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Educator

Matt Sanders – Experiential Lead Learner at the Lambton Kent District School Board

Matt Sanders, Experiential Lead Learner Lambton Kent DSB
About Matt Sanders

Matt Sanders (@mr_sanders78) is currently the Leader of Experiential Learning for the Lambton Kent District School Board.  In his role, he creates engaging experiences for students to participate in, reflect upon and then apply insights in meaningful ways. 

Matt has been an elementary teacher for 10+ years, passionately searching for ways to incorporate technology and creativity into every lesson!  Here are the resources he mentioned: 
Bit.ly/reflectionstrategies

Connect with Matt: Email | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Matt’s Suite of Reflection Strategies (FREE)

Chris St. Amman (Another Experiential Lead Learner)

The Reticular Activating System Explained

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 educators podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Matt Sanders. Matt is currently the leader of experiential learning for the Lambton Kent district school board. In his role, he creates engaging experiences for students to participate in, reflect upon, and then apply insights in very meaningful ways. He’s been an elementary teacher for 10 plus years, and he passionately searches for ways to incorporate technology and creativity into every single lesson he delivers.


Sam Demma (01:08):
Not only that, but this teacher, Matt, this high performing educator has a Rolodex of resources that you can find in the link of the episode here today, if you check the show notes, you can click on his personal website. He has a ton of free resources and virtual events, virtual activities that you can do with your class. I think you’ll find it very useful without further ado. Let’s jump into the interview, Matt, thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educator podcast. It is a huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about yourself and how you got into the work you do with young people today.


Matt Sanders (01:46):
Sam, thanks for having me on, I do appreciate you asking me to come on. I’m again, as you said, my name’s Matt Sanders I’m the experiential experiential learning coordinator for our board. I work with young people. I’ve been an elementary teacher for a long, long time previous to that. And to be honest, like the reason why I got into this gig is because I love working with young people. Like more than anything no offense to the adults I work with today. But to be honest with you, they’re the coolest and awesome as clientele there is. So just like all that for those that maybe don’t know what an experience learning coordinator would be, basically I’m engaging community partners in schools, in planning. So I’m bringing community partners. We have looking at student and school needs and then, then trying to create opportunities for kids. I think you and I have listened to a bunch of your podcasts by the way, absolutely loved your session on homework extension. And actually I had a couple of conversations recently where I was able to kind of like structure the negotiations with perspective, taking at the core because of that podcast. So and I think you and I have similar hearts and I think that in itself is the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing.


Sam Demma (03:00):
Yeah, absolutely love that. And I’m glad you got some takeaways from the negotiation episode. Definitely don’t share it with your, with your kids because they will, they’ll get more out of you than they should. But what point in your journey did you know, I’m going to work in education because you know, having a big heart and being of service and wanting to help others can land you in a job in so many different areas, how did you end up being, you know, an employee and a person working in education?


Matt Sanders (03:32):
No, it’s funny, Sam. I, a lot of my days I spend working with kids on career and pathway planning. So having conversations with kids on what things make you awesome, what things do you love? What things make you excited? What skills do you have and how can we leverage those things into a future career for you so that you wake up every morning? And you’re like, I am just totally geeked up to go to work. I am so excited because I love what I’m doing. I remember when I was, I want to say like grade seven grade eight, my grandma and my grandpa lived next door to me, our house. And we’d walk over there and we visit hang out and play cards and whatever. And I remember going there when I was in grade seven and I said to, I was in their house and I looked at the, the table and there was a reader’s digest magazine.


Matt Sanders (04:18):
And for those who don’t know what that is, I mean, it’s a, it’s an old school. It’s still around town, but it was definitely something that she had in her house regularly. And I remember looking at the cover of it and it said 10 Canadian teachers and the impact that they make on their kids top 10 Canadian teachers or whatever. And I remember looking at my grandma at that point and saying, I want to be in this magazine one day. And I mean, that was, and so coming back to my first part of this answer I knew at that point I wanted to be a teacher and here I am, and I’m always telling my students, like I know a lot of students will say, well, I’m just only 12. Like it’s not going to impact me. I can, I can dream, but like, it’s not gonna actually happen that way. Well, it did happen that way for me. And if you have a goal and you set forth, you know, planning and thinking and reflecting on that and then push yourself towards that, anybody can do anything you want to.


Sam Demma (05:14):
Yeah, I agree. I agree.


Matt Sanders (05:16):
So I should also say Sam that I think that, and I should say that the human aspect of education, I mean, I love curriculum and I love teaching and I love the knowledge piece, but I think the human aspect of education also really driven, drove me into that. It’s like teaching the life skills, it’s inspiring change and growth in young people. It’s having them think about their future and what their pathway might look like going forward. Looking at passions and interests and seeing how that can be a lightning rod to future success and fulfillment. So it’s all that stuff that makes me love my job.


Matt Sanders (05:59):
I have not.


Sam Demma (05:49):
That’s awesome. Have you ever played the yellow car game with your kids when every time you see a yellow car, they punch you on the shoulder when you’re


Sam Demma (05:59):
Okay. It’s similar to, you know, punch buggy, no punch back. When you see a Volkswagen, you know, punched by a young the highway and when you start playing those games and you look for the car, you realize that you start seeing them more often. It’s like when you start looking for something, it shows up more. And I, I started getting curious because I’m a big advocate for what you mentioned about, you know, dreaming and creating a vision for yourself and setting goals. And I came across this research about the reticular activating system, which is a part of your brain that basically filters through your conscious and subconscious thoughts. So you might have 2 million subconscious thoughts a day, but if your RAs system knows that you’re looking specifically for yellow cars, when it notices a yellow car, it makes that a conscious thought and you’re there for aware of it. And so there is a science behind what you just mentioned and why maybe you ended up in teaching because of your vision back when you read the reader’s digest magazine. So I think that’s awesome. You know,


Matt Sanders (07:01):
I never heard that research before either. That’s awesome.


Sam Demma (07:03):
I’ll send it to you afterwards. But when I’m sure when you got in education and you first started things have changed, you’ve learned a lot you’re not working in a different role. You started as an elementary teacher. What are some of the learnings you have, you know, in this industry that you could share with other educators and maybe it’s things that have worked very well for you or things that have been challenges and you’re still working on figuring them out.


Matt Sanders (07:33):
Yeah. Yeah. I’ll just, I just want to say this, cause I just thought of this and I, it is something that I think is worth mentioning to all young people or did educators that are listening. My dad’s a pretty like wise dude. And I listened carefully when he talks because he’s got valuable things to say. And I remember him saying one day to me about, you know, there are not many people that are lucky enough to go to work and are able to change the world. And I think that’s one of those things where, you know, getting an education, that’s something I feel like I’m able to do. And that’s, I mean, that’s pretty cool challenges as far as COVID are interesting. Cause I think as an experiential learning coordinator, we really do want kids to manipulate with their surroundings and fix things and move things and be creative in their thinking.


Matt Sanders (08:17):
And as well as to reflect on their learning from that, that process of experiencing whatever it is they’re experiencing. I think the absence of experiential learning in schools today is what is making school so challenging. So it’s, it’s missing that togetherness and that collaboration and kids are bottled up kind of working independently and it just doesn’t make for a good learning environment, I guess. It’s so it’s, it’s that challenge that teachers have kind of had to grab hold of and, and work towards making it a positive change. You know, one thing as far as COVID goes, cause I guess I’m going down that pathway right now. There are obviously no silver linings around a worldwide pandemic, but as far as education goes this process of coming back to school through a pandemic has really made educators at least to myself.


Matt Sanders (09:17):
And I would think most educators reflect on every aspect of education and drill down to the core of everything about school and critically think about best practices. So it’s like saying goodbye to that like mindset of we’ve always done it that way, and this is why we’re going to do it. And actually saying like, is this best? I’ll give you a really quick example of my own reflections and my own learnings through this process. I used to send, you know, 40 kids to an event on a bus and I’d get a $600 bill for that bus and I’d go, okay, that was an awesome day for those 40, well, we can’t do that now because of COVID. And so now I’m realizing that the 600 I could have spent on the bus, I can have a community partner come in and work with all 600 kids at that school for the exact same price. So it’s just like stuff like that where we like, no, there’s no silver lining because of this pandemic, but we are probably going to grow and change for the better on the other side in education, at least I think


Sam Demma (10:23):
That’s so true. And not to mention the amount of unique ideas that will come out of this time period, that will be used far after the pandemic ends. You’re someone who actually has a fricking Rolodex of ideas, the website you sent me, can you shed a little bit of light on the bank of resources and what inspired you to create that and where are there educators can get access to it?


Matt Sanders (10:49):
Yeah. So it’s interesting. I mean, we’ve presented that. So a colleague of mine from a different board and I his name is Chris St. Amman. He’s an amazing dude like the best. And he’s also an experiential learning coordinator in Ontario. And we were getting a lot of questions from teachers as far as ref. So we were really pushing reflection and I think all of your, anybody that’s listening to this right now, like make reflection a part of your everyday look at don’t dwell on your mistakes. Like that’s not what we’re looking for, but really like that reflection piece and developing our reflective mindset can help us decide to be optimistic in certain situations. It can help us control all the situations we come through because we’ve been there before and remember thinking through it, it’s that process of like setting goals, taking action and reflecting on those actions and then like doing it again and just everyday growing, I listened to your podcast the other day, Sam, about pain and like bringing on the, and I’m like, that’s in a way that like mistakes are that right?


Matt Sanders (11:57):
The mistakes we make, we can grow from as long as we think through those mistakes. So anyways, back to that, so people were reaching out, we were pushing reflection and people reaching out asking about strategies to get kids reflecting. So not just saying like, yo go reflect, but like legit, like what can we do? What can that look like? So Chris and I started developing basically a bank of strategies and that turned into like essentially a labor of love for helping people digitally. And so we developed this enormous kind of resource it’s called the suite of reflective strategies. Maybe I can send you the link later, but it’s a Bitly it’s bit, bit dot a bit dot L Y backslash reflection strategies. And it’s like, it’s got so many things in it. I was thinking though, Sam, about your audience, if it was young people listening, what could they get from that?


Matt Sanders (12:55):
I do tweet every day, what I call, I call them like five days of reflection or something. And I tweet out a question every day through my Twitter it’s Mr. Underscore Sanders seven, eight. And so I tweet out every day at reflection question and those are in there as well. I call that chatterbox, but it’s basically a box of resources for people to think. So reflection, questions for discussion thought and growth. So I’ll give you a real quick example of what one of those might look like. Yesterday I just pulled it up three things I’d like to change immediately. And three things I’d keep exactly the same as they are now. So just like it could be dinner table conversation with mom and dad. It could be like, I’m going to think about this before I go to bed. For teachers that could be like, throw it up on a screen and have a conversation as a class or like journal about it. Whatever. So anyways, so that reflection resource is, you know, it’s gotten really big. My favorite moment of the summer was I logged on and there was like 45 people on it all at once in August at one time. And I was like my, like my happiest part of school-related summer. So it was pretty cool.


Sam Demma (14:08):
That’s awesome. So cool. That’s amazing. And I’ve dug through those resources a little bit, so I can assure any teacher listening or student it’s worth the time to check them out. If you’re a student, share it with your educators. If you’re an educator, share it with each other. There’s a lot of great information in there, you know, without, without experimentation, there’s no failure without failure. There is no pain without no failure and pain. There’s no reflection and learning. I think all learning is experiential. Meaning you try something, you fail, you learn, you iterate, you try again. A lot of educators have been telling me the state of education is like, you know, thinking and then throw spaghetti against the wall and seeing if it sticks. And I’m curious to know what have you, what have you thrown on the wall? What have you tried that has stuck so far and on the other end, what has not worked out and what have you learned from it that might be valuable for other educators?


Matt Sanders (15:09):
So I, I think it’s interesting. So this whole process as, as really we’ve tried a lot of things there’s I mean, there are things that you try and education or you want to have happen and then they just can’t work out whether it’s, you know, funding or whatever. But I will say you know, one thing I’ve really learned is that best practices in education, whether you’re teaching face to face or virtual are absolutely the same. It’s, it’s building relationships. It’s encouraging students to use their voice. It’s providing engaging content for kids. It’s connecting content to real life and showing students why it’s meaningful to them. It’s honestly, my favorite thing in the world is allowing students to be experts, finding situations where students can be the experts and lead like every day. So it’s stuff like that. Like I know you try stuff and you like, oh, this, this is, I hope this really works out and it doesn’t, but I always come back to those like that, that idea of give kids a voice, allow them to see themselves in their own learning, allow them to be experts and take, you know, positive, make positive change.


Matt Sanders (16:22):
You know, I will say I was reflecting on this the other day. Cause I, you know, I love young people and I think they’re all amazing. And one thing that gives me a lot of hope going forward about our world in general is our young people. It’s such an, it’s so inspiring. Like when you turn on the news and you look at, you know, people protesting injustices in our time, it’s typically not 60 year olds that you see standing outside, you know, it’s, it’s our young people, it’s their drive to make a difference in the world and be a catalyst for worldwide change. It’s them pushing equity and inclusion and acceptance. I have a five-year-old at home and she has autism and I couldn’t be happier that she’s growing up in this time when we are just so we’re getting better at being inclusive as a society. I want to say, at least from my own experience within our schools. So you know that, I mean, that’s in general, that’s, that’s where I’m at right now with, with all of that.


Sam Demma (17:30):
That’s awesome. I love it, man. I absolutely love it. And in fact, I had a teacher Mike loud foot who inspired me to try and be the change I want to see in the world by teaching this simple lesson that a small, consistent action can make a massive change. And that led to a whole thing about picking up garbage, but it’s so true. It’s, it’s the wisdom of people like yourself who pass it on to youth who then go out there and want to make a difference. And I think that’s just like, it’s such a beautiful process to witness and to watch a young person make an impact and then stand in their belief in themselves after saying, wow, I did do something that I thought maybe before wouldn’t have been possible that has a huge impact on others. So I think that’s amazing in your experience as an educator, you know, teaching young people, mentoring young people because a teacher is not just a content facilitator.


Sam Demma (18:22):
Sometimes you take on the role of a second parent or a guidance counselor or a coach or a mentor. Have you had any experiences where you’ve seen a student transform and maybe you had a huge change in their self-esteem in their life, in their direction and you can change their name if it’s a very serious story. And the reason I’m asking you to share this is because another educator might be listening, forgetting why they actually got into education. That’d be burnt out listening to this and a story about transformation might remind them why they actually started.


Matt Sanders (18:57):
Yeah, I think, you know, I’ve got, you know, dozens and dozens of situations where I’ve seen enormous change. You know, I, I mean most educators, if they’re building relationships and really deeply diving into those relationships and showing kids that they care, you’re going to see positive change, no matter what, you know, it’s the, it’s the teachers and I am sorry. It’s, it’s my own teachers. What I was a kid I’m not going to, I don’t want to critique teachers in the world today, but it was my own teachers that thought the way to get through to others, other students was to punish them or to yell at them or tell them to put their head down on the table, like kids today, students today, adults today don’t want to do what they’re told. If they’re being told it in a negative or rude or disrespectful way.


Matt Sanders (19:48):
Like we all want to just get along. And sometimes kids reach out in a negative way and behave in a negative way because of just wanting attention, wanting love, wanting to be respected. And so, you know, I, as, as far as you know, situations right now you know, in my role right now, I’m not teaching all the time with kids, but I say that I always really pushed. Like we talked about already in this conversation today, we’re always really pushed students to think about their mistakes, to have a growth mindset, to reflect, to make decisions based on those reflections. And I, and I also, you know, always gave every bit of myself to my students. And I think I always, I mean, I shouldn’t say I sound like I’m bragging a little bit, but I definitely always saw positive change in my students because of the relationships that I built.


Matt Sanders (20:44):
And I think for any educator that’s out there today, you know, I’ve heard a couple of times and not educators on my board. I remember when I was in teacher’s college, I remember a teacher saying to me, don’t smile until December and that’s the way you get through to your kids. And I was like, that is still not the way it goes, man. And because of the relationships and you know, I’ll stay in at recess and help you with this and I’ll stay after school. If you need support and I’ll coach basketball and I will give you love every day. And I will tell you that I care deeply for you and I want what’s best for you. And that’s the way I’m going to teach every day. That’s the process that I’ve always had success, even with the kid. That’s like, you know, we’re that kids are gonna have a real struggle. It’s going to, he’s going to be taking people off task and it’s going to be a challenge every day. I was like, no, just, just show them. You love them and that you care and that you want what’s best for them. And they’ll be your best friend. Yeah.


Sam Demma (21:39):
So true. Everyone’s human needs are the same, whether it’s an adult, an 80 year old man or a 10 year old kid in a classroom. So that’s a great philosophy to live by and teach by. If, if another educator has been inspired by anything we’ve talked about today and wants to reach out bounce ideas around, have a conversation with you, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Matt Sanders (22:01):
Great. I would love, love, love, love to connect with any other educator. That’s interested probably either through Twitter, Twitter’s easiest. Mr_Sanders78. Check the reflective resource. I’m not making a dime off of it. It’s all a labor of love and it’s all a drive to make a change in the world. And that’s bit.ly/Reflectionstrategies check it out. I mean, my emails on that as well. If somebody is looking to connect with me or have questions about that resource itself, happy to have a conversation and students that you, if you’re listening right now, you know, don’t give up on yourself ever, you know, be the best you can be reflect the great overachieve smile. Think positively. Here’s a story for you, Sam, before we sign off. Totally. This is a perfect example of me saying to myself, I will think about things in a positive light.


Matt Sanders (23:02):
Two weeks ago I dropped my phone at a gas station, brand new iPhone fell out of my car. I think that’s what happened to it. I spent like three hours trying to find it. Couldn’t find it. It was gone. I called, I used the like find my app, all the things. And I was like, I left it for the night. I’m like, well, I probably won’t ever see it again. Like I’m just going to have to move on. And by the next day I had actually got myself to realize that maybe it was a sign that I needed to put down my phone more often. And I was going to get out of my old iPhone seven. I had a crack in it and I was going to be just fine. And I had completely moved on and it was just me saying to myself, you know, it’s, it is what it is.


Matt Sanders (23:43):
You gotta be more careful. I learned from that. I need to be more careful with my stuff and that maybe it was a sign I needed to just like, not be so technol, technologically inclined. And and then five days later somebody had found it on the road and called me and said, I’ve been looking for you for four days. We tried everything and they messaged my wife through Facebook to get it back to goodness lady inside them. She found on the side of the road. So like I had completely moved on. I had changed over my, until my old iPhone seven and I was totally good with it. But it’s an example of like that like mindset, like just it’ll be okay. Just push. So anyways, that’s just a funny story.


Sam Demma (24:26):
On the other side, seeing the good in people, right? Like that lady looks for you for five days. That is less.


Matt Sanders (24:33):
And then she ended up, she just found somebody had texted me and sorry, my wife had texted me and then her, she saw the name and then looked up my wife’s name on Facebook to find to message her, to see if she knew me. So. Cool. Incredible. Yeah.


Sam Demma (24:52):
Yeah. Selfless, selfless lady. That’s awesome. All right. Perfect. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show, Matt, it’s been a huge, huge pleasure. We’ll definitely stay in touch and I look forward to continuing watching your labor of love and all the positive impact your work has and all your teachers from your school have in your board on all the students you guys would like that look after. Thank you. So, and there you have it. Another amazing guest and amazing interview on the high-performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoyed 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 want to meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www dot high-performing educator.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 feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Matt

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.

Bridgit Moore – Leadership Teacher and Student Activity Director at Grace Davis High School

Bridgit Moore Student Activity Director Grace Davis High School
About Bridgit Moore

Bridgit Moore (@MooreBridgit) is the Leadership teacher and Activity Director for Grace Davis High School.  She has been an educator for 20 years and has done a variety of positions such as math and psychology teacher, school counselling, and coaching. 

She is married and has 4 kids ages 9, 10, 14, and 16, and this year, opened up her house to a 15-year-old exchange student from Germany.  She loves her job and loves helping inspire students to be leaders!

Connect with Bridgit: Email | Facebook | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Bitmoji’s Explained

Shoe Box Float Parade Idea

Example of the ABS Advisor Manual

PHAST (protecting health and slamming tobacco)

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):
This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest on the podcast is Bridgit Moore. Bridgit Moore is the leadership teacher and activity director for Grace Davis high school. She has been an educator for 20 plus years and has done a variety of positions, such as math and psychology teacher school, counselor, and coaching. She is married and has four kids age 9, 10, 14, and 16. And this year has a 15-year-old exchange student living with her from Germany. She loves her job and enjoys helping and inspiring students to become the best leaders they possibly can. I hope you enjoy this interview with Bridgit. I will see you on the other side, Bridgit. Welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself?


Bridgit Moore (01:36):
Well, my name is Bridgit Moore and I am a leadership teacher and activities director at Grace Davis high school in Modesto. I have been teaching since 2001. I started out as a math teacher. I actually did do activities that my very first teaching position for a couple of years, but then when I switched schools in 2003 to the school I’m currently at I kind of went out of that role, but I’ve taught math. I’ve taught psychology. I’ve been a school counselor and I’m going on my fifth year now in a row of being the activities, director leadership teacher, which I love. It’s a lot of fun.


Sam Demma (02:16):
That’s awesome. And what, like what brought you to where you are today? Like if you had to go back in time to when you were a student, you know, growing up, kind of tell me the progression of how it went from growing up as a student to getting involved or interested in education and then becoming a teacher.


Bridgit Moore (02:33):
So when I was a student, I kind of always had this feeling of, I want to be a teacher. I would go back and forth between, I want to be a teacher or I want to be a Marine biologist or I want to be a teacher or I want to be I don’t know, I can’t even remember some of the other stuff, but it always came back to wanting to be a teacher. So I finally settled on that. I was a very involved student. I liked getting involved. I was involved in dance production. I was in a whole bunch of clubs. I was in the Raleigh club. They had that at the time. Just various things. I was involved in sports. So I just kind of was always a very involved student. I wasn’t actually in student council when I was a student, but I got involved in homecoming floats and things like that when I was actually attended Davis high school, the school that I work at.


Bridgit Moore (03:24):
So I’m an alumni working at the school, but I went to kind of fun. So I did that. And then when I got to college I had a hard time picking a major. So I did settle on psychology and I thought, oh, well maybe I want to be a school counselor at some point, but I still kind of went back to, I want to teach, took a while to figure out what I wanted to teach and realized, well, I’m pretty good at math. So let’s do that. So I, I, I did major in psychology because I picked math kind of late in my college education career and graduated from UC Davis with my degree in psychology and then wanted to go right into my teaching credential, but I didn’t have enough subject matter competency in math based on what I took at UC Davis. So I went back to Stan state and took a bunch of math classes. And I guess I kind of say I double majored. Cause I took all of the classes for a math major. I just don’t have a piece of paper that says math degree.


