About Char Andrew
Char’s first job is being a mother and wife. She married Chris for 30 years and has 3 amazing children. Her second job is working as the Health and Wellness Coordinator for the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division.
Her role with the division is to create healthy school communities for staff and students. Her school division is passionate about bringing awareness to the relationship between physical health and mental health.
Her 3rd job is as a fitness instructor with Studio Pilates in Red Deer. She has been in the fitness industry for over 32 years. Her fitness journey has been one of learning, passion and fun.
**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.
Sam Demma (00:58):
This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is a good friend of mine named Char Andrew. Char is the Health and Wellness Coordinator at Red Deer Catholic Schools. Char’s first job is being a mother and wife. She married Chris for 30 years and has three amazing children. Her second job is working as the Health and Wellness coordinator for the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division. Her role with the division is to create healthy school communities for staff and students. Her school division is passionate about bringing awareness to the relationship of physical health, and mental health. Her third job is as a fitness instructor with Studio Pilates and Red Deer. She has been in the fitness industry for over 32 years. Her fitness journey has been one of learning, passion, and fun. I hope you enjoy this energizing conversation with Char Andrew, and I will see you on the other side. Char, welcome to the High Performing Educator Podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Please start by introducing yourself.
Char Andrew (01:56):
Hey. Hi Sam. Thanks for having me. My name is Char Andrew, and I am the health and Wellness coordinator for Red Deer Catholic Regional schools.
Sam Demma (02:06):
When did you become passionate about your own personal wellness and have that personal passion pour into helping others?
Char Andrew (02:15):
You know what, I think it was about 20 when I needed to take control of my health and wellness. It was kind of those late teens, early 20 years that I’m like, eh, I need to make, make a change. So I started going to a local fitness center and I literally fell in love with my aerobics teacher. She was like the high energy, high kicker type instructor. And she came up to me and she said, You know what? Have you ever thought about becoming an instructor? And that’s all it took. I had a background in figure skating growing up, and I, I had a little bit of rhythm going on. So I became an instructor and I’ve been teaching fitness for over 32 years now.
Sam Demma (02:58):
And you live it running triathlons and marathons, <laugh>.
Char Andrew (03:04):
I try to make sure it is part of my lifestyle. Absolutely. Yep.
Sam Demma (03:09):
What took you down an educational journey? Like when did you have the realization that you might want to help staff and students with their wellness and what actually brought you to where you are today?
Char Andrew (03:22):
Well, when I finished high school, I, I wanted to work in the education sector. I wasn’t really confident about going to school. So I, I started off my journey at, in early childhood development and I took a diploma program here in my, actually where I’m living currently in Red Deer. And I just knew I wanted to help students along with their education and their wellness. And then I ended up marrying my husband, who is a teacher and sort of immersed myself in that education world. I love watching him coach basketball. I love going to conferences with him. And then the opportunity came up for my, my role that I’m in right now. So it was kind of a good marriage of both where I was working in the school’s division and I was able to share my passion about wellness and how important it is for overall wellness, whether it’s your mental wellness, physical wellness, all of it.
Sam Demma (04:19):
That’s such a unique journey or introduction to Ed, you know, education. It sounds like you were able to bring two passions that you had together, which I think is a really meaningful way to pursue a, a pathway or a future. What does your role look like day to day in the school board for someone who might not be familiar with, you know, what you do?
Char Andrew (04:42):
Yeah, for sure. You know what? I think I have to give a shout out to our division first and foremost because they came up with this concept of a wellness coordinator. Knowing that what can we do to help our staff become healthier? Yeah. So that they take less sick days, right? So that it’s more consistent for kids in the classroom and ultimately it will save the division money if they’re paying for less sick time. So when they came up with this concept it was mostly to focus on, on staff wellness. And when I saw the job posting, I was like, Whoa, this is, this is a dream job for me because of the bringing the two of them together. So I think, you know, the focus of wraparound supports of wellness for students and teachers and all staff, bus drivers, whoever it might be, when people are physically well and there’s sleeping well and they’re drinking water and they’re out in the sunshine, have positive social relationships that makes us mentally well.
