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Shane Beckett – Principal at Donald Young School/Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program

Shane Beckett - Principal at Donald Young School/Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program
About Shane Beckett

Shane Beckett (@MrShaneBeckett), is the Principal at Donald Young School in Emo, ON. He started his career as a teacher at Onigaming School at Onigaming FN and then moved to Fort Frances High School where he was a Physical Education teacher and a Guidance Counsellor. Six years ago he became a Vice Principal at Robert Moore School before moving to Donald Young School where he has been the Principal for the past four years.

He enjoys working with students of all ages and has really learned to enjoy leading an elementary school. Shane still coaches high school athletics (football and soccer).

Connect with Shane: Email | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Donald Young School

Onigaming School

Fort Frances High School

Robert Moore School

Natural Helpers Program

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 (00:59):
This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is Shane Beckett. Shane is the Principal at Donald Young school in Emo, Ontario. He started his career as a teacher at, Onagaming school, in Onagaming FN, and then moved to Fort Francis high school where he was a physical education teacher and a guidance counselor. Six years ago, he became a Vice Principal at Robert Moore school before moving to Donald Young school where he has been the principal for the past four years. Shane enjoys working with students of all ages and has really learned to enjoy leading an elementary school. Shane still coaches high school athletics, along with his teaching career, coaching football and soccer. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Shane, and I will see you on the other side, Shane, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Please start by introducing yourself.


Shane Beckett (01:54):
Yeah, sure. You bet. Thanks for having me on. My name’s Shane Beckett. I’m a Principal at Donald Young school in the small town of Emo Ontario, which is about halfway between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay. We’re a little rural school, K to 8 and I’m excited to be on the show.


Sam Demma (02:11):
When did you realize throughout your own journey as a student looking for careers, that education was the field for you?


Shane Beckett (02:19):
Well, I mean, for me, I guess it started, I had some you know, traumatic stuff happen as, as a kid and school was a safe place for me and teachers were kind of that inspiration. And so always growing up, those were the, those were the people I looked up to. Those were the people that made me feel safe. And so I guess it would, you know, in, in a, in a way when I was little thought about that, I wanted to aspire to be those people. And now it’s more me thinking about wanting to give that back to to kids and help motivate kids to move forward to


Sam Demma (02:48):
When you say it was your safe space, what do you think made it a safe space and those educators that contributed to you feeling that way? What did they do that helped you feel that way?


Shane Beckett (02:57):
Well, you know, what was interesting as a kid, I didn’t really know any better that things weren’t going well for me as a kid. Cause I just thought that all kids were going through the same thing as me, but now when I, when I look back at it, you know, these these teachers accepted me for who I was and for some of the behaviors I might have had at that time, didn’t single me out. Didn’t make me feel like I was any different than any of the other kids. And, you know, sometimes when I was getting into situations as a, as a young kid rebelling a bit, they you know, they’d sit and they’d listen to me. They’d they’d I guess, relate to where I was coming from. And sometimes, you know, maybe gimme the benefit of the doubt or gimme that motivational talk you know, some of that nice sports chatter. And I think some of those things really helped me to feel safe in that Mo in that moment. And then being able to have some of those teachers be involved in sports for me too, really was a, was a, was a key thing for me. I got to be around the right group of people and got to get some of that aggression and behavior out on the sports field rather than having it own in the playground.


Sam Demma (04:04):
I love it. We definitely need educators who accept human beings for who they are and hear them out and listen. And it sounds like the ones you had in your life did an amazing job at what point. So growing up, you know, you aspired to be like, like, like the educators you had, at what point did you formalize it and start making the decision to pursue the path. And from that moment forward, what did the journey look like?


Shane Beckett (04:29):
Well, so high school being an athlete and, and probably doing fairly well in, in athletics, the goal was to be a PHED teacher. That’s what I was gonna do to grow up nice. And a BU my buddy, and I mean, my best friend and I were both, that’s what we were gonna do. We were gonna grow up to be, you know, the, the high school PhysEd teachers in a way we go what was great was that we had an opportunity to do co-op placements when we were in grade 12 and I got to do the first semester and he hit the second semester doing the co-op placement in, at an elementary school with seven. And eights really helped me to realize, yeah, this is exactly what I want to do. And then my buddy, when he went into it, he’s like, man, I, I don’t like kids, like, and it was an opportunity for him to realize that rather than going through, you know, four or five years of university, and then realizing that he doesn’t like kids.


Shane Beckett (05:16):
So I’ve always kind of thought that I wanted to get into education in particular into the Fette into things and be able to coach and give back in that regards too. And co-op gave me that opportunity to really solidify. Yeah, that’s what I want to do. And then the process was really a roundabout way. I was a football player and had some looks in the states and blew up my knee and, and then bounced around a couple of schools in, in Canada and ended up at the university of Manitoba. And from there got some pretty cool exposure got to volunteer with a Paralympic sport called gold ball and took my coaching career kind of in that regards became the national coach of the, of the Paralympic team and got to travel the world. So I got some cool experiences there that helped me as a PHED teacher to learn how to adapt programs and specialized programs in that regards.


Shane Beckett (06:07):
And then PHED naturally leads it to guidance, I guess, is kind of a natural thing when you’re doing all of that coaching and you get those connections with kids and got into, got into guidance and really felt that I was making a difference in that regards, not just so much on the sports field, but now making those connections that educators had with me as a as a student. And so I never thought I’d get into being a principal. It was never something E ever, ever wanted to do. My wife gave me a little nudge and cause it was something she was aspiring to do and I thought, well, I’ll go for it and, and, and see what happens. And just as the wheels kind of kept moving it it seemed to work one of the real cool, cool moments.


Shane Beckett (06:52):
And as I said, we’re going through the show notes. I was kind of saving the story for later, but I’ll jump into it now. Yeah, please. Yeah. So I’m a, I’m a guidance counselor and I went into went to a workshop about some local resources and not resources. I’m looking you know different programs and you know, government programs, those types of things that can help kids. And I saw they did a presentation on a program called natural helpers and it’s a big program in the states and there’s some school in CA schools in Canada that run it. And this there, the mom was from thunder bay and she mentioned that there was a double suicide at the high school and this natural helpers program really helped to support the kids and get, and kind of keep school normal and, and, and rolling.


Shane Beckett (07:42):
And so I went back to my administration and said, so like, what would happen at our school if we had a double suicide? And, you know, we talked me through some of these processes. And so I started to think, you know, what would we do at the school? Then I got to go to a, an anti-bullying workshop. And it was really based on the attachment theory. And I started to see myself in a lot of the discussion that they were having, cuz as a young kid, I was I was a bully and I could see that, that connection between having a caring adult and you know, and, and that student that needs it. So I went to my vice principal at the time and I said, Hey, do I got a deal for you? You give me one section per semester and I’ll be a caring adult for for kids that are coming into the schools in particular, we were thinking grade nines at the time they’re transitioned from elementary and you know what, you go to your administrator, that’s never really gonna happen.


Shane Beckett (08:39):
And he came back to me a couple weeks later and he goes, you got it. And I said, what do you mean? I got it goes, you got it. I says, what do I do now? He goes, I don’t know, you’re the one who wanted the time . So from there we, so from there we developed, we developed this it was kind of like a, a coach for kids and then moved into natural helpers program. But as I got to talk to this vice principal a little bit more, who’s now a superintendent in our board. It, he said he never wanted to get into administration either and it, but he realized that the higher he went, the more impact he could have on kids, not necessarily that direct impact, but through programming through these types of opportunities. And I thought, you know what? I’d like to be that guy that provides that spark for a teacher who comes in and has a crazy idea and then try to fight to get that, that idea rolling. And the program, when I ran, I mean, we, we saved lives through, through those years 110%, and we can get into those stories too, if you want. But it was that, that idea of being able to give people that opportunity, like he gave to me that really did spark my move into administration.


Sam Demma (09:48):
I had a pass guest and I mentioned this a few times now who told me the best candidate for principals are teachers who don’t wanna leave the classroom. And the best candidate for superintendents are principals who don’t wanna leave administration. You know, when you love the work you’re doing so much it, it means you’re in a good position, but it, you know, if you love it and you truly enjoy it, you could probably make a bigger impact. Like you’re saying in a, in a, in a much larger way at a higher level where you’re seeing, you know, this Eagle view or bird’s eye view, as opposed to on the ground, which is still very important. They’re both extremely important jobs. You mentioned saving lives and I would love to hear maybe one of the stories that comes to mind. I think something that really inspires educators who are considering this vocation and people who are in it, who need a little reminder is a story about how a program changed the student’s life. And if it’s a serious one, absolutely changed their name just for the privacy.


Shane Beckett (10:46):
Oh yeah. I’ll leave I’ll I’ll yeah, I’ll definitely do that. So this natural helpers, program’s pretty, it is a pretty cool program because it, it basically takes kids who are naturally helping their, their peer group and it teaches them to be better helpers. So we would, we made a little tagline in our group, you helping helpers be better helpers. And so what we did is we used our school climate survey. And again, this administrator that I worked with, he moved into being the principal of the school and I said, Hey, can I get on the school climate survey? Like, I just want, I need names of kids. I, I need to know you know, it, you know, Johnny goes to Sally for all, for all of her his problems, right? Like that’s the go-to person in this group. And I need to find those 20 kids from all walks of life around the school so that we can pull them and help them be better at helping their friends, being able to see the red flags, know the resources and people to go to, and also having a contact point, like someone like myself, that they can come to and say, Hey, you know what, like this is what’s going on.


Shane Beckett (11:46):
And I need a hand on trying to fix it. So we, we got on the school climate survey and for we, we started this program where you do a, at the beginning of the school year, you do a retreat with these kids, no cell phones, no whatever. And we, we learn how to be better helpers. And some of the best moments in that retreat is around the campfire at night when these kids don’t really know each other, cuz they’re coming from all the different corners of the school, they start to share and start to become this cohesive group, which is a really cool thing. Like, you know, after two nights kids are crying cause they don’t wanna go back to school because it feels so safe to be in that group. And then we do monthly check-ins and, and training. And so one of the, one of the training pieces that we did was around teen suicide and we did kind of a modified version of safe talk and talked about the process that this is, you know, too much of a load for kids to carry.


Shane Beckett (12:44):
They need to be able to, you know be okay with their friend being upset with them, for going to an adult and saying, this is, this is too much for me. And then we worked on that process. And so where you see where it really worked was one night I got a I got a phone call from one of my students and he’s like Mr. Beckett, can I can I come see you in the morning? I said, sure. What’s going on? Oh, not, no, no big deal. We got this figured out. I, I just want to come and touch base with you. I said, sure. So the way the story went was we had two grade 12 students, overachieving kids. They weren’t necessarily friends, but they would Skype together and, and do homework together in like, you know, for you physics.


Shane Beckett (13:26):
And one of the big things we talked about with these kids is lots of times when you’re talking to your friend and they say, you know, something’s going hard. We like to come back to them with, oh yeah, we understand. Cause it’s hard for me too. And we don’t ask that, that why question. So this kid they were studying away and, and you know, one of the kids says, oh man, I’m so tired. And so rather than, you know, the student is part of my program saying, oh, I know me too. I was up late last night. He said, oh really? Why? And just like that, this kid said, well, last night I tried to end my own life. And so, wow. So now my students freaking out that he doesn’t know what to do for me. So he caught, he texts his buddy and says, Hey, what are we gonna do?


Shane Beckett (14:11):
He goes, we’re gonna go talk to Beckett in the morning. That’s what we’re gonna do. And we’ll get this all figured out. So they came in, they spoke to me, I spoke to the guidance department and the the school counselor. And without me ever talking to that student who said that they were talking about ending their own life. We got help for that student. And and got him the counseling that he needed and everything worked out a few weeks later, I ran into that student. I know he knew, I knew. And I knew that he knew that I knew and right. And so we were at I think it was an elementary Christmas concert or something. And I ran into him and I just said, Hey, you have a really good friend in Johnny. And he just smiled. And he said, yeah, I know.


Shane Beckett (14:53):
I said, are you doing okay? He goes, I’m doing great. And that’s it. I never had to talk to the student. I didn’t, but the process was in place. And we established that as part of this program. And we saved that kid’s life without me ever having to be directly involved in it. And so it just spoke so, so loudly about the importance of the program and what it was doing for kids and the awareness that these high school kids were having around those situations. So that’s the story. One, one particular story of saving a kid’s life without me directly doing it.


Sam Demma (15:22):
Tell me a little bit more about the program itself. It sounds really impactful. What does it look like? Is it something you still do in schools today? Like tell me more about


Shane Beckett (15:30):
It. Okay. Well, Matt, it’s, it’s a can program. Like I Googled it and it’s these two binders you buy for a thousand dollars, right? And then you kind of morph it into your own. It’s pretty big in the states. If you Google natural helpers, you’ll see that there’s a lot of school districts in the states that have these natural pro helpers, you know, websites and programs and whatever else, but we hadn’t seen it in our school district. Now the unfortunate part is I guess, twofold. About four years into the program, we had to work rural situation where we weren’t allowed to do extracurriculars. And so this was deemed an extracurricular. And so, because we went on retreats and we did those things. And so I wasn’t able to continue the program that one year. And the following year I switched positions and moved to as a technology coach out of the board office, cuz now I’m in the principal’s pool and all of these things and no one picked up the slack behind me.


Shane Beckett (16:26):
And so after that story, basically the program kind of died, but one of the cool things too, that it did for our high school getting on that school climate survey and let that administrator allowing me to get onto that survey. One of the questions was named two teachers that you go to. And at that point in time, I mean, sure, I had lots of hits. Okay. But that was my role. Our principal had more hits than our entire guidance department at that time. Wow. Cause our guidance department was really geared towards the academia, the post-secondary, the paperwork side of things, but not the, you know, heartfelt touchy, feely part of it. And that was an issue. But because we got that data, it, it started to morph how our guidance department looked. And so they brought in new counselors that did the academia part of it, but also then provided more of a counseling part of it on that end. And so now I feel even though at our local high school, we don’t have that program in place. We have changed the way that that pro the, the actual department runs. And so it is still a safe place and it’s a, and, and a secure place for kids to go a supportive place for kids to go. And maybe there’s not as much of a need for that natural helpers program anymore because we help change the face of that department in general. So if


Sam Demma (17:49):
That that’s awesome it makes total sense. What keeps you personally inspired and motivated with a full cup to show up and try and make a positive difference on so many young people’s lives?


Shane Beckett (18:01):
Well I have on my whiteboard at work there’s two, two quotes that, that I have on there. So that’s the first thing I see every time that I, that I walk in. And so the, the the first one is the good is the enemy of great and the sports kind of quotes that I’ve used when coaching, but it works for school as well. And it’s that idea of if things are going well and things are good, we’re afraid to make changes because we don’t wanna wreck good. Right. But we’ll never get to great unless we make those changes. So being able to just kind of see that and remember that when staff is coming in and saying, Hey, I’ve got this idea or when students are coming in and, and having ideas for clubs or those types of things, like being willing to be flexible enough to make some changes, because things are going well at our school, but we’ll never get to great unless we make some changes.


Shane Beckett (18:52):
And then the other quote that I have up there that we developed as part of my coaching is the ABCs of win. And so ABC is anything but chance and win is what’s important now. So what’s important now is anything but chance. So there was one thing that I used a lot in my counseling with kids too, is like, let’s not leave it to a coin flip and say like, am I gonna have a good day heads or tails? Let’s let’s do all we can right now, so that we’re not leaving it to chance that, you know, so it’s that kind of proactive approach and that, that empowering approach too, that I, it, it’s not just chance that life doesn’t happen to me. I happen to life. And so those are two things that every day I see up on my boards, that help to inspire me when working with kids or working with teachers.


Sam Demma (19:34):
I love that being a sport, having a sport background, my myself also blowing out my knees and my senior year of high school and having three surgeries losing out on a full ride scholarship to Memphis, Tennessee, like, oh, awesome. We have some similarities. That proactive mindset I think is so important. What resources have you found helpful in terms of your own professional development and learning? That’s helped you in education that you kind of proactively Seeked out and maybe it’s well, you shared one, which is a natural helpers course, which is amazing. Yeah. And people can definitely check that out, but I’m wondering if there’s any other philosophies, people, you follow books, courses, things that you’ve been exposed to throughout your career that you really resonated with or found helpful.


Shane Beckett (20:22):
Well, you know, it’s that’s a tough question as far as resources. Yeah. But not much of a reader. Like that’s just not my jam. And I think that if I was to write the literacy test right now that I’d have a difficult time passing a literacy test, just cuz it’s not, not my thing, but it, I mean, I’d use that as an inspiration too, because I have other skills that allow me to get to where I am. Like I don’t have to have that skill. I can use, you know, Grammarly to help me do my writing and, and that type of thing. So not much of a reader, but it’s I mean, learning from the kids really has been a big resource for me and actually sitting and, and listening to them. And then what’s been really empowering for me too, is when you’re in the high school and you’re teaching and now we’re in a small town and I see those kids that I didn’t know, I made an impact with that now, you know they’re running the local gym and my kid’s now going to that gym.


Shane Beckett (21:14):
I know you can sit back and say, Hey, you know, Mr. Beckett, like it was a really big deal when, when this happened and, and learning, learning in some of those decision points that, that I made, whether I went the right way or the wrong way, it’s been a real valuable, valuable lesson for me. So it’s that, that reflection part. And then my brother-in-law, who’s younger than me and wise, beyond his years has really got me thinking into those, you know, Shiism and some of those types of things and, and the, the power of being in the now, you know, and being the master of your own destiny. And those are some really big things for me. And then, geez, now you’re gonna put me on the spot. I don’t know the name of this newsletter. I, I, I subscribed to one newsletter, man. No worries, but it’s, but it’s a leadership, it’s a leadership newsletter that has a sports reflection on it. Nice. So it talks about, you know, bill Belichick and, and how he does this with his players to motivate them. And it’s a quick little snippet, you know, once a week kind of a hit. And so that resonates with me because it’s sports leaders and then being able to learn from their leader leadership abilities and bring that back into the school.


Sam Demma (22:21):
Love it. I love it. And it sounds like you’ve had some great experiences learning from the students themselves. I’m sure you’ve probably also had great experiences learning from colleagues, whether it’s other principals you’ve worked with even teachers you’ve worked with. I think if you approach every situation with an open mind, knowing that you can learn something from every person you meet, you grab a lesson from anything you experience, which is really empowering.


Shane Beckett (22:50):
Yeah, absolutely. Like, like talk about this superintendent that we have now. Like I’ve just learned so much from him in where he inspired me by giving me that opportunity to then talking to me about being able to be a, a bigger impact, the higher you go, the less direct and the less of those like interactions, but then at the same time, being able to provide those opportunities. It’s, it’s people like that. And it’s nice to be able to, again, in a small town, be able to have that opportunity to go back to him and say, Hey, I want you to know the impact that you had on me. And the reason I am where I am today is because of some of the things you did for me, whether you knew you were doing it for me or not.


Sam Demma (23:29):
I love it. What if you could go back to your first year in education, what advice or feedback would you have given to your younger self that you think would’ve been helpful to hear when you were just starting and not that you would tell yourself anything to change your path, but advice you think that would be helpful for someone who’s just considering getting into education or that you would’ve liked to have heard more of when you were just starting?


Shane Beckett (23:56):
Well, I mean, I think some of the, some of the mistakes I made in my first year was trying to be friends with the students rather than friendly with the students. Mm. And it, and it’s tricky when you’re, when you’re coaching and you’re teaching PHED it’s that different environment. Right. But I think sometimes being young and being new and teaching 18 year olds, it’s it, it’s hard to differentiate, differentiate that. And I made the mistake, I think a few times of thinking that you know, being friends and then we’d do the right thing and then it wouldn’t come back to bite me did come back to bite me. Like I had some early times in my career where I got written up by administration because of the decisions that I made that I, you know, and maybe being a little bit too open and honest with, with my students where, because I’m thinking more of the friend line than I am, you know, that, that separation between teacher and whatever.


Shane Beckett (24:52):
So learning some of those things. And the, the other thing too, was really that the face to face communication, some, you know, earlier in my career as a athletic director, you know, sending the email rather than talking to the person, you know, and the way that you text on a page can be misread or misunderstood or tone can be misunderstood. And not having that face to face or even the phone call where the tone of voice can, can come in. And one thing I learned from teaching career studies as part of my high school career was that seven per 7% of your message comes from the words that are said, and the other 93% comes from your tone of voice in your body language. And so the words on the page just don’t do enough. So that was one thing I really learned too, is sometimes you need to have that face to face, even if it’s not the diff the, you know, the challenging conversation, it may end up being a challenging conversation because of the way that people read, read the words on the screen.


Sam Demma (25:52):
Something one of my mentors always tells me is people will interpret your written words, whether email or text based on the emotional state that they’re currently in. Yeah. If someone is really upset and it has nothing to do with you, they’ll open your email and read it from a more upset lens or a frustrated lens. And yeah, you’re absolutely right. I even think about a recent situation where I had to break bad news to somebody in my life. And I was thinking about writing an email and then I thought to myself, no way, cuz this could be interpreted in so many different ways. And you know, you take that time and that at first, what feels like an uncomfortable situation to have the phone call and have the real time conversation. How did you get over those situations where you knew making the phone call was the right decision? Although it was uncomfortable, you know, you do it anyway.


Shane Beckett (26:43):
Well, I, one, there was something that I read somewhere. I think my quote unquote online boyfriend is Tim Ferris back in the day. And some of the things that he would talk about in his podcast or some of the readings that I would do was challenge himself to be an INCOM uncomfortable situations every day. You know, if it’s walking in the mall and making eye contacts with someone and playing chicken with eye contact, who’s the first person to look away. It’s not gonna be any sort of conflict with that person, but it’s challenging you to feel uncomfortable and be okay with that. And so having some of those moments where you it’s okay to feel uncomfortable, it helps you then to make that move. And then ultimately it’s experience like you, you just gotta bite the bullet and do the first one, then the second one’s easier.


