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Professor

Phebe Lam – Associate Vice-President, Student Experience UWindsor (Acting) 

Phebe Lam - Associate Vice-President, Student Experience at UWindsor
About Phebe Lam

UWindsor alumna Phebe Lam (@Phebe_Lam) (BSc 1995, BA 1997) began a two-year appointment as acting associate vice-president, student experience, on March 22. Dr. Lam earned master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from Wayne State University and has been teaching at the University of Windsor since 2015.

In addition to teaching the “Mentorship and Learning” course, she has helped to expand the reach of mentorship programs across the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and developed new student advising and support programs, including online projects such as the Pathway to Academic and Student Success peer mentor program and the Reach Virtual Online Peer Mentor Support. Lam has also served several roles in support of the Student Mental Health Strategy and as chair of the Senate Student Caucus.

Connect with Phebe: Email | Twitter | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

BIDE Institute UWindsor

Drew Dudley Leadership Speaker

Wangari Maathai (Environmental Activist)

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:02):
Phebe, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here, please start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about why you’re passionate about the work you do today.


Phebe Lam (00:13):
Well, thank you. Sam, it is, you know, a pleasure to, to be here with you in this moment. And you know, I’m very, very, very grateful for this opportunity to share some of my, my experiences. So my name is Phebe Lam. I by trade I’m a psychologist actually starting off as a educational psychologist. But you know, let’s maybe take a, a few steps back. My undergraduate degree was in, in science and, you know, pre-med, I, you know, thought I wanted to become a doctor. But things didn’t end up that way. I think pretty much within the first week of school, I knew that, you know, there was something else for me and that road you know, was, was something that I might have to, to put aside. And so when I finished my general science degree I switched over and and completed my psychology degree and really felt that that was, you know, you know, my, my true love you know, ever since my first memories as, as a child is, you know, always wondering, you know, why, why did that person say that?


Phebe Lam (01:32):
Or why did that person do that? And we know, you know, psychology is a science of, of human behavior. Right. And so that always fascinating me. And so I was, I was truly in, in the right place in psychology. And so I went on to do my master’s degree in marriage and family psychology at Wayne state university in Detroit, Michigan. And then went on to do my PhD in educational psychology. And so I’m a licensed psychologist in the state of Michigan and practiced there and worked at Wayne state university in the school of medicine for about 15 years in mostly health psychology and also doing in working in a immunology clinic working the specifically, specifically with children, adolescents, and young adults and their families infected and affected with HIV.


Phebe Lam (02:32):
And so that really, you know was the kickstart of many of the things that I’m I’m doing today was from the, those early the experiences working with some amazing clients, amazing families that, that really inspired me to, to, to who I am today. So, and then 2015 I I started working for university of Windsor going right back home, full circle, and working in the faculty of arts, humanities, and social sciences teaching doing administrative work, but working in student support creating initiatives for students for engagement for, for retention. And then also I taught a mentorship and learning course, which also was another moment that sort of redirected my journey in education and really sparked again, a lot of the things that I I’m doing today.


Phebe Lam (03:39):
And so where I’m at now I am in a acting associate vice president role of student experience. And I started that this year actually in March and it’s been quite the journey. So, you know, when you’re least expecting things to happen, they always happen. And I’m very grateful that I had the courage to, to take this on because there’s no looking back and I’m here today and I’m excited and really looking forward to them, many things that I can still do for, for the university community as well as beyond that. So that’s sort of in a nutshell.


Sam Demma (04:28):
That was an awesome response. Let’s backtrack to the transition from medicine to education. How did that transition happen? What prompted you to get into working more so into schools?


Phebe Lam (04:42):
Okay. So you know, I, I’m gonna give a, a little example and I might be dating myself by, by doing this, but that’s okay. I, I own it and I’m proud of it. So back in the sort mid eighties and late eighties, early nineties Kodak, the company had commercials and they were, you know, this Kodak moment, right? And the whole commercial was, you know your true colors, your true colors, you know, let your true colors shine through and, you know take those opportunities. And so throughout my life, I looking back, I had all these sort of codes, exact moments where they, you know, really changed, you know, my direction in, in life. And so so going from, from thinking about a career in medicine to, to education and psychology the turning point if I had to pinpoint was when I almost blew up our science lab because my partner and I, we didn’t know that our buns and burner was on and it was on, and suddenly the the GA at the time said, you know, I think we smell some, some gas and everybody’s looking at each other.


