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innovation

Jacqueline Newton – Superintendent of Education Innovation & Ingenuity School Operations, VSS & Gary Allan Learning Centres

Jacqueline Newton - Superintendent of Education Innovation & Ingenuity School Operations, VSS & Gary Allan Learning Centres
About Jacqueline Newton

Jacqueline (@Super_Halton) is entering her 35th year as a learner and is on a quest for more! Having taught in three Ontario boards as well as at the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto, she has also co-authored several textbooks and articles for educational journals.

In Halton, Jacqueline has been a school administrator at Lord Elgin High School (now known as Robert Bateman HS), TA Blakelock, Iroquois Ridge, Nelson and was the founding principal at Dr Frank J. Hayden SS. As Superintendent of Education for the schools in Milton, Continuing Education, and the portfolio of Innovation and Ingenuity, Jacqueline provides the fuel to The Shift team. She believes that no one should have to “play the game of school” and wants to create the conditions that allow students and staff to be more excited for Monday mornings than they are for Friday afternoons.

She provides TOTAL support mixed with the spirit of saying “Yes, and…” to help push the edges of the school sandbox to awesome places. As we are in the depths of solving the wicked challenges of COVID, it is exciting times as we are never going “BACK” to the 150 year old model of schooling … we are moving FORWARD and imagining what school could be….


Are you ready to TRY, FAIL, LEARN & SHIFT?

Connect with Jacqueline: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education – University of Toronto

Robert Bateman HS

TA Blakelock

Iroquois Ridge

Nelson

Dr Frank J. Hayden SS

The Shift Team

The Shift Blog

Gary Allan Learning Centres

High Tech High

Books by Tony Wagner

What School Could Be by Ted Dintersmith

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

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):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator.


Sam Demma (01:00):
This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest on the podcast is Jacqueline Newton. Jacqueline is entering her 35th year as a learner and is on a quest for more! Having taught in three Ontario boards as well as at the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto, she has also co-authored several textbooks and articles for educational journals. In Halton, Jacqueline has been a school administrator at Lord Elgin High School (now known as Robert Bateman HS), TA Blakelock, Iroquois Ridge, Nelson and was the founding principal at Dr Frank J. Hayden SS. As Superintendent of Education for the schools in Milton, Continuing Education, and the portfolio of Innovation and Ingenuity, Jacqueline provides the fuel to The Shift team. She believes that no one should have to “play the game of school” and wants to create the conditions that allow students and staff to be more excited for Monday mornings than they are for Friday afternoons.


Sam Demma (01:54):
She provides TOTAL support mixed with the spirit of saying “Yes, and…” to help push the edges of the school sandbox to awesome places. As we are in the depths of solving the wicked challenges of COVID, it is exciting times as we are never going “BACK” to the 150 year old model of schooling … we are moving FORWARD and imagining what school could be. She has a question for you. Are you ready to try fail, learn, and shift? If you are, keep listening to this podcast, you’re gonna enjoy this conversation with Jacqueline and I will see you on the other side. Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today we have a very special guest. Her name is Jacqueline Newton. Jacqueline, please take a moment to introduce yourself.


Jacqueline Newton (02:43):
Hi Sam. I’m Jacqueline Newton, and I currently am a superintendent for the Halton District School Board.


Sam Demma (02:48):
When throughout your own career journey, did you realize you wanted to work in education?


Jacqueline Newton (02:56):
I would say two, two moments for sure. One moment was I was in grade six and the English teacher that was teaching us an English study. He was not very engaging and he didn’t really wanna be there either. And so I was not being very respectful for sure. And so at one point he turned to me and said, do you wanna teach a lesson? And I said, move over and give me the chalk, which was not a good move . So I was removed from the class right away. And my poor parents, I certainly was consequenced at home as well. But I thought, you know what, like I can make, I can make learning fun, like we can do this. But then I went off, you know, and studied other things and, but it was always in the back of my mind.


Jacqueline Newton (03:41):
And the other turning point was I worked in probation as a probation officer assistant before going into teaching. And I remember the clients, there were 77 clients. Mm. Two of two of whom were females. So that was interesting. And when I got to know a lot of the kids cuz you had to visit them every couple weeks, they often would often it was because they weren’t they didn’t enjoy school. Mm. And, and, and they weren’t proficient at playing the game of school either. And so for me, one, you know, a couple of them said like, you should really get into teaching. Like you, you do know how to talk to kids. Like you get, you get us teenagers. And so I guess those were the two points that I did. And then the third point is my mom is my hero and she was a elementary school teacher and phenomenal. So I always had a homeroom teacher. So I always got to go in at the last week of school and help sharpen the pencils for the kids for the desk and do the bulletin boards. And however, I never went into elementary. She said, no, you’re not suited for elementary. You need to, you need to go to secondary. You can’t last on yard duty one minute.


Sam Demma (04:54):
so, oh man,


Jacqueline Newton (04:56):
There. So that’s true. I, I I love playing with teenagers. They were amazing.


Sam Demma (05:03):
What did the journey look like once you figured out yes, this is something I’m really excited about, passionate about, and I wanna do take us along the whole journey.


Jacqueline Newton (05:13):
Right? So in university I studied economics, history and criminology, so that’s been helpful. Nice and and applied to the faculty of ed and I, a number of faculties and I did not get in. So that was devastating for me. I’ve never been rejected before. That was really hard, was a hard, it was a good hard lesson. Later in the summer I was offered U F T offered me acceptance, which was awesome. And and I really enjoyed working working out there. And then of course at the end of the, the class of that year there were no jobs that was 1988, no jobs. And so back in the day, when you applied for a job, you did a nice, you got nice, bought nice two tanks, resume, pretty, you know, all kinds of portfolio things.


Jacqueline Newton (06:04):
And I mailed them to 70, 75 school boards. Oh. And and schools. Right. And all across Ontario. So I was prepared to move anywhere for a job. And a lot of people weren’t like I founded the faculty, they wanted to stay in Toronto. If they’re from Toronto, they want, but anyway, Guelph phoned me up and offered me a job and never been to Guelph before. Okay, we’ll go to Guelph. So so that was, that was exciting then when he landed there it did all kinds of coaching, love, love sports, and loved the program. But at the end of the day, I taught elective areas such as the histories and economics. And so it depends on course enrollment and was, and being a young teacher was declared surplus. So then I moved to the peel board.


Jacqueline Newton (06:52):
They offered me a job there growing board, right in offered job there. And so anyway, I spent 10 years in appeal and in that time I was also offered a job to teach back at U Ft who had rejected me the first time. So I thought full circle to teach at the faculty and loved it. So teach teachers how to teach. And at the same time teaching regular day school teaching, which was great, gives you a real authentic experience. And then thought I’d like to try administration. So in doing that, I decided to change boards again. So this is the third board and moved to I lived in Oakville at the time I was pregnant with my second child and thought I don’t want this commute into Toronto, love Toronto love peel, but I don’t really want that daily commute. And so looked at moving to Halton and came in 1998 three months after my son was born as an administrator and had loved it. So it’s been fantastic.


Sam Demma (07:54):
That’s amazing. It sounds like you’ve done so many different roles in education. Each are so special and unique. They all provide different opportunities to impact students, parents, the community. Tell me a little bit about your role today, what it entails and why you’re passionate about it.


Jacqueline Newton (08:13):
Right. So I, I would say before, before before becoming a superintendent, I was I was a administrator for 10 years a little more in 10 years. And but some of the it’s been interesting going to different schools. So every school I went into, I was only there for three to five years, which I love that restlessness. Right. Mm. And change. And it was always interesting to go into an older school and pick up what the traditions are and then how to honor those traditions and yet move it forward. And but the highlight was opening a new school in Halton, a new high school that we’ve never done this model before, where you partner with the city and you partner with the library and then you partner with your board. And so it’s really a campus.


Jacqueline Newton (08:58):
And so it’s Dr. Frank J. Hayden in Burlington’s phenomenal. And the bonus of it was, it was named after an incredible man who won’t tell you his age, because then you’ll treat him like a nine, three year old . But he comes out to every games. He he’s unbelievable, but he started the special Olympics. So he was a doc doctor studying down syndrome. Children said, these kids can do sports. And so he, he was the founder of the special Olympics for the United States. And and he lives locally right now. And that’s phenomenal. So moving from there, I moved into superintendent was fortunate to apply for super, which gives me basically overseeing schools in Milton from K to 12. Mm. Which is a real wide span. And I thank my lucky stars after six years in this game that my elementary cohorts teach me all about elementary.


Jacqueline Newton (09:54):
Cuz I don’t know. I still say I don’t, I don’t get this nutrition break stuff. Yeah. they’re phenomenal. And then I have high schools as well. And I also have the virtual school, which was interesting two years ago to start up a virtual school as a pandemic response rather than what a virtual school could really be. Cuz that would be amazing. But right now it’s contained. And then I’m also look after our continuing education program for adults. So that’s and very alternative ed for kids that don’t like learning in the box, which is my kind of learner. I love those kids and adults. So really helping them along. And probably the most energizing piece is six years ago the director said I’m gonna create this portfolio. I don’t know. I think I’ll call it innovation and ingenuity and I just want you to do so like pardon.


Jacqueline Newton (10:46):
So basically it was, there’s the title, blanks, slate table, ASO, do whatever you want. And since then it’s grown to be what we now call and Halton the shift. Mm. And it’s a team of three coaches and they go into schools and they lead workshops all over podcasts. They have their own website. But it really is about doing things differently within the box of bumpers. For sure. Like you can’t just really nearly do whatever. Yeah. but they have been they’re they call ’em a shift and we do things like, you know, play on words, share your shift where shift disturbers. And that whole piece has been a great network across Ontario in the United States. So and those cats, they know how to roll it’s they fill my soul. They’re pretty amazing. So it’s been a, it’s been a great ride.


Sam Demma (11:35):
Were you at all overwhelmed when your your director told you, do whatever you want, are you


Jacqueline Newton (11:41):
Like, I’m like, bring it on and by the way, you have no money. Oh, okay. That’s fun. And you’re doing it by yourself, which is not great. And but anyway, it was exciting instead of in, you know, school’s always about you know, here’s the box that we always play in. This is your box this, but so to be given a new sandbox that didn’t have parameters, it was pretty, pretty exciting. And it still is though. I have to say it’s challenging cuz a lot of people don’t understand that. So one of my best friends is a superintendent and she is amazing, but she’s given a portfolio that’s very much in the box, like has to report to the ministry, has money, financial like extreme, extreme responsibility. So she always looks at me and she says, do you get to the fun stuff? When I get to do the fun sucker stuff? I said, I know, I know. And I like it that way.


Sam Demma (12:35):
that’s so cool. So how many years have you been in this role?