Shane Beckett (27:29):
Right. And then the third one’s easier. And then I guess finally being prepared sometimes for those difficult and challenging conversations. The little piece of advice we, we did a, when I first got into the leadership pool, we did a a workshop on challenging conversations. And I can’t remember who the author was. I’ve got the book at the school, but I’ve opened it one time and it was for a challenging conversation and it was to look at it. But in there it really did lay out how to set up yourself for that challenging conversation. And then the piece of advice that she gave. And I’m a softie, I’m an emotional guy and very quick to like even move the tears when I’m feeling challenged. Her suggestion was to spin her up when you’re in that situation. And so what, and so we asked what that meant and she said like, if you literally, and like spanked her up, like puck her up the bottom end there it’ll actually make it biologically almost impossible to cry. And so by like squeezing your cheeks, like that’ll take that opportunity that, that, you know, it removes that from you. And so I’ve actually tried that a couple times and it works. So hopefully I don’t make a face when I do it so that the other person on the other end knows that I’m doing that. But some of the, you know, you need some little, little tips and tricks to be ready to have those things. And so being prepared for the challenging conversation is, is definitely a big one too.


Sam Demma (28:54):
I love that. That’s a cool, it sounds like an awesome book. I definitely want you to email it over when you go back to school. I’d love to include it in the show notes. This has been a, a great conversation. I appreciate you taking the time this evening to hop on here and chat. If someone wants to have a conversation with you, reach out, ask a question, bounce some ideas around, what would be the best way for them to get in touch.


Shane Beckett (29:14):
Well, I’m, I am on Twitter. So it’s @MrShaneBeckett, just as it is with two ts at the end. Sometimes people make that mistake and I mean, I’ll fire up my email. That’s fine too. So it’s basically my name, shane.beckett.rrdsb.com. Yeah. And I’m, I’m always available to chat, to try to figure things out to bounce ideas off one another. It only makes us better in the long run.


Sam Demma (29:42):
Awesome. Shane, thank you again for doing this. I appreciate you. Keep up the great work you’re doing in education and we’ll talk soon.


Shane Beckett (29:49):
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much, Sam. It’s been a, it’s been a lot of fun. Thanks.


Sam Demma (29:52):
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 Shane Beckett

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.

Abbey Gingerich – Teacher and Student Leadership Advisor (KCI)

Abbey Gingerich – Teacher and Student Leadership Advisor (KCI)
About Abbey Gingerich

Abbey (@MsAGingerich) is the leadership teacher and Student Activities Director at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute (KCI) in Ontario, Canada. Her leadership program includes over 100 students who are involved in planning school fundraisers, assemblies, special events, and daily activities to make the school a more spirited and engaging place to be.

Last year, Abbey and her student leaders were honoured to receive the award for having the most school spirit in Ontario! Abbey believes that small, consistent acts of positivity can change the world. Her enthusiastic and creative approach to leadership has drawn students to her hands-on, spirited, and community-building leadership program that is quickly becoming the leading program of its kind in Ontario.

Aside from teaching leadership at KCI, Abbey has coached basketball and rugby and also teaches English and Art. Wherever Abbey goes, she leaves a trail of glitter; her enthusiasm and passion for student leadership are infectious.

Connect with Abbey: Email | Instagram | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute School Website

English at University of Waterloo

Ontario Student Leadership Conference

Police Foundations at Confederation College

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 bring you today’s interview, Abby Gingerich. She is a leadership teacher and student activity director at Kitchener Waterloo Collegiate Institute in Ontario, Canada. Wow, lots of words. Her leadership program includes over a hundred students who are involved in planning school fundraisers, assemblies, special events, and daily activities to make the school a more spirited and engaging place to be. Last year, Abby and her student leaders were honored to receive the award for having the most school spirit in Ontario. And I can highly guarantee, and I can highly back that statement because I saw them at OSLC, the Ontario student leadership conference, and they are freaking loud. Abby believes that small, consistent actions of positivity can change the world. I totally agree. Her enthusiasm and creative approach to leadership has drawn students to her hands on spirited and community building program that is quickly becoming the lead leading program of its kind in Ontario. Aside from teaching leadership at KCI, she has coached basketball, rugby, teaches english and art. Wherever Abby goes, she leaves a trail of glitter. Her enthusiasm and passion for student leadership is infectious. Without further ado, please help me in well welcoming Abby to the show. Abby, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you, can you start by introducing yourself to the audience and maybe sharing why you got into this work that you’re doing with young people today?


Abbey Gingerich (01:36):
Sure, so my name is Abby Gingrich and I’m in my third year in this role of student activities advisor at Kitchener Collegiate Institute and that’s in the KW area. Ooh, how did I get into this? I, I mean, it would go back to when I was in high school, I, I was obviously involved in, in student leadership. I actually went to another local school down the street; WCI, and I had great teachers and mentors there. And I, I mean, looking back, I should have just gone right into teaching. All of my teachers told me to go into teaching. I think it’s a bit of a personality thing for me that I hate doing what everyone tells me to do so I delayed for a little bit and I thought I would, I don’t know.


Abbey Gingerich (02:29):
I still went for English at UW and things like that which helped me then when I decided to switch over to teaching. But I was working at a bank for a little bit. I worked at a hotel which were all a great, great experiences, but just wasn’t so that like, it just wasn’t lighting my life on fire. Mm. And so I was living with one of my best friends at the time, and I remember, and she was a teacher here at KCI, and I remember seeing her talk about her students and talk about the experiences she was having. And she just loved it. And I had like this moment sitting on the couch and I was like, oh, I should be doing that. And so here I am, and it was I don’t know, I guess I remember looking at the leadership teacher role and think, I probably wouldn’t be able to have a chance at that role until I’ve been teaching for maybe five or 10 years. And then it just sort of worked out I don’t know if you wanna call it fate or destiny at KCI, but like an English teacher, an art teacher and the leadership teacher, we’re all leaving at the same time to other opportunities. And so they were able to package this role for me and it just felt like the perfect fit. And here I am.


Sam Demma (03:50):
That’s awesome. That’s so cool. And you could just feel the energy when you talk about your passion for teaching. So I absolutely love this. This is so cool. Yeah. You know, right now is a little bit different than maybe your first couple years in education. I know there’s a bunch of challenges, maybe share a couple of the challenges you’ve been facing and how you’ve come up with solutions or what types of virtual things are you doing to make up for it?


Abbey Gingerich (04:16):
Yeah. oh, it’s, it’s tough. Yeah. Especially keeping momentum going with school spirit, especially online. It’s, it’s just challenging to come up with fresh new creative ideas online. Luckily I’ve, I’ve always had really great students that I can draw inspiration from. And so one of the first things we did was just start small. Cuz obviously change is hard and it it’s scary to adapt sometimes. And so we figured that starting small with maybe one or two virtual activities a week or something and then building on those and just building up the height and the excitement and, and still saying to our community and to our staff and our students, we’re still here. We still care about our school spirit and our school community. And here is some of the smaller things that we’re doing. So it was just little things like wear some Raider wear and send in a photo online and, and tag us in it or wear your comfy clothes and send a picture of that.


Abbey Gingerich (05:25):
So, yes. We started out with just sort of these small, consistent little events and we’ve sort of grown them into, into bigger things as well. I also had staff send in photos or send in videos of like little tutorials that they at home. So some of our science teachers did experiments at home and we shared those online. Some of our one of our staff members is an expert juggler. So we put a juggling challenge out. And we just took like these every day at home things that students could still be doing and just hype them up and made them into the most exciting thing that we possibly could. I I’m so hands on with my course and with my teaching, I, I like students up out of their seats. I like them interacting. And so that’s been, the biggest challenge for me is to, is to have to stay in my seat.


Abbey Gingerich (06:27):
And so, you know, there are some great programs online that I’ve been able to use. We do a lot of shared documents with the students that are in class and at home home. So they’re still collaborating together even if it is in a, in a smaller virtual capacity. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s something new every day and I’ve just had to challenge myself to say, you know, for the students and, and for the staff as well, I’m gonna do whatever I can to still make it exciting and, and do some good KCI spirit stuff.


Sam Demma (07:05):
That’s awesome. Out of all the, I guess, virtual events or, you know, different events that you’ve done so far, what’s one stuck the most, like was there any one particular event that all the kids just loved it and kept wanting to do it again and again, and maybe something comes to mind, maybe not, but I’m curious.


Abbey Gingerich (07:25):
So we’re actually repeating this event on a larger scale coming up, but one of our staff members and his son actually built a Marvel track at home, like a Marvel obstacle course. And he sent me the video footage of it and I just turned it into like this. We were calling it the race, you didn’t know you needed. And, and like we had little videos of each marble and introducing them and then the race. And I think the host had like over a hundred comments on it of kids just engaging and upset that their marble didn’t win or, you know, saying the race was rigged and everything like that. So it, it was just something that you know, was supposed to be fun and bring some, some energy online and had real, no other real purpose beyond just that school spirit which I’m okay with.


Abbey Gingerich (08:26):
And and so we’re doing it again in place of one of our larger sporting events that we would normally have happening right now. We’re doing it again and we’re introducing new racers and we have our football coaches commentating the race. The students who are planning the event have created like over 15 feet of track in their, at home time. And so I think it’s, I think it’s gonna be pretty fun. I hope it’s gonna be pretty fun, but for some, I have no idea why, but for some reason it blew up on our social media which was just a nice experience too.


Sam Demma (09:04):
It’s the whole idea of just taking an idea offline and then showcasing it online and making it kind of funny. Right. It sounds like you’re introducing marbles, right? Like it’s pretty good. Yeah.


Abbey Gingerich (09:16):
I like that. I, I mean, and, and I say to the kids all the time, like if there’s, if there’s a way that we can just add some sparkle to something like, that’s just what I’m known for, like throwing glitter at everything. That’s sort of one of the best examples I’ve had I have is that it’s yeah. Just something that we didn’t even plan it. Right. It was footage. I borrowed from another our staff member and said, I think, I think the kids would be into this. And again, it’s just those moments that say, Hey, here we are. We’re still thinking of you. Hope this brings a smile to your face and let’s have some fun.


Sam Demma (09:49):
I love that. My, my next question was gonna be, how do we make students feel appreciated and heard during these times? Is it just the nudge on the shoulder, the unexpected message? Like how do you make your students feel appreciated?


Abbey Gingerich (10:04):
Yeah, I think, I think acknowledging them as individuals and still showing them that they’re valued especially right now in the, in these COVID times when we’re not connecting the way we usually do. Like I’m I miss a lot of my students. I only really interact with the, the 10 that are in front of me each day. You don’t have those same moments of like walking through the hallways and, and seeing a student you taught last year or seeing the girls from the basketball team that you coach. Right. I, I am, I’m really missing those moments. So we’ve been putting out some smaller challenges to some like to our athletes and saying here, send us a transition video of you. I don’t know, it’s a TikTok trend. I’m not quite up on that, but they’re doing these transitions from their everyday close to their school spirit wear or their athletic gear. And so you’re able to connect still one on one that way. And I can say, thank you so much for the video. And then sometimes it opens a conversation of how are you doing, or I really miss rugby right now. And so I think getting in touch with those students or, or when a student reaches out, really making sure that we take the time to acknowledge that and, and to take it that step further and just ask how people are doing those small moments can make a big difference as well.


Sam Demma (11:32):
Cool. And we talked a little bit about some great ideas and great successes, but it seems like the education state right now is almost like throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks. And of course, sometimes things fall. I’m curious to know if you’ve learned from any of your own personal mistakes, and I don’t even wanna call it mistakes, but I want to call it an experiment because that’s really what it is during this time. And is there anything worth sharing with the audience that you think might be valuable to hear?


Abbey Gingerich (11:59):
Yeah, I I think personally the biggest issue I ran into was just trying to do everything exactly the same way, or just trying to if think, thinking I could just convert it to online and it would be totally fine. And, and there are just some activities that don’t convert well. And so a lot of work went into revamping, a couple of my courses and revamping even just projects as well. My leadership course looks to totally different from when it, from how it usually would look. And, and like the stress got to me pretty early on it, it was, it’s very overwhelming. And I, and I know I share this with a lot of other student activity teachers, but you feel like there’s sort of this extra weight to keep all the fun and, and the excitement and the school spirit going.


Abbey Gingerich (12:57):
And, and that’s hard. And, and also respecting that there’s a global pandemic going on, right. Like we shouldn’t be doing everything that we normally do because we need to put student safety and staff safety first. And so, yeah, the wake up call for me, I think, was just recognizing that I was heading into that burnout territory. And, you know, we’re, we’re told to give a lot of compassion to our students and just that reminder that we need to give a little bit of that compassion to us as well. And so doing again, doing those small, all consistent things every day or every other day, I think can have a bigger impact than doing big, exciting things all the time. Cuz it’s, it’s not sustainable right now. I don’t think anyways,


Sam Demma (13:49):
I love that it’s funny, small, consistent things. My grade tall voters should teacher Mike loud foot. The principle he taught me was small, consistent actions and we applied that to picking up trash and let, to pick waste. And now it’s like a guiding principle we follow. So I love that if, if you can just think about what’s the one small thing I can do right now instead of bake the whole pie at once, you know, a week later, it’ll have a pie instead of stressing the whole week. I think that’s an amazing piece of advice on the same top of, of advice. You know, an educator listening might be in their first year of teaching and maybe you can think back for a second to when you first taught your first year. You’re probably super excited. Now imagine if that first year had the global pandemic as well, and you were thinking to yourself, what the heck did I sign up for here? What advice would you give that teacher? I mean, you already gave some brilliant advice around, you know, not doing everything, just taking a small action. What other advice would you have to a fellow teacher?


Abbey Gingerich (14:46):
Yeah, there’s, I think there’s two that I, and I still really carry these close to me now asking for help makes a huge difference. Like you’re kind of just thrown into this role and then, and you’re given all of the social media power and you know, you wanna do all these fundraising activities as well, and you wanna make sure you’re meeting all all the needs in terms of diversity and inclusion for your students and, and that a lot. And so I think the more that you can involve other groups and clubs in the school and talk to your admin team and get other staff on board who are, who are gonna be hopefully just as enthusiastic but as supportive. And I am very lucky at KCI to have an incredibly supportive admin team and a very supportive staff.


Abbey Gingerich (15:38):
And so staff checks in with me constantly on, can I help with something? Are you doing okay? Can my group or my club, or you know, my group of students help with something and those moments of collaboration create really valuable learning opportunities for the students. But also then just help share the burden or the weight. Anyways. I don’t see it as a burden. I, I obviously I love it, but but just help spread that out a little bit. So it’s not as overwhelming and sometimes I forget, right. I forget to ask for help. Yeah. So I think the more you can, you can reach out and ask for help the better the other thing is get your students involved or ask your kids for advice. Anytime we’re doing something that I like, I guess would be on trend.


Abbey Gingerich (16:31):
I only know it’s on because the kids told me. And so I, I, you know, we like to, we like to spoof some of the, the trendy things that are happening. We like putting out really funny videos or, or copying a video that’s really popular. And again, those, those, I wouldn’t know about those without the kids. So ask your kids because it’s, it’s also there your audience, right. Do you wanna know what they wanna see and what they care about seeing, and, and some of that funny, again, popular stuff or the stuff that’s gonna create hype. The, the kids know that far better than I ever will.


Sam Demma (17:10):
That’s so true. That’s awesome. And I think it’s a great, a piece of advice because even myself, you mentioned TikTok, I decided about a month and a half ago to take a year off social media. So I could just imagine I’m gonna come back in a year and I’m gonna be like, what dance are you doing? Where is that from? What is that? Yeah, so that’s a brilliant, that’s a brilliant piece of advice. I’m curious to know as well during your career. You’ve probably had students reach out and thank you for the work you’ve done in leadership. And it’s, it’s, it’s changed their life. It’s helped them find new parts of themselves. They didn’t know existed out of all those students. Do you have a story of one that the leadership work that you guys are doing at the school has transformed someone that’s that’s worth sharing? And the reason I’m asking is because there might be a teacher or educator or principal listening who’s burnt out and is losing faith and maybe considering doing some different type of work. And if they can remind themselves why they started by hearing the story of a serious impact, I think it could really reinspire them and motivate them. And if it’s a very serious story, feel free to change the name for privacy reasons. Of course. But does any story come to mind for you?


Abbey Gingerich (18:23):
Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s funny being sort of I guess I, I would still say I’m pretty young or new you into the world of teaching. So yeah, the ones that have reached out to me and thanked me are still sort of at that transition point and where they’ve thanked me is that I help them find a path or I’ve helped them. I’ve helped give them the tools to on some of their goals or to decide on a career path. So I did have a student reach out to me last year and he was in leadership. Well, it feels like forever ago, but just last year. And so I, I don’t think he knew when he signed up for leadership. I don’t think he knew what he was getting himself into. Like I I always say that I will give my most, I will give my attention to the students that are gonna put in the most work and not cuz I wanna ignore anybody, but the students that are gonna put the hustle in or have that drive whether they have the skills or the tools or not, I’m gonna, I’m gonna help provide that, but it’s, it’s, it’s that the heart, right?


Abbey Gingerich (19:32):
Those students that come in with that and are just ready to go and, you know, wanna make stuff happen. That’s where my attention is gonna go. And so I had a student who sort of started off pretty quiet coming into the course and then found himself in sort of a lead role in his event that he was planning. And he did a phenomenal job. And so I think where that translated for him though, is that then he went on he’s doing police foundations at Conogo right now and he actually emailed me. It, I, it must have been during during quarantine in March or April time. But he, he emailed me and told me that he was just elected student leader for police foundations at conno SOGA. And it’s, he never thought that that would be a role that he would ever be interested in.


Abbey Gingerich (20:26):
And after experiencing that level of leadership at high school, he just knew that that’s where he wanted to take his life. And you know, and I think the best part was that he felt very accomplished and he was so proud of what he achieved and that’s something I just like, I just want the kids to know how much of an impact they can actually make even as a youth or as a teenager. I mean, I, I don’t think that really matters. I think, yeah, they can just do incredible things right now. And so when a student can come to that realization that’s, what’s most rewarding for me. And I have to remind myself too, cuz we take a lot of criticism sometimes or we have setbacks. And so to get those positive moments from, from past students it was, was special and, and really meaningful.


Sam Demma (21:21):
Yeah. And a lot of educators say that as teachers you’re seed planters and you might not see the plant grow for many years to come. So it’s cool that you’ve already had some students reach out and I’m sure they’ll continue to blossom over the years. If any other educator listening wants to reach out, bounce ideas around with you, maybe hear about some of the cool things you’re working on, what’s the best way for them to do so.


Abbey Gingerich (21:45):
Probably email; I’m just at abbey_gingerich@wrdsb.ca and email is probably the most convenient way to get ahold of me, or I do run the KCI Instagram account. So if they ever, I’ve had other schools message us through Instagram and just say, tell us about this idea or how did you make this happen? And I’m, I’m always more than happy to share resources or ideas as well. Yeah, I think again, those, that collaboration opportunity when we go to, you know, leadership conferences and stuff, I’m, I’m missing that, of course. And I think there’s still definitely some ways that we can do that and achieve that across different schools as well so I’m excited for that.


Sam Demma (22:31):
Well, if you’re listening right now, you better email Abby. She wants to talk. Awesome. Well Abby, thank you so much for taking some time to come on the show. I really appreciate it.


Abbey Gingerich (22:42):
Thank you, thank you for having me.


Sam Demma (22:44):
Typically at this point in the episode, I would be ending it and telling you to leave a review and tune in to the next one. But after our conversation ended, Abby and I went back and forth a little more and there was one more thing she wanted to add to this episode. So here it is. So what other unique ideas are going on right now? Maybe student led projects or staff led projects throughout the school?


Abbey Gingerich (23:07):
Yeah, so it might leadership class because of COVID, we’ve actually half of them are working at home and then I have half in class and they switch. So the at home crew, I wanted to still give them something that was valuable for them for the course. So I’ve actually created I’m calling them community outreach, passion projects, and they have an opportunity to identify a passion that they have which was very challenging for some but then also do research and further their education on that passion. And it didn’t have to be school related at all. Just something that again, you know, brings some fire to their life. And then I wanted them to, I challenged them anyway to find a way that they can convert that passion into something that can positively impact their community.


Abbey Gingerich (24:04):
And so their community might just be home their family. It might be their school community. It might be the KW community at whatever level they were comfortable creating something. That was sort of the added challenge. And then of course you add in all of the health and safety measures of COVID there. So I’m, I am in, I’m just blown away by what they’ve been able to achieve. I have student, I have a student who she sews and she’s been making masks and she’s actually been selling the masks to raise funds for indigenous rights in KW. And she has raised almost $800 on her own just at home. Oh wow. During COVID times. And now she’s even realizing that the fundraising is not enough. She’s ready to turn sort of her awareness into action. And she’s getting in touch with council members and members of, of leadership in the KW community and, and getting in touch with them on how to, again, further this cause.


Abbey Gingerich (25:14):
And that’s just been amazing. And I have another student that is is also a sewer, but is interested in climate change and she’s been collecting thrifted or used fabrics and repurposing them into SCRs and little pouches. And she’s been selling those and working on creating then also information on the fashion industry’s impact on the environment and how to be more sustainable. And so it, it’s so interesting to see the different levels that they’ve been able to take their projects and and these passions and translate them into something that’s gonna make an impact on their community. And then other students haven’t, they, they didn’t have to do a fundraiser component. Other students are creating I have one student creating resources for new youth to Canada either through immigration or just moving to Ontario as well.


Abbey Gingerich (26:15):
And she’s put together full resources community resources that youth should know about when they’re new to Canada or new to KW. And so sort of the, I guess the accomplishment that’s come out of them and to realize that they could still make an incredible impact on their world at whatever level that is. They’ve been able to do that even during COVID and in, in a very short period of time too, it’s only been about six weeks. So that has been one of the most rewarding things that has come out of this time. And I had no idea going into it that it was gonna go that this way. But it’s been incredible.


