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Student Leadership

Barrie Walsh – Retired math teacher in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education

Barrie Walsh - Retired math teacher in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education
About Barrie Walsh

Barrie Walsh (@bwalsh125) has been teaching math for more than forty-four years in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education. Barrie has won awards, including Teacher of the Year, three times at Sir John A. Macdonald High School, now Bay View High School. Although officially retired for several years, Barrie continues to assist students with math every day. Barrie spends all of his time at Five Bridges Jr. High. He works as a substitute but volunteers about one hundred days each year when needed.

During his early COVID days, Barrie set up a video studio in his home so that he could give extra help to students wherever they live through an online setup using Google Classroom. In the early days of his career, he would make home visits to get students caught up. Barrie has a core of beliefs that he believes make him a highly effective teacher. His beliefs emphasize continual patience, kindness, apology, vulnerability, and reflective thinking.

Connect with Barrie Walsh: Email | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Halifax Regional Centre for Education

Five Bridges Junior High School

Website from the University of California greater good website

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Barrie Walsh

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.

Carl Cini – Principal at Iona Catholic Secondary School (DPCDSB)

Carl Cini - Principal at Iona Catholic Secondary School (DPCDSB)
About Carl Cini

Carl Cini (@cjrpc55) is the Principal at Iona Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga. He began his career at Loyola CSS in 1995. Since then, Carl has been a Law, History and Economics teacher at St. Joseph CSS and St. Edmund Campion CSS. Upon moving to administration, he was a vice principal at Our Lady of Mount Carmel CSS, John Cabot CSS and St. Joan of Arc CSS before becoming a Principal.

During the past 27 years, it has been a pleasure to mentor students to see them grow in so many ways. Carl is focused on provided a variety of opportunities for students to grow into well rounded adults. He can be seen in the gym, on the field, in the audience, driving the bus and visiting classrooms to see students in action. He celebrates the success of every student. Carl firmly believes that we only as successful as our students and teachers, and with that in mind, reaches each individual in the way that student and teacher will best learn.

Connect with Carl Cini: Email | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Iona Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga

St. Edmund Campion Catholic Secondary School

St. Joseph Catholic Secondary School

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


Carl Cini (00:10):
My name is Carl Cini and I am the principal of Iona Catholic Secondary School in Missassauga.


Sam Demma (00:17):
At what point in your educational journey did you realize you wanted to be in?


Carl Cini (00:26):
Well, when I was in university, when I first went to university, I thought, you know, I’m gonna go into business and go make money and all of those things and the more and more I took courses, well, I took my first business course. I didn’t like it, so that didn’t help. And and then the, the more and more I started, you know, doing things around campus and, and the courses that I was taking, I did some volunteer were and some coaching. At that point I realized that that working with young people was gonna be my calling.


Sam Demma (00:52):
That’s amazing. When you say the things, when you say doing things around campus, what did that look like? Or what were the things you got involved with that made you realize this work was meaningful and something you really wanted to do?


Carl Cini (01:06):
Well, I had more to do with sort of hang on one second.


Sam Demma (01:11):
No worries.


Carl Cini (01:19):
When I was at university I was a tour guide. I was a mentor to like new people that came to my campus and did a little bit of peer tutoring. I was involved with with student council and and just, and then as I said, coaching, I was coaching basketball for young people and coaching a team in our, it was an as a competitive intermural league. And so I was there as well. And like I said, the more and more I got involved and the more and more I was talking to people in you know, in other years it just kind of made me think a little bit about some of the mentorship I didn’t get when I was in school and and thought that this would be a great opportunity for me to you know, to share my talents and to share my experience with other young people and to help them grow and develop.

Sam Demma (02:13):
Paint the picture. So you, you finish your degree or your teaching degree and what did the journey look like from there?

Carl Cini (02:22):
Okay. So, I mean, I will give even the journey, getting to teachers college was not an easy one. Yeah, please. It took a couple years for me to get into teach interest college and and even at the time it was very much based on marks and not so much on experience and other things. So I didn’t, I didn’t get in, I applied a couple times. I didn’t get in. I remember being at U of T and sitting in a meeting with all the other people that got rejected and being asked you know, being told, you know, if you have experience and, and you have decent marks, and this is your second time around, you know, you might wanna book a meeting with the registrar and see what’s happening. So I booked a meeting, I went into the meeting and the guy basically told me at the time, he said, you’re got good marks.

Carl Cini (03:08):
You got good experience. But your application just lacked, possess. Well, unfortunately at that point I kind of was like, okay, I came all the way down here and you tell me my application. And I kinda said to him, so if I put in old folders, I mean, it’s gonna be any better than it was. And I went on a bit of a tie rate to say that, you know, what your system is flawed. You can’t pick people so solely based on marks. And that, there’s lots of other things that, that encapsulate being a good teacher, but by the time it was all over, he’s like, oh, I guess we made a mistake. And then he let me in on they on appeal. Wow. And so I made it through teachers college, which was a phenomenal year. I, I was with some really, really great people. Interestingly in that year, all of us that were on student union were all students that got in on appeal.

Carl Cini (03:56):
I thought it was a bit of an interesting process back when that happened. And then, you know, and I graduated, I took a, a job at school by the water at Harbor front leading field trips in may and June. And then I got my, you know, I got on a Duffin peel, got called for a supply job the first day of school. And as they say, the rest is history. So they it was it was a bit of a journey.

Sam Demma (04:19):
You’re not the only one who’s had a journey going to education. Every educator has a different story. How did you pick yourself up and keep going when you were kind of facing those barriers or the nos and the rejections?

Carl Cini (04:37):
And I knew, I, I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do. Like they, they talk about education being a vocation or being a calling. And that’s exactly what it was like for me, it was like nobody was going to stop me from going to do it. Like, in fact, I mean, I would have, at that time when I was going through this you know, if we didn’t get an Ontario teacher’s college, there was always the option to go to the us to the Buffalo schools. And I have a number of who are excellent teachers who did their EDU, their education education in in Buffalo. So I was all set and ready to go to Buffalo and you know, had all my paperwork in and, and I did everything I needed to do to get in. And then I just happened to get in, in Ontario instead. So I chose you know, I always, to me anyways, it was, would’ve been better to to be in Ontario then to have to go to another jurisdiction. I had friends that went to Australia for teachers college. I mean, I was prepared to do and go wherever in order to, to go into, go into education.

Sam Demma (05:34):
Understood the willingness to do whatever it takes is something that I think is super important, not only in be coming an educator, but any path you choose to pursue in life. So I appreciate you sharing that little insight and story. What, what, so once you got accepted tell me more about the journey from the moment you got into education to where you are now.

Carl Cini (05:59):
So I originally at the, and again, this was like 94. At that time, I, I mean, I always wanted to be a high school, a high school teacher. However, I also knew that the jobs are few and far between for my qualifications. So my qualifications are in my degrees in economics and politics. So I didn’t really have great teachables to go into secondary plus at the time I know that there was a push to have more men hired into elementary schools. So I did my teacher’s education and junior intermediate. And because of my economics degree, I had quite a bit of math. So I was able to, to start to go through that, that angle. And so I went through and, you know, took my, my courses for English and history and intermediate. And then I continued through teacher’s college.

Carl Cini (06:47):
And then, like I said, when it was over, I I took it the, the best education job I could find, which was leading field trips. And then when I, I applied to almost every school board that I could think of I will say the only thing is I only applied to Catholic school boards. I did not apply to the public school boards. I mean, my education has been in Catholic schools. And, and even when I went to university, I went to Kings college at Western and I specifically chose a Catholic university to go to, because it, to me faith is, is a very important part of, of everything that we do. And so I did want to work in a Catholic school board. So I applied to all of them, ended up getting a position at Duffin peel. And, and again, at that time, you used to have to check a box as to what you wanted to supply teach for, whether it be for areas in elementary, secondary, or for French. So I just checked on up all the boxes. And then on the first day of school, I got a call from a high school that they needed me to come into supply teach. And again, I was there supplying for about the first three weeks before I got my first LTO job at Loyola. And it’s been fantastic.

Sam Demma (07:56):
You mentioned you took the best job you could get in education and they, it was leading field trips, which I think is amazing. When you just were starting out, what, what, what about leading field trips do you think was so special?

Carl Cini (08:11):
Oh, I, I thought it was great. I mean, first of all would be the outdoor part of it. We were outside all the time and the program was different depending on what grade we had and and what exactly the, the field trip was about. So there was certain themes with regards to the field trips, if I recall. And you know, a lot of it had to do with the history of Toronto and how Toronto developed. And, you know, we were, I remember showing pictures, standing on a parking garage and showing students pictures of what the Toronto skyline looked like in 1880, what it looked like in 1912, what it looked like in 1950. So students can see the growth and development of Toronto and just being able to work with different students from a whole variety of different grades. It also had me even have a better idea as to what I wanted to do when I, you know, sort of a grade that I might wanna teach when I get to when I get to schools. And then the other part, just the flexibility of the whole thing. You know, learning very clearly that you have to be flexible and you have to tailor your, your pedagogy and tailor what you do to the students who are before you at that specific time.

Sam Demma (09:15):
Understood, understood, and the different roles you’ve held in education which one has been the most meaningful for you. And I know it’s a difficult question to ask because they all provide such awesome experiences and can give you, you know, the opportunity and ability to make a very positive impact. But what’s your role, have you found the most, me meaningful or enjoyable as well personally?

Carl Cini (09:41):
Well, I think I might have to separate those two people and enjoyable. I mean, I really did enjoy being a classroom teacher and and I really loved it. And then I became a department head for canner world studies and, you know, being able to be in the classroom every day, I, I missed C tremendously. But I will, but then I will turn around and say that the most meaningful job I’ve had is the one that I’m in right now. Hmm. I think being a principal of the school it, it was interesting before I became an, like I told I did not wanna do this job. I remember scoffing at people who wanted to be principals at one time, cuz I’m like, why would you wanna be away from the kids that our job is to work directly with our students.

Carl Cini (10:20):
Yeah. And that, you know, to put yourself in those positions put, takes you away from that. And I reached the point in my career. I had an administrator who who kept pushing me to do, to become, you know, to go into administration. And and he made a comment to me where he said to me that, you know, when you’re in your classroom, you influence the students that are around you. And then you coach and you participate. And, you know, your 90 students are a hundred, maybe whatever, 120 students every day that you get to influence. And when you move into a leadership position, you influence more and more and more students. Cause I mean, as a, as a classroom teacher, not every student’s gonna have you, not every student is gonna be in your class. And I mean, I know that I sat at graduations and, you know, when we had some really big graduating classes at 400, 450 students and they’d be walking across stage and I’m like, I don’t know who that kid is.

Carl Cini (11:10):
I’ve never seen that kid before. Mm. Because they did, you know, they didn’t take the classes that I taught. They didn’t, you know, or maybe they did. And then I wasn’t their teacher or, or they didn’t participate in the co-curricular activities that I supervised. So I, I couldn’t know them all. But, but then as you continue to grow and you continue to move into leadership, not only do you influence more students, but you also get to influence the teachers and you influence the systems and the runnings of the school so that everybody is impacted by. So you get to increase your impact on the, you know, on the number of, of individuals as you move into leadership positions. And, and that I think is incredibly, incredibly meaningful as a principal. And even talking to my other principal colleagues where, you know, we will call each other when we’re having the dilemma and how we’re gonna deal with this, or how we’re gonna deal with that. And you know, and then again, you’re also being able to have an impact on even other schools that you’re not even really a part of, because you can be part of those conversations on a, on a, on a more broader scale,

Sam Demma (12:14):
Such a good point. You bring up, you also get to witness probably from a bird’s eye view, how different programs and bigger initiatives are impacting the whole school, like school culture. And you probably get to from a, another large perspective bird’s eye view, see how students are being impacted by these programs as, as well. Have you over the past, you know, dozen years you you’ve been working or more than a dozen years over your whole you know, career, have you witnessed programs that you’ve brought into schools or that your teachers brought into schools have an impact on the students? And can you remember any of those stories of student who is very transformed by something in the school? That kind of is a hopeful story. I think these types of stories during a difficult time remind educators, why the work they do is so important. And I’m wondering if you have any that come to mind.

Carl Cini (13:08):
I mean, there’s a number of, of programs that that I’ve been able to be a part of. And, and I have to say, say, I can’t take credit for any of these programs because I never did them by myself. It always requires a team approach in which to do that. And I know that as a, you know, this is my 15th year as an administrator that my role is, is in supporting what teachers do, because my other thing with any program is any program has to have legs programs, have to outlive you the person and have to outlive the people who do it because they’re gonna change. So whether they move schools or not, every student deserves that, that kind of quality programming, regardless of the person who is in front of them to deliver it, or whoever happens to lead their school or not.

Carl Cini (13:50):
So I’ve always been very cognizant of trying to make sure that whatever it is that we run is something that’s gonna have a long, you know, a longer standing tradition or legacy if you wish you know, moving forward. So, I mean, an example, one of the schools I was in, they had a program for the students that were in that were taking locally developed classes. So these are some reluctant learners or students that had some learning disabilities. And, and the program was set up. It was, I thought it was a phenomenal program and I was happy to be a part of it to help, to support that where students would take so courses would be paired up. So students would do religion and the learning strategies class and they would do it all year long. So it’d be the same teacher teaches both those courses, but it was all year long.

Carl Cini (14:37):
And then the other was science and math. So in period one and two, those students were together. They, we were able to take courses instead of teaching them in a semester, we were able to teach them over the course of the full year. And then as the day progressed you know, they ended up being able to take their elective classes. And a lot, a lot of leadership was put into those classes because it was the same the same four teachers over the course of the whole year that were working with those students with academic resource you know, we were able to spread the curriculum out and by doing that, we could fit in more leadership opportunities. And there were many of those students who may not have been college bound who ended up being college bound because of the program.

Carl Cini (15:20):
You know, I always find it interesting. I mean, we really don’t know the impact of the programs that we ha that we develop or that we put in place for students until almost years later. So I mean, I remember meeting a student from that program. I was at the grocery store and the student was there and the student came up to me and said, Hey, sir, do you remember me? And, you know, again, I, I get good, I’m good with faces, but sometimes after a certain amount of time, you can only keep so many names in your head. So, you know, I said, you know, yeah, I REM I do remember you, but I’m sorry. I don’t remember your name student told me their name. And they had said like, what a transformative, what a great support they felt in that program at that school. And that they, that I think they’re is now they’re an electrician and that they never would’ve been able to do that, or even have the confidence to continue to go forward and run their own business if they weren’t in that program to start off with,

Sam Demma (16:11):
Wow, it’s, it’s such a cool thing to reflect on because there’s so many people listening to this who are probably considering education as a vocation, or who might feel like it’s the right thing for them to pursue. Or there could be some educators tuning in who have been burnt out by the challenges over the past couple of years. And I think at the heart of this work is the students and, you know, seeing them transform or seeing them resonate with an idea shared in class or seeing something that’s done in school support. Hello them. Oh, can you hear me? Hello? Hello? Hello. Oh, oh, there we go. Sorry. I must have cut out there for a second. Right? I’ll edit that part. No worries. I was just saying, thank you so much for sharing that story. I think at the heart of education is the students and for an educator listening, who is just considering getting into this vocation or who thinks it’s right for them, you know, what a great reminder that the work that you’re go going to be able to do can transform kids and change lives. And then what a great reminder to an educator who might be burnt out right now as to why this work is so important. What are, what are some of the challenges that your school community has faced over the past, you know, two years? And what are some of the opportunities that you think have come out of the times as well?

Carl Cini (17:33):
There’s been tons of challenges. COVID has forced us. And I think it’s, again, you’re right. It’s a challenge and an opportunity at the same time, because all of this, you know, the, the in and out, and sometimes we’re virtual, sometimes we’re not, you know, hybrid and all of those things what it has done is it’s forced us to re-look at what we do, how we do. So I’ll give you an example. When we first in that March of 2020, when we first went on lockdown and we had to, you know, start to move things to a to a virtual virtual platform. And I remember talking to specifically our math and science teachers and saying, you, we really need to have a look at that curriculum and you need to separate your curriculum into two categories, the must haves and the nice to haves.

Carl Cini (18:24):
And, you know, that was the beginning of, of starting to re-look at what we teach and how we teach it. And really how important is the stuff that we have done on a regular basis so that we can change it, not just to fit a different platform and a different delivery system because that’s also been the hard part. There are many teachers who have wonderful presence with kids and have relied on that presence you know, to forward and, and to move their program forward and be able to take a advantage of those teachable moments and, you know, and those connections that come from being in the same room as the te you know, teachers and students being in the same room. However, when we went to a virtual virtual mode of learning where students didn’t necessarily have their cameras on, there was a distance that took place.

Carl Cini (19:10):
You couldn’t see each other. I mean, and I mean, everybody knows this, that when you’re with someone in a room, the personal connection, and I guess, you know, again, not to the person with the vibes and the mojo that takes place between the connection between those two individuals is so different than when you’re trying to speak to somebody through a screen especially when that individual’s not necessarily responding. So again, it forced teachers to rethink, you know, how they do what they do. And, and that’s been a huge challenge because there’s, I mean, teachers love consistency. And and normally we work on predictability as there’s so many variables in EDU in teaching that they’re and things that we don’t know that can change the way we do what we do. You know, a big challenge, as well as the mental health of our students.

Carl Cini (19:55):
You know, the way that COVID hit the best I thing I saw was a was a cartoon. And it was circulating around quite a bit during COVID that we may all be in the same storm, but we’re all not in the same boat. And, you know, you’re in a yacht, or if you’re in a cruise ship, you’re gonna feel that a lot differently than if you’re bombing around on a piece of it. So, you know, depending on the situation that some of these students were in and, you know, some of them were taken out of their safe space for a lot of ’em school was the place where they were safe and where they grow. And it’s, it’s sad to say, but for some students, home is not a safe place, and yet they were forced to stay in that home and not go anywhere for an extended period of time.

Carl Cini (20:32):
So trying to teach whether it’s math or science or history to a student who has very, who is mentally not doing very well they’re not gonna learn a whole heck of a lot. So there was a lot of learning that had to take place amongst the, the teachers so that they could do things differently. And there was a lot more that we had to learn about our students. I mean, it was pretty personal when you, you think about the fact that you were in a student’s bedroom or in a student’s kitchen or in a student’s home that we would never have seen before.

Sam Demma (21:04):
Yeah.

Carl Cini (21:06):
A student at school.

Sam Demma (21:07):
Such a good point. It, the challenges are similar. I I’ve interviewed a lot of educators and, and the challenges are similar. And I was intrigued by the opportunity. You mentioned about the list of the must haves and the, maybe not as important things, but are things that we could change. Do you have any examples of things that actually changed or like things that were adjusted or, or analyzed or looked more closely at that you think are starting to shift?

Carl Cini (21:38):
Yeah. I mean, I look at our math curriculum is a big part of that, right? So again, the, the idea of going through this, this process of having, you know, the, the must haves and the nice to haves means that you have to know your curriculum top to bottom. So it kind of forced our math department to be able to see all the courses. So what’s the continuum. So, you know, if a kid happens to be taking grade nine or grade 10 academic math, you know, they can possibly go and take either 11 U math or they can take 11 M math. So then what are the really, really important skills that they need to the master in order for them to be successful at the next course? Hmm. So it, it did force a more global view of what it is that we were doing.

Carl Cini (22:17):
It also forced teachers, I think, to have a look at the curriculum documents and look at our overall expectations. So, I mean, again, math was a perfect example. They, I know in the grade 10 academic math, there were a number of of certain expectations around around, I think it was geometry that were, that were dropped because it’s like, well, they’re not gonna see this unless they happen to be taking a specific course in grade 12. Mm. So, you know, let’s, you know, do the things that they need to know the more number sense and, and factoring and, and things like that. I know science was the same. I and then, I mean, my, my subject area was history. And so I was speaking to our history teachers and trying to implore them to, you know, not spend all this time doing world war I and world war II.

Carl Cini (23:03):
And let’s get, you know, let’s start moving, maybe move that stuff a little bit farther down the line and or a little bit faster doing it a little bit faster so that we can get kids to see themselves in history curriculum. Which I think which more and more important considering they’re living a historical event. I mean, you know, even what we’re seeing right now. Yeah. How we taught that great tennis course forever. What we’ve just seen is really reliving the, the Winnipeg general strike and the lead up to the Winnipeg general strike in 1919. So, you know, all of that becomes more and more important in making sure that it’s connected to things that we’re doing now, instead of spending, you know, all kinds of time talking about, you know, maybe world war II battles or or spending, you know, additional time on the rise of the nineties and things like that that are still important. I mean, everything’s important, there, there’s, there’s no doubt that, that these pieces of content are important, but contextualizing it so that the student can see themselves in the curriculum becomes really important, especially when you don’t have all the tools that you would normally have in, in which the teacher program.