Jacqueline Newton (12:42):
Yeah, this is, this is going on seven, which is hard to believe. I’ve never been in a role for more than five. So, but they, but again, it’s different pieces and meeting different people and different portfolio shuffles and our senior team is changing too, which is always good. It’s sad too. Cuz lots of good people who are superintendents but you learn new dynamics and you’re given new opportunities and C’s been awesome. I know a lot of people don’t wanna hear that, but for the first time teaching no longer is a private act. Mm. Like people actually can see your classroom. Even if you’re not in virtual school, we’ve come to that now. So much more inclusive that way. Plus people were forced to change how they teach. Yeah. If it, like you had no choice in the past week, can Jo you, Hey, try this thing, see how it flies.


Jacqueline Newton (13:32):
And now it’s like, ah, new you will learn how to use a computer and I know a camera and a microphone and by the way, we need you to make it engaging and fun and learn. Right. So it was it’s been for sure, it’s been like a plane in the sky, you know, you’re building it as you fly. But the other part of it is, and I dislike the word so much now cuz we’ve used it so much, but we’ve had to pivot and pivot and pivot and pivot and it’s it’s so, you know, I’m a baseball player too. You know, I was a pitch it’s like, okay, now today we’re throwing another curve ball. So like, and we want you to hit it outta the park. So let’s go. So it’s, it’s been great. I have to say though, the ride has been exhausting. There’s no doubt about it. People crave not to go back, but to take the lessons we’ve learned and move forward mm-hmm but pieces that people really value kids really value that, you know, eating together as a fellowship and playing sports and having proms and per in person grads. Like those are all things we did the best we could virtually, but it’s not quite the same dancing by yourself and prom on a camera. Not quite.


Sam Demma (14:37):
I asked my question, dance in person when I was in middle school and she walked into the woman’s change room and never came out. So I didn’t have a dance and I, it wasn’t because of virtual


Jacqueline Newton (14:50):
Totally get it. Yes. Those are the other sides of, in person that as administrators and I have to say my favorite kids, honestly like obviously you, you have to learn to play the game of school a little bit, right? Yeah. Like, and I was a kid that would just say to teachers politely, I learned to be polite respectfully just say, look, you know what? Like I’ll read the textbook, thank goodness. We don’t do that anymore. Write textbook reading and multiple choice exams. Geez. But you know, I’ll show up for the exams, but why don’t we just have that? Cause I liked being around school, but I didn’t like bell to bell kind of thing. And I had some amazing teachers. So it wasn’t that at all. It was just, that just wasn’t my style. So yeah, I probably would’ve really thrived in alternative bed or, or something to that effect.


Jacqueline Newton (15:35):
So I really love those kids that really, they just can’t sit. They just, and, and so they’re out at the Creek or they’re out doing other stuff and you know, we kind of have to learn from doing those mistakes too. And that’s okay. Our, our saying is like, we try try something and if you fail that’s okay. Learn and shift again. So that’s where we’re kind of we’re at that with kids, but we also need to give permission for adults to do that too. So for principals to try some, you know, as a superintendent, that’s what I get to say. I get to say, try it. Like I got your back. I’m giving you permission. Try it. And if it doesn’t go down the way, well we’re used to that now in COVID not, everything goes down the way we think it’s gonna go down. And so I’m hoping that I’m hoping as we come out of this, we see more leaders and more learners that are not the way our grandparents learned in school.


Sam Demma (16:27):
Mm it’s so important. We move with the shift


Jacqueline Newton (16:31):
Yes. We need to shift.


Sam Demma (16:33):
Yes. . Who has mentored you along your journey, maybe people that actually come to mind, but also courses or books or programs or things you’ve been a part of that you think have informed the way that you show up. So yeah. Human resources and maybe even some additional things that have been helpful for you.


Jacqueline Newton (16:53):
I have to say one of the most influential was a public health nurse married to back. So I started at my first principal is at qua Ridge and I was scared like scared. Like I’m all of a sudden like, oh my God, like you’re responsible. Right? Yeah. And and she walked in and she said didn’t know her. She was assigned to the school, not to give needles and stuff, but just to kind of be there as a counselor support. And she said, I think you’ve got the skills to blow this place out of the water. I’m like, what I was just coming into just like, let’s, let’s see how we do school here. Yeah. And she said, let’s start a let’s you and I start a program called Tuesday at 10, and that’s where we invite parents in.


Jacqueline Newton (17:35):
We can talk about whatever they want for an hour and then they can go off and build community themselves. And so that was pretty influential. She always, and she still is. She is a personal life coach. And does her own work now and she’s worked with our kids network, but she always is about building relationships with kids, with parents and community. So she was huge in saying you can think differently. And I remember one time there was a, that was the first thing. There was a grant that was being offered at Washington under a S C D. It’s a, it’s a, an affiliate of their thinking out, down there in Washington. And she said, Hey, I found this on the website. Let’s fly. And I’m like, what? And it was like I said, okay. So I gathered six amazing people together around a table.


Jacqueline Newton (18:22):
I said, we got one hour. We’re gonna write this grant and see if we get it. And they gave it to us. We were shocked $20,000. And it was about building relationships wow. With, with your community, we were blown away. And from that, they just kept throwing money at us coming up and visiting. They flew us to Texas. They flew us to Vancouver. We got to bring the kids with us. So the kids who were instrumental, the youth that were instrument in making this happen and know nowadays we talk about student voice and it’s kind of a joke. It’s like, invite them when you wanna find out what color to paint the wall. Right. But this was no, this is how you own your school. They own the school. So that was pretty, pretty wild. I’d never thought I would be that out there. And yet other people say, oh yeah, you’re so out there, like, you know, you do those personality continuum.


Jacqueline Newton (19:07):
yeah. Like I’m on the far side. Right. and I need to be pulled back, which is good to have a partner. I think the other moving piece for me was was an opportunity. I got to fly out to see high tech high and it was Ted dither Smith and Tony Wagner. And again, another consultant for the board said, you need to read this book and you, you will, you will change how you look at school. Cindy Constantino. Fabulous. And Tony writes about, it’s not about marks. It’s about how you learn. And it’s about finding your passion for kids. So, you know, give every Wednesday, give it up and say, calculus can stand on its own today. Let’s do something you’re passionate about and getting teachers to be passionate. So the one school I was at Wednesdays were a, I, I don’t think people wanna hear that, but it was a throwaway day.


Jacqueline Newton (19:55):
It was, here’s a group of teachers that do things really cool in their private life. And they’re willing to share that experience with you. So if you wanna learn to ballroom dance or you wanna learn to skateboard, I had teachers out in the skateboard park, like with the dudes who know how to do that, the kids teaching the teachers, like it was talk about community, right. So I think high tech, high Tony Wagner’s book on what school could be. And then the follow up to that was Ted dither Smith’s partner. And seeing what schools should look like. And we’ve built one that looks like high tech, high SIE MCIL we just opened it phenomenal. It’s all about pod learning in class and movement. And mark Dooley up there is the principal’s amazing. But Ted di Smith, interesting. He wrote a book called what schools could be.


Jacqueline Newton (20:44):
So again, I’m promoting his book too. But what he did is he took a year and he toured every state in the United States to find a good school. And he ranked them pretty scary. Some of the rankings . And in the end of the day, he, he, he decided to do a side trip when he was in Seattle and he went up to Vancouver and he went, oh my God, this is what a school should be. So of course I follow ’em on Twitter cause I’m on Twitter or not. So I follow ’em. I say, Hey, you wanna really see how things rock in Canada. You come to Ontario and I’ll show you what we’ve gotten. we’ve got amazing, amazing things happen. We don’t have these. We’re not regimented like the states with these exams every year. Yes. I know we have E Q a O, but they’re so regimented in the hours they spend, I said, you need to come to Ontario, happy to tour you around all kinds of boards cuz that’s, what’s nice about this job as a superintendent, you meet so many good people that are doing really good stuff all over.


Jacqueline Newton (21:39):
So so those were the, those I would say are the professional ones. And then I, I would say, I really have been turned on by Daniel Pink’s writing and really like writing. That’s not about education. Yeah. Welcome Gladwell. I’m always a fan of his, but I also love Brene brown. I love that dare to lead, dare to fail finding what people like and, and, and one of my shift coaches, Matt Coleman, who’s amazing reminded me yesterday when I was talking to him. He said, remember that book, we, we wanna do a coffee talk on and with BNE and it’s the, the story was a vignette about an army Sergeant who the whole army, they were coming back from a tour and that they were, they were upset and tired and just, just fatigued. And the morale was so low.


Jacqueline Newton (22:29):
And when bene dug into the story with her, the reason why morale was so low and people were exhausted and just fed up, which is kind of where we are right now in education. Right. Just trying to hang on to June it’s cuz they’re lonely. Mm they’re lonely. And they also feel that they’re not good enough. And so I think of that quite often with Brene brown that I think we as people, whether we’re an education or not, whether you’re a spouse or a sister or an educator or that we, we just don’t feel we’re good enough, no matter what we do. And I think that’s a real thing that we need to get over. But right now I also think getting over being lonely and super tendency can be very lonely. Like you don’t have us big honk in 2000 school kids running.


Jacqueline Newton (23:14):
It can be very lonely and I’ve, I’ve had to really work at not being lonely by being in schools. But you get saturated with reports and things like that. But yeah, I think that’s what we have to work on in education that kids. So we talk a lot about mental health right now. But it’s always been an issue and the issue is not about mental health so much as people not feeling good enough and feeling very lonely and how to tap them in. And then when they are, when we have serious mental health issues, absolutely knowing how to recommend people and support people through that.


Sam Demma (23:51):
I love bene brown, Malcolm Gladwell, his book, the tipping point was something I read when I just got outta high school and was starting to build this, picking up garbage initiative called pick waste with me and my good high school friend, Dylan. Yes. I really loved his ideas of social proof, Daniel pink on his books about sales and how to sell as human, like such, such good


Jacqueline Newton (24:13):
Stuff. I know that’s what it is, right. It’s not about, okay, you gotta have a diploma and graduate, do stuff and grow up right away. It’s like, no, man, you’re selling, you are selling. And I’m thinking it’s so true. You’re selling somebody’s passion. You’re being human about it. And I love the story of apple. They really aren’t selling a product. They’re selling a whole image and feel good about buying lifestyle, this product lifestyle. True. It’s so true. That’s stuck with me too. Yeah.


Sam Demma (24:39):
So if you could travel back in time, tap your younger self on the shoulder when you were just starting your first job in education, what advice would you have given your younger self? Not because you would’ve changed anything about your path, but what do you think would’ve been helpful to hear when you were just beginning in the case that an educator listening right now is just getting into this vocation.