Sam Demma (26:56):
That is so cool. Thanks for sharing.


Abbey Gingerich (26:59):
Thank you.


Sam Demma (27:01):
And with that final thought, thank you so much for tuning into another episode. I hope you enjoyed this interview with Abby and got something from it. There was so many pieces of wisdom and nuggets and unique ideas that you could take, make your own, and also use for your school. If you did enjoy this, consider leaving a rating and review so more teachers like yourself can find this content and also live out the high performing educator philosophy. And as always, if you have ideas that you think should be shared with your colleagues around the country, around the globe, please reach out at info@samdemma.com so we can share your story with our audience. I’ll talk to you soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Abbey Gingerich

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.

Glenn Gifford – Principal at Saint Michael Catholic High School

Glenn Gifford - Principal at Saint Michael Catholic High School
About Glenn Gifford

Glenn Gifford has worked for the Niagara Catholic District School Board for over 28 years. Currently, he is the Principal of Saint Michael Catholic High School in Niagara Falls Ontario. Mr. Gifford began his career as a Long Term occasional teacher before settling in at Lakeshore Catholic High School in Port Colborne.

While at Lakeshore Catholic Mr. Gifford taught English, History and World Religions. He was also the head football coach of their Junior Football team for 14 years. Eventually, Administration called to him and he decided to finish the second half of his career as a high school administrator.

He has had stops as a Vice Principal or Principal at Denis Morris Catholic High School, Lakeshore Catholic High School and Saint Michael Catholic High School. With enthusiasm Mr. Gifford wants you to be “ALL IN” for both your staff and students!!

Connect with Glenn: Email

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Mike Loudfoot – Retired High School Teacher

Saint Michael Catholic High School

Niagara Catholic District School Board: Home

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):
Glenn welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here this morning. Please start by introducing yourself.

Glenn Gifford (00:10):
Okay. first off, thanks for having me, Sam. My name’s Glenn Gifford. I am the principal of St. Michael Catholic high school, in Niagara falls, Ontario. And yeah, thrilled to be here. Thanks for asking me. And I’ve been an educator now. It’s my 29th year. So one more year left after this and yeah, things have been going well. It’s different, but good. Yeah. So that’s for sure.

Sam Demma (00:35):
How did you figure out at a young age that you wanted to get into education? Did you know this since you were a kid or how did you stumble into this career?

Glenn Gifford (00:46):
Yeah, I stumbled. That’s a good word. Yeah, no, I didn’t. I mean, I had a good educational experience growing up. My dad was a teacher but when I went to university had had a good time at university and my grades were okay decent, but I, I thought it was gonna be a police officer and was, was ready to apply to the Ontario provincial police and figured that was the way I was gonna go. And I had a, a lab that I was asked to jump in and teach. I was a fourth year student and asked to help out for some first year students. And I went in and taught the lab. I think it was three weeks. I had to teach this lab and I had about well, my class kept growing in size, my lab.

Glenn Gifford (01:37):
And, and so the professor who came to me, remember his name is Dr. Rod priest. He came to me and said what are you doing after graduation? He said, I think I’m gonna be a cop. And he goes that would be a terrible mistake. And that was in fourth year university. And he said, have you given any thought to teaching? I was like, I, I hadn’t really but I liked it. It was fun in the three weeks limited time that I was doing it. And and so I applied to, to teachers college and and, and, and got in, and I hadn’t heard back from the police force. So I was like, I’ll do this. And nice. And the funny part is, is when I started teaching in Niagara cap, like I still remember the day I opened in my first check and I, I looked down at the bottom right hand corner.

Glenn Gifford (02:29):
And even then it wasn’t, it wasn’t a ton, but I mean, I was a student, so I looked at the bottom right hand corner and I thought somebody made a mistake because I had so much fun. I was like, they’re paying me this to do this. Like, this is, this is great. And I literally didn’t spend any of that money, Sam for, oh, probably about four months, because I thought like the, you know, somebody was gonna show up and say it would’ve made a terrible error who overpaid you. And I was waiting for like the Niagara police to come. And so I finally called the board and I said to them like yeah, this is Glen calling. I was at the time I was at Notre Dame Wellon and I said, and I just wanted to ask a question about my check and they’re like, yeah, sorry, Mr.

Glenn Gifford (03:08):
Gifford, we didn’t. And I’m like, oh, here comes like we didn’t we didn’t give you all your credit for your supply dates. We’re sorry. We’ll send you a retro check. And I was, oh my God. Then I realized, I was like, this is great. And that was truly what so thanks to my to my university professor for planning a seed that really got me to education. Then I realized, oh my God, I love doing this. And, and I’m, I’m paid at the time, you know? Yeah. I’m going from a starving student. I was like, oh my God, I get paid this to do this job. And to me, it, it just, it’s never seemed like work since then. So it’s always been just a, just a thrill to do it. And yeah, it, so the, I guess the, the thing to grab from that is you never know where, where it’s gonna come from, you know, somebody planning a seed that’s gonna grow into. So thing that, I mean, look, 15 years teaching and then five years as a vice principal and 10 years as a principal. And yeah. All from a, just a random comment from a, a university professor. So it was, I didn’t wanna start out as a teacher, but no regrets.

Sam Demma (04:16):
And tell us, tell me about what that journey looks looked like of, through the different roles and schools that you’d worked that you’ve worked at.

Glenn Gifford (04:25)
Yeah. When I first started, I was working at a, a program called the ACE program. And so it was really it wasn’t really, it was teaching, but it was with students who were struggling academically struggling with the whole concept of school. So what we did was we had ’em in class for a couple of weeks, and then we would have them at a co-op placement for a couple of weeks. And again, it was a lot of times for students, it wasn’t special education, but it was specialized education. And it was for kids who were struggling. And I think I had the personality where I could, I could kind of reach those kids and try to keep those kids in engaged in getting credits and maybe hopefully finding some type of career that they were interested in. A lot of them had had a lot of difficulty.

Glenn Gifford (05:11):
So that is a great way to start your career with regards to classroom management, with regards to all the, all the different things that come up in a, in a teacher’s career to start there with some pretty difficult kids. And I did that for about a year and a half and that worked out well. I think that laid a good foundation. Then I did some long term teaching for about a year. And then then, then received my full-time contract, where I was a teacher and, and football coach at lake shore Catholic high school in port Colburn. Nice. For, for teen years. And then and then again, just like I, I said with my professor, I had a, a principal who tapped me and a couple other colleagues on the shoulder and said, have you ever thought about administration and much, like when someone said, have you ever thought about teaching?

Glenn Gifford (05:56):
I was like, no, I haven’t thought about administration at all 14 years in in, and he said you should you’re you’re, I think you’ve got the I think you have what it takes you, you, I think people would follow you and I think you could lead. And really, again, just all the, all the planting that needed to happen there. And I looked at my friend and, and I said Brad, do you wanna do this? And he said, yeah, let’s go. And within six months we had all of our, our credits and our additional qualifications and, and and went from there then placed principal for five years, and then morphed back into a principal at league shore Catholic after five years of being a vice principal. So yeah, I’ve kind of, I’m pleased with it. I’m pleased that I spent enough time in the classroom that I wasn’t one of these people who just decided to when they enter teaching have decided that they’re going to be the superintendent of education and really don’t earn their stripes.

Glenn Gifford (06:59):
I guess, if you will, as teachers, I, I would like to think that after my 30 year career that most will remember me as a, as a teacher first and foremost, and then administration was Hey, you get to have your whole school as your classroom which is another, and they’re different jobs. Let’s face it, there completely different jobs. Like you would not believe so, you know, teachers that, you know, that’s rewarding and, and fantastic, and very difficult right now with COVID. But an administration is just wow. I just remember my time as a vice principal. I just, those people, those men and women they’re warriors. Yeah. It is so difficult. And then principal is a whole different ball game, as far as difficulty goes. And so many things come across your, your plate. You wouldn’t even believe things. I didn’t even realize when I was a teacher that were going on in a school, oh my God, that’s happening like it in 14 years, I had no idea this was going on. But as a principal, you see it all so different jobs, a hundred percent but no less rewarding.

Sam Demma (08:04):
I had another, another guest tell me the best principles are those that love teaching and didn’t want to leave their teaching job. And the, you know, if they were asked to teach tomorrow would do it gladly. And the best superintendents are the principles that never will wanted to leave being a principal and would become a principal again tomorrow if fast. And that mindset and mentality really reminded me of what you were just saying. Like, you really gotta love the work you’re doing.

Glenn Gifford (08:34):
A hundred percent. In fact, even now, like we’ll have teachers that are absent and I’ll look back, but my teachables English and social science and some world religions. And, and I’ll be like, oh, what classes, you know do we didn’t get a supply teacher? And they’ll be like, no, what class is it? Oh, it’s Mr. So-And-So an English teacher. Of course, I know what he teaches. And I would be like, well, I’ll do it. And I, and I, I just run in and do it. And because it was fun and I, I loved it and enjoyed it. And it gets the students to see you in a, in a different light, really, you know, some something in class as opposed to well, I, I see kids every day and I probably come up in one of these questions, but like, my things as principal is, I mean, you’ve gotta be invested into what you’re doing.

Glenn Gifford (09:21):
And I always use the analogy with my staff. I was like I look at a bacon and eggs breakfast. Let’s just look at it that way, the chicken participates, because the chicken donates the egg, but the pig, well, the pigs committed, right. Because the pig gives us life for the, for the meal. Right. So I ask my staff, I’m like, I need you all to be pigs for these kids. I need you to give it all. Yeah. And, and, and give me everything we’ve got all in t-shirts that, you know, the staff wear when I, when I first got to St. Michael’s and so I want, I want the level of commitment to kid. So one of the things I do is it sounds so silly, but I do cafeteria do all the time. And a lot of times places you know, teachers do that, or other people do that.

Glenn Gifford (10:08):
I do it, my vice principals do it because I want to get to know, I, I hand out we have a school of over a thousand students. I hand out about 250 to two or 80 diplomas every year, not since COVID, but even, even with COVID, I wanna know every single one of those kids. And I wanna make the effort to get to know those kids by first name, which is hard right now, because they’re wearing masks. But so it is difficult now, but I go back to pre COVID. And my, my goal is to be committed enough to, I’m not gonna be at a school for four years, and there’s gonna be a student that’s walking across my stage. And I have no idea who this person is. Mm. You’re not committed if you’re not doing that. So, and, and there’s a variety of ways that you can do that.

Glenn Gifford (10:49):
I just my personality was such, that is such that I can just get out there and just walk up to a table full of kids and start talking to ’em and chirping ’em and, you know, shooting the breeze with them and having fun and asking ’em questions about, you know, dad texting and all these other things and making fun of their phones or lunches or whatever. And you just get to talk to ’em and then they, they get to know you in a, in a, in a different type of relationship. And and that that’s worth its waiting gold when you’re, when you’re trying to establish an effective school culture that, that has made all the difference. So

Sam Demma (11:21):
How do you build deep relationships with students in the school building? Obviously communication is one of the major ways. And thinking back to your time in the classroom maybe you can pull from some of your beliefs on relationship building. Like how do you think you established that, those relationships with students?

Glenn Gifford (11:39):
Well, I think you hit the nail on the head there, Sam. I, I think a lot of administrators spend too much time. And again, again, not like I have the blueprint here, but yeah, like there’s so much that happens in a day that you can get focused on. You know, and, and maybe this isn’t the greatest thing to say, but, you know you can get focused on curriculum or you can get focused on the OSSLT or EQ AO, or you can get focused on programs. And I just remember this people don’t remember what you say people remember how you made them feel. Mm. And so for me, getting to know kids and meeting them where they are, and maybe that’s where they are at the time is getting to my student council to engage kids on social media to do fun things at school.

Glenn Gifford (12:27):
It sounds so simple, but if school is fun and you do that, engage kids, the rest takes care of itself. And I know people sit there and say, what about the curriculum? The curriculum takes care of itself. Kids will learn, listen, right now, we’re, we’re facing the challenges we’re facing with COVID and learning gaps and all that other stuff is incredible. But if kids have fun and they like coming to school and they respect their teachers and their teachers treat them well, treat them with respect and actually care about their wellbeing so that they feel it, the rest is easy. And so I’ve, I’ve empowered my student council to go and don’t sit on the bench, get up and take a swing. Let’s try this. Let’s try, let’s engage here. We had a program not a program. We came up with something called super locker at my previous school, which was in another one of my colleagues Andrew Boone brought that to Notre Dame and holy cross.

Glenn Gifford (13:29):
And, and I had it at lake shore Catholic, and now it’s St Michael’s and you know, the student of the month that it gets this giant locker, it’s all decorated in doc. And, you know, we just, and we just, our, our social media pages are, are fun and interactive. And and it, it, it, it just is something where you’re trying to create a culture of things like color wars and a lot of different things that you can do to engage students, even during COVID like you, we were doing just silly things. You know, just to keep, try to keep school fun because let’s face it for the last two years. It hasn’t been, it’s been awful. And so to try to do things at distance, to try to keep things fun when, when you have a culture that’s working in a building and you can come up with some creative ideas to do that, all the other stuff. And I’m even talking about student achievement, all of those things will fall in mind.

Sam Demma (14:21):
Mm. I couldn’t agree more. I think back to my own high school experience. And when I was excited to show up to class, I actively participated when I was excited to show up to fourth period world issues with Mr. Loud foot. This is one educator who totally changed my life. I would take notes on everything this guy said, not because we had to, but because I was so I was so invested and engaged in the class because he was invested and engaged in all of us individually and as a, a whole class. He

Glenn Gifford (14:53):
Got, and there’s that where you use Sam, right? You just use that word invested that came through loud and clear with that teacher that you had. And look what you’re doing now. Like you’re running podcasts for educational leadership. Like, I mean, so it clearly had a huge impact. So that’s one I told, you know, my staff and I say my staff, but the staff, cuz they’re not mine. Just like kids, you, you rent ’em, you don’t own ’em right. So the is just be invested and that needs to come across. And all the studies show for all of my left brain, people who want to quote studies and statistics, you know, that all the studies show that it it’s the people that are truly invested and truly care about people with. And I’m talking all people in your building, I’m talking about your teachers, your, your, your students, most importantly your, your cleaners, your caretakers, your EA, your, your cafeteria people when they know, and they all feel that they belong and that they’re going to be listened to.

Glenn Gifford (15:47):
And that the people that are around them care about them. The rest is easy. The literally the rest will take care of itself. So that’s, that’s my main focus as, as an educational leader right now is to, is to, is to try to make people not again, I don’t know if I can motivate anyone, but hopefully inspire people to motivate themselves. Yeah. To be invested as best they can. Everybody’s not a cheerleader. I am. That’s I know that’s, that’s my role at this school. I’m, I’m kind of like at my school is, is I’m the cheerleader, I’m this. And I have some vice principals who are fantastic at logistics, which is great because I’m not. And I have the prudent humility to understand that that’s not my, you know, wheelhouse, but we have some people that can help out. So together at all, pretty smooth, but big ideas and trying great things and, and, and engaging people and kids that that’s.

Glenn Gifford (16:40):
So there’s probably administrators out there. Like, that’s not me. I can’t do that. I’m not on social media. No, but, but somebody is, you know, like I, I always use this one, you know, that the only time I’m the smartest person in the room, Sam is when I’m by myself. Yeah. Otherwise you gotta lean on your people and their skillsets. And there are some people who are like, you know, mathematics, isn’t fun. And I can, yeah. But just, if the kids know you’re invested and you care about them and their wellbeing, the math just teach ’em the math and they’ll, they’ll understand and they’ll get it. So, but they just have to know that from you. We don’t have the little kids, we don’t sit there and criticize kids, you know, and I’m not saying kid gloves, but I’m just saying, let them know you care.

Glenn Gifford (17:21):
And, and the rest will take care of it and then rely on your people that you have around you. Because again, everybody has gifts and talents that I guess the question is, are you, are you using now, are you using people to the, the, the, the peak of their talent? And are you getting the most out of them? And you have to figure out what, like I said, I have some vice principals who are so technically savvy. It’s incredible. I’ll come up with an idea to say, Hey, can we live Simon cast the announcements during COVID so that we can do, you know, hi, it’s Mr. Gifford here. And, and can we set up a link and do this and share this on the Google meet and blah, blah, blah. And they’re just ideas. Yeah. But I can’t do it, Sam. I can’t do it. But, you know, I have VPs who can I have, you know, teachers and tech teachers who are like, yeah, well, you have to do this. And then I lose them because they’re speaking some different language, some technic I don’t understand, but I’ll show up like this and click on a link and, and, you know, and go to town. So, you know, I think people need to really access the resources they have in front of ’em that way.

Sam Demma (18:22):
Yeah. You know, it’s funny. I started thinking about my experience as a soccer player, the first five or six years, my coach put me in centerback. And towards the end of my career, I, he moved me to center mid and it was like a totally different change. And it felt like I was supposed to be in that position for my whole life. But I was always placed in center back.

Glenn Gifford (18:43):
And I think, were you reluctant to go there? Like when he first moved you, were you like.

Sam Demma (18:47):
Yeah, slightly, slightly, because it was, so it was so fresh and new. But afterwards I realized that the skillset that I had and the way the ball passing and certain skills that I had were very suitable for a center, mid position. And I actually ended up loving it even more than I did center back.

Glenn Gifford (19:04):
You know what, that’s, that’s a perfect example. And I, here’s the example. I can give you an education teachers. A lot of times, administrators they get into this, well, that’s my class like I’m the grade 12 law teacher here, or I teach grade 12 university level biology, and this is my class. And I had a lovely teacher one time when I was a program chair who was teaching grade 12 and and, and doing a fine job, no question about it, but I just saw her skillset. And I just, the next year I, I moved her into grade nine courses and I cannot get over. I cannot tell you Sam, how upset she was at me for moving her out of her courses. And I’m like, wow, technically they’re not your courses, but let me tell you why I put you in this course, because I think your skillset is going to be ideal for this and kicking and screaming to the point where, you know, I’m not talking to him.

Glenn Gifford (20:04):
And at the end of the first semester, she came and thanked me because it was the most rewarding change that she had ever had in her career. So, but it’s not just teachers. Most people are very apprehensive to change. Yeah. And because they’re used to things we’re built for comfort, we, nobody likes to take a step outside their comfort zone and, and try something new. Like the I will, or I’ll just, you know, when you’re working on something, anything that requires that kind of discipline we’re, we’re not built, honestly, we’re not built for that. And, and teachers are, and administrators have it. We’re creatures of habit. We do things out of habit. And then when something disrupts that, you know, it’s hard. So when they ask you, when you were asked to do something at first, you know, I didn’t like that.

Glenn Gifford (20:48):
But you say it turned out to be, you know, a great thing. Some of the greatest things you’ve ever accomplished, weren’t easy. Right? And when you look, when you get to my age, you’re gonna be like anything worth anything that you’ve ever accomplished in your life required, some suffering and some discipline and, and, you know, not the easy, you know, unless you won the lottery or something, you know, most of the things you had to work for. And, and so I think that’s, that’s a great example and getting people outta their comfort zone and and, and, and pushing ’em to greater things is, is good. Hopefully you can convince them that it’s, it’s a good idea, especially when you’re, when you’re talking to teachers who may or may not, I’ve been teaching you know, the same course for 14 years. Yeah. And, you know, that becomes hard, but most of the time I I’ve had a lot of success with, with anything like that, that, that people at least are, are ready to move forward.

Sam Demma (21:41):
Education is like gardening, you plant seeds, like you mentioned earlier, your professor planted in, and sometimes you’re lucky enough to see them blossom. Sometimes they don’t pop out of the ground 15 years down the road. And they, you know, sometimes come back and they’ll tell you, you know, how big of a difference or an impact you made. What are, you know, one or two of the stories that come to mind when you think about seeds that have been planted in your school community, maybe by teachers, by yourself that you’ve been lucky enough to see blossom. And if it’s a, a serious story, you can change the, the student’s names, but do any, any stories come to mind?

Glenn Gifford (22:22):
Well, I always look at it as, as something like that as individual students. Right. I, I like, like you said, the flower rarely seeds the seed. So there are times when, you know, and this is, I really wish that kids when I call ’em kids, but young adults now, when, if they have a run back into their teachers, you know, have those conversations, cuz it’s so important. You mentioned the one teacher year that you had Mr. Long, long fellow.

Sam Demma (22:51):
Mr. Loudfoot

Glenn Gifford (22:53):
Loudfoot. Okay. Loud foot. Nice. Even perfect. What a great, what a great handle, what a great handle, but Mr. Loud foot, like what an impact he had on you and, and, and every, every student can remember. Some of those, I I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve had a few a few students that, you know, have, have been, have come back and, and, and said things to me and, and have told me, you know, what an impact that, that, that I’ve had on them. And and I say programs, programs, it would either be as a football coach or, or, but I, you know, going back to what I was saying, initially, Sam not so much programs is people coming back to you and saying, oh, Mr. Gifford, you know, I loved your class, you know? And I think you made me feel you know so, so like your class was funny and you made me feel like I loved learning and, and those type of cor those type of comments.

Glenn Gifford (23:47):
And so that’s the thing I’m going for as an administrator now, too, is to, you want them to feel something, not remember what you say, no, one’s gonna remember, you know, you know, how would you do right now, Sam on a, on a, on a great 11 biology test? Like you, you you’d fail it horribly, right? Yeah. As would I okay. As would, so, because I don’t remember. I have, I don’t, I haven’t taken that for 30 years, 40 years. So you know, the more the story there is, what, what the, the, I guess the edification that I get is, is kids going back and reflecting on their experience in the classroom or on, on the football field? You know, I have former student says to me, one time he calls me up and I don’t mind name dropping it’s Mattie Matheson.