Char Andrew (05:48):
So I think my scope is definitely not mental wellness. I’m not a mental health practitioner. It’s not, that isn’t my, my skillset. My skillset is that that fitness and not part of the wellness, but we know that those are all the things that will support kids in their mental wellness. And when we, not even kids, staff, everybody in the group. Yeah. So when everybody’s well that way, it just makes us better teachers, It makes us better students, it makes us better bus drivers or s or cafeteria workers, whoever we are in the school division. So, okay, I’m gonna get really excited because I’m really passionate about it.
Sam Demma (06:25):
I love it. I can feel it. You can tell that this is work that you’re excited about doing every single day. And I think that in education it’s so important that every person in every role is excited about what they’re doing because that passion pours through and results and, and impact and, and actually making sure the job they’re supposed to do is getting ju getting done as best as it possibly can. I know that what you’ve done and what the division has done in the wellness sector is now sort of an example for other school boards as well. What are some of the initiatives or projects that you have worked on with your team and with the school division that you’re personally really proud of, but also excited about?
Char Andrew (07:11):
Yeah, I think the thing that we started about 10 years ago is we created this comprehensive school health model, which lots of divisions are very familiar with. But one of the things that we did in every one of our schools is we asked someone to be a wellness champion. It could have been an ea, it could have been a teacher. We, so now we actually have one or two, some schools have six cuz they’re pretty excited about it. But we are wellness champions in every school. And then they will take, I’ll do PD with them. I’ll bring them in the division office, you know, three or four times a year and we’ll talk about, Hey, what are some of the wellness initiatives that you wanna do in your school? How can I support you? And so that’s sort of where they build an action plan for the school year.
Char Andrew (07:57):
Now, in turn, those wellness champions will bring student wellness action teams together. So those, they bring students who are passionate about wellness and, and how can we support everybody in our school when it comes to anything from healthy eating bingo when you’re in elementary school to maybe bringing in someone in the high school to talk about, you know, mental wellness, those types of things. The one thing I love about our little action teams is that student Wellness Action teams, which the acronym is swapped, so they call ’em their SWAT teams, <laugh>, We have our little SWAT teams in the school helping the, the adults with their, with their wellness initiatives. So I think other divisions have really looked at that model of going, Hey, that’s a great idea. Let’s bring, bring in someone that will take that role and that leadership role in the school and then create these, these student action teams.
Char Andrew (08:49):
So I talk a lot about that with other school divisions. The other thing we did was we created a staff wellness assurance plan so that our division will follow through this over the next three years of what are an actual assurance plan that our HR team and myself will follow through with over the next three years. So it kind of gives us a path, the goal the strategic plan of what we’re gonna do over the next three years. So we talk about our, our assurance plan. There’s so many things that we’ve done. I really do get excited. I got to speak to the Zone four committee last year of all superintendent. Actually it was not even zone four, it was all a superintendents in the province about what we’re doing as far as wellness. So, ah, I’m pretty proud of what we’ve built here.
Sam Demma (09:37):
That’s so amazing. It, it sounds phenomenal. Outside of your, your role with the school division, how do you keep your wellness in check so that when you show up to work, you’re filled with energy, super excited and ready to go <laugh>?
Char Andrew (09:54):
So that’s a good question. I I actually teach fitness classes. Like I said, I’ve been in the fitness industry for 32 years. So I work my, my fun, my other fun job is working at a place called Studio Pilates where I teach everything from spin to TRX to Pilates. And I think one of the secrets for me is just doing different things. One day I, I’m gonna teach spin, but the next day I’m gonna go for a walk and then I’ll teach a TRX class and then I’m gonna go for a swim. So I think to keep me motivated, it is mixing things up. But other other piece of it for me is I know how good I feel mentally. Yeah. When I’ve done something physical that works for me. That’s my, my self care and, and self care and wellness means something different to other people. But that’s definitely the piece that motivates me is I have, I have to be moving.
Sam Demma (10:51):
It sounds like moving is the constant, but the way you move or why you’re moving in terms of the game you’re playing, the sport you’re engaged in changes that mixing things up is a part of your philosophy. Things got really mixed up over the past two years with Covid <laugh>. Yeah. When it comes to that mix up what was your focus or the school division’s focus on wellness during that time and maybe what are some of the initiatives or things that went on over the past two years to try and support the wellbeing of staff and students?
