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President

Doug Primrose – Leadership Teacher & President of President of BC Association of Student Activity Advisors

Doug Primrose – Leadership Teacher & President of President of BC Association of Student Activity Advisors
About Doug Primrose

Doug Primrose (@djprimrose) is currently in his 23rd year of teaching. He has been at Yale Secondary for the last 15 years, and teaches Student Leadership and Law 12. He was Chair of the BC Student Leadership Conference in 2015, and Co-Chair of the Canadian Student Leadership Conference in 2019.

Currently, Doug serves as the President of the BC Association of Student Activity Advisors.  In his spare time, he coaches rugby at Yale Secondary and the Women’s team for Abbotsford Rugby Club.  In 2020 he was nominated for the Abbotsford Hall of Fame in Coaching Category. 

Connect with Doug: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Yale Secondary School Website

BC Association of Student Activity Advisors

Canadian Student Leadership Association (CSLA)

Canadian Student Leadership Conference (CSLC)

Abbotsford Rugby Club

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 Doug Primrose. He is currently in his 23rd year of teaching. He’s been at Yale Secondary for the past 15 years and taught student leadership and law 12. He was previously the chair of the BC Student Leadership Conference in 2015, the co-chair of the Canadian Student Leadership conference in 2019, currently the President of the BC Association of Student activities and Advisors, and he also coaches rugby at Yale secondary and the women’s team for Abbotsford rugby club.


Sam Demma (01:15):
He’s actually selected in, in 2020 for the Abbotsford hall of fame in the coaching category. Doug has a wealth of knowledge to share when it comes to student leadership and coaching, and I’m so excited to give you some of that knowledge today in this episode. So enjoy, and I will see you on the other side. Doug, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast, huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit of context behind how you ended up doing the work you do today in education?


Doug Primrose (01:47):
Yeah, so I went to high school here and grew up in in Abbotsford BC and I’m a teacher here at Yale secondary School, and I actually graduated from the same school here that I, that I teach at. So I was at a few other schools in between, but yeah, so growing up, I didn’t have any intentions of being a teacher at all. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I think like a lot of kids, they kind of graduate and not really quite sure and just try to get the feel of things. So, so I traveled for a few years and then kind of got back into it, worked a few different jobs and got back into it by helping one of my mentors; when I was a kid, a teacher who had a big influence on me and I started helping him coach rugby. So I really enjoyed it and he, he kind of said, you know, why don’t you go through and be a teacher since you seem to enjoy it and that’s kind of what I did. So I started a little bit later than in most, I guess, but glad I did.


Sam Demma (02:44):
That’s amazing. Take me back. You said, right when you finished high school, you traveled for a few years. What, tell me more about that. Where did you trave; like where did you go?


Doug Primrose (02:54):
Not all at once, but just yeah, different trips. So I’d work for, you know, a while. And then I take off and go backpack for like four months, like, you know, around Europe and nice and places like that. And, you know, went down to the states a little bit. And so just kind of did that where I work and then travel and work and then travel and, you know, with some friends and, and then, and things like that. So, and then probably right around 22 or so, I started working more full-time and then going to night school. Nice. Just to start chipping away at some classes. And before going back to school, full-time to be a teacher


Sam Demma (03:31):
And the teacher who you helped coach. Tell me more about that person, where, where you said they had a big impact on you. Like, what do you think they did specifically that, that made a big impression on you? Like why were you drawn to that one individual?


Doug Primrose (03:46):
Well, I think a couple things, one is he just always had time for us as, as students and you know, we, we saw how much work he put in and, and we saw how much he cared about us and, you know, we, we could see that as kids and you know, he was my rugby coach, but also my PE teacher. And and he had a lot of patience there’s times when we I’m sure let him down as kids. And but he, you know, got us to learn from it and and never, never really kind of gave up on us and, and, and kept, kept working with us. So, like I said, I wasn’t really too sure what I was gonna do after high school, because I was you know, I wasn’t the best student. So I really university to me wasn’t even something that was entering my mind, but he, he encouraged me and said, this is, you could definitely do it and just put your mind to it. And so, yeah, he was just one of those guys that, you know, all the students really liked a lot because of how involved he was in our kind of school culture.


Sam Demma (04:48):
Ah, that’s amazing. I I’m just, I wanna zero in on him a little more just for a second if that’s okay. Because I feel like, you know, the people in our lives that have a big impact on us, like we can learn from them as well, you know? Like so when you say, you know, he always made time for the students, what did that look like? Was it just setting aside time to have conversations? Like what did that look like back when you were in, in, in his school?


Doug Primrose (05:10):
Yeah, for sure. And time for conversations somebody could go, go to if you had any kind of issues and he would always have the time for you. Just the amount of work he put in as you extracurricular activities you know, through coaching and somebody who was just always involved. And and he didn’t, he was one of those teachers back in the day when you know, there’s all these different types of groups in the school, like social groups and, and every, everyone just really liked him. Like he really crossed all different groups there. It wasn’t just the sports guys who liked him or, or this it’s just every, every, he just had time for everybody. And you know, I think we just really, you know, were drawn to that and just just the amount that he cared for for students and, and always wanted to try and go an extra mile to, to help them out and understood also that sometimes students aren’t at their best during certain times, and there’s growth there’s growth moments, and he would take the time to help you through these things and not quickly just judge you and, and kind of write you off, you know?


Sam Demma (06:18):
Yeah. No, it’s so important to make sure that someone feels seen and heard. Right. And then listen to what they’re saying. Yeah. Take me back to when you were, you know, 22, 23 and you know, you come back from traveling and working full time and you get this opportunity to coach the rugby team. Like how did, how did that all come about? Did he approach you? You are, are,


Doug Primrose (06:38):
Yeah, so he, he did approach me. He you know, it’s always nice to have extra help when you’re coaching teams and you know, I would always come back and visit him after high school. Like when I was back in town or I had some time I’d come by school and, and then he, he’s just said, Hey, you know, I’m on my own this year. Coaching, coaching rugby, and could really use some help. So if you got some time it’d be great if you could just come by and, and gimme a hand. And, you know, I was a little bit more mature then at, at, you know, 22 or so. So there’s enough gap between me and the students as far as getting them to, to listen to me and stuff. So, so he had me come back and I just helped them out. And then I just carried on from there and help them out pretty much every year from there on out until I started teaching myself,


Sam Demma (07:23):
I know sports was also a big part of your own personal life, you know, playing rugby and yeah. And, and, and sport world. Do you find a correlation between coaching and teaching and do you think there’s some skills you’d learn from coaching teams that apply in the classroom? And I’m just curious if there’s, like you think there are some intersections between being a teacher and, you know, being a coach.


Doug Primrose (07:41):
Yeah. I think for sure you know, just preparation for one thing to to, to prepare students for a game or to prepare, prepare students for, for different things in your classroom. So making sure you’re prepared the relationship component you know, really get, and to know your students and getting to know your players. Mm. You know, the, the saying is, as a good coach has to make sure they understand how each player is motivated and treat them all kind of differently. Right. Yeah. And depending on their personality, well, it’s similar in the classroom. You gotta kind of get to really know your students and, and kind of what works for them and what doesn’t. And so I think there’s definitely some correlation there. And then I think also just that I think I came into teaching with a lot more confidence because of the experience in talking in front of big groups and, and you know, getting kids attention and things like that. So I think it definitely helped me with all the experience I had outside of the classroom, in the, a coaching world before I became a teacher. I think if I would’ve gone in straight outta high school, without that experience ahead of time for me, I don’t think I would’ve been as successful at it, at least not at the beginning.


Sam Demma (08:52):
Yeah. No, it makes a lot of sense. That’s yeah. That relates to my experiences with sport. And I can say that I, I think sports add so much and whether it’s playing in a physical sport or just engaging in any hobby, you know, playing music or doing something you know, besides the classroom work, I think it really adds to your, your character and your reputation, you know, building skills and move being on past high school. Yeah. Which is awesome. Your own educational journey. So, you know, you, you start coaching with this teacher you’re doing night school classes. Yep. At what point did you start teaching and bring me back to that first year, what did that experience feel like?


Doug Primrose (09:32):
Yeah, so I eventually did my, you come sorry, somebody’s just coming through that’s okay. I eventually did my practicum and then I I did it here at the school at Yale, and then went into my first year I was doing I actually worked in a severe behavior program. They called it, got it. So that was a program for students that weren’t available or weren’t allowed to go into any other school in the, in the city. So these were kids that had a lot of different needs. So you know, were, there was a lot of the kids had some real substance abuse issues and some real family problems and things like that. So I spent my first three years there and that was really great experience especially kind of being in my first, first job.


Doug Primrose (10:20):
I had a guy who I worked with was who had some experience that you know, also really helped me out a lot as a first year teacher and kind of showed me the ropes that way. And you know, going to see what some of these kids were going through. I think really kind of helped me throughout my rest of my career, putting things into perspective and understanding that you know, there’s, these kids come to school and some of them have a lot of things going on in their life that that we just don’t know about. Right. Yeah. So that was my first experience. And yeah, it was great. It was the school, I would’ve probably stayed in there, but the school ended up going, turning into a middle school. Mm. So it went down to grade six, so they, they moved the program somewhere else. So


Sam Demma (11:02):
Got it.


Doug Primrose (11:02):
Then I went into to another school Robert Bateman, secondary, and I was there for five years and, and taught some law and social studies and and it was great, great experience as well. And then I’ve been at Yale here now for, I don’t know, I think it’s like my 15th year or so. Now’s here student leadership that’s and student leadership in law 12.


Sam Demma (11:26):
Nice. Yeah. That’s amazing. And yeah, you know, thinking back to that first year, you intrigued me when you started talking about the different things that students ha can have going on in their lives that, you know, as educators, you might not even know about out of all the students you met over those three years, was there any transformational stories, you know, of a student, you know, really struggling and then getting to a, a more positive place? And the reason I ask is because I think at the core of, you know, an educator’s passion for teaching is the ability to positively impact a young person, right? It’s you have this ability not to, you know, change a student’s life, but to plant a little seed in them that they might water themselves, you know, three, four years from now, and you can have a huge impact. So were there any stories of transformation? It might remind another educator are listening, why this stuff is so important, why teaching is so important, and if it’s a very personal story or like very serious, you know, feel free to change their name or use a random name just to keep their identity in.


