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Founder

Sarah Hernholm – Educator turned Entrepreneur, Founder of WIT

Sarah Hernholm – Educator turned Entrepreneur, Founder of WIT
About Sarah Hernholm

Sarah is a former elementary school teacher turned entrepreneur.  In 2009, she left the classroom to create WIT – Whatever It Takes. At WIT she works with t(w)eens around the world who are interested in using their voice and ideas to launch businesses, non-profits, and/or social movements. WIT also focuses on helping t(w)eens develop emotional intelligence, soft skills, and an entrepreneurial mindset. 

She has given 3 TEDx talks, a few keynotes, and one commencement address. When I’ not “doing WIT” I’m planning my next adventure, working on a new business idea, or spending time with my amazing family and friends. 

Connect with Sarah: Email | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

www.doingwit.org

www.sarahhernholm.com

Camp WIT

Do WIT Podcast

From Victim to Victor | Sarah Hernholm | TEDxYouth@Austin

Authentic self expression: Sarah Hernholm at TEDxSDSU

Bravery: Commas, Not Periods | Sarah Hernholm | TEDxRBHigh

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 to the High Performing Student podcast. The number one resource for self development for young people. If you’re a student, athlete or youth entrepreneur, looking to crush your goals and reach your vision. This show is specifically for you. Each episode is engineered to provide you with the practical systems and strategies you can use to stay motivated, beat burnout, and ultimately make your dreams a full blown reality. And I’m your host, Sam Demma. Since the age of 17, I’ve spoken to thousands of youth across north America, and now I’m sharing the tools and strategies that will help you lay the foundation for future success. So grab a pen and a sheet of paper, and let’s go. Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Student podcast. Yes, you heard that right; The High Performing student. I know you’re listening to this on the High Performing Educator, or maybe you’re listening on the High Performing Student, regardless of where you’re listening.


Sam Demma (00:58):
I thought this episode applied to both audiences that I catered to. I have a second show. I have the High Performing Student podcast and the High Performing Educator. The High Performing Educator is geared towards people in education. The High Performing Student, geared towards students. Together, there is over 300 episodes. You know, if I combine both of the podcasts together over 50,000 downloads, I’m so grateful that you choose to take your time tune in and listen to this content. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. Whatever show you’re tuning in from, I’m super, super excited to share today’s interview with you. Sarah Hernholm is the founder of WIT(whatever it takes). Her story of getting out of a career and becoming an entrepreneur and doing amazing work and the obstacle she’s overcome and the people she’s met and the impact she’s making; all of it combined really inspired me.


Sam Demma (01:51):
And I was so impressed with her, her beliefs, her ideas, her philosophies, when it comes to life that I thought I should share this episode on both platforms. So I hope you enjoy it; have a pen and paper ready because you’re gonna take a lot of notes and I will see you on the other side, Sarah, welcome to the High Performing Student podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind the work you do today and why you even do it?


Sarah_Hernholm (02:25):
All right. Well, my name is Sarah, Hernholm. I am the founder of an organization called WIT(whatever it takes) and we help young people become leaders and entrepreneurs, specifically tweenagers and teenagers. We believe you’re never too young to start making a difference and that you’re never too young to be an entrepreneur. And so all of our programs and everything that we do is geared around that.


Sam Demma (02:48):
Why, where, why?


Sarah_Hernholm (02:51):
It’s why wit why doing entrepreneurship? I mean, I just feel that what kids are learning in school and I used to be a school teacher. So, and I do know that there’s great teachers. I was a great teacher and I know great teachers exist, but on average there’s not a lot of great, there’s not a of great teachers out there teaching real world skills and applications to young people. And I, I believe very strongly that if you really wanna be ready for the real world, then schools should be doing that for you and getting you ready for that. And if they’re not, then other organizations like mine need to exist until they get it together over there.


Sam Demma (03:37):
I like that. I totally agree. What, what do you think are some of the real world skills that are so important that we teach to our young people today or that you even teach at, you know, your own curriculums and schools?


Sarah_Hernholm (03:49):
Well, I think we need to be teaching financial literacy. I mean, you should be very clear on how to make a budget. You should know that how much things just cost and understand where that, that cost comes from. And then that’s very empowering when you know that information, cuz then you can know when you’re getting screwed over by something and then you got like, you’re getting a good deal. Like those kind of things. And then when you’re launching your own business, you wanna know what it’s gonna cost to actually run something. And all the things that go into that. So financial like real world application of literacy is really important. I like getting young people to grapple with, with ideas. And so that looks like, okay, you wanna solve this problem that adults have created, whether it’s climate change or homelessness or fast fashion, whatever the thing is that like you don’t like then start making changes and, and start creating an alternative and create a solution. And I love that. That’s what we do at wit is we really empower a young person to take the tools they’re learning at wit and then go do something. That’s why we say, do wit, just do wit yes, I know that is a little bit close to Nikes, just do it, but it’s just do WIT and that’s really our call to action to our young people.


Sam Demma (05:06):
And at what point in your own journey did you decide I wanna leave the formal classroom and start this organization and what prompted the decision to do so because even for a young person, making a decision to change paths is a huge one. Sometimes it comes with a bunch of difficult obstacles and the expectations of others like parents, family, and friends. And I’m curious to know what prompted your career change and what it looked like.


Sarah_Hernholm (05:36):
Well, there’s nothing like getting laid off everybody to make you start wondering what you’re doing with your life. And I was a teacher in California and in California, there’s something called last and first out. So the last teacher hired as the first one fired not based on merit, not based on the impact that you have on your, on your students, but solely based on your higher date. It’s ridiculous. It’s absurd. It’s I don’t know of any other business that would ever do that. So I was laid off four years in a row due to due to budget cuts. And so the fourth year I was like, what the hell is going on? I mean, it, it was like being in a dysfunctional relationship where, you know, you’re doing like everything you possibly can. I mean, I was a great teacher. My kids were scoring off the charts, but besides that, cause I don’t really care about testing, but I knew how to play the game.


Sarah_Hernholm (06:28):
I had really, we were doing really cool things. We were even getting pressed about what we were doing in the classroom and still I was laid off or I was told to stop doing those things. And you’re like, I’m doing everything I can. And I love this and I’m doing passion and heart and it’s still not enough. This is so dysfunctional. Like this is so dysfunctional. So the fourth year is when I kind of, I had a moment of ma I’m well, first of all, it’s really good to like know yourself. So I was like, I’m not changing. The I’m not changing. I know that I’m not gonna dumb down what, I’m, how I do my teaching. I’m not gonna change to make. I was once told to stop doing things that I was making other teachers look bad. And then now parents were complaining and they wanted me to change what I was doing.


Sarah_Hernholm (07:12):
And I was like, I’m not changing it. And so I knew I was not gonna change. And that’s actually a really good thing need to realize about yourself is like, just to know yourself and to know that where your boundaries are, what your limits are, what your and I was, I’m not changing. And so if I’m not gonna change, am I willing to go play their game? And I wasn’t willing to play the game anymore. And so then I thought, well, if you’re not gonna do that, you gotta figure what you’re gonna do. And so that’s, I started figuring out what I was gonna do.


Sam Demma (07:41):
There’s so much to unpack there. Like where does your confidence come from to not change? And the reason I ask is because I feel like society pushes young people, especially to change, to mold, to certain societal standards. You might have been a little older than a high school kid when you made this decision, obviously, but where does your confidence, where does your confidence come from to, to stand in your own power and decisions?


Sarah_Hernholm (08:06):
Well, I wanna be clear that I’m not always like that. Yeah. I mean, I’m gonna be doing something right now. I got a really big opportunity yesterday and my stomach is still uneasy about it because I’m like, oh my gosh, am I gonna be good enough? Am I worthy enough? He’s probably expecting like this and what if I can’t deliver? And so it’s normal to you. Don’t just feel confident all the time. I mean it’s, but I was very, very, very confident in my teaching abilities. I’m very confident in that. Like I just, that’s something that at, can I take you back on it and do better and will I learn new practices and do better? Sure. But no one can even like, come at me with me, not caring about kids or like wanting to help kids or doing everything I possible for a kid.


Sarah_Hernholm (08:55):
Like, it’s just, that’s this one area of my life where you just like you can’t, I, I wouldn’t even believe it. Like there’s other areas of my life where I feel insecure and I feel not enough. And I try to take the, the confidence that I have in this other area and how I’ve gotten that and try to bring that over there. But I just don’t want your listeners to think that I’ve all that that goes into every area of my life. I definitely have areas where I need to work more on or I get to work more on my confidence, but I, it was UN I was unshakable. I knew I was great as a teacher.


Sam Demma (09:27):
Mm. And then, you know, you mentioned as well, this idea that school’s a little bit dysfunctional in the fact that we think our self worth comes from our GPA. And you mentioned very briefly just now, you know, I don’t care about that. And I noticed on your Twitter, you even retweeted something from someone named Neil Sharma, who was basically saying like, oh,


Sarah_Hernholm (09:46):
He was in my,


Sam Demma (09:49):
OK. Oh, sorry, Nick. Yeah. and he was basically saying shout out to all the kids who felt worthless, that didn’t do great in school, but your greatness isn’t tied to your grades. And I wanted to unpack that because I wholeheartedly believe it as well. You know, you judge someone by their ability to do good in math when they’re they wanna be the next Picasso. Like, it just, it doesn’t make any sense. You’re judging them based off something they don’t like doing. And then you’re gonna tell them they’re a failure because of it. So I wanted to know your perspective on GPA and also how it relates to students identities and, and self-worth,


Sarah_Hernholm (10:22):
Well, first I’ll share that I was not an academically inclined kid. I, I was not somebody who, what like thrives in, in a hypercompetitive academic info. And I was sometimes put into those, I, I was very fortunate to have parents who were wanting to give me the best education possible. And so we went to some of the best schools and one of the schools, I went to three different high schools, and one of the high schools was a college prep school and very, very intense, very academic and very competitive academically. And I think it was twofold. One, I just didn’t, I just didn’t buy it. I guess I was a little bit like, all right. I mean, I don’t know if it was a self-preservation or defense mechanism, but it was a little bit like you kind of suck as a teacher if I don’t understand this concept, because why are you like making me feel about, I remember one teacher would make me go to the board and do the math problems in front of everybody.


Sarah_Hernholm (11:24):
And I obviously was struggling. And instead of getting support, it was like, I guess we’ll wait, or I guess we’ll have to wait before we can move on until Sarah and I. And then when I became a teacher, I was like, who the hell does that to a kid? Yeah. Like I, cause I thought, I think you think when you’re a kid that wants you, you become an adult. Certain behaviors will make sense. While I became an adult, I became a teacher and I could never have imagined doing that because shaming, your kid is only gonna make them like perform worse and also have zero trust. And if you’re like me, it becomes a little fight or flight. So I mean, I would send I one time like walked out of a classroom, I just like put the thing down and like walked out. I probably got in trouble, but it was more like, you’re not gonna get me.


Sarah_Hernholm (12:08):
Like, you’re not gonna let, you’re not gonna have this moment of me maybe crying in front of everybody or whatever. Like I, I, but that is silly that I had to learn how to survive. Right? Yeah. Like that, like that that’s ridiculous. So I, I didn’t wanna stay at that school. My sister was there and my brother was on his way there and they were more, they were, maybe it was a better fit for them. It just wasn’t a fit for me. I went to a public school for about, I went for happy year and then I ended up going to a boarding school where a lot of people that I knew that I, I would go to summer camp. And a lot of people from summer camp would go to this boarding school. And I ended up there and probably, I would say my best high, high school teacher, one of my best high school teachers was from there, my English teacher.


Sarah_Hernholm (12:50):
And she kind of went me into shape. I mean, I, I kinda came in a little bit like a punk. I mean, I, but definitely self-preservation a lot of like defense mechanisms up get given what I’ve gone through. And she pulled me out of the room one day and said to me, you’re better than this. And you’re better than that. And I was like, I am okay. And that was really powerful. So my high school journey was that three, three different high schools became better. Academically. My later in high school got motivated. I could get the grades if I was motivated by something, but it was very hard to motivate me. And, but if it was like a carrot, like, oh, you can’t audition for something or you have to have a certain GPA to participate in something that was creative or theatrical.


Sarah_Hernholm (13:42):
I was like, okay, all right, I guess I’ll start working now. But otherwise I wasn’t really motivated. Hmm. I understand why so many people are, are motivated by grades and adults owe young people a huge apology for creating this beast, which is that we have told you that if you get a high GPA, then you will get into the school of your dreams and you will be happy and that’s not true. There is no death or, or job or title that makes you happy. It can provide happiness at times, but it’s fleeting. It’s not consistent because life happens in all the places that you end up going to, whether it’s a getting a job or a school or a partnership or a boyfriend or girlfriend, they don’t make you happy. You can experience happiness. There, so they’re is a big lie that we’ve told people. And as a result of that, we’re burning out young people and we’re also getting them pretty dependent on some hard prescription drugs. Yeah. So I it’s really unfortunate, but you know if you really wanna look at things and wonder why things happen, you just have to follow the money. And a lot of money is made on young people believing the lie that their GPA determines their worth.


Sam Demma (15:07):
How do we break that cycle? Or how do we helps students realize that it’s, it’s not, it’s, that’s not where their self worth is attached from. Yeah.


Sarah_Hernholm (15:19):
I don’t, I’m surprised that it keeps perpetuating itself. I don’t have kids yet. And, but I would never pass that on. So I’m kind of confused by all of these adults who have, even who even have, who even got the GPA, got into the school, realized that didn’t bring them happiness, realized that they had to do their own work and like maybe even change career paths, why they would pass that on to the live onto their children. I think maybe they just want, I, I think I know every parent loves their kid. My experience has been as a teacher and working with young people for over a decade is that parents are doing the best they can, what they’ve got.


Sam Demma (16:00):
Yeah.


Sarah_Hernholm (16:01):
And I’ve never met no one. That’s not true. Most parents I’ve met wanna do better by their kids and give them more than they had. And they might just go about it in walk ways. But I think parents have to just stop drinking the Kool-Aid and being like, no, I’m not, I’m not doing that. I I’m not. And, and maybe this next generation, when they have kids, maybe they will stop the, the cycle. Who knows. I don’t, I just do. I just stay in my lane, do what I can with the work that we do, cuz otherwise it becomes overwhelming.


Sam Demma (16:40):
Yeah. I’m hoping that the next generation crushes that meaning like when I become a parent, when you become a parent, because I know firsthand that it’s almost like education was everything that my parents and grandparents knew because you know, they come to this country with nothing and get an education. What gets you, which gets you a stable paying job. And that gets you a, you know, a very average life. And so in their eyes, education is protection and safety and they wanna like, you know guard you as your, as their, as their child or grandchild. Right. But I think we’re starting to realize that there’s so many other paths to a stable life that don’t just involve your grades and whether or not you get a 92 or a 72, you can still create a stable life and a great life after high school or post-secondary.


Sam Demma (17:27):
I think I’m curious to know, you know, I remember when I decided to take a break for my university studies, I dropped outta school after two months, you know, my parents looked me in the eyes and like, what are you gonna do with your life? I told them my dreams. And I said something along the lines of, and I didn’t say these exact words, but in my passion and in my description, I basically was saying, I’m gonna do whatever it takes. And I’m curious to know in your perspective, what is doing whatever it takes mean to you. And can you give us like a story or an example of a situation in your life where you’ve been told? No, because from your Ted talk, I know as an entrepreneur, you’ve been rejected hundreds of times. Yeah. So gimme some stories. What does it mean to be, what does it mean to do whatever it takes to you and gimme some stories or examples of how you’ve done it in your own life?


Sarah_Hernholm (18:14):
Okay. I’ll tell everybody that. So the name of the company that I started is called wit whatever it takes when I started it was called wit kids because I was gearing it towards elementary age. Got it. And the name came because when I was in teacher, my classroom motto was whatever it takes. The reason it be the classroom motto became, whatever it takes is because one day, and this is my first teaching job. I was teaching fourth grade in a trailer because the CLA the school was under construction. We didn’t, I didn’t have a classroom. And I was in a trailer and I was in heaven. I was so excited to start teaching and get my classroom. I mean, I was, I, I was loving teaching. I don’t know how in, how long into the first year this conversation happened, but it was probably pretty early on.


Sarah_Hernholm (19:04):
And a kid came in and they hadn’t done their homework. And I said, and I, when I always did my homework, I may not have liked school, but I always did well. I mean, I I’m gonna always, but I mean, homework was it wasn’t optional, especially elementary school. Are you kidding? I mean, my parents were still guiding me then. And so it was quiet time after school. Did you get your homework, play your sports? And I was really surprised. I remember being really at how casually. He said he didn’t do his homework. And I remember being like, why are you not concerned? Cause I’m concerned and you’re not.


