About Tina Edwards
Tina Edwards has been an educator in Saskatchewan for the past 27 years, but still considers herself a rookie in the education game. Student leadership has been a passion of hers since she entered the teaching profession in 1994.
Two highlights of her career are hosting the Saskatchewan Student Leadership Conference in 2012 and again in 2019. Projects like these prove that students can accomplish anything if they are willing to work hard and work together as a team.
Tina believes that every person has the ability to be a leader, as long as they are willing to work on being a good human first. After that, anything is possible!
**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 special guest was referred by a past guest and her name is Tina Edwards. Tina has been an educator in Saskatchewan for the past 27 years, but still considers herself a rookie in the education game. Student leadership has been a passion of hers since she entered the teaching profession in 1994. Two highlights of her career are hosting the Saskatchewan student leadership conference in 2012 and again, in 2019. Projects like these prove that students can accomplish anything if they’re willing to work hard and work together as a team. Tina believes that every person has the ability to be a leader as long as they’re to work on being a good human first after that, anything is possible. I hope you enjoy this amazing conversation with Tina Edwards and we’ll see you on the other side.
Sam Demma (01:32):
Tina, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. You are highly recommended by not one but two past guests. Why don’t you start by yourself?
Tina Edwards (01:44):
Oh my goodness. The pressure you’re putting on me. So earlier, my name is Tina Edwards and I’m a teacher at Winston high school in Saskatchewan. I’m also the president of SASCA, which is our student leadership in Saskatchewan and yeah, that’s kind of me!
Sam Demma (02:05):
When in your journey, did you get involved in student leadership and what prompted you to move in that direction and get more, more engaged?
Tina Edwards (02:14):
Well, I, I was a student leader when I was in high school myself, so that’s kind of where my journey started. And I just, as I got into the teaching, that opportunity opened itself to me and I began taking students to leadership conferences and 20, some years later the opportunity came up that I decided let’s try and host the conference, which is a huge undertaking. Did that in 2012. And when you are hosting, you automatically go onto the SASA executive and then they just couldn’t get rid of me. And I stayed and eventually became president and hosted the conference a second time.
Sam Demma (02:55):
Ah, that’s amazing. And let’s go back for a second to you as the student leader in high school. Yeah. So if you could think back what as a student prompted you to get involved as a student leader, did you have a teacher who tap you on the shoulder or how did that journey look like?
Tina Edwards (03:12):
Well, I grew up in a small town and, and when I say small town, I’m saying under 200 people, oh wow. I, and it really just became that every project we did in that town, it needed everybody to, to make it happen. And so I grew up just watching and participating and knowing that you needed to be an active member in whatever the project ahead of you was. So that’s kind of where it started. And then I think I just had some really strong leadership skills and I wasn’t really afraid to take action. So it just kind of flowed naturally for me. And it, nobody really told me, I just thought, Hey, why can’t I, so why can’t I be a student leader? And I couldn’t come up with a good reason. So there we go.
Sam Demma (03:59):
That’s awesome. And do you still remember the teachers that were overlooking student leadership and student council back when you were in high school?
Tina Edwards (04:06):
Yeah, definitely. I do. And, and I guess I always kind of looked up to them and, and allowed them to show me what it was like to be a leader, but not necessarily being in charge and working with other people. And I really kind of admired that.
Sam Demma (04:24):
Oh, that’s awesome. And let’s continue down the journey. So you finished high school and did you know at that age that you wanted to get into teaching or how did you navigate the career search for yourself?
Tina Edwards (04:34):
Yeah, I didn’t really have a choice. It teaching career found me and I, I always coached, I taught swimming lessons. I babysat, it just was a calling and, and it, there was just no question about it. I was going to be a teacher and I had to work really hard to get into university for my first year. Cuz at that time the marks were really high to get in and I just worked hard and kept going. And that was a really easy decision for me.
Sam Demma (05:04):
Well, tell me more. Did you have like teachers tapping you on your shoulder saying, you know, Tina you’d be a great educator. Did your parents work in teaching or Nope. How did it, how did it exactly find you?
Tina Edwards (05:15):
You know, it just, I grew up wanting to be a teacher and I loved kids and I always found ways to engage in, in working with kids, whether it was volunteering or summer jobs working in a living in a small town of 200 people. You just, everybody was family and that’s, that’s what I knew I wanted.
Sam Demma (05:39):
That’s amazing. And you mentioned coaching a little as well, was four, it’s a big part of your own childhood.