Sam Demma (24:02):
Yeah, totally agree. Not to mention the real time events like what’s occurring right now in Ukraine. Like things like that can be brought into the classroom and have such an impact or conversation, you know?

Carl Cini (24:15):
Yeah, definitely.

Sam Demma (24:16):
That makes total sense. That’s awesome. It’s cool to hear that things are shifting and changing and the opportunities are being looked at. If, if you could, if you could take all the experience you’ve had in education, kind of bundle it up, travel back in time, tap, you know, tap your younger self on the shoulder. And when you were just starting in education, knowing what you know now, what advice or feedback would you, would you give to yourself?

Carl Cini (24:45):
There’s a few things I think I would say to myself, I, I, I think the first one is the patient. There’s no rush. So I mean, even to go back what we talked about before, I mean our job, most of the time we are not going to see, we’re not always going to see the progress our students make. And particularly in our most difficult students, I mean, our job is to plant seeds and seeds, you know, germinate and they grow at a great, and so do the students that are in front of us, and yes, we’re gonna see students grow and develop, but we can’t focus all our energy on those because it makes us feel good to see that progress when it’s really the students who maybe we don’t see the progress at the same rate, who we’re probably doing the best work with and the ones that we really need to focus on.

Carl Cini (25:25):
So I would say, be patient, be patient with the students who, and their, their growth and development. Not everything has to be done right away be patient with yourself. You gonna make a lot of mistakes. And you know, there’s gonna be lots of things that you don’t know and you need to be kind to yourself and you need to be patient that you’re gonna be able to handle those things that, that come your way. I mean, there, one of the things that I’m hopefully other sure others have said the same to you before is, I mean, E education brings a lot of sleepless nights. Mm. And, and a lot of o’clock wake ups going, man, I probably could have handled that situation better. Or, you know, I could have, you know, maybe I should have said this to this student instead of that.

Carl Cini (26:04):
Or, you know what, I should have said this at this point, which would’ve maybe created a, a better aha moment for the student. And I did it. And, and all of that takes so much time in order in, in order to figure that out and to go through that. So I think the biggest advice I would give to myself or to any new educator is, is be patient. And then the other one I would say is ask for help. You’re not going is by yourself. You’re not going through it alone. I, I mean, when you’re coming in, in your first year teaching, and you’ve never taught a class before, you can’t know what, you know, when you’re 10 years in, or when you’re 15 years in, because all those experiences teach you how to navigate those situations. And, and there are people in your school and people who, you know, your whatever network that you’ve created, who have been through it before. So don’t be afraid to ask for help as well. You don’t have to know everything.

Sam Demma (26:57):
This isn’t again, only advice for education, but I like it’s such universal stuff. And I’ve appreciate you sharing that and like, reflecting back on your own experiences. This has been a phenomenal conversation. It’s already been 30 minutes. We’re getting close to the end here. If, if somebody listening wants to reach out, ask you a question, send you a note or a message. What would be the best way for them to get in contact with you?

Carl Cini (27:24):
The best way would be via email. My my board email account. carl.cini@dpcdsb.ca

Sam Demma (27:37):
Awesome. Carl, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show. I really appreciate it. Keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.

Carl Cini (27:45):
Thanks.

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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.

Andrew Boon – Principal at Notre Dame College School

Andrew Boon - Principal at Notre Dame College School (NCDSB)
About Andrew Boon

Andrew Boon is the Principal at Notre Dame College School in Welland, Ontario. He is the recipient of the 2021 Inspiration Award from the Niagara Catholic District School Board and currently is in his 25th year in Education. Andrew started his career working in behaviour programs and Special Education.

He moved into the role of Vice-Principal, working in various schools. This is his fourth year as a secondary school Principal at Niagara Catholic. Aside from being a fanatic of the Beatles, Andrew enjoys coaching the girl’s hockey program at Notre Dame and enhancing the extracurricular opportunities for all of his students. He strongly believes that kindness, care and humour will help each student find their unique potential.

Connect with Andrew Boon: Email

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Welland teen awarded time with the Super Locker | The Star

‘Be Someone’s Taco’: Toronto youth speaker inspires students to pay it forward with kindness

Notre Dame College School in Welland, Ontario

Niagara Catholic District School Board: Home

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):
Andrew welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Pleasure to have you on the show here this morning. Please start by introducing yourself.


Andrew Boon (00:09):
Thanks very much, Sam. Yeah, my name’s Andrew Boon. I’m a principal at Notre Dame college school in Welland Ontario. And yeah, proud, proud principal of this place. I was, I know we were doing a little bit of chatting before, but just letting everyone know, I guess the special place it has in my heart. I went here as a student. I spent my first 10 years teaching here before getting into administration and now moved here. This is my first year back as the principal and so super excited to be here.


Sam Demma (00:40):
When did you realize throughout your own journey that you wanted to get into education as your career?


Andrew Boon (00:48):
Well, for me, my, I grew up in a family of teachers. Actually, my father was a retired teacher now. And for me you know, it’s that, I, I guess the light bulb moment is for me happened with some of the teachers I had actually in this building. And for me that’s another of why it’s pretty amazing to, to be back here. And for me, that impact that they had on me and, and feeling like I might be able to, to try to do that for students. So for me, I went to a, a concurrent program at McGill and they, the nice thing about that program is they, they throw you in right away, year one, you’re, you’re at, you’re in a school for a short placement. And, and that was the moment I kind of knew like, yes, this is absolutely what I want to do and, and and spend the rest of my life professionally doing.


Sam Demma (01:37):
Tell me a little more about what the educators did for you in this building when you were a student that really stuck out in your mind, if you can think of some of those experience is, or even some of the people, if you wanna mention them.


Andrew Boon (01:49):
I have no problem mentioning them. The one that comes to mind right off the bat is her name’s Kathy McPherson. She was a instrumental teacher for me. I was lucky to have her for a few different subject areas, but predominantly in English. And and she was some, she was also, I, I was on student council. I was involved in that, but she was also one of the moderators and someone that kind of just innate kindness and care and caring for students. And you felt it, and it’s, what’s great about her is that, you know, you could interview literally a thousand people that would tell you the same thing. And so you know, I think as students, we often learn sometimes when we make mistakes and for me, some of those mistakes that I made as a student where she helped guide me and, and showed that compassion and, and and care that helped I think send me in the right direction and not just, and, and motivate right. And so for me she was a big piece of that. I think everybody will have that teacher that they can talk about. And who’s still very present in, in what shapes them and for her, for me. Anyway, Kathy was certainly that person.


Sam Demma (03:06):
You went to the concurrent program. What was your first role in education and what did the journey look like to bring you to principal at this school today?


Andrew Boon (03:17):
The first placement I had was actually teaching a vied class at a, a school in Montreal and in Montreal, the high schools under that the C E system. So their grades were seven to 11. There wasn’t a massive difference between a first year university student and, you know, potentially a 16 year old in grade 11. Right. and it was funny cuz the very first thing that happened to me was I had I had some money stolen from me if you can believe it. And it was literally like, oh, okay, so this is happening. And it was a tough school, but there was some great kids, even in that 10 days that just kind of gave me that again, that feeling of that this is what I wanted to do and what I loved about the program, it’d be quite fair too, is that for, you know, if you’re, if you’re in this business, if you’re teaching, you gotta love what you do in terms, you gotta love kids.


Andrew Boon (04:15):
You gotta love trying to support them. What I liked about that program is that there are a few people that did placement in their first year and it quickly dawned on them that they do not like this. And so you know, to their credit, they were able to say, well, hang on a second, this isn’t for me. But for the rest of us, that, that were in that you did a placement every year, whether it was in that you did a special ed placement it wasn’t just like you, you did your education and then you went out, they, they tried to give you that practical experience each and every year, which I felt was so important because it actually reinforced what you, what you felt about what’s happening in the school. There’s a big difference, obviously, between your theory and, and your in classes content, but then when you get into those placements or you really see, and I think for the other part to that was, I, I had a, a placement in, in Montreal. They, they tried to put you in a a public school and a private school to give you two different placement experiences. And they were most certainly different. But each of which brought a number of fantastic people and experiences that I I’m so grateful for.


Sam Demma (05:24):
How did Montreal bring you back here? Like,


Andrew Boon (05:27):
Yeah, well, it’s funny cuz there was that in that particular time you know, teaching jobs were definitely a little bit harder to come by and I remember putting out my my resume right across the country and I was quite prepared to, to go anywhere. I, at one point I was very close to actually going to Japan. I, I applied to this jet program. It was called and basically was, went through this, you know, ridiculous interview process and then and then was offered the job and but I was playing football at McGill. I had an opportunity to try to take a shot at the CFO. And so for me that was was one of the other, I couldn’t do both. And so I, I decided to do that no regrets, but when all was said and done I got an interview request with our what is now the Niagara Catholic school board. So it was very it was a definitely a bit of a homecoming, very surreal, but, but obviously a blessing when you, you think of everything else that has happened,


Sam Demma (06:40):
Education looks very different now than it did probably when you first started hopefully slightly and then even more so in the past couple of years with the pandemic, definitely You’ve been in a fortunate school that hasn’t been affected as much. What has the school culture been like over the past two years?


Andrew Boon (06:58):
Well, the interesting thing for me as a principal here, even coming in new, I was very much a part of this Notre Dame community. My daughter graduated from here. My son is is currently a student here. Nice. I dunno how happy he is about that. You know, that being the principal, but I think he’s managed it very well. So I’ve kind of been still within that Notre Dame culture and there’s, you know, I know probably everybody says this but there’s something special about this building and this place and you know, that we’re I feel, again, I keep saying it about how lucky I feel to be back here. And I do know that the, the teaching staff and the extended community the level of care that they exhibit to us, to students right across this entire city and, and region is something that is incredibly special. I, and again, so I you’ll hear that probably from everybody when they talk about their schools, but of course I feel that, you know, it’s something unique here


Sam Demma (08:02):
Is football a big aspect of Notre Dame?


Andrew Boon (08:05):
Yeah. Football’s a big deal here. Matter of fact, we just had an amazing year, our junior team won, like what is the salsa championship around here? And that, so they won the, their, the ultimate championship that you could win as a junior. And then our senior program for the first time in our history won offset which is the provincial championship. And so it was one of those fantastic years for me, you know, I love football, but it was also the fact that kids could be back doing something after COVID and actually participating and going to practice and being around each other. So for me, that was a wonderful to watch as a principal. And obviously I’m very proud of of all those kids and the effort they put in.


Sam Demma (08:51):
You grew up playing sports football as well. Do you think there’s a link between coaching and teaching? I’ve had other educators on in the past and they, they talk about coaching and teaching, and I’m curious to know from the perspective of the coach, do you think there’s similarities and then also from the perspective of an athlete do you think it helped with your grades or for your athletic growing up for your academics?


Andrew Boon (09:17):
Yeah, I absolutely think there’s that correlation. And as much as I’ve talked about, for example, Cathy, as an inspiring educator, you know, I, I had a a coach, his name’s Joe Perry who to me had a ma massive impact on, on me as a coach. And then ultimately as a, an educator you know, it was someone actually, I ended up when I returned to teaching that I ended up coaching with. So it was one of those, again, beautiful moments that happened. And and, and I, I always make, you know, like to, to think that he had a major part of my my career as a football player at McGill and beyond. So but yeah, like that, that the, the lessons learned, I guess, as an athlete for me anyways, certainly were about time management. And, you know, when I went to McGill, I, I have no problem.


Andrew Boon (10:09):
I tell the students all the time. I struggled that first year trying to figure out how to manage that. You’re jumping into a, a program that’s definitely intense, and obviously I’m very proud of, of being a Manil grad, it’s an amazing school. But you know, then you add 30 hours minimum per week for football and full course load and being on your own in a province for the first time and learning how to manage all that. So that my first year definitely struggled with it and needed to make sure that I, I reached out and took, took some help and, and figured out what’s the best way of managing my time. And that includes actually 20, like reaching back out to old coaches and, and, and having those conversations when you would, you know, end up back at home visiting or something like that. So yeah, the correlation between those two and, and time management, I, that, you know, are so important. They’re great skills that that you’re, that, you know, you’re gonna learn that you hopefully will hang onto for your, the rest of your life.


Sam Demma (11:17):
You’ve definitely witnessed some student transformations over your years in education. Maybe it was a student in your school, someone else’s school in someone else’s classroom, but, you know, a student transforming or realizing something or pursuing their passions. Isn’t the result of one individual it’s the whole community, but I’m curious to know over your career, have you seen any student transformations or seen the impact that a program has had on a young person? And if so, like what, what, what was that story? And if, if it’s a serious one, you could change their name if, if you have


Andrew Boon (11:52):
To. Yeah. I mean, I have, so when I started my teaching career I was offered a job basically teaching what was a a behavior class. And it was an alternative classroom. And the unique part about this was that a I had students that were bused from different high schools to my location here at Notre Dame. And so our, you know, our first, my first foray into teaching was a class of about 36 very challenging students and each of whom are unique, different. And so the, the, the, for me that, I mean, I feel so again, so lucky that, of all the things that you could have started to teach it was that, and I was teaching you know, English to, to, to some of these to these students and to, to be able to have an impact on them and see their transformation not just in, in a, in a, a semester, but then potentially moving forward, there are some of those students and I know I feel like an old man when I say it, but like that, that I still am in touch with and still have a great connection with, and I it’s, it’s one of those blessings where someone will tell you, well, you had an impact on me a as a teacher.


Andrew Boon (13:22):
And so that, that kind of behavior classroom was like the, you know, a great platform for really trying different things that, that, that would be applicable to, to an individual, not just a whole class. And I’m, I’m super proud of that, I guess, as an administrator, when you jump into that you can do the same thing. It’s finding those students that need that help. And, you know, there’s a few that they will say the loveliest things that, you know, somehow I had an impact on their ability to grow graduate or, or move forward. And I hold that dear to my heart, but I, I know that you know, it, it does, it takes, it takes a, a group effort as at a school when you’re surrounded by other incredible people that are helping with these kids. So yeah, I mean, I, I don’t know if I like individual stories.


Andrew Boon (14:13):
I I’ve been lucky cuz there’s, there’s a few of them. Right. And and some that are doing incredible work right now. I think the, the most satisfying thing is I see their their kindness and their, they become incredible citizens in their community. And that to me is what this is. What’s really interesting about what we do is you know, I tell this to people all the time and I betcha, even if I were to ask you this question, if I said, tell me about your high school, like a, a positive memory of high school and chances are, you’re gonna tell me about friends that you met the activities that you did that maybe trips that you went on and no offense to any of the math folks out there, but like I’ve yet to hear anyone say, oh, I remember that one math class on equations or something like that. Right? Yeah. It’s more about how did someone make you feel? Yeah. And so me, when I see some of my former students now and see what they’re doing in the community and, and as citizens, that’s the most satisfying element of, of, of what we do


Sam Demma (15:22):
For everyone tuning in today. Andrew and I am recording this on pink shirt day. So the topic of kindness is very, very relevant. , that’s awesome. I, I call those moments being someone’s taco. You can see this little


Andrew Boon (15:36):
Nice


Sam Demma (15:36):
Big taco on my shirt here. And the start of the pandemic, one of my good friends was just calling him to check in and see how he was doing. And very quickly I realized he wasn’t feeling too great. And just asked myself, you know, what can I do to make him feel a little better figure? He didn’t wanna make dinner that night. So I went on his Facebook to figure out what foods he liked, eating and found out that he was a big taco fan and Uber Ubered, him and his wife, Emily, this taco dinner for two and left a note saying, this is from Sam. He helps you feel a little better. And I just thought, you know, this took me five minutes less than $20, he’s going to, you know, ex he’s gonna be happy about it, whatever they FaceTime me at dinnertime crying box of tacos, open behind them telling me I’m never, ever gonna forget this moment.


Sam Demma (16:25):
That’s and then they went ahead and like created this little logo to be someone’s taco. And they were like, you need to encourage other people to be someone’s taco every day. And education is one of those fields where you have the opportunity to do that every day, because you have a classroom sitting in front of you and not only do the teachers have the opportunity to do it to their students, they could also do it for their other staff. And it’s not about buying them food or giving them tacos, but it’s looking for those intentional moments where you can create an experience for somebody else that they may remember for the rest of their life. I, you know, I’m sure if I asked you the same question, you know, what was your favorite memories in school, or do you remember the last time someone made you feel special? You can probably recall some of those memories of kind things people have done for you and require is no special skills, talents or abilities, just a decision, right?


Andrew Boon (17:18):
Yeah. And, and for here, like, so we, we have a, you know, I know social media is is a big part of how we communicate with kids now. And so we have this hashtag that we use here for everything kindness lives here. Mm. And when I get here, that was one thing I brought up to our staff, our students, and same, like, it’s kindness. I hope we live here and kindness does live here. And I say it to kids. And I mean, this, that, you know, it’s only a cliche if you don’t mean it. Yeah. And if you, so for here, it, it’s something I take very seriously. Yeah. And you know, for those little gestures that you talk about, those little moments of how you make people feel that’s, what’s gonna shape them to be better citizens and, and leave here you know, moving in the right direction.


Andrew Boon (18:12):
You know, one of the things we do here, which I I’ve done it at a couple schools I’ve been at now and I think it’s it’s kind of fun. So we have here, what’s called super locker. And so we had our construction class participate and we built a locker there’s about four or five times the size of an actual lock. And then we we put the, we wrapped it up to make it look really good. And then we put a fridge in it. We put a charging station. And so once a month we give that to a student for no other reason than just that they’re kind, and that they’ve exhibited kindness. It’s not about academics, it’s not about athletics. It’s strictly just, they’ve done something kind that another person has noticed. And it’s wonderful to get these submissions from staff and students saying, you know, oh, this kid did this for me.


Andrew Boon (19:08):
This kid did this for me. Right. And so and then what what’s lovely about it for me is we get to surprise that kid and they get to move in. We give him the key. We, we hook him up with a bunch of, you know, of, of, of swag, I guess. And we’ve got, I’ve got some people that have donated some things for this student. And then the, you know, again, we have some fun with it at the end of the month, I get it to a victim and basically saying, you’re out. Right. And we, we, and we have another student move in. Right. And so this is taken off in our even in our board, I’d like to think cool. There’s myself and another principal Glen Gifford. And we started this back at when we were working together at at lake shore, like in port Coburn, and then we’ve each kind of now gone our separate schools, but super locker has, has continued.


Andrew Boon (19:57):
And it’s just a fun thing to kind of talk about the most recent one that we did here in September when we or October when we first kind of did it here. When I got here. It’s just funny how a little story like that. Again, I, I look at it as more as like its just a little community thing and next thing you know, for us, it’s picked up by the Toronto star and it’s, we’re hearing about it kind of running across the country. And I had a, you know, you talk about former students and I’m gonna mention her because I’m so proud of her, her name’s Laura cope. And she was a student of mine here at Notre Dame and she’s now a teacher now doing great things in Toronto. And so she had actually messaged me to say that she saw that and approached her principal and you know, can we do a super locker at our school? Oh wow. And so it seems like that would be an idea that maybe every school could have something fun like that secondary anyway. Right. I guess. Right. Yeah. But it, all it, I mean it all relates to those little acts of kindness, those moments that are are memorable that, you know, that, that actually impact a, a person and that you don’t ever forget. Right.


Sam Demma (21:05):
Yeah. So a true what a fantastic idea with the super locker. That’s so cool. Do, do they actually, is it big enough for a person to sit in this thing?


Andrew Boon (21:15):
Yeah. Like they they’re, it’s when you open it there’s a place for like a hanger. There’s a place for their shoes. There’s like a, a little stool that can come out where they can sit. And what I love about it, obviously our construction class, when they’re when they’re doing it, they’re they’re, they’re involved. Right. I, I think the funny thing about it is that my son is aware of it and you know, he’s in grade 11 here. And the first thing he said to me is like, dad, I, I understand I will never win super locker. And I was like, that’s correct. You will never, ever win this super locker. So I said, but that’s not gonna stop you from being kind which, which he is. Right. Yeah.