Sarah_Hernholm (19:40):
And I was like okay, well you need to do your homework. Like, it’s part of your grade HES. Like, oh, okay, well I didn’t do it. And I said, well, why didn’t you do it? And without even like blinking, flinching, anything, he said, I was watching the Simpsons. And then I was even more like, are you kidding? Like you don’t even, like now you are even like, I mean, props tea for being so honest, but also like do not see a problem with this, that you were watching like a cartoon. And I said, you know, really the tip to everybody when you really wanna go like one way in a reaction, maybe it’s like more of an extreme reaction or anger or frustration lean into curiosity because that will keep you more present. So keep asking questions versus having like overreaction. And so I said did your parents like know that you’re watching?


Sarah_Hernholm (20:31):
And he said, oh yeah, we all watched it together. And so then I thought, interesting. So you have, in that moment, it was like, oh, well, the reason he didn’t think he’s doing anything wrong is because he’s doing it with his parents. Mm. And then I asked, did your parents know you had homework? Yes. Did you tell them it was done? No. And I’m thinking like just processing in real time. And I thought, oh, and I knew what demographic of kids I was teaching. I was clear on the school and the demographic and the situations of a lot of the kids. And I thought, oh, they’re gonna, this is gonna be different. Like, they’re not gonna, they don’t all have the same kind of support that I had growing up, which was sit down, do your homework, show me, it’s done. Put your folder in the backpack.


Sarah_Hernholm (21:16):
Right. Which is pretty, that’s a lot of like parenting, like a lot of like monitoring you. Yeah. And so that night I stayed late at, in the classroom and I wrote on butcher paid, I painted on butcher paper, whatever it takes, put it on the, the wall of the right above the chalkboard whiteboard in the front of the classroom, in front of the trailer. And then when they came in the next day, I said, this is our classroom motto. And we do whatever it takes. If it means you have to take your body and like put it in the other room, your homework, that’s what you do. And we do that because we love ourselves and we want, we, we have big dreams. And so I really tried to make it feel like, of course you wanna do whatever it takes because we do whatever it takes because we love ourselves so much.


Sarah_Hernholm (22:01):
And we have a, we, we believe in ourselves and we, we have goals and dreams. I didn’t wanna shame anybody. I didn’t wanna make it sound like we have to do whatever it takes, because you know, sometimes you get crappy family situations. It’s like, no, like nobody wants to, like, that’s not empowering. And that I still have that butcher paper and that, that sign and that when I went to different schools, like that was the motto. And so then when I left teaching and started my new thing, I thought I wanted to combine that. So that became wit kids then to wit then to do wit doing wit and I, I, it’s not whatever it takes to burn yourself out. It’s not about doing whatever it takes. And like I’ve hustled so hard. And so I, I only sleep one hour a day, no, whatever it takes about creating the life that you really desire and you need sleep for that life. And so do whatever it takes to get eight hours of sleep, do whatever it takes to move your body every day. It’s not a beat down, cut a corner, whatever it takes, it’s an empowering, whatever it takes.


Sam Demma (23:09):
I love that, that such a empowering story. And sometimes doing whatever it takes is sending a tweet to Gary Vee and then responding four years later and hopping on a podcast with him. Right. So that


Sarah_Hernholm (23:23):
So that was so random.


Sam Demma (23:25):
Well, you know, I think, and Gary Vee highlighted it in that conversation with you, he said, you know, it’s so important. You go into interactions, figuring out how you can give as opposed to ask. And I think that that’s such an important thing to keep in mind when we are chasing our own dreams and goals. And I’m curious to know your perspective on that and has it played a big role in your own entrepreneurial journey?


Sarah_Hernholm (23:47):
Huge. And I think it really played into why I got this big offer that I got yesterday. Opportunity yesterday is.


Sam Demma (23:54):
One second. You’ve mentioned it twice now, is it like private? Or can we like so light on yeah, it’s, I’ll tell you.


Sarah_Hernholm (23:59):
Offline, but it just happened. And so, but it’s just really timely because it’s around feeling a little bit inadequate and scared and, and that’s all really good stuff. It means you care. Yeah. And it’s on my mind and I’m gonna be working on this presentation after we have this call and this hangout. And I also feel like a, that the opportunity came due to me. It, I, of being focused more on like gratitude and, and giving. And what I mean by that is I’m really, really big on gratitude and what that looks like. It looks like I’ll just walk you through a situation. If someone’s gonna come be a guest at wit and speak to our teens. So we have something called wit Hangouts and we have them every week. And we bring in different CEOs, celebrities, entrepreneurs, we leaders, and they come in, they spend an hour with our teens for free and they share their stories.


Sarah_Hernholm (24:50):
And it’s an interview similar, like what we’re doing right now, but the kids can jump in and ask questions. And we do this because one, I believe that you should surround yourself with those who have gone before you and learn from them. And I also do this because that I expression your network is your net worth. I mean, and I think how cool is it to be 15 or 16 years old and already be connecting with John shoe? Who is this great director? And one day you wanna be a director. And now you’ve had a hangout with John talking about crazy rich Asians and in the Heights. And so I just really believe in that. And so we, I make the ask for someone to come and I share what, you know, I share the opportunity. And a lot of these, these people are like people that have met along the way in my life, but I thank them before they come.


Sarah_Hernholm (25:38):
I send a message saying, thank you in advance for making the time tomorrow to come to this hangout. We’re so, you know, just expressing the gratitude. And then during the hangout, a very essential part of the hangout is the last part of the hangout, where the teens write in the chat on zoom, their takeaways in their gratitude, because I’m wanting them to learn the value of takeaways and gratitude. And not only that, when I, I will call on a teen and say, oh, Emma, do you wanna read your, she didn’t take away. Emma reads it. And then she sees Dave’s face re like receiving that gratitude and being like, oh my gosh, like that really made him. And then the person says the speaker’s like, oh my gosh, like, I’m so glad that, that you, like, it resonated with you and I could help. And there’s this exchange of like, oh my gosh, just being, you can visually see the power of gratitudes. Then after the hangout, we’ve screenshot all the gratitude that the kids wrote. And then we send an email to our speaker and say, thank you. We thank them again. And then we say, and here are the GRA the gratitude and takeaways from our students that you can have time actually reading them and digesting them. And like, knowing that you really made an impact today.


Sam Demma (26:45):
Hmm.


Sarah_Hernholm (26:46):
Let me tell you, no one has done that for me. And I speak all over the place.


Sam Demma (26:51):
Yeah.


Sarah_Hernholm (26:51):
Now, are they wrong for not doing it? No. But when you do something like that, you stand out. And so this, this, we had a guest yes. Yesterday, and this person came and spoke and, and it was great. And I was like, oh my gosh, I really want this person to help me on my journey. They’ve gone. They they’ve gone before me. They are so like far along and I would love to work with them. And so I had a lot of asks I wanted to make, but I thought, no, the move right now is just, is gratitude. And, and, and sending the thank you email with all of the screenshots. And then they wrote me back and said, we wanna do something together with you. I


Sam Demma (27:38):
See.


Sarah_Hernholm (27:38):
And like, whoa. And I just, and receiving of that. And like, I’m really grateful. But I’m also, the other thing that I did was I got off that hangout and I wrote a thank you note to that. Person’s assistant an email because that person booked it and made it happen. And I also wrote a thank you email to the person who had introed me to the assistant, because both of those people were essential for me to get this star on. And I also think that people forget who helps them get there. And I will, I will. I know what it’s like to be the assistant. I used to work in Hollywood. I was an assistant to celebrities. I mean, you like, people don’t always treat you well, but you’re also the gatekeeper to these people. So it’s always so interesting. It’s like, so you just don’t wanna forget who got you, where you’re going or act like you got there all by yourself. And so, so gratitude appreciation. Those things are just really key for me. Give more than get it’s a tough thing though. It’s a tough thing to teach, especially to a demographic of young people who are fighting for limited spaces at colleges. And so they kind of feel like they don’t wanna share the spotlight. Yep. But I always remind them that there’s enough to go around.


Sam Demma (29:05):
So true.


Sarah_Hernholm (29:06):
There’s just enough to go around.


Sam Demma (29:08):
And I think, you know, you highlighted also within that response, the underrated value of just being a kind human being, like you’re not being a kind human being calculating like, oh, I can get this. If I say, thank you. Or please, it’s like, no, it’s just the right thing to do. It’s the kind thing to do. But natural by being a kind person like the world opens up for you, you know, in ways that you didn’t imagine, you didn’t do it to get things right. You do it to get things. But you did it cuz it was the kind thing to do. Like I, I, you know, I, there was a golf course near my house that me and my buddies just started playing at and I made an effort just because I thought it would make it funer to talk to the person behind the window who I was paying.


Sam Demma (29:52):
And I found out his name was ed and he he’d worked there and it’s his course for 25 years. And he was so happy to tell me all about his course. We finished the nine holes. I over, I thanked him, told him how much fun we had and he looks at me and he’s like, Sam, is this your first time playing here? I’m like, yeah, like this was an amazing experience. He’s like, go play it again for free. I told my buddies, they were like, bro, let’s go nine more holes. They’re super excited. Now I didn’t, you know, talk to ed and get to know ed, you know, so that I could ask him to play nine more holes, a golf, but it just, it just, it just happened. And I feel like that’s, you’re right. It’s such a hard thing to teach. And something, sometimes nothing ever comes from it, but it’s, it’s just a, I think it’s just the right way to go about living our lives. I agree. Yeah. So kindness is underrated. Don’t forget the at. Yeah.


Sarah_Hernholm (30:44):
And Gary, V’s really big on that. So a lot of that is you, if you follow, I mean, find people that you wanna follow that you wanna have on your, when you’re scrolling, but Gary is very big on gratitude and kindness and patience and all of that. So it’s good to have that always as a reminder.


Sam Demma (31:01):
Yeah, I agree. And if PE wanted, like to know more about your group I know Emma’s a founder of the sweet spot. I think that’s who you’re referencing have been some research. Yeah. If people wanted to find out more about your group, learn how they could get involved. Is that something that’s still open and, and accessible? Like tell me more about it.


Sarah_Hernholm (31:19):
So people can get involved in a variety of ways. If you’re, if you are, are a high school student, you can take college credit classes that you can then transfer to the university that you end up getting into. Cool. You can also do classes, not for credit. You can be part of WIT community, which is the members only online community of young entrepreneurs who get to go to those Hangouts and meet those people. Those, the applications are ongoing. We have fun things that we do like camp wit happens during the summer. And that’s competitive cuz I like a good competition. It’s healthy, nice and compete for some money for your business. I’ve never met an entrepreneur who doesn’t want money. So it’s really hard for young people to get access to money for their businesses. And so we try to find creative ways to get them in the arena so they can pitch and win some prize money. And if you’re an adult and you happen to be listening to this, or then we have speaking opportunities, mentorship opportunities, and we even are now letting people pitch us, adults pitch us the class. And course that they wanna teach are wit teens. And then if we like that class and course we will hire them to come in and teach that class.


Sam Demma (32:33):
Awesome. Very cool. And if someone wants to connect with you online or reach out to you directly, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Sarah_Hernholm (32:41):
Well, most of my handles I think are @miss_WIT. That’s, I mean, you can DM me. I mean, I’m on Instagram. I don’t have a ton of followers, so it’s not like, I’m like, oh, I won’t see your message, I’m getting hit up all the time. So yeah, you can find me there and then that’s probably the best way.


Sam Demma (33:03):
Cool. Awesome. Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to chat about WIT and your own journey, time’s flew by. I really appreciate you doing this and maybe we could do a part 2 in like, you know, six months or a year from now. Totally. Yeah. I hope you, the listener enjoyed this, and got something from it as much as I did and let’s stay in touch and keep doing great work.


Sarah_Hernholm (33:25):
Thank you for having me.


Sam Demma (33:26):
You’re welcome. And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sarah Hernholm

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.

Dov Shapiro – CEO of ConnectU Program Inc.

Dov Shapiro – CEO of ConnectU Program Inc.
About Dov Shapiro

Dov is an Experiential Educator and Business owner with over 30 years of experience working with students. His commitment to improving their well-being, regardless of the challenges they may be facing, is a life-long journey.

Today, more than ever, students are facing stress, anxiety and depression. There are solutions to reversing this trend. As Founder and CEO of ConnectU Program Inc. Dov is responsible for leading the vision to ensure the CU Program positively impacts as many students as possible. His business mindset has allowed him to scale the program in order to benefit all users: from administrators to teachers, to parents alike.

He has over 3 decades of North American education and outdoor recreation industry experience.  His previous roles as Director of Westcoast Connection Travel Camp (NY), Owner/Director of Camp Chateaugay (NY) and Mad Science Director and Science Teacher (FL) have brought a wealth of knowledge to the team about the academic industry. Dov has had the opportunity to empower over 15,000 students, in 4 countries and 3 continents over the last 3 decades.

Connect with Dov: Email | Linkedin | Website

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

ConnectU Program

ConnectU Program Youtube Channel

Westcoast Connection Travel Camp

Camp Chateaugay

Mad Science Group

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Dov Shapiro. Dov and I were connected about five or six months ago, and we postponed the podcast because he was working on this program called ConnectU, and it’s a very cool technology that they’ve been building that supports students. I won’t get into it because he talks about it a lot during today’s episode, but here’s a little bit about Dov.


Sam Demma (01:06):
He’s an experiential educator; experiential educator and business owner with over 30 years experience working with students. He has three decades of experience in the outdoor recreation industry. He has been directors of camps, owned his own camp, been the mad science director, and a science teacher in Florida. He has worked with over 15,000 students in four countries and three continents over the last three years. His business mindset also has allowed him to scale his program; ConnectU program in order to benefit all users from administrators to teachers and parents alike. Dov is a trail blazer in the education industry, and I hope you learn something from today’s interview and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed interviewing him. I’ll see you on the other side, talk soon. Dov, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. A huge pleasure to have you on the show. I mean we talked months ago and here we are talking again, and between those two points in time, you know, some exciting things have happened in your life, which we’ll dive into in a minute, but why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind the reason why you’re so passionate about the work you do with young people today.


Dov Shapiro (02:16):
Thanks for having me on the show Sam. My name is Dov Shapiro, and I’ve been working with children for over 30 years between mad science, west coast connection, former owner of Camp Chateauguay in New York state. So my passion has always been working with kids and making an impact inspiring youth. And so about a year and a half ago, we noticed that there’s been a massive dip in the mental health and wellbeing of our adolescents and teens and youth; not just in north America, but across the globe. And then as a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen an incredible spike in the rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation. So even prior to COVID, we decided that we wanted to impact mental health and wellbeing of students. And that’s why we decided to do some research and develop our new software program called ConnectU or the ConnectU program.


Sam Demma (03:24):
That’s amazing. And I mean, you got me curious now and I’m sure the listeners are too, what is this software? What prompted you, you know, to, to create a software as opposed to a different tool and, and you know, how can you know, how, how can we learn more about it?


Dov Shapiro (03:41):
So the connect U program is specifically designed to improve student wellbeing, excuse me. And we use a platform, a web app, if you will, to first do an assessment of the student. So we create a profile of each student whereby teachers and principals can learn about each student at a really deep level, because right now it’s really hard to know your students. And even before COVID, it was challenging at times, but now with distance learning hybrid, learning, whatever learning you’re doing, it’s really hard to understand the characteristics and traits of all of your students. So by doing this assessment in real time, you get results, learn about students and their core, you know, kind of personality and where there might be students that could benefit from more teacher based support. Then what we do is we have an intervention model or a means of helping to improve those construct scores.


Dov Shapiro (04:41):
Those assessment scores called smart goals creation. So that’s the name of it is called CU you smart or connect you smart and smart is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. And it’s a widely used acronym in pedagogy throughout the globe to help help students learn how to create and achieve their goals. So we developed a web app that helps students go through a curriculum, teaching them about how to create goals using the smart method. And we have a six week curriculum that is teacher led and supported with 2d animated videos. So we run this program in schools from majors 12 to 18, and we start actually in the sixth grade level. So some 11 year olds are using this as well.


Sam Demma (05:34):
That’s amazing. Why, like what prompted you to create this? Like there’s, you know, anyone could have made this software, you know, why you, what, what, what inspired you to to do this?


Dov Shapiro (05:48):
So I know that in my life it’s always been a challenge to attain the goals that I wanted to achieve. But when I started using smart and started following a formula and being really diligent about it, I started to see some results. I started to change my programming and started to develop healthier habits. And so I did a lot of research, looked into the, you know, the educational systems that are mandating standards. They call in education to teach goals. And there’s very limited standards requiring smart goal methodology to be taught to students. And it’s through research, we’ve studied several old different papers and, and researchers who have shown that by using smart and more importantly, by using goals or teaching students, how to create goals, they’re more likely to achieve better GPA. They’re more likely to stay in school. It as well even has shown to reduce signs of bolding and incidents.


