it like on year one?


Kelly Weaver (14:40):
Oh, my gosh, year one was like my first year teaching. I remember sitting down in front of, so my, I have a partner and she actually is, what’s called daughter of the school. So when a student goes from K to 12 and graduates, they are a son or daughter of the school. So she is an alumni. So she knows the school and the culture very well. And I remember the first year I sat in front of my computer and it was the first time. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. And I mean that sincerely, I was like, I’m looking at her. Like, I don’t even know what to do. You know, with teaching, didn’t matter what school you went to, you learned the school and you learn their systems, but I knew, okay, I got to do a lesson on this.


Kelly Weaver (15:25):
This was like, what? So thankfully the person before me wrote meticulous notes and a blueprint, and I had been here you’re for one year as an English teacher. So I saw all of the activities that we did, but it was very, very overwhelming. But now my partner and I, we are a well-oiled machine. We don’t even have to like, it’s like, she knows, this is my lane. This is what I’m working on. I know this is what she’s working on. You know, things we do together, but we really are an amazing team. And then we have amazing students. It’s like, I can’t shout them out enough because if it weren’t for our students and their ideas and creativity, my job would be way harder.


Sam Demma (16:08):
Oh, that’s awesome. I love that. And you can tell that you enjoy the job. Like, even while you’re talking right now, you seem so happy and like energetic about it, which is so important. You know, putting teachers in positions that they actually love. And you’re definitely going to make teachers jealous, talking about massage therapists, bringing them in.


Kelly Weaver (16:27):
I can’t believe I lived this life. I’m just like really


Sam Demma (16:30):
Well, you know, it goes to show that you, I mean, it started in your head, right? You created it. It started in your head. You, you decided what you were going to do and Aloha now we’re here. You know?


Kelly Weaver (16:41):
Well, if I could say something to that, cause you just triggered down my next love. So I’m also in my free time, which I really don’t have free time. I’m a law of attraction coach. So I believe very much in deliberate creation. And I actually wrote a book, my first book called living your own, aloha five steps to manifesting your dreams, which is on Amazon. And it’s the method and the steps that I created to use to manifest my dream life here in Hawaii and my dream job. So I love that you said that because you’re exactly right. We have a vision, we take action toward those steps and we can really create the life that we love


Sam Demma (17:18):
Kelly, you and I are going to be best friends!!


Kelly Weaver (17:24):
Together for a reason.


Sam Demma (17:25):
Right. It has. This is so cool. And what when in your career did you write your book and what prompted the creation of it?


Kelly Weaver (17:32):
So I wrote the book it just got published in March, so it’s been out. I started the book actually finished it really during COVID. I was writing every single Sunday. I was making a point to it. What started? It was just that I just love the law of attraction. I love how it has actually, to be honest with you. I know this is not about teaching, but I had my spiritual awakening in 2009 here in Hawaii. I dislocated my ankle in the airport, coming home from a 10 year wedding anniversary trip with my husband. And it really broke me open to healing that I needed to do. Like I told you about my childhood and I wanted other people. I just, I saw so many people and teachers, especially, especially during COVID so burnt out, not feeling like they have any control in what they can create in their life.


Kelly Weaver (18:23):
And I was like, you know what? I need to share this with people, how I did it. They need to know that no matter what their life has started as, as a child or whatever they’re going through, they can, they can create this beautiful life that they want to live. And it’s what I’ve taught my students over the years. Like I use these principles with my students and I’ve helped them get into colleges and help them get more money for college. And so it’s just something that I love to pass on to people. And I thought, you know what a book is the best way. It’s the fastest way. It’s the cheapest way. Let’s get this information out.


Sam Demma (18:55):
And how do you explain the law of attraction to a teacher? So there’s an educator listening right now and maybe they’re not familiar with the concept. Can you break it down a little bit or maybe even using some of the ideas from your book?