Jacqueline Newton (25:03):
Yeah. I needed more. I needed somebody to tap me to say, just fly mm-hmm. like, I was scared. I, I have to save. So fair enough. I started teaching when I was 24, 25 and and there were 19 year old boys in the class. Right. So I made an effort to really like dress like a prude. look old, like get looking old. Because I didn’t like, I was so afraid about like, here’s my role as a teacher and here’s your role as a student? So the really clear defined rules. Yeah. As opposed to we’re teaching together and we’re collaborative and we’re learning and we’re those pieces. So I think the confidence, like I was scared to really articulate and be edgy. I’ve been told, I have edgy language. I have to tone it down sometimes. so I’m learning to control my edginess and people are like, no, that’s who you are.


Jacqueline Newton (25:54):
But I wa I wasn’t edgy. I, I mean, I was in my head inside as a younger person, but to have the courage to go out there, I really lacked the confidence. And it’s really funny cuz I played tons of sports. And I had all kinds of confidence out there on the court or on the baseball field. But when it came to like finding my voice and really questioning how things are done or how to add value. I yeah, I would’ve said just having more confidence. So telling people I really do believe I, you need to, you need to not. And I was in a hurry to grow up, like hurry and get a career, get set in a career get married buy a house, have kids. And I’m like, oh my goodness, please don’t do any of that till you’re 35 maybe.


Jacqueline Newton (26:43):
But try different things. You don’t have to be loyal to a company. You don’t have to like really find your authentic self. And and in education that’s allowed me to do that, but I think in a lot of other professions it’s not. And, and many of my friends for years have said, and they’re very successful people in the business world and they have turned to me and they said, you know, Jake, cuz they call me Jake, you know, Jacqueline Jake, my son’s name’s Jacob. And he plays baseball in Florida. You know what you need to, you know what, you’re the only one that’s truly happy with what they’re doing and that though you could have gone into business, hands down and sell like nobody’s business and made tons of money. We look at you and we say, you talk passionately about what you do sometimes that nausea what you do.


Jacqueline Newton (27:33):
and, and you have the best stories about what happens in, in in schools. But so they, you know, it’s that it’s finding something, you really find joy and I’m really, I was intrigued by you Sam and looked up of course I’ve lurked you and looked you up after you were reached out. And I, I thought, yeah, like you’re doing what you wanna do. You’re putting you, you know, and you can do whatever, like try it out, see how it flies and who knows the networking and what happens. Right. So now at this age of my life, as I’m, now I’m trying to stay, say, don’t look so old and PR she’s trying to stay looking young for crying out loud and and trying to be confident trying to say, okay, what else is out there right now?


Jacqueline Newton (28:17):
Right? Yeah. So yes, superintendent today, but Hey, like what’s kind of cool and out there and doing something different again. So and I would say my, my daughter Sid’s taught me an awful lot. She’s gone through, gone through her battle and with cancer, she’s a warrior. She would not give up. She just went in that ring 11 rounds and pounded it. And but with grace and poise, and then I watched her speak at a relay for life event with thousand people and grabbed that mic and it was like, wow. So if I could be like her, I would be so I’m so proud of kids my own children too, as well, but so proud of so many kids who find the courage to just be themselves and, but add value to their life by also adding value to our lives. And I think I know lots of book on relationships and stuff like that, but to really give people permission to do that, I think that’s pretty cool.


Sam Demma (29:17):
This has been such a nice conversation. Thank you so much, Jack. for taking Jake.


Jacqueline Newton (29:24):
My dad’s actually, the story was the story was my I was, I was supposed to be a boy, supposedly my dad told my mom always gonna be a boy. It’s gonna be a boy when I, and he bought to bulls or toy bulls are before I was born. And then I came outta girl. He’s like, what? So? And I love my dad and mom, my aunt. So Jacqueline was the name after Jack. My son’s name is Jacob. Right. and we’re Dutch. So we spell it with a gay and but what was very cool. My dad, my dad was the one who made us play like a boy. So this thing, you know, a girl play like a boy. So he was the one he pitched balls with my sister and I like nobody’s business. We played and played and played baseball like nobody’s done. And he was at every game. Like, just so it’s the love of yeah, it’s the love. And I think that’s part of it too. I’ve been always been taught to think in both brains, right. Not to, to do that, but Sam, I thank you very much. It’s been so fun to reflect with you and I really admire your work. And and thank you for this opportunity.


Sam Demma (30:28):
If someone wants to reach out, ask you a question, bounce, some ideas around, open a door, make a connection, what would be the best way for someone to get in touch?


Jacqueline Newton (30:38):
Yeah, probably on Twitter, to be honest. I’m a Twitter nut, love to showcase schools and what they’re doing. So my handle is @Super_Halton or my email, which is newtonj@hdsb.ca. Or probably google, you know, you lurk all over the place. yes, I’m on LinkedIn too. And yes, I know I got old stuff on there. I gotta clean up, but yes, lots of, lots of social media pieces.


Sam Demma (31:09):
Awesome. Jacqueline, thank you so much for taking the time. This has been a pleasure. Keep up the great work you’re doing and we will talk soon.


Jacqueline Newton (31:16):
Thank you so much.


Sam Demma (31:18):
Hey, it’s Sam again. I hope you enjoyed that amazing conversation on the High Performing Educator podcast. If you, or you know, deserves some extra recognition and appreciation for the work they do in education, please consider applying or nominating them for the High Performing Educator awards, go to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. You can also find the link in the show notes. I’m super excited to spotlight and feature 20 people in 2022, and I’m hoping you or someone, you know, can be one of those educators. I’ll talk to you on the next episode, all the best.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Jacqueline Newton

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.

Natasha Bathgate – Director of Learning and Innovation at West Island College

Natasha Bathgate - Director of Learning and Innovation at West Island College
About Natasha Bathgate

Natasha Bathgate (@NLBathgate) is the Director of Learning and Innovation at West Island College, Calgary. An educator for 17 years, she is passionate about people, nature, and good design.

Natasha was born in Wales, emigrated to Canada in 2008, and lived in Vancouver for 10 years. Currently in Calgary with her husband and twins aged 10, Natasha is driven by a need for continuous growth, new experiences, and feeling strong.

Connect with Natasha: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

West Island College

Royal Road University – Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership and Management

IB Leadership Certificates

Choose your Own Adventure Books

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 Natasha Bathgate. She is the director of learning and innovation at West Island College in Calgary. An educator for 17 years, she is passionate about people, nature and good design. Natasha was born in Wales, emigrated to Canada in 2008, and lived in Vancouver for 10 years. She’s currently in Calgary with her husband and twins who are age 10, and Natasha is driven by a need for continuous growth, new experiences, and feeling strong. And I know you will take all of that and so much more away from our conversation today, so enjoy. Natasha, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show this morning. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit of the reason behind why you’re so passionate about the work you do in education today?


Natasha Bathgate (01:34):
Sure. So I’m originally from Wales in the UK which is the kind of land of daffodils and male voice choirs and rugby. And I came to Canada over 20 years ago now and just first of all, moved to Vancouver and fell in love with Vancouver and decided that at some point in my life I wanted to, to be living there permanently. So I’ve now been living in Canada as a Canadian citizen since 2008 I think; 2007/2008. And funnily enough, I didn’t actually get into work in education for many of the reasons that other people may have. My pathway was not exactly traditional. I, the reason I got into education is because I wanted to get permanent residency in Canada and when I was looking to, when I was looking to fill out all of my papers to come, to, to move to Canada they had a list of careers that were on that were, were acceptable to get a get permanent residency.


Natasha Bathgate (02:38):
And at the time I was working as a travel consultant and travel consultant originally was on the list. And then at that time, September 11th happened and the Canadian government took all travel related careers off the list. So I was ready to put my code in the code of the job I was doing. And and then it was no longer there. So I just was chatting with a few friends in Wales and around in a pub one day. And and I said, look, I really wanna move to Canada. What am I gonna do? I looked at all the list of things and I considered vending machine repair technician. Yeah. I thought, okay, I can train in that pretty quickly. So maybe I could do that. And then one of my friends said, Hey, why don’t you go into teaching? I think you’d be pretty good at teaching.


Natasha Bathgate (03:21):
And I just thought, no, like why would no never considered that? Why would I do that? Yeah. And she said, well, and I thought, what would I even teach? And anyway, I was, I was quite good at art at school and I I yeah, I enjoyed drawing and painting, so I thought, okay, I’ll just go and see if I can do that. So I started, I arranged to I arranged to shadow my old art teacher in Wales and I just thought, okay, well, I’ll see if I see if I would be interested in doing this. So I shadowed her for a little while. Then I submitted my application to do a a postgraduate for kit in education so that I could become qualified to teach. And anyway, kind of fast forward a few, a number of years, cuz it still took a long time to get the actual qualification, the work experience, the visas, et cetera. But finally I, I managed to move to Canada and that’s what got me into teaching.


Sam Demma (04:19):
That’s so that’s, that’s such an,


Natasha Bathgate (04:21):
But I did actually. Yeah. And it turns out I I do, I mean, I’m not teaching right now. I’m director of learning and innovation, but I for the last like fif 16 years, I’ve been teaching and I love it because it’s even though I’m not directly teaching, I’m still obviously very closely connected to it. I just it’s, it’s so interesting. It’s never boring. Like there’s never, you know, you, you never go into the school or the classroom thinking, oh God, it’s gonna be another boring day. There’s never a dull moment. And because every student is different and every student has different backgrounds and different experiences and different little quirks and it’s just such a great fun place to work.


Sam Demma (05:03):
Well, I was gonna ask you like, what was your first role? And maybe you could explain what director of learning and innovation looks like as well, because I’m sure many people are wondering that sounds like a cool role and I’ve never heard of it before. So yeah,


Natasha Bathgate (05:16):
I know. It’s funny. Yeah. So well, yeah, so originally I was an art team, so I was teaching art for a number of years. And then I became the kind of department head of, of a, of a department that had a bunch of different subjects to do with arts and technology graphic design, computer science, all that. And then I started to become really interested in educational leadership and about I think five years ago now I did my masters in educational leadership and management at a really awesome university called Royal Rhode university in Victoria, Vancouver island. Nice. And the reason I kind of chose that university is because they really have a very kind of future focused, collaborative, innovative approach to teaching leaders to become leaders. Hmm. And so, so yeah, so I got into educational leadership because I really just wanted to be able to have a bit more impact and influence on the future of education.


Natasha Bathgate (06:18):
And I think that I was able to influence the students in my classroom on a daily basis, but I got to a point where I thought, you know, I want to be able to be part of decision making at a, a broader level. So that’s why I got into educational leadership. So my role is really, I feel I found myself, I felt I’m quite lucky Rudy, cuz my role is about, you know, I get involved in educational research. I continually sort of observe teaching and learning in the classroom. I work with teachers and ask them like, you know, what do you need to be at your best? Like how, how can I support you to be the best teacher and the best person? And then I, and then I just I guess building relationships with teachers to help them be the best teachers they can be.


