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Ryan Laughlin – Leadership Teacher at Bluefield High School

Ryan Laughlin – Leadership Teacher at Bluefield High School
About Ryan Laughlin

Ryan Laughlin (@stickr10) is a proud Bluefield Bobcat from Prince Edward Island. Ryan is a veteran Physical Education and Leadership educator at Bluefield High School.

Ryan prides himself on physical fitness, servant leadership, and teaching engaging lessons that serve to develop leadership skills.

This has been a memorable year for Ryan as he received the physical education teaching excellence awarded by the Physical Education Association of PEI. In addition, Ryan is married to his favourite educator, Sam, and is a loving Dad to Huxley & Sloane.

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

Bluefield High School

PEI Teachers’ Federation

Physical Education Association of PEI

Great Cycle Challenge – Riding to Fight Kids’ Cancer

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 we have on another special guest, he goes by the name of Ryan Laughlin. Ryan is a proud Bluefield Bobcat from Prince Edward Island. He is a veteran physical education and leadership teacher at Bluefield High School and prides himself on physical fitness, servant leadership and teaching engaging lessons that serve to develop student’s leadership skills.


Sam Demma (01:02):
This has been a memorable year for Ryan as he received the physical education teaching excellence award by the physical education association of PEI, and in addition, Ryan is married to his favorite educator, Sam, and is a loving dad to Huxley and Sloan. Ryan is an awesome individual. He also has a huge passion for biking, and his approach to teaching is very student centric, as I’m sure you’ll experience and feel through our conversation here today. Enjoy it and I will see you on the other side. Ryan, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here this afternoon. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind the reason why you got into education?


Ryan Laughlin (01:44):
Sure, so my name’s Ryan Laughlin. I live on prince Edward island. I’m a high school physical educator and a leadership teacher. So my roots to education, I think I kind of started off in junior high for myself. I had a high school or my junior high basketball coach was also my Principal and my girlfriend’s father at the time. So he instilled a lot of confidence in us through fundamentals. Really going through that, and I had a lot of respect for him as a coach and as an educator. And as I kind of navigated through my high school experience, I’m high energy; love sport, basketball; my passion. I had another teacher and coach actually Mike Leslie, who was my leadership teacher and my basketball coach, and we have a relationship to this day and I spent a lot of time and he showed me how he could, you could be personal, professional, and make an impact. And that kind of stuck with me, and that kind of took me to education. And here I am today.


Sam Demma (02:46):
I wanna elaborate on that for a second. When you say personal professional and make an impact, what did that mean to him? And, and what does that mean to you? Like what was that philosophy that he passed down on to you?


Ryan Laughlin (02:56):
I guess for me, what I admired about him was if it was on the basketball court or in the classroom or outside of the building, when we had a relationship after I graduated he was the same personable person. You know, there’s differences when you’re in the classroom and on the court and out there. But with him, you, he was very authentic and a, I respected that and it was something that I wanted to take with me into my teaching practice, where you can build those relationships and have those, those conversations and connect through commonalities with your students or players. And then have those relationships later on. I know we would go, I used to run a minor baseball program in the so, and we’d have the afternoons off cause I would run games in the evening and practice it in the morning. And he had a, he had a inground pool and a beach volleyball court. So my task was to find either teammates of myself or peers and we would go over and we would spend the afternoon there, have a great time. And yeah, so it was, I enjoyed that, having that connection through the similar interests with him. And that was something that I tried to connect with my students every day.


Sam Demma (04:07):
And then, you know, you met him and he mentored you along the way and you drew some inspiration from him. What actually directed you into university into teachers college. Like I’m sure you could have took those passions in multiple directions. Like what directed it towards specifically, you know, being a teacher.