Sam Demma (21:54):
That’s so awesome. That’s amazing. If you could take all your experiences in education, bundle them up, go back in time, tap end you on the shoulder when he just started teaching, what advice would you give a younger self? I,


Andrew Boon (22:09):
That’s a great question. I mean, I think I’ve definitely learned it’s, it’s okay to, to be wrong, to completely, to make mistakes and and not to be afraid to try things. I know as a principal I love trying stuff and if it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work. And no big deal. And I think that, of those things where you try things as an educator, whether it’s different programs or, or or different guest speakers or whatever it may be. And sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. And I think then the other thing is don’t ever be afraid to admit when you’re wrong. And I think sometimes as maybe as teachers that, you know and, and as administrators, that, that we can kind of worry about that. And I think it’s actually refreshing when like I’ve had parents, that’ll call me and they’ve have a concern about something or they’ve had something that they wanna maybe complain about and I have no problem going you’re right.


Andrew Boon (23:06):
Yeah. We, we, we gotta do better. And on behalf of the school, I’m sorry. And you could just see everyone just come down and realize, oh yeah. Okay. Well, I can work with this. And, and then you try, then you actually have to try to do better. Like you can’t just say that. Right. but I think sometimes that being willing to act like really listen, and I, and you must, you know, do this all the time because I’m sure you’ve had conversations with people. And when you know, someone’s not actually listening, they’re just waiting for the other person to finish so that they can talk. Right. And that’s something I try hard to do when I have people come in my office saying that they get my full attention. I’m, I’m listening to actually what they’re doing. I think when people come to you as an educator, it takes a lot of courage to come and say, Hey, I need to do this, this or this. And if you’re not giving them your time or actually listening, they’ll people will submit all that a mile away.


Sam Demma (24:08):
How do you remind yourself to be present during conversation and listen to what someone’s saying rather than wait for your turn to respond? I feel like it sometimes is a challenge when you have so many things going on, but it’s, so, yeah,


Andrew Boon (24:22):
That’s a great, it’s a great question. You’re right. I, I, so you have, I have a couple rules, at least for me, you know, like I don’t answer my phone. Cuz you know, that’ll happen. I’m surprised you haven’t heard it yet to go off sometimes because it’ll happen. Right. But you just, I said, well, I don’t answer it. And staff and teachers are so caring, they’ll say, oh, it’s okay if you need to get that. And I’m like, no, you’re here that’s I don’t need to get that. Right. you know, obviously sometimes it’s like the phone goes five times in a row and like, something’s up, I better take that. Right. But but little rules like that, you know, put your phone down. Right. there’s nothing, you know, again, I, I always think about, who’s taking the time to walk down here and, and I remember being a teacher and walking into my principal’s office and, you know, to ask for some advice or ask for something and that’s the kind of, for a younger teacher that was a big deal. And so I always try to remember, like, someone’s taken the effort to come walk down here to ask a question that, you know, be present for that.


Sam Demma (25:30):
I love it. That’s awesome. Great piece of advice for not only education, but any conversation or relationship. Yeah. If someone is listening to this wants to pick your brain about super lockers, your experiences teaching in CG schools or almost going to Japan what would be the best email for them or contact information for them to use, to reach out?


Andrew Boon (25:52):
Yeah, I, I, and I use my, my board email there’s two, a couple ways. It’s just Andrew.Boon@ncdsb.com. What I is very important to me when I send out messages to our school community and they know that you know, they can respond directly to that and they’re gonna get an answer from me very quickly cuz that again, you’re letting people know that their time’s valuable. You want to hear from them. And, and is it a lot of extra emails sometimes. Yep. But it’s worth it. If people know that you’re gonna pay attention to that you probably are way better at the, as than me, but like you, the presence of social media now in schools is, is critical to sharing information to parents. And so and, and students, by the way I know for, you know, I joke with the kids that like follow our Instagram account because you’ll, you’ll hear all that you need to know for the old folks like us follow your Facebook account and our website, that’s another, you know, Notre Dame college.ca is a great way of, of kind of seeing and getting in touch with us and seeing what we offer try to do a lot of fun stuff cuz school, like it should be fun.


Andrew Boon (27:07):
It really should be right. And so yes, we’re an education institution. Yes. You know, you’ll hear all the, you’ll see all the great things that are happening in class, but schools should be fun. And and I think we try to do that when we’re sharing me in for, with our students and you know, I think, I think it’s working again. I hope it’s working, I guess we’ll see. Right.


Sam Demma (27:32):
good stuff. Good stuff. Well, Angie, thank you so much for taking the time to come on here. Talk about some of your ideas, journey, philosophies, and education, the projects going on in the school community. It means the world to me, and also a lot of other people tuning in wanting to learn more about education or pick up some creative ideas. So again, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show and keep up the great work.


Andrew Boon (27:55):
I appreciate it. No, thanks so much for for, for reaching out and yeah, very much appreciate it.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Andrew Boon

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.

Dr. Kirk Linton – K-9 Principal, EdD in Learning Sciences & Music teacher/trumpet player

Dr. Kirk Linton - K-9 Principal, EdD in Learning Sciences & Music teacher/trumpet player
About Dr. Kirk Linton

Dr. Kirk Linton (@krlinton) is a school principal in Calgary. He graduated with his Ed.D. from the University of Calgary in the Learning Sciences in 2019 and received recognition at the national level for his research on teacher professional learning and research-practice partnerships.

He is the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Vice Principal of the Year award from the Canadian Association of Principals as well as the 2015 Alberta Distinguished Leadership Award from the Council for School Leadership. He has presented at conferences nationally and internationally.

Dr. Linton is passionate about creating engaging and authentic learning for students and teachers and he has worked tirelessly to create cultures of innovation in the schools he has served. He is a husband, father of 3 sons, and a trumpet player in his spare time.

Connect with Kirl: Email | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

EdD in Learning Sciences – University of Calgary

Canadian Association of Principals (CAP)

Council for School Leadership – Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA)

Dr. Linton’s Personal Website – The Principal’s Viewpoint

Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS)

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 was actually connected by one of my colleagues at CAPS; CAPS stands for the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. At 21 years old, I’m actually the youngest member and youngest ever board member . I bring in all the programming for our membership and all the different speakers to our chapter.


Sam Demma (01:00):
And one of my fellow members name Joyce connected me with Dr. Kirk Linton, and I’m so excited she did because he is a phenomenal human being. Dr. Kirk Linton is a school Principal in Calgary. He graduated with his educational degree from the University of Calgary in the learning sciences in 2019 and received recognition at the national level for his research on teacher professional learning and research practice partnerships. He is the recipient of the 2015 distinguished vice principal of the year award from the Canadian Association of Principals, as well as the 2015 Alberta distinguished leadership award from the Council for School Leadership. He has presented at conferences nationally and internationally. Dr. Linton is passionate about creating, engaging, and authentic learning for students and teachers, and he has worked tirelessly to create cultures of innovation in the schools. He has served. He is a husband, father of three sons, and a trumpet player in his spare time. He used to play in a band. You’ll hear about it in today’s interview. Anyways, I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed it, and I will see you on the other side. Kirk, 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 behind the reason why you’re so passionate about the work you do in education today?


Dr. Kirk Linton (02:26):
All right, we’re going right into the deep end. Here we go. So my name’s Kirk Linton, and I am a principal of a K-9 school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I think I’ve been a Principal for, this is my fifth year, in education; about 18 years I do believe now if I’m counting and definitely been one of the more, were interesting dynamic, wild, challenging years of my career. Right, so before we get into all that kind of business though, I have three kids of my own. Right, so I have a 14 year old, a 10 year old, and a 7 year old, and they’re just a wonderful bunch of kids. And like, I like to say, I have get to live the k-9 life at school and the k-9 life at home.


Dr. Kirk Linton (03:09):
So I get the full experience of what that it looks like for, for better or worse both as a parent and as a teacher and as a principal to right. So, okay. So, so yeah, basically education. So yeah, I’m passionate about education, right? The reason I’m part of the passionate, because I do have kids, right. So I see what it looks like. And I see what what happens when the, the best occurs in schools. I see the connection that forms with teachers, the influence, the impact that people have on the lives of young people. That’s probably the reason that I’m here today, Sam, right. Is I, you know, I, I got to experience some really powerful teaching, got to have some really amazing connections with some of my teachers. And I think every single one of us, you know, strives at the end of the day with all the other stuff that’s going on in the background, we’re trying just to really form those connections with those kids, have those opportunities to speak with just have those deep connections with kids, support families and do our best for them.


Dr. Kirk Linton (04:06):
Right. it doesn’t always happen all the time, but we certainly do the best we can.


Sam Demma (04:10):
Yeah. Ah, I hear that. And I totally agree. Thank you for sharing. What led you down the path of education though, because if I’m correct from reading your blog and having convers with you prior, you know, you were quite the musician and I’m curious to know, you know, how it all led you down to teaching and education.


Dr. Kirk Linton (04:29):
Absolutely. So, yeah, my I originally wasn’t going to be a teacher that was, my wife now was the one who was always gonna be the teacher. She, she knew that she was early on. She had a sense that the direction she was going I was really passionate about music. I’m a trumpet player. And so that was something that I started piano when I was in grade six, started picking up the trumpet when I was in grade seven and really got into it. And I picked the, the best instrument out there, which is the trumpet of course. Right. So so my dad really tried to push me into going, going into flute, cuz he said, the flute is thing that’s really small. It fits inside your backpack. You need to go something small. And I said, well, I don’t want to go with something small.


Dr. Kirk Linton (05:08):
I want to go with something big, nice, big sound. And I said, I want to be a part of something that, you know, you can be rock and roll jazz, you can be classical, that kind of stuff. So, so I kind had a sense that was what I wanted to do. And then, you know, what, what happened is that this is it. Like I ran into some teachers who were, are incredible, right. And it was through the musical world that I became. And I started to realize that music and education and music and teaching kind of go hand in hand, right? There’s this kind of apprenticeship model that happens where you learn a skill, you develop as you go. And I think it’s similar for athletes, right? Who are kind of learning and, and being coached. And they either going down that road too, as you, you move forward, you connect with people and these people are so passionate about what they do, but they’re also passionate about you and helping you succeed.


Dr. Kirk Linton (05:50):
And so that definitely played into my career as an educator. So I went down that road, got into high school you know, started getting lots of opportunities to play in some really great places in, in university. And then went into university and you know, just continued on down that path until I hit a point where I had my, my wisdom teeth removed in my mouth. Right. And so I was, I was dead set. I was gonna be a professional Trump player. And then of course I had some nerve issues that came out of that and some other kind of injury stuff. And at that point, you know, I kind of realized that I may need to start looking in a different direction that maybe that, you know, physically, I wasn’t gonna be able to keep pursuing that my heart certainly was still there. And I think at the end of the day, I still feel very much like a musician deep down. Right. and still you get to live that life vicarious through my family and through my own kids. Right. Yeah. But yes, I mean music passionate about music. And like I said, I think the experience of being in music was something that really informed me as an educator and continues to feed me.


Sam Demma (06:50):
Hmm. And it’s interesting looking at music, you know, when you play music, the audience listening, enjoys hearing it. And I think you can, you can create a, a similar response in the lives of students by sharing wisdom and information in other ways that will be like music to their ears. that could I, that like that yeah. Help them help them in other ways. That’s such an awesome story. And you know, you mentioned that you had some mentors and teachers who really inspired you along the way. Yeah. And one of the things you, you highlighted was their passion. Passion is a huge thing. And I believe it’s contagious because it’s the same reason that my teacher, Mike loud foot grade 12 social studies teacher totally changed my life. He came to class and when he spoke it, it was so clearly evident that he cared about what he was sharing. And that’s what made me buy into his lessons. And I’m curious to know passion aside. What else do you think your teachers did for you and whether it’s the music teacher or the classroom teachers that you’ve had that made a significant impact on you as a student and that, that encouraged you to buy in to the lessons they were sharing in teaching?


Dr. Kirk Linton (07:51):
Well, I mean, I like to go back to that the saying or the truism, right? That the three most important things in education are the relationships, relationships, and relationships. Those are the most three important things. Right. I, I think it’s that deep sense that people believe in you and that they, they care for you and that they have dreams for you. I, you know, I, I think back I had it was just a short session. I did a summer program with a conductor from a university from the states. And he used that language with his kids or with the students. I mean, we were adults at that time, right. We were 1822 in that kind of range. And for each of us, he’d only known us probably for hours. And he connected so deeply with us that right out of the gate, he would say, Kirk, my dream for you is the, this right.


Dr. Kirk Linton (08:41):
My dream for you is this. And all of a sudden what happens to you is you go, this guy barely knows me. He already cares enough about me, that he has a dream for me. He expects big things from me. Mm. Maybe I should have a dream for myself. And maybe that is something that I can, you know, is possible. It’s funny cuz now the school that I’m in too one of our school models is dream believe and achieve. So I have a dream. Right. but now, you know, I started using that even with my own students and I started using that same language and you know, it’s a way of sort of giving it to them and saying, have a dream, but also saying, I care enough about your dream to support you, to get to that dream. So that was, that was pretty inspiring stuff.


Sam Demma (09:20):
Ah, I love, that’s such an amazing story. And even when I think about my own teacher, Mike loud foot, he would take his, he would take his classroom content like you’re saying, and then apply it to every student’s life. So he’d finish a lesson and say, Hey Sam, for you, this means at Y and Z and Julia for you, based on what I know about you, what this means is X, Y, and Z. And he would take his classroom content. And I, I guess I could, I would call it the shotgun technique and he would try and make it applicable to as many people in the classroom as possible which is a unique way of, of going about it. And I think that that’s what most teachers, you know, strive to do in the classroom.


Dr. Kirk Linton (09:56):
It’s such a special quality, you know, to be able to see that in each of your kids and communicate that to each of your students and then to develop them individually. But that’s, that’s the key having that dream for each kid.


Sam Demma (10:08):
Mm. And how do you think we, you know, back to relationships, relationships, relationships, how do you think we build those with students? You know, even when we might be going through a challenging time, like COVID 19, is it about checking in? Is it about, you know, how do you build those relationships?


Dr. Kirk Linton (10:28):
It’s been a tough year. It’s been a really difficult year to build those relationships this year. At the same time that I have felt like we have collectively gone through something together. So at the same time you have challenges, you have opportunities, right? Mm-Hmm so the challenge of this year has been that disconnect or the, the feeling of lack, lack of control over what’s been happening around us. You know, even this week, weekend I was contact tracing, right? Telling people they have to go into isolation, telling my families that they have to isolate even within their households, those sorts of things, those are difficult, difficult conversations, but they also provide opportunities for that connection to grow as well. So, you know, I’ve been saying that, you know, leadership is a, a rainy day job. Well, 20, 20, 21, we’re living through a Monsu right.


Dr. Kirk Linton (11:23):
This has been a, a crazy long downpour all year long. It has challenged each of us it’s it’s, it’s made us all sort of reevaluate how we do what we do. So we’ve had to reach out out lots of different ways. So, and I think about the evolution of this for me and as a school community, since this began. So back in last March, right? So we you know, heading into March, no one had a clue what was gonna happen. Yeah. Where things were gonna head. I can still remember because in Alberta we found out, I think it was four o’clock in the afternoon, on a Sunday afternoon that we were no longer gonna go into classes into school. We’d still have classes, but we had to basically pivot turn around, shift our practice within a day to, to the next day and walk in the next morning and figure out what the heck we were doing.


Dr. Kirk Linton (12:16):
Right. and nobody really knew. And so, you know, we had all different people with different comfort levels with technology different confidence levels around how they could manage that whole situation. And so as leaders in that situation, they’re trying to sort of as se, where is everybody? Mm. So, you know, I, I came in like with my little bit of a little bit cocky and kind of said to everybody, you know what, you’re gonna need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Right. And I was like, this is, we’re gonna be uncomfortable for a while. We’re gonna have to get used to that and get comfortable. But, but Sam, it was the wrong thing to say. It was the wrong thing, because I didn’t need to say that people were already so far out of their regular element. That that was just one more reminder to them that, whoa, I am so uncomfortable at this point in time that I don’t even know what to do.


Dr. Kirk Linton (13:05):
Right. we also had people, of course, who were bringing their own health issues and concerns into the building at that point in time, right? The are uncertain about their own health, about their friends, about their family. And so of course it became really real, really fast when I had staff members come to me and say, listen, like I have an underlying health condition that if I get sick, this is gonna be a big issue. Or I have a son or a daughter or a mother or a father who, if this hits that this is gonna be, become a big issue. So what we’ve asked our teachers to do this year is a tremendous act of courage and bravery. And I cannot be more proud of what we’ve done as teachers and as a profession that we’ve been able to walk into this monsoon of a year and continue need to do the best we can for our kids, for our students and for our communities.


Dr. Kirk Linton (14:00):
You know, when I first looked at what do we do here? Because my, my fear in all of this is we were going to lose that sense of community and we were going to lose our kids. Do you know what I mean? Yeah. I think every educators may fear was that these kids were going to walk out of our building and that, where would they go? What was gonna happen to them when they were home? Did they have the support systems they needed? Were mental health concerns gonna be dealt with? Would we even know the mental health concerns were going on so that we could help and support? So there’s this huge sense of sort of health, right? So for me, the way that we just, we just kept reaching out and the number one thing was just making sure we were making contacts.


Dr. Kirk Linton (14:45):
So I just kept pushing people, you know, make those phone calls, talk to people then you know, how do we connect on social media? How do we use the social media? We’ve got to sort of keep those kids engaged with us. So we were posting things like our daily announcements and prayers and jokes and things like that online. So the kids still felt like they were part of the school. Nice. you know, I used my trumpet in that context, Sam, like I, you know, I, we, me and my, my kids got out on our front weight. And so my, my, my oldest plays violin and my middle plays violin, and my youngest son plays cello. And so we were putting on driveway concerts. nice in the neighborhood. Nice. and so we’d get out there every Sunday afternoon, and then we would play a couple tunes. We’d always end with some kind of star wars lick at the end of the day. And nice. And after a while we developed some some following, you know, we were pretty big stuff, Sam, we probably had like 10, maybe 12 people who would come and bring their lawn chairs.


Sam Demma (15:38):
That’s amazing.


Dr. Kirk Linton (15:39):
but we’d also, we’d also film it too. Right. So I would you know, we’d play old Canada, we’d film that and I’d post it up online, that sort of thing. So that for the community, so it was just ways of reaching out. And I think we all were, I mean, that was sort of the, the honeymoon phase of the pandemic, if you will, at that point. Right. there was still lots of energy and hope and we’re all like, oh yeah, we’re gonna change. You know, there was maybe a little bit of sense of, you know, yeah, this is exciting in a, in a way it’s, it’s, it’s new, it’s different. We’re gonna figure this out huge challenges. We knew what was we thought we knew it was coming. But we, you know, we move forward in that kinda way. As I’ve watched the year progress, and I’ve seen some of the, the constant sort of stress that’s gone with that the adjustments that are, are constantly having to be made between moving online, moving back into person you know, we have kept our kids as well as we could and dealt with the situation the best we could. But holy Dina, this has been quite the year, Sam.


Sam Demma (16:39):
Yeah. It’s, it’s something that I’ve heard echoed between all the interviews I’ve done. I’ve interviewed over 90 educators now for the past six months. So I’m averaging dozens of conversations per month. And the, the common thread is, is, is what you’re sharing. So you’re definitely not alone and neither is your school. And before I continue, I wanna make sure I give you the applause you deserve for your, your driveway shows.


Sam Demma (17:09):
Just in case those 12 people in lawn chairs, didn’t, didn’t show appreciation enough.


Dr. Kirk Linton (17:14):
They weren’t that loud, Sam, for sure.


Sam Demma (17:17):
That’s okay. But you mentioned earlier that with every obstacle, BEC there, there comes along an opportunity with it, you know? Yeah. With every, you know, plot of dirt, you can plant the seed. What do you think the opportunities are like, you, you have obviously a growth mindset when you’re even talking about focusing on of the opportunities in a difficult situation, what are some of those opportunities?


Dr. Kirk Linton (17:44):
Yeah. And I think that’s something that you know, we have to focus on the opportunities, right. I, I think that’s something that we have to take this and acknowledge that this is a new perspective. Mm-Hmm, we’re never going back to that world. That was February 20, 20, right. This is where we’ve moved on and we’re somewhere different now. And I think that there will be a, a kind of reckoning that occurs over the years to come right, where we sort look back and say, where were we before this? And where are we now? And sort of what happened in that, in between period that got us to here. Mm-Hmm I, you know, early on, I said, I think that the end result of this is going to be a renewal of the education system. I think that, you know, we, weren’t very at agile as a system, we were very, you know, sort of like, you know, just lots of people, lots of stuff.