Doug Primrose (12:25):
Yeah, we had a, we had a few actually you know, just a quick one that comes to mind is does Derek, he I, the way we got him into our program was we have a, we had this thing called the Husky five back in the day, and it was a five kilometer run that the whole school would do. I think some students probably do like a Terry Fox run or milk run or things like that. So we had the Husky five, and then when you finish the finish line, they had a table there and they would hand you a freezy when you finish on. Well, all of a sudden this kid comes ripping through, on his bicycle and grabs a handful of freezes and just starts pedaling. So we kind of you know, chased the kid down a bit and, and, and said to him, Hey, you know, would you go to this school?


Doug Primrose (13:07):
And he’s like, no, I don’t go to school. I’m, I’m not allowed to go to school. And so then we started talking to him a little bit and found out that this kid had gone to school in like three years. And he was I think grade probably about grade eight age. And the reason why he wasn’t going to school at the time, was he the only way he could get there by taxi. And I guess he assaulted the taxi drivers multiple times. So they refused to drive him anymore. So we ended up figure things out with social workers and things like that. And we got him in there. And I think just with the right structure, the way the program was for him he did fantastic. And he, he ended up starting where he would only come and see us once a week.


Doug Primrose (13:49):
And then he went to half days, and then he went to full-time where he was also in some other classes like PE and our, and things like that. And anyways, we would have the kids up until they were about 15 or 16, and then they would carry on to the other school after us. And about two years later, he sent me well, he phoned me, phoned me in my classroom when I was working at Bateman. And and let me know that he was graduating tonight and just wanted thank us for, you know, getting him back in school. And yeah, so he, and he’s done quite well. He’s actually a, a DJ now. And I keep in touch, keep in touch with him through social media. And we’ve got a few of those now where I’m still in touch with him, thanks to social media and you know, the kid there’s some now are, have kids of their own and you know, have good jobs and, and are doing quite well. So I think that that grade eight to 10 period in their life was real tough for them. And they could kind of go one way or the other there. And some of them definitely chose the wrong path, but some others we were able to really help out and get them through that hard part when they just needed to mature a little bit more to get them through the next chapter of their life. So, yeah,


Sam Demma (15:06):
That’s an amazing story. I’m, I’m sure the, the emotions come bring true. And you feel ’em again, when you talk about it, probably it’s a, yeah, it’s a cool, it’s a cool example. And it’s, you know, it’s one of millions of, of stories that educators share with me every time I chat with them. And I think what’s really cool to think about is, you know, these are the stories that we know of, but there’s so many more that, you know, they never tell you the impact you made. And it’s there though, right? It’s still, it’s still real and it’s still there. You just might not hear about it.


Doug Primrose (15:36):
Yeah, we, and we had a very supportive school. It was atmosphere junior. It was called at the time. And, you know, it was it was very supportive you know, administration, which is important. And they really wanted to see these kids succeed as well. We had another student he started playing rugby and we ended up going on a tour to UK. So we went over to England and Wales and did a rugby tour. And there was absolutely no way that this one student who was in our program could ever afford to do anything like that. So the school was able to help him out and he was able to go on this rugby tour for two weeks and we were billed over there and he was bill with families. And you know, the, for a chance for this kid, who’s probably barely been outta Abbotsford to all of a sudden going on a trip overseas to, to London and Cardiff and all these great places. And the billet families had the nicest things to say about the way he, you know, his behavior and his politeness and, and everything. So it’s just nice to be able to see, you know, those kids get those opportunities that, and he probably has never been anywhere since. Right. Yeah. So that was just a big, cool experience. And the school was really able to help him out to be able to do that trip. And you know, it’s, it’s, I think that’s just so important for, for some life changing type things.


Sam Demma (17:00):
And, you know, when we’re thinking about students in the classroom as well how do we make them feel seen, heard, and appreciated? Like what can we do as educators to make sure that they feel like they’re a part of the classroom can community? Is it, yeah, I’m just curious. What are your thoughts?


Doug Primrose (17:17):
Well, I think the biggest thing is, is a relationship. And that’s what I always tell, like student teachers that work with me is the, they can teach you all the different tools in in your university classes about classroom management and seating plans and all these different things. But the number one that for classroom management and is just building your relationship with your students, cuz when the students respect you and like you and enjoy being there, then then there tend to be a lot better behaved and they seem to be more engaged. So I think the big thing is relationship and I, one of the thing I always try and one thing I always tell student teachers is try to make sure, you know, one thing about every student in your class. So whether or not I know that this student he plays baseball this student she does dance every night this student you know, they have sibling that I had two years ago and blah, blah, blah.


Doug Primrose (18:12):
So, so I just try to make sure I know something about them. So when they come in you know, I can say, you know, Hey, how how’s it going? Did you guys have a baseball game last night? And that’s all of a sudden you have that conversation. And I think that’s just really important to try and make sure to know them and then they, they appreciate that, I think as well, that relationship part. So, and then if they do have some issues, then they might be more inclined to open up a little bit more if they have that relationship with you.


Sam Demma (18:42):
Yeah. There’s, there’s a gentleman named Jeff Gerber. You probably know him. He’s like, you know, I know Jeff. Yep. He always says the biggest ship. I think the biggest ship in leadership is a relationship. Yeah. And I think it’s so true, you know, it’s, it’s so true. But on that topic of leadership, I know a couple years ago, you know, you guys hosted the Canadian student leadership conference billed, you know, close to a thousand students from different, you know, areas, what was that experience to like doing that and hosting it and you know, bring me back to that moment.


Doug Primrose (19:16):
Yeah. It was amazing. It, obviously it was a ton of work and some stressful times, but it was absolutely an amazing experience. So the planning starts about two years ahead of time. So we put the it in for, for us to be able to host it and we hosted it here at Yale secondary, but it was a school district hosting. So it was the Abbotsford school district that was the host committee. So we had students from all the different high schools in Abbotsford bepi leaders. And then we had teachers from all the different high schools help out as well. Administrators, teachers, EA everybody kind of chipped in. But yeah, it was a huge undertaking. But the week that we put it on, it went really smooth lots of good preparation. And the biggest thing was our team.


Doug Primrose (20:07):
We had an amazing team of, of staff that volunteered tiered their time to put this conference on and, and volunteered many, many hours. You know, if you think like we had, you know, one person, his job was in charge of building, finding bill at homes for 750 students. You know, we had another person, her job was to put a committee together to, to feed a thousand people every single day and a, a in a quickly manner. You know, we had a sponsorship committee who they went out and found sponsorships and it was mostly you know, it was retired teacher or retired principals some, also some people from the community and they just all jumped in and, and really took on and did a great job. So we had just an amazing team. And that’s what I really learned was, you know, there’s no way we could have done this without the support from everybody who who chip in and, and so much of their own time away from, from school.


Doug Primrose (21:07):
But I think one of the reasons everyone was so happy to volunteer was they just saw the value of it and what it, what it did for kids and the memories that these kids would have would be a lifetime a memory of this conference that they helped put on. So I think it was just a real, like I’ve had some of the teachers who’ve taught for over 20 years, to me, that that was the, the most, you know, enjoyable and the most satisfying thing they’ve ever done as a teacher was being part of that conference and the putting it together. So, yeah, it was it was great. Unfortunately, it was the last one because until, until they start up again. But it hasn’t been one since because of the co with stuff, but


Sam Demma (21:48):
Hopefully soon, hopefully I’ll see you at one of them.


Doug Primrose (21:51):
Yeah. They’re gonna, they’re gonna be doing an online one I believe in September. Okay. And then they’re hoping for 20, 22 to go back to, to live


Sam Demma (22:00):
Nice. Oh, that’s awesome. Very cool. And you know, the current situation you alluded to it with COVID is it’s been pretty challenging and, you know, you think are some of the challenges schools are facing and maybe some of the challenges that even your school has faced since the, the whole thing unfolded in March.


Doug Primrose (22:18):
Yeah, it has definitely been challenging. And I think us leadership teachers even have a bit of an extra challenge because you’re, you’re really trying to maintain school culture and maintain that positivity around the building. And it’s very difficult to do when a lot of your functions are getting canceled and grad is getting canceled and, you know, it’s tough to kind of keep these kids positive and motivated and still wanting to do things. It’s you know, I have my grade 12 class going on right now in my grade 12 lead class and, and you know, you’re here talking about, okay, what can we do to, to do some CU, some culture events to have some fun. And then they find out that day that their prom just got canceled. Right? Yeah. So it’s, it’s very difficult. But you know, the students, they persevere and they handle it quite well.


Doug Primrose (23:10):
They, they carry on and, and hats off to them. As far as challenge in our school, it’s just, you know, I know every province is different, but with us in BC right now, we’re not allowed to mix at all. So you have to stay in your own class, which is your cohort. We have a three hour class in the morning and then nothing in the afternoon, so we don’t have a lunch hour. So we can’t do any events during that time. So we’re like for an example, right now we’re planning a pep rally for Thursday. Obviously, you know, our school’s quite well known for its pep rallies and how crazy they are, but this one’s obviously gonna be a lot different. So we’re doing some, some virtual stuff, some games that we can do virtually in their cohorts and put some videos together, some fun videos and, and that, so we’re still trying, and we’re trying to make things go.


Doug Primrose (23:59):
We, we always have a big singing competition here every spring. It’s called all, and we’re still gonna try and do that. We’re just gonna have to do it different. And that’s kind of our saying this year is we’re still gonna do it and we’re just gonna do it different, love it. And but one thing that we have done, I think a good job of this year is we’ve, we’ve done some really good things in the community. And that’s one of the things that the students have done a little bit more of is, is just reaching out to the community. And one thing that we did, which was pretty cool is they, they applied for these grants that the city of Abbotsford and the community foundation put together for COVID. And how can you make people in the community?