Natasha Bathgate (07:04):
And some people, some schools will call this role director of academics. So it has different job titles, but it really is about making sure that the, the teaching and learning that’s going on in your school is aligned with, you know, your vision, mission and values it’s aligned with where you believe the future of education should be. And and it’s just kind of, you know, if we say we want students to be curious, then what does teaching and learning look like for students to be curious? And what does the teacher look like if they, if you, if you want that teacher to infuse curiosity in students, then what should that teacher be doing? So I don’t get involved with the day to day. I don’t get too involved with the day to day kind of operational stuff. Like that’s why I think I’m quite lucky. I really do love this job. Yeah. but yeah, I think that’s, I think that’s it up.


Sam Demma (08:00):
That’s awesome. And you know, from talking to Jim and from also just reading a ton on the website, I found that you take like the school takes a very personalized approach, tries to create a very personalized approach for every single student and learner. I would assume like that’s a big part of your work as well is like, would I be correct in saying that? And what does that look like? Like for you or for the school?


Natasha Bathgate (08:21):
Yeah. With teachers, cuz I guess I, because I work closely with teachers. Yeah. So I’m trying to per I’m trying to personalize the professional growth for teachers. Hmm. So it starts off with, it starts off with a one-on-one conversation towards the beginning of the year and setting goals. And the goal is of course aligned with, you know, the teaching and learning quality standards for the province. But once we’ve had that conversation, then I, I make notes about what that person has said. And I, and I work hard to try to find things that I think would interest them. So if I’m suggesting professional development activities, I might suggest books. I might suggest connecting them with certain people. Like I, I try and I try and build capacity in individuals by really connecting them with other people as well, who could, who could support them. Nice. And that’s kind of also the, my approach that was my approach to teaching as well. When I was, when I was teaching, that was my same approach. I just want to find out, you know, what is it that person needs, wants enjoys and how can I build their capacity by drawing upon those, those things.


Sam Demma (09:37):
I love that. And you know, you mentioned goal setting as well. Has that been a foundational pillar in your own personal life? Like think back to when you were still in whales, like is one of the first things you did is sit down with a pen and paper and like write out your own personal goals. Like tell, tell me more about that.


Natasha Bathgate (09:52):
So I don’t necessarily write them down and I know that’s key thing that if you write them down, then it’s, you’re more likely to achieve them. But I do, I’m very, very goal orientated oriented. I’m very driven by goals. And even if I don’t write them down, I’m kind of quite determined to achieve them. So, so for example, I was determined to move to Canada no matter what. And I knew it was gonna take a long time and I, and it, it did take an extraordinary long time because even once I got my teaching qualification, I, I still had to get a couple of years experience teaching in Wales before I could even submit my application to, to move here. And I think the same with, with getting the right to become an educational leader. I originally had applied to a university in, in Vancouver that I thought was gonna be good to UBC and and no disrespect to UBC anyones listening this, but , I, I had an application to, to, to go onto their educational leadership program, their masters I was accepted.


Natasha Bathgate (10:58):
And then as I was choosing the different courses, I was, I couldn’t choose the courses until after I’d been accepted. And then once I chose the different modules, I was reading the descriptions and thinking, I don’t know, this doesn’t sound like a particularly future focused, you know, innovative learning environment for me. And, and I was so set on being an innovative future oriented leader. I realized then that, that university wasn’t gonna be right for me. So I withdrew and that meant I was back a year. I, I, I kind of wasted a year, I suppose, cuz I then had to submit an application to another place that did fit what I was looking for. So I, so that’s an example, I suppose I am very goal, goal oriented and, and I’m, I’m prepared to, you know, to take a side step if it means taking longer to get the right thing.


Sam Demma (11:51):
And it sounds like with your work supporting educators, one of the goals is to really make a huge impact on the, on the students because that’s kind of like the end results you’re hoping for by helping the teachers become better and more equipped to, to teach their students. Like if that’s the end goal, how do you think right now we, we make students feel seen, heard and appreciated in this, the, you know, very different and difficult situation.


Natasha Bathgate (12:15):
Well, you know what I think actually I’ve been reading a little bit about like generation Z and what, what gen what, what your generation the characteristics, I guess, and one thing that I’ve noticed is that I don’t even know if they need much help, like your generation is so, so driven. And so so intent on making an impact and not afraid to speak up about things that they believe need to be talked about. And I’ve noticed in my I’ve noticed in recent years that that students are this generation all they need is the space to be, to, to be heard. Yeah, they don’t need, they don’t even need much encouragement. They don’t even need to be, you know, it’s like, here’s a space, here’s the time we’re gonna have this meeting come and say what you need to say. And, and, and I, I think that the students right now, the generation right now are incredibly capable and brave.


Natasha Bathgate (13:20):
And I think that, I know it sounds kinda corny, but I do think the future’s safe. Like I think the future is safe in, in your hands and, and this generation. So, so back to your question, I guess it’s I think it’s really important to know what it is that to, to be constantly aware of the issues of today that we need to make sure that we’re getting voices around the table. So, you know, for example, obviously a, a big piece of a, a big, I, it’s not issue, but a, a big topic, I guess at the moment in education and around the world is, is diversity, equity and inclusion. And how can we make sure that, that everybody feels safe and included and valued and respected and honored and appreciated. And they’re all fairly, you know, you wouldn’t think that would be too difficult, but, but I’ve realized that some students don’t feel safe and valued and honored. And when you ask students, if you just have the courage to ask them, what’s your experience like what’s going on for you? Mm-Hmm and what, what should we be doing differently then, then it’s, I guess it’s that sense of my moral, I, I feel a sense of moral responsibility. I feel as an educational leader, I feel a moral responsibility to, to give these students a voice and to actually act on it, you know?


Sam Demma (14:52):
Yeah. I, I, I think that’s so important and I’m assuming over this past year, those conversations have started to happen and have been happening. That’s, that’s amazing. And is it usually in the form of a one-on-one conversation or do you find it being more of a group conversation? Like how’s it working?


Natasha Bathgate (15:09):
Well, I mean, I’ll give you an example. I think earlier on in the year I had sent, I had sent a communication out to our alumni saying just really kind of an invitation, I suppose, to anybody who’s, who has expertise in advancing your organization or, or your community with diversity, equity and inclusion, or anyone who has an interest in this area, or anyone who has experiences at, at w that they want to share with me, please reach out. So it was just an open invitation. And I, and from that, I had just a small number, but six people contacted me. Some of them met, some of them kind of contacted me as a group. And I, so I met with them as a group and then one of them was just as an individual and that, that started in January. And it’s really kind of built in momentum to the point now where I’m now.


Natasha Bathgate (16:03):
So I, I meet with this kind of group of alumni only once a month, but but I’m also meeting with some students from us within the school who are sharing their experiences and, and sadly their experiences have not been, you know, have not been great. And and it’s, it’s, it’s been very difficult to hear, you know, when you’ve, I’ve only been at school for two years, but I know that other people who have been there longer feel, feel terrible, that, that some people have not out great being at the school for the last number of years. And also not also not necessarily realizing and not knowing that, but now that the stories are kind of out now that we have that awareness. Now we can start to develop an understanding around, well, what contributed to that? Like, what as leaders, what, what should, and could we be doing to, to to make everybody feel, you know, to help everyone feel safe and included in the school.


Natasha Bathgate (17:01):
And now we’re at the point where, I guess I, I’ve also introduced some of the alumni to our, some of our current students, so they’ve kind of met and shared their experiences. And now this week, hopefully we are about to start a student pluralism group, which is really around, let’s start having discussions about, about how we can, how we can make the school, I guess, a more inclusive place. Nice. But we have incredibly intelligent, passionate, brave individuals at the school who they just need, you just need to unlock. And they’re like jumping into there. , it’s just a case of turning the key. You don’t even need to open the door, like they’re ready. So it’s, it’s an exciting place to be in education right now, I think.


Sam Demma (17:48):
And it takes a ton of self awareness as a school community, as educational leaders to address those things, because it’s uncomfortable. Right’s not, it’s, it’s not a uncomfortable thing to do, but it’s definitely the right thing to do. And I think it’s cool that, you know, you’re very passionate about addressing those things and, and kickstarting those conversations and unlocking those doors. So the conversations can happen. You, you mentioned that, you know, you didn’t go to UBC because it didn’t feel like they had the right training materials that would lead to the innovative approach you were hoping to take. What, what do you think the future of education looks like being someone who sounds super passionate about innovation in the future? Like if, you know, if you could jump into time machine in travel there, what would you suspect to change or be different in the future?


Natasha Bathgate (18:34):
Well, I think that I think that we really need to explore a bit more about where learning happens and to be more open, to learning happening in different places other than a school building. And I know that already takes place. I know that people go on, you know, experiential learning trips to different parts of the country or different countries. And you know, and we have, there’ll be sort of work experience. And at our school, we have few experts come in. So it does happen to a certain extent, but I think we need to have much greater flexibility in mainstream education. So for example, my kids are homeschooled. I’ve got twins who age 10 and my husband was really passionate about homeschooling them, which was kind of funny, cuz I I’ve been a teacher for a long time. So I was like,


Sam Demma (19:23):
You sure,


Natasha Bathgate (19:24):
I wasn’t. I know I was thinking, well, this is strange. Is this like a sort of slap in the face of my profession here? But anyway, he, he really wants to do it, so I’m going along with it right now. But so they he’s been homeschooling them for, for just over a year and it, and it turns out that because of COVID, it’s fine. It, it makes sense. But what I’m noticing though, is that what he does is he pieces together. They’re learning experience through all different things. So they go, they go to a place in Calgary called Phoenix foundation, which is kind of like a school for homeschool. And you can choose what day of the week you go, depending on what what’s happening on that day. So they, they go once a week to that, then they meet up with a huge homeschool network group and they have different activities outside.


Natasha Bathgate (20:09):
And then they share like the parents will share expertise and do little workshops. So, so anyway, there’s that flexibility and, and choice over learning that is also about homeschooling. But what I think would be even better is if they could also have a consistency of going to choosing to go to a particular place for a couple of days where they’re gonna meet the same people all the time and build up those relationships and have that consistency and have, have that expertise from teachers. But then to be able to say, actually for like Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I’m gonna go to this place here and learn from these different experiences. So this is a bit of a long-winded answer, but I think the key really with, with learning is, is flexibility of where the learning happens. And, and to, to make it normal because it, in so many places right now, like there’s, you know, there’s schools that are outdoor schools, there’s schools that specialize in project based learning there’s schools that specialize in the arts there’s schools that specialize in everything. But, but if you want, you kind of have to be all in, like, you know, if you choose to go to an outdoor school or a, or a school that it specialize in project that only does project based learning, then you’re kind of, you’re invested in that one thing. But I think the future of education and mainstream education, I think needs to be that that those options become, become commonplace.