Dov Shapiro (07:05):
So we decided we were gonna hire an educational psychologist, a child psychologist, public teachers, principals, and bring them on the board to put this together in a manner that really made sense. And the reason why we did this is because again, through all the research papers that we’ve been studying, we can see that students are improving their wellbeing by simply creating and achieving their goals. When students create and achieve, they build resilience. Now the whole concept of goal setting falls right in line with what we call social, emotional learning. So social, emotional learning is the process where young people and adults develop healthy identities. They learn how to manage their emotions. They achieve personal and collaborative goals and they learn how to feel and show empathy for others. So it’s really an important element for students to establish and maintain supportive relationships in, you know, in these kinds of processes. So long story short, you know, students who go through this program are hypothesis, is that they’re going to improve their assessment scores and to improve their GPA.


Sam Demma (08:23):
Hmm. Love that. And you mentioned the focus on giving also educators, a way to learn more about each student. And I think that’s an amazing tool because right now, like you mentioned, it’s very hard for you to build personal relationships, especially right now when every kid is stuck at home and who knows how long the learning thing is gonna continue, but why do you, why do you think it’s, it’s important that every educator and principal in a school knows a lot about each individual student.


Dov Shapiro (08:53):
So as a former educator, myself science teacher, director of mad science, I know how important it is to understand your students character and really what makes them ticked. That’s how we connect with our kids. That’s how we connect with students as an owner and director of a summer camp in New York for 15 years. If I knew my, my campers really well, I could connect with them. Mm. And so learning about them, getting to know their family, getting to know their names, getting to know what their passions are, and even where they have room for improvement was a way for me to connect with my campers and a way for me to connect with my students. And now teachers, I believe find it harder than ever to make that kind of connection, to understand their students at that level. They don’t see the kids walking in the classes with a tennis racket or a book or a football or a basketball. It’s not the same experience. So getting to know your kids, getting to know your students is a real challenge. And now more than ever, we really need to, we need to know where our students can benefit from more intentional learning environments. When we understand our kids and what they need, we can really support them.


Sam Demma (10:12):
And you know, you’ve been an educator you’ve been around student in forever. I’m curious to know what got you into education. You know, your interest in science, it sounds like could have taken you down many different avenues, why teaching?


Dov Shapiro (10:27):
So my father always taught me that if you’re really passionate about something, you should teach it. Mm. So I love to ski. I became a ski instructor. I love to work with kids. So I wanted to teach children. I wanted to inspire children. And I love kids because kids really are the essence of what is possible. I mean, they inspire me because of the fact that they’re so enlightened and infused by the smallest things, they get excited about, you know, fun activities and, and in summer camp, they get, you know, inspired by any kind of music and song and dance and the spirit of what a camp is like. I mean, that environment is absolutely incredible. So when I think about the fact that in 2020 kids, mostly didn’t go to camp. That was a huge blow for kids. So my experience working with kids, whether as an educator or sorry, or working in summer camps has always been about inspiring youth because they are, I hate to say it, they are our future. And I know that saying is often used. Yeah. But that’s what drives me because I know that kids have so much opportunity. And so if we can empower them and if we can create an environment that feels very safe for them, or they can grow and develop, who knows what they can do.


Sam Demma (12:07):
Mm. I totally agree. I, I think it’s, it makes sense to me, you know why you’re so passionate about it. Was there any teachers or educators who along your own journey, you know, poured back into you and inspired you to get into teaching? It sounds like your, your dad played a huge role, but did you have any educational mentors as well?


Dov Shapiro (12:28):
I had a few actually. I had one principal and two teachers who really impacted my life, especially when I went to a military academy. Mm. In just outside of Toronto. That was an incredible experience for me. And definitely had a very positive impact. I’m still in touch with some of those faculty members to date, in fact, doing some work with them for another initiative that I’ve developed for student mental wellbeing. Nice. And so, yeah, teachers have always been a big part of, of, of my life in terms of, you know, inspiration, support, even me the idea that anything is possible, but really what it boils down to. I would have to say my late father, he was definitely my hero. And he definitely was the one who inspired me to, to continue this work.


Sam Demma (13:22):
Ah, I love that. Thanks for sharing. And if you don’t mind me asking, what, what did he do? Was he a teacher as well? Or


Dov Shapiro (13:28):
He was a ski instructor, but no, he actually he was a luggage luggage manufacturer And I did not wanna, did not wanna get into that industry. And he actually encouraged me not to,


Sam Demma (13:41):
So that’s awesome. But, but it sounds like his entrepreneurial spirit kind of was, was, was handed down to you in some way, shape or form.


Dov Shapiro (13:51):
It was definitely, he, he definitely was an influence and a very, very positive man, always, always looking at the bright side and always had a very, you know, open mind and a growth mindset. He was definitely an inspiration.


Sam Demma (14:10):
Cool. I love that. Very awesome. Okay. So I wanna go back to the, the software for a second school interested wants to learn more about it, wants to understand what this actually looks like. Could you gimme a breakdown of how it would look if a school wanted to use this and get in touch? Like what would the actual program itself look like?


Dov Shapiro (14:30):
Sure. So right now we’re actually at beta testing the software with several schools in the Montreal area, like ECS, sacred heart, the primary school LIC, and a few others. And we’re also beta testing with schools across the globe. So at this point, if schools are interested, we’re running a summer pilot program that begins in June. So if they’re interested, they can always go to connect U program.com and they can reach us that way through requesting a demo, or they can call our toll three number, which is 807 0 6, 8 8, 7, 6.


Sam Demma (15:10):
Perfect. That’s amazing. And if a school did want to get involved, like and wanted to pilot it, like how much of a time commitment would they be looking at for something like that?


Dov Shapiro (15:19):
That’s a great question. It’s about eight weeks total, which includes the six week curriculum to get everything on board and get all the consent forms arranged with parents because every parent and child who’s 14 or older plus faculty have to sign electronic consent forms through our app.


Sam Demma (15:41):
Perfect. Awesome.


Dov Shapiro (15:42):
But we need about, we need about two months.


Sam Demma (15:44):
No, that sounds great. And if, if a teacher’s listening right now and wants to just get in touch with you personally, what would be the best way for them to, to reach out, would it be email or, or what could you share for an educator listening?


Dov Shapiro (15:55):
Yeah. best way is just info@connectuprogram.com. Awesome. And we’re happy to share information. There’s also a fall pilot project, which launches in September. So for anyone who’s interested in is not running a summer school this year. Of course we have those programs available, we have a few spots open for those as well.


Sam Demma (16:17):
Amazing. And one last question for you, I see over your left shoulder rack of dumbbells, and I’m curious to know if personal fitness plays a huge role in your own life.


Dov Shapiro (16:28):
Absolutely, very physically active. I’m a rock climber, skier, water skier, and physical fitness. More importantly, strength training is what I’m doing these days, just so I can do the sports that I love aAnd it’s always been a big part of my life.


Sam Demma (16:44):
Cool. Love that. Dov, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it and keep up with the awesome work. I can’t wait to see the impact you make in these schools.


Dov Shapiro (16:52):
Yeah, thanks. I really appreciate having me on board and I hope you have a very safe and healthy rest of your week and the rest of your year. Good luck to you guys.


Sam Demma (17:02):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Dov Shapiro

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.

Eleanor McIntosh – Founding member of the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE) and the Principal of Ajax High School

Eleanor McIntosh - Founding member of the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE) and the Principal of Ajax High School
About Eleanor McIntosh

Eleanor (@Eleanor27332035) is a secondary Principal within the Durham District School Board. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration and undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry and Kinesiology. She is an advocate for youth and the community.

Eleanor is one of the founding members of the Durham Black Educators’ Network (DBEN) since its inception in 2005. She has held executive positions of Treasurer, Vice-Chair and two terms as Chair. Eleanor is a founding member of the Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE), where she lends her skills and experience to inform policy and programming for educators across the province.

Eleanor has been a panellist and presenter at 30 different speaking engagements and conferences since 2012. She has appeared on CTV, Rogers TV, and a variety of Metroland Media local newspapers. An avid global traveller, Eleanor has visited over 25 different countries around the world and is happy to call the Durham region home.

Connect with Eleanor: Email | Twitter | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Durham Black Educators’ Network (DBEN)

Ontario Alliance of Black School Educators (ONABSE)

Durham educators call for more inclusivity in wake of George Floyd’s death (Global News)

Ajax High School – Durham District School Board

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


Eleanor McIntosh (00:08):
Yeah, for sure. So good day, everyone. Eleanor McIntosh here, my pronouns are she her and hers. I am excited motivated, inspired to be here today for this podcast. I’m a principal in the Durham district school board at Ajax high school where I’ve been for the last five, almost five years doing, doing the good work, getting into some good trouble.


Sam Demma (00:37):
Why education? What drew you to teaching and education as a whole?


Eleanor McIntosh (00:42):
So interesting story. My pathway to education was not direct by any means. I, I always tell people that I kind of fell into it because I never really saw myself as an educator education found me. So after my post my undergraduate post-secondary adventures, which are more, mostly geared in the sciences, actually, that’s my undergraduate degree. I decided to put a pause in my life to try and sort things out, I guess you could say. And I traveled, I took I took a job teaching English, a overseas through the a program called the jet program, the Japan exchange and teaching program. So I applied got shortlisted and then got accepted to the program. And off, I went on my adventure to Asia. So I spent two years in Japan where I had never been that far away before, but, you know went along with many other educators from Canada and around the world and found myself in a small little town kind of like Pickering or Ajax in the Durham region.


Eleanor McIntosh (01:59):
And I taught English in a large academic high school cuz they do, they, they stream there in Japan. And in that experience I found my calling. I loved teaching. I loved connecting with kids. I loved being in a classroom and English is not my background, but I had to figure it out. And it wasn’t about the English, right? The English was just a part of it. It wasn’t about the English, it was about the connection and, and being in community and all, lots of other different things. And so it’s because of that experience that I applied to teachers college here in Ontario, came back and became an educator.


Sam Demma (02:42):
That is so awesome. Would you other educators who are teaching now or thinking about teaching to travel international and if so, why?


Eleanor McIntosh (02:53):
So again, a really good question because it was because of this experience that I really often encourage students and educators to travel and to use international travel or education as a gateway to learning and building, building our personal selves and verse building character because I really, we found that that experience, it, it was for me life changing. I will say that I say that all it was life changing for me. I grew as an individual. I grew as a professional at the time I didn’t really see myself at the professional, but I really grew into my professional self. And, and, and so, you know, I often talk about my international education experience as a stepping stone to to whatever you want to learning to growing. And I talk a lot about that, especially with students who are unsure, you know, take a year go and see, because you can gain so much from traveling around the world and connecting with people, which is what I found.


Sam Demma (04:06):
That’s so amazing. I found similar experiences traveling not to teach, but to play soccer. Yep. At the age of 13. So I think travel opens your mind and eyes to many things you might not hear or see, and it changes your perspectives. It gives you more tools to see the world through.


Eleanor McIntosh (04:27):
It does. It does. And it’s, it’s amazing. I think probably there was lots of aha moments in that, in that traveling. I was there for two years. Like I was overseas for two years. Didn’t come back to the Western world for two years. Because why I could come back, I’m gonna be back here eventually. Yeah. But you know, I really, I really saw the value of perspective because the world views the west their differently than the west views, the rest of the world. So that was eyeopening for me.


Sam Demma (05:09):
Tell me more about that. How does the rest of the world view the west versus us?


Eleanor McIntosh (05:15):
So we are very, as a Western society, we’re very, we’re new compared to the west of rest of the world, right. Because our, our civilization started much later than, than other countries. And I think we’re a little bit arrogant in the way that we believe the rest of the world operates or a ESP for the rest of the world to operate. And so it’s very Western centric. So, you know, it’s like the west is the center of the world and everybody else operates based on what the west does, but oh no. You know, you know, the west has its own ways of functioning and, and operating. And, and I found in particular I often got confused for being American. And so I was interrupting notions of discrimination and, and viewpoints of Americans or black Americans, even when I was traveling overseas.


Eleanor McIntosh (06:13):
But the minute I said that I was Canadian boy, the, at the viewpoint change. So the world welcomes and sees Canada as a very big partner for it around for its, for its citizens and a global participant positive global participant. Whereas it doesn’t view the Americans in the same way. Exactly. And so there was a lot of hate coming, you know, I, I heard a lot of hate for the west and we, you had to kind of separate Canada and America a little bit because really that hate was about America a lot. Right. Wow. So it was, it was really I opening yeah. Really eye opening.


Sam Demma (06:59):
Speaking of perspectives and the importance of gaining more, I’m grateful that lots of perspectives that have been very underrepresented are starting to, you know, hopefully bubble to the service and have over the past two years especially in the communities of a diversity equity. And you’ve been a champion of pushing that message forward as much as you can. What do you think are some of the challenges that have existed and to this day still exist, that you’re really passionate about speaking up and, and trying to make a change in that you think are underrepresented perspectives.


Eleanor McIntosh (07:38):
Really great question. So a couple of things come to mind I think for a long time education, public education was allowed to be ignorant yeah. To the realities of what was happening in its communities, where it was centered. You know, it was always seen as the powerhouse and there was a very clear, defined way of operating and still it’s still there. It’s absolutely still there. And so you know, George Floyd, the, the incidents and George Floyd a couple of years ago, I think served as a real catalyst for the world to wake up and for education to now participate in interrupting biased practices, discriminatory practices that have been going on forever and still continue. So it really allowed us to will no longer be silent. So those who were on the margins who were working in education, it gave them voice mm, gave them a space it gave and not them cuz I’m included in that.


Eleanor McIntosh (08:52):
It allowed us to advocate for the change that we knew we wanted to see for so long, but really we were silenced for for years. And I will say that specifically about my work in education. I never really saw a, an avenue where I could participate in challenge notions of, of racism, discrimination, oppression in the system. I felt that I really had to maintain the status quo because if I chose to speak up, then there, I would be for lack of a better word blacklisted, I would be I would limit my career possibilities, right. There would be, there would be impact to me personal impact and professional impact to me. But as the doors have widened more and more examples come to the forefront that have allowed the conversations of equity and diversity and more specifically anti-oppression to find its way into learning spaces.


Eleanor McIntosh (10:09):
And that was nothing that we ever wanted to participate in before you might have seen pockets, but they were quiet pockets. Yeah. They were people that would close their doors and do their thing quietly. But now people have opened their doors and let that freedom out into the entire school community. And that is bringing students joy because we’re not, we’re no longer harming, we’re not harming kids anymore. That harm. You’re giving students voice. You’re giving them the opportunity to say, no, I don’t want my education to be like this. I wanna make sure that it’s going to resonate with me fully and, and allow me to be my full self.


Sam Demma (10:54):
And represent the whole truth.


Eleanor McIntosh (10:58):
100%. Cause we were speaking partial truths for a long time.


Sam Demma (11:01):
There’s a book by Martin Luther king Jr. With the title. Why we can’t wait, it’s something, I might be butchering it a little bit, but it’s something along those lines. And the whole book is amazing and it talks about a lot of the movements he engaged in and why now was the time for change and why? Like we can’t be patient anymore. And I’m curious to know why you believe the reform that’s happening currently in education and, and hopefully continues to happen throughout north America and all over the west. Why is now the time and why can’t we be patient with this stuff anymore?


Eleanor McIntosh (11:36):
We can’t be patient because all kids are not succeeding. Mm.


Eleanor McIntosh (11:43):
All, all students, that’s what publication is grounded in. Yeah. Right. The success of all students, Nelson Mandela talks about that education is the powerful equalizer. Right. But it hasn’t been yeah. For so long. And so we can’t wait for more and more students to be harmed for black students, particularly black males to be pushed out of the system to end up into this pipeline into activity because they don’t feel a sense of belonging that no one is there advocating for them. So you’re right. We can’t wait. And sadly for those who hold privilege and those who have, have garnered that privilege through just by who they are, we can no longer allow those loud voices to control the outcomes of students cannot. Right. It’s time now for those who have been silenced underrepresented or marginalized to bring those perspectives back to the forefront so that we are there to, to advocate, that’s what public educators are for. They’re there to advocate for all students, not just some and the ones on the margins need us the most. And so we need to stand up for them. Now, the data’s clear, kids are not succeeding and we can’t do it anymore.