Doug Primrose (24:44):
Basically how, how can you engage with them during COVID time and communicate with them? So my students applied for these different grants and they all got approved and they, they started doing pretty cool things like one group. They put together these little care packages for kindergarten students where they get a t-shirt and some decorating things, decorated shirt. And so they gave those to all those students. They took you know, some care baskets down to ambulance drivers, fire police, all the first responders and did that. So they did some things for our, we have a, a teen kind of outreach type program here in Abbotsford. And they put together like little toilet tree bags and stuff to give to the student the kids in the community that might need those. And, and we’ve got out and done a lot of different things at the parks and cleaning up and just outdoor activities and stuff like that.


Doug Primrose (25:42):
So we we’ve been finding some pretty meaningful things to do. And, and I think part of that too, is like with me, one of my things with teaching leadership is I, I really want the kids to come up with their stuff and I really want them to be the ones to do it, and they take ownership over it because when it, when it works out, which it, you know, usually does the the, the, they feel so much more gratifying to them because they’re the ones who really put this together. So when they applied for those grants and they all got approved you know, they were pretty excited cuz they’re the ones who did all the work to put that grant together. It wasn’t me. Yeah. you know, when they go and deliver stuff to the Abbotsford police and Abbotsford, police puts a thing on their Instagram, thanking the Yale leadership students for, for what they did, you know, you can just see that they feel so great about about that because they’re the ones that did it. It wasn’t just me doing it and telling them to do it. They came up with it all. And I think that’s one of the important things when you’re talking about you relationships and stuff is let you know, let the kids are pretty good at at coming up with some great ideas. They’re better than I am during COVID coming up with ideas. So we get them to, so,


Sam Demma (26:55):
Ah, that’s awesome. And I feel like when you give someone more responsibility, they, they feel more part of the group or community, right. Yeah. If they feel useless or like they’re not doing anything, they might not feel like contributing or, you know, using their creative ideas. So I think it’s a, I think it’s a great thing to do. If you could take


Doug Primrose (27:13):
And, and that’s sorry, that’s a, that’s a big part of our program is the community part. So we talk about like pep rallies and stuff like that, but even a non COVID year, we do a lot of community stuff and I think that’s really important. They, they enjoy that just as much as they enjoy the, or maybe even more the stuff that we do in school. Because they don’t think they, a lot of times kids want to do things and they want help and they wanted that, but they just don’t know how to go about doing it. Yeah. So you just kinda steer ’em in that direction and then they get into it. Now, the other great thing is, is when students graduate from here I still see them doing things in the community, volunteering, putting together nonprofits into their adulthood, which is pretty, pretty great because that’s something that they did here at the school that they’ve carried on. And


Sam Demma (27:58):
Yeah, it was like a launchpad here.


Doug Primrose (28:02):
Yeah. Yeah. It’s great.


Sam Demma (28:03):
And if you could take me back to year one year one, Doug, and speak to your younger self with all the wisdom and knowledge you have. Now, what advice would you give yourself? If you could have that conversation?


Doug Primrose (28:16):
Oh man. I, I think my, my problem was when I went through school and stuff, I, I don’t think I really had the confidence. And you know, it wasn’t, I think school was just so different back when I went there wasn’t as many opportunities and you know, like I think like if I had a class like my leadership class or other leadership classes that are out there in the, at all these different schools I think it would’ve been really good for me cuz it would’ve kind of got me to come outta my shell a little bit and have a little bit about more confidence. You know, a lot of the things I did when I was a kid I didn’t do things in class because I was just, you know, worried about maybe what people would think of me or maybe I just felt like I wasn’t gonna do a good enough, so I just didn’t do it at all. Right. so my advice to me would be like, get involved, get more involved in, in school activities and more involved in extracurricular activities other than just play a sport. And, and yeah, just have that confidence to kind of put yourself out there a little bit and move more.


Sam Demma (29:27):
That’s great advice. I, I feel like I’d give myself the same advice as a student. If I could go back cuz I, you know, like yourself, I only played soccer. You know, I was wanted to be a pro soccer player. I didn’t get involved in student leadership, student council, no extracurriculars. The only thing I did was play on the school soccer team and you know, play soccer outside of school and it, if it didn’t relate to soccer directly, I didn’t do it. And I feel like it limited me slightly. And so I think your advice ring shoe, not only for, you know, younger Doug as a teacher, but also, you know,


Doug Primrose (29:56):
Oh, sorry. I thought you meant me as a student.


Sam Demma (29:58):
No, that’s okay. I


Doug Primrose (30:00):
Was sorry. I was one back to my younger Doug as a student younger Doug as a teacher. Yeah, I, I, the thing is, is my first, my first job I was telling you about yeah. Was just so different, different, it was not really like a teaching type job. It was more like a management type job where you’re managing all these different kids and got it. You’re dealing with, you’re dealing with social workers and, and outside agencies and, you know, like the actual teaching part was was not you know, a whole lot. It was more just kind of you know, building those relationships with those kids and things like that. So I think that would be a big part of it. You know, get work on those relationships a, a bit more like right from the start. I think I learned that from the teacher I worked with he did a really good job of building relationships with those kids.


Doug Primrose (30:51):
Nice. I think also I think I, it took me quite a while to get involved in a lot of the extracurricular stuff. Like I did coach rugby. Yep. But I didn’t, I wasn’t involved in a whole a bunch of other different things that were going on in the school in my first few years. So I think get involved a bit more, but yeah, sorry. I thought you meant when I was in high school there, but because I definitely didn’t get involved in much when I was in school. And if I think I could do it again, I think I would try to be more involved in the activities that are going on in the building.


Sam Demma (31:21):
You and I both. I, I appreciate you sharing it. It doesn’t hurt to get advice from both perspectives so I appreciate you sharing both. Well, this has been a great conversation. If, if someone is interested in reaching out to you and chatting more, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Doug Primrose (31:37):
Yeah, they could just you know, send me an email or it’s on our school website; Yale Secondary School in Abbotsford. Awesome. but yeah, it’s it’d be great. It’s one of the great things about our leadership community that I’m in here is that we all just you know, from right across the country, we all kind of know each other and talk to each other, and get different ideas and, and bounce ideas off each other. And especially for those new leadership teachers or new teachers in general for them, don’t don’t hesitate to, to reach out to some of the people that have been doing it for a while, and we’re always willing to help out and do what we can. And, and I tell you, I, I learn so many, every time I go to these leadership conferences, I learn so many ideas from the from the new teachers. Because they got a whole different kind of perspective, and especially with COVID now I’ve learned a whole bunch of new technology things that that I, I, I couldn’t do before. So apparently you can teach old dogs new tricks.


Sam Demma (32:38):
Hey, don’t call yourself old yet. Awesome. Doug, thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it. Keep up the awesome work and we’ll stay in touch.


Doug Primrose (32:48):
All right. Thank you very much.


Sam Demma (32:49):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Doug Primrose

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.

Jason Schilling – President of the Alberta Teachers Association

Jason Schilling – President of the Alberta Teachers Association
About Jason Schilling

Jason Schilling (@schill_dawg) was elected president in 2019 following two years of service as vice-president and more than eight years of service as district representative for South West. Prior to his election as President of the ATA, Schilling taught English and drama teacher at Kate Andrews High School, in Coaldale, where he worked for 17 years.

Schilling is a proud graduate of the University of Lethbridge. Schilling’s assignments as president include chairing the CTF (Canadian Teachers’ Federation) Committee, serving
as a member of the Strategic Planning Group and the Teacher Salary Qualifications Board, and acting as Provincial Executive Council liaison to the English Language Arts Council. He also represents the Association on the CTF Board of Directors.

Connect with Jason: Email | Instagram | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA)

English Language Arts Council at the ATA

Kate Andrews High School School Website

Drama at the University of Lethbridge

Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF)

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. I’m super excited for today’s interview with Jason Schilling. He was the elected President in 2019 for the Alberta Teachers Association, following two years of service as vice president, and more than eight years of service as district representative for Southwest. Prior to his election as president of the ATA, Schilling taught english and drama at Kate Andrews High School in Coaldale, where he worked for 17 years. Schilling is a proud graduate at the University of Lethbridge, and his assignments as president include chairing the Canadian Teachers Federation Committee, serving as a member of the strategic planning group and the teachers salary qualifications, board, and acting as provincial executive council liaison to the english language arts council.


Sam Demma (01:27):
Ah, that’s a lot of words. He also represents the association on the CDF board of directors. All that aside, Jason is an awesome human being with a lot of wisdom to share. I hope you enjoy today’s episode and take something valuable away from it. I’ll see you on the other side, enjoy. Jason, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind why you’re so passionate about the work you do in education?


Jason Schilling (01:56):
Well, thanks Sam for having me in it. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here and have a conversation with you today about the things that I love, which is education and teaching, and I’ve always found teaching to be a joy. It’s one of the things that has been a great fit for me as a profession because I, I love working with children. I love working with students and helping them in the capacity of helping them grow and learn. I teach english and drama. Those are my two main areas. I am a drama major actually, but you can’t always find a drama job so you end up teaching other things as well. But I fell into English because there’s a, there’s the way those two really marry together quite nicely and, and things like that as well.


Jason Schilling (02:38):
From the Lethbridge area, I taught around Lethbridge my entire career and it’s started off in a small school in Vulcan teaching junior high and then worked my way up into high school. Then I switched to where I was teaching before I became President at Kate Andrews in Coaldale. And when I became president of the association, I had to go on leave from my teaching job and relocate to Edmonton in order to do this work and I knew that was a factor that I’d have to do in my life, but the day that I had to leave my school was one of the hardest days of my career because I, I built these relationships up with students and colleagues and the community over 17 years; and so then when I left, it was, it was pretty hard. And I miss teaching every day, but it’s also a really good reminder of why I do the work that I do now as association President.


Sam Demma (03:30):
I love that. And if you take me back to, you know, younger Jason, not that you’re old or anything, but like, you know, Jason right before St. Art in your career as a teacher how did you know that that was the path for you? Was there educators in your life that directed you down that path because they thought you had those associated characteristics and skills or from a young age, did you just know, you know, this is what I wanna do. Like, you know, gimme more context on how you landed in this profession.