Phebe Lam (06:02):
And I looked at my little buns and burner, and I, I saw that it was indeed on, but with no flame. And so at that moment, we, you know, I kicked into action. I, you know, we turned it off. But inside, there was a moment where I thought, you know what there’s something more, and me sitting in this lab full of anxiety, full of stress, because I didn’t know it was my first year, first lab. I didn’t know where, what I was doing was unsure, but at that moment, because of that, I don’t know if it was the stress. It was that moment where some light turned on and I said, okay, Phoebe you know, hang tight. There’s something out there. And so from there on, I was always looking, always listening, always, you know, trying to you know, maybe you can sum it up as being just curious, curious as to what my journey should be.


Phebe Lam (06:59):
And so, as I was curious, talking to more and more people you know, learning and seeking out mentors it led me to, to hone in on, you know, how I love and I thrive to be in the environment where there is that learner teacher or mentee mentor relationships and, you know, supporting people in their darkest moments really, really touched me. And so then I knew that, you know, psychology and education was something that I wanted to head into. And at that moment, I still didn’t know what, you know, what, where that was going to lead. Right. But I was very open to those opportunities. And and here I am.


Sam Demma (07:48):
Steve jobs has this quote, and I’m gonna read it off of my phone because I shared it on Twitter recently. He said, okay, your work is gonna fill a large part of your life. And the only way to be truly five is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. And if you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, don’t settle. And based on what you just told me, it sounds like that little quote that Steve shared, it was at a 20, a 2005 Stanford commencement address sums up what sounds like your journey in education. It sounds like you were curious to find the thing you loved and that curiosity just kept pulling you forward. Where do you think absolutely. Where do you think that curiosity kind of comes from where you always, some, one that was interested in things growing up or was it cultivated?


Phebe Lam (08:46):
You know, a part of it was always interested, you know, and always curious of the things that I didn’t know. Mm. And very early on my especially my father really instilled in, you know in, in myself the, the desire and that passion to always be curious, you know, always ask questions. And as I’m speaking now, I can’t even think back to my grandparents who, who you know, had also very close relationship with. They would always, you know, we would always talk about or they would share their stories with, with me. And I was always very curious and very good listener. I think I mostly did a lot of listening more than asking questions. I don’t believe that I was that kid that asked a lot of questions. Right. I was always the, the, the observer, the, the listener and, and taking everything in and then, and then reflecting in the processing on that.


Phebe Lam (09:54):
But I, we really enjoyed stories, you know, listening to stories. I mean, that’s how I learn, learn the best. And that’s, you know, part of my teaching is through telling stories and listening to people’s lived experience. Wouldn’t it be great, Sam, if, you know, everybody could write their own story, you know, and we could tap into someone’s journey. And I think about that when I teach, I think about that when I mentoring students and working with students is, you know, taking that time to say, Hey, you know, what is your story? You know, what were your experiences? Because it’s not until I understand and hear those stories that I can be, be here to help support and, and truly understand, and, and, and listen and appreciate where they are in that moment when I’m with them. Yeah. Oh, I hope I answered that question.


Sam Demma (10:50):
You did, you did the importance of stories is connected to this idea of, of the importance of mentorship. I’ve had many mentors in my life who thinking about it now taught me so many things through the sharing of experiences and stories that they went through, which is why I think it’s so important to have somebody in your life who can mentor you, who can have your best interests at, and also be willing to invest some time into sharing some of their own experiences and learnings with you. You are a big fan of mentorship, helped turn it into even like a curriculum. And course, can you talk a little bit about that?


Phebe Lam (11:32):
Absolutely. and, you know before I start talking about it, you know, I use a lot of word interchangeably and I, and, and words are so incredibly important because, you know, I used to think about, you know, the, the education as the learner and the teacher, and now I’m finding because of, you know, that Kodak moment or that opportunity to, to head down you know, teaching this course mentorship and learning has led me to think about, you know, re or unlearning and relearning what education and what teaching really is. And for me teaching is actually mentoring because it’s not, there’s no boundaries. You know, when the class is done where you’re done taking my course, that relationship continues on. And I tell this to my students all the time, even my, anybody who I I’ve ever worked with. And a past teacher or professor you know, Dr.