Sam Demma (13:11):
It seems like the motivation and motivation is very fleeting because it might last for a minute. It might last for a month. It might last for two months, six months. Yep. But the motivation and excitement of something happening in the world and our initial reaction seems to fade very fast. Yes. How do we sustain this change? How do we move away from motivation and decide to commit and discipline ourselves to follow through with these things? Even when it’s hard, even when the doors are open and the conversations are extremely uncomfortable, I’m not asking you for the key of this whole solution here, I’m putting on the spot, but how do we bring this back to the forefront of the conversation and continue it?


Eleanor McIntosh (13:59):
Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a, there’s a number of different ways that that can happen. From a, from a professional standpoint, I think it’s, it’s twofold, right? So from a professional standpoint we have a responsibility in schools, right. And so for this question leans more towards what is our responsibility and, and not just, not just in the way that we believe that this should be, but what is the legal responsibility? Because there is a legality, right? What is the legal responsibility that we have to make sure that this that we’re not closing these doors, that we’re keeping that at the forefront, right. So that’s the first thing. And there’s been a couple of really strong moves made by the government in order to make sure that, that that, that responsibility is clear for educators. And I’ll give you an example.


Eleanor McIntosh (14:55):
So one example is, is that the Ontario college of teachers has now advised it has now become as part of the education act that discriminatory practices are now an act misconduct for educators. That’s a bold move. That was a necessary move to legitimize the work and keep that responsibility very ever present for educators. Right. they’ve also put out an advisory relating to anti-black racism, right? Again, another bold step that allows for that high level of accountability for educators. Right. So no longer. So now as a system, we have some, some very clear lines to lean on, right? Should people decide that they no do not want to participate, that they want to give up their responsibilities to the students that we serve. Right. but I also think it goes deeper than that because we have to also lean on ed administrators, like leaders in the right leaders, leaders have to participate in, in making the space for this change to happen.


Eleanor McIntosh (16:07):
Right. We are part of that responsibility because we are also we’re educator at heart. And so from, from middle to upper management and the executive level, how are we making sure that the policies, procedures and frontline work of leaders make sure that we are advocating, educating, building awareness, right. With our staff so that it doesn’t fall to the wayside so that our, our educators feel not just empowered, but confident to entertain and engage in conversation of injustice in the classroom. Right. Because it’s not just about teaching you know, literacy and numeracy, that’s important, but we want to make sure that we are creating a world that we, that is not reflective of the current day. We wanna create a world that is reflective of what we want to see in the future. We do that through opening up these conversations in the classroom.


Eleanor McIntosh (17:21):
Right. And so that, I think it’s so it’s, it’s multiple things. And then on a personal level for people, people have to also feel as though that they are not comp that they’re not complicit in racist practice or discriminatory practices. Right. So, you know, you know, they have to choose to educate themselves, right. So how do they, how do they, why, why would I, as an educator, as a human being choose to participate in, in learning more, right. People don’t want to feel as though that they are creating barriers for people or upholding white supremacy. They don’t wanna feel that way. And so it’s also playing into people’s compassion and right. We wanna make sure that people understand that justice is for everyone, from every location, from every identity. And so by putting that and making that as a priority, right. Going, leaning on the moral compass, if you will, the compassion that everybody holds, I think it’s how you also get to educators or people to buy in right into these circum, into these conversations, even when it’s hard. Right? Yeah. Even it’s hard.


Sam Demma (18:40):
It sounds like we really can’t afford spectation or spectators anymore.


Eleanor McIntosh (18:46):
You can’t, you can’t afford to be a bystander anymore. Yeah. If you’re a by, in, or someone’s gonna call you out, like this is the thing now, right. People aren’t gonna stay silent, somebody’s going to call you out. And I have had to on many occasions, you know, engage in conversations, sometimes difficult conversations with staff about something they may have said or whatever. And again, not ill intention. I would never think that anybody is doing something maliciously. We are gonna make these mistakes, but it’s up to me and, and everybody else in the building to make sure that we are all moving this forward together, nobody left behind.


Sam Demma (19:26):
Hmm.


Eleanor McIntosh (19:26):
Nobody left behind.


Sam Demma (19:28):
What have you found helpful in terms of educational resources? So there’s an educator listening right now who is mentally deciding, not because they’re just motivated due to your passion for this topic. Yep. But they’re mentally deciding right now. Okay. I don’t wanna bystand I don’t wanna spectate. I wanna join this conversation and participate. Where should they start with their own self education or what have you heard, or even read yourself or heard other educators reading, going through, watching to learn more about the situation to inform themselves?


Eleanor McIntosh (20:07):
So reading is a lot of what I’ve been doing over the past little while, and also, you know, encouraging my staff to read as well. Right. Yeah. And presenting them with choices and options to help build their awareness cuz you’re right. We can’t do it all right. As I so a couple of, so in terms of titles, you know me and white supremacy by Lelas Asad white fragility, lot of, so I read white fragility by Delo. So a lot of DeAngelo’s work. A lot of Kent’s work you know, anti-racist education. Anything by Kent DLO Leila, sod is all very important readings to participate in because it allows us to connect with that personal side of us and push a little in terms of our thinking around what it means to be just a human being, not even just for educators, just a human being. So those are some of the things that we’ve engaged in here. And then of course there’s any number of videos and media pieces that are all put together by again, people who are doing this work that allows us to build more awareness about the issues that are at the, the forefront of this. Right.


Sam Demma (21:25):
Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for sure. What personally on all fronts of life and education, not only with this topic, but what keeps you personally motivated and hopeful to show up every day with your energy and continue doing this work?


Eleanor McIntosh (21:40):
Yeah, so a few things, when I, I decided to become an educator, I came back to Durham where I part when I, where I went to school and, and was raised, I came back to Durham because I wanted to make sure that other students who were in our system didn’t have to experience some of the injustices that I experienced as a, as a young woman. Mm. The young black woman growing up in, in the Durham region. So it was really important for me to be active as an active advocate, right. To interrupt those, those injustices, that was really important. You know, I wanna make sure that I’m actively participating in state in change and not being complicit. And that, that, that, those aha moments, those, that feedback I get from teachers, from students that what we are doing is working definitely keeps, keeps the fire lit for me.


Eleanor McIntosh (22:41):
Mm. You know, when I hear that positivity, when I hear, you know, student voice coming to the forefront, definitely that that warms my heart. It really does to know that I’m, that I’m making those connections really strongly for, for our students. When I, when I see a student turn the corner that’s huge, huge for me because I I do this work for students. I do this for that next generation who is going to do amazing things very much like yourself, Sam, right, who are doing these amazing things that you know, 10, 15 years ago, we couldn’t even imagine, right. It is students that are going to create change for the future, right. We, it is, it is, it is this generation, your generat that, that are going to make that change. And so it’s really important that we empower them to do so. And the last piece in particular is at some point in my career, I became a parent and I have a young daughter a young queen. And you know, I definitely, I’m a young queen. And you know, I wanna make sure that the path is very clear for her coming in, into a system where I know there is injustice. So she is my light every day. And the one who helps to make sure that I am staying focused on the work that needs to be done, because I don’t wanna ever ha have my daughter to come home and tell me that she wants to have blonde hair and blue eyes again.


Sam Demma (24:24):
Amen. That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that.


Eleanor McIntosh (24:28):
Yeah, no problem.


Sam Demma (24:30):
If you could if you could take all the experience you’ve had in education, bundle it up, walk back to when you first started teaching, tap yourself on the shoulder and say, Hey, this is what you need to hear right now. What, what advice would you have given your younger self?


Eleanor McIntosh (24:54):
Yeah, that’s another good question. I always, I always ask myself, I have learned, I, you know, when you, when you know better, you do better. And I, and I definitely have done better. So I was gonna go back to myself. I would definitely say, make room for, to connect with students, build community it’s community that signals belonging and value for kids. When you have that belonging and value, you get engagement. When you have engagement in the classroom, learning happens when learning happens, success happens. So I would make sure that I would tell my younger self to put aside. There are times when you need to put aside your plan and you need to make sure that you are bringing conversations that matter into the classroom.


Sam Demma (25:48):
Mm.

Eleanor McIntosh (25:49):
I really wanna encourage, I would really spend that time. I was a math and science teacher. So sometimes it can be very linear right in the way that we think. But I think, you know, sometimes we have to take risks, right? I I’ve, I’ve become a risk taker as I’ve, as I’ve matured in the profession. And I would, I would try to take more risks a little bit. I would try to make sure that I’m also using my voice, cuz I didn’t use my voice in those early years. I was too worried. I would use my voice as a vehicle and a platform to advocate even when it was difficult. Even when I fell, felt scared, even when I was fearful.


Sam Demma (26:32):
That’s awesome. Right.


Eleanor McIntosh (26:34):
I would do that.


Sam Demma (26:35):
Thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show. Talk about your experiences, talk about your beliefs and philosophies and share some important follow up on all the things that have happened over the past year or two years. If someone’s listening, wants to reach out, collaborate with you, ask a question, brainstorm some things. What would be the best way for them to get in touch with you.


Eleanor McIntosh (26:59):
Best way is to reach out to I’m not see super huge on social media to be truthful. So I’m on LinkedIn. That’s the one platform that I’m on. So you can look me up on LinkedIn for sure. And then look me up at Ajax high school for now or through the DDSB email’s always great. I’m always open to doing the good work and getting into good trouble with anybody who wants to do that.


Sam Demma (27:22):
Cool. Oh no. It’s thank you so much. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Eleanor McIntosh (27:26):
Sam, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on the show.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Eleanor McIntosh

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.

Nadia Irshad – Co-founder of Glarea Elevated Learning and the future of education

Nadia Irshad - Co-founder of Glarea Elevated Learning and the future of education
About Nadia Irshad

Nadia Hasan’s (@nadia__irshad) educational background is in Environmental Studies focusing on Sustainable Development and Urban Planning. She pursued a career in Art & Design working in Magazine Print Design and web design for a decade before opening her first early learning school. She is the Founder and CEO of Academics Educational Systems; The Academics Edge System that incorporates proprietary curriculum, programming and innovation in centres called Academics preKindergarten.

She is a founding partner of Glarea Elevated Learning; A NEW KIND OF SCHOOL. Glarea is a K-6 School in Surrey BC growing with the students yearly up to Grade 12.

As a resident of the South Surrey area, Nadia has had the privilege of being a board member of the Peninsula Community Foundation. She was a member of The Women’s Presidents Organization for years, before focusing on her current role as a Board Member for Arts Umbrella, Canada’s non-profit leader in arts education for young people, providing access to the highest quality arts education to communities as a basic human right. She is specifically dedicated to expanding the non-profit’s reach in the City of Surrey.

Nadia is passionate about her industry as a change agent for women, children and families. She is drawn to education and childcare through her own personal story. She finds passion in human connection, civic activism and more specifically causes that relate to women. Nadia’s interests include mobilizing women and girls by confronting cultural barriers that limit and harm women in closed communities.

Words, poetry and screenwriting is her passion. Maxwell’s Muse is where she spends some of her free time, on projects that give voice to untold stories, creating safe spaces and giving a platform to marginalized people through the production of art and film. 

Connect with Nadia: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Glarea School Website

Academics PreKindergarten

Peninsula Community Foundation

The Women’s Presidents Organization

Arts Umbrella

Maxwell’s Muse Website

Systems Thinking Leadership Certificate Program at Cornell University

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 I had the honor and pleasure to interview and chat with Nadia Irshad or Nadia Hassan. She has an educational background in environmental studies, focused on sustainable development and urban planning. She pursued a career in art and design working in magazine print and web design for a decade before opening her own early learning school.


Sam Demma (01:05):
She is the founder and CEO of academics educational systems, the academics edge system that incorporates proprietary curriculum programming and innovation in centers called academics pre kindergarten. She is one of the founding partners of Gloria elevated learning, which is a, a new kind of school focused on the K/six to K to six grades in Surrey, BC growing with the student yearly up until grade 12. She has kids of her own that are part of this school system and we talk all about why they created this innovative school, why she was a founding partner, and what their school looked like and how it differs from typical schools. And I think we can learn something from everyone we talk to. And I definitely learned a lot talking to Nadia, so enjoy this conversation and I will see you on the other side, Nadia, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about how you got into the work you’re doing today with young people in education?


Nadia Irshad (02:09):
Oh, that’s a big loaded question. well, pleasure to be here. How did I end up in the world of education? So I took a really interesting path of my passion for education lies within two sort of spheres. One is I’m a parent, so I never actually envisioned being a parent. It was a complete surprise to me. I never touched a child until I had one, never changed a diaper until I had one. But it, everyone, I think as it’s a transformative moment, it is a transformative moment. I’ll, , I’ll say it’s a moment where, you know, suddenly everything that you never thought was relevant to your adult life is and it also takes you back to your childhood in a really strange way. Children are your own child or other children to me are they’re kind of an opportunity to look in the mirror.


Nadia Irshad (03:12):
I think it’s an interesting, I always kind of reflect on my own parenting and my own kind of the things that I’m drawn to in relation to education and children, all I think really do are things that my child’s self are, is drawn to. Yeah. There are things that the gaps that I felt as a child, I feel suddenly responsible for ensuring that my children and children in my community don’t feel that gap. So that’s kind of how I landed here. I went. So I, so I started my career in environmental studies. It’s not even a career, my educational journey in our environmental study urban room planning and things like that related to sustainable development was more interested in the developing world. But I was, I I’m really interested in urban environments as well. And then I landed in a graphic arts and print design because my parents weren’t really happy with me traveling for work or leaving home or going too far.


Nadia Irshad (04:16):
And at that time there were no options available to me. So my other passion has always been art. I followed that I did print design for, I’d say close to even 10 years. I absolutely love the feel of paper. I love glossy magazines. I have none in my house. They’re not something that I, that I, that I keep, but I love, you know, I just, there’s something tactile about it. I love color. I love, you know, so many things I could talk about art all day, but then I had a child and it changed everything and I wanted to work. So I think I’m really in really, really fascinated it by how family structures are, how people pursue purpose and, you know, it’s really difficult being a woman and pursuing a purpose outside the family home. Mm-Hmm, , it is it’s a challenge in a world where you there’s expectations.


Nadia Irshad (05:21):
I know all the expectations that people around me had was that I was going to stay home and I was going to focus on being a good mom and cooking, cleaning, and ensuring that they’re brilliant, amazing, loved children. I, I don’t think that that humans need to box themselves into like specific little frames of reference that way. I think we can be lots of things. I, I, I’m quite proud of the type of parent I am, but I’m not the type of person that could sit at home all day. It’s just not in me. So after about a year, a half, two years of staying at home I started looking for childcare and preschools so that I could go back to work. I was feeling really antsy and stir crazy. And I ended up coming upon at that time, I lived in the was Washington DC area, and I came upon this really amazing little preschool that I ado and that allowed me to fulfill, you know, my other needs, intellectual creative, and leave the family home.


Nadia Irshad (06:25):
And so through that, I fell into preschools and childcare. So I started academics pre kindergarten when we moved to Vancouver, BC in, around, I started the company in around 2009. So that, that flourished from that personal experience. And I really do in that, in that sphere. So I, I, I touch education in multiple ways. I’m met a teacher, I’m an outsider to all the industries. I’m currently a part of, I absolutely door being an outsider. And the reason why is I can, I can ask questions. I don’t feel shame or guilt for not understanding things. I question things all the time. You know, it’s easy to when you’re in an industry for a long time to see things as this is the way they’re supposed to be. So I never under, I don’t understand that in this industry and I, I love it.


Nadia Irshad (07:20):
I think it I think children are deserve the utmost respect. I think children are capable. I think that what, what really fires me up inside is, you know, I’d say most adult, as I know, carry, you know, stories and sometimes trauma from their childhood homes and their families, and are the educational spaces that we provided academics, or, you know, I’ll talk about Gloria as well. You know, for me, the essence of it is to provide a safe space. And if you think about the fact that a lot of children, schools and preschool educational environments are where they spend most of their time you know, we, you know, we can be, we can be that, I don’t know what, what the right word is. We can be.


Nadia Irshad (08:20):
Yeah, so that’s kind of where that came from. So from there, I have an interesting story of how I landed in the K to 12 space. So one of my first students in preschool that, that enrolled in my first preschool that opened in 2010 I became really good friends with their parents. This was boys parents, and he is that couple, their developers in, in the province of BC. They mostly work in the health tech and health sphere. So with hospitals and care homes and you know, they, they kind of carry their purpose with their development projects. They’re always about community and empowering people, boldly elevating people. And it links well with healthcare. So randomly a dinner table conversation, I think at this point, it’s probably six years ago saying, you know, I have this D dream of a school and like, you know, just, just fun, philosophical, random chatter about what would your dream school look like?