Bridgit Moore (04:33):
I have one that says psychology, but I literally have every class that would constitute a math degree. So I did that after my psych degree at UC Davis, I got all the math classes done at Stan. And then I did my teaching credential at San. And then my first teaching job was at Waterford high school and I was offered an 80% math position, but they said, oh, but we can make you a hundred percent if you’re the activities director and teach leadership. So I got one period of leadership there and was the activities director. So I mean, it was fun, but it was a very small school and I was a new teacher. So it was kind of a struggle. But at the time I was also coaching at Davis high where I currently work at the same time. I was coaching diving at the time because I was you know, a big diver back in the day, did gymnastics and diving.


Bridgit Moore (05:29):
And so when I came over here to Davis teaching, they recruited me to come over, Hey, you’re already coaching here, come teach here. We need math teachers. And it was when there was a big boom in education back in 2003, the schools were growing and there were just a ton of kids. So I came over here and just ever since I started teaching at Davis because I was invested in activities at my previous school and because I was very involved student, I just kind of naturally got involved in things. I was the advisor for our fast club, PHAST protecting health and slamming tobacco was kind of a big program. I did that for nine years. We put on red ribbon week and different tobacco prevention days and things like that. We won the Stanislaus county red ribbon week contest a couple of times. So that was pretty fun. And then I also helped out with the programs every 15 minute program where we stage a crash, like a drunk driving crash scene on campus. So I would help with people putting that on and I would help with this activity or that activity. Well, when this position became available, it just kind of seemed like a natural fit because of all the things I had already helped with. Now I’m in charge of that’s kinda what led me to what I do now.


Sam Demma (06:53):
That’s awesome. And for someone who doesn’t understand what a student activity director is and does, like, how do you, how do you explain that role?


Bridgit Moore (07:02):
Okay. So the way I explain it is this, cause this was a very strange role and I’m very alone in my role at my site. Every buddy that has this position, it’s done differently at different schools, but at my site, I’m a hundred percent activities and I teach the zero period as my optional class. I get paid a little extra for that for my leadership and it’s, I oversee the student council. So anything that’s not academic and not a sport is under my umbrella. So like student mentor programs, all the clubs. So like the activity or the athletics director oversees all the sports and the coaches. So I would oversee all the clubs and the club advisors. That’s one piece of mine. I, I helped put on that. Like I said, that every 15 minute program, or I’m also in charge of helping with just overall school culture and helping build up positive school culture within the school climate and coming up with ideas and leading committees on that all the different activities that my leadership kids put on. I’m kind of the background I’m in the, I’m the, the person doing all those things, that kind of thing.


Sam Demma (08:17):
Okay, cool. And when you were growing up, did you have educators in your life that kind of steered you towards teaching? Or where did that initial passion come from to want to be a teacher?


Bridgit Moore (08:29):
It’s kind of funny because as I went through school, the grade or age I was, that was the type of teacher I wanted to be. So, you know, fifth grade, I loved my fifth grade teacher, so I wanted to be a fifth grade teacher, sixth grade, oh, I love sixth grade, my sixth grade. Teacher’s awesome. I’m going to be a sixth grade teacher. Once I got into high school, I kind of struggled with exactly what I wanted to teach still because I science and I loved math and I love this and that. So it wasn’t just one particular teacher. I don’t think I just really loved the idea of teaching. And I had several different teachers in my life that I looked up to. I had a very distinct English teacher, my senior year, who I would never want to teach English, but just the way she taught her class was very inspiring ahead as particular math teacher who, you know, I still remember the circles, the perfect circles that he would draw on the board. Like we would all just blow our mind. He would do a circle and it would be super fast and it would be perfect and the whole class would go crazy.


Sam Demma (09:38):
Wait, wait, is this the guy on YouTube that that’s like 4 million views or something? And he draws a perfect circle?


Bridgit Moore (09:45):
That tired at this point, so.


Sam Demma (09:48):
Oh, okay, cool. That’s awesome. That’s so that’s all amazing.


Bridgit Moore (09:53):
Yeah. He would play chess with us and he wouldn’t be looking at the board. He would just like, look at us and we would be playing chess against him and he wasn’t, he just had the board memorize. So things like that. He’s very inspiring and was kind of, you know, it’s very nerdy math teacher, but very inspiring that teacher and very memorable.


Sam Demma (10:15):
Yeah. Super memorable. It sounds like that’s so cool. You mentioned that your English teacher, the way she taught was really inspiring as well. What about that class kinda stuck out to you?


Bridgit Moore (10:25):
He was very she was very strict, but she had a system, you know, it was very similar every day. She went over this, she had a for vocab we’re on the board and we had to make sure we looked that up and then she would tell stories about mythology and then she would go into some other things. So she had this system where it made things interesting because here we’re learning about these cool mythology stories, but then we’re turning around and learning about now, whatever other story they will. Things like that, that we had to do senior year. She just, she sat on her stool. She had different heels every day that were, I don’t think she ever wore the same pair of heels every day. So just little things about her, but then the way she taught the class, it made it. So, you know, you either thought she was really strict and you’re like, I don’t want to be in this class. Or you were like, this is the best teacher ever. I want to learn from her. She’s inspiring.


Sam Demma (11:26):
I like that. Not the self by 365 pairs of shoes. That’s so awesome. That’s amazing. And then why didn’t a university study university, your first teaching job you said was math.


Bridgit Moore (11:41):
Yeah. My first official teaching job was at a Brett. It was a brand new high school. They were just starting Waterford high school, super small town. And I was teaching algebra four periods of algebra. And then I had my one leadership class that was the fifth class that I taught.


Sam Demma (12:02):
Awesome. That’s so cool. And I’m sure activity directing from that school versus the one you’re in now looks a little bit different especially with COVID and things that have happened over the past two years. It was probably a little challenging for awhile. But what if you could tell your younger self advice, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now in the position?


Bridgit Moore (12:27):
Oh well, honestly, when I first did this position at my first high school, I had no idea what I was doing. So I think I would go back and tell my younger self read the ASB advisor manual, look at all the rules, make sure that you’re proactive in recruiting students who are passionate about leadership and putting on activities. It was, you know, we had a bunch of students, it was a very small school, was brand new. And so we had a very small group of students that were in leadership. And I guess I’ve been know really how to recruit students that were going to be passionate about that kind of thing. And so the students that I had in there, they struggled a little bit with wanting to get things done or wanting to do whatever or being creative. One of the kids that were in there were just kind of in their, for a title. And so it’s really important to get kids in this program because they do put on a lot of work and a lot of time you want kids that are truly passionate about what they’re doing and otherwise you’re going to be the one doing all the work.


Sam Demma (13:42):
Yeah. It makes sense. And what do you think look different about activities over the past two years than maybe three, four years ago because of the pandemic?


Bridgit Moore (13:52):
Oh, so, well, I mean, think about it. So before the pandemic, so go back to 2019, 2020, right? So at the beginning of that school year with like any other normal school year, we had a big event at the beginning of the school year. We had beginning of the school year advance where kids came and danced and we have our big homecoming events where we had royalty and his regressing up and planning activities at school and how to float and did all these things. Right. We had a, we had a winter formal event where the kids came, dressed up and got to do that dance. And then we’ve got to do the same thing for our winter homecoming. Well then COVID hits in March, boom promise, canceled. Every other dance that we have is canceled no more rallies for the rest of the school year.


Bridgit Moore (14:47):
My job at that point became social media market manager because everything that I was able or allowed to do was digital in online social media. So my position definitely shifted and changed right at the beginning, I had to learn all kinds of different programs. I had to learn how to do video editing, which I didn’t really know how to do very well. I had to learn how to compile different videos and helping use that to inspire students, not to lose heart. I mean, at the end of that first school year where COVID hit the, our district was not making kids super accountable for their work because they thought, oh, we can’t really make them accountable at this point. So a bunch of kids weren’t doing anything. And then how do you try to get them to do something, even leadership kits. So they were even losing heart. These are the, you know, the heart and soul of the school. And they’re getting all frustrated because they’re missing out on all the fun things they to do on plan. You know, we didn’t even have a in-person graduation that year.


Sam Demma (15:53):
The district.


Bridgit Moore (15:54):
Yeah. We recorded it and everything. So


Sam Demma (16:00):
Yeah, no, it’s, it’s funny. Same, same stuff happened. All the schools here and in an effort to help, I actually made like a graduating speech for like the graduating class of 2020. I ended up making more than 20, 21 as well because schools here were still shut down. But yeah, it seems like the past two years have been really difficult, but amongst the challenges I’m sure there’s some positives and I’m curious to know like what did work and what did go over well. And maybe some programs you ran or things that you think the school really enjoyed


Bridgit Moore (16:33):
Well with learning how to do all those different new media outlets. We did learn how to do some fun things. We did something called the five days of winning, leading up to Christmas or winter break. And a bunch of kids got up. We just posted a little thing on, Hey, comment on this. What’s your favorite Christmas movie. And then anybody that responded got put into a drawing and we got to post that drawing up on social media and the kids got subpoena fries, things like that. We wouldn’t have come up with, or for winter homecoming, we did a shoe box float parade. So we had all the leadership kids create shoe boxes based on the homecoming theme. And we created a spray or, you know, they can’t come to school and dress up. So for homecoming, we did dress up your Bitmoji.


Sam Demma (17:33):
And for those, and for those, for those people who are like, what the heck is a Bitmoji, you want to explain it real quick.


Bridgit Moore (17:39):
So a bit Moji is this digital character caricature of yourself that people create and you can send them in text messages and stuff like that. And I think it originated from Snapchat, but there’s this whole thing, this whole Bitmoji world and be classrooms and yada yada yada. So we got kids to dress up their Bitmoji or like create a digital background. So we had these kids that created these funny digital backgrounds and for an action adventure. One of them was like, action adventure. Since the thing was Netflix, I want to say. And so this kid had, it looked like a dinosaur was right there. And then she was like, made it look like she was in the movie screening. So that was kind of cool. So different creative ways to dress up. Quote unquote.


Sam Demma (18:29):
That’s so awesome. Yeah. It sounds like you guys got really creative Yeah. And try different things. And what is this year looking like so far?


Bridgit Moore (18:42):
This year is actually looking more like it did previously. You know, I know COVID cases are starting to come up again, but at this point our school is running and functioning close to a normal school year. So as far as my position and my students though, they are planning for a normal homecoming, you know, like what we’ve done in the past. And we got to put on one of our big beginning of the school year events. We just couldn’t allow people to dance at it, but we could do every other piece to it that we used to we’re doing activities at lunch, encouraging kids. The kids did our lunch rally. So they did it outside. This was the first week of school. And so they are getting, you know, they’re kind of being somewhat creative, but also going back to things that we’ve done in the past. So it is good. The kids feel refreshed and re invigorated. They’re, they’re getting excited to be able to do things like they used to do.


Sam Demma (19:47):
That’s awesome. Oh, that’s amazing. That’s really good to hear. And if, you know, I asked you advice on activities directed, like on your role as an activity director, overall, as an educator, there might be someone listening who’s getting into their first year of teaching. Like if you could give a first year educator a piece of advice or a couple of pieces of advice that you think would have been really helpful for you to hear when you first started what would those things be?


Bridgit Moore (20:12):
Don’t be afraid to ask your fellow experienced educators for help and advice. There’s gotta be at least one or two people at your school site. That’s willing to help you out because the first year is daunting. And I think the biggest thing that most educators struggle with when they first start out is how to manage their classroom. And that’s not really something they teach in the classes that they do in the credential program. For some reason, that’s not a class it’s not, oh, cluster management 1 0 1, no, they don’t have that. I don’t understand why they have all these other classes that they want you to take, but they don’t have that one. And that is probably the most important piece that you need to know to be able to actually do all those other things that you learn in the credential program. If you don’t have a functioning classroom, then you’re not going to be able to teach them anything.


Bridgit Moore (21:05):
So just getting advice and getting tips and tricks from different people. And then even just, if you pick one or two things that you like, that somebody else is doing and you implement them in your classroom, and then once you have that down, you go to the next thing. Okay. I really want to try to add this in or, or use this piece. Then you, you add that in and just little by little, they’ll get into a routine and they’ll figure it out for themselves, but also not to get discouraged that first year is hard. The second year is still hard, but a little easier if you don’t kind of really get into that full rhythm until maybe your third year, honestly, you know, it, it takes some time, so just be patient. And if it was your passion, just keep it up. Keep going.


Sam Demma (21:59):
That’s awesome. And if someone’s listening right now and liked any part of this interview and just wants to chat with you or reach out, or it would be the best way for them to do so.


Bridgit Moore (22:11):
Well they could email me, I guess. So my email I’ll give my personal email is bridgit777@gmail.com.


Sam Demma (22:26):
All right. Cool, Bridgit, thank you so much for coming on the show. Keep up the great work. I can’t wait to stay in touch and see what the rest of the year turns out to be like for you.


Sam Demma (22:39):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest and 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 want to 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 feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Bridgit

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.

Greg Firth – Coach and Department Head of the Career Path Regional Program

Greg Firth - Coach and Department Head of the Career Path Regional Program
About Greg Firth

Greg Firth(@coachfirth) is an experienced educator with a demonstrated history of working in special education and with at-risk youth. He is also the Coach and Department Head of the Career Path Regional Program.

Skilled in educational leadership, coaching, Secondary and Elementary education, assessment, and team building, he is a strong education professional with a Bachelor’s Degree focused in Elementary Education and Teaching from the University of Canberra.

Connect with Greg: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Bachelors of Primary Education – Canberra University

St. Edmund Campion Secondary School

Brumbies Rugby Team

DGN-Kilters (Spirit Wear Company)

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):
Do you want access to all the past guests on this show? Do you want to network with like-minded individuals and meet other high-performing educators from around the world? If so, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Sign up to join the exclusive network and you’ll get access to live virtual networking events and other special opportunities that will come out throughout 2021. I promise you I will not fill your inbox. You might get one email a month. If that sounds interesting. Go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have today’s guest on the show. Funny enough, I actually met him on Twitter. Now. I don’t use social media very much. Twitter is the only platform that I’m really utilizing right now to stay in touch with people in education. And I came across Greg Firth’s page and I was intrigued instantly by the thumbnail picture that appears on his profile header in big bold letters.


Sam Demma (01:04):
It says, don’t let your dreams be dreams. And that immediately caught my attention. And as I explored his profile a little more, I realized that he is the department head of career path regional program at Ed campions school. And he helps students transition and find their passions on and off the court. So aside from his role in helping students find their passion, he’s also a coach and being someone who grew up as an athlete myself, and that someone who was very interested in helping students, you know, answer the questions, who am I, what are my opportunities and how am I going to accomplish them? You know, I thought that me and Greg would have a phenomenal conversation and my thought turned out to be correct because we have an amazing discussion on today’s episode, a little more about Greg Greg is an experienced educator with a demonstrated history of working in special education.


Sam Demma (01:59):
And with at-risk youth. He is skilled in educational leadership, coaching secondary and elementary education, assessment, and team building. He’s a strong education professional with a bachelor’s degree, focused in elementary education and teaching from the university of Canberra. All of that aside, Greg is an awesome human being. He is someone who thinks outside of the box. A little inside joke, he was wearing a shirt that says, think outside of the box during today’s interview. And it’s evident that he does that in his day to day work in his role. So without further ado, here’s the interview with my good friend, Greg. Greg, thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. I think the thing that caught my eye from you was seeing your Twitter header that was talking all about dreams and as someone who was chasing my dreams since I was a young kid and who’s still chasing my dream, and seeing that you support other students chase theirs was really cool. And I’d love for you to introduce yourself, share a little bit about who you are with the educator listening and how you got into education and the work you’re doing today.


Greg Firth (03:10):
Awesome. Thanks again, Sam, for having me I’m really excited to be here. My name is Greg Firth. I’m a teacher in Brampton at St. Edmund Champion Secondary School in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic district school board. I’m currently the department head of a regional program that we call the career path program. The career path program is a grade 9-12 program for special education students who are looking into exploring the world of work. So we have such an amazing team around us who are supportive of not only teachers, but educational resource workers, child/youth workers, social workers, psychologists, and an amazing administrative team, and some amazing teachers again in our, in our greater building. So my journey to becoming a teacher was not as kind of clear. I went to Brock university and did sport management. I played rugby a Brock. My whole goal was to get into the sports field.


Greg Firth (04:11):
I had dreams of being an event planner or working for a professional team traveling. But in the background I was always working at summer camps and I was always either running a camp or working for an organization with kids. I did teacher’s college in Australia and I worked for what is equivalent to, I guess, the Toronto maple Leafs, which was the the, the camp or ACT Brumbies which is a professional rugby team there. And again, I was running rugby camps there and it just seemed, I got accepted to go to Kenesha, to do my master’s in sports sport management. But I took it. I had to take a little bit of break and I sat and I really thought about, okay, well, is this really what I want to do? Went back and got a job in Dufferin-Peel as an educational resource worker for a year.


Greg Firth (05:01):
And during that year I had some you know, I loved it. I just loved that. Helping kids, working with staff, working with parents, working in the greater community. All the other things that come with teaching and being in a school just just kinda excited me. So that’s how I ended up in Australia doing teacher’s college, came back, connected with a few past principals and vice-principals and was able to walk in. I got hired on labor day, Monday for a grade three job on Tuesday. And and that’s kinda, that was my entry into, into Dufferin-Peel and to, to teaching.


Sam Demma (05:41):
At what point, though, in your personal career journey, when you were still going through school, figuring this all out, did you make the decision it’s going to be education, I’m going to work in education, whether it’s a teacher, a principal, whatever it, you know, it turns out to be when did that decision happen and what spurred you to make that decision?


Greg Firth (05:59):
You know what, I don’t know if there was a specific time because I’m going to be honest. I came back from Australia after doing teacher’s college. I ended up coming back in June. So I had a summer, I needed to make some money and pay off some bills that I incurred in Australia. And I worked at a, at a law firm in Toronto in the mail room. So I was, you know, shirt tie getting on the go train from Mississauga, going downtown in Toronto. And I was like, well, maybe this is kind of the lifestyle I want. So the one thing that I, that I, that I’ve followed the one thing that I preach and teach to kids is that there is no clear path. Sometimes things change. Sometimes it’s a moment, but you have to kind of recognize those opportunities, go for it, see what lies ahead and, and take those opportunities as, as they’re brought to you.


Greg Firth (06:52):
And sometimes you find things behind the door that you never expected. And, and sometimes there’s a challenge and sometimes, you know, the grass isn’t always greener, but that will you know, you’ll grow from it. And it isn’t a 20 year journey. I do believe as a lifelong learner, whether it’s an occupation or whether it’s just personal growth. I do believe that that learning happens over an eternity. And so I don’t know if there was a clear part and, you know, I’m continuing to, to reflect and to see, and to challenge myself even as a, as an educator and how I can move forward professionally in this career.


Sam Demma (07:39):
I’m assuming there’s a reason why your Twitter handle is also coach Firth. Where does coaching and athletics come into the story? You know, you mentioned you were a rugby player growing up, did you end up coaching sports in schools? And what did that teach you about also being a better educator? Did you learn some lessons from being a coach or, or w you know, you have a diverse perspective being both a coach and an educator, and I’m curious to know how it’s impacted your teaching style and, and where sports kind of come into the picture for you.


Greg Firth (08:11):
So, yeah, you know what, sports has always played a huge role. I have four brothers if we weren’t, you know, battling playing hockey outside or playing baseball outside or, or competing, even playing Nintendo NHL 93 or whatever it was, sports was always has always been a part of me. My dad coached me growing up. I umpired baseball. That was kinda my first leadership opportunity was umpiring baseball as a 14 year old and having a courageous conversation with with a father that he was not allowed to use that inappropriate language around these kids. So I grew from that and, and being in those, those opportunities coaching was kind of like the next step by a good friend and former teacher. Paul Newfeld, you know, allowed me to come back as a, as a, as a university student and help out with the rugby team.


Greg Firth (09:10):
And we ended up taking that rugby team to to also, we ended up taking that rugby team to England and to, and it just created so many friendships and memories and opportunities, opportunities because of rugby. I was able to go to Australia and meet some people, have a conversation that about a sport, it was in, it was an initial draw to, to have a conversation with people. So coaching has always been and still is a huge part. I think we can teach the lessons. I think you know, the roles that I’m in, sometimes I’m not with the with students in a day-to-day basis in a classroom, but it gives me an opportunity to teach to, to learn from them to compete and to bring life lessons. I, I’m a, I’m a strong believer. You know, we talk about sports being great, but it has to be purposeful as a coach, a sport. I believe that a sport does not bring life lessons in itself. You know, anyone can go play baseball, anyone go play basketball. It’s, it’s, it’s the adults, it’s the organizers, it’s your teammates that bring those life lessons. And I do believe that it has to be purposeful. You as an adult and as a coach need to have values and you need to, you need to teach lessons and there’s, and sports is a great opportunity for those.


Sam Demma (10:39):
Did you have a coach growing up that had a huge impact on you and maybe one jumps to mind? And I’m just curious to know what you think that coach did. That’s strongest string with you, if you have, if you have one in mind.


Greg Firth (10:52):
Yeah. You know what? I I’ve been lucky. I’ve been some, had some amazing coaches, but the one I met just mentioned before Paul Neufeld from John Fraser secondary school he was a, a phys ed teacher. He started a rugby program when I was in grade nine, I had no one had any clue what rugby was like, no idea. So we went out there learn the game. He taught it to us. There was a cup of some other grapes, but he was kind of the one funny enough. He was a relatively young teacher at the time. And, you know, we kept in contact and I graduated and he brought me in to help coach with him with a couple other buddies who went on to the school. And to this day, I’m still friends with them. We did the ride to conquer cancer last year, and we rode bikes for 65 kilometers.


Greg Firth (11:35):
And he’s, you know, he’s always been a, and it’s funny because you see the impact that these, these coaches and the teachers have on students. And I got an amazing message from a student three days ago who just signed a scholarship for basketball. And and her note to me was, was immense a lot. And you know, to see that other side that, you know, in the moment, sometimes it’s pretty thankless. And you know, it’s not always easy, you know, having a player, you know, there’s not enough time for everyone to play. And right now I’m spending a lot of time coaching basketball. And and it’s, it’s not always easy, but those moments, you know, maybe it’s not an in the moment directly, but five years, 10 years, 15, 20 years down the road, you know, they remember that offs a trip to London where they remember that fun bus ride, where the coach got up and danced and made a fool of themselves. Those little moments sometimes, or the, I had a, had a good friend who plays professional lacrosse telling me that he does remember too many of his championships as a kid, but he does remember all the hotels and the, and the team parties. This is a professional athlete that told me that once. So I thought that was a, that was kind of trouble.


Sam Demma (12:51):
Oh, that’s awesome. I love that story. And it’s a personal one for me because I played sports growing up as well. And I could name the coaches that have also had a huge impact on my life. That’s so cool. I know these days, things have changed for you in your teaching role, and you’re now doing more of the career focused stuff, but you mentioned that note that the student sent you, you know, and it felt like a really touching moment. And sometimes educators don’t actually ever hear about the impact they’ve made, although it’s still as real as it ever would be. But you know, those moments where you get a note or someone reaches out, whether it’s five years later or 20 years later is like, it’s like icing on the cake, you know? I could bet it makes you feel like a million bucks.