Sam Demma (21:40):
Yeah. Yeah. It makes a lot,


Natasha Bathgate (21:41):
It’s only a subtle, it’s only a subtle change. It’s kinda like, you know, they should be able to create their own adventure, you know, create your learning adventure and, and you know, what, what works for you.


Sam Demma (21:51):
And I think that comes back to what you mentioned earlier about, you know, sparking curiosity. Like I think back to books I used to read and the choose your own adventure books were the funnest, you know, I would say flip to page 70, if you want to try this. And, and I’d much rather read those than reading a blank book just right through. And I younger. So yeah, I think we could definitely pull that model into education. Yeah. Which is a really interesting idea. And if you could go back in time and speak to younger Natasha, the first year you got into teaching, like knowing what you know now, what pieces of advice would you give your younger self?


Natasha Bathgate (22:26):
Oh my gosh. It’s tough one. I think just yeah, I think, I think probably just to have


Natasha Bathgate (22:43):
Just to, to learn from other people, like I was terrible at classroom management at the start and, and, and I think learn from other people, observe other people watch what’s going on, watch the experts and learn from the experts. It’s not to say that I didn’t, but I didn’t get looking back. I think if I had made more of an effort to ask another teacher, can I come and can I come and watch your class? I know you’ve been teaching for 10 years. I’ve heard that you’re really good at this, that and the other. Can I come and watch? So I think seeing each seeing really learning from learning from people who are better than you at something and not being, not being embarrassed to, to say, I’m, I really suck at this. I need to get better at it. Can you show me, can I learn from you? Mm. I think that’s something that I would probably do because I, there was a time when I think I did struggle with, I was working in a school in, you know, terrible schools in Wales and England, where, where they throw paper balls at you, like as a teacher, you you’re, you know, yeah. I had things thrown at me. I had a garbage can thrown at me. Wow. so it’s really about survival in that, in that, in that situation. And I think I needed some more survival tactics.


Sam Demma (24:00):
Being, being a soccer fan. I was gonna ask you, are, were they hooligans? yeah,


Natasha Bathgate (24:07):
That’s funny. They were, they would wanna be hooligans. They were, they were hooligans in training for sure. Yeah.


Sam Demma (24:11):
That’s funny, that’s funny. Awesome. Well, this has been a phenomenal conversation. If someone’s listening right now and has been inspired in any way, shape or form and wants to just have a conversation, what would be the best way for someone to, you know, get in touch with you and reach out?


Natasha Bathgate (24:26):
Well, I do use Twitter and I use LinkedIn. I think my Twitter is just @NLBathgate I think, and then I don’t use LinkedIn as much, but yeah. Twitter or LinkedIn or even yeah, I think those would be the best. I would just put those, you can incorporate those into the podcast.


Sam Demma (24:43):
Sounds good, Natasha. Thank you so much.


Natasha Bathgate (24:45):
And then I, and I’d be happy to have a conversation with anybody for sure.


Sam Demma (24:48):
Perfect. Thank you so much for doing this and coming on the show, I appreciate you sharing some insights and some of your experiences. Keep doing great work and I’ll, I’ll see you soon.


Natasha Bathgate (24:56):
Thank you, Sam. Thanks a lot. Okay, bye.


Sam Demma (24:59):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; if you want 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 Natasha Bathgate

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.

Margot Arnold – Entrepreneurship Teacher and Women of the Year Workplace Excellence Award

Margot Arnold – Entrepreneurship Teacher and Women of the Year Workplace Excellence Award
About Margot Arnold

Margot Arnold (@margotarnold) is an outstanding choice for the Women of the Year Workplace Excellence Award. She continually develops an exceptionally supportive, innovative, and creative class environment for her students in the Entrepreneurship 30 class (Junior Achievement Program) and actively contributes to the caring and welcoming environment at school for her fellow teachers at the Weyburn Comprehensive School (WCS).

Connect with Margot: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Women of the Year Workplace Excellence Award

Junior Achievement Program

Weyburn Comprehensive School (WCS)

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 spec 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 Margot Arnold. She is a nominee for the credit union workplace excellence award. Margo is an outstanding choice for the Woman of the Year Workplace Excellence Award. She continually develops an exceptionally supportive, innovative and creative class environment for her students in the entrepreneurship 30 class, which you’ll hear about you’ll hear all about in this interview.


Sam Demma (01:04):

It’s linked with the Junior Achievement program. She actively contributes to the caring and welcoming environment at school for fellow teachers at Weyburn Comprehensive School. I had the opportunity to speak to their students a few months ago. And me and Margo connected as a result, she’s had so many different experiences. One of her most proud moments is the teacher project video that was featured in 2017. That highlighted the amazing work that happens in her entrepreneurship class. I don’t wanna get too much into it right now. I’ll give Margo the opportunity to share. And as you’ll hear in this interview with that being said, let’s jump right in Margo. Welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing why you got into the work you’re doing in education today.


Margot Arnold (01:54):

Thank you very much. I’m very pleased to be here. I was humbled when you asked me to come on. So my story I was born and raised in and my grandmother was a teacher in a one room schoolhouse. And so I wanted to kind of follow in her footsteps as she also got married at that time. And during the twenties there, you could not be married and still be a teacher. Hmm. So then she went into business with my grand or for 56 years. So I have the passion for business and I have the passion for teaching and I just wanted to make a difference. So I went to business school after high school, and then I worked in a law firm. Then I worked three years in a private school, came back to work at WCS as an admin assistant and thought, Hey, I wanna be the teacher in the classroom with a degree. The private school didn’t need it. So I went back to school at age 30 and I’ve been teaching now for 20 years.


Sam Demma (02:55):

Ah, that’s awesome. Yeah. And what subjects? I, I mean, I could dive right into the passion for business, but I wanna know where did the journey in education start and what does it look like today?


Margot Arnold (03:07):

So when I was hired on, I took a maternity leave in the business ed area. So teaching accounting, 10, 20 and 30 grade, 10, 11, 12, and information, 10, 11, entrepreneurship, 30 and over the years, I’ve taught online as well. I’ve taught entrepreneurship online and accounting online. So that’s a, a different experience. Although I missed I didn’t do it full time. I did it half so half online, half in the classroom. And that’s a really nice mix cause I, I miss seeing the students faces back when I was doing it. It was a little bit less technology with video and, and whatnot. So that being said over the years, I’ve also taught English and I’ve taught drafting. And that would is interesting because drafting, AutoCAD and learning inventor, which is the 3d mechanical and Revit. And I knew nothing in that area. It was all self taught. So my principal said, well, you teach computers. I said, yeah. And so, so he says, there’s your fit? So that being said, it was pushed personal growth for me. So, but right now I just teach entrepreneurship, accounting and IP, which I’ve renamed as business technology.


Sam Demma (04:36):

I have to imagine that your parents, entrepreneurial spirits inspired you to, you know, take hold of the same sort of ideas and teaching entrepreneurship and running Ja in the school and doing some phenomenal initiatives with the students. Where did that passion internally for you, for entrepreneurship come from? Was it your parents?


Margot Arnold (04:56):

I, I think a little bit growing up in, in a home with a family business like that, I worked at the business, so I understood some of the internal part of it, but my grandmother was a pioneer business woman and I just always strive to be like her. And so she in, they started a gas station and then they added three little rooms at the back, which was kind of cool room and board. They just diversified. And then they got into the car dealership. Hmm. So just seeing all the innovation and the change, I like to be at the forefront of change, which is why I’m on a lot of committees and associations and things like that. So I just love business. It’s always changing.


Sam Demma (05:39):

And you translated that passion for business, this to classrooms of students. I, I watched a couple weeks ago after the speech, you sent me a link to the, the teacher project video, what a phenomenal video that was put together by the Saskatchewan association of teachers or Federation of teachers encapsulating some of the work you’ve been doing. Can you share a little bit about what you do with the students in the entrepreneurship class and with Ja and what that looks like?


Margot Arnold (06:07):

Absolutely. So we were lucky enough to be offered, to have the entrepreneurship program offered in 2014 with the Ja in the classroom. So that means instead of just assignments and textbook and that we went to hands on real learning. Hmm. So with that, they start the first month or so is a lot of what is entrepreneurship? What is an entrepreneur? Different things like that. And then we get into the meat of it as just running the business. So they brainstorm ideas. They come up with feasibility studies, they do some market surveys. They gather that analysis and they analyze that surveys information and they think, okay, this is the idea we’re going with. And then they implement it with the management team. So they either vote or sometimes they work it out amongst themselves. They say, I would like to do this, or I would do that. And if they have two going for the same position, then they’ll do a, do an actual vote. So they write their business plan with or co-presidents. And then they have vice presidents in areas of human resources, sales, and marketing, finance, environmental health, and safety production, and information technology. So they learn if they allow themselves, they will learn so much in class. And that’s usually the feedback I get. It’s not like any other class it’s more relevant, more hands on, more real life. And they have the opportunity to make a profit.


Sam Demma (07:49):

One of the students in the video described it as getting a head start on your future. And I think that’s such a great way to encapsulate what happens in that class based on the videos that I’ve seen. And you mentioned that they make a profit and they, you also donate a profit over the years. How much money roughly do you think has been raised through these companies that were founded by the students and in the class?


Margot Arnold (08:14):

So my first goal was $10,000 when, and I thought that was a really lofty goal. However, I like to set the goals high. Nice. And my benchmark is usually high for the students too, so that they will grow. We have raised in just over six years, just under $14,000 to give back to different organizations. They have to donate the minimum 10%. That’s a da requirement, but other than that, they can donate more or they’ll round up or they can have more than one charity or nonprofit. It just depends on what the company group members wanna do.


Sam Demma (08:55):

That’s amazing. And what are some of the projects that you think have been the most unique or fun to work on? They might also include the most challenges. I saw sweet dreams is a really cool one, but what other projects have been a lot of fun to manage and to watch grow?


Margot Arnold (09:10):

Well, I would say the very beginning one was called kick glass and we took wine bottles and we cut them. And then I learned how many different grits of sound paper. I’m not even sure how to describe it, but there are cuz they had about six different stations where they had to get it, of course, for safety to turn these wine glasses in, into drinkable glasses. So we broke a lot of wine bottles. I tell you that much. However, they it, it was neat to see the progression from how to look at a video and go through it, learn how to do it. And then, okay, that’s not working. How do we have to innovate or change to do? And so they ended up about three or four different processes and they just get it right. And then the business comes to an end and they dissolve the business.