Phebe Lam (12:35):
Clark Johnson back in my grad school days, he said this to all our students, you know, your tuition with me is good for a lifetime. Hmm. As long as you can find me, I’m here for you. And I offer that to all my students. I mean, you find me, I I’m here to support you. And through the, you know, 20, some odd year as of post-secondary teaching I’ve had students come back to me. I may not remember them you know, but I, you know, I I’m there. And so, okay. So leading into the mentorship. So in 2016 I was given the opportunity to teach a course called mentorship and learning. And it’s a fourth year level class that that teaches third and fourth year students to become mentors in a first year course in the faculty of arts, human to use in, or social sciences.


Phebe Lam (13:36):
And these mentors are in a majors only. So if you’re a psychology major, you would mentor in the first year psychology course. Okay. And so this class actually began in 2005 co-founders Tina Dr. Tina pules and professor Tson bacon. And so they gave me the opportunity to teach this class. I did not know what I was getting myself into. I mean, I did some work with mentoring in HIV where we would have doctors and nurses and staff at the hospital be mentors for, for, for, for children in, in our clinic. But this, you know, teaching mentorship, like I know about mentoring, but, you know, so I kind of just dove to it and said, you know what? I trust that they chose me. And you know, I’m gonna trust this process and I can tell you Sam it has changed my life, you know being a mentor and a mentee.


Phebe Lam (14:41):
It, you know, first year students that come to university is a transition period, and we know that they’re at risk, right. And so having these mentors who are their peers is incredibly important, right. We’ve seen the, the statistics in retention, but more importantly, this class is for these, you know, 25 to 50. Now we have about a hundred students mentors to foster and to to help them to grow in, you know, leadership and becoming mentors for the rest of their lives to seek out mentors to be mentees, but to also be mentors themselves. So, yeah. And and many of the students that I’ve taught over the years you know, they’re working alongside me in the office of student experience even right now. So these are relationships that have continued on. Yeah. And will continue on,


Sam Demma (15:41):
Did the BIDE Institute come to life with students in that class? Or tell me a little bit about the origins of the Biden Institute as well.


Phebe Lam (15:50):
Okay. yes. So the by Institute B I D E stands for belonging, inclusivity, diversity, and equity. And this is a student led student run initiative that focuses on those four pillars, belonging, inclusivity, diversity and equity, and the co-founders of these, this Institute are two two of my students who went through the mentorship and learning program. Cool. And I knew, you know, you know, when you see you know, the potential in, in, in, in students you know, my first, my first, you know, thing to do is to, to grab a hold of them and say, Hey, listen, you, you, you know, this is, this is a great opportunity. And actually they came up with this opportunity or this initiative I said to them, you know, back in may, I said, listen, you know, I wanna do something for the students.


Phebe Lam (16:50):
And, you know, it’s not me, it’s gonna be students working with students, students coming up with these initiatives. And within two months the Biden Institute came up and and we’re very excited to kickstart this very unique Institute for students. Basically it’s a platform where students can come to together share their experiences, share what they know, share their passion through conversation, through activities and providing a safer and brave place for them to be able to see their, their creativity, see their thoughts come in to to, to life and to be able to to, to, to build their legacy every day.


Sam Demma (17:44):
Hmm. It’s amazing. If someone is interested in learning more about the Institute, does it have a web URL or a, a page that someone can search to read about it?


Phebe Lam (17:54):
Yes. Yes they do. Yes, they do. Sorry. Yes, we do. So if I can share that link with you you know, after yeah.


Sam Demma (18:05):
Awesome. Amazing. And what the does the day in the life look like in your current role and position you’ve done, you know, various different things. What, what does the day in the life look like now?


Phebe Lam (18:20):
Oh, wow.


Sam Demma (18:21):
That’s a tough one.


Phebe Lam (18:22):
Oh, no, it’s it, yes. It, it’s a, it’s a tough one, but it’s also really exciting just, you know, it is every day of you know, how can I even sum it up? It’s it’s leadership in a in a, in a way that I didn’t see leadership as it is the way that I see it today. And so, you know, just a few points, you know I’ve really learned that, you know, I don’t have to have the right answers and just the thought of that gives me freedom, right. Gives me freedom to, to be curious, because that’s also freedom. And, you know, understand that the power in leadership comes when we share it and we support it in others. And a large part of what I do is is, is fostering our future leaders and having students working in my office.