Char Andrew (11:26):
Well, you know, it was really challenging because part of what I love about my job was being able to go into the schools and work with the students and work with the teachers. So like everybody else, we had to figure out ways that we can make this work. So of course I did lots of virtual things and that’s, that was a big learning curve for me because yeah, not really technically savvy, but we managed to do a lot of sort of guest presentations for whether it’s PHED classes or the com classes in the high school. And then the teacher wellness piece, I started YouTube called Wellness Wednesdays, <laugh> Nice.
Char Andrew (12:09):
We would focus on, I would try and alternate, you know, one week would be something physical, whether it’s a five minute energy break at your desk because a lot of us were sitting at home at our desks or the next week would be nutrition. And then the following week I would do something that would help support our mental wellness. So my wellness Wednesday <laugh> little YouTuber videos became pretty popular. So, you know, we did what we could to make sure people knew we were still here and we cared about them and we cared about their wellness within the division.
Sam Demma (12:42):
That’s awesome. I’m gonna have to check out some of your YouTube videos. Are they still up there, <laugh>?
Char Andrew (12:48):
Yes, they are. In fact, I did a presentation for the bus drivers last week just to kick off the school year and a couple people put up their hands and said, Hey, are you still doing your Wellness Wednesday videos <laugh>? So, hey,
Sam Demma (13:01):
That’s awesome. We gotta
Char Andrew (13:01):
Continue with them now.
Sam Demma (13:03):
So aside from supporting the divisions as a whole, do you ever get emails or phone calls from individual staff members saying, Sure, I’m super burnt out right now, like I just need some support. Like, is that something that also happens and if so what is kind of your focus when someone reaches out like that who might be a little bit burnt out?
Char Andrew (13:26):
Yeah, that’s, that’s really great question. In fact, during the pandemic, one of the things I thought I wanted to do was how do I work with people a little bit more on an individual basis? Mm. So I took a wellness coaching course to the Spencer Institute in California and it was an online course and it now gave me the opportunity to, in the skill set to really meet with people individually, not, not really prescribing to them, You need to do this, you need to do that. It was more like, what are some of the barriers? You know, I know this is what you wanna accomplish, how can we talk you through it? And it’s really giving them strategies that it’s really them figuring out the strategies that work best for them when it comes to wellness. So I am now through the division, they said, Yeah, let’s, let’s, let’s use this as one of the supports for our staff when it comes to their benefits. So I now meet with people individually. I have about 13 staff right now that I meet with on an ongoing basis. And hopefully that’ll grow this year. But I do, I’m really enjoying that one-on-one meeting with people cuz it’s, wellness can be a really personal and private thing. Yeah.
Sam Demma (14:37):
Char Andrew (14:37):
It’s so important. They want, they wanna continue to be the best teachers or eaas or whatever cafeteria workers that they can be. So how can I support them on that one-on-one journey?
Sam Demma (14:48):
That’s really helpful because I feel like so many people in education over the past two years have needed a support like that. And maybe not had access to it. Prior to meeting you at the middle years’, you know council conference. I didn’t, I didn’t ever speak to a wellness coordinator before. So I think it’s really cool to see you doing the work you’re doing and that you’ve been doing it for a while now, which is exciting for education as a whole. What, like what personally keeps you motivated to do this sort of work?
Char Andrew (15:27):
Well, you know, I, I do it because I know how it makes me feel. But the other things that motivate me are just little, little comments or an email that I get, even if it’s my Wellness Wednesday video. If I get one email a week for someone saying, Hey Char, I really needed to hear that today. That really helped me get through my day. Or I went out to visit a school last week and one of the ladies had taped to her desk. The little five minute desk workout goes, I still do this every day, char. So those, that type of feedback does kind of fill my bucket and feed my soul. And I, I do know, I truly, truly, truly believe that when we incorporate wellness into our everyday life, how, how much better our life, the quality of our life can be. And I just wanna teach people that I want them to experience that same feeling that, that I get when I’m really taking care of my wellness. So I, I think that that passion that I have keeps me motivated cuz I know it’s, I know it’s making a difference even if it’s one person a week.