Glenn Gifford (24:30):
He’s a celebrity chef. And he’s got his own TV shows and, and he’s hugely successful. And I’m so proud of him. He’ll you know, text me like on Christmas morning to go get a coffee, like just crazy. But when he says, oh, Mr. Gifford, will you be on my TV show? You know, or when another student says, Hey, Mr. Gifford, will you be on my podcast? You know? And, and it’s all, you know, just because of the relationships that you’ve made, right. Not the, oh my God, that class was great because of all the knowledge, you know, it was the, the relationship that you forged with, with those kids and, and, and had left an impact on them. And I think that’s, that’s, what’s important. And then now, now, as an administrator, you that’s, those were classroom moments, right? As an administrator, it’s harder, you know, you just wanna make sure that your school culture is such, that kids have a good time at school and are having fun and and are enjoying themselves.

Glenn Gifford (25:26):
School is a, you know, things that are important now for kids, school is a safe place. School is a place where you, can you, you address you address any kind of bullying that might happen, or you address some of the things that, you know, what do kids really need. And you look now, and there’s a, there’s a lot of needs now with COVID that kids, you know, they’re, they’re our emotional needs and their, their social needs have not been met for a few years. So, you know, we, we’ve got a, we’ve got a tall task and education ahead of us for the next couple of years, as we hopefully wind down through this pandemic taking care of kids, not only the learning gaps that they have for the last two years. I mean, you know what I mean, by a learning gap, right?

Glenn Gifford (26:06):
There’s kids that left the pandemic in March and we’re taking in a semester at high school, we’re taking mathematics. And then it was all basically online for grade 10 and now grade 11, it’s been in a, and so everybody’s sitting there going these, these kids, like, and it’s not the kids’ fault, and it’s not the teacher’s fault. Just this kid’s been outta school for two years, or he is been dropping in and doing a quad master or not bill Meer or online and synchronous and asynchronous and all these different terms. And at the end of the day, there’s huge gaps, learning gaps. There’s going to be maturity gaps. Oh my God, you know, you got, you got grade twelves. And you’re like, these guys aren’t in grade 12, but but they’re, you know, we have to work at it and we have to get through it. And, and if they feel like they’re, they’re respected and loved and wanted and, and respected in their building, the rest will take care of itself.

Sam Demma (26:56):
If you could take all the experience you’ve had in education, bundle it up into, you know, a little ball, which is almost impossible. Go with that ball back into your first class you ever taught in and hand it to your younger self and say, Glen, this is what you needed to hear. What pieces of advice would you have shared with your younger self? And I know obviously building relationships and being invested is two of the, that we’ve really touched on this whole interview, which is awesome. What else would you have told you younger yourself that you wish you heard when you first started?

Glenn Gifford (27:30):
I, that you don’t know everything yeah. That you need to have the humility to realize that, that, again, like, I, I, I didn’t start saying things like I you know, I’m the smartest person in the room when I’m by myself. I, when I was 21, you know, or 22, I kind of I’ll do it this way, because this is the way it is, you know, as, as you age. And I know everything just ask me and you know, as you age, you, you realize that, or, or different ways of doing things, or, you know, just because I had a certain personality and certain brain style, right. That, that, you know, I’m, I’m more balanced brain. I can see left and right. You know, I can see both sides and I’d see other people approaching something in a different manner. And I would be like, that’s dumb.

Glenn Gifford (28:15):
And now I look at it and I’m like, Jesus buddy, you really didn’t know much there. You, you were kind of fine by the seat of your pants and you, you probably should have been a little bit more yeah, probably would’ve been a better teacher if you were a better listener. Mm. And, and I think that’s I, I learned that probably about when I was 14 years in the classroom and probably about year seven or eight, where I just kind of really had a couple of colleagues who were, who were special teachers. And I thought to, and, and I thought I was, but then I looked at how these, these guys and girls were doing it. And I was like, man, the, like, it’s not all about me getting up there and entertaining people and making kids laugh. Like, I really gotta leave them with something other than a magical 60 minute experience with Mr.

Glenn Gifford (29:04):
Gifford every day I need, I need to leave them with you. You know, I gotta get to the, the business of education. And even my assignments, like, I mean, are you doing the same thing again? Like, are you really gonna pull this assignment out again? Like, you know, everybody knows that this is coming. And, you know, I had a colleague say to me one time, why don’t you, why don’t you look at it and do this and have the kids do? And I was like, oh my God, brilliant. But, you know, I wasn’t thinking of it because I wasn’t thinking of it. So I needed somebody else to kind of shine the light. So what I would say to younger Glenn Gifford would be listen, buddy, you can, you can even have a bigger impact if you start to listen to people as opposed to just listening to yourself.

Sam Demma (29:49):
Yeah. I love that. That’s a phenomenal piece of advice. And I think it’s, it’s a human thing. It’s not a teacher thing. I think that’s advice that we could all take yeah.

Glenn Gifford (29:59):
A hundred percent. And sometimes it’s an age thing right. Where you just think, ah, you know, everything when you’re young. And, and I remember one time, one of my grad speeches, I said to, it was funny because I just said to graduates, I just said, you know, you know, very little, you think, you know, but, but you don’t, you hear all the parents laughing because they’re like, yes, they know nothing. And they do, they know lots and you should listen to them as well. But you, you really, again, so I, I would say to myself, if I had to go back and visit young Glen, the teacher is you have two ears in one mouth. So you sort listen twice as much as you talk.

Sam Demma (30:36):
Love that. Glenn, if someone’s tuning in, wants to reach out to you, ask a question or just have a convers what would be the best way for them to get in touch?

Glenn Gifford (30:46):
They could contact me via email which is glenn.gifford@ncdsb.com, or they can call St. Michael Catholic high school. And and I’m not hard to find so St. Michael Catholic high school and that Niagara falls Ontario, or through the board website through the school website they can reach out and all the messages go to me.

Sam Demma (31:13):
Awesome. Thank you, Glen. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This has been a pleasure and a really fun time. Keep up the great work and we will talk soon.

Glenn Gifford (31:24):
Yeah, Sam, appreciate it. Thanks very much. I appreciate that you doing this.

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Jamie Stewart – Teacher and Founder of Elite Basketball Training Academy
About Jamie Stewart

Elite Basketball Training Academy’s CEO Jamie Stewart has been operating EBTA for 20yrs. EBTA boasts a 100% Scholarship Graduation Rate for players who attend daily! EBTA players on average Train for over 2000 hours Annually, play in over 300 games Annually, which fulfills the longtime belief of the 10,000 required hours needed to receive a Basketball Scholarship by the end of your High School Career. 

Jamie Stewart is considered a World Level Basketball Skills Instructor & many of the drills he has personally invented are being utilized in the NBA! Additionally; Jamie Stewart’s players are always considered the Best Shooters in the Country by their senior years! 

 

Connect with Jamie: Email | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Elite Basketball Training Academy Website

ETBA Youtube Channel

Summer Break Academy

Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board

EBTA Blog

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 actually met and learned about today’s guest by doing a four day seminar to his class in the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board. His name is Jamie Stewart, and he has been operating the Elite Basketball Training Academy for 20 years. EBTA, the Elite Basketball Training Academy boasts a 100% scholarship graduation rate for players who attend and show up daily. EBTA players on average train for over 2000 hours per year playing over 300 games annually, which fulfills the long time belief that 10,000 hours is required needed to receive a basketball scholarship by the end of a high school career.


Sam Demma (01:20):
Jamie Stewart is considered a world level basketball skills instructor, and many of the drills he has personally invented are now being utilized in the NBA. Additionally, Jamie Stewart’s players are always considered the best shooters in the country by their senior years. Jamie; I brought him on because it’s interesting to me that he is both a teacher, an educator, and a high level world class basketball skills instructor. He brings a lot of what he teaches on the court into the classroom, and that’s why I thought he’d be an amazing guest for today’s episode. So I hope you enjoy this conversation and I will see you on the other side. Jamie, 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 about your background and who you are?


Jamie Stewart (02:12):
Okay. My name is Jamie Stewart. I was born and raised in Amherstburg, Ontario. I went to St. Thomas Villanova high school. Through, I’m considered an overachiever, through a lot of hard work, and diligence and sacrifice of many things, I was able to overcome a lot of obstacles and, and become, you know, like a three year scoring champ in the area. A full scholarship winner, I went on to the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut where I was a three year captain. I think it was second or fourth in assist a couple years in a row. My senior year when I was supposed to really, really break out, I was at about 25 points a game, and my career ended with a series of knee injuries. I just wanted to, I always wanted to help kids get better.


Jamie Stewart (03:03):
But I, I kind of didn’t know how so when I was in teachers college I, I met this I met this guy he’s actually from London, Ontario. I went to Western Ontario, Western university in, in London, Ontario. And he, he, he explained it to me how he’s put, put himself through school. And he ran a music business where he had a house and he had different people come in and teach instruments per room, you know, piano, one, one room violin. And I thought, wow, that’s, that’s wonderful. And he’s a music teacher now. And I said, wow, that’s wonderful. So you use your passion for instrument to not only, you know, help others service the community, but, and you’re able to get paid for it. I thought that was more, I should do that for basketball. I should, I should teach kids basketball skills, teaching better basketball.


Jamie Stewart (03:58):
And we actually had, we were in this class and we had to produce a website and I said, you know what, I’m gonna kill two birds in one stone. I’m gonna, I’m gonna do the website for my basketball business that I’m going to open. And, and, you know, and it’s gonna fulfill my requirements in class, actually create a website. And that’s kind of how, how it started. And then I, you know, drip, some business cards and brochures. And I was my, my first ever client, Dan chap, Japane bell river, Ontario. He was actually the last player on the grade nine Riverside Falcons as an OBA team. And he was my first ever client. So make a long story short. So he went from the last on grade nine, OBA to number five in Canada, his senior year high school, first team, all Canadian.


Jamie Stewart (04:53):
He played on national television, TSN all Canadian game. Some people had him rank number two in Canada. He full scholarship Columbia university of New York work where he graduated. He appeared on I think he was good morning America. He won, he won a, I think he won some money to start his business. Hmm. He has a lucrative clothing clothing line now. And he’s he’s a millionaire in Los in list. He’s doing really, really well. So I was my first ever client in over 19 years going on 20, all of my, all of my clients, all of my kids that I’ve trained have similar, you know, crazy improvement stories that, you know, it’s hard to believe unless you’re there and you, and you witness it. So that’s that’s kind of how I, how I got started and my passion for the, the game.


Jamie Stewart (05:46):
I, I can remember in university, I mentioned before, you know, I, I was always addicted to the game when I was in when I was in college university, they, they would call me Hurley. My idol was Bobby Hurley and my dorm room, I have two TVs. One was a big screen and one was a small screen. And the big screen usually had NBA games on and the, and the small TV had college games. And when I was, when I was home, no matter when I was in my dorm room, no matter what I was doing, those were on. And I was watching even while doing home and work, even, you know, even if I people in my room, I, so I, I was addicted to the game, addicted to player development, improving, and, and skills. And still to this day, I, I fall asleep with my laptop in front of me studying, studying basketball or studying my, my kids at my basketball academy and trying to find a way to make ’em better.


Sam Demma (06:39):
So where did your own passion for the game stem from? Take me back to when you were a young kid, why basketball? Where did that passion come from?


Jamie Stewart (06:49):
I remember I, I always loved dribbling the basketball and running out and playing with, with the older guys. I remember begging my, it was grade four and you had to be in grade six to play on the basketball team. But I, when I remember my teacher telling me, just go knock on the door and they’re having their basketball tryout and ask the teacher, if you can try out for the team. So grade four, that’s what I did. So I knocked on the door. I said, you know, can I please try out with the team? And the coach let me in. And I was on the team from grade four to grade eight. I don’t remember actually getting any playing time except for the junior team until maybe grade seven. I, I didn’t get in, but I just remember not being very good, but loving, absolutely loving playing at that time.


Jamie Stewart (07:38):
And eventually that, that love for playing, you know, created a work ethic where I was always playing. And then it kind of like from going in grade 10 to going to create grade 11, when I first started lifting weights, I actually started to get good. So, you know, I grew a little bit and the time that I spent on the core of those, the, the countless hours of, of playing, even though I wasn’t very good, I started to pay off. And I started to see fruits of my labor when I went from grade 10 aver and maybe eight points, a game to grade 11 aver and 25 and leading. And that was from junior boys to senior boys. Right. So that was a big jump. I probably grew four inches that summer as well. So I went from averaging like eight points game in junior boys, basketball as a 10th grader to, you know, leading the conference and scoring at 25 points a game at 15 years old.


Jamie Stewart (08:33):
So, but I’ve always loved it. Even when I wasn’t a good player, I’ve loved it when I was a decent player. I’ve loved it. You know, you know, I’m, I was a gym rat. You couldn’t get me out of the gym. You had to chase me out of the gym. You know, I’d break into the gym, I’d leave the back, I’d leave the gym door open in my high school and come back at 11 o’clock at night when the janitors left, you know, and I’d stay here until three, four in the morning, getting up shots and getting better. And you know, that that’s really how, you know, I, I made myself I made myself a, a decent, respectable scholarship, eventually an NCAA captain by, you know, just outworking and outsmarting the opposition. And, and that’s kind of the same, you know, the same philosophy that I had taken into my academy. We will outwork and we will outsmart everyone, you know, we come in contact with, or, or we compete against.


Sam Demma (09:27):
Hmm. And where personally, for you to teaching and education, like when did that come into the picture as well? Like, I’m sure at a young age, you know, when you had those knee injuries, you were devastated. What drew you to education?


Jamie Stewart (09:42):
It was definitely the the high school that I went to St. Thomas Villanova at the time was the name was brought Ontario. Now it’s in lasal Ontario competes their conference. There, there was a few teachers there in particular. Tony low was a former CFO football coach. And I, and, and and, and Linda Macelli was also there. And I just remember most of the staff just being, especially the, the athletic department being super positive nonjudgmental, and they, they wanted what was best for you. That’s not always the case, believe it or not, but I really think that I made it out of there because I made it out there with a scholarship, because I, I remember in grade 11, when I, when I kind of busted out as a really good player, when my coach coach de logio pull me aside, he said, you’ve come a long way.


Jamie Stewart (10:36):
And I leaving you, you can get a scholarship, just keep working. And it, and that, that, that positive effect that they had on me, I wanted to, to give back that’s what I wanted to do to others. That’s what I wanted to do to kids. Tell them, even though, even though you’re probably not, you’re not very good right now. If, if you are told, Hey, I believe in you, I believe in your work ethic, I believe in your perseverance, I believe in your character and I will help you get to the next level. That’s what I wanted to do for, for kids. I want to be positive inspiration, and I wanted to help them do things that they never would’ve dreamed that they’d ever be able to do. I, I remember in grade nine, I’m grade nine and grade 10 I’m, I’m probably 5, 2, 5, 4 playing.


Jamie Stewart (11:26):
And I, I seen somebody running, jump, running, jumping dunk, and I see somebody shoot a 30 foot jump shot. Wow, wow. I wish one day, maybe I could do that to like go into my junior year where I’m averaging four, you know, four dunks per game is like, right. It, when people inspire you to do things that you don’t think you can do, you know, that’s that, that it’s a trip trickle effect into your life. You know, having building confidence in sport, you know, through their positive interactions with me, you know, benefited me going forward in many, many other areas of my life, but definitely get back to your question more. So it was, it was St. Thomas Villanova led by coach Delo, just believing in me and inspiring me to do good and then better. And then, you know, be one of the best in Canada. You know, that’s why I wanted to, to become a teacher and an educator and, and eventually a basketball coach.


Sam Demma (12:28):
And I think what’s really unique about you as a teacher now is you teach, you know, civics and careers, which is a course that’s difficult to teach, but it has, it has very fruitful outcomes. You can include life lessons, you can include leadership skills. You can include so many awesome things in the curriculum. Being a careers in civics teacher, like how do you implement your philosophies from the game of basketball into of the, into the classroom per se?


Jamie Stewart (12:58):
The very first day that I met them was actually online cause we were on lockdown. So we were learning online. The very first lesson I taught them was the secret. If you read the book, the secret and then encouraged I, everyone to read the book and then eventually read the book once a year, and then you watch it on film. And in the first 20 minutes, I think really, really applies to like grade nine or 10 religion, careers in civics. You know, even phys ed is just to have a positive, you know, like a ridiculously positive attitude.


Sam Demma (13:37):
Mm


Jamie Stewart (13:37):
Right. So no matter how, you know, life sometimes is humiliating, you’re gonna fall so many times you’re gonna fail so many times. But if you have that true unconditional positive attitude, you’re gonna get back up every single time. You’re gonna keep trying, you’re gonna try to, you’re gonna try to strive for things that, you know, how many times was I told when I was in grade 9, 10, 11, even 12, you’re not getting a basketball scholarship. You’re not good enough. Right. And that’s another thing that, that we talk about all the time. Don’t listen to people believe in yourself. Hmm. Believe in yourself. And, and I would tell the kids all the time, you know, who’s your favorite athlete entertainer, or, you know, if you eventually wanna be a teacher, a doctor, who’s your favorite, Google them right now and ask the question. How many times was Wayne Gretsky told, or, or somebody was told they can’t do something.


Jamie Stewart (14:36):
Mm. And they will say hundreds, thousands. That’s just the world. Yeah. You gotta, you gotta laugh that that’s just the world and it’s never gonna change. Right. Cause sometimes people are offended by your goals and your dreams. But not to listen to them to get back up when you fall. And if you’re really truly determined to achieve something is ridiculous. As it sounds like you really can do it. Right. So having that ridiculous positivity in your life can really, really benefit you, help you get up when you fall all, you know, brush it off and move forward, bigger, stronger, faster, better.


Sam Demma (15:17):
I love that. That’s amazing. And this belief I’m assuming came from your teacher, I’m sure you’ve had other inspirations that, that led you to develop that belief and to try and share that with others. Where do you think that belief came from? Like, did you have someone in your life who poured belief into you or was it mostly your coach in high school? What led you to the secret and other materials to continue building that really positive mindset?


Jamie Stewart (15:44):
I always, you know, as a kid, you always wanna be successful. Hmm. And actually that’s another assignment that we do in our class. You know, what do you fear the most? And, and I always tell them if, if I was sitting in your desk right now and the teacher asked me that it was always the fear, the fear of failure. Mm. So anything that I tried to do, I tried to give it 100%. You know, I was told I, and I was, I was too skinny. I was too scrawny. So what did I do? I wanted to change that. I lived in the weight room. Right. I couldn’t shoot, what did I do? I shot 500 jump shots a day. You can’t dribble. Good enough. You have no left hand. What did I do spent hour or two every single day working on my ball hand.


Jamie Stewart (16:33):
So yeah, you know, my coach Delo had a, had a wonderful effect on me. Obviously there was something deep and down inside. Mm. And I also teach grade nine, 10 religion. And, and I, and I incorporate it into this class as well. You know, what, what motivates you, you have to find what motivates you? What, what triggers you? What trigger that triggers that inner animal in you? Right. For me, it’s being told you can’t do something. Mm. I remember I remember high school. I would score 30 and a half 25 and a quarter 40 in a game that really didn’t. Yeah, that’s good. You know, let’s keep going with it. But what really lit my fire was somebody telling me, like, and, and to this day, somebody tell me I can’t do something or I’m not good enough. Then it’s on you. Go on my run, mental Rolodex.


Jamie Stewart (17:36):
I write your name down on my phone. And I will look at it for the rest of my life. And it’ll drive me to absolute exhaustion at the end of the day. And this is just a competitor to me, has nothing against that person. They help me at the end of the day, I’m gonna make sure that everything I do is better than you I’m coming at you. Right. And, and it’s psychological. And, and I tell the kids find something that motivates you. Mm. Yes. You have your, you have your passion, you have your goals and your, and, and your daily routine. It should resemble the result being your goal. But what sparks a fire in you to push it to that next level? Yes. In my basketball academy, my kids wake up at five in the morning, every morning, they’re in the weight room by six, till seven 30, then they go to school and then they see me after school from four to eight inside of that, four to eight, they shoot a thousand jump shots. They make a thousand passes. They make 200 5500 defensive slides and 2000 to 5,000 dribbles. Okay. So everything, everything is systematic in, in what we do. So, sorry. I lost track. Sometimes I go off on tangents. Can you re bring me back to the initial question? Cause I just lost track of my


Sam Demma (18:54):
Yeah, no, no, no worries. I was just asking where your belief came from and you gave me a ton of great ideas from, from your coach. And then you said internally, right? Like you have to figure out what drives you. Personally. And I think it’s important to understand that every person is driven from something different. I relate to you. I, I love when people tell me I can’t do something and that drives me a ton. And yeah, I, I, I agree. I, I’m curious to know what are some of the things you think that drive your students? So when you give those assignments in religion class and, and in careers and civics, like what kind of ideas or answers come up?


Jamie Stewart (19:35):
A lot of ’em talk about, you know, cuz I always, I always go back to basketball with them, with me and the work that I have and my kids have, but I always say replace that with your goals and dreams and they, and they always do. They always do. And a lot of the kids in this class now say that they wake up and they exercise before school or they wake up and they’re working on their dream, whatever it may be. And a lot of ’em, they don’t know what they wanna do yet, but they wake up and they get an hour of schoolwork in before school that they weren’t doing. Mm. Right. So they’ve a lot of ’em have changed their schedule into putting more time into who they want to be in the future and obviously a lot less time on, on social media.


Sam Demma (20:27):
Hmm. I love that. That’s awesome. And I know we met because of the four day program that we, you did with your school, which I’m super grateful for. Which is awesome. Wh what would your advice be for another educator who’s listening, who maybe they’re in their first couple years of teaching. And I think teaching and coaching are very similar, which is why we can make these, these similar analogies. But if you could give advice to someone who’s in the first couple years of teaching what would you say? Like what kind of advice could you give them?