Dr. Kirk Linton (18:34):
And I think what we’ve learned how to do is really to adjust quickly and to change our practice. So, you know, in that period of time, this, in those first, early months of the pandemic, and even into this year, I’ve probably seen more professional learning and occur amongst teachers and staff of all types as we’ve had to sort of navigate this time and, you know, the use of educational technology, which may have been a, a tougher sell you know, about five years ago. And it’s funny because when I look there was a lot of excitement in the turn of the millennium, right? So early two thousands were people really excited about what technology could do. Mm. And there was a period of time where we all got a little bit afraid of our own technology, because we went, whoa, this is all of a sudden taking over my life.


Dr. Kirk Linton (19:21):
And I don’t know where to go with it. And then whoa, what’s going on with our kids, what’s happening with the students, right? What are they doing with the technology and how’s that impacting their lab? And so then all of a sudden there was a pushback. And so probably the, the last five years there was kind of a swing in the other direction of, we’re just gonna totally shut this down or pretend it’s not happening. Mm. What we’re seeing now is teachers are, are kind of reassessing and going back and say, so how do I use technology to deliver learning, but not only that, but to kids create, right. You know, we talk about kids have the ability to take in content. There’s a lot of, you know, they’re really good at using YouTube. They’re good at scrolling through Instagram, but when it comes to creation and making things with technology and doing things with technology, we sometimes make assumptions.


Dr. Kirk Linton (20:08):
They have skills that maybe they don’t and need to be the developed. And I’d say the same was, is with the teachers, is, is just knowing what the tools are, how they can be applied pedagogically and how they can be used to actually create that student learning out there. And so what I’ve seen is, you know, in this flipping back and forth between online and in person we’ve had to become really flexible in what we do and use the tools and new and be really innovative, just do everything differently. We’ve had to rethink everything, right. You know, we’ve rethought everything from how we, you know, teach to how we structure our school day,


Dr. Kirk Linton (20:45):
How we come into school, how we have lunch times, how we do recess, all those sorts of things. Right. So things have really significantly changed in a lot of ways. And as with a lot of things, there’s things that, you know, we would toss out and say this, if we can never get back to not doing this, that’d be awesome. But like wearing masks, for example, I don’t think anyone wants to keep wearing masks for too long. On the other side, though, there are things that we would absolutely keep where we’re going, why wouldn’t we do lunch this way? Why wouldn’t we organize ourselves a little bit differently? And so there have definitely been some positives that will come out of this, but, you know, I think there is a period that’s coming where we’re gonna all have to sort of sit back and have a chance to reflect. Hopefully the end is in sight here, Sam. Yeah. Right. Where we all can kind of sit back and go, okay, what was that all about? And then we make the meaning of that. I think, as we move forward,


Sam Demma (21:35):
I love it. And it’s funny, you mentioned the, hopefully the end is in sight. My dad was driving home the other day and Rogers globally went down or at least nationally, and , my dad gets home and I’m like, dad, you hear about the phone? He’s like, yeah, my radio, wasn’t working either. And I’m like, oh my goodness is the end in sight. Like . But no, I follow, I follow. I’m hoping the end of, of COVID is in sight as well. And you know, we’re able to do some of the things that we’d like to get back to doing. I’m curious though, you’ve peaked my interest now. How, how have you changed the structure of your school day and maybe even the lunch are some of the things that you think are really cool that have been changed and you wanna keep the same?


Dr. Kirk Linton (22:17):
Well, I mean, you know, some of them were really basic, right? The way we came in the school, you would always have the traditional, everyone would stand up in big clumps on the tarmac and you’d hold the kids outside, right. Until that bell went because you can’t let them in early. So what’s changed on that front is that we are now having kids come and staggered entry and they come right into the school first thing the morning. And so it’s funny, we had a really rigid structure before that had some benefits to it from the standpoint of the quiet, the school’s nice and quiet before the school day, that sort of thing. But what I have found is that allowing kids to have sort of a soft beginning to their day, where they have 10 or 15 minutes where they’re in ahead of time and they have the chance to just sort of come in and settle and the teacher’s not jumping straight into instruction.


Dr. Kirk Linton (23:01):
And everyone just has a chance to sort of chill out for 10 minutes has actually been a really friendly, good thing for our, our students. Right. start of the year, we did a, a staggered entry as well, where we brought in only a third of the class into each, for each day. So for three days, we just brought in 10 kids instead of bringing in 30 for the first day. And that gave our teachers that chance to have that relationship building time mm-hmm and spend more quality time and really get to know each student. So you’re not doing that for first day with 30 phases, you don’t know doing the roll call and never really getting to know them. And I gotta say that was a huge positive something that we, we heard as well. Right. we used to have our lunches in the gym altogether.


Dr. Kirk Linton (23:43):
It was loud, it was noisy. The kids were all over the place. And so now they’re having lunch within classrooms. And so it’s just a little bit calmer and, and more settled and, and I’m finding the kids are enjoying that piece as well. So yeah, I think, you know, from those standpoints, oh, staggered stagger lunch times two recesses. We, we’re not doing them all at one time, so you’d have one big us we’d have, or in our case it was two, we’d have 350 kids out at the same time. And, you know, it was just a lot going on all at the same time. And now we’ve gotta set up so that each of the groups goes out separately. And so there’s more room, there’s more space and the kids just there’s less conflict on the playground. Right. So, so small things that you wouldn’t have changed because it was the way it had it always been done. And now you have the reason to go back and try it a different way, and you realize, Hey, it’s actually possible to do this in a different way. So it’s not a bad thing.


Sam Demma (24:35):
Yeah. It’s small things. I wear this wrist brand that says small, consistent actions. And it’s the, yes, the phrase that my teacher taught to me when I was 17, that like totally changed the way I look at my life. And in fact, so much so that I keep this little turtle on my desk as well, to remind me that it’s okay, if you’re moving slow, as long as you’re thinking about, you know, what, what it is that you’re doing or making progress, you know, putting one foot in front of the other small actions, small, consistent actions. Yeah.


Dr. Kirk Linton (25:02):
I was listening to another podcast I think. And they were talking one degree turns. Yep. That that’s how you, how you turn in a big ship or you turn it all. That’s how you make change. It’s one degree turns everyone. You don’t need to do a 180. Yeah. And I think when I think about my own leadership journey too, I always used to be like, oh, it’s gotta be transformative. Like this is, you gotta know that something significant has changed. The whole system’s turned upside down and now it’s turned to see that. Yeah. Can. So working in that sort of way, slowly one degree turns is gonna get you where you want to be.


Sam Demma (25:33):
I was so fascinated by the philosophy when I was 17, that we started picking up garbage as the small action. And you know, we, we ended up filling close to 3000 bags of trash over the past four years from just one hour weekly cleanups with it’s. And so like, that’s our practical case study of that example as well. Yeah. And it’s so apparent that it’s happening in schools right now, all across Canada, all across north America, you know, small, you’re making small shifts, but it sounds like it’s making a huge difference, you know, in the schools. And also probably with the student safety, I would, I would assume


Dr. Kirk Linton (26:07):
A hundred percent, right. Small but powerful things. And I think the little things add up and I think we’ve really seen that, especially in a pandemic environment, right. Where we we’re seeing that those little choices that people are making along the way really have a real impact on others. And so I think as educators, that is always what we’re trying to show kids, because we are trying to give the next generation that sense of stewardship that they carry forward and make better the things that we’ve got. Right. And so that’s, that’s always the goal. So yeah, I like that. I think the 1% turns the small movements with intention, the small decisions, that’s, that’s something that’s a real life lesson. It’s tough to be patient for that though Sam. Right.


Sam Demma (26:45):
It is. But, but Hey, the, the turtle beats, the, the turtle beats, the hair and the race, right.


Dr. Kirk Linton (26:52):
Yeah. Well, yeah, you’re more patient than me, I think.


Sam Demma (26:54):
So if you could go back Kirk and, and speak to your younger self, you know, 18 years ago before your first year in education, knowing what you know, now, what advice would you give your younger self?


Dr. Kirk Linton (27:08):
I would probably say, you know what cuz I think that I, I had these high goals of being the professional musician. I had a taste of that and we had really, you know, I, I think what I would say to myself is it’s okay, this is not an either or right. Mm, this is a, this, and you can be that and that you can continue to be these different things. It’s the ever expanding sense of yourself, right? That we, we grow, we don’t necessarily lose the things that we’ve done before that we continue to build on them and that I can be a musician and be a principal and I can be a musician and be a teacher and be a dad and have all these different roles sort of coinciding and that they don’t I don’t lose them as I move forward that they continue to, to grow and shape and change into who I am. And that’s not a static thing at all.


Sam Demma (27:58):
I needed that advice when I was 17 and having injuries as a soccer player. So don’t only pass that forward to younger educators, but pass it forward to your students as well. I think it’s so important. I, I think of it like a book. Like imagine your life was a book and it only had one chapter; that would be the most boring book ever and I think when we, when we mold ourselves into different positions and to solve different problems and to experience different things, what we’re essentially doing is starting new chapters, you know? And I think it makes it more interesting, more relatable so that’s great advice. Kirk, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it and this has been a great conversation. If an educator has enjoyed this and wants to reach out to you, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Dr. Kirk Linton (28:45):
They can find me on Twitter if they like @krlinton. That’s definitely one spot they can reach out to be there. I think that’s probably the easiest thing to do.


Sam Demma (28:53):
Okay, perfect. Kirk, thank you so much again and keep up the great work and I’ll talk to you soon.


Dr. Kirk Linton (28:58):
Awesome. Thanks Sam. It’s been a pleasure


Sam Demma (29:00):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; if you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Kirk Linton

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.

Sean Ruddy – Principal of Student Success and Specialized Programs at Near North District School Board

Sean Ruddy - Principal of Student Success and Specialized Programs at Near North District School Board
About Sean Ruddy

Sean Ruddy (@SeanRuddy14), is the Principal of Student Success and Specialized Programs at the Near North District School Board. He started his career teaching in the Rainbow District School Board and for the last 17 years has been a Vice Principal, Principal, and System Principal with the Near North District School Board.   

Sean has his Masters of Education from Nipissing University where his focus was on Safe Schools and using Restorative Practices to build relationships in schools. Sean has presented his work at the International Institute of Restorative Practices World Conference and the International Confederation of Principals Convention.

He has a strong belief that all students can learn.  Sean believes that finding creative ways to engage and support students will lead to an increase in student achievement and well-being.

Connect with Sean: Email | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Near North District School Board

Rainbow District School Board

Masters of Education – Nipissing University

International Institute of Restorative Practices

International Confederation of Principals Convention

Specialist High Skills Major Program (SHSM)

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.


Sam Demma (01:02):
This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is Sean Ruddy. Sean is the Principal of student success and specialized programs at the Near North District School Board. He started his career teaching in the Rainbow District School Board and for the past 17 years has been a Vice-Principal, Principal and System-Principal with the Near North District School Board. Sean has his masters of education from Nippissing University where his focus was on safe schools and using restorative practices to build relationships in schools. Sean has presented his work at the International Institute of Restorative Practices world conference and the International Confederation of Principals convention. He has a strong belief that all students can learn. Sean believes that finding creative ways to engage and support students will lead to an increase in student achievement and overall wellbeing. I hope you enjoy this enlightening conversation with Sean. I will see you on the other side, all the best. Sean, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show, please start by introducing yourself.


Sean Ruddy (02:07):
Yeah, thanks Sam. My name’s Sean Ruddy and I work for the Near North District School Board. Currently, my role is the Principal of student success and specialized programs. And the board office is located in North Bay, and we cover roughly about 17,000 square feet. So geographically we’re a fairly large board, and it stretches kind of from Perry Sound in the west, to Sturgeon Falls and in North Bay; in that that basic geographic area there.


Sam Demma (02:42):
At what point during your own career exploration phase of life, did you realize that as you is where you want it to work?


Sean Ruddy (02:50):
Yeah, it’s funny. Everybody seems to have a different story about how they end up in, in this in this spot. Graduating from from secondary school, I went on to post-secondary school. I, I was going into business, so I had no intention of, of getting into education at all. I was really fortunate enough to volunteer coach at a, as my, my high school that I graduated up and and, and got to work with some, some students and, and coaching them hockey. And for me, I really used the word coaching and, and teaching kind of interchangeably because they’re essentially, in my view, they’re, they’re the same thing. Really got to, to see that I was making a difference and, and that you know, you know, you knew it was as a your experience with soccer. You know, when you, you have, you have some success as a team and, and you, you know, as a leader of that particular team it certainly gives you that that thrive to, to want to do more. So I quickly figured out that that, you know, impacting students was something that I wanted to do for a living and then applied for teachers college and, and kind of the rest is, is history.


Sam Demma (04:05):
You mentioned coaching, how has athletics played a big role in your involvement at school and also outside of school?


Sean Ruddy (04:12):
Yeah. Athletics is huge. And you know, speaking of athletics, I know you’re a soccer guy. Yeah. Is there, is it a better timing camp, Canada to be a soccer fan right now? You know, like it’s,


Sam Demma (04:23):
Especially for me, because two of the guys who play on the Canadian men’s national team used to be teammates. So not only are they winning, but I’m able to personally cheer them on.


Sean Ruddy (04:33):
Yeah. That that’s incredible. Yeah. No sports sports has had a huge impact on, on my life as I believe it has on, on, on yours. The, you know, all of those lifelong skills that you learn in terms of you know, collaboration and you know, and teamwork and you know, putting the the common goals of the groups ahead of your individual interests, all of those are, are foundational leadership philosophy that, that I’ve taken from my years of playing sports and and try and implement it to you know, everything that I do here at the, at the schoolwork.


Sam Demma (05:11):
Awesome. you mentioned that the, the word coach and, and the word teacher could be kinda used interchangeably, what do you mean by that? And where do you see the striking similarities?


Sean Ruddy (05:21):
Well, I see, you know, you, you know, if we go back to using the, the coaching analogy, right, if you, you, you replace the team with your class and those are all interchangeable. And the, the really neat thing, and as you would know, is that every, every person is different. So every player that you have on your soccer team is different. Every kid in your class that you have is different. They all come from varying backgrounds and, and are motivated in, in different ways. And you know, you, the way I see it, the role as you’re as the leader or the coach, or the teacher, you have to figure out how each individual student learns and how to get the best out of that individual kit. And you know, it’s, and it’s no different on the, on the quarter on the field. And you know, the best best coaches are able to maximize the potential in each of their individual players, you know, and all going towards the you know, a common goal. So that’s where I see it. They’re, they’re, they’re really interchangeable from, from my point of view.


Sam Demma (06:22):
So you started teaching tell me a little bit about your first role and then bring us through the progression to what brought you to where you are right now.


Sean Ruddy (06:31):
Yeah, so I, I was fortunate enough out of teachers college to get hired in a, in a little small, a small town notes side, February called lava. And it was with the rainbow district school board, and I’m from north bay. So it was, it was outta town. So I spent one year there really immersed in teaching pretty much everything you can think of because when you’re in these small communities, there’s no such thing as specialized teachers. So you, you have to everything. So it was, it was great to, to live and learn there. I was able to eventually get back to the north district school board and taught for a number of years and then became a, a vice principal. And now I think I’m about 17 years into administration, a a on, through a few different secondary schools. And and this is my second year in the central position at, at the board office. So I I’ve really kind of been in, in every area of the board.


Sam Demma (07:31):
That’s amazing. You’ve played every position on the field.


Sean Ruddy (07:34):
Yes. Yeah.


Sam Demma (07:37):
Central role. Tell me a little bit more about what it entails and what your roles and responsibilities are, and some of the projects maybe that you’re focused on bringing in or running.


Sean Ruddy (07:48):
Yeah. So, so for me, you know, my focus is on student success and, and any of those specialized programs that we can put in place to, to help impact student achievement and our wellbeing within our board. Some of the, some of the ones that we’re really proud of is all of our secondary schools have specialist high skills, major programs. I and those were a variety of different programs from hospitality to construction, to business and arts. Students are, are very fortunate now where they have a number of options that they can focus based on their interests. So, so that’s one that certainly falls within my portfolio. Another one that we’re re we’re really excited about is we have a dual credit program with Canada or college here in north bay. So they’re a partner with us, and we offer a variety of, of dual credits where a student can actually go to college and get a, from the college and a credit from high school. So it’s you know, if you think of some of those the shortages that we have in the skills trades this is a great program to encourage our youth to get in there and and, and really get involved in a, you know, a career that would be very beneficial to them. And then we’re also lucky we’re, we’re launching a couple of new things for September we’re, we’re launching a, a dual credit and video game design.


Sam Demma (09:10):
Oh, nice.


Sean Ruddy (09:10):
So you know, some, some unique things like that, so that’s going on. And then, and then one other one that will likely be announced probably when the podcast airs is that our school board is partnering with Everest academy hockey academy. Wow. And we’re gonna have a, we’re gonna offer a high performance hockey academy combined with an academic program with the near us district school board, which will be unique in, in one of its kind. And again, trying to you know, find the interest of students to engage them in their academic career.


Sam Demma (09:47):
That’s amazing. I think the high performance program sounds like something I would’ve loved to be involved in for soccer when I was growing up in the school. So sounds like a final opportunity for students. What, what keeps you hopeful personally about this work on the days when you show up and there’s global pandemics or on the days you show up and things are a little bit difficult.


Sean Ruddy (10:10):
Yeah. You know, you know, Sam as, as an education and a, a leader I think your only option is to Mo model hope for your your, your teachers and students. Like, yeah. These last two years have been challenging for everybody, not just in, in education as we you know, continually pivot between timetable structures and in school and outta school. And you know, the people that are looking up to you, your, your teacher or your, or your students, they’re looking for that calm, steady beacon of hope. And you have to be the model for them especially during times of crisis and chaos. So I mean, the, there are going to be some lasting things out of this this pandemic, one of them we’re doing right now, we’re, we’re able to connect from, you know, hundreds of kilometers away in real time in, in video. So there’s all kinds of opportunities where we can get students in front of experts from literally around the world you know, through zoom or teams or, or those types of things. But yeah, no, there’s we’re gonna get through the other side that we, we always do. And again, as a leader, I think all you can do is, is to be that model of hope and, and optimism, and and continue to find ways to make things work even in, in times where it it’s very difficult.


Sam Demma (11:35):
I couldn’t agree more. I think you’re absolutely right. Being hopeful. Yourself definitely rubs off on those, around you, especially in the leadership position. So that’s awesome. When you think about programs that have happened in the past can you remember the transformation of a student who went through a program or was ever a part of a, of a class or a team that you’ve coached, who, when they started were very different than when they, you know, completed it or came out the other end? And if it’s a serious story, you know, you can change their name just to keep it a private


Sean Ruddy (12:11):
Yeah, no, there’s, there’s so many Sam having been around you know, I think this is here 22 for me in education. There’s so many stories. You know, if you just think of your own experience going through high school, when you, when you entered grade nine and you know, the maturity level of, of grade nines that were in your class, and then you, the, that same group walking across the stage four or five years later there’s, there’s just a massive change just in maturity. And, and, you know, as educators, we’re, you know, we’re proud of the accomplishments and seeing that transformation for sure. And certainly I know your your educators would be certainly proud with the, that you’re doing not only with, with this podcast, but also the work that you’ve done in your community.


Sean Ruddy (12:58):
So, so thank you for doing that. Just, you know, there’s so many individual stories. It’s hard to, to pick out one, but I can give you like, just a general just a, just a general basis on, in terms of kind of my involvement in, in terms of impacting students. It’s so difficult in the education businesses, because you don’t have that instant feedback. And it’s so hard to you know, I like, I think of one of my colleagues who’s a principal out in sturgeon falls. He also runs a, a wood business. And if you think of something simpler like that, and you, you compare it to education. So not to say that the wood business is simple, but a pile of logs get dropped off. And he goes out there and he works all day on a Saturday, the logs get cut up and they get stacked nicely in court.


Sean Ruddy (13:46):
So he can look back at the end of the day and all that hard painstaking work he’s done. You can see that it’s made a difference in education. We’re, we’re doing that pain making work day in and day out. And, and it’s really hard to see that until there are times like graduation. There’s one, one example. I met a, a former student in the grocery store and he came up to me and he said, you know, he’s told me about how successful he’s been, told me about an interaction that I had with him in the hall one day now, to be honest them, I had no it’s one of a hundred interactions we’d have with students in the day. So I had no recollection of this interaction. He said, he said, you know what? You really made a difference with what you said to me that day.