Kelly Weaver (19:05):
Yeah. So law of attraction is just about what you put out. You get back, whether that’s good or bad, and you are a Dilbert creator, you have the ability to create your own life. So in the book I use the word Aloha this and see, this is where my teaching has paid off because my book is very much a handbook, a guide. I give you very tangible tools. That was very important to me as an educator. It’s like, I don’t want to just spell, you know, theory and rhetoric to you. I want to give you tangible what I call inspired assignments that you can actually do. And so the five-step process is a low hot ask. Listen opportunities, how, and act as if, and those are all the principles of the law of attraction that you can take. So basically you set an intention.


Kelly Weaver (19:51):
You believe, you feel that you’re going to receive it and you trust in divine timing. You don’t know, worry about how it’s going to come and you bring it into your life. That is how I got the job here. When I was initially hired here, I applied for the student activities job. I did not get it. I went home. I was convinced Sam. I was like, I told my husband, I’m like pack your bags. The guy that I met here had family and connections in Pennsylvania. We had this amazing connection. My husband’s like, I can’t believe you’re going to get this job just because you know someone at Pennsylvania, I didn’t get it. I was, I was, I was denied the job. And then I, I was so angry at the universe. God, higher power, whatever you believe in. I, I was like, that’s it.


Kelly Weaver (20:35):
I throw in the towel, I’m over this. Why is nothing happening? I had been trying to get a new job. And a week later they called me from the school and they said, we know you were looking to move into leadership. And we know you applied for this other job, but you, you amazed us at the interview. And we would love to have you as an English teacher here. And at first my husband said, we’re not moving for you to teach English. We’re not moving all those miles away. You’re teaching English now. And I said, that job is going to be mine. And guess what happened? I had the clear intention. I knew it was mine. And several months later the man that interviewed me he left, he left the island. And not only did he leave, but his assistant left. So not only was there one job now, there were two. So it works. You know, it works how it comes about and what timing. That’s what we have to let go of. But if we are, if we know and we have a sense, it will work out. And so I want to encourage educators. If there’s other things out there that you’re passionate about, that you love, like put it out there, you know, and take some action. You gotta take some steps. You can’t just sit around, but you can make it happen a hundred percent


Sam Demma (21:48):
And Aloha act as if is that for acting as if it’s already happened?


Kelly Weaver (21:52):
Yeah, this is really weird. But I write about this in the book. I literally, when I got, when I found out that the job was open again, I actually would, anytime I would pretend to answer the phone, I would say, hi, this is Kelly. Student activities would say that all the time. I envisioned myself in the, in the deck at the desk. I mean, just really put myself and my feelings into that. And I’m telling you, it worked multiple stories like that in the book of like, that’s the other thing in the book. I don’t just, this, isn’t all just theory. This is what I’ve had to go through. And what I’ve done to prove to you that, that whatever that assignment is, it works


Sam Demma (22:37):
Well. I have goosebumps because I live by the same philosophies and there’s a guy actually, who’s going to be driving through who I assume named Charlie rocket. And he has this bus called the dream machine. And he goes around in the U S and make people’s dreams come true. And I wanted to reach out to him because I speak in schools and he was doing all this work, but he wasn’t talking to students and I had this idea and this was like a year ago. Wouldn’t it be so cool. If in all the states he stops in while he’s doing amazing work, I kept like, you know, speak to the students of the schools in the local cities and spread the, you know, initiative on the ground. But the issue was, you know, he has 500,000 followers. You know, he’s super big. And it’s like, how is, how am I going to get ahold of this guy?


Sam Demma (23:18):
And so I started writing down in my notebook, Charlie and I are working together. He just doesn’t know it yet. Charlie and I are working together. He just doesn’t know it yet. And low and behold, I got so obsessed with the idea because I was acting as if it already happened. Your mind starts racing and the obsession led to some ideas. And so I realized he had his own podcast was 62 episodes. So I made a, I took two weeks to listen to all 62, made a page of notes of every single episode, stapled them together, put a cover letter on it that said, Hey, Charlie, my onboarding is done. When can we get started? Put the notes inside a custom printed box with his logo all over it. Then I interviewed his co-founder, who was more of a behind the scenes kind of guy to try and get a mailing address.