Sam Demma (13:37):
And I’m curious to know if you have any stories of transformation, whether in your new role now, or in any of your previous roles that stick out to you. And if it’s a serious story, you could change a student’s name or just not use a name to share it. The reason I’m asking is because there could be an educator right now, listening, who is thinking about getting out of this vocation, this calling, because of what challenges they’re faced with this year and a transformative story, you might be what they need to inspire them to keep going. Danny stories come to mind that you can think of.


Greg Firth (14:10):
So, because of my experience teaching, I taught grade three, I’ve taught, I’ve taught nine to 12. I’ve had a, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to, to work with a wide variety of subjects, a wide variety of students from a wide variety of settings. There’s a couple situations that I can think of my head, but I think, you know, what, what has recently, what is re what I’ve really focused on is the role that I’m in, in, in the high school setting is I used to go and I still do go to a lot of meetings of, of transitioning from grade eight to grade nine. So you hear these stories you know, you, you know, students struggling and literacy students, struggling, math students, not motivated. And, you know, we, we try to plan appropriately for that student. It is amazing going back and talking to elementary teachers and sharing the success stories.


Greg Firth (15:16):
Whether it’s been the student has found a passion, whether the student has found a teacher, a construction teacher, or an auto teacher that they’ve, that they’ve linked to, and they’ve taken a great liking to, to the trades. And now they’re going to continue and continue on with that trade. Those are the things that, that stick with me is that it is a path. It is a, it’s a, it’s a journey. And you know, every day’s a new day and, you know, I’ve had a teacher once told me the best teachers are, you know, we’re, we’re all drama teachers. We all have to, you know, start fresh the next day. It’s another play. It’s another day. You know, you don’t carry grudges. Kids have bad days. Kids will say terrible things. And, you know, you have to know where that get to know who the student is, develop those relationships and understand where that struggle comes from and, and, and continue to move forward and continue to guide them and continue to be on that journey with them.


Greg Firth (16:18):
And I think that’s, that’s no kind of the, the takeaways from it. All. I had a parent, an aunt actually call me at the beginning of September, just to give me a head you know, just wanted to touch base, let you know what, what my son’s doing now, or sorry, my nephew. And I shared with everyone who taught this, this child, and it was it was amazing. Everyone had huge smiles on their faces and, and his journey was different than a someone else’s. And, but that’s success. It comes in a variety of ways and and fighting those little moments to make a difference is is key. And it’s not always easy. It’s not always easy.


Sam Demma (16:58):
It’s definitely not easy now as well. I find teaching virtually presents its own different, unique challenges. I’m curious to know in today’s learning environment, how do you make a student feel seen, heard, appreciated, valued? You know, do you have any ideas around that?


Greg Firth (17:18):
Yeah. You know what, so when we started in March with the, the online learning, I don’t have a classroom, so I can approach things a little bit differently. But I set that my role is to be there if a child needs to talk or it needs to be in the air, you know, I need to be there and listen. And it may be every single day for 10 minutes. In some cases it was, and that’s okay. I, I feel that it’s so important to be, to make a connection in the school and that’s no different than online, you know, I think it’s, it all starts. I’m not, I’m a huge relationship person. I think you get so much by building positive relationships and it’s that whole concept, right? Like a co like, just going back to the coaching, like, you know, you have to develop that relationship with those players, if you want to get the most out of them, because there are times when you’re going to have to challenge them.


Greg Firth (18:16):
There are times when you’re going to have to, you know, address the elephant in the room and whether that’s playing time or whether that’s look, I don’t know if you’re ready for that next level. If you don’t have that relationship, you can never have that conversation and move things forward. So who I am is it’s, I’m a relationship builder. I, I try my best and I try to be present and I try to address everyone’s needs and a need to have a student who just can’t figure out how to log into Google classroom for the 15th time. That’s okay. We got it, we’ll work through it. And that’s what I’m here for. You know, we got to understand the stress that they’re going through in their homes and, and this new learning environment. And some of them it’s very, very challenging and, you know, the mental health behind it is it’s huge. And also recognizing who the other professionals are that I can tap into who I can call up and say, child, youth worker, Hey, you know what, I think something’s off right here. Like, can you connect or finding a club, an online club that, that, or community organization that they could tap into is, is all extremely important.


Sam Demma (19:24):
I saw on your Twitter profile for bell let’s talk day, everyone was holding up white boards there in your, in your, in your virtual class. I’m curious to know what was going on in the school board there, what were all the students doing? So that,


Greg Firth (19:37):
That was our I believe that was our student council and our student council. Again, just, we’re trying to find ways to connect with the students. And that it’s so important. You know, we just talked about our highlights in our high school, right. You know, we were involved in teens, we were going to pep rallies. We were going maybe to, you know other social events in the school. We’ll all of those kinds of just got taken away. Great twelves are missing their grad tens and elevens might be, or it might be a semiformal at the school. Great aids never had their grad. So coming into a, to this school, it’s just tough. And I think we, and I think the teachers are doing amazing, amazing work. And I think we’re being creative. I think we’re trying new thinking outside the box. And we’re trying to find ways to get students connected with the school, because we know if a student is connected to the school, great things will happen. That sense of pride, that that is, you know, school becomes easier. It’s a better place to come to. The more comfortable the confidence is built up. So I think finding those little things of of getting our students involved and letting their peers know, Hey, you know, we’re all in this together. And and, and we’re here for you.


Sam Demma (20:52):
I love that. No, that’s awesome. And in the role you’re in now with the career work that you’re doing, what’s kind of motivated you to take on that role. Like I know you’re someone who believes in following your dreams. As I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast, why is this role a crucial one for you personally?


Greg Firth (21:14):
So I used to be a department head at another school another school in the department of special ed there. And the posting came up, the lady before me retired and this posting came up and I just, I saw it as a great opportunity to not only work with students in one community, but a wider community. We have students coming anywhere from, we have a student in grand valley. We have students in Shelburne in the past. We’ve had students in Bolton. We’ve had students in kaledin all over Brampton. So students are getting bused into our school. And it’s just an amazing opportunity to work with a great staff and a great school with great administration to to take something work with it, create it. And my whole goal has been to try to provide opportunities or provide experiences or you know, we created a few little in-house businesses and we worked with amazing partners and we created our spirit where we brought in a company called DJ and killers who they came in and they worked with our students and they, they created spiritwear for the entire school.


Greg Firth (22:24):
So it was kind of like we had a program, but there was a bit of a blank canvas to move it forward to, to, and those are the things that really inspired me to work with a different different students. And again, if I’m preaching, get students and out of their comfort zone or players out of their comfort zone, you know, I have to live by those words too. And, and I was, I had a great school. I was at Cardinal LeShae and, and amazing staff and loved it, had some great friends friends to this day, but from my myself, I needed to grow and and take on a new challenge. And and yeah, it’s, it’s been an amazing five years.


Sam Demma (23:06):
And if you could go back to younger Gregg and speak to yourself when you’re just starting your journey in education, what advice would you give yourself?


Greg Firth (23:20):
So I think I would, I would you know, tell my, I think when I was younger and I think this happens with a lot of us, no matter what profession there’s, there’s doubt, right? There’s doubt we’re not as experienced and we’re not as, you know, seasoned, and we’re not just like a rookie jump jumping on a team. Right. There’s always going to be that doubt. And, and that’s okay. I think you have to question what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. But I would also encourage, like, continue to talk to those teachers who have been there, but not just, not just your teaching partner, talk to that teacher, make that connection, continue to network, find out what’s going on in other buildings, find out what’s going on in other school boards, you know, there’s so many amazing, and that’s why I’m a huge fan of Twitter.


Greg Firth (24:08):
Like I’m a big fan and it may not even be posting material. It may just be sitting there going. That’s a really cool idea. That’s a really great belief or, Hey, I don’t know if I agree with that. And, and, and that’s, I think there’s some positive in, in the other side of it too, where you see people’s opinions and you were like, okay, well, why, why are they, why is it that, and you got to start, you know, getting deeper into these conversations. And but I would say, yeah, continue to network. Don’t take, don’t throw anything to the side, take it in and then decipher all that information and continue to move forward.


Sam Demma (24:45):
That’s awesome. And if someone is listening to this thinking right now that they’re inspired and they would love to connect with you and have a conversation about anything we talked about, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you?


Greg Firth (24:57):
You know what, we can go to Twitter @coachfirth, F I R T H. You know, that’s how you and I connected and happy to communicate that way. Email is a great way too. It’s greg.firth@dpcdsb.org . Anything teacher related happy to, to create that that learning network and and share and learn from you as well.


Sam Demma (25:29):
Awesome. Cool, Greg, thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate you coming on and chat about your whole journey and what you’re up to these days. It’s really inspiring and keep up the awesome work kids. Kids need it now more than ever.


Greg Firth (25:41):
And Sam, same to you, man. You know, you’re doing a great job and guts. I know you had, you had Jason, the that’s, how we got got connected, and he’s a, he’s an amazing teacher and a great guy. And so, you know, thank you for what you’re doing outside of the school system as well. Appreciate it.


Sam Demma (25:57):
And there you have it, another amazing guest and 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 want to 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 feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Greg Firth

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.

Marc England – Teacher and Leadership Advisor at Fleetwood Park Secondary School

Marc England
About Marc England

Marc England (@mreteacher) is a teacher and Leadership Advisor at Fleetwood Park Secondary School in Surrey, British Columbia. He is now in his 23rd year of teaching. For 20 years, he has been involved in Student Leadership as a Student Council Advisor and leadership educator. He is a strong believer of “people first” in schools, and that if we have strong school cultures, the rest will look after itself.  

Marc has presented for many years across Canada at various Student Leadership events. He has worked with the BC Association of Activity Advisors and worked with his students to host a BC Student Leadership Conference in 2017. Since 2008 he has been involved with the Canadian Student Leadership Association in various capacities and helped develop their Leadership Advisor Certification Program. 

He is a husband, an uncle to his amazing nephews and nieces, a sports nut, and still thinks he has the best job in the world. 

Connect with Marc: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Canadian student leadership website
Fleetwood park secondary
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 student podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Marc England. Marc is a teacher as well as a student leadership advisor and a director for the Canadian student leadership association. He teaches out in Surrey, BC. In this episode, he talks a lot about school culture and a dozen actionable ideas that you can take with your students in your school to boost student morale, to increase engagement, and bring everyone together to build some real community during this tough, challenging time professional life aside, marc loves hockey, specifically the New York Rangers, his grandfather played in the league and he even draws some parallels along the lines of hockey and student leadership. In this episode. Anyways, I hope you enjoy this episode. It’s packed with nuggets and gems. Get a pen and a sheet of paper and enjoy the interview. I’ll see you on the other side, marc. Thank you so much for coming on the high performing educators podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. We just chatted a little bit about your family lineage with the New York Rangers. Please let everyone know who you are, where you teach and why you got into the work you do with young people today.


Marc England (01:16):
Awesome. Well, first of all, thanks for having me on, this is a great opportunity and you know, to give you a little bit of a shadow before we even start, you were part of the global loose to the global student leadership day therein may, that Stu put on. And when I asked her my kids’ reflections, you were on more than a few about what they had to say about the day. So something about what you said is surely identifying with our kids and that’s important. So a little tip of the hat to you, my friend. So yeah, my name’s Marc England and I work in Surrey, British Columbia at Fleetwood park secondary, and I started out as a humanities and social studies teacher and evolved into student leadership. And right now that’s kind of the hat I wear is teach a little bit of humanities, but run our student leadership program and teach a couple of blocks to that and leadership department head and, and work with some other things around here too.


Marc England (02:06):
So yeah, that’s, that’s my job. And as far as why I do what I do, you know, Conlon always says it best Dave Conlin, a fellow I work with with the Canadian student leadership association says we have the best job in the world. So why would, why would you not want to do and not do the work when you have the best job in the world? I think like most teachers were really in this to see and help kids succeed and to really see their journey. And for our case in BC, at least in Surrey, we don’t have a middle school model. So for five years, we get to see that evolution and see that success grow including the bumps in the road sometimes, but that makes it rewarding at the end. So whatever that might be most for some, it might be graduation and some of it might be a full-ride scholarship to uni.


Marc England (02:51):
Whatever that success is when they leave, that’s what we want. And that’s why we love what we do. I love working with student leaders. It’s honestly, that’s, that’s the part of the job that keeps me going every day still. I mean, I love teaching and teaching humanities and social studies, but 23 years in, I’ve been doing that. And student leadership is different every day and it’s a different group of kids all the time. Those are the kids that are engaged. Those are the kids that are, that want to contribute to their community, contribute to their schools. I mean, who would want to work with those kids? And you know, to be honest with you, I’ve always kind of asked for, for us, we started at eight and go to 12 and I’ve always wanted to have great 8, 10, 12’s, because I, I don’t like just teaching seniors. I want to have the newbies, cause I want to try and get them excited about our school and make them feel, feel belong. So those are a whole bunch of reasons, kind of why I do what I do.


Sam Demma (03:44):
At what point in your life did you make the decision I’m going to be a teacher? Was it because someone else tapped you on the shoulder? Was it because your parents told you to, or was there just an innate feeling that you wanted to teach? One day?


Marc England (03:59):
It’s funny. I didn’t really set out to be a teacher. I went to school, my mom was an instructor in the psychiatric nursing department at a local college university. And so she was fairly academic and there was that pressure to go to school. But I didn’t really set out to be an educator. I kind of was working in the business for a buddy who had his own business. And I pretty soon realized that that wasn’t really something that I wanted to do. Not because I didn’t enjoy the work and being part of a business, but I just didn’t really find it that rewarding profession. Like, you know, you go to work, you kind of go do the grind and, and it just, wasn’t what I kind of was looking for. And I could feel that in my soul. But I had been working, I, part of my youth was working at, with softball, Canada.


Marc England (04:46):
I played ball and then I started umpiring at the age of 11. And as I kind of got older, I got, we got to climb the ranks of the empire world. And I got to work with kids as I got older in a mentor capacity and a local kind of park empire and chief. And so part of that was teaching the clinics. And part of that was working with kids and something with that, just kind of jived with me and being able to see them learn and then see them apply skills. I thought you know what? This is kind of cool. Maybe this is something that I want to do. And a lot of the guys that I kind of hung out with within that world were educators, or either already established, dedicated educators or going in to be educators. And so I thought, well, you know what, this, this might be cool.


Marc England (05:26):

So I reached out to a, to a local, to one of my favorite teachers. And I mean, I think we all have those people in our school lives that really kind of pushed us and drove us and got us and, and really inspired us to do what we do with kids. And for me, the first guy like that was Mr. Jamison in grade five, you know, the brand new kid from Winnipeg just made me feel welcome and was, probably one of the best teachers that I’ve ever seen in my life. And then my 10 English teacher grade eight and 10 English teacher, Mrs. Hilman. I approached her and she was hard. Oh, she was hard, but she was good. And talk about keeping kids at the center of what she did. And I think that’s why I reached out to her and said, you know, I’d like to maybe think about this. She said, come on in. We did some volunteer work. And from then I was hooked. It was, it was, that’s what I wanted to do. So it wasn’t necessarily that I’ve always felt this string, but there is no doubt in my mind that I have ended up doing what I was meant to do.


Sam Demma (06:28):
What did those teachers in your life do for you that made all the difference? Jamison and the teacher you just alluded to?


Marc England (06:35):
Oh, man. Mrs. Hellman. Both of them I’ll tell you the one thing, and this is what I draw. This is what this is at the center is, is relating to kids and keeping it’s the relationships piece, right? Like everything on, you know, Phil boy talks about the relationship pyramid or the leadership pyramid. And at the bottom of it is this is the relationships, it’s the foundation of everything we do. So there was never any, like the first day I walked into school. It wasn’t like, you know, I remember as the new kid from, from December too wasn’t, even in September, I remember he’s like, Hey, how are you? Tell me about yourself. Who are you? Where do you come from? What’s your story? So that was huge, right? What’s your story? Who are the, who are you coming into my room here? And it wasn’t a bad thing.


Marc England (07:13):
It was like, I just want to know you and the other stuff took a back seat. And then the other Mrs. Hilman same thing. But boy, like I said, she was tough. She was firm, she was a hard teacher, a hard marker, but at the center of it was relationships. And you talk to, you know, she sadly passed away a few years ago, but you talk to anybody who went through that school. And some people, you know, didn’t like her class because it was hard, but I don’t think you’d find too many people that didn’t love her. Right. And that’s the key is that you know, it, if you keep the kids at the center of what we do and every kid at the center of what we do, it’s that it’s the success. That’s awesome. That’s the common denominator between those two. I like that.


Sam Demma (08:01):
And during COVID it’s a challenging time. How do we still keep students at the center? There are so many things to worry about. There are some challenges you’ve been faced with, how do we make sure students still stay at the center of our focus during these tough times?


Marc England (08:15):
You know, it’s an interesting calm kind of question because we’ve talked about this. One of my hats that I wear is I work with the Canadian student leadership association. I’m part of their board of directors, but you know, really I’ve been working with them for 15 years on, at the board level anyway. And, and, and I’ve been, you know, to go back to your, how did I get into this work question? Can I go back and answer something on that? Of course I just, you know, that I F I feel like there are things in our lives and in our, in our careers, that when they happen, they happen for a reason. And I was in about 2001 as a brand new, not brand new teacher, but new to a school teacher who, and they, the principal said, you know, what would you mind taking over student council?


Marc England (09:07):
And I had never been, I was a wannabe student leader in, in high school. And I, you know, my best friend, she was on student council and I always kind of admired it from afar. And I thought you know what? That would be cool. I would really, that that’s something that I would like to do. And I liked all the events that we were running at the school. I liked the planning stuff. I thought it would be just something that would be right up my alley little did I know that I would be still doing it this many years later? The thing is too, is that the average leadership life teacher’s lifespan is about what Dave says. It’s about three to five years, just simply because it’s all-encompassing, right. And you’re running events all the time and doing all these things, but it’s so amazing.


Marc England (09:51):
And I fluently kind of fell into what I do. So this one principal just kind of said, Hey, do you wanna? I said, sure. And then what, like go back to the empire thing. One of the guys that I was umpiring with when we were kids, he was doing a leadership program in hope, British Columbia, and he and his wife were planning a national conference or part of a committee. And they said, do you want to join us here? And that was, that was how I got hooked into CSLC and the Canadian conference, and the Canadian student leadership association. And that was 2002. So here we are in 2020. And, and it’s something that still is amazing. So, you know, sometimes it’s people that tap you on the shoulder, and sometimes it’s people that you have things in common and, you know, some things just happen at the right time in your life and really guide you in what your path might be.


Marc England (10:37):
So going back to your COVID question. Yeah. You’re the COVID question, you know, it’s I think the struggle question is, is the hardest piece. And the biggest piece that in schools is culture. School culture right now is really, really suffering during COVID-19 and it’s nobody’s fault. Honestly, everybody’s doing the very best that they can, but most events in schools that bring people, kids, staff together are not happening. Yeah. So you have some instances of a little bit of student culture where the kids are interacting and, you know, there may be hanging out at lunch and this kind of thing, and you have some instances of staff culture where the adults in the building might be hanging out, but there’s very little beyond the actual dynamics of the classroom. There’s very little activity between staff and students in those events that really form the basis of school culture. So I think that’s probably our biggest struggle within the school system right now.


Sam Demma (11:38):
Great point. And not that I was going to ask if the school has done anything or had any unique ideas that they’ve tried, maybe you’ve tried something, it hasn’t worked out. Maybe it’s been a home run. I’m just curious to know if you had any ideas that you thought were good or that tried so far.


Marc England (11:53):
Well, you know, it’s interesting. We I have to backtrack and we have to kind of figure out where people are at and now we’re, we’re kind of almost, we’re a month into school out here. We’re in Surrey, we’re three weeks into full-time. This is week four of like full-time classes. We’re on a quarter system. So we’re basically, we switched over and kids are taking two classes at a time for basically two and a half, three hours a day. And one in the morning, one in the afternoon, seniors are remote in the afternoon, except for one day. So, you know, kids are overwhelmed a little bit it’s nobody’s fault. Like I said, it’s kind of the only system that we can make work. And so I think anything that we plan has to work around that, and, you know, the kids we forget about the kids that might have algebra, or, you know, they might have pre-calculus 12 and chemistry 12 in the same quarter and or English 12.


Marc England (12:49):
You know, I have one of my leadership kids has chemistry 12 and English 12, and that’s hard. She’s going home and doing a lot of work right now. So kids are overwhelmed a little bit and especially the seniors. And, you know, the one thing that we have to have to look at when we’re starting to plan how we can make this work is how do we build collegiality? How do we build back that collegiality with kids that collegiality with our colleagues in the building, we have, you know, a hundred plus adults in this building? How do we build that collegiality back? How do we get out of our isolation? Cause it’s easy to stay in, want to be safe in your classroom and close the door and do those kinds of things. And again, Phil boy talks about silos, but how do we do that?


Marc England (13:31):
We don’t have big lunches. You know our PE department, you know, I give them credit. Our PE office was always kind of a magnet for lunch. People went down there and ate lunch. So what they’ve done is, you know, spread some tables out in the small gym so that adults can come and eat lunch together. Our library and our teacher-librarian said you know what, I’ll open up the library. So rather than small prep rooms, people can space out and start to have that collegiality. Because I think by week two, we recognized that it was missing in building our staff culture. So I think in terms of how do we overcome things and creative ideas? I’m lucky that I work in a district with a director of instruction who, I don’t know whether a principal tapped her on the shoulder or somebody that she knew, but she is such a phenomenal educator herself.


Marc England (14:23):

And she you know, Gloria is, was beloved as a principal and now she’s working in the district office and she just said, you know what? I’m going to gather as many people as I can safely together at the district center. And let’s have a brainstorm as to how we can run events safely. So last week, in fact, she held two days where she brought together elementary schools and secondary schools, one administrator and perhaps a leadership teacher, but two people from each school. And she had a list of kind of the main events that would happen. So starting with the Terry Fox run right through to Halloween, right through to Christmas, right through to Valentine’s day. And we kind of the whole year, and you could, it was, she ran it almost like a speed dating thing where you could sit six feet apart and talk safely, but from other schools.


Marc England (15:08):
And then she kept a live document as to how, you know when you get a hundred people brainstorming, how we could do these things safely. And man, some of the ideas that came out of there, you know, Terry Fox run, for example. So rather than having somebody, having the whole school out on the field and say, go and collecting coins that are, you know, we can’t do so how can we do that safely? Well, most schools now have an online payment system. So encouraging your kids to, if the, if they can make a donation through the online payment system, let’s do that. So that’s safe. And then some schools ran staggered walks where the different cohorts were going off at different areas. And they were going at different times and they were starting at different places and they were ending at different places and the teachers were walking with them.


Marc England (15:52):
But they were all in the community and there was kind of marker posts around and it was all done with that Terry Fox run mentality in mind. So it wouldn’t be lost. Hope secondary did something I just found out about yesterday called T Terry Fox 40, this being the 40th year, of course, rather than, you know, they didn’t do their run, but what they had was they contributed each kind of classroom contributed something around 40. So the woodshop made 40 pieces of, you know, their project, the cooking class made 40 cookies. And so they did whatever their kind of curriculum area was, you know, the French class conjugated, 40 verbs, whatever it was, they were doing things around 40. And they made that their number for the day that they were, they were honoring Terry Fox’s purpose.