Sean Ruddy (14:27):
And I stayed at school and I, I continued to go on. So if I have any advice around that for our educational colleague out there is to not underestimate any interaction that you have with a student, no matter how small you think it is, because you know, depending on that particular student, it, it makes a huge difference. And I also equate you know, the work we do in education to my golf game, going back to the sports analogy again, right? So, you know, I’ll go out. I don’t play as often as I’d like to, but I’d go out and shoot 85 or 190 shots, 85, 90, 95 shots. And many of those are frustrating shots and they don’t go where you want them to go, but without fail, there’s one or two that you hit, whether that’s that nice long drive, or you drained a long pot that goes in and you get that satisfaction of doing something that makes you wanna play again. So when we get that feedback from students, oftentimes it’s not until they’re long graduated and you meet them at somewhere in the community you really realize the difference that you make and it makes you want to keep keep going back.


Sam Demma (15:34):
That’s a beautiful analogy. I’ve played golf for one summer, and I don’t have many of those moments yet, but they’re coming.


Sean Ruddy (15:43):
You got it. They’ll come.


Sam Demma (15:45):
Yep. I go, I do a lot of swimming, actually. It’s a dual sport athlete when I golf. Yeah. Yeah, that’s amazing. And if you could, and you may be echoing some of the things you just shared now, but if you could take all the experience you’ve had in education this far bundle it all up, go back in time and tap yourself on the shoulder. And your first, second, third year of education, knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given to your younger self?


Sean Ruddy (16:13):
Well, I think we all all, all of us that are in education are, are fairly driven to be successful. And, and to get to that point, you have been successful. You’re going to fail. You’re, you’re gonna try things and you’re gonna fail. And as frustrating as that is, you know, looking back now, that’s exactly how we learn. Yeah. Like we try things and we fail and, and we reflect on it and do it again. The most powerful lesson that I learned really early on is that I, I ended up working at a school that was about 45 minute drive away from, from my house. So at the end of the day, I had 45 minutes of, of kind of quiet reflection to think of about what happened during the day and reflect on how I can, you know, do it better.


Sean Ruddy (16:58):
So you know, make those mistakes, think outside the box, make connections with kids. You know, kids are the variable, right? Like they, they change, they, you, you, what you did five years ago, won’t necessarily work this year. You’re gonna have change. The kids are the, are the variable. So you know, continue to adapt and and reflect and, and make mistakes. And that, and that’s how we learn. And you know, what, El Sam, I think it’s also fair to show that vulnerability, even as a, as a leader right now, show that vulnerability. Yeah. We continue to make mistakes and that’s okay. And that’s how we learn, but you reflect on them and, and you keep moving on. And you know, as a leader, I think it’s important to, to show that you know, that, that vulnerability.


Sam Demma (17:46):
Finally, before we wrap up here today have you found any specific resources helpful for your own development and education and coaching? Maybe the resource is actually even a person. So, you know, you can mention a mentor or even something you’ve read, watched or been a part of that’s had an impact on you.


Sean Ruddy (18:05):
Yeah. There’s, you know, nobody gets a this far in their career without help from, from people along the way. And there’s many, many people that had a, a big impact on, on my career in particular, the, the first principal that hired me in the rainbow board, Fred law took me right under his wing and, and gave me that permission to make mistakes and, and, and learn. So that was great, but you know what, to be honest, the, and I’m not a, a huge social media presence or, or person. Yeah. But the the best PD that I’m I’m getting right now is you know, following a variety of people on Twitter. Like there’s so much positive PD that that’s out there again, right. So, and it connects people from all areas and all boards and you know, where you can collaborate on, on pretty much any topic you want. So it, it really kind of shrinks the the world. And and basically any topic that you, you want, you can find somebody all else that’s either tried that, or would like to try that with you. Cool. And you can go from there.


Sam Demma (19:16):
If someone wants to reach out to you, ask a question, bounce some ideas around or collaborate after listening to this podcast, what would be the best way for them to get in touch?


Sean Ruddy (19:24):
Yeah, probably the best place is they email Sam. So it’s sean.ruddy@Nearnorthschools.ca. And I do have Twitter, although I’m not, I use it more for PD than being active and it’s @SeanRuddy14.


Sam Demma (19:39):
Awesome. Sean, thank you so much for coming on the show. Keep up with the great work, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.


Sean Ruddy (19:45):
Awesome. Thanks Sam, I really appreciate the opportunity.


Sam Demma (19:49):
Hey, it’s Sam again. I hope you enjoyed that amazing conversation on the High Performing Educator podcast. If you, or you know, deserves some extra recognition and appreciation for the work they do in education, please consider applying or nominating them for the High Performing Educator awards, go to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. You can also find the link in the show notes. I’m super excited to spotlight and feature 20 people in 2022, and I’m hoping you or someone, you know, can be one of those educators. I’ll talk to you on the next episode, all the best.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sean Ruddy

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.

Michelina Battaglini – Principal at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School

Michelina Battaglini - Principal at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School
About Michelina Battaglini

Michelina Battaglini (@BATTAGLINI_dpc), is the Principal at Cardinal Ambrozic C.S.S. in Brampton. She is a recipient of Principal of the Year Award 2015 presented by the Catholic Principal’s Council of Ontario. Michelina started her educational career in 1997 at St. Francis Xavier C.S.S. and then moved to Loyola C.S.S. as Department Head of Science before she moved into her role as vice-principal at Cardinal Leger S.S. in 2008. 

Michelina then moved back to Loyola as vice-principal before becoming principal at St. Michael C.S.S. in Bolton in 2015 and has now been at Cardinal Ambrozic for 2.5 years. She cares for and works with ALL students in the school. She enjoys all aspects of the secondary school experience, including student leadership, extra-curricular clubs, school-based productions and athletics. 

She participates in many extra-curricular events and always joins the instrumental concert band when they are performing for their school community. Michelina believes that many hands make for light work, so if we all come together in our schools to provide a multitude of opportunities for our students. The sky is the limit!! We are here to ensure our students graduate from high school as well-rounded individuals who are:

  • discerning believers
  • effective communicators
  • self-directed, responsible, life-long learners
  • collaborative contributors
  • effective, creative and holistic thinkers
  • caring family members
  • responsible citizens

Student and staff wellness is a passion as she continues to work to find balance and fulfillment in her own life.

Connect with Michelina: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Cardinal Ambrozic C.S.S

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Catholic Principal’s Council of Ontario

Being A Good Listener – The School of Life

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 (01:02):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today we are joined by a very special guest. Her name is Michelina Battaglini. Michelina is the Principal at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School in Brampton. She’s a recipient of the Principal of the year award in 2015 presented by the Catholic principal’s council of Ontario. Michelina started her educational career in 1997 St. Francis Xavier, and then moved to Loyola as department head of science before she moved into her role as Vice Principal at Cardinal Ledger Secondary School in 2008. Michelina then moved back to Loyola as Vice Principal before she became Principal at St. Michael and Bolton in 2015, and has since been at Cardinal Ambrozic for two and a half years. She cares and works with all students in the school. She enjoys all aspects of the secondary school experience; including student leadership, extracurricular clubs, school-based productions, and athletics.


Sam Demma (01:57):
She participates in many extracurricular events and always joins the instrumental concert band when they are performing for their school community. Michelina believes that many hands make for light work so if we all come together in our schools to provide a multitude of opportunities for our students, the sky is the limit. She’s here with her staff to ensure that students graduate from high school as well-rounded individuals who are discerning believers, effective communicators, collaborative contributors, reflective, creative, and holistic thinkers, caring family members, and responsible citizens. Student and staff wellness is a passion of hers as she continues to work to find balance and fulfillment in her own life. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Michelina, I will see you on the other side. Michelina, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on this show. Please start by introducing yourself.


Michelina Battaglini (02:49):
So my name’s Michelina Battaglini and I’m a Principal at Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, which is part of the Duffern-Peel Catholic District School Board.


Sam Demma (03:00):
When did you realize that education was gonna be your career? And when did you make the decision that you were gonna pursue this path?


Michelina Battaglini (03:10):
So I guess I realized more so when I was doing my master’s degree in biochemistry at 12, and I was teaching me undergrad science students in the lab. Many of them started saying, well, why don’t you go into teaching? Cause you’re a great teacher. And I said, well, no, my, my goal was to try to get my PhD in biochemistry and then pursue probably like research. But then if you ask my family or friends of when I was younger, supposedly I don’t seem to recall this as well, but maybe, maybe I do. And I’m just trying to lie right now. In the summertime we would actually, I would actually make all the kids in the neighborhood go to school in my garage. And so I would make them homework and all of that kinda stuff. But so I think I put that aside and then I had other aspirations, but then, you know, being with the young students in university and just hearing how, you know, they wanted someone who could explain things the way I was doing it. So then that is what triggered me to get into education.


Sam Demma (04:11):
Awesome. And along the journey, did you have educators in your life who tapped you on the shoulder, gave you advice, helped you along the way? Did you have educators who guided you or said you should consider teaching


Michelina Battaglini (04:30):
Teaching directly? No, that I don’t recall. I mean, I have a few educators that really had an impact on me and I think that’s, those are the ones that then allowed me to pursue that I did like going into sciences wanting to like pursue a higher education. But education, like going into teaching teaching, that was those young kids that I was their teacher, like their lab supervisor that they, they were the ones that really pushed me. So it’s kids and that’s what my life is great students. So


Sam Demma (05:06):
Tell me more about the teachers who had a big impact on you when you were a student. And tell me a little bit about what they did for you.


Michelina Battaglini (05:14):
Okay. So I guess the first one was my music teacher in grade eight, who grade seven, eight, who really said that I had an CLU for music. And so I started then to pursue music and played a few instruments and especially in high school and then high school, my biology teacher was quite influential for me so that science and, but also my music teacher, so that music science thing was there. And then university, my undergraduate professor in biochemistry is what a passion I had for biochem. And then that led me to do my computer.


Sam Demma (05:54):
Awesome. When you finished your, your education that you were required to start teaching, what did your path look like from that point forward?


Michelina Battaglini (06:07):
So when I finished teacher’s college and of course I went to teachers college and I was a little older than most of the people there. Right. Cause I had been my master’s degree. So my goal was to get into the science field biology, chemistry. And then that summer I took one course for computer science qualification and that’s what landed me a job. Cause there were no computer science teachers out there. And so I had a lot of learning to do over the summer cause I had to learn how to program and teach that. So yeah, that’s what I ended up doing. That’s what got me, my job as a science teacher, then I became, then I moved into the sciences. And then I ended up in administration.


Sam Demma (06:46):
Tell me a little bit about what it’s like being a principal. It sounds like you’ve done various roles for someone listening who doesn’t really know what the life of a principal is. Like, how would you explain it or give the behind the scenes?


Michelina Battaglini (07:04):
Well it’s really like, everything stops with me. Right? So you know, you’re in charge of, you wanted to put it like a business, like you have all of these different employees, let’s say different levels. So you have your students, you have staff and your staff that’s up into seven different groups, right? Like, so you have secretaries, historians, teachers, educational workers, et cetera. So as a principal, you’re always willing to try to ensure that, you know, children are being educated the best possible way you’re providing all of those opportunities for them order to ensure success so that they can continue in those secondary. So as a principal, there’s a lot on our shoulders I guess. But it’s, it’s rewarding and it’s energizing cause of the, of the people that we serve, which are the young students and being in high school which is very different, right. There’s people that prefer elementary over, but I just love the energy that then. So yeah. I don’t know. I guess that I would say that’s what sums up being a principal, everything just stops with me and I have to make all those decisions. And when I go home at night, I don’t wanna make one decision at all. And it’s like, everybody else can make the decisions I’m done for the day.


Sam Demma (08:21):
Go home. And people are like, what’s for dinner. Yeah.


Michelina Battaglini (08:23):
And it’s like, no,


Sam Demma (08:24):
I don’t know. I somebody else. Yeah.


Michelina Battaglini (08:26):
You tell me and I’ll make it, but


Sam Demma (08:28):
That’s awesome. You got into administration how far into your career and what would you say? You mentioned that the students were rewarding. What would you say are some of the rewarding aspects of, of being a teacher and working in administration?


Michelina Battaglini (08:46):
So I guess so being in the classroom and when you have students in there who are eager to learn or always trying to do their best, I think that is so rewarding. Right. I to see how kids want to please another person, but in the same time learn is just, I dunno, it’s, it’s magical for me, I guess if you wanna use that word. And just their eagerness. So like what, and being a high school teacher, when you transition from that grade 10 to 11 years and being a chemistry teacher, which I love doing the grade 11 chemistry course was one that a lot of kids have a hard time wrapping their heads. Right. And because of the concept that you’re teaching, but it was just, it was so wonderful to see when it child finally understood what we were talking about.


Michelina Battaglini (09:38):
It was almost like this sense of clarity came upon them when you’re in the classroom. You’re like, wow, you’re like miss now I get it. Mm. And so just knowing that they get it, and then they have this sense of comfort, whatever that, that definitely working. So I started teaching, loved the teaching part, but then there were people in, in the school who obviously saw something more in me. So they started encouraging me to move forward, becoming an administrator. So, but in the interim I was taking on like schoolwide initiative where I was in charge of student council like the new teacher. And then, you know, my team of teacher between six of us, we had a, I mean, they came up with amazing things that year, you know, they were also part of rewriting the constitution for the school, which was then from other schools. And then from there I took my courses. I administrator, I was a vice principal and I was happy to be a vice principal, but people were like, you know, you should be a principal. So I’ve always had a lot positive encouragement. And then even from like teachers and other adults, and I think that’s, what’s yeah. Gotten to where I am right now, their, their belief in me. Cause sometimes I think on, do I, can I do it? So is, is


Sam Demma (10:58):
Mentioned making lots of decisions. I’m certain, there are some days where you have to make decisions that are extremely difficult on those days. What keeps you hopeful and motivated?


Michelina Battaglini (11:15):
Ultimately it’s my, when I make any decision is what’s best with this. So what I think is the best thing for kids. Sometimes some people don’t think it is because for them it looks like it’s more work. Right. and so if I always keep that at the center of my decision, I don’t, I don’t waiver from that. And as long as I have points to defend why I’m, I’m making that decision. Even though people try to challenge me on some of my decisions, they do see where I’m coming from. And, and I mean, you know, I don’t always just make a decision and not consult with people. I do speak to my vice principal or I’ll speak to other teachers right up to an area that I’m not fully familiar with. But those hard decision days where, you know, you’re gonna have people that aren’t gonna be happy. Ultimately it’s, what’s best for kids and that’s for me then not just, that’s the reason why I make that decision and I go ahead with them, no matter how hard it’s gonna be, I will


Sam Demma (12:14):
Keep calm and carry on.


Michelina Battaglini (12:16):
Yes, exactly. Gee, I wonder where you saw that.


Sam Demma (12:22):
That’s amazing. I think that’s a really solid piece of advice. Keeping the students wellbeing at the center of your decisions, you kind of can’t go wrong. No. What do you, you, what do you think reflecting on your experience in administration have been some of the programs you brought in the school, things that you have done that have had a positive impact on school, community students that you are really proud of and that you and your team are proud of?


Michelina Battaglini (12:52):
So I know so in my previous school where I was a principal I think some of the most important students in a school and the way our school is from different feelers, we have our special needs classes that are part of the school and some school boards, we have segregated schools, but integrated and, and also those students are integrated into classes, but I feel it’s important to have integrated into the entire of the school. And I think there’s a lot of learning that goes on working with those students, not just for adults, but even for other kids. So at my last school and I had a great staff as well, I, I pushed forward that I integrated those students and everything. So if there was a presentation, they were part of it and were, was beautiful to see from there was that they then took on schoolwide initiatives, right.


Michelina Battaglini (13:41):
Where they ran things that all the other students participated in. But then students during their day, like regular students couldn’t leave the school during, couldn’t leave the school that day, if they didn’t go up to seeing their students in that session. And for me, that’s like just that, that empathy towards those individuals. And then when events would come up, we would see our, you know, students in mainstream actually coming out to invite these students to participate. So when we were at semi formal at one one year they, you know, the student, the students in the special needs programs attended. And so they would get up and dance, but at one point then all the other kids and to dance. And so it was, it’s just that whole students brings or and I think that that was very forceful because it just sort of became part of the norm. Right. We would never exclude them. They’re always part of everything we do. And they actually lead a lot of things. So that for me, was an important for kids to realize that we all have something to contribute in, in society. We just have different ways of doing it, but we have to acknowledge and appreciate all that. That was one for sure that


Sam Demma (15:07):
I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that story. It’s feel good one for sure. That’s amazing. If you could take the experiences you’ve had in education, bundle them all up, travel back in time to when you were just starting top yourself on the shoulder and say, Hey, Lina, this is what you needed to hear when you were just beginning knowing what you know now, like what advice would you have gave or given to your younger self?


Michelina Battaglini (15:38):
Slow down, listen and be flexible. Because when I think back when I was a teacher, when I first came in in science, of course, I’m very sort of geared towards one way. You know, for me a mark was a mark, it was a mark. And I, I wasn’t as flexible in my, you know, working with a student or, I mean, I was always compassionate that I offered extra help. But for me was, if this is what you showed me, then that’s what the final mark is. But then once you get into administration where I even worked in the special education department became, so everyone learns differently. And I think as educators, that’s one of our biggest faults is that we go into it cause we love it. But we neglect to remember that not everybody learns like this. And so even though we try to teach the way we love, not everybody loves to learn that way. And so going back to my younger self would be more open, listen to the kids you know, asking what they want and, and, and education is really changing in that group right now. But yeah, I think that’s it. Yeah. Slow down, listen, and, and just, and be flexible because every kid starts at a different level and any level of progress is progress. Right. So, yeah. That’s it.


Sam Demma (17:00):
Describe a little more why you mentioned listening, how has listening played a huge impact on bringing you to where you are today?


Michelina Battaglini (17:11):
Let’s see. Well, I think sometimes we, especially, even in the business of our jobs, we, we think one way and then we just keep on going, right. That’s the right way to do it. But when you actually stop and listen to others, people have good ideas that you need to take into account when you’re making decisions. And, and as an administrator, I mean, you know, I say, yes, the buck starts with me, but I have to listen to a of people before I make that decision. And I think you hear a lot, not just from the words of saying, but just on their actions. And I think that helps form the decisions you make or the direction you take from certain things. So yeah, that listening piece is, is definitely important. And it helps you in every day, not just in school, but like dealing with other people as well. I don’t think we listen that I think we make judgment and, and come up with answers. We want them to say, or we convince them to say, but really listen to someone. Cause everything that everything people say has a message and it might not be the words they’re using. It’s something else.


Sam Demma (18:19):
Once somebody told me, you have two years in one mouth, so you should, you should listen twice as much as you speak.


Michelina Battaglini (18:24):
Exactly. And, and it’s so true. You should have used that line too. I forgot about that, but it’s true. I


Sam Demma (18:30):
Well, being Italian, I laughed because I thought this is not true in my culture.


Michelina Battaglini (18:35):
No, that’s my culture too. No, no one actually listens. Everyone just talks. And we know that, right. When you’re in a room, you can’t hear anything except one voice over another or


Sam Demma (18:45):
Yeah, but I couldn’t agree more. It’s so true, listening is so important; not only for administrators and teachers, but for communication with anybody you have to understand where someone’s coming from to have any form of a relationship. If, if someone listens to this, wants to reach out, ask you a question, bounce some ideas around, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Michelina Battaglini (19:10):
So, because I’m still working right now, that seems to be the email that I, I check the most. ‘Cause the other ones, you know, they pile up and it’s like, delete, delete, delete. So yeah, it’s my work email, which is


Sam Demma (19:26):
Awesome. Michelina, thank you so much for taking some time this afternoon to come on the show. I really appreciate it. You up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Michelina Battaglini (19:34):
Perfect. Thank you.


Sam Demma (19:37):
I believe that educators deserve way more recognition, which is why I’ve created the High Performing Educator awards. In 2022, 20 educator recipients will be shortlisted. Each of whom will be featured in local press, invited to record an episode on the podcast, and spotlighted on our platform. In addition, the one handpicked winner will be presented with an engraved plaque by myself. I will fly to the winner’s city to present this to them and ask that they participate in a quick photo shoot and interview on location. The coolest part; nominations are open right now and they close October 1st, 2022. So please take a moment to apply or nominate someone you know or work with that deserves this recognition. You can do so by going to www.highperformingeducator.com/award; we can never recognize educators enough.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Michelina Battaglini

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.