Jason Schilling (03:59):
No, that’s a great question. When I was in junior high, you know, I was that typical kind of socially awkward little weird kind of kid in junior high, right? Yeah. And so I had this really great language arts drama teacher in grade seven. And I just always thought in my mind during that point, this would be all right. That would be a cool job, you know, and, you know, she was really great. And she, she worked with us really well and I felt it was one of the first times I remember in school feeling like somebody saw me. Right. Mm. And, and, you know, I had great teachers all through school, but this was a, you know, this, I was just something about this teacher that really kind of, kind of hit that mark. And that’s always in the back of my mind, but it was interesting when I went to university, I was a marketing major.


Jason Schilling (04:47):
I was going to get into advertising. That was my, my initial plan. And I remember, you know, university left bridges where I got my undergrad degree. It’s a liberal arts university. So you have to take all of these other subjects within the list requirements as they like to detail of them. So I ended up taking drama, which I never taken drama before. I was too shy. I was too chicken to do it as a junior high kid, no way would that ever happen. And I just remember my prop, I had there just said to me, he goes, this economics marketing thing that you’re doing, doesn’t sit you on you. Well, it doesn’t fit you, you well. And the drama class was just super easy. And then he, he tapped me on the shoulder to be in the main stage production at the university.


Jason Schilling (05:29):
And just from there, I, I changed my major. I got into drama education because it was a way to to take sort of the things that I, I really enjoyed working on. I think students really grow through the fine arts courses especially in drama. I’ve been able to, to work with students who are super shy and awkward. Like I was as a, you know, junior high kid and put them into a, a, a play where they just shine and they come out of their shell and they, and you see this growth and it’s phenomenal. And, and you kind of learn that through university when you’re working on that with students. And it just sort of came from there. And once I got into that sort of drama education part in university it changed the whole dynamics of going to university. It was suddenly became much easier. It was a joy to be there. The work was hard and the hours were long, but I didn’t mind doing it because it was, I was doing something that I love. And I, I’m very fortunate that I had on people who kind of pushed me in that direction to, to do that because you know, I, you know, some days are hard, but it’s what you love. And so you just keep doing it. So it’s great.


Sam Demma (06:32):
You, you mentioned that the day you left your school to move into the, you know, this president role of this association was one of the toughest days of your life. But that reminds you now why the work you’re doing is so important. What do you mean by that? Tell me more about the work you do now and how it relates to education and why you think it’s so important.


Jason Schilling (06:52):
Well, part of my role as, as association president is that the ATA you is you know, part of our mandate is to promote an advanced public education in Alberta. Nice. And I’ve just seen the benefits of public education for my students myself you know, I’ve gone to public school. All my university degrees are from pub arcade or from public universities in Alberta. I just know the benefits of public education and we need to fight for it because I always believe, and I’ve, I’ve said this a few times in other places as well. I think you, you fight for what you value and what you believe in. Hmm. And that’s why this role is important to me, it’s challenging. There’s some good, like everybody else, there’s some good days in there some bad days. But I carry with me, you know, that it experience of my, my teaching career. And I’ll end up probably going back to teaching once I’m done with this role as well with my colleagues and my students, and just knowing that education’s important to them as well, because they value it and they believe it as well. And I took a bunch of my mentors that I had in my classroom that I have collected over the years, and I have them in my office in Edmonton, because they’re just there as a visual reminder as well of the reason why we’re doing the work that we’re doing


Sam Demma (08:07):
Beautiful. And COVID 19 introduced some interesting challenges not only in, you know, every school, but I’m, I’m assuming also in the association and everywhere could the world, what are some of the challenges that have, that have come up and how have you and your team trying to tried to address them and overcome them?


Jason Schilling (08:28):
Well, definitely. And it’s been, it’s been a huge challenge and a difficult year for teachers and even staff working at the association because every way that we’ve normally have done things has changed and has been altered. And the things that we thought would be temporary have become sort of these permanent mainstays in our lives right now. And, you know, we still have lots of pandemic ahead of us. And so we’ll still be doing these things for, for months to come, even though vaccinations are coming, but we’re still seeing an increase in, you know, variance and other things around that as well for teachers, they literally had to change how they were interacting with their students overnight when classes were canceled last March. And they did a phenomenal job. Some days weren’t great. Some things worked, some things didn’t work. It was hard to connect with all of our students because one of the things I think the, the pandemic EC has done as well is highlighted the inequalities that we have within our system.


Jason Schilling (09:19):
Not every student has access to technology, not every student is able to you know, connect at home because they might be sharing a computer with their parents and their siblings, or, or just a multitude of things that came up, you know, poverty, income, security, all sorts of came up with this as well. And so that was a lot, a big challenge for us to manage at that time and still to do that at this point, as well as trying to deal with health protocols and now, you know, close it or schools that might have to close because they have a COVID case and moving everybody online, then coming back in for myself as a, you know, president, I usually tens of thousands of kilometers a year. Yeah. And so it’s it’s a little bit of isolating in that fact that a lot of my work has done sort of how we’re talking today through zoom. But you know, it’s, it, you just keep doing it, you just get up and you keep working to make sure that you’re connecting and engaging with members and being able to hear what they’re saying in terms of their experience, and then turning around and advocating for them down the road with you know, ministry staff and such.


Sam Demma (10:23):
And I also believe that every adversity challenge, you know, also plant there’s a seed somewhere planted of an opportunity within that adversity year challenge. And, you know, one of them is to create more, you know, equitable school. I’m curious to know what are some of the opportunities that you’re seeing as well, or the shifts that you’re seeing that you think are great and are good to be having in conversations that are happening within schools and within the association?


Jason Schilling (10:51):
Well, I know through the last little part in March and June, where teachers were working online, a lot of collabo between teachers in terms of making, you know, talking to one another and their school leaders or principals about connecting with kids and connecting with parents and making sure that lessons were being delivered. And it really started to spark a conversation towards the end of the school year about assessment and what are we assessing in school and what are the things that we need to be assessing in what’s a priority and what’s important. And those are really good conversations to have, because teaching it to me is always reflective, look back at what you’re doing, where you’re going with with things like that. And then to analyze that. So the, the conversation around assessment has been a really good one. Like, do we need to have diploma exams and provincial achievement tests?


Jason Schilling (11:37):
Like, are they capturing what students are truly learning? And we know that they don’t. And so to keep those things going forward is important. And it’s also really highlighted, I think the importance of relationships, we know that relationships are key when it comes to teaching with students, with each your colleagues in the building with their parents in the community that really highlighted that over this last year. You know, I talked to teachers who they don’t like having to go online because they want to be in the room with their students face to face, even though they’re wearing a mask and have to do, try to do social distancing as best as they can. They still want to be in that space with their students, working with them in that capacity, because trying to connect with people is really difficult through a screen.


Jason Schilling (12:20):
And for a variety of reasons you know, some kids might not turn on their cameras and and things like that. So that makes it even harder. And we also kind of learned, you know, the inequities that we have with some of our students and that we have a greater need in terms of society to address those things such as poverty even connected to the wifi is one of them. And of course, I think one of the biggest conversations that we’ve been having and still need to have in the future will be around mental health and supports around mental health as well.


Sam Demma (12:52):
I love that. And you, and we’re living in a time where students bedrooms have been transformed into the classroom, and some students are rolling outta bed and turning on their, you know, computer to join class. And it’s just as stressful and difficult for the teachers sometimes. And I would even assume yourself, like, I, I’m not sure if you’re, you’re doing this interview from an office or for, you know, from a place in your home, right. You have beautiful pictures behind you and it looks great which is awesome. You have a nice microphone, which is great. But how do you balance that work in life when they’re both? So, you know, closely intertwined personally? I just, just a very curious, personal question.


Jason Schilling (13:27):
No, it’s, it’s, it’s a really a great question because I’m actually, yeah, I am talking to you today, actually from my apartment in, in Edmonton. So I I’m working from home today because I’ve had that, that luxury being able to do that, but I do go to the office quite a bit as well, just to find that balance and that normality in life, I think COVID is really altered a lot of the normals that we, we normal. We, I’m gonna keep saying normal over and over again. Yeah. It’s gonna alter, it’s all altered the way that we’ve done our lives professionally and personally. And so I do go to the office just because some days it’s easier to, to do that, the work that I need to get done that day there, but also it allows me periodically to see other human beings.


Jason Schilling (14:10):
Right. So I might, you know, I try to time things sometimes with my assistant, because maybe there’s some, some documents I need to sign, or we need to talk about some things that are in the, the plans and works like that. So we try to, to focus that as well, or if we have a big media event such as the curriculum was just released here on Monday some of the com the communications people might come into the office as well. And, and then we’re able to do that work together because it’s easier that way. So finding that balance is it’s hard it’s because when you’re working from home and I’m not sure about your situation, Sam working from home, your work is just sitting on the kitchen table. Yep. Right. And it’s always there. And so you just end up working longer and, and, and things like that. And it’s, it’s important to find balance and to, to, you know, get outside and, and do the things that you can in a safe manner that are, are protecting yourself and others.


Sam Demma (14:59):
It brings, it brings the conversation back to that topic of mental health, right. Addressing student mental health, but also staff and human, mental health, the whole, the whole world should be addressing that. What do you, you think is important around, you know, addressing mental health in the next couple of years? Like, what do you envision or think should be happening more in schools to support that in relation to students and staff?


Jason Schilling (15:22):
Well, that’s a great question. And I think it’s a great question that a lot of us need to have conversations with our elected officials about because you know, I’ve, I’ve insane that I don’t think anybody is untouched by the effects of the pandemic. Some will feel it differently than others and that’s just human nature. That’s the way that we are. But I think one of the things, you know, coming from a small rural school is you, we would only have a counselor in our building maybe one day a week. Right. But the, the the effects of the pandemic make, or the mental health needs of our students, they come to school every day. And so we need more support that way in terms of having counselors in buildings working with students helping staff as well in terms of the support that they have.


Jason Schilling (16:05):
I mean, staff are able to access health benefits if they have them substitute teachers don’t necessarily have those support, but other staff do, and to make sure that they’re, they’re taking care of themselves and getting over the stigma of taking care of your mental health as part of your health, I’ve always been saying to teachers through this whole time, and I, I’m a victim of it myself, you know, it’s okay not to be okay. And it’s okay to have bad. I have them too, but just work and, and, and chat with people and try to support that and, and making sure that you’re taking care of yourself. That’s key. And we also need to make sure that you know, government is providing those means of support for that and making it a priority as we move forward.