Marc England (16:43):
And so all sorts of creative ideas that you, you may not be able to do the event that you’ve way you’ve done it. But if there’s a purpose to the event, is there a way that we can do the event and still honor that purpose? So I think that’s kind of the nugget that I took away from last week and through conversations with people and, you know I think I give all the credit in our world to ours, my staff that I work with. I’m fortunate to work with some amazing people. Our biggest event here at the fluid park is something we have run for our grade eight. It’s called the grade eight retreat. And essentially every year we take 250 or 300-grade eights away to camp. And so half of them go have one night and half of them go the next night.


Marc England (17:26):
And it’s just a day of activities, fun team building activities and what it means to be a dragon, and how they give back to their school. Here are the clubs, but it’s all run by our student leaders and they run the sessions. They do the, they do the breakout things. They run the games, you know, teachers, are there, basically to serve lasagna and kind of supervise. It’s awesome. So you talk to any kids when they graduate. What do you remember about the fluid park? It’s always, you know, I wish I may be gotten involved more, but man graded retreat that’s and the kids, the amount of kids that want to sign up when they’re grade 10, 11, 12 to be mentors is incredible. So it truly is one of, it’s probably our secret event. It’s our traditional it’s, it’s rooted in our, in our traditions. And it is part of our culture.


Marc England (18:12):
So obviously we can’t go to camp. We can’t put kids on buses, we can’t do things like trust falls. We can’t do things that are, you know even, even team-building hot potato games where they’re touching the same thing, we can’t do that. How do we, so we asked ourselves, how can we take the mentorship piece? Because when we looked, I said to the colleagues that I was working with on this what’s our purpose with this? What, what purpose does this serve? Well, it really came down to mentorship and it came down to basically having our grades have something coming into our school. So we decided the purpose has to be well, let’s still have them. They’re Fleetwood park shirts that they’re going to wear with pride, and let’s try and do something where we can still have that mentorship piece. So through some creativity our team sat down and they hammered out.


Marc England (18:59):
Basically, each graded cohort of 30 kids is going to have two hours with senior leadership kids this week in, and it’s not retreat at camp, but it’s retreat activities outside on one of our fields. Cause the weather is supposed to be nice. So every grade eight is still going to get two hours of team building and what it means to be a dragon, but it’s going to be done safely. It’s going to be done at a distance. It’s going to be done, but we haven’t lost our purpose. So when I think when you step back and ask you that what’s the purpose of the event, I think that’s, that’s something that you can sometimes overcome.


Sam Demma (19:30):
Tony, Tony Robbins always says the quality of our life is determined by the questions we ask. And when you ask yourself those questions that leads to a positive outcome. If you have enough brains in a room like you did with your brainstorm with your school board and Gloria, of course, you’re going to have some amazing ideas. I think this is a great takeaway for any educator listening, who might be out of province, struggling to come up with ideas. The classic mastermind principle is so key and your school is evident of that. Marc, you’ve obviously built over the past dozen years, an amazing school culture at Fleetwood. I’m sure there’s been dozens of stories of students when they graduate writing you letters and reaching out that you didn’t even know you impacted, but telling you how big of an impact that you had on their life.


Sam Demma (20:16):
Can you think of a story, maybe the first story that pops into your mind of a student who’s been deeply impacted by student leadership work by your work, by your colleagues work. And can you share that student’s story? You can change their name for privacy reasons. If it’s a very deep story, the purpose of sharing, this is in the hope that another educator might be inspired to remember why the work that you do, that we do is so important, especially if this is their first year in education and they’re thinking, oh my goodness, what did I sign up for? So what stories come to mind?


Marc England (20:47):
Oh, Man! You know, so student leadership, like I said, that I keep you’re right. I have, I mean, I hate talking about myself, Sam, I’m not going to lie, but I sometimes show my kids this, when we get too stressful points, I keep what I call my bad day file. And it’s literally, it’s probably too big for one file now, but it’s every card, every note, every piece of every letter that I’ve ever gotten, I just keep it in the file. And then that’s 20 years now of, of stuff. I keep a wall of fame in my classroom with kids that have graduated from various things that we do as far as specific kids there, there’s a few I think, let me, let me answer your question through a little bit of a different lens if that’s okay. Of course.


Marc England (21:40):
Let me tell you about why student leadership’s rewarding for me. And it, it is, it is along the same lines of your question, but here. So I had a kid Brittany that came into my classroom in grade eight and you know, she was like any other grade eight and nervous and self-conscious and all of those things that go along with your first year in high school. And, you know, I think it was grade nine. We tapped her on the shoulder to get involved with the student council and she just started her journey. And, you know, she came from a family of four kids with a single mom. I taught, attended up. I taught all the kids, the whole family, and she, her mom was such a hard worker. Oh, just worked so hard for those kids. And she was always at school doing what she needed to do. A good student.


Marc England (22:30):
You know, she was a good academic student, but just jived on the student council stuff, grade 12, we can, she came to PEI with us, for Canadian student leadership conference. And for her, I could just see the light bulb go off for her. And that was something that she loved. So she’s a great example of, you know, sometimes all it takes is to ask that kid to alter or find a way to get them involved. And it takes them through four or five years of their high school journey. And the reason Brittany’s story is special to me is that, you know, she was one that wrote me this beautiful letter upon her graduation that I put into my bad day file. And it sat there for 5, 6, 7 years and last year or two years ago, I guess it was because she wasn’t here last year.


Marc England (23:21):
Brittany ended up as a colleague at my school and she’s become a teacher. And so here we were from mentor and teacher and student relationship to now colleagues. And, you know, she’s still a pretty special person. She came to my wedding last year. But you know, I showed her, I said, you know, when you’re doubting your purpose as a teacher, don’t forget that you never know what somebody’s journey is. And I pulled that out and I showed her, and I think that reaffirmed for her that because she’s with the student council here and working on some things here in student leadership. So for me, that was a special moment. That’s a special kid that, that I was able to see, go and end up, you know, doing something similar, but just she’s similar to me. And she just loves what she does and keeps kids at the center.


Marc England (24:13):
So there’s been others, there’s been other kids that I’ve seen. You know, I have a student who was with me and was my student council president. Who’s now, you know, one of the local managers, team management, a high up management team with one of the most successful restaurant chains locally. And she’s doing well and succeeding and you know, and those are skills that she learned through student leadership. So whether it’s a kind of personal story and you see the personal growth or whether it’s a professional story and you see the professional growth of these kids, to me, that’s worth everything.


Sam Demma (24:46):
That’s awesome. So cool, marc. I absolutely love the story. And again, I wanted to ask because there might be a teacher who’s starting their first year thinking, what the heck did I sign up for here? And if you could travel back in time to when you were starting your first year, what would you have told your younger self? What pieces of advice would you give your younger self?


Marc England (25:09):
I would say don’t get frustrated by policy and don’t get frustrated by people or things that seem to be in your way. You know, they’re there for a reason I would say, keep working at finding solutions. And I think that’s something that I’ve always pushed for. You know, if something I find, if something frustrates me, I just ask my principal, how can we make this work? What can we do? And nine times out of 10, we find a way to make it work. You know, it may not look as exactly as it is in my brain, but I think, honestly, your question, if I were to go back, I would tell myself, you know, don’t ever stop keeping kids in the center of what you do. When I first started, I was young I was easily relatable to kids and it was easy to kind of get them, right?


Marc England (26:05):
And I got kids, kids got me. And, but now, you know, here we are 23 years later and I still find it relatively easy to relate to kids. And so why is that? Well, I think it’s because kids are the purpose of what we do and it doesn’t necessarily matter that I’m going to get through a, to Z of the curriculum. I’m going to teach all the skills and I’m going to do as much as I can, but some days, some days it’s more important to just ask kids how they’re doing rather than teach that one lesson.


Sam Demma (26:37):
That’s Awesome. I love that so much. And as an off-topic question to wrap this up, your grandfather, New York Rangers mentioned at the beginning, it looks like you’re also wearing a hockey Jersey. First of all, do you see any connection between hockey and student leadership? Could you draw any connections between the sport and the game and two, what makes you so passionate about hockey?


Marc England (27:00):
Well, I grew up, I grew up partly in Winnipeg so, you know, there’s not much else to do besides the sports there, but, yeah, you know what I was, my grandfather played in the New York Rangers, he’s in the hockey hall of fame and, you know, it’s always been, it’s something that as a kid, we took for granted, I won’t make any bones about it. He’s my hero. And my role model. I was lucky to grow up with three incredible male role models in my life. My grandfather and my stepdad and my dad, all three of them had such a profound impact on where I am in life. But for my grandfather, though, hockey player, what, what I learned from him is how to treat people. And he, we would be with him and he would stop. And whether it was somebody that wanted an autograph or somebody that just wanted to chat, he made time for everybody.


Marc England (27:45):
And he was never in a rush, drove my grandmother nuts, but he made time for people. And I think that’s the lesson learned is that I might need to get out the door, but there’s a kid standing at my door that wants to talk, and I need to give that kid that time. Right. And make time for people. And people will make time for you. The other thing I learned about that is his teamwork. You know he was a goaltender, he was kind of the backstop of that team, but it really took, you know, five other guys on the ice at the time or 15 other guys on the bench at the time to find any kind of level of success. And always said that he said, you know what, we, we did, we had didn’t have the greatest the clubs as he would say, but he said, we really got along and we worked hard and we did well together that year.


Marc England (28:31):
And they made it to the Stanley cup final game seven-double overtime. And so he, that’s something that I even take to education is that I’m, you know, I’m part of a team, I’m part of a team of adults in this building. I’m part of a team with our student leadership family around the country. I’m part of a team with my kids. I always say to my kids in class, I’m like, listen, what I do reflects you, what you do reflects me. And so, we’re in this journey together. It’s not me, the teacher, it’s us as this group. And I think the final piece around what I would say from hockey to, and sports to this is that nobody’s bigger than a game and, you know great hockey players retire, and yeah, they’ve made an impact and they’ve done some things, but there’s always somebody else that’s going to move into that position.


Marc England (29:24):
And I’ve learned that I’ve learned that, you know, in my young days I thought, oh, I’m, I’m good at what I do. And, and there was some swagger, but there’s always somebody that’s going to, if I were to be gone tomorrow, somebody would roll into my chair and do a good job and make it different and make it better. And nobody’s bigger than the game. And so sometimes we need to check ourselves as teachers and revisit that relationship piece and revisit that purpose piece. And what drives us. We were talking about this with you know, part of the thing that kind of pushes me as I move forward. And it’s not just kid’s success, but seeing all of our leadership friends, we didn’t get to go to the CSLC this year with Canadian leadership conference. But seeing people post about how special our jobs are and how, how awesome it is to work with kids and, but work with each other and get ideas from all around the country. So, yeah, it’s pretty, pretty awesome.


Sam Demma (30:21):
I think what you said about nobody’s bigger than the game, not only applies to the teacher, but about anyone in life, and it’s a beautiful analogy and I’m glad you pulled it from the sport. And I love the Jersey. I love the backdrop. It’s cool to see the passion for it. Anyways, this has been an incredible interview. The audio sounds great. Shout out to your headphones that no one can see right now, but those are awesome.


Marc England (30:44):
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And you know, oh, sorry. Go ahead, Sam.


Sam Demma (30:48):
I was going to ask you if an educator from around the country wants to reach out and bounce some ideas around what would be the best way for them to do so.


Marc England (30:56):
Oh, probably email. It can be reached at, if you go to the Canadian student leadership website: student leadership.ca under the contact, the team I’m there, or just, my email is england_m@surreyschools.ca that’s, that’s easy as well or DM through Twitter at @mreteacher or Instagram mreteacher27.


Sam Demma (31:19):
Awesome. And any last thoughts? Any last thoughts to share?


Marc England (31:23):
Yeah. You know what I do I’ll share a story a little bit about the struggles that we’re kind of working on. And, and as we kind of, I, you know, this isn’t going away, Sam COVID is not going away anytime soon. And so when I started this, this year, coming back to school, there was a lot of uncertainty, myself included. I was anxious. Like everybody else, there’s a lot of anxiety in our buildings. There’s a lot of anxiety amongst staff. There’s a lot of anxiety amongst kids. My advice and what I, my, I think as we navigate this together, as we are, we are in together. Stu likes to say, we’re all in the same ocean, different boats, which is a good analogy, but we all are on our journey. Kind of experiencing different things in the same way, like the same ocean as he says.


Marc England (32:10):
So, you know, I think for me, it’s about helping colleagues and just say, let’s, let’s not give up. Let’s focus on the, let’s revisit the purpose. When we were in the spring, we had a kid, and again, you kind of your COVID question. You know, we had an email from a dad and this is a shout-out to my colleagues at our school here. We had an email from a dad that said, thank you. And the reason he was saying, thank you was that there was a lot of discussion as to whether you do a synchronous session or an asynchronous session for your academic classes. And the dad simply said you know what, thank you for not making everything synchronous because I have four kids. I’m a single dad. I got four kids in one laptop. And that to me, he really made me step back and say, okay, you know what? Everybody’s circumstances are different, but when we truly are appreciative and we understand, and we help each other through their journey through this, I think we can overcome what we need to overcome. Right? School’s not going to be the same, but let’s revisit our purpose, our events, our culture, and find ways that we can try to make things happen as best we can. If it’s virtual, it’s virtual, if it’s six feet apart is six feet apart, but let’s always kind of keep that purpose at the root of what we do.


Sam Demma (33:29):
Awesome. Thanks so much, marc. This has been a phenomenal interview. I really appreciate you taking some time to share some ideas on the show.


Marc England (33:36):
Oh, thank you. Thanks for having me, Sam, I look forward to, I’ve been listening to some of your work with the student podcasts. So you know, keep doing what you do as well. It’s, it’s inspirational to the kids. And like I said, you’ve made an impact even on my kids, just through your work with the global student leadership day.


Sam Demma (33:52):
Appreciate It, marc. I’ll talk to you soon.


Marc England (33:53):
Okay. Thanks, man.


Sam Demma (33:56):
Wow. What a jam-packed interview with Marc England. He has so much to offer and so much to provide. I’m sure you took so many notes away from this episode. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it was valuable and worth the investment of the time you put in to listen to it. And if you did enjoy it, consider leaving a rating and review on the show. So more educators like yourself, find this. And as always, if you have something to share, please reach out to us at info@samdemma.com so we can get your stories and actionable ideas on the podcast for your colleagues around the world to hear, learn from and implement and as always, I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Marc England

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.

Scott Kirkness – Classroom Teacher in the Southeast Cornerstone Public School Division

Scott Kirkness, Educator
About Scott Kirkness

Scott Kirkness is an educator living in Southeastern Saskatchewan. Raised and educated in Ontario, he moved west in 2013 after teaching in the UK. Scott is married with three beautiful children and enjoys training for marathons in his spare time. He graduated with BA (History) from Laurentian University in 2010 and a B. Ed from Lakehead University in 2011.

Scott has plans to obtain a Master’s of Education in the near future. Previous to his work as a teacher, he was a construction site Superintendent for Century Group Inc, a position he obtained after starting out as a labourer. Scott is a firm believer that nothing in this life will come easy, and hard work is the only way to get what you want.

He is passionate about education, athletics, and self-improvement. Scott believes that technology can alleviate much of what ails this planet and the people on it.

Connect with Scott: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Camp Kodiak

Nishnawbe Aski Nation

Stoughton Central School

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:02):
Scott, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what brought you to, where you are in education now?


Scott Kirkness (00:12):
That sounds great. So my name is Scott Kirkness. I’m originally from Toronto and I grew up in Sudbury, Ontario got a teacher’s degree at Laurentian university and Lakehead university very excited to be here. Kind of how I got here. You know, it was one of those things where people, they never know what they want to be when they grow up until they’re faced with it. Right. And I had it in my head. I was going to be a paramedic. And then all of a sudden grade 10 science, wasn’t going so well for me. But grade 10 history, I had, my teacher pulled me aside and she said, boy, you know, in 30 years, I don’t think I’ve ever given a a hundred on an exam. So a what do you want to do with your life? I said, you know what? That sounds really good. So I got on the teaching express and here we are.


Sam Demma (00:54):
Speaking of Laurentian, it seems like you loved school so much. You went back there and ran events for them too.


Scott Kirkness (01:00):
I did, I did. I was the vice president of student services for a year with a student general association. It was great.


Sam Demma (01:07):
So you finish school at Laurentian and then what did the path kind of look like from there?


Scott Kirkness (01:16):
Well yeah, I graduated from Laurentian with my honors in history in 2010. So then I spent the next year at Lakehead university getting my faculty of education, my, my B ed. And that’s my first experience really in a classroom. Cause that’s when you have your practicums, right? That’s when you’re a student teacher. And my first experience was, was phenomenal. I got really lucky. I got to work at a place called Dennis Franklin Cromarty high school thunder bay, which is an all indigenous high school run by the Northern Nishnawbe education council. And they run it really different that they fly their students from remote reserves. They board them in thunder bay. And so as a result, they’re actually only at school, eight months to a year instead of 10. So their day is longer, their semester ends at Christmas instrument. Yeah. So I only got a five week placement, but my five weeks for longer than everyone else’s because my day was longer.


Scott Kirkness (02:08):
So that was an incredible experience. And then of course in the second semester I have another placement. It was at closed garden school also in thunder bay. Really enjoyed that experience as well. Nice. And then I was faced with the great crushing Ontario right now. Right? It’s, it’s seemingly impossible for new teachers to get work. And so I kind of went back to what I’d been doing on and off throughout university. I was a laborer for construction companies and about a year and a half after that, I just decided I had to throw my hat in the ring. And I went overseas. I taught in, in London, in England for about a semester. I had a five-year work visa. I was very fortunate. I have, I have family from the UK. So it was easy for me to get a visa, but you know, ultimately all my family’s here, the money isn’t quite the same. The experience is very different than what we have in Canada. I’m very grateful for it. But while I was over there in 2013, we didn’t quite have zoom, but we still had Skype. And I did an interview and I I landed in Saskatchewan and I’ve been at the same school, stout and central school here in Stoughton Saskatchewan since September, 2013.


Sam Demma (03:16):
Awesome. And did construction run in your family or was that something you just jumped into?


Scott Kirkness (03:22):
No, no, I was, I’m very fortunate, very privileged. My father worked construction, so he was able to usually get me work and I was not very grateful for it. Initially. I wanted to just kind of go to the bank of mom and dad, like all my friends, but to be honest, you know, you swing a shovel and a sledgehammer for eight hours a day or longer, you really start appreciating the going to class a little more.


Sam Demma (03:46):
Yeah, it’s true. My dad is a contractor. He was a licensed plumber. And in the summer times I would do some work with him. And I used to hate when he would ask me, can you help us with this unfinished basement? I mean, we have to, we have to move the stones to put some what do you call it? Like some pipe in the ground. And it was always a, a very physical job, so I definitely can relate to the experience. So at what point in your journey did you go back to Laurentian and do like student services and run events? There was that after the construction or before?


Scott Kirkness (04:18):
Oh, it’s before, during and after. Oh, cool. I actually graduated from high school in 2004 and I went back for a semester that was around the time that Ontario had dropped grade 13. And so they called it the year before me. It was the double cohort were twice as many people were going into university and I, I didn’t have enough money to be honest. So I went back to high school for a semester, tried to upgrade some credits, maybe get some scholarship opportunities. And while that didn’t really work out, I really didn’t need the second semester. So I was, yeah, that’s when I started, I was my first foray into construction. I was 18. And you know, a part of you thinks I really don’t want to take a whole gap year because I don’t know if I trust myself to go back once you get a taste of the money, but you know, sure enough, you find yourself freezing there in minus 40 shoveling.


Scott Kirkness (05:04):
And again, those classrooms looked mighty inviting for some people. And, you know, I, I have utmost respect for those people who choose that path and that’s what they want to do. Everybody is there’s great opportunities in it. But it wasn’t for me. I was really glad that I was able to make my dream come true and become an educator. That’s awesome. That actually puts me in 2005. I’m at Laurentian. I go through it and I was kind of one credit behind the whole way. And so I didn’t actually graduate in 2009, I needed one more credit or class from however they split it up. And so I did the vice-president of services while I was getting my last credit, because it’s a full-time job. You’re working 30, 40 hours a week.


Sam Demma (05:49):
And what was that like? Like if you have to put, but, but if an educator listening and want us to put themselves in the shoes of a event planner or students or head of student services at you know, a university.


Scott Kirkness (06:01):
Yeah. Well, I guess in a word, a learning experience, if I can make an eight, it, you know, it starts with, okay, so you have to get the frosh kits ready. Okay. Well, what do I put in the frosh kits? Well, this is what they did last year that doesn’t tell me what I’m supposed to do. You know, you’re really figuring a lot of this out and our executive director, God bless her. She’s a Saint who worked for peanuts for longer than she ever should have. Her name was Tanis logon and she was on maternity leave. So sure she kept coming in with the baby and everything, but I’m trying not to bug her too much. There’s a whole story about ordering lanyards. And I thought I got us a great deal. And I accidentally kind of screwed over a product user we’d been using for a decade and, you know, learning experience. But the best thing that came out of that was I got media training. How to deal with an interview on the phone, you know, get the questions in advance, don’t say yes to any interview right away. Think about it, things like that. Cool. Yeah.


Sam Demma (06:54):
That’s amazing. That’s so awesome. I know from speaking to buddies who go to university, they, they love events, but little, do they know the amount of work that goes into them from behind the scenes?


Scott Kirkness (07:05):
Little did I little, did I know that frosh concerts are usually paid for, with a briefcase of cash? Really? Yeah. You give the band a, you know, 25 grand in cash in a briefcase at the end of the night and their rider kits are phenomenal too. That’s fricking cool.


Sam Demma (07:18):
That’s awesome. You also did some stuff with camp Kodiak. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how that kind of shaped.


Scott Kirkness (07:26):
You as well? For sure. So camp Kodiak is, you know, one of the happiest places on earth, they are essentially a camp for children with different learning disabilities, primarily who are on the autism spectrum. It’s run for, I believe kids about eight to 18, and then they even have club Kodiak for it. You know, adults who had been part of the program which is also really cool. It’s incredibly expensive. But part of the reason it’s expensive is because they have an incredible camper to counselor ratio in my cabin, you know, it’s a three to one ratio, there was three kids to every adult and you, you can’t get that anywhere to summer camp. You know, it’s, it’s international. We had kids flying in from Russia, the Arab Emirates, Venezuela half are from Ontario, but a lot are not. Wow. And so you get a lot of experience, you know, waking up at 7:00 AM meds for some kids while other kids are getting them throughout the day, the programming is very rigid.


