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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

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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

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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.