Nadia Irshad (09:22):
What would it be? And this friend of mine told me, okay, well, I’m gonna do this. What do you think? And at the time, you know, I noded, I said that sounds great. Sounds so interesting. I’m so happy for you. Like, I I’m here if you guys need anything. So he went on his little journey and we had a hilarious chat years later where he called me and he said, okay, so my team, they do construction and they develop big buildings and they’re telling me we don’t operate schools. So , so I, I, they, they basically sat me down and said, you need to find somebody who, who knows schools and knows children. So he called me up and he asked me if I’d be interested at the time I was married. So it was something I was looking into for, for about a year, kind of doing a discovery, just looking into where it would be, what it would look like.


Nadia Irshad (10:13):
And then I ended up going through quite a high I conflict divorce. And he asked me if I wanted to do the project and, and if we want to you know, move forward in a concrete way and it was my anchor. And so the project became my anchor through a really tumultuous time in my life. Nice. and the amazing part about it is I don’t know how to best, describe how we formed Gloria except to describe a table of well, who I believe are the smartest, most innovative almost revolutionary type thinkers from different industries who sat around a table and said, well, what would be the most amazing school you could ever imagine? What would be the educational space you’d wanna be in? And yeah, we put together, you know, our purpose is at Gloria to empower indomitable spirit. And you know, that, that kind of, I think, sums it up really well. That’s, that’s what we envision for all of our students.


Sam Demma (11:20):
I love that. Can we go back all the way for a second, when you were telling me about when you were a child, you said there was gaps in your childhood that led you down this path. If you’re comfortable to share, I’m curious to know what those are, because I’m guessing those gaps are what inspire you to make sure that those gaps aren’t present and I other students or other young people’s lives.


Nadia Irshad (11:40):
Yeah, I think huh, I’m not, I’m comfortable talking about it. I think I was always the shy kid. I was always the kid that picked last for every sports activity known. And it’s interesting. I reflect on upon it now. I’m the child of a, of a, of an athlete. So my dad was a major athlete and I know looking at my brother and my father, I have the gene. I know that now as an adult, I know I could do all those things, but I nobody noticed me and my extreme shyness. And so I would pretend to be sick. I would have a tummy ache and not one teacher ever thought and stopped to reflect. Maybe she actually needs somebody to pay a little bit more attention to her and help include her. I was ne and, and so those are some of the, you know, I remember this will sound, I think crazy now.


Nadia Irshad (12:36):
I don’t think people, hopefully people don’t go through this now, but being told I’m stupid or, you know, I’ll never get it. Or, you know, you’re never gonna do more than be a secretary. I used to hear things like that as a child. Yeah. So those, and, and, and I, I’m an introvert and I’m a, I’m, I’m a bookworm. So I would just kind of spiral into my books and in my room and nobody paid much attention to me. So I kind of, I have a soft spot for introverted children, for sure. Mm-Hmm, I think it’s easy to, or, or the good kids. I always point out to people that, you know, it’s the kid that never or breaks the rules that never does anything, you know, that sometimes is negative attention worthy that we sometimes forget most. So the kids who are struggling and screaming and, and, and, and for attention, we give it to them. But sometimes it’s those kids that are so quietly kind of lost in the corner, but do you know, get the, as do everything right? That we never pay much attention to, but deserve it for sure to be seen is a big thing. And I think that’s through my, my educational entire journey, I’ll say all the way through university, nobody ever really saw me. I felt quite invisible. So that’s really important to me to see. I love that.


Sam Demma (13:55):
No, I love that. And, and at Gloria, you talk about challenge based learning. I was reading your website, and I know that’s a huge component that you’re very passionate about at the school. Can you tell me, or define what you think challenge based learning is and why it’s so exciting and important?


Nadia Irshad (14:13):
So the way I like to do describe challenge based learning is people are familiar with inquiry based learning or international BA programs. So those programs and that type of learning pushes questions. So it’s like the Socratic method it’s pushing, you know, asking questions, questions, questions, which is amazing, which I think we should all do all the time. Challenge based learning is problem-based learning. So everything we do in life, you know, every day we tackle problems all day. And I think that’s what we that’s, that’s what we pick challenge based. Learning challenge based learning is gritty. It means it, it’s not, it’s an environment where there isn’t a no. So if there’s an idea, it’s, it’s about failing reiteration learning. It’s about a it’s it’s challenge based learning for me is creating a space where failing you’re safe to fail. You’re safe to try again. You’re safe learn. Cause I do think in general, generally I’d say is true. And for most traditional educational models, it isn’t safe to fail. It, it isn’t encouraged. Kids need to get that a and there’s a lot of shame and attached to not doing it. Right.


Sam Demma (15:26):
I, I wholeheartedly agree. I even think back to my European parents, like you don’t come home in less, you have over 80 average, you know, like it was


Nadia Irshad (15:34):
The most, most scary day is the report card day. I remember that.


Sam Demma (15:37):
Yeah. Right. And, you know, knowing what I know now and looking back, I realize how backwards that thinking is. Right? Cause there’s a difference between learning and memorization. And I mean, throughout all of high school, I can memorize everything and finish a semester and look back at buddy and say, I’m not gonna remember anything I did. I’m not gonna use anything I learned, but I’m glad I got the nineties on my test. Like it’s so it’s so backwards at your school, what else do you provide the students with to create an unbreakable spirit, as you mentioned? Like, what does that mean and how do you young person? Yeah. Indomitable spirit. So


Nadia Irshad (16:16):
Gloria came from the word grit in Latin. So grit is something that’s important to all the founding members of Gloria elevated learning. Nice. And so indomitable spirit for was when we, when we sat around this table to talk about what model would we create? We talked about what made, what made the most successful. And when I say successful, I don’t mean in monetary terms or, you know, in successful, in happy, joyous living their best life terms. What made those people? And a majority of us, all that those were people who were comfortable with being uncomfortable, were comfortable with taking risks, were gritty, people, people who, who fell got back up, tried again, didn’t take no for an answer. And so in this world of helicopter parenting and lawnmower parenting, it’s a really hard children have a lot of anxiety and social media and all those things don’t help.


Nadia Irshad (17:19):
But so we created an environment. So challenge based learning, you know, is something that, that supports that type of environment. But we have academics, we have sports and we have art. So in our academic model, all those three things are equal. There isn’t a imbalance of, you know, your math mark means way more than, you know, athletics or arts. We really do feel that all those things come together to create whole gritty humans. And you know, what I love about the program is, you know, my, so my daughter’s in the program. She said, always, I hate skating. I’m never gonna get on skates. It’s cold. I don’t like it. And what I loved about it is I kept telling her, you know, but that’s the point, the point is you’re not gonna like everything. And that life, life is gonna throw so many different things at you. And it’s about your attitude. And it’s about pulling on those skates and making it happen. And what I love is she, so we’re now in almost in March and she loves skating and she’s talking about being a hockey player and I keep, you know, I’m being the annoying mom and I keep reminding her well, interesting.


Nadia Irshad (18:29):
But but I think, you know, I think we create an environment where, so parents like to push the things they love. Mm-Hmm of course, you know, soccer parents probably played soccer when they were young or wanted to be a soccer star or hockey parents wanted to be a hockey star. You know? So you kind of, because those are the things, you know, so what I love about gala Gloria is it’s a place where it’s a multi-sport multi art place. Children get to learn for themselves what they actually love, what actually fires them up, what they’re passionate about. And they’re able to kind of carve their own path, be their own spirit, right. Instead of feeling the shadow of all of the people around them who love them, who adore them. I know, but to me, that’s you know, as an adult, that’s the most, that’s the most exciting opportunity. I love that opportunity today, but


Sam Demma (19:18):
That’s awesome. It’s funny when you’re mentioning your parents always push your passions on you. I’m thinking about my own family and my own situation, right? My dad was hockey player growing up, always wanted me to play hockey. He tried for a whole year, a whole, whole year putting skates on my feet and I cried every time and he finally just gave up, put a soccer ball in front of me and I couldn’t stop kicking it. And I pursued a pro soccer career since I was six years old. I, I lived in Italy for six months when I was 13. I ended up having three major knee injuries, two surgeries, and totally lost my full ride scholarship, lost the ability to play. And I was just connecting with you on so many levels. You were talking about Latin phrases. I have a Latin phrase on my bicep right here.


Sam Demma (19:58):
It says, VIN key pat tour. It’s a phrase that means he who endures our, the person who endures conquers. And I had it after my second knee surgery, not because I was gonna go to the end of the earth to play pro of soccer, but because I made a decision in that moment that no matter what I chose to do with my life arts, academic sports, whatever it might be, I’m gonna give a hundred percent of my effort all the time. But I do have a question for you. How do you ensure that your students don’t attach their self worth to their cha their, their talents or their achievements or their accomplishments? Because at the end of the day, I think it’s still important that a student doesn’t come home and say I’m worth nothing because I didn’t play well or I’m worth nothing because I didn’t get a good grade. So I’m curious to know, how does the teachers and you at Gloria ensure that students don’t attach their self worth wholly to those things.


Nadia Irshad (20:48):
So I think, and that’s really interesting that you brought that up for me, the fact that we teach through challenge based learning, meaning we push trying, failing, reiterating failure is a success. Failure is something we completely celebrate. Risk taking is something we celebrate that, you know, walking through something you’re afraid of. And so for me, those are the things that we celebrate as an organization. We do not celebrate, you know, I love that’s great. You got a 99, but that’s, that’s not where we celebr. We celebrate your, we celebrate the spirit and we do have, you know, we a a health and wellbeing program. We have Dr. Doan, who is the president of BC doc doctor’s of BC right now who’s on our board. And she supports us with trauma informed practice. And she supports us on, in lots of, kind of mental health initiatives.


Nadia Irshad (21:44):
But I will say that, you know, child learning makes it really hard to do that. It really doesn’t even our sports, you know, for sports it’s, we, we focus on how you got better or what you did or what, you know, you tried that and you fell and you figured it out and you know what, that’s awesome. You, you know, you took the risk cuz sometimes the kids won’t even take that first step to fall. They don’t want to. Fall’s so scary. Mm-Hmm so while talking through those scary things, those are the celebrations for sure.


Sam Demma (22:11):
I love that. And you’re so right. I guess when you’re focused on learning from the failure, there’s nothing you really to attach yourself worth too. Like you’re not, you’re not celebrating an achievement, you’re celebrating the learning and the growth which is so unique and so cool. Cuz when I look back to my own experience in school, like that was one of my biggest hurdles. I remember the day that I had my second knee surgery and the voices just went through my head of all my parents, aunts, uncles, coaches, Sam, one day, you’re gonna be the player that we hopefully watch on TV. You’re gonna be the first person from our family who gets a scholarship. And then all these voices started becoming like weights on my back. Because I thought by myself that if I didn’t fulfill those things, that I’d be worth nothing as a human being. And it sounds like you guys are doing the exact opposite of Gloria, which is, which is so cool. Tell me more about what the average day looks like for a student at the school.


Nadia Irshad (23:06):
So an average day, so I’ll say for example, what’s today, today’s Thursday. So school starts at 7 45. The kids hit the rink first thing in the morning, so cool. and so we always, we always start the day with athletic athletics. We all, you know, I think there’s a lot of research to prove that that’s a good thing for you. So we, we try really hard to yeah, to follow kind. We break all the norms and we do it the way we think is the right way to do it. I like that. So yeah, so the kids hit the rink, they do that for an hour, power skating sometimes hockey and they get off the rink, then they hit their classrooms. We do have, so the difference between Glar in a lot of schools is we don’t have, you know, some schools have rules where you can’t eat until it’s snack time and you can’t eat until it’s lunchtime.


Nadia Irshad (23:58):
So that’s normal humans. That’s not how, yeah, it doesn’t work. so kids, you know, we’ll break out their snacks and they’ll eat and they’ll go to class. And so it’s challenge based learning, meaning math, science, English all the subjects that they’re learning. We, and we do Mandarin as well are integrated. So sometimes they have an engineering project. Maybe there’s a challenge. How would you create a Rover on the moon? So they have to use math. They have to use science. They have to use, you know, English to write up the report communicate. So, so it’s learning, but it always, so whenever I go into the school, it all, it looks too fun. It looks like campus can school, nobody everybody’s on their feet. We also have transitional learning spaces. So it doesn’t feel like we’re stuck in classroom and this is your classroom and now you don’t move all day.


Nadia Irshad (24:49):
No, all the entire school is, is a student school for learning. So you’ll see them in the hallway. They’ll use, they’ll use spaces in the cafeteria. Yeah, it’s, it’s a really cool actually environment. And what I love most actually about going to the school is because of the way it’s, it’s transitional and open and project based students interact. So the kinds love chatting with the grade five kids and they, and the grade five kids love mentoring the little kids. And it’s a really I can’t wait to see these kids in like 20 years to see how, you know, they interact. I imagine they’ll be really close for for a lifetime. That’s how I see the relationships that build as a family. It’s really, you know, we’re all learners. So part of the mindsets that, that, that we try to instill in everyone is we’re all learners. So the teachers are learners, the students, our learners, the grade fives learn from the kinds the teachers learn from the kindergarten, kindergarten kids. It’s not there. Isn’t a hierarchical kind of, you know, setup where there there’s a teacher up there and we’re down here, we’re all here and we’re all learning together.


Sam Demma (26:03):
That’s so cool. I love that. And I think in traditional education, sometimes students work in silos, especially when you get into university and people start th saying things like, oh, I’m not gonna share my work with you because it’s, it’s a challenge and I need to have better work than you so that I can get the position. And you don’t. And it sounds like what you’re fostering is a collective group to build team, to work towards solving a bigger problem. And I think, you know, there’s a proverb that says, you wanna go, you wanna go fast, go alone. You wanna go far go together. And I think it’s so wise and you know, from a young age teaching students that they need to, you know, be able to function in a team is so important because they’ll use that skill for the rest of their life, which is so, so cool. I’m I have so many questions. This is fricking awesome. It sounds like


Nadia Irshad (26:56):
It sounds like what you just said. You brought up about knowledge and university students. I have similar experience in university, but what’s interesting. What I always think of is people like that. See the world as a pie. I, you, you know, there’s only eight slices, so I get a slice and now there’s only seven left, so you can’t have, you know, so to me, knowledge, isn’t an asset. It isn’t property it’s for everyone. And so I think it’s interesting being an outsider in the world of education. I know I confront it confronts a lot of people to have non-education people in the world of education, but for me, learnings for everybody there’s no, there shouldn’t be any kind of boundary set. It is in a pie it’s endless. It’s, it’s abundant.


Sam Demma (27:42):
I love that. The way I look at it, just, you just gave me an idea of like a future analogy with the pie. So the way I look at it is like, there’s a pie on the table, right. And we’re all. And like people traditionally go and they take a piece, but in reality, every person has specific gifts and talents which could be a kid to an ingredient. So you come and take a piece from the pie, but you’re the flower and someone else comes and they’re the milk. And if you didn’t just realize that you all got together, you could make more pie, you know, like using everyone’s unique gifts and talents. So that just came into my mind while you were speaking. And I think it’s so true. Like, I, I don’t really talk about this much on this podcast because a lot of teachers listen, but I actually dropped out of university.


Sam Demma (28:23):
I did I did two months of formal school before I broke down in front of my laptop, crying, telling my parents, look, I have this passion for speaking to young people and I need to follow it. And there was this initiative I was building at the time catered around service learning and serving leadership. And at first my parents were like, what the heck are you doing with your life? And very, very quickly as things started to progress, their whole mindset shifted and changed. And so sometimes I think it just takes one example one success story to shift the narrative. And I think there will be hundreds coming outta your school supporting that idea. What is some of the things you’re most proud of so far that have come outta the school?


Nadia Irshad (29:04):
Hmm, interesting. That’s a interesting question. Be careful cuz it’s a small school environment. I, you know, can’t have confidentiality too. We’ve of course I’ve had I think one of the, one of the proud moments for, you know, it’s a small thing, but watching a ma you know, 85% of our students, couldn’t skate, couldn’t even, you know, they need a chair and now watching them months later, we open in September, we’re in February, they’re in power skating and they’re starting hockey. And these are like little like month, like little guys, five year old guys. And it’s so amazing because I think it underlines the fact that kids are underestimated. They have endless capabilities. They have endless energy, their brains are so from either this brilliant, you know, organisms that are constantly making connections and growing and how I, how sad I think it is when people limit that growth.