Cody Huseby – Teacher at Red Deer Catholic Schools

Cody Huseby – Teacher at Red Deer Catholic Schools
About Cody Huseby

Cody Huseby (@Huseby88) is a proud Dad, Husband to an amazing wife, Grade 3 Teacher, Hockey Linesman, Man behind the Liger. He loves his school and loves his life!

Connect with Cody: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Father Henri Voisin School

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS)

How To Use Google Meet – Teachers Guide For Distance Learning Tutorial

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. We are joined today by another special guest. His name is Cody Huseby. He’s a proud father, husband to an amazing wife, grade 3 teacher, and a hockey linesman. It was recommended by a previous guest by the name of Chris that we bring Cody on the show today and I’m so glad he made the connection because Cody’s an awesome educator. I hope you enjoy our conversation, I will see you on the other side. Cody, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show virtually. Why don’t you start off by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind why you got into education and, you know, why you’re passionate about the work you do today?


Cody Huseby (01:21):
For sure. Yeah. So like you mentioned there, my name’s Cody Huseby. I teach here in at Father Henri Voisin School in Red Deer, Alberta. And I teach grade five and I do a little bit of lift as well. So I get the pleasure to work with a number of other teachers in our school, and you know, help guide them and also help with their students and type of thing. So a lot of fun, great school. And yeah, I think just overall why I got into education from the beginning is just, I just really enjoyed building relationships and, and you know, my mom had a day home for a lot of years and she always had always babysat teachers’ kids. And I guess maybe I just kind of really held other teachers, that the parents are those of those kids in, in high esteem.


Cody Huseby (02:14):
And I was really fortunate to have some amazing teachers growing up. I, I, I came from Rocky mountain house, grew up in Rocky mountain house and went to a small key to 12 school Catholic school and had some amazing teachers there. Some teachers that are still teaching out there actually. And yeah, I guess that’s just kind of where things always looked up to them and, and kind of led me into education and I’ve been really fortunate and, and I haven’t regretted us single thing. So it’s it’s been really good.


Sam Demma (02:47):
Yeah. That’s awesome. And yeah, you know, you mentioned that you had teachers that played a huge impact on you. Like if you had to explain why, like, like what did they do that made them so great and impactful in your own personal?


Cody Huseby (03:01):
I think it was always you know, just that kind of, that kind of that person that you knew that you almost like another parent, right. Where you, you felt comfortable in their classroom and you felt comfortable if you seen them, especially growing up in a, Rocky’s a fairly small town. You know, if you’ve seen them around the community, they, they would say hi to you and, and, and make you feel like a real person. And I guess I always just kind of really admired that and, and you know, just the opportunity to, to kind of reach out and especially those, those kids who maybe need a little bit of extra support in their life. And I you know, for whatever reason, but just giving them that extra support and, and making them feel like, like they are actually a, you know, a person and that we care and it’s not just, you know, we’re saying hi to ’em cause we have to in the community or whatever else we actually, you know, care and we want to invest in what they’re doing, both inside the school and outside the school as well.


Cody Huseby (03:59):
So


Sam Demma (04:00):
Nice. And I’d have to imagine teaching this year is a little different yeah. How’s, how’s it been going with your grade fives and like, what does it look like right now for you?


Cody Huseby (04:12):
Yeah, it’s, it’s been different for sure. It’s we we’ve been fortunate enough in in Alberta and in red deer, we’ve, we’ve been able to be in, in the classroom since September. And and we are really fortunate at our school, our case count and our case numbers have been fairly low. We’ve had a couple, couple situations, but we’ve been really lucky. Hmm. And, and it’s, it’s felt fairly normal to be honest from from September that’s my opinion. It might not be the opinion of us, but, but no it’s been, it’s been fairly normal, you know, we’re doing the right things in terms of you know, trying to keep the kids apart with social distancing, it looks a little bit different in the classroom and it, it, it feels, I guess probably the biggest change that, that you notice in the school is is that kind of community building piece isn’t there, we’ve had to kind of get creative with you know, we can’t bring all the students together to the gym and do things that we would normally do as a whole school community.


Cody Huseby (05:10):
So that piece is really lacking and that, and we’ve noticed that as teachers and I’m sure the students have noticed as well, but you know, we, we are really fortunate to be in, in the classroom. I know I was talking to my neighbor yesterday and we’re actually back online right now. The case numbers have got a little crazy in Alberta and they did the right thing in my opinion, and we’re back online, but it just really makes me appreciate the in person learning and, and the value that, that in person learning has, what, whether it being, you know, the kids, just getting a chance to talk to each other and share their day and, and and that kind of stuff, but just, you kind of lose that a little bit when you’re in the online virtual atmosphere, it’s more kind of all business. Yeah. Which is it’s, it’s different. Right. And it’s, you can tell it kind of, it, it does play a, a effect on the, it has an effect on the kids from the mental side of things. So hopefully if the numbers do the right thing here, it’s only, they’re only saying two weeks, but you know, we’ll see how it goes and hopefully we can get back in the classroom.


Sam Demma (06:24):
Yeah. I agree, man. It’s, it’s interesting. I think the moments that were most impactful for me were moments where I, like I gave my teacher a high five, or he like tapped me on the back and like encouraged me to try something or told me I great job, you know, like there’s, there are so many things that, that were effective for me as a high school student and an elementary school student that couldn’t really be replaced with an online model of school. So it’s, it’s tough. And it’s weird. And I’m curious to know, like how do we still ensure that students feel appreciated and heard and valued when it’s, when the learning style or the learning situation is a little different.


Cody Huseby (07:04):
Yeah. I think, you know, we’re, we’re trying to, it’s been kind of a, a, you know, teachers have had to pivot and pivot pretty quickly and they’ve done a, a really amazing job in my opinion. Yeah. I agree. You know, some of the, some of the ways that the, that different teachers have of reached out and, and tried to engage the kids whether it be making funny videos we got a, a teacher at our school that’s really creative and super crazy, and he always makes these crazy videos the other day. He was in, you know, swimming with a scuba gear on, in the hot tub and you know, just guys just going the extra mile to to kind of reach out to the kids. And that’s, you know, I’ve, we, I’ve got three kids myself, so I’ve, I’ve been able to see you know, how different teachers have, have kind of done it with my kids as well in terms of instruction.


Cody Huseby (07:51):
And, and I, I think you know, just with really leveraging technology and you know, there’s lots of technology that’s been available to us now, thankfully to help us you know, kind of break down that barrier and still connect with kids, whether it be jumping on one, on one Google meets and, and still reaching out to them that way. I think there’s definitely, there’s definitely ways to do it. It’s definitely a little bit harder. Like you said, that, that instant connection of walking to a student’s desk and sitting down one on one and helping with them, or, you know, just giving them a little bit of motivation or encouragement. It’s a little bit harder for sure. It’s, sometimes it’s a little bit, it’s, it’s almost that interesting role reversal. When we first went on online learning last spring, it was something that we’ve as teachers we ever experienced before, where we were almost at the mercy of, of the students. Mm. In terms of we are sitting from behind the screen, and if they didn’t reach out to us, we didn’t really know where they’re at with things, or if everything was good or if they had questions or whatever else. Right. So we really had to put the onus on them to to do that. And, you know, at an elementary level, it’s, that’s a hard thing to do for those students to, to do that. So it was a really interesting dynamic there.


Sam Demma (09:11):
Yeah, I agree. I agree. And you know, you mentioned some of those teachers that, that really impacted you when you were a student and they’re still teaching, you wanna share some of their names or where they’re at now as well. Just give ’em a little shout up. Yeah,


Cody Huseby (09:26):
For sure. Yeah. Yeah. For sure. Yeah. Yeah. Just some some teachers back in, in Rocky at St. Matt’s they they’re actually one, the, he was a principal at St. Dominic’s now the high school in Rocky, but he’s retiring this year pat Hughes. Mm. My, my mom babysat for, for them for a long time. And he was my high school science teacher. Wow. Awesome human and an awesome teacher. And yeah, there’s, there’s a whole list of, of, of them back at St. At St. Matt’s that are, are still there. And it’s, it’s kind of cool too, cuz we, we have division PD days. I, I worked in the same division as them, so I’ll still see them when they come in for you know, on division PD days and nice. You know, it’s always that awkward thing. Like if you’re, you know, when you’re an adult, do you call them by their first name now? Or do you still call them by their Yeah. Oh, it’s interesting. But no for sure. Lots of really amazing teachers out there.


Sam Demma (10:21):
Oh, awesome. And if you could go back to your first year as a teacher and give your younger self advice, like knowing what you know now and, you know, based on the experiences you’ve already had, what would you tell your younger self?


Cody Huseby (10:38):
Oh, I don’t know so many lessons. I think I think the one thing is, is just maybe, maybe just slow things down a little bit, you know, it’s especially in the teaching world, I think it’s always you know, you see lots of things out there, right? There’s there’s usually a lot of new initiatives that are being brought in and there’s you know, tons of things that you’ll see online and see different teachers do and you know, the opportunities to, to grow and to, to learn new things are endless, but sometimes you can get bogged down and you know, trying, trying to do too many new things and trying to you know, jump from one, one new thing to another new thing. And, and I know I’ve been guilty of of, you know, just trying too many things and then maybe not seeing those things through and, and giving them the, the time that they deserve. And then, and you know, maybe something could have been really good, but maybe I didn’t really like how I was going. And then I decided to jump to something else. So, you know, maybe it’s just you know, try to slow things down a little bit and instead of trying to do too much yeah. You know, just try to perfect. What’s what you’re doing so


Sam Demma (11:55):
Nice. Yeah. I agree with you. And I, I know moments where that happened in my own life. It’s a whole idea of like chasing two rabbits, you end up catching none of them, you know, so that’s awesome. Exactly. Yeah. I love that. And if a teacher wants to reach out to you, maybe have a conversation and connect, like what would be the best way for them to do so to get in touch with you? Is it over email or like what would be your preferred way?


Cody Huseby (12:20):
Yeah, I think yeah, definitely an email would work. I’m also fairly active on Twitter. Sometimes Twitter, especially to nowadays is a little bit dangerous, but I like to go on there and even, you know, just, there’s lots of really good ideas. I know even just last couple days people are so willing to share new ideas, especially in, in the ed tech world. You can learn so much, so much free PD from, from Twitter. So if people wanna reach out @Huseby88. It’s just my kind of corny, but it’s my referee number, but they can reach me there.


Sam Demma (13:01):
Awesome. And did you and Chris ref, did you and Chris ref together by any chance?


Cody Huseby (13:08):
Yeah, we, we have. We’ve refed a few games together for sure. Not a whole bunch recently, but back a few years ago we would work the odd junior B game together. Yep. You bet.


Sam Demma (13:21):
That’s awesome. Cool, cool. Awesome. Well, look, Cody, thank you so much for, for coming on the show today. I really appreciate it, continue doing awesome work, and I’ll talk to you soon.


Cody Huseby (13:34):
Awesome. Thanks Sam.


Sam Demma (13:36):
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 Cody Huseby

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.

Ryan Laughlin – Leadership Teacher at Bluefield High School

Ryan Laughlin – Leadership Teacher at Bluefield High School
About Ryan Laughlin

Ryan Laughlin (@stickr10) is a proud Bluefield Bobcat from Prince Edward Island. Ryan is a veteran Physical Education and Leadership educator at Bluefield High School.

Ryan prides himself on physical fitness, servant leadership, and teaching engaging lessons that serve to develop leadership skills.

This has been a memorable year for Ryan as he received the physical education teaching excellence awarded by the Physical Education Association of PEI. In addition, Ryan is married to his favourite educator, Sam, and is a loving Dad to Huxley & Sloane.

Connect with Ryan: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Bluefield High School

PEI Teachers’ Federation

Physical Education Association of PEI

Great Cycle Challenge – Riding to Fight Kids’ Cancer

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 we have on another special guest, he goes by the name of Ryan Laughlin. Ryan is a proud Bluefield Bobcat from Prince Edward Island. He is a veteran physical education and leadership teacher at Bluefield High School and prides himself on physical fitness, servant leadership and teaching engaging lessons that serve to develop student’s leadership skills.


Sam Demma (01:02):
This has been a memorable year for Ryan as he received the physical education teaching excellence award by the physical education association of PEI, and in addition, Ryan is married to his favorite educator, Sam, and is a loving dad to Huxley and Sloan. Ryan is an awesome individual. He also has a huge passion for biking, and his approach to teaching is very student centric, as I’m sure you’ll experience and feel through our conversation here today. Enjoy it and I will see you on the other side. Ryan, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here this afternoon. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind the reason why you got into education?


Ryan Laughlin (01:44):
Sure, so my name’s Ryan Laughlin. I live on prince Edward island. I’m a high school physical educator and a leadership teacher. So my roots to education, I think I kind of started off in junior high for myself. I had a high school or my junior high basketball coach was also my Principal and my girlfriend’s father at the time. So he instilled a lot of confidence in us through fundamentals. Really going through that, and I had a lot of respect for him as a coach and as an educator. And as I kind of navigated through my high school experience, I’m high energy; love sport, basketball; my passion. I had another teacher and coach actually Mike Leslie, who was my leadership teacher and my basketball coach, and we have a relationship to this day and I spent a lot of time and he showed me how he could, you could be personal, professional, and make an impact. And that kind of stuck with me, and that kind of took me to education. And here I am today.


Sam Demma (02:46):
I wanna elaborate on that for a second. When you say personal professional and make an impact, what did that mean to him? And, and what does that mean to you? Like what was that philosophy that he passed down on to you?


Ryan Laughlin (02:56):
I guess for me, what I admired about him was if it was on the basketball court or in the classroom or outside of the building, when we had a relationship after I graduated he was the same personable person. You know, there’s differences when you’re in the classroom and on the court and out there. But with him, you, he was very authentic and a, I respected that and it was something that I wanted to take with me into my teaching practice, where you can build those relationships and have those, those conversations and connect through commonalities with your students or players. And then have those relationships later on. I know we would go, I used to run a minor baseball program in the so, and we’d have the afternoons off cause I would run games in the evening and practice it in the morning. And he had a, he had a inground pool and a beach volleyball court. So my task was to find either teammates of myself or peers and we would go over and we would spend the afternoon there, have a great time. And yeah, so it was, I enjoyed that, having that connection through the similar interests with him. And that was something that I tried to connect with my students every day.


Sam Demma (04:07):
And then, you know, you met him and he mentored you along the way and you drew some inspiration from him. What actually directed you into university into teachers college. Like I’m sure you could have took those passions in multiple directions. Like what directed it towards specifically, you know, being a teacher.


Ryan Laughlin (04:22):
Sure. with me, I love relationships building relationships. I enjoy having those with teachers, myself as a student and getting to know them and having those conversations and having the ability to listen and take that experience and soak it and take it with me. So, and I enjoyed the day to day where every day was a clear slate you came in, you didn’t know what was gonna happen. I, I guess I try to thrive in being flexible, adaptable, and personable throughout my day and making those positive impacts through the hallways and saying hello in the hallways and know students names and what they’re up to and asking them. And I guess with me, that was, I enjoyed that with working with kids, especially at the high school level where they’re making big decisions that are gonna impact their futures and understanding that and helping them where I can help ’em and, and seeing them grow from entering our building in grade 10 and leaving in grade 12 in and seeing the difference and the maturity that they have and the confidence of them going out to whatever they’re gonna do after they leave our building.


Sam Demma (05:31):
Nice love that. Love that. And you know, I’m sure some of your previous years of teaching look a little bit different than this year of teaching. Yeah. What are some of the differences, some of the positive aspects of it and also some of the challenging aspects of the differences this year?


Ryan Laughlin (05:49):
Sure. so, you know, when in previous years things were free flowing and to be honest, I probably took it for granted a little bit and now going through a pandemic and, and seeing like where we have been going through and the different restrictions that are in place. And I know everything was easier. And like I said, I took things for granted now since March. I know when we started our lockdown my wife is a essential worker, so she was still going to work every day. Wow. And I was home with two toddlers the age of four and two, and I’d be going through virtual meetings while they’re running around upstairs. So it was a challenge then and for myself personally, to keep myself grounded to realize that we’re all going through this and trying to be paid with myself and my children at the same time.


Ryan Laughlin (06:40):
But yeah, it’s, you know, there’s been some positives definitely that have come from the pandemic like this podcast and connecting with you and doing some cool things, hopefully in the future that wouldn’t have probably happened. Other than the pandemic and for us too here on prince Edward island, we’re in a very unique position. We’ve been in class 98% of the year. I know the rest of the country is not like that. And I do not take that for granted. And I think with that, I embrace every day that I get to enter the building and have those personal relationships with students.


Sam Demma (07:13):
Yeah. I love that. And I think trying to see the bright side of things is a very important, you know, quality and trait to have not only as an educator, but for every human being. That’s right. I know you had a close friend, you know, who passed away at a young age and you’ve kind of gleaned inspiration off his experiences and it’s led you to cycling and running. And I would love for you to share a little bit about that story very quickly. Cause I find it very inspirational and hope and, and hope driven.


Ryan Laughlin (07:37):
Sure. So when the pandemic had started I had always had the thought that I was gonna get into cycling. I live in an area that’s very friendly for cycling and it’s something I have kind of pushed off. So I had purchased a, a bike during that time. And at the same time I had a player. So I do coach basketball. I’m an assistant coach at Holland college for the men’s basketball program. And we get, we get a lot of players from different walks of life. This individual was from prince Rhode Island which is rare for us. We don’t get a lot of boundaries who play on our team cause we have people from Ontario and Bahamas and so on. So he was a, he was an individual who had a impact on me on the court when he had played for us.


Ryan Laughlin (08:18):
And he had purchased the bike and he was making some big changes in his life. He was inspired through running. He had gone through some injuries, a tough year and his health, he had a couple health scares, so he decided to turn it around and was inspiring people through running. And he was posting on Instagram, a lot of inspirational, his recovery, his rehab his approach. And he had just actually connected with me cuz he had been out of our team for a couple of years at this point. Wow. And he had just purchased the bike as well. He had, he had been running in the calendar club, which we had spoken about there, which is run a mile for every day in the calendar. And he was going through that to the point where he was waking up in the morning and running in snowstorms before work and then running afterwards.


Ryan Laughlin (09:04):
There’s a picture of him with a fair of snow goggles and icing his beard. And anyway, so he had finished that and when he, he had injured himself through it, he got himself a bike and he went out for a leisurely ride on a, a Friday night, Friday evening and tragically, his second ride. He was hit by a drunk driver suddenly and he lost his life. So it was very sudden and it had impacted, I know our coaching staff. I remember getting the call Saturday morning. I was cutting my grass and I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. It was too bad cuz he was just building momentum, making the right choices in his life, inspiring former teammates and a whole bunch of other people. And when I saw that he had a lot of posts that really resonated within myself to push yourself, take advantage of the, the experiences in front of you.


Ryan Laughlin (09:54):
And don’t wait until next time. Cause you don’t know when that’s gonna be. So one thing that I had hum trying to figure out how I could pay homage to or a tribute him. So I decided to do a, a tribute through cycling for him and I, this was my first summer cycling and I decided I was gonna cycle 465 miles for the summer in his memory. And I would go through Strava and post them on Facebook or wherever on social media and to get his name out there and the impact he was having and our one thing, his running community, his basketball C, they all came around it. So I was just doing a small little piece but he was all about making a positive difference and he put a challenge out to fight the good fight, make a difference, something that’s bigger than you. And for me that really hits home. And it really has driven my passion around servant leadership. And I feel like he was a perfect example of that. And I take that close to hire when I approach my leadership classes and I’d actually use examples with him and how he’s made a huge impact on me through cycling and through my approach on a day to day basis as well. So Jake Simmons is his name and I, I think about him literally every bike ride I go on and his memory’s strong here in prince, so


Sam Demma (11:09):
Yeah. Ah, that’s awesome, man. That’s so cool. And what’s the next, what’s the next milestone for Ryan in terms of bike? Do you plan on, you know, yeah. Setting a new higher goal or, you know, has it just become a passion and a hobby now and you just enjoy doing it on your spare time? Like what does it look like?