Tina Edwards (05:45):
Yeah, definitely. In a small town there isn’t much to do other than the sports that happened to be in that season at that time. And, and you know what, I was never a great athlete. I, I just really enjoyed the team aspect and being part of a team and I was just happy to be there and do my part. Hmm that’s awesome. And the coach, the coaching just kind of evolved and it’s coaching and leading was never something I had to work really hard at. It just, it just felt natural for me.
Sam Demma (06:17):
And do you think coaching and leading a group are two very similar things like whether or not you’re teaching a sport, you know, working as the, you know, president of SASCA is probably similar to coaching a team in some way, shape or form. Is there a lot of similarities between the two?
Tina Edwards (06:32):
Well, I always say I’m lucky because when I think when you coach a sports team, you’re given some, some opportunities or some, some times where you have to make some really hard decisions where you’re not gonna make everybody happy. And I feel in the, in the job I have and all the, the positions I’ve had, I, I’ve never had to make somebody unhappy. Mm I’m. Just there to be a cheerleader and, and get us working towards a common goal. And, and I selfishly really appreciate that. I get to live in my happy land. Mm . I don’t have to make any game day decisions.
Sam Demma (07:09):
Yeah, I okay. Yeah. So there is one stark difference. Everyone’s happy. yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s so cool. And so start teaching or you go to teachers college, it’s a tough first year. You work through that. What did your first job in education look like? Let’s go back there for a second.
Tina Edwards (07:27):
Well, my first job was actually in another small town of Combs where actually I do live right now. Nice. I, I just took a, a maternity leave for just a few months there and I knew it was coming to an end. And so then I took a job. I was in Carlisle for two years, which was about a four hour drive away. So that was really great. It got me definitely out of my comfort zone, met some new people, really had time to figure out what I wanted my teaching career to look like. And I dove right into the community there right away. And of course, such great positive connections were made. And, and then it was just straight on from there. And then I knew I was wanting, I was going to be getting married and eventually took me a few years, but I made my way back closer to where I was getting married and where I actually live now. And now I’m in Watchers high school, Winston high school in Watchers. And this has been my 22nd year in this school.
Sam Demma (08:32):
That’s awesome. And education has had many, you know, turns and twists. And I would say most of them happened over the two and a half years. what, what are some of the challenges that the school has been faced with over the past two years? And you know, how have you strive to kind of overcome those things as a community?
Tina Edwards (08:52):
Well, our, our school really prides ourself in being a family. First, we talk about the Wildcat family and, and usually when, when people say we’re a Wildcat family, they might think we’re talking about sports. And really it is sports is a piece of it, but it is just a piece of it. We work really hard in our school to make sure everybody feels connected. We started something called wild cap pride, where all the students are divided into color groups, mixed within different grades. And we do projects every couple, couple times a month and where we get the whole group family together, a whole school together and just work together on as a team at, and we do projects like we’ll play outdoor games. We might volunteer in the community. And so when COVID hit our family, we talk about isolation and that’s what our family had to do. We, we had to break apart. We, we could no longer get together as a whole, a whole family. And, and that was really hard on us. Mm.
Sam Demma (09:59):
Yeah. And I, I couldn’t imagine, it seems like every school I talked to has had a similar, but sometimes different experiences based on location. Was your school closed down? How long did you have to isolate or did the school ever close?
Tina Edwards (10:13):
Yeah, we, we closed from may until, or sorry, March until June of 2020. Yep. And then we, where we were online a little bit in there, but that it definitely was optional for students. Mm. So it was really hard. We were trying to engage people. We were trying to get connected with our students and some didn’t wanna be you connected with, and some, maybe couldn’t be connected with cuz where they were living rural. They didn’t, their families maybe didn’t have internet connections. So it was just, it, it was a tough time cuz we were trying to make it seem normal and it, it just wasn’t.
Sam Demma (10:52):
And you were also juggling SASA at the same time. So how did that yeah. Adjust or pivot or change, you know, based on the situation, you know.
Tina Edwards (11:01):
Really ironically our school hosted the last leadership conference in, in 2019 in September, 2019. And had we known what was to come? I, I don’t know, like we were able to host it. We were so very lucky. We had to province with us. We had a thousand leaders in our town of about 2000 people. Wow. they’re
Sam Demma (11:25):
All bill it out into like different, oh,
Tina Edwards (11:27):
Bill it out. Yeah. It, it was a great experience, but we did had no idea what was coming down a few months later. So then juggling Saska was really hard because what do we do? What do we do with this poor host community Goll lake that is supposed to be hosting in, in 2021 and, or I guess it’d be 2020. Do we, do we try to make it go? Do we cancel it? What do we do with the money that they’re out? It, it was, there was just no answers. We had to really struggle hard.