Sam Demma (23:58):
We had a phenomenal conversation at the end and he’s like, here’s the mailing address? I got the mailing address, got the box, shipped it off a week and a half, two weeks later, Charlie FaceTime me on my phone. We had a full hour and a half conversation and, you know, things didn’t work out for different reasons, but I wanted to share that story with you because I think that I manifested that into my life. The same way you’re explaining you as an educator manifested your role and the work you’re doing now. And I think it’s such an important thing to remind ourselves that we are the creators of our destinies. And at any moment we can change something we’re not happy about. So I just want to share that story as well. Real quick.


Kelly Weaver (24:36):
Yeah. I literally, they had, they called chicken skin here in Hawaii. I mean, that is a cry. Yes, you totally did. And you know what, that’s another good point. Even if something doesn’t happen at the end of it, right. You just never know what it’s going to eventually, you don’t know, like it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over. It could, it happened to me. Like I won’t bore you with another story, but I do a radio segment here in Hawaii on Tuesdays. And I initially, you know, was asked to just do one episode and they weren’t they weren’t calling me back and they were calling me back and I like got really upset. I’m like they said, they were going to put me on. It was, you know, to help me promote my book. And then sure enough now only am I now on one episode, if through a whole other story, I’m now on the show on Tuesdays. So again, when I thought I was mad that they weren’t calling me for one thing, the universe was like, you said, you want it to be on radio. It was already working in the background for me. And it was working better than I expected. So sometimes you just want to say, okay, you know,


Sam Demma (25:40):
Yep. What if things could turn out better than you expected? That’s the question you ask yourself. Right. And, and it’s funny, like, I, I was thinking the same thing. So like what ended up happening is I had the choice to make it was to leave what I was doing now and do something very different that I wasn’t as passionate about or to continue doing the work I’m doing now. And so I ended up not going, so I didn’t want to give up something that I love here, but we still stay in touch and who knows what’s going to happen four or five years down the road. Right.


Sam Demma (26:09):
So we just keep living the Aloha lifestyle. I love it. Well, this interview is taking an amazing turn. I’m so glad we touched upon this. If you could give your younger education self one piece of advice, if you could go back 23 years and speak to Kelly, when she just started teaching, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?


Kelly Weaver (26:31):
Oh, my that’s a great question. I think it would be to not to be able to say, and I know that that maybe sounds counterintuitive, but I now live by the mantra. Does it tire or does it inspire me? And I think early on in our careers, as you know, we want it, we want to be the model teacher, which is great. We want to do all the things, but we burn ourselves out, you know, when we take away from ourselves and our own self care. And so it would just be that it’s, it’s okay to say, no, you’re not a bad person. You’re setting you’re setting boundaries because you need that. And I think it with COVID this past year, I’m hoping a lot of educators were able to do that. They were able to set those boundaries because otherwise, you know, I think that’s, you know, you just would burn out. And I see that in so many younger people, they feel obligated to say yes to everything, you know? So I would just tell myself it’s okay to say no, sometimes


Sam Demma (27:39):
Amazing love that. Awesome. And if someone’s listening to this love, the conversation wants to either buy your book, get in touch with you, ask a question, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you?


Kelly Weaver (27:50):
I do actually have a website so they could, you know, email me on there. It’s www.soulvivor808.com. And you can also just email me at soulvivor808@gmail.com as well. I’d love to connect if anyone has any questions at all.


Sam Demma (28:16):
Amazing Kelly, thank you so much again for taking some time to chat about all this on the show. Enjoy the rest of your school year and well, we’ll talk soon.


Kelly Weaver (28:25):
Aloha. Thank you, Sam.

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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.