Scott Kirkness (08:22):
You start learning the how important routines are to a lot of the kids on the spectrum. Right. And it just teaches you compassion on a level that you wouldn’t have expected. Right? You, you read about it and patience and understanding, but until you’ve lived it, you know, the kid does not have his X-Box at camp. Right. And so his routine is already totally thrown into the woods, but you know, they, the relationships they’re able to form. And then I was able to form with them. You know, I, I only did it the one summer, but I still have campers who were in cabinet year. They were 16, 17 years old. And you know, they still reach out to me occasionally and, you know, Hey, you know, God, I’m dating myself now, but you know, they’re 21, 24 years old now all of a sudden, right. Some of them are older now than when I was, when I met them. That’s so cool. Yeah. Yeah.


Sam Demma (09:11):
And you know, speaking of international flying kids and our kids were coming all over to camp when you were in London. Yep. What was that experience like? I know you mentioned it’s very different. Give me an idea.


Scott Kirkness (09:24):
Well, here’s an idea of different. So I got off the airplane, not knowing where I was sleeping that night. Wow. Yeah. I was newly married. I got married in January. I flew over there and I love my wife very much, but we all knew that the idea of living in a hostel for a few weeks was just not something that was going to work for her. So the plan was for me to go over there and get established and she’ll come join me in the fall. And that didn’t end up happening. You know, like I said, I came to Saskatchewan, but you know, I, I thought I had this big joke. I was going to tell all the people I’m moving to England to teach the English kids how to speak English, you know, little did I know, I understand cosmopolitan metropolitan cities, but I didn’t realize just how diverse London is.


Scott Kirkness (10:10):
You know, about a third of the kids were English as a second language, maybe more. And so that was just my first thought was okay. Not every kid in my English class in England understands the English I’m speaking. And so again, the level of patience and I had a lot of hubris as a young teacher, like, all right, I got this like, look at me like, they’re going to want to learn from me. I have this figured out. I was just recently a student, you know, like every new teacher thinks. And again, it’s, it’s, you need to be patient. You need to be flexible. And the idea that every single kid in your room is going to do the same thing is just a fool’s errand.


Sam Demma (10:48):
Did you end up watching any soccer games while you were there?


Scott Kirkness (10:50):
You know what I did? I’ll try it. I’ll always try and watch the language here. But one of my first days I’m going down to a pub and I said, oh, you know, my friend is a big football fan. And he said, you got to get down to a pub. It’s all right, man, you versus man city for the premiership title, you got to go watch it. And I said, all right. So I’m in north London and I walk into a pub and I said, oh, are you gonna put the match on? And he just looks me right in the eye and says after United and F city, this is an arsenal bar.


Scott Kirkness (11:21):
Not putting the match off, dude. That’s amazing. Okay, cool. I got some culture, but I’m feeling a little homesick later in the year and I’m a Toronto boy in the Toronto maple Leafs make the playoffs for the first time, since I’m in high school and it’s 2013 and they’re on the dream season and they’re going to win it all. Well, the game start at midnight. So I come home from work. I have a nap. And then at midnight, I’m like, I’m going to watch the hockey games. And then I go to bed at 4:00 AM and wake up and go to work. So then I’m real excited to have this place called the maple leaf Tavern. And I’m excited to go watch a hockey game there. I take the subway. I go over there, bars closed at midnight. Wow. Taking this Canadian pub hockey game, maybe Burton now didn’t work out. But it, it was just, I wouldn’t trade that experience in London for the world. It was so good for me professionally and just the personal growth of, you know, living in a foreign country.


Sam Demma (12:16):
That’s awesome. Would you recommend other educators try and do the same?


Scott Kirkness (12:18):
So particularly early in your career, I had through the company I worked with, I got guaranteed supply work. They called it. So I was guaranteed four days a week, but I was a substitute teacher. So I was in different buildings all the time. And it’s, it’s almost like an apprenticeship, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re not the one making the planning and the decisions, but you’re still there doing the work. And I think that’s an important skill. And I think a lot of times new teachers really get rushed to the front. And I think that’s part of the reason there’s a big burnout.


Sam Demma (12:53):
Yeah. I couldn’t agree more, especially right now. Things are so different. Things have changed a lot. I’m curious to know what are some of the challenges you’ve been facing personally or as a school in education right now and how you’re striving to kind of overcome those things or deal with them?


Scott Kirkness (13:08):
Yeah. lots of things, right. I mean, in my personal life, I’ve had three children who are under the age of five. You know, one of them was born during the pandemic. You know, the sleep is still not quite a part of my life, but professionally it’s the same challenges. I think educators face all over the place. We’ve been fighting for a few, a few of the same things forever smaller class sizes and, you know, greater compensation. And while yes, in Canada, our teachers are taken care of, and I’m not here to complain about money. I’m quite happy with what I’m doing, but money is a factor in class sizes, right. You know, there are not standard class sizes across the countries, across the province. They vary so dramatically. And you know, in some of these small rural areas, you have three and four grades in a same class.


Scott Kirkness (14:03):
And that’s an incredible challenge. I’m fortunate and I’ve never dealt with a triple or a quad split, but every class, almost every class I’ve taught in my career has been a split class, just because of the nature of the size of my community. It’s rare to have more than 10, 12 kids in the same grade. Like I work in a K to 12 school, it’s kindergarten, grade 12, and we only have about 160 kids. So do the math. I’m not saying it’s viable for you to have a class of 10, but every educator, every educational theorist in the world would tell you, you’re going to have a better learning experience if you were to have some of the smaller classes. So that’s the big challenge. And then of course the other challenge staring us in the face is the global pandemic. You know, I got a lot of friends back east and it was hard in Ontario.


Scott Kirkness (14:52):
It really was, you know, they had such strict lockdowns and this whole thing came out of nowhere, but ultimately they were largely able to shift online that isn’t the case in rural areas. Our, our internet is just not really capable of you know, live video streaming everywhere. So the kids can do it, but it wasn’t a reality for everyone. And so I guess the greatest answer to how to overcome some of these challenges is a, the answer is more technology, right? Get the upgraded internet systems. You know, you hear the federal government talking about, you know, making high-speed internet and an essential service. You know, we kinda got a flash forward and what the future of education looks like with the pandemic. And I didn’t like all of it, but you know, as long as the technology works out and you’re not having inequity with some children not having access to it, some of it wasn’t all bad. Yeah.


Sam Demma (15:50):
Yeah. I agree. All right. Can there be more you raised a lot of great points and I’m curious to know if, when you initially started out your career as well, you had someone kind of mentoring you and guiding you like a, another educator or people that you would go to and kind of ask questions. If you weren’t sure about certain situations.


Scott Kirkness (16:08):
I was really fortunate to walk into a veteran building. You know, there was another rookie teacher on staff with me who has since moved on to Alberta. I had to add Alberta cause they didn’t want people to think she had died. Yeah. So, you know, we had some rookie conversations, but we had a lot of veterans in the building. Right. It was a matter of what do I do when this happens. And, and there’s also a lot of kind of falling off the horse. Sometimes you really do just have to screw up initially and I’m not talking about, you know, oh, well, you know, I just decided I didn’t want to read the novel in advance. And we watched the movie, you know, I, I don’t mean that, but you know, there were things I didn’t understand about how to take what’s in the curriculum and put it into the classroom.


Scott Kirkness (16:50):
And I, I made some mistakes along the way, and I’ll never forget. I have a colleague who I sure would want to remain nameless. And they had a prep period and they were sitting next door and my door was open and they heard me talk and doing my lesson. This said, so what, what class you teach in there as well? That’s great. Eight social studies. She chuckles and she says, no, it isn’t, that’s not part of it. And so, you know, she gave me the, you know, the fact that life conversation very gently about, okay, well know, I understand how you, you got X for that answer, but really it’s why, and they were able to share resources. And it’s just one of those important things you need to build comradery and culture within the room.


Sam Demma (17:35):
That that’s amazing. That’s actually a very helpful person.


Scott Kirkness (17:39):
Yeah, yeah. That could have been terrible. I mean, they could have completely thrown me under the bus, backed it over a few times, but we’re very fortunate that education, it’s not a cutthroat competitive field, a field where everybody, you know, I’m not fighting with her for a salary demand next year. Yep. So we both have the job, we’re all in this to make other people’s lives better. Right.


Sam Demma (18:02):
That’s awesome. And if you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, you know, rookie Scott in your first year teaching, but then wisdom and advice and you know, experience you’ve had, what advice would you give your younger self?


Scott Kirkness (18:14):
I would undo a lot of the advice I got from unsolicited people going into education. One of the things I had a professor telling me at the faculty of education was as a young teacher, don’t smile until Christmas. They won’t, they won’t take you seriously looking at it as like what they were trying to foster an atmosphere of intimidation. And, you know, I have a loud, booming voice. I wear a suit. I stay, I stood at the front of the room. I taught really old school initially. You know, it was okay, desks in rows and we’re gonna teach like this. And I thought I was all futuristic because I was having them, you know, use Microsoft office 365, a congratulations. You’re gonna use a shared document. That’s my modern teaching. That’s it? As opposed to the idea of small group instruction, as opposed to the idea that relationship building is the most important part of this job.


Scott Kirkness (19:11):
People somewhat more salient than I said something along the lines of people will rarely remember what their teacher taught them, but they will always remember how their teacher made them feel. And people who are in a good Headspace who are happy to be there. You know, the learning happens a lot easier. I’m not saying it happens by osmosis. You can’t just be friends with them and Powell around and put on the basketball game, but you need that positive relationship. It’s the whole Maslow before bloom theory, right? If the, if their immediate needs are not being met and often those needs are for an adult relationship outside of their family, it’s real difficult to get to the higher levels of thinking.


Sam Demma (19:53):
Yeah. I agree. I think back to the teachers that have the biggest impact on me and a lot of them got to know me on a personal level, built really strong relationships. And that’s why I felt more interested in, you know, engaging in their lessons and everything they had to teach.


Scott Kirkness (20:08):
Yeah. And that’s it. It’s the old data Ms. Frizzle, right? Take chances. Make mistakes and get messy. Yeah. I remember being real proud of the fact that when I was a first year teacher, I was deducting marks for kids who didn’t underline the date on their notes. Like, why did I even care? Why am I evaluating their notes? What their notes, show me, congratulations. You know how to copy not congratulations. You thought of something and showed me something.


Sam Demma (20:34):
Yeah, I like that. That’s a good point. That’s a really good point. Scott, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. I I loved it and this was a great conversation. If another educator is listening and wants to reach


Scott Kirkness (20:47):
Out what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you and do so? The best way to get ahold of me would be to access our websites, find Stoughton central school. And you’ll find my lovely photo there. You can give, shoot me an email. It’s the best way to get ahold of me or find me on LinkedIn. I’m Scott Kirkness.


Sam Demma (21:07):
All right, Scott. Thank you so much. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon. I appreciate your time.


Scott Kirkness (21:11):
Thanks very much for having me. It was great to be here.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Scott Kirkness

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.

Angelo Minardi – High Energy Educator, Chaplain and Student Council Advisor

Angelo Minardi - High Energy Educator, Student Council Advisor
About Angelo Minardi

Angelo Minardi (@AmbrozicChap) is a chaplain at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School. He is a Husband, Father, Educator, Sports junkie and passionate about his faith and catholic education. Angelo is also a High Energy Educator and Student Council Advisor.

Angelo is one of the most kind-hearted and purpose-driven educators you’ll ever meet. His high energy is infectious, and his ideas are actionable. He also currently serves as a Chaplaincy Leader at the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board.

Connect with Angelo: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | 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

Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board

St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School

Angelo Minardi Youtube Channel

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 another friend and guest from education on the show. His name is Angelo Minardi and fun fact, his wife actually worked at the school at which I graduated from Saint Mary Catholic secondary school in Pickering. So it’s a very small world, as I’m sure you already know, as you make more friends and colleagues in this industry, Angelo was a chaplain at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic secondary school. He is a husband, father, educator, sports junkie, and very passionate about his faith and public education. Angela was one of the most kindhearted and purpose-driven educators you’ll ever meet. And I hope you do meet him. Please reach out to him after this episode, he’d be more than happy to connect with you. His high energy is infectious as I’m sure you’ll find out and his ideas very actionable. Let’s get into this episode right now with a good friend Angelo Minardi I’ll see you on the other side, Angela. Thank you so much for coming on to the high-performing educators podcast. It’s a pleasure to see you. I know we talked earlier in the summer and we’re connecting again and hopefully again, in the future what got you into the work that you do with the youth today and how are you doing


Angelo Minardi (01:17):
Right? Good. Well, first of all, thanks so much Sam for having me on. And it’s exciting, especially knowing that you are, you’re a product of St. Mary’s in Pickering. I have a lot of friends there. My wife works there so exciting to be on with you look you know, young people in terms of my work with them and, and why I I got myself involved with young people. My studies were in sociology and history when I left the university of Toronto. And then I was working at the bank of Montreal right after, but very quickly I found out that I wasn’t really using my gifts. You know, I had the many other gifts and I, and I thought, you know, how do I begin to explore for this? And it was just in conversations with my local pastor and conversation with some friends in conversations with my girlfriend at the time, who’s now my wife Katia where, you know, they people said, Hey, listen, we see a gift in you.


Angelo Minardi (02:05):
You have a lot of enthusiasm and joy and you seem to be great around young people. Have you thought about working with young people and that’s kind of where it started really, that’s where it was planted. And I remember when world youth, they was in Toronto, it’s a big celebration of young people across the Catholic church. And I attended it. And I remember meeting people from all across the world, young people from Mexico and Germany and Switzerland and USA all over the place. And I just found myself immersed in this, you know, th th this Nirvana, if you will, you know, this is like amazing place where young people were, you know, together sharing, singing, laughing, and it just kind of kicked off from there. And then I got myself into high school ministry and haven’t looked back ever since


Sam Demma (02:51):
It’s about enthusiasm, it’s definitely a trait that you don’t lack. It’s evident even just talking to you over this. And it’s, it’s funny because the biggest impact that my world issues and religion teacher had on me was the, was the fact that he was passionate. And I want to ask you when you were a young person and you were in school, what are some educators? And if I asked this question, you probably have some names that pop in mind right away, who are some educators that made a huge impact on you. And why? Like, what was the trait or the reason why you still remember them to this day and how do you try and have that same impact on your kids?


Angelo Minardi (03:28):
Very good. Yeah. That’s an excellent question. And you’re right. I think instinctually, you remember right away. So there’s two teachers that come to mind. First teacher was my grade eight teacher. Peter Gane was his name. And he was also my basketball coach and I’m an avid basketball player played right up until the university level. And I remember I was in grade eight and I was kind of one of the better playing guys, but there was something missing that was taken me to the next level. And I remember Mr. Gain would always pull me aside and say, Angela, you have a gift in playing basketball. You need to work on that gift. You need to work harder and you’ll, you’ll have much more success. And really that’s what kind of that mindset changed everything for me, because when I got to high school level suddenly I emerged as one of the better players in, in high school that was playing over at or attending new McNeil high school in Scarborough and was having great success there.


Angelo Minardi (04:20):
And then a coach there was coach day pat day. And I’ll never forget him were same idea. You know, you can do a lot of good stuff here. Have you thought about playing, you know basketball at the varsity level and, and you know, if you do, you’ve got to start thinking ahead. And, but it, wasn’t only the sports, you know, these coaches, the great thing about sports is it unifies, right? It kind of helps build you up as a person, but then it also helps your life improve too. So not only am I becoming a better basketball player, I’m beginning, I’m becoming a better person. Right. And so I finally remember those two coaches. I remember also Mr. Vander Steen, my grade 12 religion teacher, who was so random, but he had enthusiasm and passion that could bury anyone, right? Like he just would never stop with it.


Angelo Minardi (05:05):
And I ran into him at a McDonald’s years ago. He was, we were in a drive-thru and there’s this chaos in front of me, this vehicle in front of me, kids all over the place. And and this car is taking forever to move ahead. Finally, he moves ahead. Well, he recognizes that as me behind him, and he gets out of the car and gives me a big hug. It’s like, how you doing? And so these are kind of the, the, the memories you have the relationships that you’ve formed. And I tell you, my wife’s a teacher, of course, I’m, I’m in high school chaplaincy, but so many great people in education. Right. And, and so many great role models for sure.


Sam Demma (05:40):
No, I love that. And it seems just talking to you and I’m sure an educator listening to this right now probably thinks the same thing. You took the same passion that you saw from your teachers and apply it to your own work now. And it’s, it’s fascinating to me because I think there’s always teachers that we never forget for a very reasons like the ones you shared. And I’m curious to know if through your own enthusiasm and passion, you’ve touched on some young people’s lives. And for the sake of this interview, you don’t have to use their name if you don’t want to. But I’m curious to know if you have a story that you could think of, of a young person who maybe was transformed by some work that you’ve done with them or with the school.


Angelo Minardi (06:18):
Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, there’s a few that come to mind. One in particular of which I’m still in contact with today. So I met her, I met the student when I was at all saints high school in Whitby. I was the chaplain there. And you know, she was struggling. It was a lot of issues at home between mom and dad, mom and dad were thinking of maybe possibly getting divorced. And you know, she would come into my room and just want to chat. You know, I could never resolve the issue for her. There wasn’t anything I could do other than listen. So that was one issue, but she also, academically, she wasn’t, you know, your model, a student, she worked harder than any student, but just couldn’t achieve the grades she needed. She always wanted to be a teacher.


Angelo Minardi (07:02):
And she was always told she couldn’t, and I would work with her, you know, all at pretty much, every, every other day she was in my office working on this. And anyway, she moved on to post-secondary kept applying herself. We had many conversations, good and bad, many tears. Laughter. and she just kept going. And I remember she, she called me, we had drawn apart for a few years. We had stopped communicating and then she contacted me and she basically said, thank you. And I said, for what? Well, just for being there for being present for listening, I said, I didn’t do anything. She goes, no, you don’t understand. She goes, I’m a teacher. I got into teacher’s college. I’m graduating. I’m like what? She goes, yeah, I’m graduate. I’m going to be a teacher. She’s now living in Quebec and she’s teaching in Quebec.


Angelo Minardi (07:48):
And, and again, that’s one of many stories, right? Cause you don’t realize the impact you’re making on lives of people. Not only students, but even people you meet every day. Like the words you say, how you interact, how you respond to them. And the thing about education or even working with people is that you don’t, you don’t know you can’t, it’s not tangible. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. You don’t know the benefit right. To that conversation or to that, that relationship. But there’s an example. And we just spoke the other day. She was telling me how she was very nervous because there were 562 cases of COVID in Quebec and they were shutting down schools and you know, she’s an elementary teacher. She was worried. Right. So yeah. W that’s someone, gosh, I love her. I tell her all the time that, you know, I’m so proud of her and yeah. That’s someone I think of immediately. Yeah, for sure.


Sam Demma (08:40):
It’s amazing. It’s an amazing story. And the reason I wanted you to share was because so many teachers right now are experiencing burnout or facing instrumentable or what seems like instrumentable challenge. Like you mentioned with COVID there’s so many, so many unfortunate things happening in education right now. It’s hard to get a pulse on what we need to do. It’s like, you know, education’s around peg and now the peg hole is a square and nothing’s fitting properly. There’s no rules of the game. Imagine showing up to a basketball game with no raft, there’s no lines. There’s five nets. You’re like, what are we supposed to do here? Right. So many educators feel like that. The story you shared, hopefully brings them some hope and reminds them why they’re doing what they’re doing. So I want to ask you the reverse. What brings you hope? Why do you keep working so hard? Why do you keep inspiring all these young people and, and show up every day, excited with enthusiasm to your job? What motivates you?


Angelo Minardi (09:32):
Listen, man, I, you know, I, every day when I get up, I think, you know, how can I make a difference today? And I really mean that I’m not, it’s not cliche. Like I, I mean, I, you know, I wake up every morning and I’m just grateful, right? That I’m healthy. That, that there’s another day here place before me. And you know, young people inspire me, man. Like, it’s just, I find that young people are not judgmental. You know, young people don’t carry, you know burdens in the sense that that weigh them down when they’re around other people, young people do have hope. They have compassion, they are empathetic. And so when I surround myself with young people, when I see a young person I’m, I’m filled with joy, man, I just want to do more. I want to give them more.


Angelo Minardi (10:15):
How much more can I give? How much more of an example can I be? But I get it from them. Like they’re giving me the energy. They’re giving me the hope, right? It’s not what I’m doing. I don’t do anything. Right. It’s their presence. It’s their ability to answer me. It’s their desire to want to go out in the community with me and do good. You know, at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. I’ll be honest with you sometimes. I think, man, how much more can I do? But this is my 19th year that I’ve been working as a high school chaplain. And I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Right. it’s so life-giving gives me so much hope. So, you know, students give me hope, but even teachers and again, yes, my wife’s a teacher and I’ve been working with teachers for 19 years, but even amidst this whole pandemic, there’s been so much negativity around teachers and what they do.


Angelo Minardi (11:02):
And I can tell you working with teachers for the last 19 years, these are amazing people. Like they are. They’re amazing people. And they give so much to children that are not their own right to young people that are not their own. And I know my wife will be up day and night asking how much more can I give to these kids? And so teachers inspire me, right? The work of an educator inspires me that somehow, who am I to be able to share with someone, my, my gifts or my wisdom, like who am I in the grand scheme of things. And yet for, for young people, they look up to us, right? They want to hear us, they want us around. And so that’s where I find hope. I find hope and enjoy. I find hope in youth. I find hope in, you know, educators people that, that selflessly give Sam, that’s what you’re doing. I see that you’re selflessly giving. And that’s what makes the world always a better place, right? That’s what makes there’s always more good than there is bad in the world. Because of that,


Sam Demma (12:00):
I love it. There’s a book. I was recently reading called how to sell your way through life. And it has nothing to do with sales, but everything to do with developing a very sound and integrity based personality. And one of the traits was get into the habit of doing more work than you’re expected. And there was another habit that was just embodying the golden rule, right? Cheat your neighbor as it can be treated. And, and he said that if this was the basis of all of humanity, almost all of our problems would be solved. And you raise a good point about service. You also mentioned that you’ve been doing this for 19 years. That’s almost as long as I’ve been alive.


Angelo Minardi (12:39):
Imagine.


Sam Demma (12:41):
And I say that not to position you as an older gentleman, but to show your experience, you know, you’ve been doing this a very long time. You’ve been, you’ve been doing this. You’ve, you’ve worked with hundreds of students. You’ve also worked with a, probably a lot of outside different events and partners to bring into a school. And I’m really curious to pick your brain for a second. What do you think is the most important characteristic or trait of an external presenter or speaker that you bring in front of your student audience? If you’re going to share an idea, you know, how do you choose which ones to share?


Angelo Minardi (13:13):
Well, th th that’s a great question because, you know, there’s never a shortage right. Of, of people that we bring in experts, if you will, in a field or whatever, I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of a young person. Right. So if someone shows up in my school and presents to me, you know, what am I, what am I looking for? What do I want to see? You know, I think the first thing I would, I would look for is an authentic person. Right. Then authentic message. What is it that this person wants to communicate? Is it just another item on their agenda or another another group on their, on their list as they rise, you know, in stature, arise in their work? You know, what is the message? And is it authentic? Right. But there also has to be a personal site to, can this person connect with young people and listen, I know many older people than me that are excellent with young people, but it’s because there’s the gift, right.