Sam Demma (12:00):
Yeah. That’s a tough situation. Did did, did the conference go on in 2020? Was it postponed or yeah,
Tina Edwards (12:08):
We actually gave them the option. They could postpone it, they could cancel it. They chose to cancel it just given the group of students that they were kind of framing the conference around would then have been graduated. So and they were, they were fairly far in their planning, but money wise, they weren’t too terribly invested. Mm. So we, we supported them in counseling it and trying to just make things balance out at the end and, and call it a year. And then Melfort was, had the next host bid host and they ended up canceling theirs as well. They were just really hadn’t even really started their, their planning. So it, it, it was okay. The problem we have now though, is how do we pick this up again? Yeah. How, when, who, how, where, and that’s what we’re struggling with right now. Mm.
Sam Demma (13:06):
So future planning is currently happening. Some, some in some way, shape or form
Tina Edwards (13:11):
well and, or no planning. We, yeah, we just don’t. I mean, how does a school take upon this venture when you don’t know what tomorrow’s gonna look like? Right. And, and it takes a good solid two to three years to plan a conference like this. Yeah. So I, I have some fear that I’m not sure when the next one is going to happen.
Sam Demma (13:31):
What does the planning look like? Like give some insight into people, people listening to what a thousand person conference building and the homes in your community, the what kind of planning looks like for something like that oh,
Tina Edwards (13:43):
The planning itself. Oh my goodness. I don’t wanna scare anybody off, but it is, it is, it is so much work, but it is so rewarding at the same time. Yeah, it , I don’t even know where to begin, but yeah, it, it is, it is a lot of work, but it is, it is great to see those kids coming together and planning and, and, you know, if I always tell the students, you can’t write a marathon tomorrow, you can’t think about up that marathon. You gotta break it down into little pieces. And, and that’s what we really did. And, you know, we got our group, our planning group together. We got our community behind us, started thinking about what we wanted our conference to look like. What, what things did we wanna give to our attendees? What what are the date? What are the activities? And just broke it down into little chunks. And before you knew it, the three years of planning was over and it was go time.
Sam Demma (14:45):
I was telling you before the interview started, that, you know, I felt that when COVID initially hit, it seemed like all the emphasis and support was being placed on the students and PE you know, educators getting supported as well. But maybe it was a little more behind the scenes. And I’m curious to know, what do you think the struggles and challenges were for educators during that time, and even now coming out of it? Maybe some of the things you experienced personally, but saw your peers going through as well.
Tina Edwards (15:11):
Yeah, our, I don’t think the average teacher goes into teaching for the academic part of it only. Yep. We, we are here cuz we like, we like kids, we like, we like their energy. We like seeing what they’re capable of. And that was really difficult to see everything come to a halt and, and not being E even able to interact with the kids. Like we used to be able to last year we were in cohorts, we were all in different times and schedules and breaks and noon hours. And we literally did not see each other. And, and that was lonely. And, and you just, you’re on a little bit of an island.
Sam Demma (15:53):
Mm. And did, does SASCA also support staff or is it solely towards the student?
Tina Edwards (15:59):
It, it is advisors. Yeah. It, it is geared towards advisors. Our, our main, our main purpose though, is supporting advisors in leading and leadership in, within their schools. So we did do an online conference for students and advisors last year. I, I think we’re, we’re getting to the point though, where everybody’s had enough of online, everything like, we it’s, it’s hard to stay engaged and, and have students just stare at a computer all the time. And so we’re actually in the middle of planning, what this year’s gonna look like for SASCO we’re, we’re hanging on, we’re trying to keep our membership strong. We’re trying to offer different activities, but it’s, it’s hard.
Sam Demma (16:44):
Yeah, no, I hear you. If you, if you do something virtual, just make sure there’s some, there’s some music and dancing. Yeah.
Tina Edwards (16:53):
Our conference last year was really good. Nice. And I think the people who attended it were, were really appreciative of having that opportunity. I just don’t know if we can do it two years in a row and, and still engage the people that we’re trying to engage. So we’re really struggling on where we go from here and what it looks like, and, and it’s important. And we don’t wanna say, all right, we’re not gonna do anything for the next three years. That would be terrible if all these years of leadership conference and the memories kind of go on, go forgotten. And, and that’s what I’m trying to work hard at right now is making sure SASA and student leader stays at the front, even though we can’t do a lot of, of those typical activities.