Jamie Stewart (20:58):
I always say, if you have passion for the kids, if you have passion for their development and you have the betterment their betterment truly on your mind. Mm. Obviously you’re gonna have to put a one an hour to three hours a day in understanding the curriculum and really not only understanding, but learning how to bring modern day contemporary issues that can drag the kids in to that. They, they enjoy what you’re doing. You’re gonna be successful. Hmm. I think with teaching you can’t fake it. The kids will know if you care or not. They will know if you’re on their side or not. So for all the advice I’ve ever given, new teachers is love the kids, put them first, put your ego to the side. It’s servant leadership. It’s sometimes gonna be humiliating, but that’s okay. That’s what, that’s what we’re here to do. If it betters the kids and you’re humiliated, good, you’ve done your job nice. Right. And I, and sometimes even, even in coaching, right. Sometimes you’re gonna be humiliated, but it, if it makes the kids better and they’re gonna learn from it and grow from it, right. And then you can build upon that, put your ego to the side for the betterment of the, the student to, for the betterment of, of the player.


Sam Demma (22:32):
Mm. I love that. It’s an awesome principle. And I think our egos get in the way sometimes.


Jamie Stewart (22:38):
So all the time, any, any, any, if you really look back as, as a coach or a teacher, whenever you get into trouble, whenever you get into conflicts, what is it really? It’s your ego. Mm. Right. They, Greg Popovich has a wonderful thing that I learned from you is get over yourself, right. Get over yourself in order, you know, to make the squad better, which in essence is gonna make you better as a person. And no matter how good, no matter how good you think you are. Right. You can still always get better.


Sam Demma (23:08):
Yeah.


Jamie Stewart (23:10):
I was having a, a conversation with Cedric BA Cedric Ben. He’s a boxing coach here in Windsor. He has a lot of national champions. And I told him, you know, back in 2011, when, you know, I had NBA Scouts calling me about one of the players that I had transformed from a really, really struggling player in Windsor to duke and Michigan and Northwestern calling and, and on offering scholarships. I thought that I was, I was one of the best in the world. I really, I really thought that. And I probably was, but from then, until now I am a thousand times better. And it’s because of my passion. And, and it’s because, you know, I study the game, you know, so thoroughly, so no matter how good you are, get over yourself, because you can always get better. You can always improve which, which is gonna help you benefit a benefit. Everybody that you come in contact with more.


Sam Demma (24:08):
I agree. I, I couldn’t agree more. And your progress has been super inspiring and you’ve helped so many young students inside the classroom and also on the basketball court. And if anyone is listening to this and is inspired by this conversation so far, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you and have a conversation, be it at basketball or teaching?


Jamie Stewart (24:28):
Yeah. So I’m online @ebta.ca. I’m, I’m on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube. My email address and my contact information, you know, is there along with other, other information. I’m always, I’m always getting calls emails from parents from, you know, they have a soccer, they have a soccer kid or, or another baseball kid. And then they’re always asking, you know, for my advice. And I always try to give the best advice as possible and it, and it’s usually about the work ethic of, of my kids and my academy that you, that you really, that you, that you really should have. So I’m open, I’m open to you know, to help anybody if, if they’re in need.


Sam Demma (25:21):
Awesome. Jamie, I appreciate you taking the time to, to have this conversation and I’m wish you all the best. Keep up the awesome work and we’ll talk soon.


Jamie Stewart (25:31):
Okay. Thanks buddy.


Sam Demma (25:33):
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; f 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.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Jamie Stewart

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.

Jackie Groat – Student Leadership Advisor, Teacher & Basketball Coach

Jackie Groat – Student Leadership Advisor, Teacher & Basketball Coach
About Jackie Groat

Jackie (@JackieGroat) is a Teacher, Coach, Sports Fan, and Outdoor Enthusiast who loves inspiring Leadership through action.  Jackie is also involved in the Alberta Association of Students’ Councils and Advisors as the Social Media Director. 

Connect with Jackie: Email | Instagram | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Henry Wise Wood High School

Calgary Board of Education

Alberta Association of Student Councils and Advisors (AASCA)

Alberta Student Leadership Summit (ASLS)

Canadian Student Leadership Association (CSLA)

Canadian Student Leadership Conference (CSLC)

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 am super excited about today’s guest. We have on the special Jackie Groat. She’s a good friend of mine. I met her over a year ago now. Back when COVID initially started, I spoke to one of her classrooms and we became friends.


Sam Demma (00:58):
We stayed in touch. Now I have the pleasure of interviewing on the podcast. Jackie is a teacher, a coach, a sports fan. She loves basketball and she’s an outdoor enthusiast. More formally, he works at Henry Wisewood high school with the Calgary Board of Education. She’s a basketball coach when we’re not in C technology teacher and student leadership advisor. Fun fact. She is also the social media director of the Alberta association of student councils and advisors. And she is one of the reasons why myself and two other young powerhouses are a part of their student leadership conference this year. It is my honor and pleasure to interview Jackie today. We touch on so many awesome ideas and topics, and I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. And I will see you on the other side. Jackie, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing the reason behind why you got into education?


Jackie Groat (02:00):
Hi Sam, thanks for inviting me. This is a great opportunity to come join you. So yeah, my name’s Jackie Groat. I’m a teacher in Calgary, Alberta, and I have been teaching for, let me think here, I guess it’s been eight years now. I, I started out in Kelowna, BC, and then I was in a private system there for a couple years and had a lot of opportunities to explore different things. I didn’t have to teach any one subject and so I, I built quite the, quite the laundry list of experience and was invited to come to Calgary. And so when I came here, I started out as a math teacher and that’s kind of where I am by trade. My degree is in mathematics and biology. And from there, kind of some, some knowledge that kind of hit the ground saying, oh, you did robotics.


Jackie Groat (02:54):
Oh, you did this. Oh, you did that. And so I’ve kind of bounced around a little bit; whether it’s been mathematics, science, like I said, robotics and engineering to teaching architecture and 3D design and computer science. So all over the map. But my heart and soul lands with leadership. It really, really is my heart and soul. It’s it’s the thing that I’m the most passionate about and that kind of stems from even being a teenager. And I was on student council in high school. And at that time I was aware of the Canadian student leadership conferences. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to, to make it in my grade 12 year, but I, since then had an opportunity when I started my education career to get involved with the Canadian Student Leadership Conference that was held in Kelowna so that was my first experience. And yeah, and I just, those experiences have really shaped where I am and who I am and so my passion is about teaching others. Not just a content subject area, but just to be better humans; to be empowered and driven. That’s kind of where I’m at.


Sam Demma (04:06):
Where does the, where does the passion come from, did when you were growing up and when you were in student council, did you have a teacher that pushed you in this direction? Your, your passion for mathematics and science could have led you down so many different, why education? Like, did you just want to be a teacher? Did you, did you know it from a young age or like what led you down that path?


Jackie Groat (04:30):
I’m gonna say life led me down that path being resilient. So when I was starting grade 10, I was in a car accident that put me in a coma for a short, a period of time. Oh, wow. Coming into my grade tenure, it was a huge challenge. It was if it wasn’t for my teachers that I had in, in my grade 10 year I don’t know where I, you know, how I would’ve gone through my education, but yeah, I, I had to learn how to study. I had like a five minute memory for a short period of time. I was going to school half days alternating days for the first few months. And it was just teachers that really, really took a care and an interest that I, people I had made connections with in high school that, that checked in on me that made sure I had what I needed.


Jackie Groat (05:20):
And so of course through my grade 11 and 12 years there were friends of course, but you know, just that, that passion to like, keep, keep going. And of course some of that comes intrinsically, right? Yeah. but I was a basketball player and that was a hard thing for me because in that year I couldn’t play basketball. Hmm. And my coach was really, really great when I was alone out to physically get back on the court. He, he basically said to me, he’s like, look, you’ve lost a whole year of skills. He’s like, you’re gonna come. You’re gonna manage all my team. You’re gonna get back into the swing of things. He’s like, you’re not even gonna worry about tryouts. He’s like, you just, you have a spot on the team. And so from there getting to build those leadership skills there, having them mimicked working with coaches in grade 12 and getting connected, like I said, on, on student council and being able to help others kind of just started that journey.


Jackie Groat (06:16):
And ironically, when I went to university was not an intention to be an educator. Mm. I went in thinking I’m gonna go into engineering. That was my plan engineering. And clearly that’s not where I am. Just kind of didn’t play out in, in my cards for what I wanted, but I learned a lot. And you know, just thinking about the people that how were most impactful for me and the, the experiences that I had. And then of course, the people that were telling me, man, you’re really good at like sharing information. You’re really good at teaching this skill. You’d be great at this. And I started helping coach little kids, and again, same thing was said to me. So I started on the education path later in my life and here I am and loving it and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.


Sam Demma (07:06):
Ah, that’s amazing. And when you think back to those teachers you had, when you were in grade 10 that really supported you and helped you along the way, like, what was it exactly that they did if you had to pinpoint some things that had a huge impact on you that you think other teachers or educators listening could learn from? Is there anything that kind of comes to mind when you think about that year?


Jackie Groat (07:31):
Probably just conversation, just the willingness and the openness to just say, Hey, how are you doing today? You know, where, you know, what is it that you need today? What is gonna make your day just a little bit brighter? And it didn’t necessarily have to be about that partic particular subject. But just, just genuinely seeing me for, for where I was at and wanting to connect and, and how, of course I’m sure that these are not teachers for me in high school, started in grade nine in Saskatchewan. So I did know these teachers a little bit beforehand. Wasn’t like I was a brand new face to the school. Yeah. And so that, that was good, right. Because I, you know, they knew me as a student in classes or on the basketball or on the track and, you know, on the track and field team. So knowing that I had what potential I did in interests, they met me, you know, where I was at. Nice. So conversation just opened the conversation.


Sam Demma (08:35):
Ah, I like that. It’s a good, it’s a good piece of feedback. And fast forward, you know, it’s a to right now as you’re a teacher, I’m sure those are things that you strive to do. How do you think during this crazy time that we can still make students feel, you know, heard and appreciated? Is it about conversation? Is it about maybe if it’s not face to face, like sending them an email, like how do you ensure that your kids still feel seen, heard and appreciated during a tough time? Like, like COVID,


Jackie Groat (09:03):
Yeah, that’s a big one right now, Sam, for sure. And we know that mental health is a challenge. I think it’s about recognizing that there are a lot of pressures and we’re used to do dealing with the academic pressure that, you know, I have so many assignments to get done. I have these due dates. I’m expected to meet certain grades and while the pressure is coming at them from their teacher, they’re also getting those pressures at home different home dynamics, different expectations. And then those students also have their own personal pressures that they put on themselves. And then we blanket all of this right now with the pandemic that we’re in and you know, that adds anxiety and, and all so much unknown. And so I think it’s about again, same thing checking in and having that conversation and you see that kid walking down the hall or they walk into your classroom and just genuinely saying, hi, you know, tell me, tell me a story.


Jackie Groat (10:01):
What, what happened in your day yesterday? What was your win yesterday? You know, what are you looking forward to in this week? And sometimes you might get that response back. That’s like, I have nothing to look forward to or, you know, it’s kind of, it’s kind of jury. And, and so then you open that conversation to, okay. Why do you feel that way, you know, is, is there something that we could pick out that maybe do you have a goal that you wanna work on? Or, you know, how, how can I help, help you turn that around knowing that, you know, we can’t take on our students all of their problems for those educators that are out out there. We, you know, that’s a, that’s a fine line. We have to be careful that we’re not taking that to too much to heart and home with us because it can, can happen. But what can you do when you’re in those walls together and how can you give them that motivating message to go? Okay, all we have to do is find one thing that you can look forward to one thing that you’re gonna work on, or it’s celebrating those, those wins and going, you know what, we’re, we’re just gonna take one day at a time.


Sam Demma (11:08):
Hmm. No, I love that. And at what point in your journey did you decide to get involved in the Canadian student leadership association with and with the student leadership association association?


Jackie Groat (11:21):
Yeah, you’re right on both of them. I’m not gonna lie. I’m a little ambitious and people who know me will laugh. They feel like, oh, yeah. But when I, when I started on my journey into the education world, when I was at university and doing my practical I had an, an opportunity to connect with norm Bradley, who many people across Canada will recognize that name in leadership. And I got the opportunity to sit on the committee and, and help out where I could. And so I started out with the social media side of things when we were putting together that conference and going, okay, how are we gonna connect? And of course it, it, I just remember leadership being such a huge part of my life in school. And like I said, on the student council helping bring spirit week to our school motivating my graduating class to put together not just a, a regular yearbook, but to put, put together a video yearbook on a compact disc.


Sam Demma (12:27):
Oh my goodness. What is that?


Jackie Groat (12:28):
Yeah, that’s okay. I’m giving away my age. Am I no seriously though, but just those things. And I thought, you know, this is an opportunity where I can get involved and do those things for our future generations. And so I, I got on there with the social media side instead of compact discs and helped out there. And so that was that, that opportunity. And I’ve continued with social media in the high schools that I’m at or have been at both past and present. And I guess I’m gonna say how long ago, maybe a couple years ago it was, I was approached by a member of the Alberta student leadership association or council said, yeah, Hey, you know, we need to have a director for our social media side for our province. And I heard you’d be great at it. And so I said, sure, pick me, pick me and hopped on board there and, and I’m enjoying it. So we’re getting that up and running and it’s, it’s going okay. It’s going. Alright.


Sam Demma (13:31):
That’s awesome. If you were forced to convince another teacher, why leadership is so important, what would you tell them like for maybe there’s someone listening, who knows that leadership is great and impactful, but hasn’t fully bought into the idea that it’s very important for students growth and their learning. Like, what would you say to convince them?


Jackie Groat (13:52):
Oh, wow. You know, the irony of this conversation is I, I actually just had a conversation with a dear friend and colleague on the weekend saying to me exactly that Hey, I’m considering, you know, taking on the leadership program at my school, tell me more. And of course, I’m, I like lit up and I was super excited because I’m like, yes, more people in leadership, more people to run this program. Yeah, it’s important because it’s what drives the culture at your school. It’s what makes your students want to be there. So you can have those students and maybe they’re not the strongest academically or maybe they’re your top straight a students, but they’re, they’re those kids that you wanna, you, you wanna grab and pull into the school and say, Hey, you know, we can make this, this place, our own, we can make this place somewhere where we almost don’t wanna go home from, because we love our school that much. And so leadership is wanting that they’re the home of the warriors or they’re the home of the Trojans or whatever, whatever their, their home motto is. Awesome. And so to be a part of that is huge.


Sam Demma (15:05):
Sorry. I’m so sorry. I think my wifi cut out right after you said the leadership is, is,


Jackie Groat (15:11):
Oh,


Sam Demma (15:11):
It’s okay. I’m gonna edit this part. But if you wanna, just about today, continue.


Jackie Groat (15:16):
Yeah. Oh, just being a part of leadership is huge. Like just that connection and helping, helping those students to learn those skills where they can motivate others and take those skills off into you life in, whether it be their, their job their family life, their friendships and just, yeah. Growing as citizens. It’s awesome.


Sam Demma (15:43):
I love that. That’s so good. And when you think about the years that you’ve been teaching teaching, I’m sure there’s been student transfer, whether you’ve seen it first, like firsthand firsthand, or you’ve seen it 20 years later, maybe you haven’t yet, but students maybe come back and share notes and tell their teachers how big of an impact they’ve had in those stories of those stories, which ones of them stick out to you. And if there’s any personal ones you can change the name just to keep the kids private.


Jackie Groat (16:19):
Yeah. I had one student who she was really, really a strong leader and you know, being in leadership in school really empowered her to learn, to stretch outside. And she got involved. She was always involved in different clubs or different activities throughout her, throughout the city, but she you know, she decided that she could take on more. And so in those groups and, and committees, she kind of took on a lead, were role in a community practice and they, they put together a thing, a proposal on food securities, and she’s managed to go from, you know, just kind of being the participant to helping lead other students her age, maybe slightly older, maybe slightly younger, but develop a charter, a food at securities charter within the city. She worked together with a number of students to, to write a book promoting, you know, what it is to, to, to do with food security.


Jackie Groat (17:26):
And it was really cool because then I got a email and then invite to her book launch. So that was kind of a really warm, inviting experience. And it’s, you know, it’s not something that we get a lot of as educators, those, those thank yous. And sometimes we’ll get that student that comes back to us years later and says, Hey, you know, I, you know, I really learned a lot in your class and I really appreciate, you know, what you did for me. And when those happen, we have to cherish those moments. And I had another student this year reach out to me who graduated, Hmm. About three years ago, I guess it would be. And they’re pursuing their, they’re finally choosing to pursue their post-secondary education and kind of reached out and said, Hey, you know my time in your class meant a lot.


Jackie Groat (18:18):
I got a lot of experiences out of it. I actually took this particular student on a field trip and it was a small group. There’s only four students that were able to go on this field trip. And that student reached out and said, can you write a letter of reference for me, I’m applying for this scholarship. And it had to do with humanitarian work and what they had done. And so, yeah, it’s kind of an honor for, for when that happens, students reach out and they remember who you are and, you know, especially it’s two and three years later. Right.


Sam Demma (18:52):
So true. And if you could, could speak to first year educator, Jackie, and give your younger self advice, what would you, what would you tell yourself?


Jackie Groat (19:04):
Oh, what would I tell myself? There’s lots of time. You don’t have to do everything the first year. You don’t have to take on everything in the first year. Yeah. it comes one step at a time and the idea is sometimes you can be overflowing with ideas and you see so much of what you wanna do, and it feels daunting and overwhelming. But I’ve learned to make lists and write them down. And, and not, I guess I shouldn’t even say it as so much as to do lists, but goal lists. And like, as those ideas come or there’s things that you wanna work on it can feel overwhelming to try and tackle everything at once, but it’s, it’s, it’s gratifying to look back at that list that you’ve made and go, Hey, look at all the things I have done over this time. And just go, you know what? I’m gonna work on it. You know, one thing at a time


Sam Demma (20:01):
You made it


Jackie Groat (20:02):
I’ll get to the end.


Sam Demma (20:03):
No, it makes sense. You made it sound like there’s a distinction between a goal list and a to-do list. I’m curious to know in your mind, what is that? What is the difference?


Jackie Groat (20:14):
I think with the goal list, it’s more about, it’s something that’s, you know, going to, it takes some layers of work.


Sam Demma (20:21):
Got it


Jackie Groat (20:21):
Got, right. There’s some revisions that are gonna go in there. A to-do list is, I think of more as like, you know, your


Sam Demma (20:28):
Quick laundry. Oh


Jackie Groat (20:30):
Yeah. The laundry list, like, oh, got, do laundry tomorrow or yeah. Better get those Simon’s marked by tomorrow or whatever. Right. Whereas like, you know, that goal is things it’s like for example, right now I’m working on wanting to put together a social media calendar so that I have this calendar each year that I can take a look at and I know, okay, in October, these are the things that I wanna hit. This is, these are the major events. These are the, the things that we celebrate in October what happens in November. So putting those things together, because not only is that helpful from me, right. But it’s something that I can leave as a a legacy or a pass on and share to other educators, which is a huge thing in our world. We do a lot of sharing of resources don’t ever reinvent the wheel.


Sam Demma (21:21):
It’s already there. Just ask it’s


Jackie Groat (21:23):
Already there. Just make it better, just make it better and share.


Sam Demma (21:26):
Okay. And if someone does wanna share with you or take from you, what would be the best way for them to reach out?


Jackie Groat (21:32):
Best way would be through email, you can find me through the Calgary board of education at jrgroat@cbe.ab.ca. You can also find me through the Alberta association of Student Councils and Advisors or AASCA, and we’re on the web as well at www.aasca.org and you can find me there as well.


Sam Demma (21:59):
Awesome. Awesome. Jackie, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. And I look forward to looking at all the different things you complete on your goal list.


Jackie Groat (22:08):
Thanks Sam. Oh, my goal is it’s. It’s constantly, constantly going right. You tick one off and you add two more. Yeah.


Sam Demma (22:15):
Sounds good. Sounds good. All right. See you, Jackie.


Jackie Groat (22:18):
Take care Sam.


Sam Demma (22:19):
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 Jackie Groat

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.

Steve Bristol – Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management and Strategic Planning

Steve Bristol - Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management and Strategic Planning
About Steve Bristol

Steve Bristol is the Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management and Strategic Planning at the Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey.  He is a coach, mentor, and someone that deeply cares about the success of the young people in his school.  

Connect with Steve: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The Hun School Website

US College Expo

Maine Summer Camps

Who is Gary Vee?

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 great episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today we, you have on someone that I met through an event called the US college expo. He was one of the US admissions representatives who was speaking to students about how they could pursue their education in the States. And he is the director of admissions and financial aid at the Hun school of Princeton in New Jersey.


Sam Demma (00:59):
He is also a former coach, a mentor, and someone who really cares deeply about the success of his students. It’s very evident in this episode that Steve Bristol, today’s guest has a mission to help as many students as he can while also, you know, keeping himself young by being surrounded by the contagious energy of today’s youth. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed recording it, and I will see you on the other side. Steve, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. It is a pleasure to have you on here. Start by sharing a little bit about who you are and why you got into the work you do with young people today?


Steve Bristol (01:38):
It’s my pleasure Sam. Thanks for the opportunity to, to chat with you. I’d love to give you an altruistic reason about why I work in schools and, and how I wanna shape the youth of America and of the world so that, you know, they’ll take better care of the world, and all of that, but really my motives are pretty selfish. It keeps me young. Oh, working with kids is, you know, it keeps you in touch with your own youth. I, I took a couple of years in my career where I went and I worked business schools and in those four years, I think I gained 15 pounds, my eyesight went, I had to start where and glasses, you know, that lifestyle just didn’t work for me. I felt like I’d aged 20 years and four years. And so I came back into schoolwork because it does keep you energized and keeps you young. So my motives are, are purely selfish. I do care about the future and I think kids are, are gonna lead that charge. But but I can’t be as generous with that as I probably should be.