Ryan Laughlin (04:22):
Sure. with me, I love relationships building relationships. I enjoy having those with teachers, myself as a student and getting to know them and having those conversations and having the ability to listen and take that experience and soak it and take it with me. So, and I enjoyed the day to day where every day was a clear slate you came in, you didn’t know what was gonna happen. I, I guess I try to thrive in being flexible, adaptable, and personable throughout my day and making those positive impacts through the hallways and saying hello in the hallways and know students names and what they’re up to and asking them. And I guess with me, that was, I enjoyed that with working with kids, especially at the high school level where they’re making big decisions that are gonna impact their futures and understanding that and helping them where I can help ’em and, and seeing them grow from entering our building in grade 10 and leaving in grade 12 in and seeing the difference and the maturity that they have and the confidence of them going out to whatever they’re gonna do after they leave our building.


Sam Demma (05:31):
Nice love that. Love that. And you know, I’m sure some of your previous years of teaching look a little bit different than this year of teaching. Yeah. What are some of the differences, some of the positive aspects of it and also some of the challenging aspects of the differences this year?


Ryan Laughlin (05:49):
Sure. so, you know, when in previous years things were free flowing and to be honest, I probably took it for granted a little bit and now going through a pandemic and, and seeing like where we have been going through and the different restrictions that are in place. And I know everything was easier. And like I said, I took things for granted now since March. I know when we started our lockdown my wife is a essential worker, so she was still going to work every day. Wow. And I was home with two toddlers the age of four and two, and I’d be going through virtual meetings while they’re running around upstairs. So it was a challenge then and for myself personally, to keep myself grounded to realize that we’re all going through this and trying to be paid with myself and my children at the same time.


Ryan Laughlin (06:40):
But yeah, it’s, you know, there’s been some positives definitely that have come from the pandemic like this podcast and connecting with you and doing some cool things, hopefully in the future that wouldn’t have probably happened. Other than the pandemic and for us too here on prince Edward island, we’re in a very unique position. We’ve been in class 98% of the year. I know the rest of the country is not like that. And I do not take that for granted. And I think with that, I embrace every day that I get to enter the building and have those personal relationships with students.


Sam Demma (07:13):
Yeah. I love that. And I think trying to see the bright side of things is a very important, you know, quality and trait to have not only as an educator, but for every human being. That’s right. I know you had a close friend, you know, who passed away at a young age and you’ve kind of gleaned inspiration off his experiences and it’s led you to cycling and running. And I would love for you to share a little bit about that story very quickly. Cause I find it very inspirational and hope and, and hope driven.


Ryan Laughlin (07:37):
Sure. So when the pandemic had started I had always had the thought that I was gonna get into cycling. I live in an area that’s very friendly for cycling and it’s something I have kind of pushed off. So I had purchased a, a bike during that time. And at the same time I had a player. So I do coach basketball. I’m an assistant coach at Holland college for the men’s basketball program. And we get, we get a lot of players from different walks of life. This individual was from prince Rhode Island which is rare for us. We don’t get a lot of boundaries who play on our team cause we have people from Ontario and Bahamas and so on. So he was a, he was an individual who had a impact on me on the court when he had played for us.


Ryan Laughlin (08:18):
And he had purchased the bike and he was making some big changes in his life. He was inspired through running. He had gone through some injuries, a tough year and his health, he had a couple health scares, so he decided to turn it around and was inspiring people through running. And he was posting on Instagram, a lot of inspirational, his recovery, his rehab his approach. And he had just actually connected with me cuz he had been out of our team for a couple of years at this point. Wow. And he had just purchased the bike as well. He had, he had been running in the calendar club, which we had spoken about there, which is run a mile for every day in the calendar. And he was going through that to the point where he was waking up in the morning and running in snowstorms before work and then running afterwards.


Ryan Laughlin (09:04):
There’s a picture of him with a fair of snow goggles and icing his beard. And anyway, so he had finished that and when he, he had injured himself through it, he got himself a bike and he went out for a leisurely ride on a, a Friday night, Friday evening and tragically, his second ride. He was hit by a drunk driver suddenly and he lost his life. So it was very sudden and it had impacted, I know our coaching staff. I remember getting the call Saturday morning. I was cutting my grass and I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. It was too bad cuz he was just building momentum, making the right choices in his life, inspiring former teammates and a whole bunch of other people. And when I saw that he had a lot of posts that really resonated within myself to push yourself, take advantage of the, the experiences in front of you.