Ryan Laughlin (11:25):
So I’m hoping this summer, our island is our province I should say is, is quite small compared to the rest of the country. So my goal is actually cycle tip to tip on prince Edward, Rhode Island. We have a trail that goes tip to tip. So it’s about 265 kilometers. So my goal is to do that over a few days with a friend of mine. Nice. And so yeah, I’m starting to train for that now, get myself ready. And I’m also gonna continue my challenge, how I accepted Jake’s challenge actually at the end, after my 4 65 challenge is I cycled for the great cycle challenge, which is in support for the sick kids foundation. So I’m gonna continue on his legacy through the, the great cycle challenge. And I had my goal at 500 kilometers for a month last year and I raised about $1,500. So I’m gonna try, I surpassed that this year. So that’s my, that’s my hope.


Sam Demma (12:16):
Nice man. Very cool. I love that. And I think that, you know, it, it suits you well, like it, it sounds like the characteristics you’ve built very much suit you as a leadership teacher, not to say that you don’t teach other courses, but like I can tell how passionate you are about the soft skills and the learning experiences and the characteristics of building, you know, character in, in us as young people. Like it just, it just it’s obvious. So I think you’re in the right position. If, if school was a team, which it is yes. I’m curious though, when you were growing up, you know, you mentioned some of your teachers that had a huge impact on you. Are there any other ones that you like just stick out in your mind, like a sore thumb, like this person really inspired me and influenced the way that I am. And I’m curious to know what they did specifically that had an impact on you. And if it wasn’t a specific educator, maybe someone in your life like a coach or, you know, a parent or a teacher or a family member.


Ryan Laughlin (13:10):
Okay. You know, as a, as a sport enthusiast, I relate to a lot of my development through sport. I think I’ve got a lot of character of my journey through sport. Yeah. And I think I, with coaching, I think I have done that as well. And there’s a couple instances there. Like with Glen, with the, the strong firm, quiet confidence, instilling that through those actions that he had he had a great way where he was very professional and disciplined and I enjoyed how he was able to take that, but still keep as confident as possible. And Mike being my leadership teacher who was also my high school basketball coach, he I enjoyed his class. He made it fun. He made it engaging. He, he knew how to have conversations. He could ground, he was lighthearted. And he, and he knew the impact he was making in a class like leadership.


Ryan Laughlin (13:59):
And I think I tried to do that as much as I can with my kids. Welcome up the door, ask him how their evening was if they had a rugby game, like in the spring, we’re going through now. And just seeing the personal development, that’s something that he was able to take me from my start of my semester, to the end of my semester. And I really, I really enjoyed it and it really stuck with me. And I wanted to have that same impact on youth and having those conversations and, and helping them along the way with where they’re at, what they’re dealing with. Cause everyone’s different and trying to be that positive role model who can instill confidence and, you know, hear their point of view and help them make big decisions in their life, or at least help them be a little more com comfortable or confident in those. And I think that’s why I enjoy leadership so much is they walk in as an individual. I, I really truly believe they walk out a different individual and that’s my goal is to help them find their, their craft, their confidence. That could be, it could be very upfront or it could be very quiet. Everyone’s a little bit different, but I think it’s very impactful whichever way that is.


Sam Demma (14:59):
Yeah. I agree. And, you know, learning for your school, isn’t too different than normal with, you know, being in the classroom so much, but I’m sure there are some stipulations and differences despite the differences or the challenges. What are some of the things you’ve done with your leadership students this year that you found great success in or that you thought the students really enjoyed? And you also got a lot out of it as an instructor and a teacher.


Ryan Laughlin (15:20):
Sure. So this semester I, I would be lying to you, but I didn’t say I wasn’t nervous going into it with being leadership. I really pride my course and curriculum on giving them as many experiences where they can craft their philosophies and their skills. So I was a little nervous going into it, but I think with every challenge, there’s a way to be creative and find new opportunities and be it, this one podcast, I have really tapped into podcasts, which I found to be as tool that I would never have probably have about until this semester. So I know we had a conversation you know, I find with that discussing experiences and reflecting intentional reflection is really important. So I actually wanna give a show to Alan se who you head out on the show. Nice. I, I mimicked his, this season’s podcast where they unpacked quotes with a group of them and had modeled respectful conversations.


Ryan Laughlin (16:17):
So I kind of took that and ran with it. And I had a Socratic seminar and they had their all their own quotes. And we actually had listened to one of Allen signs to give them an example of the conversation and how they transitioned and keeping it respectful, even though they may have a difference in opinion. And we had a seminar of two classes and I was blown away with the conversation the points that were made so much so that we came back and did it a second day because the, the students founded so powerful and there was so much meaningful conversation between the students, as a teacher, I sat back and you watch and you hear the conversations and the points of view and how it, they really enjoyed and absorbed a lot from each other. Mm. And I think, I think that kind of pays homage to what Socrates was trying to do with those types of seminars.


Ryan Laughlin (17:06):
So that was one thing that I really enjoyed doing. And I feel like I’m gonna continue to do it in the future. And the other thing you know, you can be creative with your experiences for the kids. So just this morning, actually we usually partnered up with a lot of different organizations here, like big brothers, big sisters, where we go into our feeder schools and we had build relationships. We were unable to do that this year, but we were able to find a connection with special Olympics PEI. Nice. And we students from our junior high will be inclusive ed students who are coming to do a transition day to welcome them to the high school they’re gonna come into and get them a little more comfortable. So we took advantage of that situation because it was already in place. And we, we had a unified Bochy event. So through unified sport, through special Olympics, so


Sam Demma (17:51):
Nice.


Ryan Laughlin (17:51):
Our students organized it, planned it, executed it. We rolled that all morning, had a lot of fun, lot of smiles on people’s faces. And I think the students left excited to be Bobcats in the future.


Sam Demma (18:03):
Nice. That’s awesome. Where, where do you get your ideas from?


Ryan Laughlin (18:07):
Well, I, I would


Ryan Laughlin (18:10):
My mind races. I, I would, I’m always thinking, I’m always thinking I do have a, a teacher, Melanie Headley who was on your podcast in the past there, she stops by my room in the morning or I’ll stop by her room in the morning and we chat and we find things on social media that we maybe have seen both. And we discuss and, you know, she’s been a great resource for me and we kind of built ideas off each other. And I think she’s very similar to me, but we’re always thinking, how can we do these things? How can we be creative? How can we make this a more positive experience for our students? And I, you know, I, I enjoy that. That keeps me young and keeps me engaged. And I feel the students can feel that with me, with the ideas. So that’s what I try to bring to the table every day.


Sam Demma (18:52):
It’s true. I get some of my best ideas in the shower. Like you never knows when they’re gonna come. Right. You just gotta make sure you write ’em down so you don’t forget them. Right. That’s awesome. Okay, perfect. And if you could go back in time, speak to year one of education, Ryan, you know, you first started teaching, knowing what you know now, like what did advice would you give your younger self?


Ryan Laughlin (19:12):
You know, I’ve been thinking about that for a lot. So I’ve been on many bike rides listening to your podcasts, and I’ve heard this question. I’m like, what can I say to that question? Cause there’s a lot of them the biggest one for me would be, be kind to yourself. Hmm. A first year educator coming in, nobody puts more pressure on yourself than you. And I think you gotta realize that not everything is going to be perfect. And I think you need to be okay with that. And if you make small positive movements every day, and I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I have used small, consistent actions. So many times in my class this year, love it with it. And I, I love it. I love it. And I think that’s the same thing. As a teacher, you don’t overwhelm yourself, small steps, build confidence, build comfort, build relationships with your students and be yourself, build your personality into your classroom and how you deliver your students.


Ryan Laughlin (20:11):
Well, respect it, build those relationships. Don’t try to be somebody you are not. I would say early on, I tried to kind of fit in where I was with the staff. I was a little bit older at the time and I think my approach was a little bit different. So I conformed a little bit. And then as I got more comfortable, I built my own craft and built my personality into it. And I would say, I’ve benefited great from it. I’m more comfortable. I enjoy it. The relationships I have built. And I think as a teacher, you can have those relationships and build your personality and be authentic with your students. You don’t need to put yourself up on a pedestal. You don’t need to know everything. You’re there to facilitate learning, not to be the know and all of every type of topic.


Sam Demma (20:52):
Yeah. I was listening to a podcast of Russ instead, rapper, I really look up to because he he’s made more music than some of the best rappers in the game. Like he has 500 pieces of music out because he just kept creating and he wouldn’t stop. And there’s a line in it where he says, look, man, I’m just the vessel I don’t create. I just deliver. And, and that really relates to what you’re just saying. Like, you know, yes, you create as a teacher, but you’re there to be a vessel of learning, not to be the source of information. And the, you know, source of all knowing like you, we’re there to be a vessel of information. Yeah. And there’s always more we can learn. Right. And I think it’s all important.


Ryan Laughlin (21:28):
It’s so true. And I, I loved one of your podcasts just previously. I was listening to the, the teach better team. And I loved when the Ted talk about you don’t have to be better than YouTube. Yeah.


Sam Demma (21:37):
I


Ryan Laughlin (21:37):
Thought that was so fitting. It’s so true. You need to tap into your resources, be resourceful, be a learning facilitator. You want to create critical thinkers and you don’t need to start everything and reinvent the wheel. So true. I really, I really truly believe that I had one colleague say that to me and it has stuck with me.


Sam Demma (21:54):
I love that. Oh, cool. Perfect. Well, look, this has been phenomenal. I’m jealous that you’re on a beach for no one that can see this, ’cause they’re just listening. Ryan has this beautiful virtual background with the Palm tree blowing in the back. If someone wants to reach out, have a conversation and maybe just bounce some ideas around, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you and get in touch.


Ryan Laughlin (22:16):
Sure. So I am on Twitter, I use that all the time. I know educators love it and I can go down a lot of rabbit holes. So my Twitter would be at @stickr10. And my email, which is rjlaughlin@cloud.edu.pe.ca.


Sam Demma (22:37):
Perfect. Perfect Ryan. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Really appreciate you sharing, and I look forward to staying in touch and seeing the future bike rides and cool initiatives in class.


Ryan Laughlin (22:47):
Great, thanks for having me.


Sam Demma (22:48):
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 Ryan Laughlin

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

Julie Hunt Gibbons – Superintendent of Secondary Program & Student Success at Halton District School Board

Julie Hunt Gibbons – Superintendent of Secondary Program & Student Success at Halton District School Board
About Julie Hunt Gibbons

Julie (@SOthinkingabout) is a dynamic school and system leader with a broad range of educational leadership experiences spanning three decades in two different school boards. Demonstrated success in collaborative leadership, strategic, operational, and program planning, faculty development, educational technology, and innovation.

Connect with Julie: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Halton District School Board (HDSB)

Peel District School Board

University of Western Ontario, B.A. in Political Science

University of Windsor, M.A. in Sociology

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 conversation with Julie Hunt Gibbons. Julie is the superintendent of secondary programs and student success at the Halton District School Board, or I should say was the superintendent. She is retiring as of the summer of 2021. I believe right before we recorded she let me know that she would be retiring in the next few days.


Sam Demma (01:06):
So we got her on the show right after her long career in education came to a close. Now she’s a dynamic school leader and system leader with a broad range of educational leadership experiences spanning three decades in two different school boards. And she has a demonstrated track record and success in collaborative leadership, strategic operational, and program planning, faculty development, educational technology, and innovation. You could tell that Julia is super passionate about her work, but the way she got there was a little unique. In fact, she thought she was gonna work in law as you’ll hear about in today’s conversation. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this. I will see you on the other side, take some notes, get a pen, get a sheet of paper and I’ll see you soon. Julie, thank you for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show, just I think 10 days into your retirement. Oh, five days into your retirement. I love it. It’s a pleasure to have you here. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and take us back to the story about what actually got you into education in the first place?


Julie Hunt Gibbons (02:12):
Well, I’m Julie Hunt Gibbons, and I have just retired as a superintendent of education, specifically a program and student success superintendent at the Halton District School Board. So it’s been 30 years, so when you say, take me back, Sam, that’s a long time. So I started teaching in 1991 and I started in the Peel District School Board at a high school that doesn’t exist anymore called Morningstar High School and then I moved to heart lake. So I was up in Maltin in Brampton for the first part of my teaching career and why I became an educator; that’s an interesting one because I didn’t really have that, I want to be a teacher all my life piece. In fact, my undergrad is in political science and sociology, my master’s degree is in criminology with a focus on socio-legal studies, and I was doing that because I thought I wanted to go to law school.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (03:16):
And when I was doing my master’s degree, I was a TA. And then I taught a night school course in first year criminology. And most of the people I taught were adults who were taking it to get a bump in their pay as police officers or correctional officers. And I loved teaching. I really, really loved inspir people and sharing knowledge. And it just sort of went from there. And I I applied for both a PhD and a and to the faculty of education. And I got into both and I sort of explored both for one week panicked and then ended up at the, a city of Toronto doing my bachelor of education and becoming a teacher. And I taught all things in a history department that weren’t history. I taught politics and law and sociology. And so all those grade back then it was grade 13. So all those sort of 11, 12 and 13 core that students can take later in their, their high school career. So,


Sam Demma (04:26):
So I would be correct in saying you had no idea you’d get into teaching.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (04:31):
Absolutely not. My master’s degree was actually completed working in a maximum security women’s facility in SEL, AE, Michigan focused on women who were completing life sentences and in Michigan life is indeterminant life. It’s, it’s not a set time it’s until the day you die. And so I was going back and forth from Windsor to Michigan and doing interviews with women who were incarcerated. My very first job was actually working for lifeline, which is a program in Canada that was four lifers and BI lifers. And I was the executive assistant for this program while I was completing my ma. So no teaching wasn’t ever any part of it. It was all focused in that criminology field. And I, I thought I was going into law or at least a PhD in that area.


Sam Demma (05:24):
Well, you’ve peaked my curiosity now, as someone who interviews educators, you, you said you, you were interviewing women who are facing life sentences. What were those interviews about or, or what did they look like? You just, I’m kind of curious.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (05:36):
Well everyone was already tried and sentenced and incarcerated and serving a life term in the hero on valley maximum security women’s Institute in IIL and Michigan. And our, the interviews were really about what, how they got there. And, and a lot of it was from a feminist perspective and the role of patriarchy in their situations and in their criminal circumstances and then sort of where they were in their own journeys once incarcerated, because of course many had kicked drug habits. Others had found an education. They never were privy to when they were living on the streets, et cetera. And so it was all very qualitative in nature. And it, it was absolutely fascinating because, you know, someone could have been serving a sentence from when they were hooked on heroin and had killed a client in a sex trade piece.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (06:39):
And then now they have three university degrees and were straight and had found God and all the rest, and it didn’t have an impact in any way they were locked up until the end of their days. So it was a very interesting piece. And then when I working on the male side with the lifeline piece through Kingston again I, I loved the educational piece. I realized that that work might not sit well for a, a, a young woman looking to have a family and, and all the rest it was. So I made the decision that I wanted to help people, and I wanted to help people who got to go home at the end of the day.


Sam Demma (07:26):
That’s awesome. What a story. And when you reflect back, can you think of educators that you had in your life that had a huge impact on you that led you towards education? Like you mentioned that you loved teaching. Did you have any teachers who also loved teaching that had an impact on you?


Julie Hunt Gibbons (07:44):
For sure. I did. When I when, when I was a small child and, and, and in high school. And, and I also remember the ones who had the very opposite impact, you know, the, I think the mediocre, the ones that you forget, but the incredible, wonderful, and incredibly not wonderful are the ones that you remember. And I would say I took a, a lot of lessons from those that inspired me and I had the fortunate chance to go back. I went to high school in the us, so I moved, I grew up in Oakville and then we moved to new England and we moved back and I actually graduated from Thomas a Blakelock high school in Oakville. And I was able to do one of my practice teaching students there. And there were, there were some men in the history department who I had had in my grade 13 year when I was there. And it was the ability to be that powerful storyteller. And I think the reason I loved history so much was because of the oratory and the storytelling. That’s how I remembered and did well. I, I got into the story of all of it. And to this day, like I love historical fiction. That is my choice of reading at all times. You’re, you’re learning something, but history has come alive as well.


Sam Demma (09:07):
That’s amazing. And I think what’s so interesting about that is that the teacher that had the biggest impact on me was my history teacher. It was world issues class, but he was just sharing us history. And at the same points relate to, to my passion about storytelling and, and the way he delivered his lessons, which is so cool. You mentioned that, you know, some teachers that are great stuck out to you and some that were not so great, also stuck out to you. And it brought my mind to this quote that every, you know, person or situation were in is either an example or is a, like a caution or like a worry, you know, one example. Yeah. Non-example, I’m trying to think of what the opposite word was. So what are some of the things the best teachers did in your experience that you can remember? And also on the other side of the coin, some of the things you think that those not so great teachers did that had a negative impact on you.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (10:03):
I have always believed that kids don’t care what, you know, until they know what you care. They know that you care, and that’s the most important thing by far. Students need to know that you are the caring adult and that their, their life beyond whatever it, it is that you’re teaching is important. There has to be that human connection. Like we’re not widgets, we’re, we’re not robots, we’re human. And the human connection has to be there. And I always say to starting out teachers, you know, how do you answer the question when someone asks you, what do you teach? You know, and people might say, well, I teach math, I teach science, I teach history, teach students. I teach children. I teach human beings because that’s the most important piece, because when you reflect on your favorite teacher and I reflect on my favorite teacher, I can’t name the lesson. I can’t say what was so great about how they taught. I can only reflect on a feeling that they left me with and that feeling, that how much I enjoy being in their presence and being in that room, because it was engaging and enjoying. And it’s the feeling that you reflect back on that made them your favorite teacher.


Sam Demma (11:13):
I love that. And it’s so true. And what do you think are some of the ways they made you feel great? Like, was it by tapping on the shoulder by personalizing what they were saying to you by giving you a chance to share? Like, what do you think if I know you mentioned this is a long time ago, so it might be hard to pinpoint some specific things,


Julie Hunt Gibbons (11:33):
You know, having worked in the program department for the last number of years and, and seeing a lot of different people teach it’s, it’s the personalization of it. It’s the little things that start it with greeting students at the door, knowing their names, knowing something about them beyond just their name knowing and properly pronouncing someone’s name be having opportunities to form and build trust in relationships. So whether that’s you know, building in opportunities, regardless of what you’re teaching, you know, I could be doing teaching math or teaching geography. I can still use communi or circles and you sharing and, and opportunities where I get to know students beyond just the subject matter of desks and rows, and, you know, Sage on the stage where I’m just really regurgitate, you’re regurgitating what I’ve said. Like that’s, that’s not active teaching in this world today with Google Wikipedia, all those other things.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (12:35):
Students don’t need teachers for facts. Students need teachers to provide the engagement and that joy of education that becomes the self motivating piece to want to learn and to be inspired, to learn. And I think it’s those inspiring pieces that includes the various pedagogy. They’re not doing the same thing all the time being responsive. So one year I might be teaching a grade 10 history class. And I know that most of maybe I have 75% of very active boys in my class, and I better be doing kinesthetic learning and not having them sit there and read and regurgitate and history may be the worst subject for that because history doesn’t change, but we have to be responsive in, in how we teach. And that means knowing them and meeting them where they are. I taught math for the first five years of my career.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (13:33):
Cause there wasn’t enough history there. I don’t have math qualifications in nine and 10 that you could teach the subject. If you had a willingness back when I was doing this. And I, I said, sure, I’ll teach math. And I think the reason I excelled at it is because I told the students right up front in my math that, you know, this wasn’t, I, you know, I didn’t go and graduate from Waterloo and mathematics. I explained things in a way that made them understand it. And I took real world examples and, and I used you know, we were talking about integer and negatives and I, I, I got out that thermometer. We talked about how things look so people could com conceptualize. It made it O okay to ask any questions. There was no such thing as a, as a dumb question. And I, I think that was sort of made it a trusting environment. And when people trust people are more vulnerable and then they’re willing to go further, take greater risks and ultimately learn more.