Sam Demma (02:46):
That’s awesome. I love the authenticity. I’m curious to know, at what point in your own career search, did you make the decision? Yep. I’m going to work in education. Was there a defining moment or was it just a progressional choice? Yeah,


Steve Bristol (02:59):
There was actually was a kind of a moment there. I’m a product of the system. I went to a, a, an independent boarding school in, in the us nice for high school. And as I worked with a college counselor there who was helping me sort of decide what kind of colleges to go to. And, and at one point, you know, I was a little bit lost and , and he said, well, you know, what would you like to do after college? And, you know, at that point, I, I wouldn’t been exposed to very much. So I said, yeah, maybe I’d like to come back to a place like this and, and teach and coach. And he said, well, in that case, you know, go here, come back in four years and I’ll give you a job. So that combined with I did a, a lot of summer camp work as a teenager. And and so you get sort of your experience working with kids that way and living with them. And, and so when I did graduate from college, I, I went right into boarding school work where I ran a dorm, coached a couple of seasons and taught classes. And so I, I was the stereotypical, triple threat. They call it boring schools where you do a little bit of everything.


Sam Demma (04:08):
That’s awesome. Tell me more about the summer camps. Were you young when you did those? Not that you’re old now, but well


Steve Bristol (04:17):
yeah, I started working summer camp camps, probably in maybe 11th and 12th grade. I think I started, I did it for I was a camp counselor for three or four years, and then I took some time off and I came back and sort of became an administrator and ultimately became a co-director of a, kind of a traditional summer camp in Maine, which, you know, little SPO, little waterfront, little camping trips, you know, a very sort of, you know, very boarding school-like kind of place where you, you want kids to have a balanced experience and, and, and get exposed to a lot of different things. One of my worries with our kids today is that they, they need to be specialists. They need to be great today. You know, as eighth grader, they need to have found their passion and pursued it and, and be a young little expert. And, and I would rather kids keep trying some new things and to continue to be beginners at things for as long as they can. And I think summer camp and school can do that for kids.


Sam Demma (05:23):
No, it’s so true. There’s advice that this marketer, Gary V always gives, and he says, you don’t have to find what you like right away. That’s why when you go to a buffet, there’s a thousand options. And the way you figure out what you enjoy is you take a little piece of each little bin, you try it and you stop eating what you don’t like, and you keep eating what you do like, and yeah, I think sometimes kids limit themselves to one little portion of a buffet instead of trying all of it and


Steve Bristol (05:47):
Absolutely true. I, I actually used the buffet analogy in my own work here as I talk to families and I talk to them about, you know, hun, where I am now being a, a, a buffet where, you know, there’s lots of different clubs and activities and sports and music and art and all of those things who knows what’s gonna capture your attention. And, and if, if there’s anything we learned, it’s, you know, kids are gonna change as they grow up. They, they don’t need to lock in quite so early.


Sam Demma (06:16):
That’s so true. And right now at hunt, I know there’s some very unique challenges that all schools are facing. And I’m curious to know someone recently told me the state of education is like throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks . And I’m curious to know out of the spaghetti, you’ve already thrown in the challenges you’re facing, what seems to be working really well. And what are some earnings you’ve also had.


Steve Bristol (06:39):
It’s a great question. And, and it is, and the spaghetti analogy I think is, is a pretty accurate one. there’s a little more thought behind it before we throw it, but yeah. You know, obviously, you know, the hunt school, Princeton, where I am now, we’re a, we’re a boarding in day school in Princeton, New Jersey. And so we have local kids who are day students. We have domestic borders. So kids from around, you know, 18 different states in the us. And then we have kids that come from, you know, 20, we’ve got, these are trying to manage. What we’ve done is we put our kids into two teams and they come to school on alternate days. So kids come every other day for in-person classes and that’s reduced the density in our classrooms. A lot of our international kids are, are studying virtually and they’re logging in from home and attending classes that way.


Steve Bristol (07:44):
It’s, it’s a phenomenal challenge for teachers that are on the, the, the ground floor of this that are standing in a classroom with, you know, five kids sitting at a table in front of them and another seven kids on a screen behind them. And, and how do you serve both of those groups and, and, you know, and work intentionally in our classes are small and we, we want to give personal attention. And so they’re trying to engage all of those kids into the conversation and into the class, and, you know, and, and into practical work, instead of, you know, the old kind of teaching where the teacher just lectures and the kids take notes, we’ve moved pretty far away from that to where our classrooms are really dynamic and active and interactive trying to do that. Both virtually and in person at the same time is I think is a phenomenal challenge on top of that. You know, we’ve gotta keep everybody safe. You know, we, we’ve got, we’ve put in a phenomenal amount of safety and health protocols. We all get screened every morning before we come to school. Yeah. You know, I get my temperature checked and I get a little bracelet that the screener gives me that says, I’m, I’m good to go for today. But it’s, you know, the health and safety piece is, has dominated our work all summer long and, and on a daily basis.


Sam Demma (09:07):
Yeah, no, that’s, that, that makes a lot of sense. Things are definitely changing really, really fast. And sounds like unschool was doing a great job of adjusting on the fly and trying to still be of service to students as much as they possibly can. I’m curious to know when you were a student, did you have someone in your life who like maybe a coach who guided you, who pushed you that helped you when you were at a low point in your life? There might be a coach that sticks out in mind. And the reason I’m asking is I’m curious to know what that coach did for you, so that other educators listening might think about doing the same thing for their students.


Steve Bristol (09:45):
Yeah. I, I, I have a very specific experience that really set me in a lot of ways. It’s been the foundation of my own teaching coaching. I was a senior in high school and, and was a pretty serious soccer and lacrosse player, but I didn’t really play a sport in the winter. I’d done a little basketball, but, you know, I peaked on the JV team I think was as good as I ever got. And the athletic director came to me one day and asked if I would help coach the freshman basketball. They had a lot of kids out there. They had a teacher that wasn’t really, you know, he was more of a science teacher than a coach and, and kind of needed someone out there to help keep order. So, because the athletic director was also my advisor, I thought it would be a good idea to, to sort of do whatever he asked me to do.


Steve Bristol (10:34):
He where I knew it, I was coaching my own basketball team and we had a group below the freshman, you know, sort of freshman B is essentially who I was coaching. So these are the least athletic kids in the school. I’m doing it in a sport where I don’t feel a tremendous amount of confidence. You know, it, it was a recipe for disaster. So we went to our first away game and the athletic director drove the van and, and brought us there. And, and he just sat in the bench and he didn’t say a word the whole time, and I never shut up. I mean, I talked those kids through every step, every pass, every shot, I was just a, a constant voice in their ear in, in, you know, my trying to help them, you know, be successful and win the game and do all of those things.


Steve Bristol (11:22):
And, you know, when the dust settled, we, we lost by about 40 points. It wasn’t even close to being competitive. And I, you know, I’m destroyed, I, this is my first experience. It’s very public, you know, all, any coach knows, you know, your, your work is public. And so when you have a bad day, you know, there’s people watching. And so I’m kind of hanging my head and the athletic director came over to me and he said, you know, you actually did a pretty good job. He goes, but you make the kids nervous. You talk too much. Sometimes just let the kids play. And that idea that sometimes just let the kids play mm. Has guided, you know, I’ve done a lot of coaching since then and have had a fair amount of success and not every day was like that. But I can, I can think of specific games where I used that advice, where I realized I kids are doing a great job. They didn’t need me to keep coaching. The part of my job was to step back and let them be successful. It was about them, not about me coaching a win, and, and to tell yourself in those moments to just be quiet and just let, what you’ve been hoped would happen happen. Yeah. But I think coaches and teachers forget to recognize.


Steve Bristol (12:37):
And as a parent now, sometimes I gotta let my kids play and sometimes they’re gonna fail and fall and all of those things, but, you know, that’s part of teaching. And part of teaching is knowing when to keep your mouth closed and just let kids experience things.


Sam Demma (12:52):
I love that so much. That’s, that’s an amazing piece of advice. And have you in your role now maybe you can even talk about this as a coach or as a head of enrollment. Have you used that same advice personally with your students and have seen any massive transformations or some students that have been deeply impacted the same way your coach impacted you? And if there’s a serious story about how someone’s life has been changed, you can change their name for privacy reasons, but the reason I’m digging for it is because an educator might be listening right now. Who’s a little burnt out. And I wanna remind them that the work we do in education and coaching it has the power to transform lives. So if you have any stories that this take out to you it would be cool to hear. And so,


Steve Bristol (13:37):
And, and I think particularly as, as you say, under these circumstances, this is really hard. And the challenge for teachers under the best of circumstances is you don’t typically see the results yeah. Of your work. You know, you’ll have somebody come back 10 years later and tell you how impactful you were and things like that. And, and but in the moment there’s days where it just feels like I’m not making a dent here, you know, they’re, they’re just coming back. And they’re the same kids today that they were yesterday, despite everything I tried to do. So I think my best advice, advice to teachers is, is to remember, there’s a long game here. Yeah. That you, you, aren’t gonna change kids in a day, but being steady and being consistent and approaching your work with their best interests at heart does pay dividends. And, and part of that is you just have to trust that, that it will.


Steve Bristol (14:37):
For me personally, there, there’s been a lot of times where, you know, kids have come back and, and surprised me in, in what they’ve remembered that I said at one point, or, you know, a lot of times it’s embarrassing stuff where they’ll say, oh, I remember that time you did that. And I’d be like, yeah, those were the things I’ve tried to forget. . But I had a, a, a tremendously talented and had a really, really difficult time. And , and he, and I had sort of exchanged messages and I didn’t realize the extent of it. And he came into my office and, and began to talk to me about things where I could really tell something was very, very wrong and, and I didn’t realize it. And after he left his mom called and as a woman, I had a really good relationship with, for many years and, and said, I’m so sorry.


Steve Bristol (15:33):
I didn’t, you know, I didn’t tell you in advance, so you could be prepared. Mm. And what we found out is he, he was bipolar and they didn’t know it. And that came out and he was home from college with nothing to do. And, and I said, well, come to look, cross practice every day. And you’ll be my assistant coach, and you’ll stand next to me and you’ll learn how to coach and work with kids. And, and he came every day and, you know, he, as he’s learning to adjust to his new situation and medication and things like that, he had safe space to come to every day. Mm. And, you know, and to this day, you know, he’s the father of twins and in his, you know, probably mid thirties we still talk about that spring. You know, we’ve stayed in touch, he’s in great shape now. And he tells me, his mom still sends me a note once a year, that says, you know, you changed his life because you, you took him in when, when he was lost. And, you know, it was, to me, it was sort of an obvious thing to do. He is a great kid, you know, I love having him around. And, and, but it was at a time in his life when he needed somebody to invest a little extra in him.


Sam Demma (16:43):
I love that. That’s an amazing, it’s an amazing story. And you mentioned, you know, small actions in there somewhere. My teacher, Mike always told me, you know, small, consistent, massive changes. Absolutely. And it applies to education. It applies to mentorship with young people, and it just applies to everyday life, whether you’re trying to change something personally or something in a school or student’s life. If there’s a, that’s


Steve Bristol (17:07):
Interesting, I think one of the big to do is to sort of teach through the positive as opposed to the negative. I think we’re all very quick to point out when kids make mistakes and candidly, that’s really easy to do. You know, I, I can, I can watch a field hockey game and tell you when somebody makes a bad pass. I don’t have any idea how to teach someone to play field hockey and I can think the more we start to celebrate the positives that kids do and teach through their successes. That’s where I think we start to really generate a lot of momentum. And if we spend all our time just pointing out when they make mistakes, well, then that’s what they’re gonna hear.


Sam Demma (17:48):
Hmm. No, that’s so true. And on the topic of great advice for educators, if someone’s listening, who is maybe teaching for the first year and thinking like, what the heck did I sign up for? This is not what I was expecting. What advice would your current self have to give your past self or someone else listening?


Steve Bristol (17:58):
Boy, that’s a really good question. My when I started, I think it, it was, as I sort of said earlier, it was all very personal to me. Yeah. It was, you know, am, am I a good teacher? Am I doing this? Are, are they responding to me? It was very me centric. Mm. And I think, and you know, obviously, you know, you look at it now, it’s, you know, you have to get to know your kids and, and get to know them personally. So that when, you know, I, I talk about working in boarding schools as sort of being, you know, a surrogate parent. And, you know, when my kids come home from school and they’ve had a bad day, I know it.


Steve Bristol (18:49):
But before they’ve even opened their mouth, I can read their body. I can feel it in the air that this was not a good day. And we’re, we’re gonna have some work to do tonight. If teachers can get to that point with their kids in class, where you can kind of read their body language and know when they’re with you. And when they’re not boy, you can ha you know, now you can create an at fear where they can be comfortable, and if they’re comfortable, they’re gonna find a voice. And when they find that voice, they’ll start to engage with each other. And that’s when, you know, that’s when the magic happens and finding a way to make kids comfortable in your class as opposed to uncomfortable. And I think when I started teaching, I wanted them to be uncomfortable because I was so uncom, I, I just needed to control things, making sure they’re comfortable.


Sam Demma (19:40):
Hmm. That’s a great piece of advice. If I was teaching right now, I would say, thank you. good. That’s amazing. And if anyone’s listening and they, they’re inspired by this convers, they wanna reach out, maybe bounce some ideas around, or get some coaching advice from a former or former or current basketball coach. What would be the best way for them to reach out?


Steve Bristol (20:02):
I’d love doing that and I love, you know, as you can tell, I love talking about education and would welcome anyone that wants to reach out on anything. Along these lines, you know, you can reach me through the, the Hun school website at www.hunschool.org and under the admissions tab. There’s a, a funny picture of me in my email address. Or my email is SteveBristol@hunschool.org, and would welcome strangers, reaching out love, talking about this stuff.


Sam Demma (20:32):
Awesome. Steve, thanks so much for taking some time today to chat. It’s been a huge pleasure.


Steve Bristol (20:36):
My pleasure Sam. Thanks so much for creating the opportunity and, and sharing all of this information with, with folks. I think it’s real important today.


Sam Demma (20:44):
Cool. Thank you. 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 to 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 Steve Bristol

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 Keliher BA, BEd, MBA, – Teacher, Author, Coach and Teenage Motivator

Ryan Keliher BA, BEd, MBA, - Teacher, Author, Coach and Teenage Motivator
About Ryan Keliher

Ryan Keliher (@superstarcurric) BA, BEd, MBA, is a high school educator who has spent the past eleven years teaching, coaching and motivating teenagers. He is a former valedictorian, university basketball captain, and Academic All-Canadian who is passionate about student leadership and personal development.

Keliher resides in Prince Edward Island, Canada with his wife Siobhan and their baby boy, Rafael.

Connect with Ryan: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Charlottetown Rural High School

Ryan’s Personal Website

The Superstar Curriculum

The Hate you Give

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 actually someone who was introduced to me by a former guest, Melanie Hedley, a teacher from Bluefield High School introduced me over email to this gentleman named Ryan. And I’m so glad she did because the conversation we had was phenomenal and I can’t wait to share it with you.


Sam Demma (00:59):
Ryan Keliher has his BA his BEd , his MBA, and is a high school educator who has spent the past 11 years teaching coaching and motivating teenagers. He is a former valedictorian university basketball captain and an academic, all Canadian, who is passionate about student leadership and personal development. Ryan resides in Prince Edward Island, Canada with his wife Siobhan and their baby Raphael. He is also an author, an author of a book called the superstar curriculum. It’s a phenomenal book. He’s sold over 2000 copies and today we talk about so many different topics, things that come directly out of his book, but also his own philosophies on student leadership and how to navigate these difficult times. I hope you enjoy this conversation. I will see you on the other side. Ryan, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show this morning. Can you start by sharing a little bit about yourself and why you got into the work that you do in education today?


Ryan Keliher (02:01):
Sure. First of all, I just wanna thanks. Thank you a lot for having me on today. I’m really looking forward to being on the pod and just a little bit about me. So my name is Ryan Keliher and I am a high school teacher and I’m 14 years into my career and I teach out of Charlton Rural High School in tiny Prince Edward Island. Nice. Why I kind of got into education? I was really fortunate to have had some awesome teachers when I was going through school and they made me really like being in school and they had a really positive impact on me. And as I grew up, I kind of just felt like I’d like to that kind of do what they do. I really, I really admired them. I really thought what they did was meaningful and from a fairly early age, like in high school, kind of, it was my, it was my goal to become a high school teacher. So I really didn’t even pursue a ton of other options after I kind of got hooked in by these engaging teachers. I kind of said, yeah, you know what? I think I wanna do that too.


Sam Demma (03:07):
Ah, that’s awesome. What did they do? Like what did those teachers do for you that left such an impression on you and pushed you to pursue this path?


Ryan Keliher (03:17):
I think what, when I think of kind of the two or three teachers that stand out the most you know, they, they were really knowledgeable in their subjects, but more almost Mo I would say more importantly, they really made me and my fellow classmates feel valued and welcome in class. And when you added that combination in where students felt like they were valued in the classroom, plus they were gonna get material that, you know, from teachers who were knowledgeable in, in their content areas, it really drew me into the classroom. And, and it was a place that I liked to be at a place I liked. I liked to come every day to learn.


Sam Demma (04:00):
Wow. That makes sense. And, and I think right now that’s a challenge that all educators are, are faced with. It’s tough to do it virtually. Now, maybe in PEI, you guys might be still working in the classrooms, but what are some of the current two things, challenges and opportunities during this time, because I think both are present and I would love to some insight on, on both sides of the coin.


Ryan Keliher (04:22):
Yeah. Well, PEI has, we’ve been very fortunate to kind of, of to keep COVID 19 the spread of it at bay here on the island. So we’ve been quite fortunate. But that, that being said the last two weeks actually my high school has moved to online learning leading up to leading up to the career break. So, you know, it has presented its challenges, but like you said, with, with those challenges come opportunities. I think with education, the biggest challenge, whether it’s virtual learning or in person learning is developing that connection and maintaining that connection with students. And then kind of like what I alluded to the, you know, the teachers that I admired most growing up, they made that connection first and then that made learning a lot easier. It made engagement a lot easier. It made buy a lot easier.


Ryan Keliher (05:10):
So I think that gets more difficult when you, when you move to the remote learning model. So it’s about keeping that at the front of mind as an educator, but how can I still maintain these connections with my students when I’m not seeing them day to day? So for me, it was, you know, little checking emails here and there creating some engaging videos to kind of start class you know, whether they were funny or fun or, or just a little different. And then, and then, you know, using that as kind of the springboard to the content of each lesson, but showing that you care and showing that, that, that you value their time you know, whether it’s in person or online, I think is the most challenging, but it, it kind of, I important opportunity in education and when it comes to opportunity, I’m a big believer that, you know, I think it’s Napoleon hill who says, you know, your biggest opportunity is where you are right now.


Ryan Keliher (06:07):
So, you know, as, as educators or as students, right, it’s important that we think about what we can do in the moment to kind of have actions that create positive reactions for our students. So whether, like I said, it’s a welcome video that puts a smile on somebody’s face, or whether it’s a really well laid out plan that is going to be challenging for students, but you’ve thought about what supports you can put in place. And at the end of it, they’re looking back and saying, you know, that was really tough, but I felt I was able to do it with, with supports in place. I feel like I’ve grown from it, you know, it’s, it’s how, how can those actions create those positive reactions?


Sam Demma (06:49):
And right now, maybe not yet in PI, but sports have been canceled as well postponed, or, you know, they practiced virtually through zoom all in their basements. You, I know you growing up were a big athlete. I played soccer, you played basketball, saw the Steve Nash picture on your page. I loved it. You dedicated the first part of your book to building character, and I would assume that sports helped you build your charact to a huge degree. Mm-Hmm how did sports have an impact on you and how are we, how can we continue to build young people’s character through this time?


Ryan Keliher (07:27):
Okay. Yeah. So with, with sports, I mean, sports played a huge part in my life. And as far as character development, like it, it played a really important role. And with, with my book, you’re right, the first quarter of the book is dedicated towards character development and then it progresses into have in my development and some opportunities for leadership. But as far as character development goes, I, I often share kind of my leadership story with, with my students. So I was a kid I grew up and I was playing hockey and, you know, I was pretty good hockey player, but I definitely wasn’t the best player on the ice. And, but it seemed every year I would get the opportunity to be the captain or the assistant captain on my hockey team. And I, and it just kind of became the norm. And I never really understood why I just kind of was that per, who would become the captain or the assistant captain.


Ryan Keliher (08:21):
And then I went to junior high and I started to play basketball and the same thing would happen. I’d be thrown in the captain role of the team. And then I went to high school and the same thing would continue. And then in high school, I was named the valedictorian of my high school class. And again, I would always kind of wonder in the back of my mind, I’m like, why am I always thrown in this role? Because, you know, I don’t feel like I do anything exceptionally special as a, as a leader, but people always seem to put me in this role for some reason. And it, and it never really, even, it never really clicked until I went to university and I played university basketball. And so I was 17 leaving high school, going to my first year university. And by Christmas time I was named the captain of my university basketball team.


Ryan Keliher (09:14):
And we had players who were 25, 24, 23 years old on it. And I’m thinking, how, how come I am the captain of my team? And it finally, that’s kind of when the light bulb went off and all it was was that my personal bar, as far as character went over time, whether it was through instilling values fr from my parents was high. And I, I cared a lot about being a good teammate. I’m a big believer that, you know, the only thing better you can have than good teammates is being a good teammate. Hmm. Think better. You can have than good friends is being a good friend. I think that really helped me pursue a opportunities in life. It opened up a ton of doors and it allowed me to lead by example a lot. And like I said, there was nothing ever special about it, but I was always willing to do my best. I was always willing to set the bar high and is always willing to cheer and help others along and over time. I guess people notice. So, you know, when you’re thrown into these opportunities through sports, it there’s the skill development, but there’s the character development that occurs that is equally important. And as you grow older and you may divert away from sports that character develop, it becomes even more important than maybe the skill development, you know, ever, ever was.