Phebe Lam (19:30):
Now I have, you know, this office has, you know five directors that are are, are so wonderful. And, you know, when I look at the work that they do it’s the commitment, you know, it’s their it’s, I see the inspiration that they have in them and the passion that they have in them to really serve the students, because they want to make, you know, this community this world a truly, a better place. And, and again, you know, that leaving that legacy be, be behind, right. As, as we move forward you know, in the day in the life, you know, every day is about being vulnerable keeping in check with who I am being aware and constantly reflecting and and assessing where I am where others are and to meet others where they are not expect to, to come to me and be at my place, but for me to put forth, authentic and genuine effort to go to where they are and to meet them where they are and see what our student needs are and what what needs are for those who work alongside me and to nurture that.


Sam Demma (20:54):
Awesome, something that I believe is important is being a lifelong learner. And you strike me as someone with curiosity, who is always looking for new ways to grow and learn new things over the course of your career, have you found any books or resources or courses or things that you had went through that were extremely valuable that you think if other educators had the chance to read, watch, or experience would also be helpful for their personal development?


Phebe Lam (21:29):
Absolutely. So I have a, a few a few a few videos or a few individuals that, that again have really impacted my view in perspective in not just, you know, education or teaching and learning and not just in mentoring and leadership, but for every day. Mm. So you don’t have to be a teacher or you can be a child or anyone, you know, I mean, there’s seven point what 8 billion people in this, in this world. And we’re all unique living beings, right. Each with our own lived experiences. So so yes, there are, there are the first one is Drew Dudley. He is a, you know, leadership speaker and he speaks to everyday leadership and the lollipop moment, how we should be creating impact every day through not just the big stuff, because most of us are not doing those big grand things, but those everyday leadership opportunities by, you know, as simple as acknowledging what somebody’s done for you, and those are those lollipop moments, and I’ve really done a lot, made an effort to do that more and more.


Phebe Lam (22:49):
And week I, I, I look back and reflect on my life and think, oh, you know what, at this moment, this person made a huge difference in my life. And it could have been easy as a, a, a, a constant smile that this person always had. And I, I went back and I acknowledged that, and, you know and that’s been really great. So ju du lead the everyday leadership, his Ted talk really really impacted me. The other person that’s really impacted myself is Dra woman’s right. A, she won the she received the 2004 Nobel peace prize for her work. And she speaks to the story of a hummingbird and where, you know, a hummingbird is in this huge Flos and this Floris is consumed with fire, and all the animals have, you know, come together and are, is looking with, at this floors burning and feeling, you know, very overwhelmed and powerless, and, you know, not knowing what to do, except for this little hummingbird and this little hummingbird, you know, said to itself, well, I’m gonna do something about this fire.


Phebe Lam (24:04):
So it flies back and forth to the stream and brings with this little beak, a tiny droplets of water and sprinkling onto this huge forest fire. And all the animals are, you know, animals bigger than the hummingbird, you know, said to this hummingbird, you know, what are you doing? You know, you’re so small, this fire is so big and your wings are so little, you know, you only carry a drop of water at the time. Like, what are, you know, what’s that gonna do? And, you know, this little hummingbird was not at all discouraged. And it turned to these, these animals and said, you know, I’m doing the best I can. Mm. And, you know, I, I carry that with me. And I shared, you know, this story with, with my students all the time, as I, you know, we can just do the best we can, you know, and and that’s enough.


Phebe Lam (24:52):
Right. And, you know, and it’s okay to be that hummingbird because there are other hummingbirds around who are doing this exact same thing. And, you know, we, we, we can, you know, we see each other and together, you know, is better. And you know, as, as small as you think that you are, or maybe you may feel insignificant, you really are not you know, you just need to do the best you can and to, to be able to reach out for support when you can. So those are, you know, the two you know, two little videos, short videos that that really has, you know, impacted my journey and has really, you know, given me some clear direction. I always go back to, to those two things. You know, especially when times are challenging and when times are difficult.


Sam Demma (25:43):
That’s amazing. Those are both two awesome resources. I’ll make sure to link them in the show notes and on the article. So you can watch those if you’d like as well, Phoebe, this has been a really enjoyable conversation packed with so many experiences and ideas. If someone wants to reach out, send you a message, what would be the best way for them to get in contact with you?