Ryan Laughlin (09:54):
And don’t wait until next time. Cause you don’t know when that’s gonna be. So one thing that I had hum trying to figure out how I could pay homage to or a tribute him. So I decided to do a, a tribute through cycling for him and I, this was my first summer cycling and I decided I was gonna cycle 465 miles for the summer in his memory. And I would go through Strava and post them on Facebook or wherever on social media and to get his name out there and the impact he was having and our one thing, his running community, his basketball C, they all came around it. So I was just doing a small little piece but he was all about making a positive difference and he put a challenge out to fight the good fight, make a difference, something that’s bigger than you. And for me that really hits home. And it really has driven my passion around servant leadership. And I feel like he was a perfect example of that. And I take that close to hire when I approach my leadership classes and I’d actually use examples with him and how he’s made a huge impact on me through cycling and through my approach on a day to day basis as well. So Jake Simmons is his name and I, I think about him literally every bike ride I go on and his memory’s strong here in prince, so


Sam Demma (11:09):
Yeah. Ah, that’s awesome, man. That’s so cool. And what’s the next, what’s the next milestone for Ryan in terms of bike? Do you plan on, you know, yeah. Setting a new higher goal or, you know, has it just become a passion and a hobby now and you just enjoy doing it on your spare time? Like what does it look like?


Ryan Laughlin (11:25):
So I’m hoping this summer, our island is our province I should say is, is quite small compared to the rest of the country. So my goal is actually cycle tip to tip on prince Edward, Rhode Island. We have a trail that goes tip to tip. So it’s about 265 kilometers. So my goal is to do that over a few days with a friend of mine. Nice. And so yeah, I’m starting to train for that now, get myself ready. And I’m also gonna continue my challenge, how I accepted Jake’s challenge actually at the end, after my 4 65 challenge is I cycled for the great cycle challenge, which is in support for the sick kids foundation. So I’m gonna continue on his legacy through the, the great cycle challenge. And I had my goal at 500 kilometers for a month last year and I raised about $1,500. So I’m gonna try, I surpassed that this year. So that’s my, that’s my hope.


Sam Demma (12:16):
Nice man. Very cool. I love that. And I think that, you know, it, it suits you well, like it, it sounds like the characteristics you’ve built very much suit you as a leadership teacher, not to say that you don’t teach other courses, but like I can tell how passionate you are about the soft skills and the learning experiences and the characteristics of building, you know, character in, in us as young people. Like it just, it just it’s obvious. So I think you’re in the right position. If, if school was a team, which it is yes. I’m curious though, when you were growing up, you know, you mentioned some of your teachers that had a huge impact on you. Are there any other ones that you like just stick out in your mind, like a sore thumb, like this person really inspired me and influenced the way that I am. And I’m curious to know what they did specifically that had an impact on you. And if it wasn’t a specific educator, maybe someone in your life like a coach or, you know, a parent or a teacher or a family member.


Ryan Laughlin (13:10):
Okay. You know, as a, as a sport enthusiast, I relate to a lot of my development through sport. I think I’ve got a lot of character of my journey through sport. Yeah. And I think I, with coaching, I think I have done that as well. And there’s a couple instances there. Like with Glen, with the, the strong firm, quiet confidence, instilling that through those actions that he had he had a great way where he was very professional and disciplined and I enjoyed how he was able to take that, but still keep as confident as possible. And Mike being my leadership teacher who was also my high school basketball coach, he I enjoyed his class. He made it fun. He made it engaging. He, he knew how to have conversations. He could ground, he was lighthearted. And he, and he knew the impact he was making in a class like leadership.