Sam Demma (10:41):
And without sports present at certain times, especially right now, how can we ensure that we’re still helping young people build their character? Is it by giving them unique opportunities or pushing their boundaries? Yeah. I’m curious. What, what do you think?


Ryan Keliher (10:56):
Yeah, I, I think it’s about giving them opportunities for growth. Like for me, school, you know, is always about growth, more than grades. And sometimes students don’t see it that way. And, and, and sometimes educators don’t see it that way. Cuz we do have that responsibility to kind of assess curricular content. But when I think of my 14 years and the most important conversations I’ve ever had with students, very few of them were curricular content related. And the most important ones that stick out were always character related or, or opportunity related or, you know, goal related and the more teachers, you know, and, and, and educators think of their students in front of them. As, as people who are gonna go and do great things in a variety of fields I think you, you can be a little bit more per perceptive about developing that character education in the classroom while still, you know, making sure the content of your course is, is, is covered and, and covered to a high degree. You know, I’m not trying to discount the importance of curricular content, but it’s, it’s everyday success principles, you know, are not explicitly taught in class, but the opportunities develop to develop the, those principles are abundance. So teachers have to be aware of that and you know, are able to kind of pull those threads when the opportunities present themselves for students.


Sam Demma (12:20):
I love that. And I’m curious now, too, as well, you mentioned Napoleon hill, you have your own book, the superstar curriculum. What prompted you to write that? Was there a moment in education where you thought this is needed for, for young people? It was in a personal challenge. You set for yourself, where did that come from?


Ryan Keliher (12:38):
It, it happened when I was finishing my masters of business. My so when I finished my MBA, I was kind of in writing mode cause I just finished my thesis and I was doing a lot of journaling at the time. And I noticed a lot of my journaling had to do with these important convers that I’ve had with students over the pro the over the last decade. And a theme kind of started to emerge on how a lot of these conversations had to do with character. And they had to do with leaders, personal leadership, and they had to do with seizing opportunities and they had to do with developing strong habits of mind and thought, you know what? I’m a big non-fiction reader. And in my opinion, there, there weren’t a ton of non-fiction self-awareness books out there for, for young adults.


Ryan Keliher (13:27):
So I thought, well, maybe I’ll go and create one. And so I, so I did create the superstar curriculum and the idea behind superstar is that what, what I’ve come to learn over the years is that, you know, the biggest superstars in our lives, although, you know, we often think of the major celebrities or sports stars or movie stars. But when we think about the biggest superstars in our own lives, they’re the people who are much closer are to us, they’re our parents or our coaches or our teachers or our friends. And the, the reality is, is, is if, if that’s the case, then if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you might be the superstar in somebody else’s life. Hmm. So it’s just about the profound power we have to, I packed others on a daily basis and it happens at, at the ground level. And it does expand out to, to, you know, the stars that we’re talking about from Hollywood to sports. They’re tremendous inspirations, but the reality is the, the day to day inspirations that we have are all around us, including all right, ourselves.


Sam Demma (14:36):
Oh, love that. And where can people find that resource if they want to check it out? I think you offer an online version for free and then like a paperback version and a discount right now, where can they find all that information?


Ryan Keliher (14:47):
Yeah. If they wanna check out ryankeliher.com it has kind of all the information there, the book’s available on Amazon, but if, you know, if a school or, or an educator was looking to a bulk order, I would recommend contacting me cuz I can probably get you a better rate than what, what Amazon could provide. So yeah, so ryankeliher.com and you could check me out there or on Instagram @superstarcurriculum.


Sam Demma (15:13):
Cool. And if you could go back in time and speak to younger Ryan, when he just started teaching, what pieces of advice, knowing what you know now would you have given yourself?


Ryan Keliher (15:26):
I think for me, I, what I always try and keep in mind is, so my grandma, there was a teacher and I remember vividly that a conversation we had. So she was 87 at the time. And she said, you know, Ryan, now that you’re a teacher and your job is to teach. It’s really important that you also remember that your prime married job is to learn. Hmm. And that always stuck with me. And I think moving forward for, for anybody who’s going into education is to keep that kind of front of mind because COVID changed everything, new practices are going to change everything technology’s going to change everything. So the, the way kids interact is constantly changing. So educators have to be willing to learn and adapt year over year, whether they’re, you know, you’re just adding little tweaks to your practice or there’s something fundamental that has to, you know, involve you making a major shift in your practice, the importance of teachers having that willingness to learn is paramount.


Sam Demma (16:37):
I love that. And one bonus question, just for fun. What, what books are you reading right now? Is there anything that’s been interesting you or you’ve been cracking open?


Ryan Keliher (16:48):
Yeah, actually I just I’m into the hate you give right now. And I I’ve, I’ve just kind of started it, but it’s been tremendous thus far and I’m looking forward to reading it. I don’t read a ton of fiction. So it’s, it’s a good opportunity over the holidays to kind of break into that. And I’m, I’m more of a non-fiction reader for sure.


Sam Demma (17:08):
Awesome. Ryan, thank you so much for taking some time to come out on the show. I really appreciate it and, and have an amazing holiday season with family and friends. And I look forward to keep continuing to follow your journey.


Ryan Keliher (17:20):
Great. It was great talking to you. It was nice to meet you and I’ll be following your journey as well. Happy holidays.


Sam Demma (17:26):
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 Ryan Keliher

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.

Jason Eduful – Teacher, Basketball Coach, Youth Minister and Mental Health Advocate

Jason Eduful - Teacher, Basketball Coach, Youth Minister and Mental Health Advocate
About Jason Eduful

Jason (@__MrE) is an educator, basketball coach, youth minister and advocate for mental health.  His goal is to bridge the gap between marginalized youth and extraordinary education. 

He is also the youngest guest that we’ve had on this podcast! 

Connect with Jason: Email | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School Website

Equity Studies at York University

Coach Carter Movie

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, his name is Jason Eduful. He goes by Mr. Eduful for his students. He is an educator, a basketball coach, a minister, and an advocate for mental health and his goal is to bridge the gap between marginalized youth and extraordinary education. Jason is one of the youngest educators.


Sam Demma (01:06):
I’ve had the chance to bring on the show and you can tell by our very energetic conversation. He’s super excited about the work that he’s doing. Although there are challenges, he’s seeing them as opportunities because he knows like Malcolm X said without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed it. See you on the other side. Jason, thank you so much for coming onto the High Performing Educators podcast. You play the perfect role visually. I know no one can really see you right now, but you got those beautiful glasses on and can you please tell the audience who you are, why you got into teaching and the work that you do with young people today?


Jason Eduful (01:46):
Yeah, no problem. First of all, thank you so much for having me, Sam. I’ve heard so many great things about you, had an opportunity to listen to some of your work and it truly is inspiring. So keep doing what you’re doing. My name is Jason Eduful. I’ve been teaching for about, this will be year number eight. I currently teach at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School in the Peel region. You know, I really started with studying equity and racial studies at York University. That was like my passion and then I took that and kind of switched gears a little bit and started studying philosophy and theology. And so that’s really what I’m teaching now. I’m teaching theology at the grade 12 level, for the most part, they kind of throw me everywhere other than math and science, ’cause we don’t get along, but usually anywhere else , I’m usually free to go. Married for a year and a half now a year and a bit.


Jason Eduful (02:43):
So yeah. She’s also a teacher normally grade five, but due to the whole pandemic situation, she’s online kind of teaching kindergarten. Nice. but yeah, I’m usually I’m a coach, I’m a mentor. I guess I’m a best friend at some point but , but normally that’s what I do. I usually love working with kids just mainly because you know, I, I just remember being a high school student. And I remember really that lead up into high school. I hated school so much. And I hated it mainly because I felt like nobody number one could relate to me. I grew up kind of Weston and Lawrence ish back in the day. It wasn’t the nicest neighborhood I’ll leave it at that. But we had a lot of outreach in the community specifically Weston park, Baptist church and front lines with a special woman, who’s kind of like my mentor still Bonnie Parsons.


Jason Eduful (03:41):
Mm. She kind of took us under her wing and made sure that we were, you know, not only getting that educational side of things, learning how to become men in a really rough neighborhood, but also kind of connecting that spirituality to it. Hmm. And so I still partner with front lines when I can, but for the most part you, yeah, that’s really where I started things. And then grade 10, I believe, I wanna say I started or something piqued my interest in school, you know? My grade 10 teacher, Diana Espanza, who also is ironically my vice principal right now. , she I don’t remember what the assignment was. I’m not gonna lie to you sound, but I remember the response, like the response was huge. I, I handed in an assignment and she tore it apart.


Jason Eduful (04:31):
Like just, if I could say like red ink on a paper, there was no white spots. Like just ripped it up and gave it back to me and said, this is not acceptable. Like, this is not who you are. It’s not a reflection of what you’re capable of. And it was the first time that somebody ever really said that to me. So in my mind, you know, you’re in grade tenure. You’re like, okay, lady, whatever. Like , I’m with the next, let’s gone with this. But she, she just kept pushing me. She kept pushing me. She kept pushing me. She kept pushing me. I, I, and it was the first time I resubmitted an assignment. Like I wasn’t like an, a put less student, but I was a pretty solid kid. Like you don’t talk to me, I’ll do the work. We’re good. And so when she ripped that apart and she gave me the opportunity to redo it, and then we connected again.


Jason Eduful (05:11):
And from that time I remember ironically, I had her every other year till I graduated. And so I was kind of stuck with it. There was no getting around it, but she really, she really inspired people and challenged them to really think about, not only like you could have your own opinion, but she was gonna challenge that opinion. And you had to make sure that you were able to back it up, you know? It’s funny, cuz my cousin Reggie sent me a video yesterday two days ago and it was about either, it was a youth you video just about something saying who’s your worst or your best teacher. And it was, it was hilarious because most of it was all like negative things, but like the passion that these people had for the teachers that they hated like full names, like Jason Eduful, grade six.


Jason Eduful (06:00):
And I’m thinking, I think that we forget as teachers, how powerful of an impact that we can have on kids either positively or negatively. Mm you know what I mean? So that’s kinda a little bit above my background where I jumped into it. And then from there obviously she inspired me to really become a leader in the community because it was more like one learning can be fun. Mm. Right. and number two, if you really put enough time into any student and in all like now times like people are like, well, how much time can we really put in versus press for time? But if you just take that time to build those connections, you can literally inspire anybody. And so that’s what really got me jumping into why I wanted to become a teacher and why I’m still doing it now.


Sam Demma (06:47):
So you’re telling me, your teacher gave you nightmares about red pens. So you touched, you touched on something really cool. You mentioned the fact that she gave you a second chance to resubmit the assignment. How do we give students that feeling? Like, what did you feel like when she gave you a second chance? If you could go back to grade 10, Jason or grade six, Jason, I can’t remember which one it was. What was going through your, on your mind when she gave you that second chance and how can we give kids today that similar, similar feeling?


Jason Eduful (07:25):
Grade 10, Jason would probably immediately be like, what is wrong with this woman? Like, you’re not my mom, like, get outta here. We don’t need any, this, I was very confrontational. And now in the, that I’m in now after obviously years of mentoring people and doing things like that and coaching, you can tell when somebody standoffish, there’s a reason, you know? And so I think from the teacher perspective, giving kids an opportunity to resubmit, isn’t gonna kill you. You know what I mean? I know we’re crunched for time, but if our goal is to make these students and these pupils into better human beings, right. Especially I’m in a Catholic school. So we kind of have our own little virtues that we’re kind of going off of. So we want them to be it’s called Catholic graduate expectations. So what do we want them to look like when they graduate?


Jason Eduful (08:14):
If we can focus on those and just put the curriculum to the side for a second, if we can focus on the making kids better people, we’re doing way better of a job than just, Hey, you deserve a 90 on this paper. Hey, you deserve a 50 on this paper. But from the student perspective, I remember thinking, number one, why won’t you leave me alone? Like I don’t get a number two. Wow. Like once, once it kicked in and it didn’t kick until grade 11, I won’t even lie to you. Mm. But grade 11, when I had her again, I was like, oh my God, here we go again. This lady is gonna rip everything up. And then just gimme a, like, she would write paragraphs of like, you should improve in this. Why don’t you think about this? Why don’t you? And I’m like that now, unfortunately, but for my students that have me my bad, you know, where it comes from now.


Jason Eduful (08:59):
But as the student, I think it wasn’t until grade 11, like I said, but in grade 11, I really thought, man, she actually wants us to succeed. Like, it’s not about like, here’s the mark that you got. Thanks for doing the assignment. It was really, yeah. You did this assignment, but dig deeper. Like why, why did you, why do you think I made you do this? You know what I mean? Why do you think I made you redo this so many times because you’re just hitting the crust, like jump in there. And so yeah, like I think we should all give second chance again. Second chances. Isn’t gonna kill anybody, man. I know we make it a big thing, but it’s we can do it every day.


Sam Demma (09:37):
Yeah. It’s so true. I’m curious to know, you mentioned that now that’s your teaching style which is, which is awesome. Is there, is there a story that comes to mind and you can change the student’s name for the sake of privacy, but I want a story where you believed in a kid where they didn’t believe even themselves and you know, you push them past the threshold and maybe they even broke down and told you how big of an impact it had on them. I feel like a story like that told right now from a place of vulnerability, but also to remind another educator that the work we do is so important, cuz it can transform a student’s life and their whole future can really re spark and reignite a passion in another educator. Do you have any of those stories that come to mind when I ask you that question?


Jason Eduful (10:22):
Yeah, I got a couple I’ll just use my cousin’s name that way. It’s not keep privacy there. So Reggie graduated. Oh man. How many years ago now? Maybe three and a half. Three and a bit years ago. Mm. And at that time I was teaching at a different school in Brampton. Reggie was how would I describe Reggie? Reggie was a ball of energy that couldn’t sit still only cared about girls. Like that was, that was Reggie’s by like the only thing that mattered to him was girls. Didn’t really care about school was on the basketball team, not the best point guard out there but you know, you tried, you tried. And so I, I started this kind of mentor, mentor mentor relationship with the student. And Reggie really started to open up and really talk about, you know, his upbringing, his life.


Jason Eduful (11:25):
And I remember one of the assignments that I got Reggie to do at the time. I don’t know if you’re a DC Marvel kind of guy, but at the time arrow was like number one on every list. And so he had to do a CPT and I, I, I, he handed it his CPT and it was, it was, it was done. do that. It was done but just didn’t meet any of the expectations, you know? And so as opposed to me just ripping it apart I, I said to him, I’m like, listen, and, and again, we talk about like building those relationships with students, getting to know the learner. Right. All that’s very important because every day he would come in, we’d have a conversation, honestly, about the episode of the, like that week, that Wednesday we would talk about it.


Jason Eduful (12:15):
And I had said to him, why don’t you just rewrite the ending? He said, he didn’t like this season finale rewrite the ending. The curriculum is so huge, right? When we’re thinking about curriculum documents and what we have to accomplish in the semester and blah, blah, blah, you can tweak it to be whatever you want it to be. Essentially, as a teacher, a teacher knows that. So why not get him to do something that he’s interested in? Right. get him to reevaluate what he’s doing, still hit the major learning goals, overall specific, whatever. And then go from there. And so I got him to do it. He killed that script. It was amazing. And then the second half of that was with all the personal, what that was going on, he needed like a big brother. And I didn’t realize that I was doing that for him at the time.


Jason Eduful (13:00):
Cuz you know, guys, guys come in, you talk whatever. When, when you know, everybody’s out of the doors is a different type of conversation. Right. And so coaching him, teaching him really got us, I guess, a lot closer than I even thought. And so he was sharing things with me and we were building and we were teaching like, what is the correct as a man? You know what I mean? What’s the proper response that you should be having in certain situations. And so I told you that he was a a point guard. I didn’t tell you he was good, but he was a point guard and I remember we were up in a very important semifinal gay and I called him and I was like, yo, Reggie, you’re going in? And he’s like, what? like, the game is close.


Jason Eduful (13:44):
What do you mean? And so, you know, he did shoot like, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t, there wasn’t that much faith, but I was like drop on the blade, kick it to the corner, our shooters shoot, you know? And I remember him doing exactly what I said, do it to the corner, hit a shot rimed in and out. And then he got the rebound and I was not expecting that at all. Hit the got the basket, got an N one missed the free throw. So we lost, but he came me at this a coach, you have no idea how much that meant to me, blah, blah, blah. And I was just like, we lost is the only thing that through mind, I like, yeah, we lost, what are you talking about? But anyways, fast forward, three years later he came to visit me at the school that I’m at now.


Jason Eduful (14:34):
And we just had great conversation about life, man. And I didn’t realize in the moment I was just being me, you know? And I didn’t realize how much I impacted him. So now he’s in university, he’s studying to become a teacher. I don’t think he’s gonna be as a crazy mark as I am, but he is definitely loving his experience and he credits me for most of it. And I just say like, honestly, all the glory to God, cause like I didn’t even in that moment, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just being me. You know what I mean? So that’s one story. I’ve had tons, but I won’t kill you with them. But that was one, one story of Reggie,


Sam Demma (15:11):
Reggie, the point card, Reggie,


Jason Eduful (15:14):
The point card that cost to speak.


Sam Demma (15:17):
That’s amazing. You mentioned, you know, you transitioned from teaching to mentoring, you know, you have a different conversation when it’s one student in the classroom, teachers that are listening, educators that are listening. Could you give them any advice on what the difference is? Like if you had to explain what the difference is between teaching and mentoring, a young person, you do a lot of, you know, sports, coaching, mentoring, young people and teaching, mentoring and teaching are a little different. What’s the difference? And how can a teacher also be a mentor to some of their students who need it most?


Jason Eduful (15:48):
Yeah. I think the biggest one is, is confidential and, and privacy. I think that’s one of the biggest ones. Obviously as a teacher, you have certain obligations that you have to fulfill, right? So if you hear something or you’re alerted to something, then you have out that obligation to report if you’re mentoring somebody, you still have that same obligation, but your scope needs to be widen a little bit. Right. And so when you’re thinking about, because mentoring can vary, right. It doesn’t have to always be something negative. Right. and so when we’re thinking about mentoring, especially mentorship, every coach, if you’re coaching properly, you’re a mentor mm-hmm right. And I think people forget that. So like I, even on the basic level, like I mentor, I, I always call them my sons. Like I have 15 sons a year, not this year, cuz we don’t have any season, but I have literally 15 sons every year.


Jason Eduful (16:38):
And what mentoring looks like to me and how I do it is 6:00 AM. We’re in the gym, right. We’re teaching them not only time management, but how to be productive. Right. We’re teach them how to do everything else. Are you in uniform? We go to a I’m at a uniform school. So like upholding yourself etiquette. Right? Respect. You can’t respect yourself. If you’re not dressing properly, you can’t respect administration if you’re not following rules. Right. So again, making sure that each of them are in uniform moving on to like they’re not allowed to cuz they know all it’s not gonna fly, but you’re not allowed to skip class. Mm-Hmm you’re not allowed to get caught cheating on a test. Not that anybody cheats on tests or anything like that. and again, then we have study hall like before we actually have practice, we have a study hall and that’s usually because the gyms used and we’re waiting, but still we have a study hall and myself being an educator, I should be able to, I’m not saying if you’re an educator, you should know every single subject for the most part.


Jason Eduful (17:39):
I know most of them, so there should be no kid. And if I don’t know anything, I know colleagues that do you know? And that’s when you start calling in favors, mm-hmm, my mentorship. Doesn’t just stop at, you know, the 30 people, unfortunately that are in my class. You know what I mean? That goes beyond that. So anytime there’s a situation, whether they’re in trouble with administration, whether they’re in trouble with their teacher, I try to make it a point that their teacher should contact me. Right. Mm-hmm I wanna know what’s going on with my boys. And I want make sure that they’re in the best position to not get I at of whatever situation, but the best outcome could that could possibly be obviously displayed is the one that we’re gonna choose. So yeah, there is a difference between teaching and mentoring, but I feel like every coach and every teacher should know that at very most they’re a role model. And if you’re a role model, whether you like it or not, unfortunately we sign up for this gig and that’s what it is. You are quote unquote, a mentor, right? In any way, shape or form. So, but again, coaching any, any coach out there will tell you the same thing. Like you, you can’t coach and not be a mentor like it doesn’t that’s just


Sam Demma (18:42):
Go and just go watch coach Carter and you get it. Exactly.


Sam Demma (18:50):
Coach Eduful I love it. That’s awesome. And you know, right now is a time that’s very difficult, very different. If you signed up for teaching and this was your first year, you would be thinking, wow, what is going on? This is so different. While some educators that are listening are in that boat. And so you being someone who’s been in the assistant teaching for, you know, over seven years, eight years now, you said, what advice could you give that person who’s just starting and maybe has a weird perspective on what this job looks like?


Jason Eduful (19:22):
The first thing I would say is it, it, it gets better. this is not the norm. This is not the norm. I know everybody’s calling this the new norm, but this is about the norm. It’s really hard for me right now, just because of my personality and the way that I teach. Right. So when I really started teaching my philosophy, everybody has to make like a philosophy of as a philosophy of education. And that philosophy as of education, for me, was bridging at between marginalized youth and extraordinary education. And so for how I did that was being a relational based teacher. Right. And so what that looks like on paper is, you know, starting to getting to know your kids, right? Whether it is their needs specific, right. And every kid has needs, man, whether it’s an IEP, whatever, like everybody has, you needs what are their skills?


Jason Eduful (20:13):
What are their interests? What are their likes? What are their dislikes? And then I would say once you have that, understand that, man, I know we preach this all the time of this thing called like backwards design, right? Where it’s like find what’s the most important or start from your end goal and work backwards. We really need to jump back to that. But in that we really need to talk about rationale. And I think that for me is the most important, especially if you’re a new teacher coming in, or even if you’re a teacher that’s been in here, why do they need to know this? I’m so sick of kids graduating and be like, sir, I learned nothing. Like I went to university and like, this was like, why am I starting from scratch? You know what I mean? And I get that, that’s true, but we should be teaching.