Phebe Lam (26:07):
My email at the university of Windsor I’m also on LinkedIn. I have to do better with that. Not as I don’t keep up with that as, as much, but that’s one of my goals for 2022. But yes, my email is, you know, Phebe.Lam@uwindsor.ca


Sam Demma (26:28):
Awesome. Phoebe, thank you so much. Keep up the amazing work. Keep being a hummingbird and making everyday impact. And I’ll talk to you soon.


Phebe Lam (26:37):
Thank you, Sam. Thank you again for this opportunity.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Phebe Lam

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Dr. Leslie D. Sukup – Associate Professor of Management at Ferris State University College of Business

Dr. Leslie D. Sukup - Associate Professor of Management at Ferris State University College of Business
About Dr. Leslie D. Sukup

Dr. Leslie Sukup is currently an Associate Professor of Management at Ferris State University where she is currently teaching Team Dynamics-Organizational Behavior, Quality-Operations Management, Business Integrated Experience CAPSTONE, Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, Managerial Leadership, Leadership and Organizational Change, and International Logistics courses.

Additionally, she is also the Business Administration Program Coordinator, the academic advisor for the Business Professionals of America Registered Student Organization, and the chair of the College of Business Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

Previously to her current position, Dr. Leslie Sukup has been an adjunct professor and was also on active duty in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years. During this time, she held numerous leadership roles such as the Superintendent of the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, and a variety of instructional roles including Air Force One Advance Agent training.

Dr. Sukup has also received many awards and commendations during her service including the Meritorious Service Award, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Information Manager of the Year, Quality Inspection Professional Performer, and numerous others. Dr. Sukup is also a certified Master Resilience Trainer and has instructed more than 5,000 military members and students in resilience skills.

Connect with Dr. Leslie D. Sukup: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Ferris State University College of Business

GIMKIT Live Learning Game Show Software

Business Professionals of America

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:01):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Dr. Leslie Sukup. Dr. Sukup is currently an associate professor of management at Ferris State University, where she is currently teaching team dynamics, organizational behavior, quality operations management business, integrated experience, the cap stone version, business ethics, and social responsibility, managerial leadership, leadership, and organizational change and international logistics courses. Additionally, she’s also the business administration program coordinator, the academic advisor for the business professionals of America registered student organization and the chair of the college of business committee on diversity and inclusion previous to her current positions. Dr. Sukup has been an adjunct professor and was also active duty in the US Air Force for 25 years. During this year, she held numerous leadership roles such as the superintendent of the air force agency for modeling and simulation and a variety of instructional roles, including air force. One advanced agent training, Dr. Sukup has also received many awards and commendations during her service, including the meritorious service award joint service commend medal information manager of the year quality inspection, professional performer and numerous others. Leslie is also a certified master resilience trainer and has instructed more than 5,000 military members and students and resilient skills. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did, and I will see you on the other side. Leslie, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Big pleasure to have you on the show here this morning. Please start by introducing yourself.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (02:52):
Thanks. Thanks for having me, Sam. My name is Leslie Sukup. I happen to be a, a faculty member here at Ferris State University, where I teach in the management department in the college of business. I teach a wide variety of management classes. I’m also the business administration program coordinator, the business professionals of America our registered student organization advisor. I am also the chair of the college of business committee and inclusion. So I think I’ve covered all of my different committees and responsibilities, but it, again, it’s a pleasure to be here.


Sam Demma (03:35):
Tell us a little more about the journey that brought you to where you are now.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (03:41):
Oh, great question. So the journey started when I actually, it started when I was 16 years old. So this is the time when I tracked down the air force recruiter and I was told I could not enlist in the air force. I had to wait a year. So I waited a year and tracked them down again, enlisted in the air force. And I thought when I graduated high school, I would just do four years in the air force and get out and go along my, my Merry way into whatever I had at that time, which at that time was PO potentially going into the secret service. However, I made it to my first duty station and I met my husband. That changed things. He was, he had been in the air force longer than I had and, and it was, it was easier to stay in so we could go to different places.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (04:47):
And I was enjoying my job at the time and I said, okay, not a, not a, not a problem, but I also had a lot of teaching opportunities and instructor opportunities in the year of force. And I found that I really loved the experience. I loved making a positive impact on different people that I instructed. It was very heartwarming to see people grow and develop. And I especially loved the aha moment, you know, or they get that, that big light bulb on top of their head. And you can see that they really grasp what you are teaching or instructing. So this led me to think, okay, I, I’m probably a lifer for staying in the military, but on top of that, I need to think about the second chap. So I thought, well, I really enjoy teaching and why not marry those two together?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (05:50):
So while I was active duty, I finished my bachelor’s degree, my master’s and I finished my doctorate one year before I was to retire from the air force. Wow, great, great timing. so when I retired from the air force, I started to apply to different institutions, higher education institutions, and one of them happened to be fair state university. And I was very lucky that I got selected or was hired into, into the job that I’m in. Now. I, I love this university. I love the, the culture, the small town feel it’s, it’s really, really what I is meant to do. And I can say that coming into work is never a chore. I never dread it. In fact, every day is kind of like opening a box of chocolates. Mm-Hmm you never know what you’re gonna get, but it’s always a positive feel. And I love being that change agent, the positive change agent to all of my students, it’s it really is a very rewarding job. And I’m very thankful to have chosen this as a second chapter for me.