Sam Demma (16:34):
I was just having a phone call with a coach of mine and a mentor, his name’s Chris. And he told me that two weekends ago he was sitting on dock at a cottage. First time he had ever taken a few minutes to meditate in complete silence, where you literally sit and he crossed his legs and just focused on his breathing. And he noticed far in the distance a boat going by and could barely hear it. But the engine was loud enough that, you know, he, he understood that there was a boat somewhere, but it was at nighttime, so it was complete darkness. And within 10 minutes of this boat passing behind in the distance, he started hearing waves hitting the shore of his cottage. And at first he was thinking like, Why are there waves hitting my cottage? Just makes no sense. It’s, it’s dark outside, it’s nighttime, everything’s calm and silent.
Sam Demma (17:28):
And then he thought, oh yeah, it was from the boat. And what it made me think of just now while you were talking was the work we do in wellness, like you don’t know it or sometimes people don’t realize it, but you’re like, that boat that’s making a ripple. And it might not affect somebody instantly, but 10 years from now they’ll think back and go, Damn, I’m so glad that I did the five minute desk workout every single day. And I really took a lot from those, you know, Wellness Wednesday YouTube videos. Speaking of what is the five minute desk workout, if you don’t mind me asking <laugh> this sounds awesome.
Char Andrew (18:10):
Well, it’s things like pushing yourself away from your desk and doing a few squats and then putting your hands on the desk and doing some desk pushups. Just little things that you can incorporate onto your desk or in your chair. And now you’ve got me stumped. I’m gonna have to send you the video.
Sam Demma (18:27):
No, that’s okay. I’m gonna link it in the podcast show notes. So if anyone wants to check out Sure. Not only your YouTube channel, but the specific five minute workout, I’m gonna make it available to all the listeners. Okay. But yeah, the the work you do is, is so important. Tell me about a story of an educator or a student who reached out to you and shared with you the impact that wellness had on on them. Maybe they were going through a difficult time and five months later found themselves in a bit of a better place cuz they decide to finally focus on their wellness. I’m curious if you have any stories like that or people who have sent emails along those lines.
Char Andrew (19:09):
Yeah, you know, I, there’s always the, the little ones that you know, really have an impact on me. But it was funny, I was at a, the pool this weekend. I was swimming and I was talking to a teacher who had been part of my triathlon training cuz nice three pandemic. I would organize a group of teachers doing triathlons. She wasn’t a really strong athletic person, she didn’t love swimming. And we just had a little conversation in the change room and I’m walking out and she stopped me in the parking lot and said, Char, I just wanna tell you what a huge difference you made on my life when it comes to my, my overall fitness journey. She said, If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have tried that triathlon. And that was probably nine years ago. And to this day she continues to doing triathlon. So I’m walking to my vehicle going, You just don’t know the impact that you have on people. And when you hear them nine years later telling me that, yeah, he made a difference, that’s, you know, pumps up my drove home with my chest pumped up and I was very happy and then phone my husband to say, You won’t believe this
Sam Demma (20:23):
<Laugh>. It gives you purpose knowing that you made a difference. Totally.
Char Andrew (20:26):
Sam Demma (20:28):
So bus drivers in the board find your wellness Wednesday video is super helpful. I’m curious to know if there are any resources that you listen to or watch or have experienced or been exposed to that have been really helpful in your own personal development journey and wellness journey?
Char Andrew (20:48):
Oh yes. There’s been lots of people. I’m kind of a little fitness groupie. I follow <laugh>, I follow all these you know, I go to lots of fitness conferences and I’ve been really fortunate. The division has supported me in going to conferences. But there’s a few presenters that have really sparked my flame when it comes to fitness. And one’s Helen Vandenberg and she’s from Calgary. Todd Durkin is one out of San Diego who he’s got a podcast. It, it’s all about get Mind, right. He’s always like, get your mind right
Sam Demma (21:24):
<Laugh>. Yeah. Nice.