Nadia Irshad (30:08):
Mm-Hmm yeah, so there’s yeah, it’s, it’s it’s the little things, it’s the little things for sure. It’s and it’s watching the kids, you know, they put together performances, they, we have martial arts and watching the kids who never once, you know, did a punched something or did anything or now suddenly, you know, yellow and orange belts. those are it’s it’s, it’s amazing. And it’s, they take so much pride in it and I just love watching them. And I think I love that they never walk in and I never hear them say I got 99 on test. I never hear that. I hear today. I drop, I, I, I jumped up and I did this kick and, and, and, you know, I’ve watched them go through this journey where they couldn’t do any of those things and how much pride they are. And I think it builds so much self confidence to think, you know, to know, even for five year old, two months ago, I couldn’t even do that. And to so how endless are my capabilities? Right. So it’s yeah. I, I absolutely adore being around them that that type of energy is just, it’s like, I wanna see.


Sam Demma (31:14):
Moment. Yeah. It’s infectious. Right. you mentioned redefining purpose, right? I know this idea of finding your purpose, embracing your purpose. It sounds like you guys do it a little bit differently at your school. Do you have any opinions on the word purpose or, or what that means and how to encourage students to pursue it?


Nadia Irshad (31:34):
I think so is a trendy word too. Sometimes you, I always feel like I have to tip toe around it and be careful. Yeah. You know, if it puts fire in your gut, that’s the way I look at it. Put, puts fire in your gut and you can’t sleep until you do it, probably your purpose. And it’s probably not, you know, going fast on the ice and it’s probably not. It’s probably you, you know, you have to stretch to think what exactly is that mm-hmm and I do you think all of us and maybe I I’m an ideal idealist, I I’ll admit it. I think we’re all here to leave the world a little bit better. And so if you can find that little gift, you have that thing that puts fire in your belly to leave it a better, a better place.


Nadia Irshad (32:21):
And that’s why, you know, that comes back to challenge me, is learning. So what makes challenge based learning so special to us is it forces kids to think community and global mm-hmm . So it’s not the problem about you today. It’s how, you know, a problem that affects the people around you, your school community, the people down the block in your, in your world, and ask them to problem solve. And, and, and because the reality is, is it’s easy to be apathetic and it’s easy to think we can’t do anything. This is the way it is, but we, you know, people did it to get us here so we can, we can change and flip it around, make it go a different direction. Yeah, I dunno if that makes any sense.


Sam Demma (33:03):
No, it does a hundred percent. I, I had a world issues teacher who changed my life when I was in grade 12, who started the first day of class by walking in front of us and saying, don’t believe anything I tell you. But if it makes you curious, I want you to go do your Reese search and verify facts to yourself. And it was the first teacher I ever had, who said anything like that. And instantly like snap of a fingers. I was hooked. I was like, this is gonna be the best class ever. He made his own curriculum. He taught us his own curriculum. He retired the year after he taught me, but there was one lesson he taught us in, in April of 2017 where he was breaking down the lives of figures in history, trying to prove to us that they all had this common trait.


Sam Demma (33:47):
Grit was definitely a part of it. And the, the way he said it was, they all took thousands of small, consistent actions. And he said, if you wanna make a difference, you wanna challenge status quo, just, just choose a problem and take thousands of small actions towards solving it. And that challenge changed my life. I talk about him to this day, me and Mike Loudfoot, he’s retired now. We still stay in contact. So I wholeheartedly agree. It’s definitely, it’s definitely possible to make a difference. Especially when you just start with a small step, if an educator has been listening to this conversation and is just amazed by what’s going on at your school, loves your energy, wants to connect, have a conversation. What would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Nadia Irshad (34:29):
The best way would, they should go to our website. So they should go to Glareaschool.com and they can always shoot me an email. So my email is nadia@glareaschool.com. That would probably be the easiest way to reach me. But we are currently recruiting teachers. We’re in the midst of growing our little teaching community and it’s, it’s exciting to see the types of people that are drawn to our program. They’re really unique, unique individuals, which, which is exciting.


Sam Demma (34:55):
Can you just spell the URL of your school? Just so people don’t mess it up?


Nadia Irshad (34:59):
Yes. So Glarea is Glareaschool.com.


Sam Demma (35:04):
Awesome. Nadia, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show, share some of your wisdom, energy and stories. I really appreciate it. And I look forward to the day that I can come skate with the five year olds oh, totally.


Nadia Irshad (35:16):
You need to come out to BC and visit us here.


Sam Demma (35:19):
I will. I will. I’ll talk to you soon.


Nadia Irshad (35:21):
My pleasure. Thank you.


Sam Demma (35:23):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network. You’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities, and I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Nadia Irshad

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.

Ash Baer – Mental Health Advocate and speaker

Ash Baer - Mental Health Advocate and speaker
About Ash Baer

Ash Baer (@ashbear_) is a mental health advocate and speaker who has been facilitating leadership programs for the past nine years. She’s travelled across Canada and to Europe, working with the coolest student leaders and sharing her passion for authentic, positive, and fun leadership experiences.

Ash is a Summer Camp enthusiast and spends her summers at Youth Leadership Camps Canada (YLCC) as the Summer Camp Director. For the remainder of the year Ash is planning for the summer ahead as well as supporting student leadership conferences across Canada, empowering youth to reach their full potential to make their own positive impact!

Ash’s passion is to create safe and positive spaces for the youth she has the opportunity to work with. She incorporates important leadership lessons into fun and interactive activities, and works hard to be a strong mental health advocate.

Ash is excited to learn and grow with you through her two workshop opportunities; Mental Health Awareness and Leadership Team Building.

Connect with Ash: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Baer Leadership

Youth Leadership Camps Canada (YLCC)

Global Student Leadership Summit (GSLS)

Ontario Student Leadership Conference (OSLC)

Canadian Youth Speakers Bureau

Mental Health Awareness Workshop

Leadership Team Building Workshop

Nipissing University

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Ash, Ash Baer has been facilitating leadership programs for the past nine years. She’s traveled across Canada and to Europe working with the coolest student leaders and sharing her passion for authentic, positive, and fun leadership experiences. Ash is a summer camp enthusiast and spends her summers at YLCC as the summer camp director.


Sam Demma (01:02):
She now does mental health programs across the nation and today she talks a little bit about those presentations, managing student mental health and your own mental health and how her journey in education has shifted due to the recent challenges. This is a very awesome conversation. I hope you enjoy it. Take lots of notes. I will see you on the other side, Ash, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about yourself, who you are, and how you got into the work you’re doing with young people today?


Ash Baer (01:33):
Yeah, perfect. Well, it’s a pleasure to be here so thank you so much for the opportunity. So, I currently work with youth in a couple different capacities. The one that I’ve worked in the longest is through youth leadership camps, Canada (YLCC) and in their summer camp program, I am the summer camp director. I also help out with, we also run the Ontario student leadership conference, the global student leadership summit and events like that. So I’m also helping out with that with the student volunteers there. And then another thing with youth leadership stuff is I do Baer Leadership. So my last name’s bear. So that’s where the bear comes from. And I’ve been doing programs along the lines of mental health and team building.


Sam Demma (02:24):
That’s awesome. That’s so cool. And what got you into the work that you’re doing with young people? Why did you decide to join Y L C C? Was there a teacher that pushed you in that direction or was student leadership a big part of your life? What led you down this path? Totally.


Ash Baer (02:39):
So definitely was really involved in high school leadership. I went to Waterloo, Oxford and Jeff Gerber was my advisor. And he really created an environment where there was no limits to what we could do. So I really enjoyed that sort of environment in the, the environment of student leadership where you can think big and do big things. And there were the only barrier was your own perspective. So I was really into that. And then from that involvement, I got involved with OS L C and then got to know Stu Saunders who owns Y L C C in the camping world. And I haven’t left since, so it’s all kind of merged together into a beautiful timeline of what I’ve done.


Sam Demma (03:33):
That’s awesome. And you went to school in Waterloo. Did you also go to university in Waterloo or what you do?


Ash Baer (03:40):
No, I did university in north bay at Ning.


Sam Demma (03:43):
Nice. That’s awesome. Did you study something along the lines of social work or teaching or working with young people or was it something totally unrelated? Unrelated? nice. No, I love that. Yeah. Yeah. Me too. Right. Like I was studying environmental stuff before getting into this work. And like now doing totally different things. So there’s no, there’s no one right path to any destination. Right, exactly. So you do a lot of presentations now and programs in schools what kind of led you down that path? So you took a step towards doing your own thing on the side, where did that all stem from?


Ash Baer (04:19):
Yeah, for sure. So, so for the last 10 years I’ve worked with Y L C C. And like I said, I’m the camp director there for our summer programs. And with that, I really fell in love with the concept of being able to have a lot of fun. So that’s what we do at camp have tons of fun, but there’s also always messages embedded in everything that we do and leadership opportunities and growth there. So I fell in love with the team building aspect of that got to travel a lot with Y L C C been to Europe and all across Canada running programs and then started to develop some things on my own. And then also from the mental health perspective of it, I started to recognize in youth that mental health was something that was widely talked about and people were aware of what mental health was and stigma is going away, which is awesome.


Ash Baer (05:14):
But I also recognize that even though that stigma’s going away the language of how to talk about it, isn’t really there. So there’s not that toolbox of what is the definition of depression? Am I depressed or am I feeling sad? Is this anxiety, or am I just like worried at this exact moment? So I wanted to kind of take my own journey and learn a little bit more about my own mental health and got educated in courses like mental health, first aid and some living works courses as well to better facilitate and create safer environments for the students that I was working with. And then from that, I was like, if I have the opportunity to speak to more students. Awesome. actually one thing that I really push for in the student leadership conference world was I was like, I wanna see more women on stage because there’s lots of student leaders who are identify as women. And I want them to see themselves on stage too. And whenever I would go to even myself or other conference coordinators, I’d be like, Hey, get some more women on stage. And they were like, well, why don’t you just do it? And I was like, well, okay, fine. I feel comfy with a mic , I’ll learn some stuff and I will also share some messages there that way too.


Sam Demma (06:32):
Awesome. No, that’s amazing. And what challenges are you currently face with right now? Because of the current state of the world?


Ash Baer (06:40):
Yeah, for sure. Obviously there’s ton . And I think for me specifically if I look at our programs that we traditionally run in a year through conferences and camp camp specifically was shut down with no other option for the summer. So we kind of adapted in a way that we brought everything online conferences obviously in person were canceled. It was great to see you at O S L C you got to come into the first hybrid of a sort of event where you were on stage in front of a green screen. So obviously the challenges of just kind of figuring out how we keep leadership alive in these programs alive when we can’t be literally sitting beside each other or interacting in the way that we typically would.


Sam Demma (07:30):
Amazing. And if an educator’s listening and is thinking the exact same thoughts, what advice do you have to share, or what could you share with them that might be, do you have any ideas that have worked so far during COVID or things that you’ve tried that you think are worth sharing?


Ash Baer (07:44):
Yeah, for sure. So I think first of all, I wanna say to all educators listening, like you’re all amazing and adapting to such different times and I’m sure one day is completely different than the next day. I I’m a lot, I have a lot of close friends who are educators and I just have so much respect for them right now. And I’m wishing them in a couple weeks, two weeks of just the ability to sleep over the holidays. But some things that are tangible that I have seen happening specific with us, we the moment that things shut down, back in March, we opened an online camp on zoom. The schools shut down on Thursday and the next Monday I was like, yeah, we gotta do it. It’s like a March break zoom camp. And I honestly expected, it would be like a two week thing.


Ash Baer (08:39):
We do some crafts of the materials that I have in my home, which is like paper and Q-tips and we bring it to life, but we ended up running it for 30 weeks on zoom. And obviously this is lasting a little bit longer than anyone would’ve been anticipated. But I think the overall for adapting to the challenges that are happening right now, it’s important to not cut anything out that you think is important. Right. So if you run an event at your school that is so important for your school culture don’t say like, well, COVID canceled that. I think it’s important to bring it to life in some capacity, obviously there’s barriers. And obviously it’s not gonna be the exact same, but how can you still bring that to life via something virtual or maybe going super old school and doing a snail mail, like stuff like that. Like there’s ways to like, still build that community, but it might not be the exact same, but like thinking outside of the box. And I think the students that we’re all working with have the answers, right? Like, they’re, they’re so creative, they’re so smart. They want it to happen. So if they want it to happen, they’ll find a way.


Sam Demma (09:56):
That’s awesome. And with your, with regards to your own presentations, how are you delivering them right now? I know things are a little bit different.


Ash Baer (10:03):
Yeah, for sure. So whatever sort of online platform via zoom or Google room sort of thing, I’ve been delivering speeches that way. and just, I’ve done a couple throughout the summer that were in person and distanced, but I, I really am craving the opportunity when we can all just be in one room together.


Sam Demma (10:31):
yeah, me too. And, you know, you spend a lot of time hanging around with students. You understand there’s struggles, you’re not far removed as well. What do you think would be the best way to support our youth, like right now through this challenging time?


Ash Baer (10:45):
Totally. I think the best way would, and I think this is the way, no matter if there’s COVID or not COVID is to meet people where they’re at. And I think ESP with youth meeting them where they’re at is, is where you’re going to have the most success. And I think there’s so much authenticity that comes from that. So, you know, I don’t think there’s a cookie cutter answer to that of being like, well, this will work for all students, cuz I know everybody listening knows that that’s not the case either. Like for some students social media is, is a great way to connect with them and get on their level for some people that’s not. And I think it’s just on a very individual meet people where they’re at sort of vibe.


Sam Demma (11:36):
Awesome. Sounds good. And that makes a lot of sense and I totally agree. I think you can approach every kid with the same plan because they all learn different. It’s like trying to teach your curriculum the same to every single student. You can’t support every single student the same either. That’s awesome. I cannot wait to see you back on a stage or at camp or in a classroom doing a speech. If an educator is listening right now, wants to reach out to you, bounce some ideas around, maybe have a conversation about your programs or anything that they, that they heard today on today’s episode, what would be the best way for them to get into touch?


Ash Baer (12:13):
For sure. So a couple different ways. Email is ash@baerleadership.ca and Baer is spelled “baer”. And then Instagram or Twitter @ashbaer_ because somebody already took my name so.


Sam Demma (12:33):
All right. Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on the show, Ash. Really appreciate it. And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Ash Baer

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.

Joanna Severino – CEO and Founder of PrepSkills and the US College Expo

Joanna Severino - CEO and Founder of PrepSkills and the US College Expo
About Joanna Severino

Joanna Severino (@joanna_severino) is the Founder & President of PREPSKILLS and the US College Expo. Joanna has been an educator for over 25 years, helping students to excel in achieving important milestones in education. For many Canadian families, applying to private schools and US colleges can be daunting.

PREPSKILLS helps navigate this process by giving families the tools, resources and connections to maximize opportunities. Joanna created the US College Expo in Canada and PrepConnect events to help families explore their educational pathways. Education is really about resourcefulness.

As a certified teacher and passionate mom-preneur, Joanna is always looking for ways to ensure that students connect with these opportunities and get the valuable information they need to make informed decisions about education.

Connect with Joanna: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

PREPSKILLS

US College Expo

Prep Connect – Private School Admissions Networking Event

PREPSKILLS Franchise

OSCA Conference Speaker

School & Athletic Seminars

Wings of Hope

PMH Mentorship

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is my good friend, Joanna. Joanna Severino is the founder and CEO of prep skills and the US college expo. She helps students prepare for their SATs SSATs, any of their standardized tests that they might need to get into a school in the US or a specific program here in Canada.


Sam Demma (01:00):
She also, I mentioned runs the US college expo, which helps to connect US admissions reps with students who are interested in going to their schools in the states. She’s been in education for over 20 years. She’s a powerhouse. She is a mother of her sons and she just, she never runs out of energy. As someone described it, she is a trailblazer and I hope you enjoy this interview and get something valuable from it. I’ll see you on the other side. Joanna, thank you so much for coming on to the High Performing Educators podcast. It seems like forever ago, I was sitting in your workshop with my dad, prepping for my SAT to hopefully get a scholarship back when I was just a young man and you’ve continued that work ever since then. And recently we’ve reconnected. I’m curious to know, and I’m sure everyone listening is as well. Who are you? I’d love you to share a little bit about yourself and what got you into the work that you do with youth today.


Joanna Severino (01:56):
Thanks Sam. Thanks for having me and I, and I remember, I think I, I tossed a stress toy at you. It was a soccer ball, wasn’t it?


Sam Demma (02:06):
Still have it!


Joanna Severino (02:08):
Love it. Hope you’re using it. My name’s Joanna Severino and I’m the founder and president of prep skills and the US college expo. So I’ve been an educator for over 25 years and a mother of three incredible boys; ages 14, 11, and eight. And really what we’re here to do is help students through their transformative years essentially, and support them as they embark on their journey through the middle and high school years.


Sam Demma (02:43):
That’s awesome. What prompted you to do the work that you do? Was there an experience you had, if you could go back to 25 years, I’m asking you to go back a long time. what prompted you to get involved in this sort of work with youth?