Sam Demma (16:50):
I agree. And I’ve experimented with some like, different things like meditation, and, you know, there’s stigma along with that too. Right. Like, you know, just talking about mental health is, is it shouldn’t be, but it, you know, historically has been a touchy topic. But you tell someone, oh, I’m meditating. And you know, my friend’s like, what are you a monk? I’m like, no, what are you talking about? Like, this is something that I do to quiet my thoughts, quiet my mind, and start my day off on the right foot. And I think it’s so important to normalize those things in schools. Like I, I don’t know. Do you think in the next couple years, wellness will be like a, you know, something that’s very implemented in schools and social, emotional learning.


Jason Schilling (17:29):
Yeah. I think we need to make the idea of wellness as, as normalized as part possible that these are just the things that I do, whether you meditate, I run, right. And so you know, I get out there and I strap my shoes on and I, there’s not a, I say, there’s not a, there’s not a problem. I can’t solve on a good 10 mile run. Nice. And and things like that as well. And I’ve actually even said to students in the past, you know, I could have marked these assignments, but I went for run instead. Just because I’m going to be a much happier teacher for you today because I went for a run yesterday and I’ve actually had students in the past. Sometimes that we’ve, if I’m might be having a particularly cranky day, they’ll like, could you go for a run today when you’re done school?


Jason Schilling (18:12):
And, and then maybe when you come back tomorrow, you might be a little bit more pleasant and I’m like, duly note it. So, I mean, we all have those things in there that we, it just, we have to make this an ingrained part of our life and know that wellness is important for us in all aspects of our lives. And the pandemic is really showing that as well, because it’s really highlighted the things that we’re missing from our lives, maybe in terms of personal relationships and our professional relationships, and then trying to find a way to rectify that so that we can just be better or happier as we move down the road.


Sam Demma (18:45):
I agree. I totally agree. And, you know, we, we mentioned relationships earlier and how, you know, that’s one of the things that you noticed, you know, as a, something that’s super important that came up during COVID 19 and maintaining relationships how do you think we continue building relationships virtually? Is it by just, you know, phone calls and checking in with the teachers and, you know, having them check in with their students, like, yeah. How do you think we build those relationships?


Jason Schilling (19:11):
Well, ideally, I mean, in person is always gonna be better. Yeah. I mean, we, we do have these virtual things and there’s ways to, to stay connected with that. I don’t know you know, I talk to a lot of my colleagues and, you know, my friends and family I’ll do the zoom thing, but periodically I just like to pick up a phone yeah. And just call somebody. So instead of, you know, I always say if my email chain gets more than five, I’m phoning that person just to talk to them about it because after a point you just lose that. And so it’s hard and it’s not ideal, but you just do the things that you can do. And I know Christmas holidays was difficult for a lot of people and I didn’t have the chance to spend it with my family for the first time in a long time. And so we, we still managed to have Christmas dinner. We just did it by FaceTime. And we were kind of weird at first, but then at the end it was, it wasn’t bad. It was okay actually. And it wasn’t, it wasn’t too bad. And, you know, when it came dishes time, you could just, instead of having to do them, just click end then,


Sam Demma (20:09):
And then you put on your shoes and went for a,


Jason Schilling (20:12):
Yeah. I’m not sure it’s Christmas time. It was kind of cold, but I don’t know if I would,


Sam Demma (20:17):
So, yeah, that’s awesome. That’s amazing. And you know, if you could give advice, there’s educators listening to this right now who maybe burnt out right now, who may also, you know, couldn’t see their family for Christmas, who, who have been question whether or not the work they’re doing is making a difference. And, you know, they may even be thinking about, you know, leaving or quitting. You know, what advice could you share as someone who knows how important education is and educators are on the lives of our youth? What advice could you share that might be helpful? You know, imagine you were talking to a friend of yours, who’s a teacher.


Jason Schilling (20:50):
Well, and I have these conversations with teachers all the time over this last year about feeling overwhelmed or burned out by the requirements and, and things like that, of what they have to do, or working with the health protocols or carrying the stress of, you know, trying to keep a class of the 30 kids safe through the course of the year so that they don’t get ill. Is that time it’s okay to, to step back a little bit from the pressures and it’s okay to say no to some things, and I’m, I’m not, I’m not doing that. Or I’m not running book club this year. If I was at school, actually in the classroom right now, there would be no way I’d be doing a drama production this year. Just on top of everything else that needs to be done. It’s okay to take a break from that stuff.


Jason Schilling (21:33):
It’s also, I would just say, you know, talking to people we sometimes get stuck in our heads over things, or we, we, we see a lot of negativity maybe within social media, stuff like that. And, and it’s hard to put that down but to put it to, to try to find ways to support mental health and, and things like that as well. And also talking with your colleagues, because if you might be struggling with some aspect on something, they might be as well. And just finding ways teachers work very well collaboratively. And so finding that space in that time, I was really appreciative of this last year. We had a couple school boards in the fall, actually changed a couple of their PD days into just wellness days and just gave everybody the day off. And it was around the remembrance day weekend.


Jason Schilling (22:18):
And I thought that was a really good approach. Not saying, okay, well, kids, you have the day off teachers, you have to do all this extra work. And they just said, no, here’s the day off. And so I think that’s important for employers as well to, to look at what’s happening and saying, okay, we need breaks. Let’s not try to cram everything in cuz this year’s not normal. And I’ve always cautioned people from normalizing this year. Nothing about this year is normal. Nothing about the way that you’re teaching is normal. And it’s okay if you don’t get to everything because a resilient I’ve, you know, I’ve taught for English 20, 30 for 20 years. I know what I need to do in the curriculum as a professional to make sure that my students are reaching the outcomes that they need to have in order to move on to the next grade, teachers are professionals and they’ll do that. And so it just, you know, having that conversation with them and saying, you know, it’s all right, it’s, we’re all in the same boat together. And, and to just reach out that way. So


Sam Demma (23:13):
I love that I was talking to another educator the other day and, you know, we were, you know, talking about the situation, but trying to make it a little more lighthearted by like laughing about some things. And she said, you know, we’re all in the same boat and the boat’s the Titanic. I was like, relax. Like I, I know I totally get it. And you know, like yourself, I’ve had lots of conversations on this with this project on this podcast. And yeah, I think it’s important to have those people in your life that you can talk to and have conversations with and realize that it’s okay to take a day off. I’m curious to know personally what is, what is the first thing you’re looking forward to once this passes blows over the world opens up per like what is the first thing that you’ll be doing at that moment?


Jason Schilling (23:58):
Joe, what’s funny is I’m, I’m often known for not being a hugger. And so I, you know, when I keep saying to people, when this is all over, I’m still going to keep that six foot rule away from me at all times. And there people are like, we are gonna give you a hug. That’s great. I think it’s one of those things is I’m just looking forward to being able to spend time, you know, with my parents and my family. And, you know, I have a sister who lives in the states and that, and being able to see them in and for probably well over a year now. Right. And so just getting to, to be around people in that capacity, we’re, you’re just not afraid at the time and, and, and stuff like that as well. So that’ll be the biggest one. Yeah, yeah.


Sam Demma (24:40):
Yeah. You know, as long as everyone stays six feet apart, right.


Jason Schilling (24:42):
As long as there’s just not some big hug I’ll be working with.


Sam Demma (24:46):
That’s awesome. Jason, thank you so much for taking the time to chat today about education and you know, it’s important and why you’re so passionate about it, and some of the things that you’re observing and seeing. If someone wanted to reach out, you know, send you an email you probably already have a lot of those, but if someone did wanna reach out to you, what would be the best way for them to get in touch and maybe have a conversation?


Jason Schilling (25:06):
Actually the best way is just through email and it’s just jason.schilling@ata.ab.ca. And I always, I always say to teachers, I try to get back to everybody. Even the hate mail that I get, I always respond to those as well but not always as quickly as I would like to sometimes; just always depends on what’s going on.


Sam Demma (25:28):
Sounds great. Again, thank you so much. This was awesome and I look forward to staying in touch and watching the great work you do.


Jason Schilling (25:34):
You bet, Sam. Thanks very much. I appreciate it.


Sam Demma (25:36):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Jason Schilling

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.

Elijah Johnson – Secondary Division National President Business Professionals of America

Elijah Johnson - Secondary Division National President Business Professionals of America
About Elijah Johnson

Elijah Johnson (@BPAPresident) is a 17-year-old senior at Blaine High School, in Blaine, Minnesota. Although he’s involved in a variety of extracurriculars, he’s most proud to serve as the National Secondary Division President of Business Professionals of America (BPA), a business education non-profit that changes the lives of students all around the world. 

This year, he, along with the BPA Executive Council, has worked tirelessly to tackle some of the issues that the coronavirus has created for students. By the end of his term, he hopes to create a variety of positive opportunities for both students and teachers. 

Elijah will be pursuing his post-secondary education at Harvard as part of the class of 2026.

Connect with Elijah: Email | Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Business Professionals of America (BPA)

How to Win Friends and Influence People (book)

Minnesota BPA

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):
Elijah, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing with the audience a little bit about who you are?


Elijah Johnson (00:12):
Sure. My name’s Elijah Johnson or I go by Eli and I’m the national secondary division president of business profess of America, which is a business education nonprofit mainly based in the United States, but also with an international presence in Haiti, Peru, China as well as Puerto Rico.


Sam Demma (00:32):
That’s awesome. What led you down this path to get involved in BPA and these different leadership opportunities?


Elijah Johnson (00:41):
Sure. So at my high school I’m a part of the, the engineering program that’s called Sims. And one of the things that some students have to do freshman year is do a computer skills class and the computer skills class is taught by bla high school’s resident. Overly friendly, super boldly, like always super cheerful teacher, miss Bosman. And she’s actually one of the VP’s core advisors at Lynn high school. So she eventually pulled me in to BPA just through talking to me and knowing what my interests were. So I eventually joined BPA through miss Bosman. And then when I was a junior, I started becoming an officer in the organization. And then a couple of months ago in may, I was elected as the national president.