Jason Eduful (20:55):
‘Em Critical thinking. We should be teaching them things that they can use in the future. You know, like kids shouldn’t be coming back now they’re buying ready to buy a home and they have no idea what a mortgage is. Hmm. You know what I mean? And so certain and things like that in terms of life skills, life lessons, we should be teaching them straight from the jump. You know? Another thing that I really, really love doing and anybody that knows me will tell you, this is I’m, I’m an advocate for experiential learning. Mm. And so that’s literally just like a, a process of learning that really involves you kind of getting in like getting in their, your hands on. And it always has to come with a rationale. And so again, why are we learning this? So in, in ethics or philosophy or great 12 religion, we learn about ethics and morality.


Jason Eduful (21:39):
Okay. Why do I need to know about ethics and morality? Because we live in a society, right? Yeah. You might have your own principles, your own moral compass, but what does society deem to correct. Based on the job that you’re in. Right. And we have those type of conversations. It’s difficult, especially in COVID obviously, cause I’m the type of teacher. I don’t know. Maybe you have a teacher like this, that would you remember? I would just, I usually sit at my desk, like on my desk. I have like the concepts on the board. And then we have conversations. We have just have a, like a big discussion. Yeah. And as kids are talking and as I’m facilitating that dis discussion, I might bring up, okay, well, that’s a key word that we need to learn and that’s on the board, let’s copy this down.


Jason Eduful (22:16):
And then we fill and we learn like that. And so obviously on a computer I might be a little bit difficult. Right. I I’m just thinking of like Dr. Christopher Edmond, who I, who I’m a big fan of. And he talks about, he’s really like a stem advocate who speaks on issues of race and culture, but mainly known, he’s known for his like hiphop education where he takes hiphop and rap and he makes it, and he interviews it with, you know, science, technology, engineering, and math. I really love the backbone of that. Like get back to the roots of things that kids wanted to you, if you know what your kid wants to do and you know how your kid can thrive, you can have four or five different assignments in your classroom. Yeah. We’re so stuck and rigid on this. Well, this is my rubric, so how am I supposed to, well, yeah, your rubric is made to be changed.


Jason Eduful (23:02):
You typed it at one point. So we type it , you know what I mean? But yeah, like I, I would honestly tell that first year, if it, if it is a first year teacher, I’d be like, man, it, it gets better. It definitely gets better. This is different. It is challenging. But again, we just have to find ways to get around these barriers. And we’re like, we, every teacher’s had that day where they’ve gone up to the front of the class, had no lesson plan and just swing it. Like you guys, you know, we, we know how to do this. So it’s just about adapting, you know? Yeah.


Sam Demma (23:31):
Jason, you’ve had a smile on your face, this whole interview. and I wanna know what gives you hope personally and what motivates you personally to show up to work despite the challenges optimistic, enthusiastic, and ready to serve.


Jason Eduful (23:44):
Right. I gotta say faith. Faith is number one. My faith keeps me grounded. My faith keeps me going. I know that I’m doing some sort of vocation, at least I believe so. And, and I’m hoping that that transfers are manifests to the kids and they know that I’m not here just to get a paycheck, but I I’m here to see each and every one of them succeed. I think that’s number one, student success is a huge motivator. Hopefully one day a championship for a school would be a great motivator, but yeah, no, just seeing the kids just be themselves and grow. And, you know, I’ve had kids from grade nine and I’ve had the pleasure of being at this school long enough to be, and see them in grade 12. And it’s like, when they see me, like we, they still remember the handshake that we had in grade nine. You know what I mean? They still remember the nickname that I gave them. You know, I like, I don’t even remember these things and just to keep them grow and just become men and women and mature. That’s one thing that gives me hope because I know that something’s working so things changing, you know what I mean? But again, that all jumps back to faith. The thing that keeps me grounded and motivated. So I think that’s one of the biggest factors that gives me hope.


Sam Demma (24:20):
That’s awesome. I love that so much. And, you know, especially during a time, like COVID when we have so many challenges, faith is a huge thing that keeps you grounded. I, some, some of the challenges you already mentioned with COVID were teaching online. Were there any other challenges you’ve currently been faced with and have you had any unique ideas to overcome any of them that you think might be helpful to other educators?


Jason Eduful (25:20):
I think again, the biggest one for me, challenges would like not being able to just interact with the kids on a, on a more personal level. Yeah. Like some kids don’t want it to run the cameras and that’s totally cool. And I don’t push anybody to do anything like that, but just in general, like that face to face interaction, like we crave that we miss that for a lot of people that what builds them up. That’s what keeps them going. Some of the things that I’ve tried to do, especially since we shut down in March and then kind of reopened now I’ve really tried to start doing assignments and tasks that have everything to do with allowing students to really dig deep and critically think in terms of how to overcome whatever it is. Right. So I’ve literally, I’m done with tests for now.


Jason Eduful (26:08):
I don’t do any tests, all assignments like, Hey, there’s no exam anymore. So your CPT is another assignment I’ve changed and revamped all my stuff. So that it’s really not only engaging for them but relevant. And I think that’s the most important thing. If it can’t be relevant, if it’s, I usually ask myself, if I wouldn’t do the, is I’m not gonna make them do it. Hmm. Right. It might be better because I’m a little bit inclusive to age. I kind know what they like, you know what I mean? Like that might be a factor, but if I’m not feeling this, if I’m not vibing with it, then I’m not going to give it out to my students. Right. and so I think, especially on a time where, you know, they, half of them don’t want to be on the screen.


Jason Eduful (26:48):
Half of them don’t want to be, they rather be playing video games. They’d rather be with their friends. They can’t do that. Mental health is a really big factor right now that I think a lot of us are forgetting to acknowledge. So why give them stuff that you wouldn’t even want to do? Mm. You know what I mean? So I, I, I would go back to rationale, why are we giving this to them? Right. I think people forget that we’re honestly living through history right now. like and we can accomplish so much more if we just take the time to slow down and give out relevant assignments, relevant topics, relevant lessons. And I think that will help people in terms of what we’re struggling with, you know, and gotten some of the mistakes that we’re seeing.


Sam Demma (27:32):
Yeah. I love that. That’s awesome. Jason, I could talk to you for an hour, man. This has been an amazing conversation and will definitely do a part two part three. If any educator right now is listening into this, maybe from another province or country and thinks this guy has some cool ideas. This guy’s unique, this guy’s out the box. I wanna talk to him and just bounce some ideas around, how can another educator reach out and have that conversation?


Jason Eduful (27:56):
Yeah, for sure. I would say thank you please, please do reach out. they can find me on Twitter @__MrE. Also, if you wanna shoot me an email Jason.Eduful@dpcdsb.org. Cool. Those are my two main platforms.


Sam Demma (28:16):
Yeah. Awesome. Jason, I’ll be staying in touch and this has been phenomenal. So thank you so much for taking the time to chat.


Jason Eduful (28:23):
Thank you so much Sam. Have a good one.


Sam Demma (28:26):
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 Jason Eduful

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.

Agi Mete – Coach, Program Chair of Social Sciences, and Teacher at Notre Dame College School

Agi Mete - Teacher Niagara Catholic District School Board
About Agi Mete

Agi Mete is the Program Chair of Social Sciences and Teacher at Notre Dame College School in Welland, with the Niagara Catholic District School Board. A teacher of over 30 years, Agi has been teaching both the grade 11 & grade 12 law curriculum since he began his teaching career.

His classes over the years have participated in the OBA Mock Trial tournament as well as the OJEN Charter Challenge which his students have won several times. His co-curricular involvement at his school includes being the Teacher Advisor for the Students’ Council as well as the Head Coach for multiple athletic teams.

Connect with Agi: Email

Listen Now

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

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. Agi and I met back in May after I sent him the dear class of 2020 graduation video for all the students who were missing their graduation celebration. He really enjoyed the video and shared it with his graduating class. And we have become great friends ever since. And then in August, I think on August 15th, he was one of the first teachers who reached out to me about doing a welcome keynote speech for all the grade nines. I was supposed to travel to Niagara and do five talks, but due to COVID things got cancelled. Instead, we settled on a three-minute video, which was shared with all of his students, but aside from our personal relationship, after hearing the wisdom he had to share, I thought it would be very valuable for me to bring him on the show and share a piece of it with you here today. Agi is somebody who has been teaching for over 30 years.


Sam Demma (01:03):
He was the program chair of social sciences at Notre Dame college school in Welland with the Niagara Catholic district school board. And he has been teaching both grade 11 and grade 12 law curriculum since he began his teaching career. His classes over the years have participated at the OBA mock trial tournament, as well as the old J E N charter challenge where his students have won several times. And his co-curricular involvement at his school includes being the teacher advisor for student council and student leadership, as well as the head coach for multiple athletic teams. He has won the advisor of the year from the Canadian student leadership association. He’s a father has a beautiful family and a lot to offer. So with that being said, let’s jump into that episode. Auggie, thank you so much for coming onto the high performing educator podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. I know we connected way back at the start of the school year when things were a little bit in flux, things are starting to settle down. Now, do you mind sharing with the audience who you are and why you do the work you’ve done with young people over the past few decades?


Agi Mete (02:11):
Okay. Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for having me, Sam. Thanks for doing this. And I appreciate being on with you today. So yeah, my name is Agi mate. I teach presently I’m at Notre Dame college school high school, about 1200 students in Welland, Ontario. We’re a part of the Niagara Catholic district school board. Pretty exciting school to be at. I graduated from here 1985. It’s now 2020. So that was a long time ago. This is year 32 for me in my teaching career. And half of it was spent here in Notre Dame and half at another school lecture, Catholic high school, which is not far from here. So I’ve had a pretty fantastic career all in a school board and a community that I know really well. And you know, my involvement with students has been co-curricular. I mean, I teach, I teach social sciences, I’m the program chair of social sciences here at the school, which is I teach law and economics and civics. And, but predominantly my involvement has been with co-curricular coaching, basketball, coaching lacrosse, predominantly and students council and student leadership, right from day one. When I started my career.


Sam Demma (03:25):
W what got you into teaching? Was there a moment you knew one day when I’m a little older I’m going to teach, was there a person who pushed you into it? How did you get into teaching?


Agi Mete (03:37):
Yeah, I mean, I love that question because it really speaks to, you know, what, you know, teachers like myself, there’s so many of us try to do with when we’re in the classroom is that we try to connect with the kids. And the reality is that, you know my high school experience was fantastic. And there were teachers who connected with me. I was in students council here at the school. So, you know, my student moderator who I know very well and is still not teaching of course, but retired teacher was a great motivator, my basketball coach, great motivator. These are all just people who, you know, what was clear to me is that the classroom experience was one thing, but the other classroom experience was something else. And I, I wouldn’t, I would not be the person I am. I don’t think a lot of teachers would be the kinds of people they are, if it wasn’t for the impact, someone who went above and beyond the classroom had on them. And so I, I always felt that that was something I could see myself doing. And by the end of my university career, I thought this is teaching is where I wanted to be. And you know, it would be fantastic to be able to give back, given that I had gained, gained so much during my experience.


Sam Demma (04:56):
What, what did those teachers in your life, when you were a student do for you that really impacted your own life? Is it that they cared? Did they tap you on the shoulder? If we were to try and boil this down to some actions and principles that they had so that other teachers can do the exact same thing, what would you, what would you share might be the most impactful?


Agi Mete (05:18):
You know what I, I think it’s under underestimated is that you know, like what makes a minute a winning? Like if we pick a sport, what makes a winning team? And some people say, well, you’ve got the best athletes. And I don’t agree with that. I think what, what you, you know, you can certainly win with great athletes, but what you, what you get the most out of athletes or student leaders, or the band that you work with is when they realize that you are just as committed as them and goal, whatever that is. So, you know, there are people who do co-curriculars and they do them, and that’s great. They’re giving up their time, but kids pick up pretty quickly. If the person is a hundred percent committed or not. And I think to me, it was my experiences. Weren’t just co-curricular, they were being around someone who was working just as hard and want it to be just as successful, whether we won or lost.


Agi Mete (06:13):
It didn’t matter. They never gave up on us. And they gave us a hundred percent every single time. So to me, it was the, they took it serious. And that had a lasting effect because it, wasn’t just putting your name on a list and saying, I’ll volunteer for this. It was, I’m going to volunteer for volunteer for this, and you’re you, you’re going to have me 100%. And I felt that they were they were empathetic. I thought they were committed and I thought they were in it for the right reasons. And I think that’s the impact. So I think kids are very perceptive of that in a classroom setting on a, on a football field. They know that you’re in it a hundred percent. If you show up late or you’re, you know, you’re not prepared or you’re just kind of doing it for the sake of doing it, it’s pretty obvious to me, pretty obvious to me. Yeah.


Sam Demma (07:02):
You are one of the only educators back in September that was trying to do in person socially distanced speeches for your school. It’s evident that you’re someone who was very serious about showing kids the best experience they could have starting high school. I’m curious to know how do we be serious about those activities, co-curriculars sports during a pandemic? You know, how can we still express that appreciation and try and give students opportunities despite the challenges?


Agi Mete (07:30):
Yeah, that’s, that’s a difficult one. So, you know, I reached out to you in August and said, you know, we still want to run a grade nine day. We want to bring kids in. I had invited you to come be our keynote speaker and we were going to make it work. And then, you know, logistics and protocol got in the way. And we had to come up with plan B and I think it was a really good plan B for me. And I’m trying to get my head around right now, how I want to continue to do that. And that was, I asked you, you know, could you put together a, like a nugget of information or a, a great message that we can then put in video form and then share with students through social media and through our email and through our web portals, that we’re all using to connect with kids.


Agi Mete (08:14):
And we got great feedback from the, you know, the message you sent for us. So I’m just right now trying to get my head around. I just, I’m, we’re finishing our first, we’re in a different we’re, we’re going one course at a time here at Notre Dame, which means I just had grade 12 for you law for, you know, 22 straight days. So tomorrow’s our last day. So I, haven’t had a lot of time to kinda to kind of get my head around this, but what I want to do is tap into a lot of speakers that I can and say again, can you come up with a, you know, a, a message that we can then grab, and then somehow filter it down to the kids in our, in our classroom setting and sort of a homeroom setting and say, here’s the message.


Agi Mete (08:56):
Here’s some questions to think about. Can you sort of use that as a tool? So I think we’re still gonna try to do it. The sports is is challenging. I’ve reached out to people in my building saying, can I still run practices and workouts after school? And we’ve sort of been told everything’s on hold and it’s hard. And it’s, and that’s frustrating because in the community setting, there are organizations running stuff, and the school protocol is putting a little bit of a, a stoppage on that. And the reason is probably because we can’t, we’re not in the same position to clean and maintain the facility is probably we should. And I get it. So I’m hoping that now that we’re into like a month or so of this, that now we’re, we’re getting better at it from a school board perspective that we can maybe start to open up some of our facilities because we have great facilities if we can open them up.


Agi Mete (09:50):
So I’m not giving up on any of that. I’m just sort of trying to sort of, I think there’s a maneuvering that has to happen and I’m trying to do the best I can to do that. So I’m confident we’re going to at least get the motivational piece out to kids and, you know, I’ll be tapping people like yourself and some other great speakers on the shoulder and saying, can you come up with some thing for me? And and I know anytime I ask people to do that, they’re always on board to say yes. So that’s the plan right now. Anyway.


Sam Demma (10:21):
Cool. And extracurriculars, just giving kids opportunities to get involved makes a huge impact as I’m sure it did for you. When you were a student over the past 32 years, you’ve been teaching 12 years longer than I’ve been alive. You’re a veteran. You you’ve been doing this for a long time, so much wisdom to share. I’m sure you’ve had dozens of students write you letters, reach out, you know, tell you how much of an impact you had on their life or their journey. Maybe some of them even teach now besides you, you know, coming full circle. Can you think of any story that you think would inspire an educator to remember why this work is so important about the impact we can have? And you can, you can change the name of the student for privacy reasons if you’d like, if it’s a very serious story. And yeah, anything that does anything come to mind?


Agi Mete (11:09):
You know I, I, I, I’m not sure there’s going to be like this. There’s a lot of all stories that are on the same level and those, those levels are that. I mean, to me I take great pride in knowing where, you know, how, what we did here in this building has had impact on students. But I like relationships afterwards. I mean, I judge, I really kind of think of, you know, what’s my relationship with some of these students. I, I kind of look at the number five years in 10 years down the road, and they’re hundreds of kids that I still stay in contact with. And to me that means a lot because they have to say go to the way to say anything special. I think the idea that I’m still part of their life is probably where I say the impact has been long lasting.


Agi Mete (12:05):
And, you know, there’s all a lot of short term impacts kids asking for references kids asking for jobs or for schools, students who say, Hey you know, I pursued this career because of a conversation we had, or I remember when we did this and that sort of been very beneficial, but to me, it’s it’s that somehow we’re still connecting five and 10 years and 20 years down the road. There’s a lot of students now that I tell them the tables have turned. Now I tap them on the shoulder. I got students who I say, you’re, you know, you, you’re, you’re going to come into my class and guest speak, or we need a donation for this. And you work at this company now, or we need some money because we’re needing to fundraise for this. So I’m not afraid to turn the tables very quickly and say, Hey, we were good to you.


Agi Mete (12:54):
You know, we know each other and I know you loved the, the experience you had. Can you help us out? And I think those, you know, when the answer is, yes, that makes me feel great. Cause I think kids are those, those kinds of students say, yeah, I’m ready to give back. All you had to do was ask. And so that’s how kind of, I mean, get invited to a number of weddings, which are pretty exciting and that’s a lot of fun. People invite you out socially. There’s a lot of good people that still, you know, we get together with these are students and these are former teachers. And I think those are, those are, those are priceless. Those are moments that I say, you know, this is why we’re in it for it’s a, the, the, the, the total experience package of having connected with kids short-term and long-term.


Sam Demma (13:45):
And if you could travel back in time to year one in teaching, like the first year you taught and give your younger self advice about education, about teaching, about life, what would you say to yourself? Because some, some educators, this is their first year in education and they’re scrambling. They’re not sure what to do. There’s a lack of hope. What advice could you share with them?


Agi Mete (14:11):
Yeah, I well, the first advice I would say is don’t say no when an opportunity that’s new and maybe a little bit that you’re not, you know, you don’t feel comfortable with is presented to you because there’s this feeling that, you know well, I’m, I’m teaching, but I don’t want to take on too much. I got to get myself comfortable, find my way. And I, I, I don’t, that didn’t work for me. This didn’t work for a lot of people who you know, who came through me and a lot of the educators, I know that I’m friends with who are really involved. I think they, you know, there’s this tendency to say, I’ll involved. I’ll do more. I’ll do connect with kids in a different way next year, right now, I just want to get comfortable. But what happens is that comfortable, that comfortableness creates a complacency.


Agi Mete (15:03):
And I find that, you know, my piece of advice is someone said to me, Hey, you’re gonna, you know, this, this is a true story. My principal, who my first parents for me passed away this summer. And it was a funeral that was very sad, but it was a celebration of some great people who were, who were there, who all had the same story. I’m glad he tapped me on the shoulder and told me to do something that I was sort of uncomfortable with because I had to persevere. I had to be resilient. I had to sort of manage a busy work of teaching and co-curricular all at once. And that made me stronger and that sort of laid a foundation and a path that I carried my rest of my career. So the advice for young people would be take on some responsibilities in your building that are outside your classroom, that might force you it to be uncomfortable, but yet you can kind of figure a way to get through.


Agi Mete (16:01):
I don’t know if I would change anything in my, in my, my career, Sam, I don’t mean that in a, in a way that’s, you know, just trying to be, you know, too cocky about what happened to me. I, I think I was, I was young. I was you know, a little naive. I was, but I was energetic and I had the right people point me in the right direction. And I felt safe. I felt there was always going to be someone to sort of give me some support. I had great administrators. I had great colleagues. The senior teachers were always looking out for young people, young teachers. And it was an incredible, you know, first few years of my career, I wouldn’t change that. But I would say that I’m, I’m glad people put me, asked me to do things that were new and foreign to me because that sort of laid the foundation for where I am today. No question,


Sam Demma (16:56):
Don’t say no, and get your hands dirty. That’s the main theme there, you know, go out there.


Agi Mete (17:03):
And I use that with kids. I tell kids, I said, do something that’s uncomfortable. Right. You know as long as it’s safe, it’s not high risk do it. Right. And I think kids surprise you still when we asked students those things. I’m, I think they, they, they ended up surprising us in a positive way.


Sam Demma (17:20):
I love that. That’s awesome. I like it Agi. Thank you so much for taking some time to chat on the podcast with me today. Lots of nuggets to share and words of wisdom for other educators. If, if anyone wants to reach out to you to have a conversation or bounce some ideas around, what’s the best way for them to do so.


Agi Mete (17:38):
Yeah. So my email would be the best way. And the school board email is agi.mete@ncdsb.com which stands for Niagara Catholic district school board. So that’s my work email and I monitor it all the time. And that would be the, probably the easiest way. Feel free to call the school if that easier they can connect me 905-788-3060, which is the number or Notre Dame college school. And I’d be happy to chat. I share any input or I’ve, you know, I’ve never been afraid to ask for help. And and I’d be excited to help anyone who needs it as well.


Sam Demma (18:20):
Awesome. Thank you so much. And I look forward to hopefully seeing you sometime in the near future in person.


Agi Mete (18:26):
Yeah. Thanks again for having me Sam. Really appreciate it. We’ll talk soon.


Sam Demma (18:30):
Perfect. There you have it. A full interview with Agi Mete. He is someone who has so much to offer so much to give, and I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you found it valuable, make sure you tell your colleagues in education to tune in. And if you want to come on the show, please shoot me an email info@samdemma.com and we’ll share your ideas and your inspiration with an audience full of educators. So you can have better conversations, meet like-minded people and share some of your amazing work. I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

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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.