Angelo Minardi (14:02):
There’s gotta be a gift there. There’s gotta be some connection mate. And so that’s important to me too. Right. So authentic message, you know, is there a personal side where they can connect with these people? You know, ultimately is there a love of, of, of, of the group that they’re speaking to? So when I’m looking for a speaker, you know, do I see from that speaker love to be with young people or a desire to want to help young people become better young people. And so, you know, that’s kinda my approach. Usually, you know, I try to find someone with the same enthusiasm to, if I can, you know, just imagine two of us standing up there. Right. And then the kids are wild now they’re wild. Right. But that’s okay. We got them, we got them. Right. And they’ll listen when you tell them to, but yeah, that’s also important, right. Otherwise there’s no connection Sam. Right. Otherwise we’re just up there talking just like any other person talking. Right. So,


Sam Demma (14:53):
Yeah. I love that. That’s a great point. And right now, unfortunately, it’s tough to bring people in due to COVID you mentioned you’re the girl that you taught is having the same difficulty out in Quebec. I’m really curious to know how you’ve approached school during these times. Have you had any ideas that are generated by you, your staff or your students that have helped increase student morale, increased student engagement during these times? Or what just general tips would you have for other educators to push through during COVID-19?


Angelo Minardi (15:23):
Right. So, you know, I think we, we, we need to begin by, by saying that this is something we’ve never experienced before, right? Like we absolutely have no idea from day to day kind of how to go forward or what, what to do next. That being said you know, I’m always a guy glass half full, right. So I see this as an incredible opportunity to be present. And let me explain that for a second. So usually in a typical high school year as a chaplain, I would be out of the school of three to four days a week, whether it’s leading a retreat meeting with a pastor having to attend the board office for a meeting because of COVID-19. I have actually been in the school every day, since first day since September eight. And so it’s given me this incredible opportunity to be present and presence, meaning my physical presence in the school as the spiritual leader, you know, like being able to visit students just to drop into their class, being able to spend more time with teachers.


Angelo Minardi (16:21):
I’ve never had this much time with teachers in all these years because our students in high school, they usually only come in for a couple of hours. So they’re gone by lunch and I’ve got the rest of the school day with teachers now. Yes, they still have to continue teaching online, but they do have launched. They do have a work period where I can connect with them. So it’s been an incredible opportunity in that time. I also been able to continue meeting with our students online. And so I work with a group of core kids, which is a, a group of identified students from grade 10 to 12 that work with me more closely in chaplaincy. And this group of core kids, we’re about 180 this year. We have weekly check-ins, so we’ve started last week. We continue. We’re continuing again this week where we just check in, how are you doing?


Angelo Minardi (17:09):
What are you hearing in the community? How do we continue to be a caring, inclusive and, and, and compassionate community? And I tell you, Sam, the, the things that these young people are telling us, and I’m talking about 15 and 16 year olds, right. Which the world would say don’t mean anything don’t count, have nothing to contribute. I tell you what this generation, as far as I’m concerned is as more as, as compassionate, as empathetic as a generation. I know I would even say more so than my generation. I know a lot of adults, you know, in my age group you know, that would not have the compassion nearly have the compassion or empathy these young people have. So in terms of, you know how have I approached it or what opportunity has been presented? It’s been presence, presence with, with, with teachers in particular, but it’s been that constant right.


Angelo Minardi (17:58):
Weekly check-ins daily. Check-Ins for some students, you know, we’re here, you know, we love you. We support you, you know, how can we help you? Because that’s the reality, right? We’ve got to accept, what’s been given. And so rather than complaining about it and finding other ways to ignore the issue, or just further isolate ourselves, you know, how do we, how do we kind of continue to build that community and that relationship with, with what’s, with what’s given in terms of the pandemic. So that’s kind of it, I, again, glass half full, right. I always try to be positive. Cause when I’m negative, I always, I always joke around with my own kids at home, but also the kids at school, I say, listen, when minority’s negative, it’s always in the car, on the drive home. Right. So if I need to cry or scream or whatever, I’m by myself in the car. Right. And you know, then I’m, once I’m out of the car, I’m back. Right. I’m I’m ready again. So that’s, that’s pretty much it. Yeah.


Sam Demma (18:51):
I like how you opened it by saying we have to all agree and understand that it’s a new experience. Something we’ve never experienced before. And with that perspective, no idea is a stupid idea because it’s a brand new situation and you just mentioned the positive side of it, as you, as you explained, I’m curious to know if there are any mistakes, you have also seen things that maybe you have been tried and didn’t work out or things that educators have tried, but aren’t really maybe, maybe not the right time to do something. Like what have you seen on the mistakes? I think, and the reason we share this is so someone else can avoid the same thing you can write.


Angelo Minardi (19:27):
And there is, there’s always two sides to a coin, right? And, and you know, sometimes we have to be careful when we talk about what’s not working because if we’re not in the right frame of mind, or if we don’t have the right perspective, we can get trapped in it. But yeah, there’s a lot that hasn’t worked. I can tell you this hybrid model of learning that we’re currently going through, which is, you know, students coming in in the morning for a couple of hours, so they can have some FaceTime with their teachers and then heading home and, and going online the rest of the day, it’s not working because number one, our students tell us it’s not working. Right. And it’s not working because our students come in they’re quickly ushered to their class. They’re not to leave their class unless they need to go to the washroom.


Angelo Minardi (20:11):
And then they’re quickly ushered out. No conversations allowed in the hallways, no contact within two feet in the hallways. And there quickly, I should also the whole social aspect, the whole social piece is gone. And it’s funny, Sam, because here we had, and again, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist and not a psychologist, but here we have, you know, psych lead psychologist from the hospital for sick children at the end of the summer, saying for the old, for the wellbeing of our young people, for their mental health, you know, we need to get them back to school. Why can tell you Sam, not only in my board, but you can see what’s happening in Toronto. We don’t have enough teachers for online. We have more and more students leaving in class and going online because there’s no social piece. And so where does that leave us?


Angelo Minardi (20:58):
You know, so what’s happening is that’s one piece. The other piece is we seem to be isolating ourselves more and more at least isolated in our students. More and more for me, Sam, and this is my own personal opinion. And, and hopefully no one calls me out of this, on the board level, but you know, where, where, you know, where’s the concern of our kids. When have we spoken to our students, we’re talking to ministers of education, we’re talking to politicians, we’re talking to teachers, but what are we talking to our students? Are we asking our students what they need, what they would like to see? We’re not, we’re not, you know, so there’s that. And then at the end, I would just say this whole process, you know, where we’re continually daily, introducing new documents or daily, introducing new approaches, where is it getting us?


Angelo Minardi (21:46):
Like, what is it doing to us? Right. And so again, like I said earlier, I don’t want to, don’t want to sound like I’m kind of trapping myself in this negativity, but let’s Sam, if we’re going to speak clearly. And honestly, then we have to be, you know, we have to be, you know, speak with truth, right. Speak with what we believe. And so I think we’re losing the battle, man. I think we need to maybe just get everyone back online, do our best that way, but find approaches online to have check-ins, to have mental health checks, to have, you know opportunities for kids on a more social level to just hang out in a zoom breakout room and just talk about whatever, you know? So yeah, so I think, I, I think those are some of the mistakes and again, we’ve never been on this path before, right? We’ve never had this journey before. And so maybe looking back in 50, 60, a hundred years, one week, you know, when we’re no longer here, we can leave some stuff behind to say, Hey, if a pandemic happens again, this is what we learned, right?


Sam Demma (22:47):
Yeah. It’s that old, it’s that old proverb that says, when you chase two rabbits, you catch none. And you’re trying to, you’re trying to do this integrated learning with online and in-person, you’re losing it, both of them right now because you’re dividing the attention maybe. And I love the candid approach. I love the honest open truth because that’s what other educators want to hear, including myself and the students. I’m sure if I was in school right now, I would be saying minorities, the best job, whatever, whatever I gotta, I gotta take the consideration of, of their point of views into the bucket of opinions as well. So I love that. You’re considering that Angelo, look, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting with you briefly today. You know, it’s, it’s already been 30 minutes. That’s crazy. Yeah. Why is it we’re having a good conversation? And if any educator from around the globe listening to this wants to reach out to you, where can they just, you know, email you or


Angelo Minardi (23:42):
Get into the app? Absolutely. So email, just angelo.minardi@dpcdsb.org. I’m on social media as much as I can. So on Instagram @ambrozicchaplaincy on Twitter @ambrozikchap. And recently students have encouraged me to start up a YouTube channel. I’m not, not quite sure how to use that yet. I’ve just got daily prayers on there, but I’m even on YouTube as Cardinal Ambrozic CSS Office of Chaplaincy So yeah, you can certainly try there as well.


Sam Demma (24:14):
If anyone has some unique advice to share with Angelo on using YouTube more effectively, please do reach out.


Angelo Minardi (24:21):
I’m reading it. I’d love to be an expert please. Yeah, man, for sure.


Sam Demma (24:25):
Awesome. Angelo again, thank you so much for taking the time. It’s been an absolute pleasure.


Angelo Minardi (24:29):

Hey, thank you, Sam. All the best with your stuff too. You’re doing great, man. Thanks so much.


Sam Demma (24:34):
Another jam packed interview with yet again, another high-performing educator Angelo, again, would love to hear from you and have an amazing conversation. So please be sure to reach out. And if you enjoyed this episode as always, please leave a rating and review. Let me know how you liked it. Some more educators can find it or even better yet. Tell your colleagues about this show. And if you know someone or you are someone who has inspirational stories and actionable ideas, we would love to interview you. I would love to interview on the podcast. So shoot an email to info@samdemma.com and let’s make it happen. Thank you.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Angelo Minardi

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

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

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

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

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

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

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The Law of Attraction Explained

Living Your Own Aloha: 5 Steps to Manifesting Your Dreams

The Dream Machine Tour USA

Charlie Rocket

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Kelly Weaver

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.

Aubrey Patterson – 30-Year Teacher, Principal, Superintendent & Founder of Warm Demanders

Aubrey Patterson, CEO Warm Demanders
About Aubrey Patterson

Aubrey Patterson (@PattersonAubrey) spent 30 years as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in a high-performing school district. Today, he is the CEO and Founder of Warm Demanders, an educational consulting company that provides coaching and online programs. Their goal is to help leaders build a high-impact remarkable culture, provide clarity with a smile, and find the time for the things that matter most!

Aubrey works with leaders to effectively use technology to develop structures and procedures as the means to improve learning conditions for teachers and students. To this end, Aubrey has developed highly regarded systems to recapture time and provide for exceptional communications.

These systems, like the extensive induction, formative job descriptions, truly collaborative meetings, and professional learning programs for teachers and administrators, are built upon three distinct leadership stages that much like dominoes, fall in succession: simplify, clarify and amplify. For more information go to: WarmDemanders.com

Connect with Aubrey: Email | Linkedin | Website | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The Principals Seminar

Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk

David Allen; Getting Things Done (book)

Getting to Inbox Zero

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 (00:03):
Aubrey, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and also sharing a little bit behind your journey? What brought you to do the work you’re doing today?


Aubrey Patterson (00:15):
Yeah. Well, that’s great to be here, Sam. Thank you for having me here today. Yeah, I’ve was a teacher and a coach and a principal and eventually a superintendent and I had like all these different roles in education and, you know, absolutely loved it. And I did that until 2017. And then after that time, I, you know, wanted to make some different dance in the universe. And so I, I started creating some, some new opportunities for people with with our educational companies. Nohea, and principal seminar were the first couple, but the main thing that, that I focus on right now is Warm Demanders that’s our, our newest company and, we help mostly school and district administrators you know, with their, with their day to day functions.


Sam Demma (01:12):
That’s awesome. Where did the, where did the passion come from or what was like the Eureka moment when you were going down the teaching path that you decided to make different dents and, and how did you kind of develop the courage to make the jump?


Aubrey Patterson (01:29):
Well it, when we go through like go through it, a teaching career, we, we always talk about growth mindset, the growth mindset ideals. And we talk about this all the time and it’s become kind of cliche, but if you really want to, you know, embrace those kinds of ideals, you have to be willing to take a, take a risk. You have to be willing to fail forward. And man, I’ve done a lot of that. And and, and honestly, I just never really had a problem with making mistakes. And I used to encourage them with the, with the people around me. So taking a leap, isn’t a, a difficult thing for me, it’s actually, you know, taking a leap and then sticking with things and trying to make that really big damp, that thing that will, that will really, you know, imprint success and, and pathways upon the people that we think we serve.


Sam Demma (02:25):
Oh, it’s amazing. I love that. And what, like, what is the principal seminar and Nohea and explain maybe the name behind the years? Cause I know it has an interesting backstory.


Aubrey Patterson (02:36):
Yeah. So my, one of my passions, like I have this deep belief that, that especially principals and also superintendents, assistant superintendents, like, like all of these people are so encumbered by all of the stuff that comes at them. Day-To-Day and it’s really unfair because everybody wants to have deep conversations with their people and everybody wants to have this amazing school culture. But they just can’t get there because there’s just so much stuff that comes at them. And a lot of that happens right at the front doors and often at the front office. So originally when I was looking to, to try, you know, help some people out, we started focusing on the school office and I spent a lot of time in, in Hawaii, especially in Maui and love a lot of the Hawaiian, the Polynesian ideals, and no Hayah is kind of like you know, everybody’s familiar with the Aloha spirit.


Aubrey Patterson (03:40):
It’s like the Aloha spirit plus leadership, like strong leadership. And, and what I really love about it is that it, it, it really allows you to be kind, and at the same time, you can be, you know, fanatically meticulous about systems and details and things like that. So it allows those, those people who, you know, like to get things done, to also be able to smile during the day. So know, Hey, I was focused on the school offices, principals seminar was, and is focused on new principals, helping new principals, but all of that has kind of evolved into our largest entity, which is warm demanders. And that’s where we have actually taken over those, those particular courses and brands and put them into this package to, to help all school and district leaders. And, and of course, warm demanders is kind of just as it sounds, we help people who, who want to be true to themselves in every part of their lives. You can be nice and be the principal. You can be kind to people and be really firm. You can, you know, be there for all the right reasons and love the kids and do all that stuff and still be very careful and with your processes and things like that. So anyway I see what you do, Sam. I just go on and on about this stuff. Once you get me started.


Sam Demma (05:09):
Hey, that’s why I brought you here today. I want you to continue speaking so warm demanders. What does the company do? Is it, is it solely providing courses consulting? Like if you had to explain it to a principal or a superintendent listening right now, how would you explain the whole organization?


Aubrey Patterson (05:30):
Yeah, so, so we, we do have multiple courses that, that we’ve released. We just opened up the doors in may. We’ve been overwhelmed with a huge, huge response with it. It’s, you know, it’s asynchronous learning at its best. And so that’s been really, really helpful, but like, that’s, that’s the courses, but we also do one-to-one coaching and that’s probably 60% of what we’re doing right now is one-to-one coaching virtually helping, helping school and district administrators you know, to, to get through all of the, the things they need to meander through in the, in these crazy times. And then we also provide these menus of you know, one stop shopping for, for schools and districts, where they can have an abundance of courses, you know, one click access for teachers or for administrators, et cetera. There’s a, there’s a lot there.


Aubrey Patterson (06:31):
So ultimately I would just kind of sum it up with everything is focused on helping people who want to be warm demander leaders. It is not focused in any way upon a traditional educational leadership where there’s a lot of hierarchy or there’s a lot of bureaucracy. I spend most of my time helping people get through the bureaucracy, get rid of the bureaucracy all of that, that kind of a thing. I’ve found a lot of success with it, both as the principal and a superintendent. And, and I like to help people, you know, with those kinds of things. And, and I honestly, it just finds that a lot of people don’t know which domino to flip over first. Right. And once we get them started, it’s, it’s just amazing. I just love it. Ultimately I, I love the one-to-one coaching the most, just love it.


Sam Demma (07:31):
I love that. That’s amazing. I want to selfishly go back to Maui and Hawaii for a second in my mind. So let me ask you, like what brought you out there and how were you exposed to these ideas of Nokia and this type of leadership?


Aubrey Patterson (07:51):
I honestly, I just got there like many people from some friends recommendations and then I stayed there longer and longer, more and more. I’ve always had an affinity to to hang out in, in Hawaii, like who doesn’t right, but like Hawaii and Southern California for whatever reason we do, I would say 70, 75% of our contacts right now are coming from the west coast. And there’s a particular vibe that really, that we really resonate with. And that I think that, that we give off in our, in our work that is, you know, with that warm and friendly part. And that part that you can be, you know, true to yourself in every, in every part of your life. And I think that’s what actually appeals to me the most about, about Hawaii, about, about many of the cultures that I, that I love is, you know, you can be the same person at home hanging out with your friends or, you know, leading a school or a school district. Like you should be able to always be comfortable in your skin. And I found that those ideals really allowed that. And and that’s where I kinda got, I don’t know, that’s where we got the vibe, that’s where we got the whole concept of, of know-how and you know, probably we would have called that first company Aloha, but, you know, that’s been used


Sam Demma (09:23):
And it didn’t go with that main stream. Right,


Aubrey Patterson (09:25):
Right.


Sam Demma (09:27):
That’s awesome. And when you were growing up, I want to, I want to go back for a second. Did you know that you wanted to get an initially into education and become a teacher superintendent and principal, or were you kind of steered down that path by other people in your life?


Aubrey Patterson (09:44):
Yes, I did. I, well, I knew that I wanted to coach my, my dad is, was an amazing teacher and basketball coach. Like he was, you know, won multiple provincial titles. He’s that, that guy that everybody loved in the community, he was a fantastic role model. And I, and I want it to be that, you know, I want it to be just like that. And at the same time I did quite well in school. I wasn’t a typical student that you know, that does well, that is, is studying a lot. And all that things came easy to me. I was just really lucky for, with that. And, and so I had a lot of people actually telling me, oh, you shouldn’t be a teacher when I wanted to be a teacher. And those people were encouraging me to go into business or to go into, you know be a lawyer, be a doctor, be these other things.


Aubrey Patterson (10:38):
And I listened to them at the start. And so my first year in university, I was in, I was in business and, and I did really well with the marks and all that. Like I loved that I was on the Dean’s list, but I hated it. And I quickly switched into education and everything felt right. And so and you know, from there, I was just really, really lucky to have fantastic role models when I was becoming a, a new teacher. And then I got to meet all these people that were like incredible leaders. And I said, huh, I think I could do that too. And I could, you know, and I keep on going and, and, and it was the same with coaching. I’d be coaching basketball. And I was around all these fantastic basketball coaches that just wanted to be better at it. And so that’s always been something for me is to, to see people that I’d like to emulate the qualities or the values that they have that I’d like to emulate, or that I’d like to, to grow. And, and, and that’s always, what’s been, been driving me.


Sam Demma (11:39):
Where does your principles come from? You mentioned earlier that failure is something you encourage and you want to fail fast and you want to fail quicker. Was that something that your dad instilled in you growing up or people in your life, or maybe a coach R where, yeah. Where did that come from? Because I feel like it’s such an important lesson, but not only high school administrators or any school administrator, that’s something that they need to embrace as well, but it’s hard to embrace. I find sometimes for all human beings.


Aubrey Patterson (12:09):
Yeah. Like I like, honestly, I, I think I, I got that. Yeah, definitely from my dad, but also from, from all of the coaches that I had when I was in, in school. You know, I was, again, really lucky to be in in some fantastic athletics programs, you know, as a player. And, and we always knew, like, for example, in baseball, you’re, you’re going to fail. If you fail 70% of the time, like you’re, you’re doing really well, like, like black junior right now is, you know, failing 680% of the time. You know, when he’s batting and he’s, he’s, you know, leading the league, like, like it’s just, it’s, it’s just part of getting better and it’s, it’s just what we have to do. And, and so I’ve always been comfortable with that concept. I know it’s become really cliche to say things like fail forward in that now, of course.


Aubrey Patterson (13:06):
But I’ve actually heard that for a long, long time. And, and I always encourage it and people, I know there’s a, there’s a guy that I hired years ago as a teacher. He came over from from a district close to us and, and he came up to me the very first day, you know, when he was kind of like an opening days thing. And he said where, what’s your number one word of advice. And I, and I had known him fairly well in the community is a great guy. And and I said, make a lot of mistakes the next time I see you, I’m going to ask you to tell me about your mistakes. And he started laughing and he said, no, really what? And I said, no, seriously, like, it didn’t make a lot of mistakes. Like I want you to make a lot of mistakes. And if, because we didn’t bring you over here to play it safe. And, and so anyway, he, he tells me all the time now that I’ve been gone for quite a while, and that when I bumped into him on the street, he’ll say, I’m still making lots of mistakes. I’m still making lots of mistakes. And so honestly, I think I was really lucky to have people encourage me to make mistakes. And I’ve just really always embraced that I’ve been comfortable with it.


Sam Demma (14:14):
Yeah, I like that. I love it a lot. And you mentioned before we even started this call, that one of the trainings you did when you were growing up was the seven, the seven habits with Stephen Covey. Where does your, your endless curiosity you continue learning come from? And do you think that’s like an important attribute of not only being an educator, but you know, someone who’s working with young people?


Aubrey Patterson (14:39):
Yeah, no, I, I, I’ve always been fascinated with how things happen, like the algorithms of how things happen. And like I love for example I think it was back in what, 2008, 2009 originally when Simon Sineck was first doing his Ted talk and talking about my why, and you know, where the, why came out in the whole, the whole thing of the golden circles and talking about apple and all of that. And that’s kind of been, become cliche for people to say, you know, what’s my why instead of saying, what’s my mission, what’s my, why I’m not against that. Please don’t get me wrong. I, I use it to what, what I’m saying is people are so focused on it that they often forget the importance of how and when, who, and where, and when we’re actually serving people, taking care of people, clarity is kindness, especially in difficult times like we’re facing right now.


Aubrey Patterson (15:34):
People really need clarity when they’re scared, when they’re nervous, they want, they’re looking for that, that step. It’s like when you jump into the deep end of the swimming pool for the first time, when you’re a little kid it’s exciting and you’re happy. And it’s like, look at me. And you’re in there about three seconds and you’re reaching for the side, you’re reaching for something solid. People want that clarity. And I think that clarity is exposed with the how, when, who, what, where, and again, I am not diminishing the why part at all, like completely believe that I love it. It’s a great starting point, but I’ve always been fascinated in the algorithm. The, if this, then that the how part, and that’s what I work with people on all the time is, and that, you know, we S we always say, we can save you anywhere from 10 to 20 hours or so 10 to 20 minutes in a day.