Sam Demma (14:34):
I was gonna say, it feels like, it sounds like trust is the main ingredient and all the examples you just shared, you know, trusting that the person standing in front of the classroom does care about you trusting that you can ask questions, make a mistake and learn from it in a safe environment. Like it all seems like it stems back to care and trust and compassion. And these sorts of characteristics, those are the ones.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (14:57):
Definitely


Sam Demma (14:59):
Those are the positive experiences. And we don’t have to, you know, spend too much time on the negative. But it’s funny. I find that a thousand people could compliment us in one person, says something negative and it sticks out in your head like a sore thumb. And it’s just, I think it’s a negativity bias that all humans have. And I’m curious to know if you could think back to some of those experiences that were negative as a caution, you know, what are things that you think other educators should never do or not do? You know, based on your experiences.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (15:31):
You’re very right. There, there is a, there’s actually been research done on, on how many positives someone has to hear in order to help balance that one negative piece. And I think back to when I was a small child in elementary school and a music teacher telling me that maybe I shouldn’t sing so loudly and you know, that sort of, that you know, that, that just joy to me, that kids have. And, and then maybe, wow, that was the first time I’ve reflected that maybe I wasn’t the best singer in the world.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (16:09):
But I, I do think that some times as educated, we really have to worry about what we say, because we’re in such a position of trust and people take it to heart. And so comments about levels like D streaming is a big thing in the province right now, right? And so commentary mid by educators about what levels you, you should be taking your courses at. And, and ultimately it should be a student’s choice because only they know how hard they’re working, how hard they’d like to work, what their post-secondary dreams are in any way. And, and you know, who are we to in any way cap those because, you know, people may have to work differing degrees, achieve their dreams, but their dreams are their own. And we have to be very careful that in what we say, that we are not in any way, a stepping on someone’s dreams.


Sam Demma (17:08):
I love that. And it’s so, so true. And I think at a young age, we look up to our teachers and they have, you know, not only are they in a position trust, but you’re technically in a position of influence, you know, what you say is, is listened to, and it might not be accepted, but it’s definitely reflected upon by the students. Most of the time, I would say, and you, you, you’re totally right. You know, if you tell a student you can or cannot do something it could affect them for, for, for years or, or change their perspective, Devon what’s possible for them. Aside from the situation of the singing, can you recall any other situations where something like that happened for you personally?


Julie Hunt Gibbons (17:47):
No. I just remember the overall the feelings, you know? Yeah. Like if you say someone’s name and it’s an association of a feeling of, of either it’s a good feeling, a bad feeling or, or a lack of feeling. Got it. And I think that, that everyone, regardless of what position you’re in, if you’re you know, an EA, a teacher, a vice principal, a principal, a superintendent, the, the goal should be to leave people with a good feeling. Hmm. Because that’s the empowering piece that became, I think most clear to me when I became a vice principal, because often the association for students is the vice principal is where you go, if you’re in trouble. And you know, even now I, I see people and they’re like, oh, you were my vice principal. And I know them and people say, oh, were you, were you a bad kid?


Julie Hunt Gibbons (18:39):
You knew your vice principal. And the answer, the answer is no, there’s no such thing as a bad kid, there are bad choices. And everybody makes bad choices at some point in their life. But just because you knew the vice principal didn’t mean that you, you were a bad kid. And I, I really tried hard as the vice principal. I coached. I was involved in student government. It was just trying really hard to make it, that it wasn’t a place where you went only if you got sent there, because it was a de disciplinary matter.


Sam Demma (19:12):
I love that. And it’s, you know, I’m not far removed from high school. I’m 21. And I, it’s funny because that’s such a very, that’s a true stereotype about the vice principal situation, and I’m glad you broke it. That’s awesome. I love that in terms of positions, you’ve played the whole field in terms of when it comes to education of teaching principal, vice principal superintendent, which of the positions have you found the most fulfilling personally, and what are some of the challenges you faced in it? And how did you overcome those?


Julie Hunt Gibbons (19:46):
I have thoroughly enjoyed every position I was in. So that one, that one is hard. I, I think it was the making the difference piece is what propelled me. So when I was a teacher, then they had, they had this thing called assistant department heads back then they haven’t had that role for a long time. And people pointed out I should apply for role. And I, I did. And then now you’re helping people within the department in a leadership role. And then the next progression was to department head. And then in peel, we had this title, it was super head because it was multiple departments. And it was just sort of what was the next piece. A lot of it was intrinsic as well as extrinsic and people saying to me, oh, you should apply for this. But a lot of it was the feeling that I could make a difference.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (20:46):
So moving from the classroom into administration, a, a lot of it was that I wanted to make a difference for more students. And I thought I could in that role because now I didn’t just have the students in my classroom who I saw every day. I had the students in the school and I was a secondary vice principal at Erindale secondary school in peel for five years. And back in the day Erindale was a very large school. And I know that I got to help a lot more students in that role than I did just when I was in the class. And, and then the next logical piece was then principal. And I was the principal at Warren park in south Missisauga. And again, the, the leadership and the tone of the school comes from the front office.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (21:44):
And I’ve always believed that, and I’ve always lived that and seen and knew that that was something that I was gonna ensure that the tone that came from any office that I was running was a very positive one and one that was student focused and students first. And it was, and when I left Lauren Park, I went to Halton and I was the principal at Nelson high high school. And then I was the principal at Oak culture, Fager high school before coming, becoming a superintendent. And even the move to superintendent was sort of, I had been a principal in three, in three different schools and two different school boards. And it, it was sort of, so what do I do next for my own per personal learning and growth, because I, I do see myself as a lifelong learner. And what is that next step? And so then as a superintendent, you are now that critical friend to a whole group of principles who you’re overseeing and supporting. And then as well, taking on the portfolio of program and student success, which is all focused on pedagogy and assessment and evaluation. Now I’m having that impact on the classrooms again as well. And so I would say I enjoyed all of those rules at the time, and each one sort of fit the stage of life that I was in.


Sam Demma (23:06):
There’s definitely at least a dozen educators listening, who are asking themselves similar questions. How can I make a bigger difference? How can I make a greater impact on more students on the entire school, on the educational system as a whole, in my entire school board. And they might be wondering, you know, Julie, how did you, how did you make the ascent? And if you could go back and speak to your younger self and give younger Julie advice you know, before moving up all these different positions, what advice would you give yourself?


Julie Hunt Gibbons (23:42):
Balance for sure. I think anyone who’s reflecting on this has to make sure that they’re reflecting on the bigger picture of work life balance that is very, very important and necessary for your success. EV everyone’s family situations are different. Everyone’s home responsibilities are different, and what you’re doing has to fit within where you are in your own life journey. At the time, this was brought home to me back in 2012, I was diagnosed with cancer and I was off work. I had to undergo surgery and chemo and everything else, and I am an ovarian cancer survivor, and I’ve been clear now for seven years. So that was the biggest wake up call to me about the work life balance at full confession. I do have that workaholic tendency work has always brought me a great deal of pleasure and therefore doing more of it.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (24:43):
I just, I’ve always been that way. Having and cancer really gave me pause to stop and think and think about it. And it’s one of the reasons I retired at my first eligibility. So in teaching your age and your year service has to equal a minimum of 85 in order to get your full pension. So I, I turned 55 this year and I’ve completed 30 years of teaching, which makes me 85, which means that I am my first eligibility to retire. And I took that, and I know I shocked a lot of people cuz they were like, you’re too young to retire. But as much as I love my job, I also love my family and I love life and I want to experience more of life on my terms. And you know, it’s not a job that you can do.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (25:36):
Part-Time right. It’s a big job, a superintendent, it’s a big job with long hours. And I wanted to be more the captain of my own ship and of more of that flexibility. And, and so that’s why I did take the opportunity and I’m looking forward to doing all sorts of things on my terms. So I still am that lifelong learner. I spend an awful lot of time listening to books, reading books. I, I get a great deal of pleasure out of learning new things. And I think I will continue to do that.


Sam Demma (26:10):
I love that. That’s such an awesome way to wrap up this conversation today. You’re five days into this new journey of living life on your terms, which is amazing. Congratulations, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing, you know, the story of overcoming cancer. That’s amazing and I’m sure your overcoming of that, that challenge has probably inspired so many other people who’ve gone through similar things, especially in the field of education so thank you for sharing that. If an educator’s listening and wants to reach out and just maybe chat with you, if you’re still open to those calls, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Julie Hunt Gibbons (26:47):
I’ve always opened to those calls. In fact, I’m keeping my board email. It is my hope that I will be doing some project work with Halton or any other board, as I say, I’m not leaving, because I don’t wanna work. I just don’t wanna work 50-60 hours a week anymore. And so I’m maintaining my board email so I can be reached there through huntgibbonsj@hdsb.ca.


Sam Demma (27:15):
Awesome. Julie, thank you so much. It’s been a huge pleasure. I really appreciate you coming on the show, keep up with the awesome work and we’ll talk soon.


Julie Hunt Gibbons (27:23):
Thanks Sam. You keep up the awesome work too.


Sam Demma (27:28):
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 Julie Hunt Gibbons

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.

Paul DeVuono – Vice Principal at St. Anthony’s Catholic School (BGCDSB)

Paul DeVuono - Vice Principal at St. Anthony's Catholic School (BGCDSB)
About Paul Devuono

Paul DeVuono (paul_devuono@bgcdsb.org) is the Vice-Principal at St. Anthony’s Separate School in Kincardine, ON. Paul continues to be a strong advocate and supporter of publicly funded Catholic education in Ontario.

In addition, Paul is involved and connected to the Catholic Principals Council of Ontario (CPCO), ensuring our provincial government continues to make necessary investments in publicly funded Catholic education for students, families and staff. Paul has been a Vice-Principal for three years now, serving the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board (BGCDSB).

Paul represents a deep passion for Catholic education while ensuring all students are provided with the fundamental opportunities to develop their God-given talents, gifts and skills.Paul holds the premise that when students feel safe, secure, included and connected in their learning, they will continue to progress and excel as learners and collaborative contributors in our society.

Paul believes moving forward, and we need to ensure our schools are seen and utilized as community hubs where our stakeholders and partners have access to board, municipal, provincial and federal programs that benefit all.

In closing, Paul believes that our youth is our most prized asset and that, as a society, we must make significant and purposeful investments in our youth and education. Paul is married to his spouse Erica, a Vice-Principal, and has two children, Leonardo, who is 8, and Isoline, 5.

Connect with Paul Devuono: Email

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Catholic Principals Council of Ontario (CPCO)

St. Anthony’s Separate School

Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board (BGCDSB)

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


Paul Devuono (00:08):
Good afternoon. My name is Paul Devuono. I’m vice principal at St. Anthony’s elementary school inOntario working with the Bruce Grey Catholic district school board.


Sam Demma (00:19):
Why education? And when did you figure out that you wanted to work in education?


Paul Devuono (00:25):
So I think for myself kind of why education, why kind of starting a vocation in teaching was certainly from many past educators that I’ve had the privilege to cross paths with certainly from a young age, right from elementary. I always thought it’d be really cool to be a teacher. Great, great pathway, great vocation. And certainly when I first started off in school encountering you know, some learning difficulties and struggling, and I think had it not been for some of my early primary teachers, especially and certainly those educa theaters that really helped me propel through high school. I would not be standing here before you today. And I think I owe many of them a great deal of gratitude and thanks. And I, I always think that I probably wasn’t as grateful and thankful in some of those moments, certainly in my teen years definitely think of them often and really draw on the wealth of expertise that many of them had.


Sam Demma (01:30):
What do you think those educators did for you growing up as a student that made a significant impact? If you can remember?


Paul Devuono (01:37):
I think for many of them it was, it was their patience but also their, their sense of care and, and really trying to be good role models. But also certainly very much being very patient and not giving up and just kinda allowing students to be the people that they, that they are and kind of respect them you know, for who they are and, and do their best to work with them, not trying to force them to be something that they’re not, but certainly a great deal of empathy and trying to kind of best support is certainly what I felt made them extremely successful.


Sam Demma (02:17):
When you started your path towards education and decided this is what I’m gonna do. Tell me a little bit about what that path looked like. Where did you go to school and where did you start and what brought you to where you are now?


Paul Devuono (02:30):
So I, it was interesting. And it’s funny when we engage in this conversation you know, many of my friends were going off into business other types of professions and, and not many of my circle of friends were really looking at education. And at that time too, the trades were just something that was being started about. So there was things with the Ontario youth apprenticeship program. And I so wished I could have done a trade. And many of my family are, are extremely gifted in the skilled trades, but it just wasn’t my forte. And it certainly was one of my guidance counselors that said, you know, have you thought of teaching? And I said, yeah, you know, it is something that I continue to think about but was a little worried about some of the application process to it.


Paul Devuono (03:21):
And he probably gave me some of the best advice in grade 11 and 12, cuz he said, you know, it’s gonna get really competitive to get into teachers college. He’s like, if you’re really passionate about education, you can sit, you should consider going into concurrent education. And it was the best advice. Cuz certainly at that time it was becoming competitive to get into teaching. And I was fortunate to go to Lakehead university in thunder bay and did concurrent education there. I did a four year undergraduate there a double major in political science and history and did teachers college in my fifth year. And it was a, it was a great experience.


Sam Demma (04:04):
That’s amazing. And when you finished the postsecondary requirements in education, where did you first start working? And what did the progression look like to bring you to where you are now?


Paul Devuono (04:17):
So we had had a job fair kind of late winter of our graduating year. Nice. In 2004 and the GTA, the greater Toronto was kind of the last place that I wanted to go and work. I kind of wanted to be closer to home being from Northern Ontario, but many of those boards were not hiring. And so at the job fair, it was really clear place like York, York, district York, Catholic der peel P public, and certainly Toronto Catholic in Toronto district were boards that were really actively recruiting. They had full year LTOs, they had permanent positions for some teachers. And so I had made a, I was fortunate to make a contact with der peel Catholic was someone from their HR recruiting crew and managed to, to get a seven, eight position in Mississauga on the border of ACO. And it was a great, great experience.


Sam Demma (05:13):
That’s awesome. And now you’re back in the Bruce Gray county. What, what brought you, what brought you up here?


Paul Devuono (05:22):
So being from Northern Ontario was always kind of a goal to kind of move out of the city and kind of move into a more rural area. And certainly with with job markets and then getting married and starting a family, it became a lot more trickier and we kind of thought maybe it would just be a lofty retirement goal. But my wife’s family is from the Bruce Gray area and we managed we were grateful enough and blessed to be able to find work up here at both as as vice principals. And so it it all happened kind of through the pandemic. It was a little, a little tricky, but it certainly worked out.


Sam Demma (06:04):
That’s amazing. And what do you enjoy about the work you do today and for someone listening who might be a teacher and not, and doesn’t really know the experience of a vice principal what does that look like?


Paul Devuono (06:19):
So I would say you know, our youth are our most like prize commodity and I think especially going through this pandemic now into two and a half, getting closer to three years you know, it’s a little bit concerning to that I, I, I feel more and more often our youth are kind of being forgotten about. And I think if you look at any great society throughout history and even those today there’s societies that have really put their youth and education at the forefront of everything that they do. And I think you know, in terms of education, yes. It’s challenging. It’s trying any institution that works with the public and that works with youth definitely has as ups and downs, but I think again, you know, just, you know, listening to our stories and, and sharing to be a part of having an influence on someone’s life and having them have that opportunity to look back and knowing that you perhaps made a small difference not only maybe the career that they chose, but certainly the path and the people that they are today is huge.


Sam Demma (07:35):
Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. And what gives you hope to show up every single day and continue doing this work, even when things like a global pandemic start getting in the way.


Paul Devuono (07:46):
You know, what it’s, it’s certainly our, our kids and their families you know, to know when we opened up our doors to welcome students and families back and, and air support is huge. And I think RA I’m in an elementary school, so we’re K to eight. And if you ever need your bucket filled on those difficult days, I just take a stroll and a walkthrough into our full day learning kindergarten classrooms. And when you see three and a half and four year olds tugging at you and hugging you and kind of telling you the words that they’ve learned in their numbers, it’s so inspiring to see them soak up like sponges that learning. And then again with our seven and eights, they’re excited about the next phase of their academic careers. It’s just so amazing to be a part of, of those opportunities.


Sam Demma (08:38):
That’s awesome. I love on your journey. What do you think some of the resources that you’ve found that have been helpful whether it’s people you’ve met or potentially even some things you’ve been through that you thought were beneficial to yourself?


Paul Devuono (08:56):
I think when we’re talking about resources, definitely like human resources I think by far are like people you know, conversing with you know, that’s one of the unique things with education is that like, we have such a rich dichotomy of people that we and interact with, whether it’s social workers, childhood, youth workers our custodial teams, our educational assistants, our, our educational early childhood educators, administrators, like there’s so many people that I feel so fortunate that I can connect with and dialogue with and share experiences is huge when you’re coming to people. And certainly for us as a Catholic system, you know, drawing on some of the work of our, of our chaplaincy of our priests and their support as well is extremely influential into the work that we do. And certainly you know, really helps, especially when you’re kind of going through some of these challenges that we are now yeah. Society to help ground things is huge.


Sam Demma (09:59):
Yeah, I agree. And I know there’s been a lot of changes and challenges over the past two years, but what do you think some of the opportunities might be or, you know, areas for growth and improvement because of all these changes?


Paul Devuono (10:14):
I would say that certainly technology, we, we, we continue to talk about technology and I think like the whole virtual learning piece was something that especially at the elementary and secondary level was still kind of not quite at the forefront and I think for better or not, the pandemic really helped kind of thrust the up forward cuz maybe had no other choice. And I think those virtual connections for our students is definitely something that’s gonna carry them forward through their academic careers and, and through employment. I also think too, at the same time though, we, we recognize the importance of a experiential education in the outdoors. Knowing that our students were in front of screens and maybe perhaps not going outside, cuz they were kind of in a room or in a basement or in an office. Certainly kind of bringing that back to the forefront, how important it is for students to interact with their peers, but also with friends, but also outside. And those opportunities, whether they’re playing ice hockey, going to boing, going for a walk all those great things. I think sometimes we forget how, how important and how critical those are for kids.


Sam Demma (11:32):
I agreed. Agreed. can you think of a time where a program or an initiative has made an impact on a student and as a vice principal or as a teacher you got to see and witness the change or the impact that it had?


Paul Devuono (11:47):
I, I think for certainly one that comes to mind is certainly our, our transitional work with our, with our grade eights as they move to grade nine and working with our seven eights, getting them prepared and ready for high school. And, and just knowing that that is such a, a big step in a, in a huge leap for many of our students and families. And sometimes I don’t think we understand the gravity of that and just our board has done a lot of work building connections with our seven and eights before they step foot into high school. So if they have an opportunity to connect with teachers, student services, guidance counselors and other supports through the high school so that when they’re walking into those much larger buildings and seeing all those students, they can and already have a connection in rapport with people and that there’s already a go-to person for them.


Paul Devuono (12:38):
And again, you know, you know, for some students, it might not be, it’s a, it’s an easy shift that, that are very outgoing, that are very social, but certainly for those that may have some anxiety may have some stress or a little bit more introverted, it’s a huge, huge help and support for them. Once they have that opportunity to kind of have a connection at the high school. So I I’ve had an opportunity to see that first and foremost and have our students come back and say how, how great and amazing that was.


Sam Demma (13:07):
Amazing. And if you could take if you could take all the experiences you’ve had in education, kind of bundle them all together, travel back in time and speak to your younger self when you were just getting into teaching. What advice would you have wanted to hear? What advice would you have given yourself when you were just starting that you think might also be beneficial to someone else just getting into this work?


Paul Devuono (13:35):
I think that it’s and, and we hear this all the time that, that you have to take risks. Mm. And I think we, we hear that all the time, but it, it’s hard to put into practice. Yeah. And I think we need to take risks and we need to feel that we’re gonna make mistakes and then that’s gonna be okay. And I think to it’s being able to admit when you’ve made a mistake, but also when perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed or maxed out or stress that you’re able to vocalize that to whoever you have faith in or that you trust or that there’s a circle of security for, because the work within education is very dynamic. It’s challenging. It certainly can be stressful. And I think also just kind of knowing that we’re never gonna have all the answers and that that’s okay. And that kind of humbleness again, when I think about pat ask teachers is so critical and that it’s okay to reach out to people around you.


Sam Demma (14:42):
Perfect. If someone has listened in on this conversation, found something intriguing or interesting and wants to ask you a question or reach out to connect and just have a conversation, what would be the best way for them to reach out and get in touch with you?


Paul Devuono (14:58):
I, I would say the best way to reach out and certainly get in touch with me is to connect with the Bruce Gray Catholic district school board. And certainly if you type in BGCDSB St Anthony’s my contact information will come up as vice principal here. Or even if you call the mean switch line at our board office, they’ll certainly put you in touch with me here. If you have any questions or I can do anything to help support perhaps a pathway into education.


Sam Demma (15:24):
Awesome. Paul, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show. Really appreciate it. Keep up the great work and I will talk soon.


Paul Devuono (15:32):
All right. Thanks a lot. Really appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Paul Devuono

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.