Sam Demma (01:27):
That’s so amazing. And when you were in high school, was it that teacher’s bubbly personality that kind of drew you into BPA? Did she tap you on the shoulder and say, Hey, you should get involved or tell me more about how that unfolded.


Elijah Johnson (01:41):
Sure. It was exactly like that she’d burst into class and then she’d start pointing at people and she’d be like, you should join BPA and you should join BPA. I was one of the students that she pointed at and eventually like kind of just gave in and I was like, okay, sure. I guess I’ll, I’ll try it out for a little bit and see how it goes. And four years later and still in my…


Sam Demma (02:04):
That’s. Awesome. Tell me more about miss. Is it bossman?


Elijah Johnson (02:08):
Yes. Miss bossman. Yeah.


Sam Demma (02:09):
What was it like being a student in her class? Was she tell me more about her? I’m curious.


Elijah Johnson (02:15):
Sure. At times it was a little scary that you’d walk into a class cuz I had her first hour and somebody was already that hot be and like excited to start the day. like, especially as a freshman who was just getting orientated into high school. Just having that, that personality. I mean I’m, I’m being sarcastic. Obviously. I love miss Bosman and she was super fun, brought a lot of energy to teaching. Being a student in her class was pretty refresh she to start out your day with someone that was that supportive of everybody’s future and their education. Because one of the reasons that she’s an advisor is because she cares about students that much that she’s willing to put in all the time, it takes to be a VP advisor.


Sam Demma (03:02):
So what do you think makes a good leader? It sounds like miss bossman was a, a great leader for yourself and many of the students in your classroom. And now that you’re in a leadership position, I’m sure you are trying to live out certain characteristics and traits and mindsets yourself to make sure that you’re all a good leader. So what do you think some of those traits and characteristics are?


Elijah Johnson (03:23):
Right. Definitely the ability to relate to other people. I feel like you can’t be a leader of anything if you’re not able to connect to the people that you’re serving you need to know what their issues are. What’s important to them. Some of their problems are because then you need to work to be able to solve those problems and create solutions to the things that they need help with. I’d also say being a very open-minded person because as a leader you’re obviously exposed through different types of personalities, different types of socioeconomic backgrounds and, and such. So just having an open mindset and being able to work with anybody I think is really important.


Sam Demma (04:07):
And have you learned these things through your own personal experience or do you also have mentors and leaders that have poured into you at the, you know, at BPA or in other areas of your life?


Elijah Johnson (04:20):
I’d say both. A lot of my, my what’s the word kind of like not traits but values. Sorry. A lot of my values come from my family. And just being raised by my mom and dad, but for sure a lot of my professional values have definitely come from VP experiences. VP mentors, like miss Bosman, another one of my advisors, supposedly, and then also just the students that I work with getting able to interact with them and learning through them.


Sam Demma (04:52):
That’s awesome. And as a student yourself, like thinking about your whole journey through high school, just your whole journey as a student, what do you think has been the most helpful in terms of what teachers and educators have done for you? I think we all have teachers who pour a lot into us and maybe believe in ourselves sometimes more than we do. And those teachers can shape our future and, you know, push to make decisions that are helpful. What do you think some things are that educators have done for you that have made a massive impact?


Elijah Johnson (05:28):
Definitely being accessible. I’d say that’s the biggest thing that’s impacted me personally. Getting into the position that I’m in right now and running for national office was hands down, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And I know for a fact that I would not have been successful as I’ve been, if it wasn’t for another one of my advisors, Ms. Boley I would text her questions at all hours of the night. Like, how do you do this? How am I supposed to do this? You have any idea what I’m gonna be asked in the caucuses. So just being there having that presence for students is one of the most important things in my opinions that a teacher can do to support their students of that.


Sam Demma (06:12):
I think presence is so important, not only in the classroom, but also in every conversation you can tell when someone’s mind is elsewhere and not paying attention to the words that you’re saying. and I think we both know what it feels like to have those conversations. How do you, like, how do as a leader, do you ensure you stay present when someone is sharing or, you know, speak to you because there’s not, not only now being that you’re involved in BPA, but for the rest of your life, there will always be thousands of things pulling you, your attention and your energy and your thoughts away from the present moment. How do you like kind of remind yourself to stay present?


Elijah Johnson (06:54):
Right. So that’s a great question. And what I personally do is I try to ask questions. So if the, the person saying something that I don’t really understand or if I feel myself starting to drift away from what they’re saying, I try to write down mental questions of clarifying points that I can ask to kind of show that I am paying attention and also force myself to go back to paying attention with him, starting to drift away a little bit.


Sam Demma (07:21):
That’s amazing. There’s there’s a really great book called how to win friends and influence people written by this guy named Dale Carnegie. And he talks about the importance of being interested in somebody else rather than being interesting or trying to be interesting. Your, and I think that aligns so much with your idea of asking questions, which is awesome. On the topic of books, like, have you found any resources helpful for you as a leader and as a student that you think are worth sharing or do you watch any YouTube channels or listen to any podcast that you wanna give a shout out to?


Elijah Johnson (07:56):
Unfortunately I don’t honestly, the only book that I live by as a leader is Robert Robert’s rules. Cause that’s kinda elementary procedure that runs all over board trustees meetings. I see in terms of leadership development, really what I turn to is people that I can interact with. So different mentors within the organization that I can go to and say, Hey, how do you do this? How could I get better at this? So for sure books and, and different types of videos and YouTube series is something that I can start personally. Looking more into,


Sam Demma (08:33):
I, I would argue if you have access to the people who are doing exactly what you wanna do, then they’re probably your best source of learning anyway, like something that I always remind myself is that like all opinions are not created equally, that if you wanna learn how to fly a plane, you know, go and find the pilot instead of asking an attendant or somebody else. And if you have access to those people that are doing what you wanna do, then you don’t have to read books or watch YouTube videos. Anyway, you could just go ask them questions. I’m sure that along your journey, you’ve had so many supportive people, people that have propelled you forward and given you beliefs that were empowering, but there’s probably been situations or the opposite has occurred, or someone told you that your dreams are too big or that it was not gonna be possible or wasn’t gonna work out or you weren’t smart enough or you weren’t good enough. How do you deal with the limiting opinions and beliefs that other people place on you?


Elijah Johnson (09:32):
Honestly, just by moving on, you have to, to be thick skin sometimes and not care about what other people say to you. I remember very, very clear when I told my dad that I was gonna run for national office, he kind of just looked at me and went, okay. And then brushed me off and kind of forgot that I had said anything. He didn’t really start taking me seriously until I ended up becoming middle soda’s candidate in the national elections. And he was like, oh, you are serious about that. And then also kinda similarly, I tried to run for state office in Minnesota and one of my advisors told me that I was too young to run. So I, I actually didn’t end up running. And that kind of impacted me personally a lot because my VP journey almost stopped there. Being told that I couldn’t do something that I had been trying to work towards to, to work towards for years was really, really impactful. But I kind of did what I suggested and I just brushed that off, collected my thoughts. And I ended up asking if I, I could run for nationals and because the limitations that apply to my school regarding age don’t apply at nationals and I ended up completely skipping state and just ran in the national election.


Sam Demma (10:49):
that is such a good story, man. Do you tell this on stage at BPA events?


Elijah Johnson (10:55):
I have told it a bunch in online meetings like this, but not at any conferences so far


Sam Demma (11:00):
Sometimes we get so worried or upset when something doesn’t work out, but oftentimes it’s because there’s something better just waiting around the corner. I, I read this quote online recently that said, you know, when a door closes it’s because the universe, God faith wanna call it is telling you, you just have to walk up the hall and open the next one. And there might be something better behind that door than you had ever expected. I think that’s such a beautiful story that explains the importance of persistence, but also staying true to your vision. Like most people maybe would’ve hit that first limitation of age and decide, you know what, I’ll just wait, I’ll just wait till I’m older. But you know, you continued staying true to your, your dream and your vision, which was to get involved with BPA as an officer and you kind of founded a loophole with the national level and it worked out. What advice do you have for students who are dreamers, who might be dealing with the opinions of other people trying to make their own unique dreams, a reality. Do you have any general advice or feedback for someone trying to do something that might seem a little unrealistic to those around them?


Elijah Johnson (12:11):
Yeah, for sure. What I say is create a plan because especially if you’re dealing with external forces regarding a, a lack of belief that other people have in you, I’d say, if you can articulate what your goal is and the steps that it’ll take to reach that goal, then it’s a lot easier for people to start taking U seriously and for other people to say, okay, maybe they do have a chance. And also it’s easier for you because the steps that you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to go, are that much clearer when you have them running down and you know what you need to do.


Sam Demma (12:48):
Can you bring us back to your own plan? like, what, what was your plan after telling your pops? I wanna get involved ATPA as an officer


Elijah Johnson (12:59):
Sure. So I was sitting at the kitchen table. We were eating lunch. I think it was, we were eating sandwiches from Jersey mics and I was like, Hey dad, I’m gonna run for chapter office. Then I’m gonna run for regional office. Then I’m gonna run for state office. And then I’m gonna try to be elected as a national officer. And like I said, he kind of just looked at me and went whatever and rolled his eyes. The chapter in regional office went good, but then like we just talked about, I kind of hit a wall at state, but everything ended up working out in the end. So kind of like you said, when doors close others open that’s for sure.


Sam Demma (13:37):
That’s awesome. Sounds like your plan was to just start small and continue moving up from there. I think like sometimes what stops people is, you know, maybe the first goal they said is I’m gonna be represented by national office. I think, which was really helpful in your journey in your own plan was, let me start in my school, let me then go to regional, let me then go to state and let me then try and crack the national board. And I think when you break it down like that, you’re setting yourself up for more success. Because even if the first one or two levels of your plan are a little easier to accomplish, just the fact that you accomplish something is gonna give you the confidence to continue going and the momentum to continue moving forward. And it’s very clear that you’re someone who has lots of confidence and you speak very passionately. And clearly you brought, you know, one of your own dreams and goals that you told to your dad to life, despite the odds, where do you think your confidence comes from? And how do, how have you developed that as a young person?