Ryan Laughlin (13:59):
And I think I tried to do that as much as I can with my kids. Welcome up the door, ask him how their evening was if they had a rugby game, like in the spring, we’re going through now. And just seeing the personal development, that’s something that he was able to take me from my start of my semester, to the end of my semester. And I really, I really enjoyed it and it really stuck with me. And I wanted to have that same impact on youth and having those conversations and, and helping them along the way with where they’re at, what they’re dealing with. Cause everyone’s different and trying to be that positive role model who can instill confidence and, you know, hear their point of view and help them make big decisions in their life, or at least help them be a little more com comfortable or confident in those. And I think that’s why I enjoy leadership so much is they walk in as an individual. I, I really truly believe they walk out a different individual and that’s my goal is to help them find their, their craft, their confidence. That could be, it could be very upfront or it could be very quiet. Everyone’s a little bit different, but I think it’s very impactful whichever way that is.


Sam Demma (14:59):
Yeah. I agree. And, you know, learning for your school, isn’t too different than normal with, you know, being in the classroom so much, but I’m sure there are some stipulations and differences despite the differences or the challenges. What are some of the things you’ve done with your leadership students this year that you found great success in or that you thought the students really enjoyed? And you also got a lot out of it as an instructor and a teacher.


Ryan Laughlin (15:20):
Sure. So this semester I, I would be lying to you, but I didn’t say I wasn’t nervous going into it with being leadership. I really pride my course and curriculum on giving them as many experiences where they can craft their philosophies and their skills. So I was a little nervous going into it, but I think with every challenge, there’s a way to be creative and find new opportunities and be it, this one podcast, I have really tapped into podcasts, which I found to be as tool that I would never have probably have about until this semester. So I know we had a conversation you know, I find with that discussing experiences and reflecting intentional reflection is really important. So I actually wanna give a show to Alan se who you head out on the show. Nice. I, I mimicked his, this season’s podcast where they unpacked quotes with a group of them and had modeled respectful conversations.


Ryan Laughlin (16:17):
So I kind of took that and ran with it. And I had a Socratic seminar and they had their all their own quotes. And we actually had listened to one of Allen signs to give them an example of the conversation and how they transitioned and keeping it respectful, even though they may have a difference in opinion. And we had a seminar of two classes and I was blown away with the conversation the points that were made so much so that we came back and did it a second day because the, the students founded so powerful and there was so much meaningful conversation between the students, as a teacher, I sat back and you watch and you hear the conversations and the points of view and how it, they really enjoyed and absorbed a lot from each other. Mm. And I think, I think that kind of pays homage to what Socrates was trying to do with those types of seminars.


Ryan Laughlin (17:06):
So that was one thing that I really enjoyed doing. And I feel like I’m gonna continue to do it in the future. And the other thing you know, you can be creative with your experiences for the kids. So just this morning, actually we usually partnered up with a lot of different organizations here, like big brothers, big sisters, where we go into our feeder schools and we had build relationships. We were unable to do that this year, but we were able to find a connection with special Olympics PEI. Nice. And we students from our junior high will be inclusive ed students who are coming to do a transition day to welcome them to the high school they’re gonna come into and get them a little more comfortable. So we took advantage of that situation because it was already in place. And we, we had a unified Bochy event. So through unified sport, through special Olympics, so


Sam Demma (17:51):
Nice.


Ryan Laughlin (17:51):
Our students organized it, planned it, executed it. We rolled that all morning, had a lot of fun, lot of smiles on people’s faces. And I think the students left excited to be Bobcats in the future.


Sam Demma (18:03):
Nice. That’s awesome. Where, where do you get your ideas from?


Ryan Laughlin (18:07):
Well, I, I would


Ryan Laughlin (18:10):
My mind races. I, I would, I’m always thinking, I’m always thinking I do have a, a teacher, Melanie Headley who was on your podcast in the past there, she stops by my room in the morning or I’ll stop by her room in the morning and we chat and we find things on social media that we maybe have seen both. And we discuss and, you know, she’s been a great resource for me and we kind of built ideas off each other. And I think she’s very similar to me, but we’re always thinking, how can we do these things? How can we be creative? How can we make this a more positive experience for our students? And I, you know, I, I enjoy that. That keeps me young and keeps me engaged. And I feel the students can feel that with me, with the ideas. So that’s what I try to bring to the table every day.