Sam Demma (07:07):
I think every educator that’s listening to this right now is thinking the exact same thing about their work, which is absolutely awesome. You brushed over a and almost didn’t even mention the fact that while you were working with the military, you started doing sessions on resiliency. Can you talk a little bit more about your role as a master trainer and resiliency and also where that passion stem from and how you define resilience?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (07:36):
Oh, absolutely. So I’ll start off with the definition of resilience or my definition. And my definition of resilience is that you are able, when you encounter adversity, you are able to bounce back stronger than you were before. Mm. And that means that you may have learned new skills. You have learned just a, a different way of approaching a problem, but either way you’ve come back stronger than you were initially based upon that experience. And my love for resilient grew probably before I actually started to teaching resilience, but the two married up very well together. When I was 20, I had just turned 22. My dad passed away unexpectedly three days before Christmas, actually two days before Christmas and 1996. And he was 44 years old and totally unexpected that shook my world. Plus at the time I was about to PCs from my permanent changes station. So I was moving from my first duty station all the way up the east coast. So from Florida all the way up to Massachusetts, and when you’re going through that much change during the holidays, it’s a lot.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (09:14):
And that experience taught me a lot about resilience. So when I started teaching resilience in the air force, it was taking my life experiences, but also providing them with stories in the classroom, but really seeing the impact of teaching resilience to others can have on their lives. I’ve had, I’ve heard so many heartwarming stories where individuals have taken the skills that they’ve learned in the classroom and have improved their lives for the better it’s. I have so many stories. There’s no, there’s not enough time in, in a podcast to cover ’em all , but to see the improvement in their relationships, to see the improvement in their personal lives, their professional lives, and to see them become better people overall that’s where my research passion for resilience came about. It’s also the reason why I add resilience into my, all of my classes, because it has such a powerful impact, not just on myself, because it’s a way of boosting my own resilience, but it’s a, it’s also lending my students to become positive change agents in the world because they’re learning a little bit more about resilience and, and maybe not all of the tools and techniques resonate with them, but they’re gonna be able to take one away with them that does, and that can potentially help them later on in life.


Sam Demma (10:59):
Yeah, it’s so true. Resiliency is a tool that you need to pack in your toolkit or in your backpack, because it’s not a matter of if something will happen that challenges you, it’s a matter of when, at some point in all of our lives. Can you tell us a little bit more about your transition from working with the army to getting into the classroom? What was that transition like and how did you adjust and adopt this new role?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (11:31):
Great, wonderful question. So that anytime that you’re moving from one culture to another, it, it can be a little unsettling. And because I had spent 25 years in the air force, you know, this is something where you’re wearing a uniform every day. You, for females, you have to have your hair up and you are expected to act a certain way, which is called your military bearing. And once that goes away, it, for some, it could be a form of a loss of identity, but I found per personally the transition to be fairly easy. And I think that’s because there was a lot of change occurring those last few years while I was in the military. And because at that time I had finished my doctorate degree. I also had my so second baby. She was, she was born two weeks after I defended my dissertation.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (12:40):
So it was, that was part of my motivation to get it done because I knew that having another baby after, and I already had a small, small child at the time. And my oldest daughter, I knew adding another one into the mix would make it a little bit more difficult to reach that finish line. So my motivation was high to make sure I got everything done before, before she was born. But she was also born with CDH, which is Congenital diaphragmatic hernia. And that mean, that meant that when she was born, she had 18 people in the in the operating room just for her. Cause I had to have a, a C-section and, you know, she was Whis away to the, to the NICU and she survived she’s she’s my warrior. But when you have all of these moving pieces happening, it’s, it’s a lot. But I also leaned upon my resilience and what I had learned myself, but also what I had taught to others. And I think that made the transitioned really, really fluid for me. It was almost like just taking off the uniform and putting on a different uniform, you know, more, a little bit more business professional, but you know, it was still putting on clothes and going to work. And I, I, I think it, I, I think I, it, well,