Elijah Johnson (14:40):
Definitely by failing a lot. Like there’s absolutely no way to be successful if you don’t fail. I remember when, when I was elected as a chapter officer, I was actually the treasurer of my school. And at first I was a little upset cuz I’m like, how am I gonna eventually reach my goals if I’m starting out as just a treasurer? I mean, of course that position meant absolutely nothing. Like it didn’t matter that I was the treasurer. It wouldn’t have mattered if I was the president. The fact the only important part was that I had accomplished a part of what I wanted to do. So I just took that and moved forward and went on with my life. And there’s a lot of other areas of my life, where I failed like in sports where maybe I had a performance on guitar, that didn’t the way I wanted to. You just take the experiences and lessons that you learned, you pick yourself up and you move on.


Sam Demma (15:39):
One of my favorite, speaking of music, one of my favorite artists is this rapper named Russ. He has very affirmational music and one of the lyrics is that he takes his failures and uses as stepping stones. Like almost, you know, each of them is like a learning. And I think, especially in today’s society, we spend so much time focused on how successful people are and how great their life is. And it gets so, so much more like pronounced when you go on media, because everyone’s only highlighting the best parts of themselves. What is something or an area in your life or a situation where you, you defined to yourself that you failed that you’ve learned from that you think might be helpful for other people listening?


Elijah Johnson (16:28):
Yeah, I think that’s a very, very important question, cuz like you said, especially since everybody’s on social media now and really all we see on those platforms is perfect worlds with perfect people in them and you don’t really see the imperfections that make up who those people really are. So I’d say an area that I’ve definitely failed at, especially being a student leaders in the early months of my term, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Like I was going to meetings, voting on things that I barely had an understanding of. And I was having all this, these difficult conversations with only a surface level knowledge or some of the topics that I needed to know because for better or for worse, one of the things that BPA likes to do is throw their students into things. So I was thrown into overseeing a $2.1 million budget thrown into an advocacy committee, thrown into policies and procedures.


Elijah Johnson (17:28):
So definitely struggling in those first few months, I’d say was a failure because not knowing the things that I need to know to effectively serve the students that I represent. That was definitely something that I look back on and wish that I was more prepared. So that, that didn’t happen. But like we talked about, you take your failures and you use them as stepping stones. So I, I went back and I said Hey, what could I have done to be better prepared? And then I worked on the areas that I was deficient at. And now that’s something that isn’t as much of a problem anymore.


Sam Demma (18:05):
That’s awesome. I love that. I was gonna ask you if you didn’t ask, what would you have done differently, but you did a great job answering that yourself. So thank you. I’m writing a book right now and the title of the book is gonna be called dear high school. Me and the premises that a lot of people that write books that contain advice for high school students are so far removed from the student life. That it’s hard to kind of give or accept advice from those people. Like if someone is 45 or 50 years old, yeah. Their advice is relevant, but it’s so far removed from what a student life might look like today. And so I thought it would be a unique idea to talk to people like yourself and also use my own experiences to write a book of advice for my younger or high school self. And if you could give one or two pieces of advice to your high school self, even right now, what would you tell yourself? Like if you could go back to the first year of high school and give yourself a one or two pieces of advice.


Elijah Johnson (19:05):
Number one, the biggest thing of all is don’t procrastinate. That’s something that I still struggle with as a senior in high school. Getting worked done when you get it initially is the best way to go. Cuz it’s immediately off your plate. You don’t have to worry about it two weeks later. It’s not gonna come back to haunt you. So just being proactive in the work that you’re given and the things that you need to get done and is for sure, one of the things that I wish I would’ve had drilled into my mind as a freshman in high school. And then also another piece of advice I give is just surround yourself with friends and students that you want to be like, cuz I can, I can say personally I’m still develop. And for sure, when I started out in high school, I was nowhere near the person that I am now. And I’ve partially developed because of BPA, but I’ve also developed because of the people that I’ve been surrounded by who I’ve admired and they’ve pushed me to become a better person. So I’d say lean on your friends. They’re the people who are gonna support you the most in addition to your family and other people. So procrastination and the importance of the people you surround yourself with are for sure the two pieces of advice I’d give.


Sam Demma (20:22):
All right. Love it. Awesome. Well, thank you again, Elijah, for coming on the podcast here, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show. If someone wants to reach out or connect with you we’ll would be the best way for them to get in touch.


Elijah Johnson (20:34):
Sure. So if you went to the bpa.org website, you just type in bpa.org you can go to a tab called the executive council and then right on that is my email. So ejohnson@bpa.org. You can reach out to me at any time you wish.


Sam Demma (20:51):
Awesome, Elijah, thank you so much. Keep up the great work with yourself, your future endeavors and BPA. And we’ll talk soon.


Elijah Johnson (21:01):
Thanks for having me.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Elijah Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Joanna: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

PREPSKILLS

US College Expo

Prep Connect – Private School Admissions Networking Event

PREPSKILLS Franchise

OSCA Conference Speaker

School & Athletic Seminars

Wings of Hope

PMH Mentorship

The Transcript

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Joanna Severino

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

Heather McCaig – President of Alberta Association of Student’s Councils and Advisors (AASCA) & Student Leadership Advisor

Heather McCaig - President of AASCA & Student Leadership Advisor
About Heather McCaig

Lead by example, treat each other better than you expect to be treated, and live life to the fullest!  These are mottos that she lives by. She has taught at Crescent Heights High School since 1999.  Leadership,  Social Studies and teaching English Language learners are her passions.  She is a teacher with a big heart and is heavily involved in Student Council, SADD and Key Club at school.

She believes very strongly in helping others and that half of teaching is actually the relationships that you can build with your students. Her door is always open, and students know that they always have an ear to listen to them and a mentor to ask questions to. She has been a member of the Alberta Student Leadership Association since 2005, becoming the President a couple of years ago.

Outside of school Ms.McCaig(@Heavendawn) is an avid motorcycle rider who puts on about 10,000 km every summer when she’s not working.  She also enjoys world travel and has taken four trips to Africa.  

Connect with Melissa: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Crescent Heights High School School Website

Alberta Association of Student Councils and Advisors

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 Heather McKay. She is a social studies teacher and leadership advisor, and she loves leading by example, treating others better than you expect to be treated and she lives that motto to the fullest. She teaches at Crescent Heights high school since the year I was born in 1999. She does amazing work in leadership and in social studies, has a huge heart, as I’m sure you’ll hear through the audio in this episode. She believes very strongly that helping others is a way to teach and that relationships are super important to build with your students. Her door is always open and students know they always have an ear. If they want to chat with her, have some mentorship or ask questions. She also is an avid motorcycle rider.


Sam Demma (00:56):
She puts about 10,000 kilometers in every single summer and she loves traveling and will be taking her fourth trip to Africa this summer. Didn’t actually ask her about that on the episode, but if you do reach out, consider bringing it up and on top of all of this, she is also the president of AASCA, A A S C A, the Alberta Association of Student Councils and Advisors. She’s doing amazing work and I can’t wait to share a little bit of her wisdom, insight, and passion with you in this episode. I hope you enjoy this. I’ll see you on the other side, Heather, thank you so much for coming on the high performing educators podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you just getting over Thanksgiving weekend. I’m glad you had a great time socially distant. Can you tell a little bit about who you are to our audience and why you got into the work you do with young people today?


Heather McCaig (01:45):
Sure. I am a teacher at Cresent Heights High School in medicine hat, Alberta, Canada. And I am also part of AASCA, which is the Alberta Leadership Association for leadership teachers in the province. And I have been doing high school leadership type things since I was in high school. And it just kind of continued throughout my career in various ways. And I have always just wanted to be with kids and help kids out. So I’ve really loved my job.


Sam Demma (02:15):
Where did this passion come from? Did you know in high school and when you were just a student that one day you would be in the positions you are today, or was there someone who pushed you into this direction?


Heather McCaig (02:26):
Not entirely. I’ve, I’ve been extremely blessed with li with amazing parents. And my mom was a teacher as well, and I watched her be involved in a lot of things with her students and with her professional association and that kind of thing. So they may have had a 10 year plan for me. I’m not sure, but I definitely have followed in, in her footsteps and, and all the educators that were around her. Right. I got to watch them and how they worked with kids and the impact they had on people’s lives. And I just decided that if, if I can make somebody else’s life better, that’s something I wanna do.


Sam Demma (02:59):
That’s awesome. And you mentioned you had great parents, I’m sure you had great educators as well. Is there a standout educator that you can think of back when you were in high school that had a huge impact on you? And if there was maybe one or two, if there wasn’t a standout one, can you think about different characteristics that educate, have that make a huge impact on young people and just share those things with the audiences, a reminder to, you know, what we can do right now during this crazy time to make young people feel appreciated and valued?


Heather McCaig (03:29):
Well, I think I was very lucky in having a number of people that I connected with in high school. Yeah. They, they went beyond the classroom, right? They were not just here’s your homework. See you later. And they didn’t care about you as a human being. They always felt that they always made me feel like they cared about me on a deeper level, on a personal level. And if I had a problem, you know, or I looked like, I, I wasn’t happy that day. They actually came and said, Hey, what’s going on? You know, that kind of thing. So I believe it’s those relationship piece. And throughout my, my whole, you know, education, I can think of my grade one teacher who did that, Mrs. Reinhardt, she was amazing. And I still remember things in her classroom because of that. And my grade three teacher, she was a scuba diver and we connected cuz I always wanted to, you know, go swim with turtles and, you know, moving up through, through the grades, there was a always somebody, but it was always that personal relationship piece. So that’s something that I’ve always strived to do with my students is make sure I know what’s going on with them. You know, I help them if I can help them and just be there as a, as a human to lean on not just the educator, as a person in their world, somebody that they can come to if they need it. And I think that really makes a difference in education.


Sam Demma (04:42):
Tell me more about how you strive to do that. Is it just asking questions? Is it like how do you ensure that you get to know your students on a personal level?