Margot Arnold (10:06):

But students can take on the businesses after I know there was one in Regina, it was a tie dye business, and it’s still operating today. That being said there was one palatable project. I, I enjoyed that one as well, because it also depends on the makeup of your class. There was a lot of creative students in that class. So they made Barnwood signs, free hand and stencil, and they made fire pit chairs from PA pallets. They made wine racks from pallets and they made Barnwood hook shells. And so they had a variety of about four different things, 27 students. And they ended up being a national winner for the chamber of commerce company of the year. Nice. And the other one was overtime and they took brown, new skate laces. It was the idea of one of the gold wing hockey players in eayburn.


Margot Arnold (11:04):

We have a AAA girls team and she came up with the idea, the president was a gold wing and they thought let’s take hockey laces and turn them into lanyards. And I still use my lanyard today. So they had single lanyards, they two different color lanyards together, or they braided them with colors and then they also made the bracelets. So there’s a, a lot of labor in some ideas. And then there’s others where like balanced jewelry, theirs was based on a triangle cuz you think of mental health being the three pillars kind of thing. And so that was their version. They wanted everyone to stay balanced and they made different jewelry right in the classroom and very unique little pieces as well. So I’m it, it’s very exciting to see what they come up with. And every year they surprise me and I learn so much from them. And it’s fun.


Sam Demma (11:59):

I was Gonna say, I’m sure there’s lots of labor, but it’s, it sounds like for you, it’s a labor of love, you know, like it’s a, it’s an exciting labor. What makes you so passionate about teaching entrepreneurship? Like why, why do you think it’s so important to give these students these opportunities to start these little companies in their classrooms?


Margot Arnold (12:17):

Well, I think with this program, the skill sets that they can come out of, it will certainly prepare them for life. Hmm. There’s a lot of communication. There’s a lot of negotiation there’s analyzing there’s parole and solving decision, making all those kind of things and mostly teamwork if they can work well as a team, because of course getting out there in the real world, they have to do that. So that’s interesting at a teenager level and teenagers managing teenagers. So there’s always the strong personalities versus the other personalities. And I just say, you gotta find a way to make it work. And we’ve had some drama I have to admit, but I say work it out and they do.


Sam Demma (13:05):

Oh, that’s awesome. And I know aside from, oh, sorry, continue.


Margot Arnold (13:07):

I was just gonna say lots of great friendships come outta that too, because they work in groups that they may not have ever worked in any other classes.


Sam Demma (13:15):

That’s a phenomenal point. I even think about the little initiatives that we’ve started in Pickering and some of the things that we used to do in high school, it it’s almost like extracurricular activities are an equalizer or like a friendship maker, you know, because you might talk to certain people in class, but then, you know, there’s a, another kid in the corner of the room who has the same interest as you, that you’ve never to, before I went out of your way to talk to, and you’ll meet them at this, at this business idea or at an extracurricular activity. So I think it’s a phenomenal way. Not only to build new skills, but to meet new people. I wish I had your class when I was in, when I was in high school. I think it would’ve been a blast to get involved in that.


Margot Arnold (13:55):

I was just gonna say when I was in high school too, they did it as an after school program. So these students are very lucky that they can take it as a credit program and get an entrepreneurship through 30 credit out of it.


Sam Demma (14:05):

Now, is this something that other school boards or other teachers listening can approach JA and try and do the same thing? Or like how did it start for you?


Margot Arnold (14:12):

It, it started for me in 2014 when the ministry of education came down and, and we had a one-on-one meeting and asked if I would, they wanted to pursue students learning entrepreneurship. So they thought this hands on program is a great way of doing it. I used to have students write fictitious business plans as a final project. So they got to write a business plan and all that’s entailed, but when you can actually implement it and see how it comes to fruition, that makes all the difference in the world. So we do have more schools in the south have taken on JA in their classrooms. I know that in Saskatoon, more in the north, they usually present it as an afterschool program. So it hasn’t flourished there in their entrepreneurship, 30 classes, as much as it has in the Southern part of the, of, but the students that do participate in the Ja are eligible to apply for Ja Canada scholarships.


Margot Arnold (15:20):

Hmm. And only if you’ve taken the class, Ja Saskatchewan then would come out, came out to, after I agreed to take it on Ja Saskatchewan came out to my classroom and they did that. Sorry, can I stop for one moment? Yeah, no worries. Did that ding come through on your end? Okay. That’s okay. I’m thinking I should have maybe closed my email when they, so they came out, Katherine G for vagina was the president at that time and she came out and she explained the whole thing and I thought, okay, this sounds kind of cool. And of course, naturally you’re a little bit leery cuz what you were doing, you thought was working and now let’s try something new. Yep. Which is always scary. So I just see even myself from day one to, this is my 21st company coming up. And that being said, it’s not just one company per class.


Margot Arnold (16:16):

One time I had the, I think the video was focused on my three during that class because you, if they’re willing to take on that leadership position, they could have a group of eight. There was a girl in Yorkton, a group of one and she had her own company and, and she Ja likes you to produce a product or provide a service. And it’s harder to provide a service in a one hour class, but with COVID we are in two and a half hour blocks right now in morning and afternoon. So I have entrepreneurship all morning or all afternoon, like it goes morning, alternates new in the next class. And so that becomes a little bit of a challenge too, because it’s a five day AB block. Mm. So you may not see those students for a good week to 10 days. Yes. So a lot of communication has to be done outside and be on top of that.


Sam Demma (17:13):
I’m sure they create slack groups and, and, and they all have a, a unique way of communicating. I, I would assume that they would work on this stuff even outside the classroom, if they’re super passionate about it, is that what ends up happening?


Margot Arnold (17:26):

Does actually. And depending on the item, as I said, and the amount of time it takes for production pre COVID, we were able to have production nights. And those were a lot of fun because it was after hours or weekends and I would come and, and we usually would have food because food’s a good thing to motivate teenagers. And, and so I would bring in food or we might order pizza in or something like that. And it was fun because they could they were working, but they were socializing. And right now that’s obviously missing right now. But I really was pleased when I was reading my final evaluation questions from first semester and the one student he said you know, most of our classes are pretty silent, pretty quiet for the two and a half hours, but I am so grateful that this class had that socialization and it made you forget you were in a pandemic. And so that one kind of warn my heart when I heard that, because of course anything we can do to build that community relationship right now. So students aren’t feeling as isolated.


Sam Demma (18:40):

That’s the goal that’s so important, especially during a time like COVID 19. And I know that you have also served as the SRC advisor for or multiple years. You’ve organized provincial conferences. You’ve probably seen dozens of speakers. Why, what makes you passionate about student leadership? Also?


Margot Arnold (19:01):

I think I am just really passionate about helping students be the best they can be. Hmm. And I always say kind of an it’s funny analogy, but it’s like a tomato when you are green and when a tomato’s green, it has to ripen, but if a tomato’s red and it sits there and sits there and sits there, it will rot. Mm. So I always say, push yourself outta that comfort zone. It’s not gonna feel good, but you will grow. And I use another analog, yo wipey, you only get out what you put in.


Margot Arnold (19:39):

And that’s what their companies are all about. And, and that’s true for all relationships really, and your schoolwork and everything in life. So just I love business. I love technology. Those are constant changing all the time. So I think that is exciting cuz every day’s different.


Sam Demma (19:57):

Yeah, no, I, I totally agree. And I love the acronyms and the use of the tomato. I have a story that I share with middle school students about my Italian grandfather and trying to get him to quit smoking by burning all of his cigarettes. And then the story I talk about how he comes. So the back of the cottage and his face is as red as a tomato. And I show a picture of him with a tomato head and all these kids just start laughing so much. But analogies are so powerful. Student leadership is, is so powerful. Giving students examples of people who have, who have done things that maybe they’re striving to do is so powerful. What is your advice to an educator who might want to start a JA chapter at their school or, you know, perhaps pitch to their principal to start allowing them to teach entrepreneurship? Like what would be the best way for them to go about it?


Margot Arnold (20:47):

I, I think obviously talk to your principal, get them on board, get your division on board, but contact your JA chapter in the province. And they would be more than willing to come in. And right now Catherine would come in, she’d FaceTime in, she’d Skype in, but she said she’s brought me in to kind of mentor other teachers. We used to get together first and second semester and what works, what doesn’t work in Regina. And so that I could help new teachers get going. So I have done some video calls with other teachers to help, help them get going. And so our province right now is looking at an entrepreneurship 20 and 30. And we’re just trying to decide cuz whether we need that or whether we, we don’t have prerequisites. So the ministry doesn’t, so would you take 20 and 30 or would you just jump into to 30?


Margot Arnold (21:51):

So just some things to consider that we’re working through, but Jas Canada has been phenomenal. Jay Saskatchewan’s been phenomenal and I wouldn’t go back to teaching any other way. Students prefer this business leaders think it’s great. I have business people come in because they do a formal board meeting. They chair it. So they learn about how that works with motions and things like that. And they present their business plan and those business people give them feedback, they share their expertise. And have you thought about this or did you think about that or they’ll come in and help them if they’re having trouble figuring out their startup costs or how to set that sweet spot of price, making sure everything’s covered in the unexpected. So the chamber commerce gets involved in way and a local businessman is on board and he comes to our meetings and then community development community, future sunrise. She comes to the meetings too. So she’s been there from the start. So I have such support from the wave community and they want to help students learn business and they are all, I always think, I wonder if this is gonna be the company that struggles and they always finish strong so far.


Sam Demma (23:17):

That’s awesome. I was knock on wood. Yeah. When you were when you were thinking of, when you were stating that you have so much support, I was thinking of the quote, if you want to go fast, go alone. And if you wanna go far go together and I think it it’s so true that it takes a village of people to bring an idea to life, to support a young person. So kudos to you and everyone involved in the project. I think it’s phenomenal. If someone’s listening to this and they wanna take you up on the offer to maybe just reach out and set up a call with you, what would be the best way for another educator to reach out?


Margot Arnold (23:54):

So I of course, or email, yeah, we could email me. We could, I if we put it on how we do that, but margotarnold@secpsd.ca. It stands for Southeast Cornerstone Public School Division. I’m also on LinkedIn.


Sam Demma (24:26):

No, that sounds great, please. That, that, that works just fine. Margot, thank you so much for doing this. I appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation. It was awesome. Please keep me updated on what’s going on with the students and the projects I look forward to seeing the impact that it makes in the community.


Margot Arnold (24:42):

Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.


Sam Demma (24:46):

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 in review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you want to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Margot Arnold

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.

Karl Mercuri – Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator at The Priory Elementary School

Karl Mercuri – Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator at The Priory Elementary School
About Karl Mercuri

Karl Mercuri (@Karl_Mercuri) is the Social and Emotional Coordinator at The Priory School in Montreal, QC, Canada and a grade 4 teacher. This allows him to actively implement innovative SEL practices amongst the students, staff, and community at The Priory.