Joanna Severino (02:58):
Well, really, I, I, I was an educator and, and loved it. And from a very young age, I had this entrepreneurial spirit. My, my father passed when I was 11 and my mother was left to raise four children on her own, through social assistance. And, and we really built resilience and confidence through that process. But what I did know is that education was really key to recreating essentially my narrative and that’s really what I wanted to do. And so as an educator, when I graduated and then became a teacher, was super passionate about that. However, I felt like I could do more, more globally as an educator and found myself thinking about that a lot and then life threw me a curve ball. So really it was my experience with cancer and having gone through chemotherapy and an autologous stem cell transplant, that that was really the launchpad to creating prep skills today.


Sam Demma (03:34):
Wow. That’s, that’s crazy. I didn’t know that about you, so I appreciate you sharing. And I’m certain, there’s so many educators listening who have gone through tough challenges, just like the ones you all outline, and I’m hoping they’re, they’re hearing what comes up after you get through it, especially if someone’s going through the same sort of challenge right now, and speaking of challenges and getting through them right now. So many educators, so many schools, so many companies are faced with the instrumental challenge, which is COVID having to very quick pivot and shift and do things virtually. I know you’ve done a great job with the virtual prep skills connect event, where I showed the little stress ball live and you’re doing the expo virtually, you’re doing school tours virtually. How have you overcome the challenges of COVID and what was that experience like for you in education?


Joanna Severino (05:02):
Well, I think we’re still overcoming challenges on a, on a daily basis minute by minute. And really, I think what’s important is, is taking action. Action is super important and not worrying so much about perfection. I’ve I’ve been known as the trailblazer in the space. And so I tend to pave the way for, for a lot of people in a, in a lot of innovative things that occur in education, it was a pleasure actually to hear from a few of the educators that reached out to us before the prep connect. And they said, can we join and just watch and learn from what you due? And, and sort of referenced me as being the best in, in the space, which was a wonderful compliment, but really, I, I think rooted from my childhood and my resilience and, you know, having lost my father at a young age surviving cancer I’m, I’m pretty resilient and, and love to turn no to yeses. So I think that’s really what drives me. It’s, it’s sort of like, what’s the worst that could happen. Let’s go. And I think that’s an important mindset to have during COVID, especially.


Sam Demma (06:20):
No, that’s amazing. And you did a great job with the virtual event. I was there, I CEED. And I’m curious to know what do you think? Awesome. Thank you. what do you think are some unique, unique ways to engage people during COVID? You know, if you, if you could put the mindset on of an educator, maybe more classical that works in a school, and they’re struggling a little bit right now, you know, what can we do to help these young people during this time?


Joanna Severino (06:47):
Well, you know, I think we underestimate these, these students and they are resourceful and resilient. And, and I think this online world is, is more familiar to them than it is to us. Mm. So getting them involved in really activities, such as the ones that we’re hosting, there are lots of opportunities to volunteer virtually. Your program is fantastic. Sam, you know, top performing students to really engage and connect online. And they’re, they’re very familiar with this world. So I, I don’t know, you know, outside of there being challenges, especially through the early stages with mental health and, and really being and lockdown at home, I think that this is actually progressing in a positive way where students are now back at school, back with the structure, back with their peers and teachers. And, and I see that with my own boys. So I, I think, I think we’re moving in a good direction.


Sam Demma (07:58):
And you’re somewhat who radiates joy. You radiate hope, even through tough times, you have this positive mindset and mentality, and it’s so evident even if people are listening to this right now, what gives you hope to keep going to trail blaze away, as you said, even when everyone else might be stopping or hesitating?


Joanna Severino (08:18):
Well, I think life experience and a mindset. And you know, I, I, I really attach myself to the symbolism of a butterfly mm-hmm and a butterfly in a cocoon that then transforms into this lovely butterfly the, the caterpillar to the butterfly scenario is something that I revisit a lot of days of my life . And so looking at the, that transformation and seeing it as every ending has a new beginning, and there’s a reason why this is happening. And how do you overcome obstacles? How do you strengthen your core? These are all important things that I think we need to do and reflect on. And what can you personally control? Because there’s so many UN outside of yourself and you really shouldn’t be worried about those things. Mm. You know, what is it about you that you can really tap into your core strengths and be able to, to support your growth, your mindset, and then through that process, you can help others. So it really begin with you.


Sam Demma (09:36):
I love that. And the focus on the core strength is so important. And I know from working with you and, and watching you do your amazing work, one of your core strengths is helping young people prepare for post-secondary education for getting into the schools, their dream schools. We talked about Kevin who went to UCLA and, and I believe it was Sam who went to Haga and had a great experience at boarding school. You know, can you share an experience of a young person who’s been directly impacted by your work, maybe when they came to you, they were uncertain. They were unclear. They didn’t know where they were going. Didn’t know how to do what they needed to do to get to where they wanted to go. And through your work, you had a tremendous impact hacked on them, not only with their schooling, but maybe even their mentality or their mental health. And if you wanna share a, a touching story, you can also change the name for the sake of privacy totally up to you.


Joanna Severino (10:27):
Well, there, there’s so many stories and, and that’s really what I love about what I do. And because I’m a trailblazer and I keep moving, how I, I know that I’m leaving a footprint and I know that there are people that are being supported and helped. I, I have to admit I don’t always stop and, you know, analyze the, the situation. Yeah. Until later when someone tells me that. So, and so has been impacted by whether it was a, a war, a statement I made or has successfully been admitted to, you know, their, their school of choice. Just this week. I discovered that one of our students from many years ago must be probably at least 10 years. And he’s currently studying at brown university. And I remember him, I thought, oh, wow, that’s amazing. I’m getting older. but there’s no stories because what happens is you don’t know what you don’t know.


Joanna Severino (11:26):
And, and really success is a group project. So I found myself dealing with students and parents who are maybe limiting themselves mm-hmm . And I remember a situation where a parent came in and she wanted her son to apply to a particular school. And I asked her why. And at that point, the sticker price in terms of tuition was a little lower than some of the other school choices. And I said, so you’re not considering these other schools. And she said, no, I couldn’t afford it. That’s, that’s just completely out of our realm. And I said, well, did you know about this and this and this, these financial opportunities that you could take advantage of? And she said, no, I, I didn’t know about that. So we embarked on this journey together. He obviously ended his reach in terms of school options.


Joanna Severino (12:15):
And then he was admitted to all the schools and offered financial support at all of them. And guess what? He ended up at a school that was different from the initial choice that he had when he and his mother came to me. And I think that’s so awesome. And he’s since graduated and loved the experience, and that was the right fit for him. So I I’m really here to crush obstacles for parents and, and families, if they, if they’re concerned. I, I wanna be able to help there are so many incredible stories. A family that, that came into the city recently was during COVID and was looking for a school. And and really, it seemed like an impossibility, like how can you possibly get into a school for September and it’s June? And I love those challenges. . So there, I went and I, I went door knocking for, for the family and lo and behold it happened. And so we were able to get them into a school. So that that’s really, what I love to do is I, I really love to, to create things that don’t exist and to create opportunities that don’t exist and support families in that way.


Sam Demma (13:33):
I wanna highlight the fact that you said you hadn’t seen this young person for 10 years, and the first story you just shared, or maybe 10 years had gone by, and you vividly remember who the person was. And now they’re at their dream school at Browns college. That’s so cool, because I think so often in education or in any service based business, sometimes you don’t realize the impact of your contribution until a decade down the road. When they write you a handwritten note, or you see them standing on some podium, delivering a talk, and it’s such a, oh my gosh moment where you realize your impact has been, has been realized through that person’s life and their activity, these, and any educator who’s listening. I want you to take Joanna’s story as a, a reminder to yourself that maybe you’re not seeing the impact of your teaching or your perseverance right now, but maybe 10 years down the road, like she did, you’ll have a crazy experience where someone reaches back out to you and tells you how much it meant to you that you, you kept pushing through and, and you kept going Joanna you’re someone who has worked with so many schools has worked with so many organizers and events and planned a dozen different opportunities, hundreds by now for young people, you’ve hired dozens of speakers.


Sam Demma (14:52):
I’m curious to know how do you choose who to bring onto your stages and, and who to work with because you brought on Mike Weaver, former NHL player, Jillian apps, Olympian, you know, what, what makes a good presenter and how do you choose someone to put in front of young minds?


Joanna Severino (15:08):
Well, first, you know, as I said, I really love a great challenge. And so, you know, oftentimes we look to these, these individuals, and we think that it’s almost impossible to connect with them, right? Mm-Hmm oh, former NHL player Olympian. We had Dr Chopra from Harvard medical school, like all of these great, great inspirational speakers. And it becomes a little bit like, you know, how, how do we engage? How do we interact with them? And I, as I said, love to create opportunities that don’t exist. And so, you know, I, I find ways to connect and make sure that it’s of value to these speaker, the individual, and a value to the families that we serve. And so, you know, the, the speakers that we selected for, for example, the us college expo primarily graduated from a us college, their Canadians. And so we wanted them to reflect that story, that journey and that inspiration. That’s really how we, we go about selecting our our speakers and you of course have transformed so many students in lives. And, and with your positive, inspirational enthusiasm, we thought Sam Demma is our guy for CE this event. So thank you for doing that.


Sam Demma (16:37):
No, I appreciate it. And I was gonna say, it sounds like it’s a needs basis. You know, if there’s a need in your school, if there’s a need for the event, you find the person who can fill it, which is, sounds like a very logical way to approach the, the conversation, which is awesome. This has been an amazing conversation. I have a couple more questions for you. I’m curious to know what keeps you motivated. So we talked a little bit about what gets you hopeful, and I know you’re very obstacle oriented and you love crushing obstacles and you love creating opportunities. What motivates you to keep going? Is there someone in your life that motivates you? Do you, who do you look up? Who do you get inspiration from?


Joanna Severino (17:16):
Well, it, you know, my father passed when I was 11. I, I didn’t really get a chance to, to know him, but I do know that he, he was an entrepreneur and mm-hmm, he did you know, start a business that that was not successful actually over the course of a 10 year period, apparently in Australia. . So I, you know, I, I don’t know much about that, but I do know that there is this, this entrepreneurial spirit inside of me where I feel like what I do can impact the world globally. And, and that’s what motivates and drives me. So this, this, this spirit that I have and connection with my father, definitely. And then the miraculous transformation through the restoration of my health through cancer and then having these three wonderful boys. So, you know, I have a, a 14, 11 and eight year old, and they drive me every single day, along with my, my great husband, but the, the boys really tell the story. I can see it and live it every single as to what they’re going through, what their needs are, how the world is changing. And and, and, and it’s, it’s really motivating for me to support them. And in turn support all these families that we serve on a daily basis,


Sam Demma (18:44):
If you went on ancestry.com, I’m sure you’re a whole lineage was people that were all entrepreneurs. doing amazing know.


Sam Demma (18:56):
Educators are listening, principals, teachers, parents who wanna apply the same mindset to school. I know a while back, not too long, maybe 20 years, my age , you were once a teacher, how can a teacher or an educator that works in a more formal scenario apply that entrepreneurial mindset? Is it just, you know, doing things that are outrageous and crazy you know, what would you tell an educator in a more classic scenario how they can use an entrepreneurial spirit maybe in their classrooms or schools?


Joanna Severino (19:26):
Well, I was a, a business and computer studies teacher, and so I always bought, brought the world outside, inside mm-hmm . And so it wasn’t traditional textbook type teacher. So with, with the teachers that we serve, I think they’re doing a tremendous job because they actually do reach out to me to prep skills for the support that they need to be able to better serve the student. I mean, the American university admissions process, for example, there are over 4,000 options in the us. It’s, it’s impossible for any one person to really understand that entire system. And so they, through professional development, reach out to us they engage in the counselor day and event. And I think what they’re doing is, is fantastic. And and we see that with, with the students that we serve that foundationally and primarily come from these schools and the teachers are, are supporting them. So they’re the, the real heroes. And I just come in to, you know, to, to sort of, of finesse that and, and support them as they move on to their next stage.


Sam Demma (20:37):
That’s awesome. I love that. And you mentioned educators reach out a lot to wrap this up. I would love for you to share where they can reach you if they wanna bounce ideas around chat with you, connect, use prep skills for some preparation for students, or just to connect with you and chat about some things that you’ve done in your life. Where can they do that?


Joanna Severino (20:56):
They can, they can do that by connecting through prepskills.com or uscollegeexpo.com. And I’d be happy to, to, to meet with them or connect with them and support their process for sure.


Sam Demma (21:12):
Awesome. Joanna, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. It’s been a pleasure and I wish you all the best in the future, and I’ll be watching you behind your car as you trail blaze through this industry. I can’t wait to see what comes up next.


Joanna Severino (21:27):
Thank you, Sam pleasure.


Sam Demma (21:30):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of this show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network. You’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities and I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Joanna Severino

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.

Julie Champagne – Co-Founder at the English Tutor and Teacher

Julie Champagne - Co-Founder at the English Tutor and Teacher
About Julie Champagne

Prior to settling in Toronto, Julie (@TheEngTutor1), an Ottawa native, studied at The University of Ottawa and Queen’s University. She is the Co-founder of the English Tutor as well as a teacher. In her ten years of teaching, Julie has taught everything (except math!) to a variety of age groups in a variety of locations including Kanata, Bradford West Yorkshire, and now at an independent school in midtown Toronto.

A proud Hufflepuff, Julie is an avid Harry Potter fan and has lost count of the number of times she’s read all seven books. Julie lives with her husband, young daughter, and dog named Pepper Potts. She eagerly shares her love of reading with her whole family. 

Connect with Melissa: Email | Instagram | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The English Tutor

Park Street Education

Blyth Academy school website

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 a 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. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Julie Champagne. Prior to her settling in Toronto, she was from Ottawa. She studied at the University of Ottawa and Queens university and in her 10 years of teaching, she has taught everything except for math to a variety of age groups in a variety of locations, including Kanata, Bradford West Yorkshire, and now in an independent school in Midtown, Toronto. Julie and I met when she taught at Blyth academy, which is the private school in Midtown Toronto.


Sam Demma (01:20):
And now because of COVID, she took an entrepreneurial path into teaching, virtually, students from all around the world. She has a company with her business partner, Sam, and they have an amazing venture called the English Tutor. It’s a really interesting idea. They are very energized about the work they’re doing and having a huge impact. She has a ton of wisdom and ideas to share, and I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed recording it. I’ll see you on the other side. Julie, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. I know we worked together. I, I wanna say over a year and a half ago now, and it’s really cool to connect with you virtually again. Share with the audience a little bit about who you are and why you initially got into the work you do with young people today.


Julie Champagne (02:07):
Sure. Yeah. Thanks so much. And I I’m so excited to be here. You’re right. It was about a year and a half ago with my foundation’s kids. So I mean, obviously I’m a teacher. I I teach high school primarily and you know, when the world changed, we had to all adapt very, very quickly. So I, I have my own tutoring business now that I own with my co-founder Sam, it’s called the English tutor and we teach kids all over the world, guided reading. And then I also am a middle school teacher with another school called park street. And I guess, you know, why do I do what I do? I, I honestly, I don’t think I could do anything else. I absolutely love my job. There are people let’s say there are jobs and vocations, and I truly feel that teaching for me is a vocation.


Julie Champagne (02:57):
You know, the, the joy I get from planning lessons that really get kids, right. Get them engaged, get them excited about something, especially if they’ve never been excited about something before. I mean, that is such an amazing moment. It’s so wonderful to be there, to be there supporting and talking them through the challenges too. Right. I mean, I do it because the kid like the kids, I not to sound cliche, but the kids are amazing. Right. They’re they’re the future and what they’re doing and who they’re becoming. I love that I can play a small part in that with them.


Sam Demma (03:36):
Yeah, no, it’s so true. And for, for some clarification, I’m not the Sam that she started the English tutor with. If anyone’s wondering no, it’s, it is a different Sam. That being said, you mentioned, you know, getting into teaching, being a V a vocation, and I’m curious to know, at what point in your journey did you decide teaching I’m gonna be a teacher was there a defining moment, a person who pushed you in that direction or when did you know?


Julie Champagne (04:03):
I mean, I think, I think there’s probably a few different things. I don’t know that I necessarily believe in one sort of sign that led me, led me down the path. And I think I probably took a few wrong turns along the way. Yeah. Before I, before I landed you know, but I think one of the primary ones that comes to mind for me is, is my brother mm-hmm . So my brother has what’s called Asperger’s and that’s it’s high functioning autism essentially. And so we’re going back 20 years now. Right? He, he hasn’t been in the school system in, in 10, 15 years. And as a kid I’m older than him and, and as kid, I just watched the school system, let him down. They just didn’t know how to reach him, you know? And to me that meant that the box of education, the box that I had somehow managed to make work for me, you know, I fit that mold somehow some way it wasn’t working for somebody else in my family.