Sam Demma (17:40):
Yeah. I think it’s an important conversation to have and start having. And it’s cool to hear that you are having it. I think that extracurriculars student leadership clubs, all of those things just add such a huge student experience to yeah. Everyone in your school, you know? Yeah.
Tina Edwards (17:55):
And students, they don’t come to school for the academics. Yeah. There’s a small majority that, that do, but I would say the most people come here for the other things, the other activities and, and , you know, the kids have been doing so well that last year they had everything canceled. Mm. And we were able to focus more on academics and they just, they did what we needed them to do. And there, there was no pity parties. We were just moving on. And so appreciative of what kids are able to do and how resilient they can be.
Sam Demma (18:31):
If, if, I guess if education was like a three course meal, academics would be like the appetizer or the dessert and oh, a
Tina Edwards (18:37):
Hundred percent. Absolutely. Yeah. And yeah, it’s just, it’s just hard cuz we know that a lot of students are struggling either in their home life or in their peer circle and or their academics. And we try to help students as a whole, not just as one part. So we’re really trying hard to connect all of those pieces and COVID is not helping us.
Sam Demma (19:02):
And why do you think student leadership and you know, everything else aside from academics is a school in a school is so important because there might be someone out there who’s not fully bought into the idea that, you know, student leadership can change a kid’s life or extracurriculars can help them build skills. They would never build elsewhere. Like why do you think student leadership and extracurriculars are important?
Tina Edwards (19:23):
Well, you know, when you look at academics, not everybody’s an academic student, they could work. So, so very hard and still never improve their academics. That can be said as well with athletics. Mm-Hmm , some students are not athletic. They could work every day and still not improve. Their athleticism student leader is about being a good human. And I really believe that everybody can be a good human. And so it’s so something that everybody can achieve and it makes a, it’s a, a fair playing ground and everybody can feel like they have an important part. And, and like I said, at the beginning, it’s like, I’m coaching a team, but I never have to make any hard decisions. Yeah. Or it’s happy
Sam Demma (20:11):
Land. Yeah. No disappointing decisions.
Tina Edwards (20:14):
Yeah, absolutely. We’re just here to make everybody’s day. Just a little bit better.
Sam Demma (20:18):
Love that. I love that. And I wanna ask you, so if, if like, if you could try and pinpoint things that teachers did for you growing up that made you happy as a student, that if you can remember, like, what do you think some of those things are that teachers can do to make their students feel good about themselves to help students realize their own potential? Because another educator might be listening and wanting to have a similar impact on their own kids.
Tina Edwards (20:45):
I just think I remember teachers who would know my name and I, they didn’t actually teach me or I, I was in a larger school and, and I just thought, you know, there’s taking a moment to say hello to me, I’m the only person with this name. They are, they’re connecting with me. And I just always thought that was really special. and I, I remember too going on sports trips and thinking this teacher is spending the whole weekend with me instead of at home with their own family. And I knew, and I knew that was something that I wanted to be able to do for other students.
Sam Demma (21:24):
I love that. So the investment of time, and also, so the personal relationship to a point where, you know, teachers go out of their way to remember your name or even like know personal things about you.
Tina Edwards (21:35):
Yeah. Yeah. And, and that’s, that can go such a long way in, in a student’s life. And, and that’s what I really miss the most about COVID is when students are in my, in my classroom, in our school, I kind of have my eyes on them. I know I can see when they’re struggling. I can see when somebody hasn’t eaten a very good breakfast. I can see when somebody’s had a fight at home. I can see when somebody’s struggling academically. But when I had to stay at home, I had no idea what, how my students were doing like really doing, I could, would tell maybe academically how they were doing, but all of those things that I worry about, and I wanna connect with students, I was completely removed from that. And I, I struggled with that.
Sam Demma (22:19):
And I would argue, you know, back to the name example as well, remembering people that remembered your name. I think it just applies to being, like you said, a good human people appreciate when you can address them by their name. I’ve been at the grocery store and I’ll say, hi, and address the person behind the cash by their name. And they’ll look up and be confused and say, do I know you, are you
Tina Edwards (22:42):
Shock me? yeah.
Sam Demma (22:44):
I’m like, no, I just, I just used your name. It’s on your name tag there. And you know, then they end up, you know, bursting out the biggest smile and you end up having a good two minute conversation before you put your groceries in your box and leave. Yeah. And I think when you take interest in other people, it just builds good relationships. Right?