He has passion for social and emotional learning, ei, positive psychology, behavior, and educational leadership. Over the last 19 years, he’s thrived as a teacher, educator, consultant, and leader.

Connect with Karl: Email | Website | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

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

The Priory School

Mood Meter

Casel – Advancing Social and Emotional Learning

SEL in Edu

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 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 today’s guest is Karl Mercuri. Karl is the social and emotional learning coordinator at an elementary school out in the greater Montreal metropolitan area, but originally his journey into education. As here on this show, started back in Melbourne Australia, and he is obsessed with SEL social, emotional learning and, and answering the questions.


Sam Demma (01:06):

What do students really need and how do we teach the whole child? And how can we get our students to have a positive impact on society when leaving the walls of this classroom? The reason why I wanted to bring Karl on the show is because one, he was recommended by a past. And we give a shout out to Erika Rath during the interview. So Erika, if you’re listening, thank you so much, but also because I’m obsessed with the exact same things that Karl is, although he formally works on solving these problems day in and day out within one school, specifically working with grade four students with that being said, if you don’t already have a pen and paper nearby, definitely grab it because Karl shares so many resources, ideas, and exercises that you can use to make sure that your students are thriving mentally and emotionally during this trying time, I’ll see you on the other side, enjoy today’s interview talk soon, Karl, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. We were introduced by past guest, Erika. You didn’t know me. I didn’t know you. And now here we are on this podcast. Why don’t you start by sharing with the audience who you are and how you got into the work you’re doing with young students and young people today?


Karl Mercuri (02:24):

Hey Sam, thank thanks for having me and a shout out to Erika for actually putting us in contact. Yeah, just a little bit about me. You, you can probably tell with the accent I’m not from, from Canada. I I arrived about two and a half years ago. I met my wife in Australia. I’m originally for, from Australia and my educational journey started 19 years ago. So I originally started as a gym teacher or we call ’em gym teachers here, but we call ’em PE teachers back at home. And and then halfway through my journey, I was really lucky. I had a great administrator who’s who was able to see a little bit of potential, I would say, and turn around and said, Karl, it’s about time you get into the classroom. So I shifted from the, the gym teachers to the classroom.


Karl Mercuri (03:19):

And from there, a lot of doors opened for me and especially a passion for wellbeing, student wellbeing, social, emotional learning. And I was really lucky. I was chosen to go and be trained in what we call a, it was a mental health and wellbeing course about 10 years ago in Australia, which was a, a, a framework called kids matter. And it was across Australia. And so I become a facilitator of that at my school. And then just everything basically flourished from there. All the passion started. So I went back and I did a little bit of studying behavior, been studying in I’m still studying at the moment in leadership. I’ve got a lot of, I would say training in SCL, social-emotional learning emotional intelligence, positive psychology, and then the world is easier oyster as they say. So I, so for me right now I, I hold a job at a beautiful little elementary school in Montreal called the Priory.


Karl Mercuri (04:22):

My role there is on the I’m the SEL coordinator. And I also, so day today, I’m, I’m the grade four teacher and the school SEL coordinator. Nice. And then week to week and month to month, I actually go out and consulting schools across Montreal. So I, you know, elementary or high and just help these schools really make social, emotional learning a priority. And how do we integrate it and how does it just become part of everyday teaching instead of just an extra. So I think that’s the really big thing at the moment and what we’re going through now, we need it more than ever.


Sam Demma (05:04):

It’s so true. It’s, it’s so, so true. You, you mentioned something that piqued my interest. You said after you did the training, that’s when the passion started flowing and you went back and got additional training and behaviors and you started learning a lot more, the, what clicked after that initial certification that you did about kids matter? Like what clicked after that, that made you kind of shift your perspective and decide to go down this new path?


Karl Mercuri (05:34):

Yeah, I, I would say there was, you know, the initial training, there was so many aha moments, you know, it’s like, ah, is this, this is why a child behaves this way, or this is why I’m getting these reactions in the classroom. Or this is why this you know, this, this, this 16 year old boy is telling me to get lost basically, you know, and, or, or girl, and, and, and just understanding the fundamentals of, of, of, you know, developmental stages of in life and, and why things happen. And, and yeah, I just wanted to know more, I wanted more answers really. And the only way you can do that is by being a lifelong learner. You know, if you, if you’re not a lifelong learner, you’re gonna really just basically plateau aren’t you. So it’s, I, I feel like as an educator, it’s our duty to continue prospering and, and, and setting that example for the, for the rest of the, our students basically.


Sam Demma (06:39):

And I think one of the best ways to ensure you keep learning is of course, to take on the role of the student, but then as you learn new content, teach it to others, because I find that teaching to others is one of the quickest ways to also learn the things. If you are speaking to your younger self before the certifi, giving yourself a mini masterclass, per se, on emotional intelligence and social, emotional learning, how would you define the two buckets? And what would you say to ensure that someone understood how important these two things are?


Karl Mercuri (07:13):

Yeah. If I was to te if I was to talk to my 16 year old, say, I would say, firstly, that it’s okay to feel the way you feel. Mm. You know and that emotions, you know, are, if you could look at an emotion as a form of communication and not as this daunting thing, that’s happening, this daunting cloud, that’s ha hovering over your head or this, these these crazy thoughts that are going on. You know, so I would say that, you know, a thought is actually not, it’s not tangible, is it? I would teach myself, it’s not gonna be there forever. And, and how do we reframe things? And, and that’s where I would go down that path. Yeah, definitely.


Sam Demma (08:06):

I love that, that, that makes so much sense. And it, it’s a important lesson to learn and reinforce right now because there’s so many different negative thoughts and thousands of thoughts that go through our minds every single a day, and being stuck at home, I think even increases the number of thoughts we’re having.


Karl Mercuri (08:25):

I would even go down the path when you’re saying this is, you know, we actually have to go out of our way right now to find a positive thought. We have to go out of our way right now to find a positive feeling. And, and it’s so essential, you know, like we know that the negative thoughts and the negative feelings, and I’m putting my con you know, my knowledge of AI and, and, and SCL that, that hat on right now, but we know the negative to they’re so strong and powerful and prevalent because that’s what we you know, that’s our makeup as a human being, where we are out to look out for the negatives as a survival mechanism, you know, but, but right now we need to actually physically and mentally actually look out for what is the positive to then reframe everything that’s going on right now, or ask, we’re just gonna really struggle up. You’re really not gonna see the, the light at the end of the tunnel, as they say.


Sam Demma (09:30):

It’s so true. And I’ve read that, that your beliefs or your thought, that’s the things that you hold true lead to your emotions, how you feel those emotions lead to your actions, what you do in any given moment, which then leads to the result you get. And so when we’re not getting that result that we want, you know, the first thing to do isn’t to change our action, but to ask ourselves, what am I choosing to believe? What am I thinking about? What thoughts are going through my head? I, how do you explain emotional intelligence? What is like, if you could define emotional intelligence, like, how would you do so what is emotional intelligence?


Karl Mercuri (10:04):

Yeah. That’s a big, oh my goodness. That’s a really big, I guess question. And it’s a great one, you know, but for me, it’s the awareness. Mm. Having an internal awareness of one’s self. Yep. having a really clear, not clear, but an understanding of social awareness of others. So what is my impact? What am I doing right now? That’s having an impact on someone else. Mm. You know, establishing that form of empathy for yourself. Also, we always say that empathy is about others looking at others, but even having some empathy about yourself, you know, it’s really, really powerful. It’s and that’s, that’s a lifelong skill, basically. Yeah. And then the last one is what, what really motivates you as a person? How are you gonna achieve these goals? You know, how, through this awareness, through this understanding of others through this empathy, how do I actually achieve these?


Sam Demma (10:59):

And for the educator for you listening right now, to this podcast you know, how does that, how does that person listening, take this idea and try and help their students become more social, emotionally aware and more emotionally intelligent, like is there, of course you do this, like you can consult with schools and you help them. But if someone wanted to take a quick nugget away that they could take back to their kids right now, what are, what is a low hanging fruit or something they could do to kickstart this conversation and put their kids on this path to developing that emotional intelligence?


Karl Mercuri (11:35):

I, I’m gonna be really honest. There’s this one tool called a mood meter. The mood meter is a super cool tool that comes out of it comes out of Yale university under the ruler approach. These guys are like doing some work in the field of social, emotional learning. And the reason why I love the mood meter is because it appeals to five year olds, but it also appeals to 18 year olds. Mm. And the mood meter is, is a, a resource where it’s a quadrant. It’s actually it’s a quadrant. We it’s broken up into sections. And the mood meter basically helps our students through understanding the amount of energy that’s running through their body, how pleasant they’re feeling to then find the emotional vocabulary. So you can actually a, a spot on the mood meter, which then replicates a, a, a specific emotive word.


Karl Mercuri (12:41):

So you gotta think this is an amazing tool, especially for 16, you know, 17 year olds or 15 year olds. Because if you have a check-in, you are about to start your, you go, all right, guys, you know, get your mood meter out or whatever. And let’s see where you’re at on the, the colored quadrants and the mood meter. The yellow is, is high energy, high pleasantness. So we are finding the happy, the excited, the motivated, the elated type of emotions. You got the red, which is high energy, but really unpleasant. That’s where you find the S the annoyed, the peeved, the, the, you know furious type of emotions. And then you’ve got the bottom, you’ve got low energy, super unpleasant. That’s where you find the sad, the that’s blue, the SADS, the, the press, the, the you know, really kind of like solid type of emotions.


Karl Mercuri (13:44):

And then you’ve got low energy, but high pleasantness. And that’s where you find calm, grateful, and so on. And the thing is with these guys, is if we can have check in these students can start to, they come in and they make this connection, right. I’ve walked into class right now. I’ve bumped into someone on the way through, I’ve forgotten my books. I haven’t had breakfast. I’m gonna do this check in right now. And I’m gonna put everything into context as to how I’m feeling and actually find the correct emotive word. Mm. And the, the reason why I love it is because if you ask someone right now, how you’re feeling, I’m happy, mad, or sad, , that’s all we have as vocabulary, or I’m like, oh, okay. But if we can extend that vocabulary, which is, that’s what the role of the mood meter is, then a teacher can actually accommodate and, and, and, and get to, to what they need to do for these students.


Karl Mercuri (14:51):

You know, if the student turns around and says to me, you know what, I am like super peeved right now, there’s a difference between peeved and annoyed. Cause peeved is you’re going little bit more unpleasant than what annoyed would be. So I would deal with that certain situation different to what annoyed would be. Mm. Does that make sense? If I, you know, got an answer from a child I’m feeling elated right now, compared to excited, well, then it’s, I’m gonna, I’m gonna deal. I’m gonna provide them with, you know, the interventions or whatever that they need, or the advice in a different manner. Cause it’ll be way more specific too.