Aubrey Patterson (16:32):
And when we add up that amount of time, that, that adds up into like 6,000 minutes in a year, a hundred hours, you know, like and it’s really easy because we just have to go through and look at the algorithm and get really scientific with it. So going back to your original, what, you know, where did I get excited about all this kind of stuff? I was always fascinated with what led to that, you know, and in basketball, we would, we would put on a, you know, a press, a full court press. And I was always interested in, you know, what caused the turnover, you know, both as a player and as a coach. And typically it wasn’t actually the trap that on the ball that, that, you know, came that most people were focused upon. It was the, if this then that’s around it like that, that, that person had no place to pass. No, because you know, all of these other things happen. So anyway, you know, I’ve, I’ve always been fascinated by, by the how, by the way, the dominoes fall. And it just gets me to dig into things all the time. See, you just sent me down that rabbit hole. Again, I love the algorithm. Rabbit hole is my favorite. Then know,


Sam Demma (17:49):
Because you have a phenomenal mailing list, then you share algorithm type content through it all the time. And you do have like the free videos and tech tips on your website. That really helped me with the tabs that you told me to subscribe to. So like, if you had to give some quick organizational tips, things that you think need to be known and make the biggest ROI instantly what are like a couple of little things that you’d recommend people look into or educators


Aubrey Patterson (18:23):
For sure. Well, I, I love the research of David Allen who originally wrote, he wrote getting things done. And so, you know, 30, 40% of what I teach is based upon David Allen’s work or his, his original research and his, his most famous concept is the two minute rule. So if you can do something in two minutes, unless, you know, it’s rude, like, you know, you get up from a conversation or dinner and run through something and a while you’re, you’re, he should, you gotta be present with people, right. But if you can do something in two minutes, you should, because it will take you more time to file it away and bring it back. Then it would you know, just to do it in, in that two minutes. So most often, you know, we’ll, we’ll refer to email when we talk about this.


Aubrey Patterson (19:10):
So if you get something in your inbox and you take a look at it, and it’s, it’s gonna take you less than two minutes, if you can take the two minutes right now, we’ll do it. Cause it’ll take you more time to put it away and bring it back after. But that’s not only the reason that you do this with the two minute rule, because it also breaks your chain of thought in the future. It breaks your, your focus to have to go back and redo the, all these little things. And so all of these, you know, five seconds, 20 seconds, one minute here and there add up, but they don’t just add up to time. They add up in giving you an opportunity to focus better. And so my favorite or my second favorite tip is the two-minute rule. No matter what, if you can do it in less than two minutes, if you can, whether it’s email, whether it’s, you know, picking up a dish and putting it in the dishwasher, you know, whatever it is like day-to-day life or work, you know, you can do it less than two minutes, do it.


Aubrey Patterson (20:12):
This, my favorite tip is the next best action rule, which is have all of your subject lines in your email, in your things to do lists in your notes, in the posts that you write yourself, have every subject line begin with a verb with an action, and then you will always hit the ground running when you restart with that. So, for example, if I send you, if I write down on a, on a posted, you know mum’s birthday, you know, and if I just write down mom’s birthday and I come back to that a week later, I have to think, what, why did I write down mom’s birthday? Of course, I know her mom’s birthday is coming up, but am I getting her a present? Do I need to get something? Do I need to call my brother? Do I need to arrange something? Do I have to get some time off? What, why did I write down mom’s birthday? Now, the simple fact that I just wasted 20 seconds asking myself that is a problem. That’s a time problem, but I’ve also broken my train of thought on whatever else I was working on at that particular time. What if instead on that post-it I took the extra two seconds and wrote, get mom a present


Aubrey Patterson (21:29):
Order. Mom’s cake, no, start with that verb. What if I sent you an email Sam? And instead of saying podcasts in the email, but if I, instead I said reschedule podcast, because I’ve got a problem, then we can see, you know, the action that’s going with it. When we pick up that email or when we pick up that posted, or when we pick up that item in the things to do is we can, we can hit the ground running with it and we can keep our ideas flowing all the time. So what we’ve done is we’ve created an algorithm to keep her, our ideas flowing simply by using a verb at the end, in all of our emails and in all of our things to do. And we pass this gift on to other people you know, in emails and calendar invites, et cetera, by using, by using over. So that’s the next best action or what’s my next best action by mama cake? You know,


Sam Demma (22:27):
I love that. And when you do the, you mentioned that 60% of the work you do is with a one-on-one coaching. What aspect of the coaching do you enjoy the most? Like selfishly? Like what part of the journey of the teaching? Like what lessons do you enjoy sharing the most?


Aubrey Patterson (22:44):
Oh man, I’m going to sh when we get off the podcast here, I’m going to show you that what I get is I get a lot of texts. And so selfishly, because this puts a lot of fuel in my engine. I get, I get at least two or three texts a month that say something like, and I got this one, two nights ago, so I’m, I’ll show it to you after we got here, I got, I got this one from from a superintendent in California and it’s, and he just said, I got down from 25,000 emails to zero in 30 minutes because we have a system to do that right. To get to inbox, Sarah. And, and he went through one of the videos and I was coaching him on that kind of stuff. And he just said, I had the best sleep ever.


Aubrey Patterson (23:32):
Like he used just so happy. And it’s not that we should be so fanatical about inbox zero. I am. I like that because you don’t want to have your focus, be your email all the time. And that too. However, if you’re always worried about missing something or you’re wasting time going back into messages, or, you know, all of those kinds of things, which happens to a lot of great leaders, like they, this guy is a fantastic leader, but he he’s a fantastic leader at the expense of his own peace of mind. And, and this, this inbox, like he literally, he showed me, he had over 25,000 emails in his inbox, like aside from the technical problem, with that, like with this computer restarts and running through all of those multiple PowerPoints of that, that he’s got in there, right aside from that, it was driving him crazy.


Aubrey Patterson (24:23):
And, and so we worked on that last week and I referred him to one of our courses called manage chart lead easy that, that has that, that algorithm in it. And you know how to start with the two minute rule and to work through those things. Well, we start with inbox zero and he was so excited. And so selfishly, I love getting the texts that say I got to inbox zero, and I get a lot of those. And, and I just know that, that, you know, these people just feel so good about it. And I just, yeah, that’s just, that’s what I love the most is, is when somebody transfers those, those wonderful feelings, just with a nice text. Yeah.


Sam Demma (25:08):
I love that. Thanks for sharing that. I, that’s a cool story. Putting on your superintendent hat one, one more time for one quick, last question. Like if you could go back in time and give younger Aubrey advice when you were still in that role. But knowing what you know now, like what, you know, a couple of pieces of advice, would you give your younger self with the experience you have now?


Aubrey Patterson (25:33):
Yeah, no, I that’s. That’s a good one. I actually go back on that. I actually think about this a lot because I see the successes of all these people that I’m working with. And I think, oh man, am I on my best day? I didn’t do what you’re doing on in your everyday. Like, like, so I see these people doing these things. So I have a lot of, I wish I had a redo on this and this and this. And I, I did spend a lot of time in the schools and I did spend a lot of time, you know, working with principals and, and, and teachers on, on a variety of things. But if I had a, if I had a redo on it, I’d actually, I’d spend more time with the people that, that are impacting the teachers the most. And in our district that in our division, that was like the instructional coaches and the tech coaches and the people like that.


Aubrey Patterson (26:31):
Because those, those people have a lot of fantastic ideas and they often don’t have the authority or the wherewithal to, to actualize those ideas. And we did, you know, take advantage of those things a lot, but I see all of these incredible ideas that people have, and they talk to me about it now, like the people that I’m coaching, and they’ll say, I’ve got this idea, how do you think I could get this across? And, and I wish that I had spent more time. I wish I could have a bit of a redo and go back to, you know, extract more ideas to, to add, create systems that would allow the people that lead without authority. The people that you know, are a little bit nervous to get those ideas out, like just to find ways to do more of that. So yeah.


Sam Demma (27:22):
Oh, cool. I love that. Thanks for sharing. Yeah. Ideas are a really interesting thing. In fact, I was, I actually bought a book about ideas called thinker toys, and it’s like a book that encourages exercise that lead to more creativity to hopefully come up with new ideas. Yeah, that’s a really cool learning. I appreciate you sharing that. And like, we’ve had a great 30 minute conversation now it’s flown by if an educator or a superintendent and principals listening to this wants to reach out to you or get in touch, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Aubrey Patterson (27:58):
Well, I’m really easy to find because you just go to www.warmdemanders.com and I’m all over the place there. But you can also email me at aubrey@warmdemanders.com. You can find me on Twitter. Instagram, I’m easy to find. And, and just DM me, just find me. I’d love to have conversations. I never, by the way, if anybody contacts me, I never hard sell anyway, anybody I’m like, I’m always telling people what I think would be their best next action, you know, like their best lead domino. And quite often, it’s not to work with us. Like quite often, it’s like to work with one of these amazing other people that I’m working with and that too. So anyway, if somebody wants to find me and to do anything, just, just email me, www.warmdemanders.com or go to the website and click on something and just find us.


Sam Demma (28:50):
Okay. Sounds good. Awesome. Thank you so much for taking some time to chat. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Aubrey Patterson (28:58):
Thank you, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Aubrey

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.

Erika Rath – Director of Student Services at The Sacred Heart School of Montreal

Erika Rath - Director of Student Services at The Sacred Heart School of Montreal (Part 2)
About Erika Rath

Erika Rath is the Director of Student Services and teacher at The Sacred Heart School of Montreal. Erika has been working in the educational field since the late 1990s. She was always involved in her community recreation programs and worked as a camp counsellor and director for several summers.

While studying in Cegep and University, Erika worked with pre-school children and led classes for parents and young toddlers. In 2004, while completing her Bachelor’s degree in Human Relations at Concordia University, Erika became a teaching assistant in the department and realized that she loved working with people and leading groups. After finishing her BA, she decided to obtain a certificate in Teaching English as a Second language so that she could travel the world and teach. Before making any firm plans, she was accepted to do her Master’s in Educational Psychology at McGill University and was also offered a job in a learning centre at her old high school.

Both opportunities led her to realize that working with students was her passion. She went on to teach English and Social studies at the high school for 5 years and then was accepted to do the one-year teaching program at The University of Toronto.  Upon returning to Montreal, Erika was finally able to use her TESOL certificate and worked for Concordia in the continuing education department.

On a whim, Erika applied to The Sacred Heart School of Montreal and was hired for a part-time position. Over the years, Erika has been fortunate to experience a variety of roles within the school. She has taught English, been the Student Life Coordinator, the Director of Academics, helped out with enrolment and advancement, advised students on post-secondary choices and more.

Currently, Erika oversees all of student life, the boarding program, the grade 12 program, the discipline at the school and teaches the PD-personal development class to all grade levels. Erika is passionate about educating the whole student and hopes to help in their growth and development by creating an environment where students can talk openly without fear of judgment.

Erika is the proud recipient of the 2021 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

Connect with Erika Rath: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now (Part One)

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

Listen Now (Part Two)

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

Resources Mentioned

Erika Rath Personal Blog

TED Talks

Trunk or Treat

Award for Teaching Excellence

National Coalition-Girls School (NCGS )

Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS)

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Erika welcome back to the high performing educator podcast. This is your second time on the show. It is a pleasure to have you here today because you’re celebrating a huge milestone because of the impact that the program that you’ve been running in your school is making, why don’t you introduce yourself in share a little bit about that milestone moment?


Erika Rath (00:24):
Sure. Thanks. Sam for having me again, I, love being here. So yes, I’m the director of student services at the sacred heart school of Montreal in Montreal, Quebec. And I’m also a teacher. I teach a class called PD – personal development. And basically I was given the award for teaching excellence for helping to empower young women and and you know propel them forward to be change makers and, and make a difference in this world. And I think in order to do that, we have to understand who we are and where we come from and be vulnerable and be open to having challenging and sometimes conversations. So the class is pretty unique. I see the students for one hour, every eight days and it’s not mandated by the ministry, so there’s no homework, there’s no grading, there’s no marks, which is great for them. And for me, of course, and it gives us the ability to be ourselves and see where the win. Of course, I go in, obviously with a plan, a video to share an activity that we can work on, but it’s amazing to see that the, the, we, we find ourselves going in different directions based on what we need that particular moment.


Sam Demma (01:37):
Students often hear the word PD when they have a day off No, we, we have a PD day and every kid goes home to watch Netflix and eat chips and teachers go and improve their practice or teaching. What inspired the creation of a, a PD class for students. And what does the content and the curriculum actually looked like in that Classroom?


Erika Rath (02:05):
Sure. Great question. So, so first of all, here we call it a P day. So we try not to confuse the students with PD and PD, but, but it’s funny because teachers when we have PD days or we have we do professional development, right? So that’s, so it’s, it’s a bit similar in the sense that for the students, we are, we’re growing, we’re personally, we’re developing ourselves. And so the, the course is not something I created it already existed before I even came to the school, but it was called GI and that was general instruction. And so when we think of what is generally taught, you know, that could be a whole gamut of things. And of course what did, was, I tried to modernize it a little bit and realize that you know, there are certain things that still were really important, like mass etiquette, right?


Erika Rath (02:52):
Like how to sit properly in a chapel or in any place of worship and be respectful. But there were some other things that I just, you know, maybe weren’t my forte or I didn’t know them well enough. And so I, I kind of said like, let, what else can we be teaching? So digital citizenship and literacy, like what, what is your place online? How to, how to be, how to act online, things like that. And then also just like looking back at my own experience in high school and thinking like, what were some of the things is that I was missing there? Oh, like a place to have a conversation about how I’m feeling as a woman or as a teenager growing into a body and, and, and a discussion around that. And, oh, I’m sure if I’m feeling that 10 other students are feeling that too. Could we at least try to be comfortable in an uncomfortable place together and come together through that that, that the, the sense that we’re the same and how could we connect over that? And so that’s really kind of where I was teaching general instruction, and then I thought, I don’t want it to be so general anymore. I want it to be a little bit more about our growth and development. What could we be calling this? And we played around with some names, and that’s what we came up with.


Sam Demma (03:58):
You mentioned sometimes you go to the class and obviously you have ideas of activities, videos to watch. What are some of the resources, maybe books, videos that you and the class work through to prompt some meaningful discussion, maybe, you know, name a couple of those resources that you think might be helpful if someone else’s listening and will wants to have a meaningful discussion with a group of young women.


Erika Rath (04:23):
Sure. So I, I mean, I’ll be honest. I use a lot of videos from Ted talks. I really, I think those are great. It’s great to see people you might not really ever get to see in, in real life. You know, just walking down the street or in your community. So I use a lot of that. I short snippets I use a software called my B, so what I’ve done is it creates like a portfolio system for the students. And so what is really cool is that they can see kind of their growth and development over the course of five years. So, wow. How did I respond to a reflection in grade seven and then, wow, I’m now a mature young adult in grade 11. How do, how am I responding a little bit differently, maybe to a similar topic, but we’re delving in a bit deeper.


Erika Rath (05:02):
I also bring in a lot of guest speakers because let’s be honest, I’m not an expert in everything and, and any, you know, in all, in all of things. And so I think it’s really important to have people who know a lot more or who are more research based than I am coming in. So, you know, like mad will come in and do a talk about driving under, under the influence. We’ll have guest speakers about mental health coming in. We might have residents or doctors in, in in from different hospitals coming in to talk to us about different things. I, I wanna make sure that the students are getting the right information. And if I don’t know it, I, I don’t wanna pretend to. So I don’t think there’s any, you know, anything, there’s no shame in saying, I don’t know, but let me figure out how I can know it and present it to you in the best way.


Sam Demma (05:50):
That’s awesome. And the sharing of uncomfortable things like you mentioned earlier, yeah. Often happens when trust is built. At least that’s how I look at it when I am about to share something that I think is very private or maybe a little bit embarrassing or something. I only talk to with some of my best friends. How do you think you build, build that trust with a student and a group of students to this degree where they’re willing to share this uncomfortable conversations?


Erika Rath (06:27):
That’s such a great question. I mean, trust is definitely not built overnight. And, and I find that I’m in a bit of a difficult position here. As a director of student services, I’m also in charge of discipline at, at the school. And so I, I don’t want a student to feel that she can’t come tell me something just because I might have given her a detention the week before for uniforms or lates or, or whatever else the, the infraction might have been. So it’s really hard to juggle the two, but I think being approachable, you know, like the door to my office is always open. Also just being physically close to the girls and where they keep their belongings, that helps. But also, like I often tell stories about my own childhood or my, my parents or my family or what it was like growing up.


Erika Rath (07:07):
And then I think it’s like, oh, Ms. Roth is sharing. She’s putting herself out there. She’s being vulnerable. She’s trusting us with this story. Then they do learn to trust me also, I do wanna have a good of time with them. I do wanna share, I do wanna address topics. The other part of the job, the discipline part is not the fun part. It’s not like I get joy outta that. It’s just that that’s part of what I have to do. And, and the truth is that’s a teaching, that’s a teachable moment as well. Like we’ve asked you to do something. You might not agree with it. But we’re asking you to do it. We’ve given rationale and we’re asking you to follow it the same as at work, right? Your boss says you have to come in at eight 30. Well, you like to sleep until nine 30. Well, you have to figure out how to get there at eight 30 and, and be respectful and do that. So I think it’s about life skills and realizing that we work with a lot of different people. We might not always like the rules, but we still have to follow them. You know, we can find out why there are rules. But I think it all really comes back to the trust, the teachable moment. And hopefully the girls can see me like and separate the fact that the discipline is involved.


Sam Demma (08:11):
I love that. A big part from talking to you previously, I know a big part of your work is also encouraging service, the importance of giving back. And I know right now you’re doing some unique things in this school, not only to give back to the students, but also to fundraise and give back to the community as a whole. What are some of those things that are going on that you think are unique ideas that other schools may be able to implement and also touch upon the importance of service?


Erika Rath (08:38):
Sure. That great, great high. I mean, we’re so devoted to service. It’s, it’s one of our our goals social awareness, which empowers to action. And so this year’s a little bit tricky again with COVID. We often do huge boxes of food in every Homer homeroom. Every student is responsible for bringing in, you know, like ketchups and mustards and cereals and things like that. We also do toy drives and warm, mittens gloves, hat, socks. Unfortunately, a lot of the places that we support have reached out to us and said due to, to limiting of space and just with COVID, they don’t want the actual items this year. So everyone’s donating money so that we can buy gift cards at grocery stores to donate to needy families so that they can have a Christmas meal on their, on their table.


Erika Rath (09:22):
In addition we’re selling hot chocolate at lunch, just raising money in, in different ways. We have a spare change challenge. So we decorate those huge water bottles and the grades have to put change in their water bottles and grade who raises the most money in change will win like a free dress day or a pizza lunch in the new year. You can also kind of like if you have a rival grade, you could stick bills into their ch into their jug. And then it kind of like offsets their amount, but we’re still obviously raising money. So it’s still good. And then an idea that we came up with this year, which I’m super proud of, which a lot of fun is a call the advent calendar. So everyone knows, you know, you get an advent calendar, you open it up every day.


Erika Rath (10:02):
There’s a little chocolate. Sure. That’s a little fun surprise. We, the school, we are the advent calendar this year. And so students have prepaid for the entire month of December and every day they come to school and we dispense a small all gift to them. That was a surprise. The night before we might email them with a clue, or we might tell them, you know, it’s a free dress day tomorrow because you bought the advent calendar passport. Today they got to pie a teacher or their class rep we’ve given out like 10 bits. We will give out things like Christmas cookies. And then on Fridays, we double up the gift, cuz they’re are not here on the weekend. So we raised quite a bit of money that way, and it’s just nice to see students participating and having fun and doing good for the community. And, and I want them to understand that it’s an integral part of who we are, but we can also have fun in a meaningful way as well.


Sam Demma (10:53):
When you say Tim bits, do you mean Tim BES?


Erika Rath (10:56):
So we, we got this Tim bits. Yeah. Now I’ve been wanting to see the Tim BES. So we, we we had preordered, so we just got a lot of Timbits


Sam Demma (11:04):
That’s so awesome. And this past year has been unique for you as an educator because it’s been full of transition, you know, COVID slowing down, hopefully fingers crossed, not speeding up a good in with new variants and whatnot. How have you continued to educate yourself and you know, continue with your own PD and personal development. What are any conferences you attended over the past year, since we last spoke that you found meaningful or resources that you’ve you’ve read or watched that you as an educator thought were helpful, that someone else may been it from?


Erika Rath (11:38):
That’s a great question. I, I think it’s the students that really continue to inspire and, and energize me this year has been so much better than last year. You know, I feel like we’re kind of back to normal just with the mask, which is fine. You know, we’re all used to wearing it. It’s part of our lives. We had our first school assembly in September and I could feel the buzz in the room and like just the sheer, like wanting to be together and the applause and the raw rawness of it. I, I was sitting in, in the chair at the front and I could feel tears coming down my cheek because I was so happy to be happy and so happy to be like, oh my God, we’re together. This is actually happening. And it, it made me realize like the togetherness, the community that we have is I always knew it was important, but we had been missing that for over a year.


Erika Rath (12:27):
We did it in other ways online and things like that, but it obviously wasn’t the same. It just, it made me realize how much the girls need each other. And it, it made me quite emotional. So I, I can say that, yes, I attend PD and, and it’s always good, but I feel it’s, it’s the learning I get the day in and day out here that I think really propels me to do more good. I really, I do some work with NC a national coalition of girl schools. I do some work with C a I S Canadian accredited, independent schools both fantastic organizations that I love doing PD with. And obviously our sacred heart network as well. It’s, it’s amazing, you know, winning this award actually people from the network started reaching out. Can we talk about your class? Ask, can we talk about PD? And all of a sudden I’m on zoom calls, sharing with people like around the world at sacred heart, which is such an amazing opportunity. So the PD and the connecting and, and the networking has been really good, but like I said, it’s the girls, it’s, it’s really the girls.


Sam Demma (13:29):
Yeah, it’s so cool. And if someone’s in another school wanting to start something similar with a group of girls, how would you instruct them to start? Or where do you think they should take their first step to bring something like this to life?


Erika Rath (13:48):
I would love that first of all, anyone can reach out to me, you know, through you. That’s not a problem. But also it’s so funny, your, your question just sparked like a, like a memory for me. I was doing a bachelor’s in human relations at Concordia university. And everyone was like, what is that? And I’m like, it’s a way to learn how to talk to people and run groups and be a leader. And it’s funny for our field placement for our, our stage. We had to find, we had to come up with a program, design it and implement it. And as I look back, I, I realize now my program was done in an elementary school with grade five and six girls for eight lunch times. And I ran activities about body image. Ah, and so I’m thinking back now and I’m like, oh my God, this was kind of like in me the whole time, like, I feel like this is a way, like what I was of meant to do. So I think if you have an idea, you, and you wanna like, just run it by your students and they’ll tell you if it’s good or not, like, believe me, I run a lot of ideas by my students and they’ll be brutally honest. So but they’ll tell you, you know, like I think, I think there’s a lot of like power in at least trying. And I know it’s hard to like sometimes put yourself out there, but these conversations are too important to not be had.


Sam Demma (15:00):
Yeah, I totally agree. And if someone does want to learn a little more about how you run the program and potentially even have you give them a little blueprint or the first steps to try it in their school, who knows maybe this program grows and becomes its own thing that other educators, you know, can learn from you and implement in their own schools. But if someone does want some more information and has some questions for you, what would be the best way for them to get in touch, reach out, ask a question.


Erika Rath (15:29):
Sure. That would be my email, erath@sacredheart.qc.ca. I check that all the time. So that would be the best way to reach me.