Sam Demma (14:18):
That’s awesome. And speaking of transitions, everyone that works in education went through a couple of massive transitions over the past 24 months, relating to COVID and going to online learning and back to in person learning back to online learning. How did you deal with those transitions and what do you think were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (14:41):
Oh, the, yes, the last couple of years have been a little bit of a rollercoaster, but I found that the way to make it through, it was one, be honest with the students, they’re going through the same journey as you. They’re not expecting you to know it all. They’re just expecting you to be real and to be clear with the communication and transparent. Yeah. You know, don’t pull any punches, don’t try to, to change things to where it may be more difficult or, you know, adding additional hurdles. But I found that that open communication really lended itself to keeping that cohesive this with my class and, you know, telling them, okay, we’re gonna try something new. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll throw it to the side. But if it does all right, you know, no, no harm, no foul, but that communication piece was, was huge.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (15:49):
But I also took the time to reflect after all of my classes to figure out, okay, what didn’t go so well, mm-hmm, what did it, what do I wish I would’ve done differently? And that helped me to prepare for the next semester. And then also leaning upon others who may have been doing this a little bit further or more with more time under their belt and getting their advice and seeing, okay, how did you approach? I mean, COVID is new, but not online teaching or high flex teaching the different modalities. Those have been in place for a while. So leaning upon the best practices that, that are out there seeking. I did a lot of webinars or zoom sessions with industry leaders and, and others who had that experience just seeing, okay, what other nuggets of knowledge can, can I add to my own toolbox to help create the best experience for my students? Cause really it’s all, I want them to have the best experience to get the most out of the class. So that way, when they graduate, they can be the best of themselves. They can go out and be those positive change. Agents,


Sam Demma (17:07):
Educators are always hunting and on the lookout for other educators, best practices to tools and tips. And I’m curious to know what some of those things have been for you not only during COVID, but potentially through your entire journey and career and education. Are there any tools, ideas, or resources that you have consistently leaned on and learned from and brought into your classrooms?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (17:33):
I think for, for me, it’s always having that open mind is probably one of the, the toolkits per se. But as far as technology, I find that games are very appealing to kids. Whether Kahoot is a big one. I found a new one during my during COVID that I added to my toolbox. And I think the students really like it cuz it adds a different appeal in the classroom. It’s still that quiz based game, but there’s no time associated with it. Mm. And I think that takes away a little bit of that anxiety that some students may have when you have a countdown timer at the top of the screen where it’s going 20, 19 18. And you’re thinking, oh, I don’t know this answer. I guess I gotta pick the best one. So it takes a little bit of that anxiety away, but you can also have the students and teams in the classroom where they’re competing against each other. But it’s, I find that when you add a little bit of fun into the mix that students take more away from the material, cause you’re, you’re tying it into a positive emotion. Do you remember? So games I think are, are really good.


Sam Demma (18:57):
Do you remember what that second quiz-based game is called? Just outta curiosity. Oh sure.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (19:03):
It’s called GIMKIT.


Sam Demma (19:05):
GI kit, like G I M


Dr. Leslie Sukup (19:07):
GIMKIT. And so surprisingly it was created by a high school student who found that it was boring learning information. And so he took the initiative and created a game that I I think is awesome. And it has a really good function too with reports. So you can see what questions they answered wrong, which ones they got. Right. so that I can take away, even though they’re playing a game, I can still use these reports to tailor the lessons or reinforce material that they might have missed along the way.


Sam Demma (19:47):
Give us an idea of how you leverage that tool. Would it be something you use at the end of a lecture to quiz the class on what you just taught them? Or how do you leverage it?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (20:00):
Oh, absolutely. So one of the ways that I, I leverage it is by having it right before a test or right before a quiz. So they have read the lessons. Maybe they have watched some videos, they have, we’ve done some lectures, some activities in class. Well now before they jump in to the test or the quiz, they can use this and they can play it as many times as they wish and build boost their confidence.