Sam Demma (15:32):

I think it’s such a cool exercise because like, I’m even thinking about myself while you’re saying this and I don’t use many of those other emotions that I, that are probably on this chart. And to further that point, sometimes I just say, I I’m not feeling great, but I’m not like, I’m not even sure what it is. But if I had a menu in front of me, of all different emotions and options, I think it would make it a lot easier to, to pinpoint something down, which also, I think makes us feel better because when you’re not sure what it is, uncertainty like that breeds fear, and it breeds so many other negative emotions. But if you’re certain that you’re feeling a specific emotion, I think it makes you feel even more human. So it gives students the, the space to identify what the emotion is, understand that it might be a negative one, but at least they’re able to pinpoint why it is that and, and what’s happening.


Karl Mercuri (16:25):

And you, you just actually said by doing this by actually identifying a spec specific emotion, you are naturally self-regulating. Mm. So you’ve just said it in a roundabout way just then, but that’s what you do. You actually do reg self-regulate because you, you are actually now have the answer to why you’re feeling somewhere with that specific word.


Sam Demma (16:46):

Yeah. It makes sense because if I’m gonna pinpoint, oh, the emotion I’m looking for is that I’m angry. When I, when I say that I’m gonna like question myself and be like, I am I angry? Why am I angry? Like what’s going on right now? And that’s right. It starts this dialogue as opposed to maybe getting in trouble or yelling at a teacher. I’m having this little inner conversation with myself.


Karl Mercuri (17:06):

Yeah, am I really angry? Or am I just like, maybe I’m really jealous right now of something that’s happened between that’s and then you can really. Yeah. And then it’s that dialogue, that internal dialogue, but it’s also the external dialogue. Mm. Because that’s really important. Cause when you start to have that conversation and you go through that conversation, you’re like, you start to, to, to basically problem solve aren’t you you’re like, oh, this is why. Oh, okay. I get it now.


Sam Demma (17:36):

And yeah, I would say it even makes like, I haven’t done this yet, but I would, I would assume. And, and guess that it even makes the student or the person doing this more open to talking about the emotion with another person than if they didn’t do this exercise first. Very cool tool. I’m gonna link it in the show notes. While you said it, I very quickly searched it. And I, I found an image of it. It looks really cool that it looks like there’s over a hundered.


Karl Mercuri (18:02):

There’s a hundred, there’s a hundred I think it’s a hundred word. So there’s two of them. There’s one, which is the, the one without the word. So that’s where, that’s where you’ll actually use the grid. And then once you’ve found your spot, then you use the one with the word and you go, oh, okay. So this spot means this word. Cool. Yeah. I highly advise when you do that and I’ll, I’ll give you the link. There’s actually an app and it’s really cool. And then you can track your days and see what quadrant are you in on most days and what words are coming up really often. And you can, it’s really cool.


Sam Demma (18:37):

When would you recommend a, a, a educator uses this? Would it be at the beginning of a day of school? Obviously, I don’t. I mean, you, you could do it every day, I guess, but one would be ideal times to use this sort of an exercise?


Karl Mercuri (18:47):

I generally would do it any like transitional times on the arrival to school after like a lunch time, you know, when the kids come back cause you don’t know what’s happened. Yep. And that always has an impact on your class afterwards. It depends even, you know, I’ve even used it as a reflective tool after a lesson, you know, how, how are you feeling now after we’ve feel this? Yeah. Gives me a bit of feedback as to how the lesson’s gone too, you know? So yeah. So many different ways to use it, like yeah. And, and, and it just needs, this is where where my passion is, this, this kind of stuff needs to be incorporated as part of just everyday teaching. Yeah. It shouldn’t just be an extra, it should be part of, of what we do, you know.


Sam Demma (19:31):

That’s so true. It’s so, so true. And if there’s an educator listening who wants to learn more about SEL and emotional intelligence, what are some learning resources or tools that you found helpful that you think they should look into or start reading.


Karl Mercuri (19:46):

Your number one? I guess web, well, your number one, I guess website that you would go to is the Casel website. Mm. These guys are at the forefront of social, emotional learning research. They actually have within the website, they have categorized programs. Very cool. So you can go there, you can, you can look up and, and look at the competencies, the SEL, the five SEL competencies, and look at a program that fits certain competencies to meet your school’s needs. Mm. So there’s, there’s a lot of that, but I would even say, go, as far as saying before you do any of that, it’s really important to just look into only and see what you’re already doing. Cuz you’ll be very surprised. Schools are already doing a lot of this. Yeah. They just haven’t actually labeled it as, oh, this is part of SEL. We didn’t really know, you know? And so maybe do a little bit of auditing as to what you’re doing already and then just plug the holes basically and whatever you’re not doing, then go out and find the answers.


Sam Demma (20:55):

Love it. Very cool. Yeah. and through, through social, emotional learning, I’m certain that you’ve seen students transform. Now you work with younger students but I’m sure you’ve, you’ve seen many breakthroughs or when kids work through something emotionally themselves and they come out the other side maybe there’s even been some dramatic examples where this has had a huge impact on a young person. I’m curious to know if any of those stories come to mind and if it’s a very serious story, you can change a student’s name. And if they’re, if it isn’t actually even, or student, but some something you’ve heard of before, I would love to hear it as well. The reason I’m asking is because, you know, the person listening might be considering quitting this vocation or calling of teaching, do the, the challenges that they’re faced with this year and a story of transformation gets to the heart of the reason why most educators start teaching. You have an ability to change a young person’s life to put them on a totally different trajectory. And hearing that story could get them back on track and back bought into the reason why they started again, you work with really young kids. So it’s a little different when I ask a high school teacher. But do any of those stories stick out to you?


Karl Mercuri (22:04):

Yeah. I’m just trying to think of something that is, I would say before I go onto a story, I would say that just being vulnerable. Yeah. And real is probably the most powerful thing that you can do in a classroom. Yeah. With the children actually admitting when you make mistakes. Actually, you know, saying that, you know what, I, I don’t know the answer to this. Yeah. Let’s find it out together. You know, actually explaining how you’re feeling is to me is the most powerful because then these, and, and especially if adolescents like youth, they will respect you all because they actually know that you are not this robotic person that has all the answers. And so the vulnerability to me is probably the, the, the biggest and most important aspect for me, of, of, of teaching in terms of from an SEL perspective and just from an engagement perspective too. So yeah. But I’m trying to think. Yeah. I think you’ve put me on a swap here with, a bit of a, a, a story I’m not really sure right now.


Sam Demma (23:27):

No, that’s totally fine.


Karl Mercuri (23:28):

Maybe leave it with me while we’re speaking. If something comes up.


Sam Demma (23:33):

Yeah, that sounds great. Like, even if you’ve seen a moment where a kid looks confused and then after an exercise thinks, whoa, like this makes so much sense, you know? Yeah. like those aha moments are really interesting. Yeah.


Karl Mercuri (23:45):

Actually, something’s come up just now. Just see, there we go. I knew it would it was funny. I was, I was doing a lesson called expected and unexpected Hmm. And teaching my, my class. And it was, it was quite funny, actually, this is more of a funny one teaching my class that, that that if you do something expected from a social perspective and from an understanding, if I’m gonna do something expected, then the impact that it has on somebody else, else. Right. They will have a, a positive type feeling towards me or understanding towards me or they will, they, you know, the, the, the reception would be more accommodating, I guess like that. And so I’m in the class and I, and I, and I’m explaining that to them. And then halfway through the class, I just fall on the floor, fall down.


Karl Mercuri (24:59):

I start rolling on, on the ground, rolling everywhere and just doing absolutely crazy stuff and getting it up. And I I’m throwing things everywhere. And the, and turning tables upside down. And then the, the children look at me and they , and then I put the word unexpected up. And so my advice to them, and, and this was a huge, like big aha moment to them because I said, what did I just do? The in like, that was really unexpected. Okay. If that was unexpected, how did that make you feel? Oh, I was feeling really uncomfortable. I didn’t know what you were doing. I had some doubtful thoughts and, and, and I was starting to think, is this got crazy? You know? And, and, and so we, we started to put things together, right. We started to put kind of like scenarios together, and this is where the kids really got it, as I said to them.


Karl Mercuri (26:01):

And this was probably the thing that got to me. I said to ’em, if I’m walking down the, the street and someone’s walking in front of me and, and they drop a $5 bill or a $10 bill, what would be expected. And the scary thing is not all of them said, I’d give the money back. And so me, that was a bit of a, wow, we have a, we now have the most important job right now is to teach our kids and our youth, that it is expected to do those things that then will have a positive impact, like this snowball effect. Mm. Because if I just pick up that $5 bill and put it in my pocket, that’s super unexpected, but what happened? So the next person, if they put the $5 bill in their pocket and the next person, if they put the $5, you know, we are starting to create this kind of unexpected type scenarios and culture and world. And it’s just not what we wanna, what we wanna do.


Sam Demma (27:18):

Yeah, I love that. I love that analogy so much. My, my world issues teacher in grades 12 have taught me a lesson that a small, consistent action can make a massive global change. And it goes both ways. Like you’re saying a small positive action can compound and snowball to a massive positive impact, but the reverse is also true. And his, his theory led both a good friend of mine and myself to start our, our own theory, like our own hands on project to see if his, his lesson was correct by picking up garbage. Yeah. And it led to filling almost 2,500 bags so far, and we’re still going so it’s yeah. Cool analogy just made me think of my teacher. And I love that lesson so much. If, if people are, if you’re listening right now, maybe you can’t even do this in your school, even if it’s virtually. Yeah. I love that. That was so powerful. If someone wants to reach out to you, which at this point should be expected with all the amazing information you’re sharing what would be the best way for someone to get in touch with you? Can they email you?


Karl Mercuri (28:25):

Email or I’m on Twitter? I’m pretty active on Twitter and LinkedIn. Email is kmercuri@priory.qc.ca, LinkedIn is Karl Mercuri and Twitter is @Karl_Mercuri. They are probably the best three platforms. Perfect. and, and to be honest, if there’s any those educators out there, if you want a little bit of a heads up in terms of SEL, there’s a really, really cool Facebook group for those educators called SEL in Edu. And so it’s just a great place to start and a lot of active people, and they’re just willing to help out and give some advice, but I would really love, yeah. I’m happy to help out in any way possible.


Sam Demma (29:06):

I love that. Karl, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I appreciate the insight into your brain and the research you’ve done and the work you’re doing. And it’s really cool to see you doing this. I appreciate it because I wish I had someone like you in my school when I was growing up and hopefully 20 years from now, we can see every single school having a person like you doing the work you’re doing. It’s really cool.


Karl Mercuri (29:28):

Thanks for having me. That’s, it’s been an awesome experience and a great discussion.


Sam Demma (29:34):

Cool. 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.

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