Sam Demma (15:37):
Awesome. And as we enter the holiday season, depending on when this interview comes out, it might not logically make sense. So , as we enter the hypothetical holiday season any last words any last pieces of wisdom for an educator who might be listening anything you wanna se share or send as a parting word?


Erika Rath (16:01):
So I think just, you know, we are all looking forward to the holidays, cuz I think we do need a break educators work really hard. We’re with students all the time. We’re on all the time. And I say this to students too. Like we all need some downtime to be with our friends and our family and then, and to come back, you know, refreshed and energized in the new year. I think it’s really important to do something for yourself to take a little bit of time for self care and also to continue realizing why we do what we do for me. It I’m, I’m passionate about it and brings me a lot of joy. And so I just think it’s important to give back at this time some time for yourself and, and, you know, be happy to be with family and friends and enjoy the moment and be present.


Sam Demma (16:43):
Erika, congratulations again on the huge milestone and award. So deserving enjoy the holiday season and we’ll talk to you soon.


Erika Rath (16:52):
Sounds good. Thank you too.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Erika Rath

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.

Joshua Sable – Student Activity Director at TanenbaumCHAT

Joshua Sable Student Activity Director at TanenbaumCHAT
About Joshua Sable

Joshua Sable is a veteran educator, speaker and memory maker. His personal teaching philosophy is to: “give students a reason to come to school tomorrow.” Joshua is also the Student Activity Director at TanebaumCHAT.

The way he fulfills this philosophy is through the memory-making machine of student activities and school culture. In this episode, Josh shares actionable strategies to help you students make memories, right now!

Connect with Joshua: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Tanenbaum Chat High School

Theater and Performing Arts at York University

Mentor College

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today we have on a very purpose driven and passionate educator. His name is Joshua Sable. He is a veteran teacher, speaker, and memory maker. As you’ll hear about on this show, his personal teaching philosophy is to give students a reason to come to school tomorrow. And the way he fulfills this philosophy is through something he calls the memory making machine of student activities and school culture. In this episode, Josh shares actionable strategies to help your students make more memories right now. I’ll see you on the other side, Josh, thank you so much for coming onto the high-performing educators podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. I want you to first introduce yourself to the audience, tell everyone who you are, what you’ve done in education up until this point and why you initially got started in the work that you’re doing today with young people.


Joshua Sable (01:03):
Thanks so much for having me here today Sam. Its a real, real pleasure. My name is Josh Sable. This is my, let me do the math. This is my 26th year teaching. So I’ve been teaching for 26 years. I’ve spent the last 23 years at a school called chats or TanenbaumChat in Toronto, which is a high school in Toronto. And I’ve spent most of those years as a teacher of dramatic arts in English, but mainly as the director of student activities, which I’ve been doing there for the last 22 of my 23 years.


Sam Demma (01:42):
Nice. That’s so cool. What initially got you into education. Was there a teacher in your life that heavily impacted you and swayed you in that direction? Is it something you knew you wanted to do since you were a little kid? Everyone’s story is totally different. I’m just curious what yours is.


Joshua Sable (02:00):
It’s a great question. I was really into performing theater drama entertainments as a teenager. And a young person was very involved in student leadership, sports arts at my high school and outside of the high school. And then when I went to university, I knew I wanted to study theater. I wanted to study performance. I wanted to develop my craft, but when I finished my four-year degree in theater and performing arts at York university, I knew that there was something else I still wanted to do. I was working at summer camps at the time and I loved working with young people. And the idea of working in the arts exclusively was exciting. But at the same time, I knew that there were other things that I wanted to accomplish and other things that I wanted to do. And all of those seem to surround working with young people.


Joshua Sable (02:51):
So I got my teaching degree, started teaching right away at the age of 22 and I’ve been teaching ever since. That’s awesome. That’s great. And then my first year asking about teaching philosophy and what got me started or what got me energized. Can I tell you a quick story about my first year teaching? Absolutely. That’s why we’re here. My first year teaching, I was teaching grade seven. So my first three years I taught at a school called Mentor College in Mississauga, which is a great school. And I was teaching a homeroom. I was teaching grade seven and I was, I wasn’t feeling that inspired. I knew why I got into teaching. I didn’t know if I was making a difference. I didn’t know what sort of impact I was having on the young people in my classroom. And I was, I was struggling a little bit going through a little bit of a down period in my first year teaching.


Joshua Sable (03:43):
And one of the things we had to do on a regular basis at this private school was called parents once a month, just to check in, give them an update about how their students, how their children were doing. So I called one student in particular, not on our regular day and not as part of our regular monthly call because he had been missing a number of days. And I introduced myself. Mum recognized me. We had met before and I said, is everything okay with Chris? I haven’t, haven’t seen him as frequently as we normally see him is everything okay? And mum then starts to tell me how Chris Chris’s parents, mom and dad were, were going through a really bad divorce. And I didn’t know. And Chris was really, really struggling with it. So I said to mom, I said, look, tell Chris to take as much time as he needs.


Joshua Sable (04:38):
You know, we’ll be here for him whenever he comes back to school, how can I help? What can I do to help? I am happy to do anything that you need me to do. I can call him over the phone. We can, we can work on his math, his English on the phone. What can I do to help? And she said, well, she said, no, you don’t understand. She said, the only reason that he wants to come back to school is to see you and to hear your jokes and to be part of your classroom experience. She said, thank you for giving Chris a reason to come back to school. And I got those goosebumps like we do sometimes. And I had no idea that I had been part had played any role in having such an impact on him. And it hit me, hit me pretty hard.


Joshua Sable (05:29):
And at the time I was taking some courses at Boise for personal education and development and they kept asking us, what’s your personal teaching philosophy? I don’t know, be nice. You know, so don’t, don’t get hit by the chalk. You know, I, I didn’t know what my teaching philosophy was. And it was at that moment, not to sound too cheesy, but I really had an aha moment there where I said, that’s it? What Chris, what Chris’s mom said to me was, was my PR became my personal teaching philosophy, which was give someone a reason to come back tomorrow. And I started to think, how, how cool would it be? If everyone in our schools, student leaders, staff, custodian, support staff, if each of us just gave one person a reason to come back to school tomorrow, how much better what our school environment be. And, and you can have that impact in so many different ways, small, medium, or large, but that became a personal teaching philosophy for me.


Sam Demma (06:32):
I love that. And sometimes teachers and educators don’t see the impact they’re having until decades down the road. So I think it’s so cool that you highlighted that was in your first year that’s, that’s phenomenal. And I’m sure you’ve had dozens upon dozens of more stories, just like that one. And I was actually going to ask you that later in the podcast, if you want to hold on to one or two more stories that you have, that you think would be really impactful, and we’ll share them a little bit down this down, this journey that we’re going on with this podcast right now, a lot of teachers are faced with challenges. One of the challenges being to give students like the student, you just mentioned those opportunities to want to come back to school during COVID. How do we create those scenarios? How do we make a student feel appreciated and cared for when sometimes you can’t do it in person and the virtual stuff is kind of different and difficult?


Joshua Sable (07:23):
Well, first of all, it’s not easy. None of us have a magic wand or a genie in a bottle where we’re all trying. And there’s so many amazing educators across the province, across the country who are doing whatever they can to create a sense of comfort, a sense of peace, a sense of fun in their classroom and in their schools. We’re all trying, everyone’s trying their best. I start by trying to smile with my eyes because we are now limited in terms of our smile, our smiles now go from about the bridge of your nose up to the top of your forehead. So I, I honestly try to smile with my eyes when I walked down the halls, when I’m in the classroom, when we’re engaging with students and student activities I really try to do that. I, I’m trying to learn as many names as I can, which we should all do as educators.


Joshua Sable (08:16):
People, people need to know that other people know your name. And it’s so hard in a time when once again, you’re only limited with the top party or face to face threat face recognition is even more difficult. So I’m trying to learn as many names as I can. We’re giving out as much free food as we can, even with the limitations due to COVID. So, first day of school, we gave our students a wrapped fortune cookies, and they were personalized fortune cookies, not personalized, but they were personalized for our school. So we had our student council come up with 25 specific fortunes that would be heard for our school environment. And we handed them out to the students on the way. And normally we’d be handing out free food, like cookies or chips or things that we putting our hands into. And obviously we can’t do that right now.


Joshua Sable (09:03):
So we’re trying to find rap snacks that still have a sense of fun in the sense of a culture we did pajama day, the other day, we usually do cookies and milk. So we found some packaged cookies that we got donated, and we were given out free packaged cookies for anyone who was wearing their, their PJ’s. A couple of other COVID ideas just before the summer, we were looking to do some, like everyone’s doing a lot of videos of social media during COVID for sure. The mass singer was big. So we came up with our own version of the mass singer, where we got as many teachers as possible to record themselves singing, wearing masks of any kind they could be wearing their they could be wearing a Darth Vader mask. They could be wearing their kid’s sweatshirt over their head COVID mask, whatever they prefer.


Joshua Sable (09:54):
And I had them record themselves, singing twice one with the mask and then a big reveal where they take off their mask. So we edited it together. We sent it out to the student body. Students had to guess whose voice belong to whom. And then we had a second episode of the mass singer where we revealed the identity of the mass. So we’re just trying to keep things moving, keep them light, look, students, they’re smart. They know we’re in the middle of the pandemic. They’re not expecting us to move mountains and perform miracles, but what they appreciate is any student leader or staff member who is trying to make a difference to connect with them, to learn their name and to give them a reason to come back tomorrow night.


Sam Demma (10:36):
I love it. The philosophy rings through even in all those principles. And it’s evident, you’ve practiced this for a long time and people would argue smiling with your eyes. How do you do that? Well, the first thing is with an intention, if you have the intention to do so, it comes across that you’re caring that you’re happy. You know, maybe we get some see-through mask or some magic material that allows you to see the mouth. But without that again, it’s just the intention behind it. And you have all the right ones, which is awesome. What are some of the challenges that you’ve seen in your school so far? I know virtual engagements, definitely one common one among all the educators I’ve spoke to. But what are some of the challenges you’ve been presented with or have faced?


Joshua Sable (11:18):
Well, like most high schools, we, we have limited our attendance on a daily basis. So at our school, we’ve got 50% of the student body attending each day and they’re only attending to lunch afternoons or virtual learning, which is similar to what other schools across Ontario are doing. But the biggest challenge, look, we all, we’re, we’re human beings. We crave social interaction, human interaction. We need to get close to people. We need to sense that they care about us. We need to interact. Sometimes we need a high five, a hug, a handshake, whatever way we’re comfortable communicating. And I think that’s, that’s difficult. It’s been really difficult for people to not be able to gather together as a community in the ways that they are used to gathering together at our school. Especially we have a great sense of community sense of traditions and at lunchtime or during break times, we gathered the students together or as many as we can in common spaces to do fun things.


Joshua Sable (12:24):
And it’s been really challenging, not being able to congregate as a group. So especially once again, we’re only half the student body as attending on day one and half the other half is at home. So that’s been really, really challenging. But as I said before, everyone’s frying, whether it’s synchronous, learning, asynchronous learning reaching out to the students, I have noticed an increased level of kindness and tolerance amongst people in educational settings, getting less frustrated in front of students or at students, because I think most people do realize that yes, we’re all in this together. Be this too shall pass. But see, the biggest thing we all need right now is human kindness, a little bit of tolerance, support and understanding, and, and not, not to be short with people or a short tempered person.


Sam Demma (13:20):
Showing us what really matters. And it’s about the relationships with our students and our fellow educators or student leaders. What keeps you going? What keeps you hopeful? You have this positive aura, this enthusiasm, this energy, even when things are difficult, I would imagine you’re the teacher lifting everyone else up. What, what keeps you hopeful and motivated?


Joshua Sable (13:40):
Well, I, you know, I mentioned before this, you know, part, one of the teaching philosophy, this idea of, of giving people a reason to come back tomorrow, when we meet with student leadership at our school at the beginning of the year, I often ask them, what’s, what’s, what’s your role this year? And they’ll say, oh, I’m, I’m the VP or I’m the treasurer I’m in charge of communications. And they usually don’t guess the next question, which is, well, that’s, that’s your title, but what’s, what’s your role within the school? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to do? What sort of difference do you want to make in other people’s lives? And one of the things we talk about is this amazing opportunity that we have to make memories for other people. And I call student activities and student leadership, the memory making machine, you know, we’re in our school and yeah, as a teacher, it’s great.


Joshua Sable (14:32):
If you teach French, you can teach them how to conjugate a verb. If you teach math how to do algebra, if you teach science, you know, how to dissect a pig. But we all have this other amazing opportunity to actually create memories for other people. And yes, the memory can take different shapes and forms. The memory can be doing this great program at lunchtime and a kid got to wear a funny hat or get five more face or pay money to his teacher in the face with a sponge. And that’s part of the memory making machine. But part of the memory making machine is also opening the door for someone or, you know, smiling thumb when they’re having a bad day or asking them how their test was last period, or talking to them about the leaf game, because, you know, that’ll be a good distraction from whatever else is going on in their life.


Joshua Sable (15:25):
So making memories is not limited to being the most creative dynamic person who grabs the mic and talks in a big, you know, game show book. It’s about who’s overstayed checks, you know, which some of us can do, but that’s, that’s only a small piece of the memory making machine. So I encourage our student leaders to make memories and so own this idea of the memory making machine as much as possible. And, and that’s what keeps me going. This is challenge to make a difference in young people’s lives and to give them a reason to come back tomorrow through the memory making machine. That’s all


Sam Demma (16:01):
Awesome. And I want you to recall those stories now where you have helped other students make their own memories for themselves. Maybe they wrote, you wrote you a letter, 10 years down the road. Maybe they told you right when it had an impact on them, but recall a couple more of those stories that you think would be worth sharing to remind some fellow educators why it’s so important, the work they’re doing.


Joshua Sable (16:20):
Sure. And, and, you know, educators don’t do these things for the letters. We do everything just for the money. No. we don’t do things for the paycheck. We don’t do things for the, for the nice letters we do it because, you know, generally we, we care about young people and we were trying to give them an experience that’s maybe a little bit better than the experience of the students the year before or better than our experience. And we’re just trying to leave this school, this world a little bit better than, than how we found it. So. Sure. Yeah. I’ve got a bunch of stories. I’ll share a few and you can cut me off or tell me to keep going your, your, your call. Th the, the other thing I challenged student leaders to do when we come into meetings, I tell them my, my five favorite words to hear at the beginning of a student council meeting are, wouldn’t it be cool?


Joshua Sable (17:10):
If so, I want them to start a phrase with, wouldn’t it be cool if, and they finish that sentence. So oftentimes they’ll come into a meeting and they’ll say, and we had a student council president about 15 years ago, who said, wouldn’t it be cool if we slept at the school? And he was a bit of a, I don’t know, he was a bit of a showman. And he had all these crazy ideas. And sometimes the ideas didn’t necessarily come to fruition, but we all sort of laughed. And he said, no, no, no, I’m serious. Wouldn’t it be cool if we have a sleepover at the school? And we talked about it at first, everyone thought he was joking. And I said, well, you know what, Adam, we run a United way fundraiser single year. We don’t have a kickoff event for it. What if we had students pay money or raise money through their neighbors, friends, family, to sleep at school and we can run, you know a sleep over in the gym.


Joshua Sable (18:04):
We could have all these activities, we can play sports, play games. We can also decorate the school for United way. And then in the morning when people get up in the morning we’ll give everyone shirts that say, I slept at school for United way, and they’ll be wearing these big red shirts. And throughout the day, yeah, their eyes will be closed. They’ll be sleepy. There’ll be yawning and flat because they didn’t get much sleep, but that will be our big kickoff. Sure enough, the event came to fruition. Adam had the biggest smile on his face. He felt so good that this program was his idea. Sure. It’s our job as educators to help deal with logistics, to make sure the custodians know where to be, to make sure, you know, no one gets hurt, but we need to develop our ideas or to be energized by student ideas.


Joshua Sable (18:50):
And that was a classic example of that, you know a couple of years ago during the winter Olympics, students said, wouldn’t it be cool if we gave out some gold medals to to students for being great leaders at the school. So we brainstormed this at a student council meeting, we talked about it and they said, oh yeah. So how many would we do? Well, let’s do one per grade. We’ll give it to one student per grade. And another student said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if every student in the grade got a gold medal and that they, the kids said, yeah, that would be great. That would be amazing. And then other ones said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if each gold metal was actually personalized for the individual student? And they said, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then they said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if it were not only personalized, but referenced a specific skill or traits or characteristic that the person had and the kids say, yeah, let’s do it. So we’ve got a thousand kids in our school. We took these student council members from each grade. They’ve divided themselves up. They took old CDs, which if you have a young audience members there, I don’t know. How would you describe it, Sam? What’s, what’s a CD.


Sam Demma (20:02):
It looks like a disk, the hole in the middle.


Joshua Sable (20:08):
Oh, we got our computer. Some departments that donate all these old CDs that they weren’t using anymore. We took a grade list. We had the students write down something specific about every single student in their grade. So it said, let’s say your name was John Smith says John Smith, great smile, right. Or Toby Toby Rosen is you know, great at dance or whatever it is, you know, has a great slapshot, nice hair, whatever it is. Then we had the student council come and set up all the classes all at the same time. And they handed out these specific metals on strings, put them around the kids. And every single kid in the school had their moment, their gold metal with these personalized metals around their neck. And I remember a moment where I was peeking into a class, taking some pictures during this. And one of the kids looked at his metal and he looked at someone else’s and he said, Hey, my mine’s different from yours. And he said, do you think that they wrote a specific trait or manual for every single student in the grade? And the kids said, yeah. And then said, how cool is that? So it was a great moment for the student leadership because they got to see a program start from the ground up and come to fruition. But it was a great moment for the students who received the metals, which was really, really, really awesome. Really great.


Sam Demma (21:31):
No, that’s amazing. I love that story. And I was just on the cusp of being too old to know what a CD was, but I did use them in my former earlier years for sure. That’s awesome. Now you’re also somebody who’s been responsible for bringing in external presenters, bringing in organizations from the community to come and work with students. Do projects, fundraise, someone that we both know you brought in was Blake fly. I remember I was there watching him when he presented over your 26 years of education, you’ve probably worked with dozens of speakers. How do you bring someone in, or what are your grounds for deciding, you know, this is a message that I want my students to hear. And I want to put her in front of them.


Joshua Sable (22:13):
There’s so many events, six speakers out there, and we know the impact that a great speaker like yourself or someone who has a message and idea that they want to share. How, how, how impactful that can be. So we just look for someone that we think is going to connect with young people, someone that has a message and idea, something that’s going to make a difference in a young person’s life. Sometimes they can inspire a hundred percent of the audience. Sometimes they’re only inspiring 5% of the audience to make change, but if they can help just a few people in the audience make their day a little bit better, switch their perspective, switch their focus, give them a new angle, a new, take, a new taste. We’re excited about it. So, yeah, I, I, you know, every once in a while we try to bring in someone and whether it’s to work with a specific grade or leadership group or with the entire student body we’re happy to bring that in because it can make a huge difference.


Sam Demma (23:10):
Cool. Yeah. It’s helpful for people who maybe just be getting into a role or into education to hear that kind of stuff. And in relation to the messages that you’ve seen that have had the biggest impact, is it the message itself, the delivery, is it how they interact with the students? What leaves the greatest impact on the audience?


Joshua Sable (23:28):
Look, it’s it’s, you know, as, as the audience may guess who are listening today, it’s, it’s oftentimes a combination of those things, combination of the contents and the delivery. But young people are smart. They know when they’re being talked down to, they know they want to be respected in the same way that you were, I want to be respected and they want that sense of trust and that sense of community we all want to be liked. So I think if they feel like there are parts of the speaker’s worlds and that they are not being talked down to that they’re being respected as an interesting young adult with ideas and plans and hopes and dreams for the future. There’s a good shot that we’re going to, we’re going to have a connection along the way. Cool.


Sam Demma (24:13):
Awesome. And there’s an educator listening right now. Who’s been enjoying the entire conversation. We’ve almost been talking for 30 minutes now, but I want you to imagine they were your age when you just started there 22 years old listening, just start in education. And this is their first year teaching, very different from your first year, very different from so many other educators. First year of teaching. What would you tell your younger self, if this was your first year, what words of advice would you have?


Joshua Sable (24:41):
Three words, take a nap. You got to rest up, you know and I’m not joking. What I mean by that is we, we all want every lesson, every program, every game, every show, anything we do in school to be perfect, to be 100% and it won’t always work out. So yeah, you can prepare for your English class or your math class or your history class or the game you’re about to coach or the kids. You’re about to direct in a play. You can do all that, but there are going to be curve balls along the way that you’re going to have to adjust to. So you need to be in it for the long haul. You need to have patients, you need to be able to have the resilience to bounce back on a daily basis. And if, and if you can do that, if you can stick with it for the long haul, the rewards are, are unbelievable.


Joshua Sable (25:40):
And, and many of them fall in that memory making machine worlds, because you get to hold onto this unbelievable collection of memories from your career, and you get to make a difference in the life of a young person and perhaps be ingrained in their memory as a person who made a difference or a program who made that made a difference or an idea that inspired them to get into politics or teaching or mathematics or construction or whatever they want to get into. We have this amazing responsibility as educators to pass these people on to the next stage in their life. And it’s, and it’s an amazing opportunity to make a difference and to ultimately make the world a better place.


Sam Demma (26:25):
Some of them wants to reach out to you and hear a little bit more about anything that we talked to today. That could be from a different province, different country, want to bounce some ideas around what’s the best way to reach out to you and have that conversation.


Joshua Sable (26:36):
Yeah. I, you know, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that you can’t find me on Facebook. You can find me on my wife’s Facebook. I do have an Instagram account, but it’s not public it’s private. Email is the number one best way to do that right now. I probably will have a website coming out a little bit later on this year for student leadership and training and workshops and all that fun stuff, but that’s not out yet. So the best way is through email I’ll it’s a long one. So I’ll say it a bit slowly. It’s jsable@tenembaumchat.org, and hopefully no one falls asleep or takes a nap now. So it’s great. S as in Sam, a B as in Bob, L as in Larry E that’s my name jsable@tanenbaumchat.org, which is my school. She hasn’t Tom a N as in Nancy, E N as in Nancy, B as in Bob eight U M as in Mary, C as in Charles, H as in hello, a T as in tom.org.


Sam Demma (27:37):
Awesome. Josh, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. This has been phenomenal, and you’ve definitely done many interviews before, and I can’t wait to see your website.


Joshua Sable (27:46):
Thanks so much for having me, Sam and good luck with everything. You’re you’re an inspiration for many people. So thanks for, thanks for doing this.


Sam Demma (27:54):
Another action packed interview with veteran teacher and memory maker, Joshua Sable. So many actionable ideas that you can take away from this episode. If you want more, definitely reach out to Josh and please consider if you enjoyed this taking a minute out of your day to leave a rating and review some more educators. Like you can find these episodes of this podcast and benefit from the conversations we’re having right now with all these educators. And if you are someone who has ideas to share an inspiring stories about the impact of education on young people, please reach out, you know, email us, info@samdema.com. So we can get your stories and actionable ideas out on the show ASAP. 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.