Heather McCaig (04:52):
Well, I, I try to pay attention to changes in demeanor even, right? So if I have a kid who comes in and normally for four days in a row, they’re super happy be, and then they look totally bummed out. I’ll take ’em outside and say, Hey, you know, you, you don’t seem like you’re happy self today, are you okay? Is everything fine? Mm. And or if you have a kid that you see crying, you know, you go whisper in their ear. You may not wanna talk to me now, but I’m here. If you need me, you know, feel free to go take a quick little walk, come back at yourself together. Know, but I’m here. If you need me, it’s just those little nuances, right. To let them know, I am somebody willing to talk to you and I’m here. If you need me without pushing them. Right. And, and I think even when you have classes that some of us do on occasion that are high numbered, that kind of thing, you can still make those little tiny nuances and, and they will come to you if they need to talk to you, they will at least know that you’re there. And it does make that difference to them.


Sam Demma (05:49):
I’m sure over the years you embodying that teaching philosophy of being a shoulder to lean on, not just an educator has had a huge impact on the lives of if not hundreds, thousands of students that have gone through your classes and through your leadership. I’m sure you have, as many other educators do a, a bad file folder on your desk, filled with all the notes. that students give you over the years. Can you think of a story that you might want to share? And if it serious story, you can change the name for privacy reasons. Yep. That will display the impact that, you know, living that teaching philosophy had on this young person, just to inspire other educators about the work that you’re doing, why it’s so important and now more than ever needed.


Heather McCaig (06:31):
Well, well, I, this, this spring, actually, I had one of my kids who sort of disappeared during COVID. Cause when, when they, the kids all went home, of course you only had contact on the computer and you could only have contact if they showed up. Yeah. So we couldn’t find this kid. We had no idea where he went and it was his grad year. He needed, you know, 20 credits to graduate. So I looked at in his file and I got his phone number and that didn’t work and I got his address. So I went to his house and knocked on the door and this guy comes up and he didn’t know who this kid was, but he was a grandpa with dementia. So that, that was understandable. And then his dad came around the corner and said, well, this was my step kid.


Heather McCaig (07:15):
They moved out, you know, you go to the gas station, turn left, go three blocks turn. Right. And it’s in the apartment building and you knock on the window. Hmm. So I’m like, okay, so no address, no phone number. Nope. Just talk, knock on the front window of the apartment building. I’m like, okay, so let’s try this. So I go driving and I find an apartment building sort of in the right location. And then I thought, okay, well, I’ve left messages at this number before. And I got a hold of mom once, like a year ago. So I tried again and just out of sheer luck, she answered the phone and I just said, Hey, I think I’m at your house. This is your kid’s teacher. And I really need to talk to him. Would he be home? And she’s like, oh, well, yeah. So she, she arranged for me to get to the right window.


Heather McCaig (08:02):
And I literally banged on the window and got this kid up outta bed in one 30 in the afternoon. And he came up to the front door and he was like, oh my God, Ms. Mckay. And I’m like, Hey, I said, we have some schoolwork to talk about. So many visits later and, and you know, doing homework via the front steps and me standing on the lawn and, and that kind of thing, that kid graduated in the spring. Wow. So, and, and if, if, you know, if I hadn’t have gone that extra mile, he may not have come back to school at all. He was aging out and, you know, he was, had all these other issues, but I mean, that’s one thing that will always stand in my memory.


Sam Demma (08:43):
Hmm. What, what gives you the hope to, to do something like that? What gives you the motivation to do, to take that extra mile and go that extra step? Even during a crazy time? Like COVID?


Heather McCaig (08:53):
Well, I’ve, I’ve always believed that living in Canada and north America and having the life that I’ve had, I’m truly blessed. Mm. So, you know, I know my kids don’t all have that home life. I know, like I have parents that have been together for 65 years. Yeah. So, you know, even a split home can have a huge impact on families no matter how hard they try to keep their kids protected. So if I can, if I can give back any little bit to somebody, to me, that’s huge. If I can have them realize how lucky they are to be where they live and grow up and be here in north America and have the schooling that they have and that kind of thing, they will end up being better people for understand that gratitude piece. Yeah. Because having traveled around the world and watched little kids take water out of a ditch that I know they’re going home to drink, I, I have a greater understanding now of what that actually means to live here. Mm. So I really try and pass that on to my kids.


Sam Demma (09:52):
And the principle of going the extra mile can be applied and everything that we do. I’m curious to know during COVID, have you had any mistakes that you’ve made that you’ve learned from, or great successes that you might wanna share with other educators? And this can be from the perspective of a teacher or also the president of the Alberta leadership student association. And the reason I’m asking is because right now, all educators are learning from throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks, and maybe you found some things that have fallen or stuck, and it would be awesome for you to share Can you hear me, Heather?


Heather McCaig (10:38):
I you’re very digital. We have been attempting things from are you, no,


Sam Demma (10:51):
I’m good. I can hear you now. Can you hear me?


Heather McCaig (10:55):
Oh, you there? Okay. Okay. All right. Yeah, you’re moving again. Perfect. You paused in a really great pose though. okay. So I think we have been trying really hard to find unique ways to do things and reach out to our membership. So we’ve, we’ve our, our leadership team at ASCA have been starting a coffee shop where people can get together and talk. We’ve had members in Calgary that have done some brainstorming to try and find unique things that can be done online. And we’re in the process of trying to build that kind of a resource for our membership so that they have, you know, go to things that they can still do. A couple of the things that we have been attempting just locally is we’re trying to do things that we did in person, but through technology.


Heather McCaig (11:49):
So right now we’re writing stories with seniors with dementia, but we have people at the nursing home that are adults with computers and then kids in the classroom. And we’re still trying to run those programs and we’re trying to mentor young people. So we have great ones with computers and high school kids with computers, and they’re trying to talk back and forth. So it’s, it’s doing what we do, but doing it in ways that we have to right now. And there’s lessons every single second when we’re trying to set up those programs that make them happen. So we’re trying those, you know, a variety of different things to make things work.


Sam Demma (12:25):
That’s awesome. Tell me a little bit more about the, the work you’re doing with seniors with dementia. I would love to hear more. Maybe it’s something that another school could take on if they’re curious and want to get involved?


Heather McCaig (12:37):
For sure. Well, we have always had programs with seniors. So students typically have gone to seniors homes and done different things with the senior citizens. So we have a, a secondary program here in the city that works with seniors homes. So they reached out to, and they have some adults that can go to the seniors home. So the adults are there working with the seniors and then our students are in class and they look at pictures and then they write stories about the, the pictures to help keep the seniors minds kind of sharp and that kind of thing. And then they collaborate on, on writing these stories. So, you know, it could be done in any senior’s home. Realistically, you just have to get the, the pieces together to make it work. And it’s been very successful. The kids are loving it. The seniors are quite enjoying the students. And the stories that are coming out are extremely interesting. And and we’re doing it on a weekly basis right now. So it’s very cool.


Sam Demma (13:35):
I know there’s an increasing need for this sort of a thing. Funny enough that you mentioned seniors at one 30 T I’m actually speaking to a senior’s home in Ajax over the phone. So I got how you said, reached out to someone from the community center. And he said, Hey, Sam, you know, we have a bunch of teenagers who are teenagers. We have a bunch of seniors who are tech challenged, and they don’t have zoom, but we do, you know, teleconferencing, would you be opposed to doing a speech? And I was like, okay. Yeah, but how am I gonna do it? He said, through your cell phone I was like, yeah. Okay. Yeah, we can, we can make this happen. And because they can’t, you know, connect with their family, I think any, any small way to get in touch with them can be a huge impact.


Sam Demma (14:16):
And that could be a cool initiative for any school listening to take on. If you don’t already do things with the seniors in your community. For sure. My, my question to you, there might be a, there might be an educator listening, who is burnt out right now, who needs some words of inspiration who needs a little bit of wisdom from a veteran like yourself? What pieces of advice could you share with them? Maybe it’s an educator who’s in their first year of teaching or an educator who’s been teaching for a long time, but just lost a little bit of their passion.


Heather McCaig (14:46):
For sure. I think all of us are feeling that right now. And I think it’s super important that we continue to reach out to networks of people that can support us, because if you’re sitting there and you’re, your brain is empty and you don’t have any go-to ideas sending that quick little email saying, Hey, do you have anything that you could help me with on blah, blah, blah. And then those of us that are out there in that network, recipro, Kate, it means so much because it can get us over that hump. And we need to remember that we have to be kind to ourselves right now. Every little thing that we do makes a difference. And even if we’re not performing up to where we’re normally consider our standard, we’re still doing the best jobs that we can because this is hitting people way harder in of mental health and isolation and all those other kinds of things, financial burdens, way worse than we ever could imagine. So it’s really, really important that we be kind to ourselves and, and look at gratitude every day, look at caring ourselves every day, doing self care and really reaching out and, and teams and networks where we can support each other, because that’s how we’re gonna get through this.


Sam Demma (15:56):
Hmm. And if any educator listening wants to reach out to you, Heather and bounce some ideas around, or have a conversation, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Heather McCaig (16:05):
They’re more than welcome to email me or call me. So my email address is my name. So heather.mccaig@sd76.ab.ca. And my phone number is (403) 528-0562. And I’m more than happy to share anything and everything I can with people and talk to them. And, and I love helping other people. So, and I can always get great ideas from them too. So it is a win-win.


Sam Demma (16:33):
Always a win-win Heather, thank you so much for taking some of your time to share your insights, wisdom, and stories on the high performing educator podcast. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.


Heather McCaig (16:43):
You too. Thank you so much.


Sam Demma (16:45):
I almost cried listening back to this episode. And when Heather broke down the impactful and inspired story that she shared about the student in her class, who needed just a little push, just a little more attention, just a little more belief, just a little more, and I hope it inspired you as well. I hope you took some notes. I hope you feel energized and are reminded why it’s so important to go the extra mile and do what we need to do to take care of ourselves and our students, cause they are our future. And if you did enjoy this, please consider leaving a rating and review. It would help more people just like you. More educators find this content and benefit from it. And if you are someone who has inspiring stories to share in education or innovative ideas, please send us an email at info@samdemma.com so we can get you on the show as well. Anyways, I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Melissa Wright

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.