Sam Demma (20:35):
That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. I appreciate it. Sure. Along with challenges and pivoting, there’s also opportunities. And I’m wondering what you believe are some of the opportunities that the challenges in education that are facing us today are also providing…


Dr. Leslie Sukup (20:55):
Great question. The, I think that one of the opportunities that has arisen from these challenging times is flexibility. I think that the traditional classrooms are probably not going to be the new normal. I think the new normal is going to be that flexibility where students, if they want to attend face to face, they can, or if they want to, you know, they, they overslept. And instead of getting a feeding ticket on the way to class, they can, or they’re just not feeling well. Maybe they got the sniffles well, they can choose to attend via virtual means as well. So I think there’s a lot of, a lot of flexibility, at least in higher education but I also see it happening in K through 12. One of the things my daughter was in first, well, she start, she was at the end of kindergarten when COVID hit.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (21:58):
Mm. First grade was really where she had more virtual days. She had sometime in the seat part of the week, part of the week virtual, but I saw a growth in her that I probably would not have seen if it wasn’t for COVID. She is more tech savvy. Now she, she really blossomed with being virtual and as a parent, I was able to see more of what her world is like. So I think there there’s that opportunity too, on the parent side to be a little bit more involved in the education to see what their student or their child is learning. And maybe for that into a, a stronger bond between the two, cuz we would do homework together. And so she had the teacher teaching part of the lesson, but then when it came time to do the homework by herself, you know, she would, she would ask questions and I would be there to, to kind of help her along. But it was bonding moment as well.


Sam Demma (23:11):
That’s amazing. And that sounds like it was a result of you also being proactive because an opportunity is only as good as what you make of it. And it sounds like you had a growth mindset about the situation, because it’s also true that there could have been people who look at the challenge and said, I’m not changing. I don’t wanna change. There’s nothing good about this and missed out on all those areas of growth that you’re mentioning now. So I think like you said earlier, the flexibility, even in your own perspective is super important to take any adversity and turn it into a, an opportunity. Would you agree?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (23:50):
I do Agree. I think it’s that definitely the growth mindset it’s taking that perspective of, instead of looking at the glass half empty, looking at it as half full and what can you take out of that, that challenging time and turn it around into an opportunity.


Sam Demma (24:08):
I love it. And if you could go back in time and speak to Leslie year one in education, but with all the wisdom and experience that you have now, what advice would you impart on your younger self?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (24:24):
I would say more confidence in yourself, but also be more authentic and not, you’re not just the rule of the professor or the teacher in front of the room, but be more of yourself. And I have noticed that as I’ve brought more of my personality, the true me into the classroom, the students really resonate with that. They, they love seeing you as a human, as opposed to a teacher or professor that figurehead in front of the classroom. But the more authentic you are with students, that’s what I would, that’s what I would give is advice to my earlier self, be more authentic, you know, you’ll be able to enrich those students lives even more so. Yeah.


Sam Demma (25:18):
I love that. I, I think that’s such a good reminder, not only to impact the people you’re affecting, but also just to enjoy life more. If you’re being yourself and you never have to adjust yourself to fit a role or a situation, you’re gonna have more fun too. So that’s a phenomenal piece of advice. Leslie, thank you so much for taking some time to come on the podcast. I really appreciate it. I hope the rest of the year goes well. If someone is wondering how they could reach out to you, ask a question or even talk about resiliency, what would be the best way for them to get in touch?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (25:56):
Yes, absolutely. They can get in touch with me. Either through LinkedIn, I’m on LinkedIn or you can send me an email it’s LeslieSukup@ferris.edu.


Sam Demma (26:22):
Right. Awesome. Leslie, thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your Friday. Have a great weekend. And we’ll tell to you soon.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (26:29):
Thank you, Sam. It’s been a pleasure.


Sam Demma (26:32):
Hey, it’s Sam again. I hope you enjoyed that amazing conversation on the high performing educator podcast. If you or someone, you know, deserves some extra recognition and appreciation for the work they do in education, please consider applying or nominating them for the high performing educator awards, go to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. You can also find the link in the show notes. I’m super excited to spotlight and feature 20 people in 2022. And I’m hoping you or someone, you know, can be one of those educators. I’ll talk to you on the next episode, all the best.

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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.