Sam Demma (18:52):
It’s true. I get some of my best ideas in the shower. Like you never knows when they’re gonna come. Right. You just gotta make sure you write ’em down so you don’t forget them. Right. That’s awesome. Okay, perfect. And if you could go back in time, speak to year one of education, Ryan, you know, you first started teaching, knowing what you know now, like what did advice would you give your younger self?


Ryan Laughlin (19:12):
You know, I’ve been thinking about that for a lot. So I’ve been on many bike rides listening to your podcasts, and I’ve heard this question. I’m like, what can I say to that question? Cause there’s a lot of them the biggest one for me would be, be kind to yourself. Hmm. A first year educator coming in, nobody puts more pressure on yourself than you. And I think you gotta realize that not everything is going to be perfect. And I think you need to be okay with that. And if you make small positive movements every day, and I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I have used small, consistent actions. So many times in my class this year, love it with it. And I, I love it. I love it. And I think that’s the same thing. As a teacher, you don’t overwhelm yourself, small steps, build confidence, build comfort, build relationships with your students and be yourself, build your personality into your classroom and how you deliver your students.


Ryan Laughlin (20:11):
Well, respect it, build those relationships. Don’t try to be somebody you are not. I would say early on, I tried to kind of fit in where I was with the staff. I was a little bit older at the time and I think my approach was a little bit different. So I conformed a little bit. And then as I got more comfortable, I built my own craft and built my personality into it. And I would say, I’ve benefited great from it. I’m more comfortable. I enjoy it. The relationships I have built. And I think as a teacher, you can have those relationships and build your personality and be authentic with your students. You don’t need to put yourself up on a pedestal. You don’t need to know everything. You’re there to facilitate learning, not to be the know and all of every type of topic.


Sam Demma (20:52):
Yeah. I was listening to a podcast of Russ instead, rapper, I really look up to because he he’s made more music than some of the best rappers in the game. Like he has 500 pieces of music out because he just kept creating and he wouldn’t stop. And there’s a line in it where he says, look, man, I’m just the vessel I don’t create. I just deliver. And, and that really relates to what you’re just saying. Like, you know, yes, you create as a teacher, but you’re there to be a vessel of learning, not to be the source of information. And the, you know, source of all knowing like you, we’re there to be a vessel of information. Yeah. And there’s always more we can learn. Right. And I think it’s all important.


Ryan Laughlin (21:28):
It’s so true. And I, I loved one of your podcasts just previously. I was listening to the, the teach better team. And I loved when the Ted talk about you don’t have to be better than YouTube. Yeah.


Sam Demma (21:37):
I


Ryan Laughlin (21:37):
Thought that was so fitting. It’s so true. You need to tap into your resources, be resourceful, be a learning facilitator. You want to create critical thinkers and you don’t need to start everything and reinvent the wheel. So true. I really, I really truly believe that I had one colleague say that to me and it has stuck with me.


Sam Demma (21:54):
I love that. Oh, cool. Perfect. Well, look, this has been phenomenal. I’m jealous that you’re on a beach for no one that can see this, ’cause they’re just listening. Ryan has this beautiful virtual background with the Palm tree blowing in the back. If someone wants to reach out, have a conversation and maybe just bounce some ideas around, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you and get in touch.


Ryan Laughlin (22:16):
Sure. So I am on Twitter, I use that all the time. I know educators love it and I can go down a lot of rabbit holes. So my Twitter would be at @stickr10. And my email, which is rjlaughlin@cloud.edu.pe.ca.


Sam Demma (22:37):
Perfect. Perfect Ryan. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Really appreciate you sharing, and I look forward to staying in touch and seeing the future bike rides and cool initiatives in class.


Ryan Laughlin (22:47):
Great, thanks for having me.


Sam Demma (22:48):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

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