Julie Champagne (05:02):
So it must not be working for everybody. Yeah. And, and I just, I was determined, especially when I got on the path to teachers college and, and my sort of first view teaching posts, I was determined to be the teacher that took the chance. Mm. Right. The teacher that, that said, okay, this box, doesn’t, it doesn’t have to be a box. We can push this. We can push against the constraints that the education field is, is throwing at us. You know, I think we’ve all got one or two teachers in our history that we remember. And if we’re lucky, one of the, one of the ones we remember is because they, they made a difference. Right. They, they pushed us in a really fantastic way. My brother doesn’t have that, you know, like he doesn’t have a teacher like that. And, and I do, I’ve got a couple like that. I’ve got teachers that took the time. And so that’s how I approach my own teaching. And, and it’s certainly when I look back at, you know, how did I get into this? Those are, those are the reasons that come up for me, for sure.


Sam Demma (06:04):
Yeah. That’s awesome. My teacher was Mike Lafa who changed my life, inspired me to go into the community and take his theory of small actions and put it to the test and totally change my life. And fact, I still stay in touch with him, him today. And he was a very principled man very alike, my own grandfather who taught me that if there’s a will, there’s a way. And you know, you are a perfect example of that. You were just telling me how as school was reopening. You made the decision, you know, I’m gonna fill a need here and make this work. And you were teaching at late hours. Can you share a little more about the English tutor and how it actually got formed and what it is today?


Julie Champagne (06:43):
Sure. Yeah. So my co-founder Sam when the school systems shut down all over the world, I mean, just absolutely wild. We started teaching these guided reading English courses to students in China. Mm. So we would be up at just ungodly hours, you know, five, six in the morning. And then again at eight o’clock or nine o’clock at night teaching these kids English and in a way it was, it was just so amazing and so wonderful to be doing this, but then we thought, how do we take this further? How do we really make this meaningful for the kids? So it’s not just a, it’s not just a bandaid for COVID, but legitimately something that they’re gonna get out of it. And we decided why not just read them books that are in their age level. Right. And, and not necessarily comprehension wise, you know, like they’re gonna struggle a little bit with a Royal doll text, but let’s break it down for them.


Julie Champagne (07:43):
Let’s create these beautiful resources that lead them through reading these books with us. Mm. You know, and so we’ve done all kinds. We’ve done Royal doll, we’ve done Charlotte’s web. Sam’s working her way through Harry Potter right now with her kids done nonfiction units and poetry units. I’m doing a nonfiction course at the moment with kids in Shanghai. Nice. so it’s been really, really incredible. And it’s been such an amazing thing for Sam and I to witness the equalizer that is a child. Mm. Right. All kids, it doesn’t matter. Culture, language, kids are kids. And, and they find the same things funny, and they they’re challenged by the same things. And so reaching a whole new set of kids has been super, super amazing and definitely a silver lining to COVID because it led us to form our, our business. And then when the school shut down here in, in Ontario, you know, we, we had, I think something like 200 hours worth of content worth of teaching content.


Julie Champagne (08:52):
And I happened to I happened to teach one of my grade 11 students. His mom is the CEO of the big brothers, big sisters organization in Toronto. Oh, cool. And so I reached out to her and I said, listen, like we have, we have all these teaching resources, we’ve got hours and hours of programming. We’d love to volunteer for your littles virtually. Mm. And so they created this amazing partnership with Rogers where Rogers dropped off all these devices to these kids. Holy and so since April Sam and I, five days a week have been doing these courses with the big brothers, big sister students ha. And it’s awesome again, like what an equalizer, right? Like kids are, the equalizer happens in China in the morning, happens again at 4:00 PM with kids in Toronto. You know, they’re laughing at the same joke from Willy Wonka, which is so cool.


Sam Demma (09:44):
That’s so awesome. And I just want to shed light on it because whether it’s facing a challenge with, you know, engaging students online or facing a challenge with hybrid learning where you have to go in class or room and back online, if there’s a will, there’s a way, and I just wanted you to showcase that story because I think it’s a great example. You know, you really pivoted and you’re teaching kids not only virtually, but across the freaking world. Like that is so cool. And I’m glad you, you got a chance to share it. I’m curious to know someone recently described education to me as the own spaghetti on the wall calculatedly and seeing what sticks is there any mistakes you’ve personally made or great successes you’ve had that you think are worth sharing with other educators who might be listening?


Julie Champagne (10:28):
Absolutely. I think that’s such a great analogy. I think one of the big mistakes I made when I first started teaching was being a little bit of a slave to the curriculum and overplanning, right. Just creating these absolutely gorgeous lesson plan and I recognize, I just said, I talked about how with the English tutor, we make these great lessons and these great resources and you need that. But you have to have some flexibility. You have to allow the classroom to derail sometimes and, and go off in these weird, fantastic sidebar conversations. Kids have so much to share if we let them. And it’s in those moments, it’s when you, when you pull back from the very regimented lesson that the real magic happens, but between a teacher and, and their PE and their students and, and the classroom community. So yeah, absolutely. The, the flexibility in the classroom is, is so important. It’s, it’s how you’re gonna build relationships with kids.


Sam Demma (11:32):
No, that’s awesome. I think that’s an amazing piece of advice even in life, you know, I have this weekly planner and no one can see this, cuz it’s not , it’s not, there’s no video here, but it just gives me a high level outline of the week. And so often I find myself not beating myself up, but realizing I didn’t complete everything I said I was gonna do, but then reminding myself that’s okay. And I, I think it’s the same for teaching. I’ve never actually taught, you know, for nine hours a day or eight hours a day for a whole year. But even with speaking, sometimes things don’t go as planned the person before you, you know, cuts you short 20 minutes and you gotta adjust on the fly and figure out how to fill the gaps. And it’s, I think it’s really cool. It’s a like painting, you know, I just gotta take the colors as they come and figure out how to paint the picture. And regardless of what you plan to, you know, create before you started painting.


Julie Champagne (12:21):
Absolutely. And I think more than ever this year, that holds true. Right. Mm-hmm and, and, and just being ready to meet kids where they’re at this year, you know, like you’re saying with your, your agenda, like feeling bad that I didn’t get through everything at the end of the week, you can feel like that teaching all the time. Right. Because, oh, I’ve gotta get to this piece of curriculum. Yeah. They need to learn how to write an essay and sure. They absolutely do. I’m not saying they don’t, but if it derails, because you know, there was a playground fight or some, some, one of your students saw something really spectacular on the news and they wanna talk through it. You have to allow space for that. You have to allow the air to come into your classroom. And, and this year, especially, right. We’re seeing kids who are, they’re just at varying degrees of readiness to learn. Yeah. Right. They are where, what they’ve experienced this year, what we’ve all experienced, the collective experience adults are going through. So we certainly can’t expect kids to, we certainly have to be ready to say, learning’s not happening today. Cuz they’re just not, they’re not ready for it. You know, and being okay with that being okay with saying, okay, but we’re gonna make some progress elsewhere. Mm-Hmm .


Sam Demma (13:40):
And that progress elsewhere is sometimes just showing kids you’re there to hear them and that you care and you’re paying attention. And I’m curious to know, how do teachers do that in a virtual scenario? You’ve done, it seems excellently with kids across the world. If an educator’s listening and you know, maybe the day comes where they decide today’s not gonna be a teaching day. It’s gonna be a, let me show you a care day. What does that day look like for a teacher?


Julie Champagne (14:05):
Yeah. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It is not without its challenges. This world, you know, student isolation is, it’s a big challenge this year. Isn’t it like it’s and, and teacher isolation. Right? Our, our we’ve all lost our communities. There’s, there’s no lunchroom to say, Hey, you know what, this wasn’t working for me today. What worked for you? Yeah. I think one of the ways that we’re doing it, so I, you know, I mentioned, I teach at a school called park street. It’s a grade four to grade eight school. So the kids are pretty little. And I think one of the ways that we’re addressing that and, and showing levels of care is, is recognizing that we have to treat the school day as though we were in person. Mm. And we have to be willing to work on the relationship and work on, on building the trust between teacher and student and, and student and student.


Julie Champagne (14:57):
Right. So all of our lessons are live. The kids are in zoom together, nice learning together, interacting. Right. So as much as we can taking that, that physical space and putting it virtually really helps to lay the groundwork for creating that level of care for kids. And, and then beyond that offering opportunities in class, right. You know, like next Friday, we’re gonna do we’re gonna do a Halloween costume and pumpkin carving contest over zoom, the whole gonna get together. You know, we’ll play, we’ll play the Halloween haunt music and nice. And we’ll all carve great photo, great pumpkins and, and just have some fun. Right. And that’s certainly what’s missing from the virtual space right now, right. Is the fun that comes with school. So we’re trying to find ways that you can inject that in. And that’s when the conversations where it’s let their guard down and, and tell you what’s really going on with them and tell you where they’re at and what they need from you. Right. Their hands are busy or having some fun. And then just all of a sudden that little, that little Mor, so is something that you wanna tease out of them a little bit more shows up, you know? But it doesn’t even have to be as big of an event as that. Right. What Sam’s last fry? She did feel good Friday in her class and all she had them do. I’m not kidding. All she had them do was change their zoom screen name to something that they love about themselves.


Sam Demma (16:23):
Oh, that’s a great idea.


Julie Champagne (16:24):
Right. And so this group of great eight boys, they’re all these great eight boys who are all very different person. And they’re reading about the hound of basketballs. They all, they all took it so seriously and really thought about what they were gonna put out. And we saw some just spectacular answers. That’s amazing, you know, like things like, I’m so glad I have courage or I really love that I can be the calm voice in the room. Mm. Like just what a reflective moment for these kids, but also allows the teacher to just get to know them really quite well and so simple to do. Right. It took two minutes. It didn’t detract from the lesson and the kids leave feeling pretty, pretty good about themselves.


Sam Demma (17:05):
Yeah. That’s so true. That’s an amazing idea. And like, I hope people listening right now are writing down in their own, you know, planner for the next day at class, because that’s an amazing idea. Not only does it encourage self-reflection, but it also allows you to honor your gifts and talents and maybe give you that feel good moment that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Yeah. Which is phenomenal. And on the topic of student transformation or students being impacted as a direct result of over your dozens of years, you know, working as a teacher and teaching, I’m sure, you know, you’ve had students reach out and tell you, you know, Ms. Champagne, you made a huge impact on my life. And thank you so much for what you’ve done with me. And, you know, it’s really helped. Maybe some of your kids even stay in touch with you today and they’re older and you go out to the bar and have some food and catch up and talk life.


Sam Demma (17:53):
I’m curious to know if there’s any stories of transformation that stick out in your mind and you can change your name. If it’s a very profound story. The reason I’m asking is because a lot of teachers are burnt out. Some teachers are just getting into teaching some teachers plant, but don’t see them. They don’t see the, they don’t see the efforts or the sewing of that seed for 10 years down the road. And especially right now when that network of teachers is gone, I think it’s even more harder to stay motivated and hopeful. And a story of transformation might just be the thing to remind an educator, listening that you know, what they’re doing is important and they should keep pushing forward.


Julie Champagne (18:29):
Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think, I think those sort of impactful moments, they, you can have one really great one and then two, three weeks later, maybe that student takes a backside. Right. I, I, I really feel for new teachers this year. Mm-Hmm I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be in a silo. Right. Just without that sort of support without the sounding board. And to feel like you’re not making a difference, but honestly, any programming, I just, I will answer the question, but I just wanna say any programming that a teacher is providing right now, whether it’s a worksheet that they got up onto Google classroom, or they were hoarded a quick lesson for 10 minutes, or they threw up a cool video that they found on YouTube that is reaching kids. Yeah. And it’s making a difference and it’s, and it’s more than they’re getting otherwise.


Julie Champagne (19:22):
Yeah. Right. And so we just have to be okay with that and we have to celebrate that and recognize we’re all just doing our best, not just teachers, teacher of students, we’re all just doing our best this year. And, and muddling our way through it. Right. So if you know, any new teachers that are feeling that way, I, I, I think they, I, I hope that they just take a pause and realize this is quite honestly the hardest year they will ever teach. Yeah. Right. It’s it’s only gonna get easier from here. Yeah. But not for one second to think that they’re not having an impact. Yeah. Cause they are, even if they have to wait 10 years to get the email from, from the kid, I love it. I think for me, I mean, you, you met some of these kids.


Julie Champagne (20:06):
I, I taught the foundations program at, at my old school. It’s grade nine and 10, and you knew a little bit about them, their, their students who, for whatever reason, the, the mainstream wasn’t working out for them. And so a lot of them arrive with some pretty icy chips on their shoulder. Mm-Hmm . And I can think of one student in particular and, and you know, this student, we had lots of ups and, and downs. This was not, this was not a, a fixed by October. It was a, it wasn’t even a fixed by the time he graduated. Mm. You know? So he arrived in, in grade nine just all over the place, all over the place. He couldn’t predict his actions. You couldn’t, you couldn’t predict if he was gonna listen to your lesson that day or not, or if he was gonna show up or not, and wicked smart, wicked, wicked smart.


Julie Champagne (21:03):
And, you know, I just remember pulling my, a hair out in the staff room. Like, how am I gonna get through to this kid? How am I gonna reach him? He’s more than capable. He can do this. And then we’d have these breakthrough moments where he’d come in and be like, miss, I just read Richard the third, last night for fun. You’re like, wait, sorry. So you won’t read to kill a Mockingbird, but you’ll read Richard the third, your, okay. All right, well, let’s talk Richard III. I’ve read Richard. The third. Let’s do it. Let’s have that conversation. Right. And, and those little moments, I think go a really long way in helping that kid see that I believed in him and that I knew he was capable and I knew he could do it. And I think the real turning point was, was a, was a trip that we took.


Julie Champagne (21:50):
I took the foundation students on a Portage trip to Algonquin. Mm. And I saw a different side of all the students, but this student in particular, there was a confidence and a surety of himself in this environment that I’d not seen in the classroom walls. Mm. You know, the not tying ability, the fire building skills, naming of trees, the all get outta the canoe first to see if there’s any, any bear sightings on, on the site before we pitch our texts, right? Like this is, this was real roughen at camping. There was no glamping about it. And, and it really changed something in me for him. I came back to the classroom and, and just equipped him with so many more hands on things and told him, you know, okay, this is your seat, but this is your squad. Like, this is, you know, if you can’t sit in your seat, the whole class cool.


Julie Champagne (22:42):
But stay within the, stay within this squad that we’ve created. Mm-Hmm right. And, and he did it and, and, you know, to your, yeah, he is, he is a student that I stay in touch with that, you know, sent me a Christmas card last year, who, when he found out I was moving to Ottawa, asked if he could take me out for, for a, a goodbye drink and, and just wanted to say, thank you. And it’s incredible, like what a moment. Right. But at the end of it, like, he taught me so much about my teaching practice. Do you know what I mean? Like yeah, sure. I made an impact in his life. He’s off at Guelph. I mean, he’s home, but he’s not Guelph. Yeah. And, and he’s lighting it up and that’s a, my own practice because of what I went through with this student. Right. So he he’s, I he’s gonna go down in the history books for sure. That’s awesome. So cool. I think if he’s listen, if he listens, he’ll know it’s him too. That’s the funny thing, like he will know


Sam Demma (23:38):
, that’s awesome. I love that. Maybe you just send it to him. yeah, I will. There’s something about you in here, you know, we have to catch up and get a drink and it’s an excuse to have another conversation with a person. Exactly. in the, in the effort of making sure that we try and support teachers and educators, as much as we can and give them opportunities to connect and move away from the silos that they might be in right now, how could someone reach out to you if they wanna bounce ideas around, have cool conversations and just yeah. Talk and connect.


Julie Champagne (24:09):
Yeah, absolutely. I love, I love that. I love sharing resources. I love getting new resources and, and supporting each other. I think that’s the best. So you can find the English tutor on Instagram, just @theenglishtutoronline. You can email me at it’s julie@theenglishtutor.com. Or you can email me at park street, julie.champagne@parkstreetedu.com. Awesome. Would really welcome any anybody that wants to reach out and have a, have a chat I’d love to, I’d love to learn more. Cool,


Sam Demma (24:39):
Julie, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you and I can’t wait to see all the students you keep to mentor and teach and read to is really exciting.


Julie Champagne (24:48):
Thank you so much.


Sam Demma (24:49):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show, if you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network. You’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities, and I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Julie Champagne

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.

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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.