Tina Edwards (23:01):
Absolutely. And, and what, what, just imagine what you can do once you’ve connected with somebody, once you’ve, you’ve been able to have a, a one on one conversation with them, the rest of their day, you just, you don’t know what’s gonna come after that.
Sam Demma (23:16):
Yeah. And you also never know what someone’s carrying, which is why I think kindness is so important, you know, just because you can’t see, it doesn’t mean they aren’t carrying it. And that’s something I always try and remind myself because yeah, we, we, you know, you only see them in the school building and now with COVID, you know, like you’re saying you don’t even see them in the school building, so it’s even, you know, even more important to be you.
Tina Edwards (23:35):
Luckily for us, the COVID like COVID is still here obviously, but we, we have been able to have our extracurricular activities within our school and our clubs. We can have, we, we are cohorted, but not quite as much as we were last year or as strictly, we’ve been able to do some outside whole group activities while mask. So this year’s already better than all of last year put together.
Sam Demma (24:04):
Yeah. Ah, you’re right. That’s and it’s good to see the positives too. even if they’re in a smaller.
Tina Edwards (24:10):
And that’s what, like I said to the, the students last year, we’re not having a pity party here this year. It’s, it’s, it’s different, but we’re gonna make the best of it. And, and through leadership, we, we did bingo virtually we, we did some trivia contests virtually. We did, we did our pep rallies virtually. We, we still wanted to make it, you know, those activities part of our, our school year. Although, you know, they’re not the same this year. We’re already noticing that people have a little bit more of a pep in their step. Mm. They can still have their football games. They can still go to their volleyball tournaments. There’s been a little, so some hiccups along the way, maybe a, a tournament has had to be canceled or a football game, but we’re just moving on. We don’t have time to sit and dwell in the, the negatives, no
Sam Demma (24:56):
Pity party focusing on the positives. Those are two great, no pity partying, no two great phrases and pieces of advice. I’m gonna ask you to put your thinking hat on for a second. And if you could like travel back in time you know, back to the future, but back to the past, actually. Yeah. Yeah. And you could speak to first year, Tina, when you just started teaching, but with all the wisdom and experience that you have now, like if you could walk into your own classroom, you know, that first city that you taught in that was really small, and you could walk into your own C and speak to yourself and give yourself some advice. What are a couple things that you would share?
Tina Edwards (25:32):
Well, I know for sure, I would not focus so much on the academics. Mm. Of course, when you’re coming out of university and you have your teaching degree and you’ve done your student teaching, that’s what it was about. It was about academics and I I’m a teacher and this is what I’m going to teach. Yep. And it really didn’t take me long to realize that there’s so much more to teaching than just the academics. And so I think if I could give myself a little bit of advice, I would just say, let’s not worry about that. Let’s, let’s focus on just the students themselves, the P the academic piece. We’ll talk about that a little bit later. I love, but of course, as a new teacher, you thought it was all about academics.
Sam Demma (26:15):
Yeah. And, and what does focusing on the student look like in the classroom? Is it making time for them to share their stories or like, what do you, what do you think that other time looks like?
Tina Edwards (26:24):
Yeah, just, just connecting and really appreciating where some of these students are coming from. I didn’t know what their home lives were like, and I didn’t even stop to even think about it. I just thought, okay, everybody’s coming into my classroom at the same level. And it, it really didn’t take me too long to realize that yeah, you know what, this is not quite the case. Mm. They’re not coming with the same skillset as the person may be sitting next to them.
Sam Demma (26:52):
Yeah. It’s a really smart reminder. That’s a good piece of advice to share with you, younger self. Awesome. Tina, thank you so much for coming on the show. If an educator listening and feels inspired or just wants to reach out and chat, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Tina Edwards (27:09):
My email is probably the best way at work. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. And it’s funny cuz when, when you said that if somebody would wanna reach out, I often think, you know, I’m in my 27th year of teaching, but what do I really know? I wonder like what would somebody ask me? I don’t really know, but yeah. I I’m here. I’ll do my best.
Sam Demma (27:35):
That’s called the curse of knowledge. yeah,
Tina Edwards (27:38):
Sam Demma (27:39):
But again, Tina, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been awesome conversation. Keep up with the great work with school and SASA and I look forward to seeing whatever happens with the conferences and events.
Tina Edwards (27:51):
yeah. I think our, our paths are good across again, Sam.
Sam Demma (27:54):
Awesome. I’ll talk to you soon, Tina.
Tina Edwards (27:56):
Okay. Take care.
Sam Demma (27:58):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the high performing educator podcast asked as always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you wanna meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperforming.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.
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