Char Andrew (21:26):
In fact, and I wear his t-shirt proudly and nice. And another one is Peter Twist and he’s out of Vancouver who went on quite the journey of himself huge trainer for the Connects the Vancouver Connects and then ended up getting a brain tumor. And, you know, he feels truly, truly deep down that his health and wellness and being as strong as he was, helped him get through that. Wow. so following his journey is really inspiring. But yeah, I, there are people that I consistently go to or talk to or email or follow that keep me inspired. Right.
Sam Demma (22:05):
Yeah. That’s awesome. I’m gonna have to check out Twist and these other two people. Yeah. Get your mind. Right. <laugh>
Char Andrew (22:14):
Such a groupie with Todd Derkin. <Laugh>,
Sam Demma (22:16):
Hey, we all have our idols. You know, people we look up to and people that we learn from as well. Yeah. what are you looking forward to about this fresh new school year?
Char Andrew (22:30):
Yeah, you know what I, we just got some word that we have some funding for some mental wellness initiatives within our, within every school division within the province. So even though mental wellness is not my, my skillset or my lane, I know that that funding will help our, our students. So it’s all about student wellness which of course you are definitely passionate about. And, and part of, and I think I’m excited that they are starting to see that wellness should be at the forefront of, of the education system. I mean, we’ve got funding. Yes, I agree. The grades and, and statistics, all of those things. The data is really important, but I think that we’re finally starting to see that if people aren’t well, how will everything else be in place? Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, I think we need to have healthy students, healthy staff, everybody wrap around supports like I talked about before. Cuz if we, because if we don’t have those, we’re not gonna have good grades. Right. You have to have the other things in place because kids can’t learn if they’re hungry, kids can’t learn if they’re not sleeping well, kids can’t. Right. There’s all of those things, those messages that we have to get out and I think people are really starting to believe and, and our education system’s starting to believe that you’re right, those things are really important.
Sam Demma (23:50):
What an exciting time for a very positive change, <laugh> and development in education, which I think is so exciting. If you could, you know, travel back in time to the first year you were working in this position in education and tap yourself on the shoulder and say, Hey Char, this is what you don’t need. This is what you don’t think you need to hear, but you really need to hear. What would you have like told you younger self as advice or as encouragement when you were just getting started?
Char Andrew (24:27):
Hmm. You know, I I I think probably don’t give up because I felt like I was beating my head against the wall a little bit when it came to wellness and, and having people realize how important it is. So there are many days that I had administrators say, <laugh>, this isn’t really important.
Sam Demma (24:48):
Char Andrew (24:48):
Right. It’s all about the marks and it’s all about scores and, and that type of thing. And some of those administrators that I was like, I think I’m afraid of you. No <laugh>. Yeah. Those people are now on board with me. There are in Char and they’re like, Okay, I get it now. Like, this is super important. I understand what you’re saying, but don’t give up and I have a little bit of fight to me so I I didn’t give up and finally got true to some of those people. Yeah. Probably not give up.
Sam Demma (25:24):
And what’s so awesome about not giving up is that because you decide to keep going, it’s having a positive impact on so many people. If, you know, if you gave up, you not only would’ve let your own passion down, but you would’ve let all the people down who are now on board who totally see how important it is. So thank you for persisting. If another educator is listening to this and is fueling your palpable energy through their earphones and wants to connect with you and have a conversation, what would be the best way for them to reach out and get in touch?
Char Andrew (25:58):
Yeah, you can certainly send me an email. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sam Demma (26:14):
And if they wanna subscribe to your YouTube channel, Wellness Wednesdays?
Char Andrew (26:19):
Yeah. Char Andrew Wellness Wednesday. Let’s, let’s make a YouTube sensation.
Sam Demma (26:27):
I love it. Awesome. Char, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the podcast, share a little bit about your journey, your passion for wellness. I really appreciated the conversation.
Char Andrew (26:38):
Well, I appreciate you, Sam, and everything that you’re doing for mental wellness, for kids and your message is so important. So thanks for all the work that you’re doing and thanks for having me on.
Sam Demma (26:48):
Hey, it’s Sam again. I hope you enjoyed that amazing conversation on the High Performing Educator podcast. If you or someone, 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.
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