About Tina Mclnenly
Tina McInenly (@TMcinenly) is a Cognitive Lead Teacher in Red Deer, Alberta. She works on a division team supporting teachers and students in creating inclusive communities for all students. She values collaboration, inclusivity and the courage it takes to be a learner. Through her story, she shares the foreshadowing of her path to her current role, long before she entered into the teaching profession.
Tina is a recipient of the Carmela Amelio-McCaw Inclusive Education Program Award through the ATA Council for Inclusive Education and is currently a student herself, working towards her Masters of Education in Leadership.
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Tina Mclnenley. She is the cognitive lead teacher in Red Deer, Alberta. She works on a division team, supporting teachers and students in creating inclusive communities for all. She values collaboration, inclusivity, and the courage it takes to be a learner.
Sam Demma (00:58):
Through her story, she shares the foreshadowing of her path to her current role, long before she entered into the teaching profession. Tina is a recipient of the Carmela Amelio-McCaw Inclusive Education Program Award through the ATA Council for Inclusive Education and is currently a student herself, working towards her Masters of Education in Leadership. This is an amazing interview with Tina. I hope you enjoy it, and I will see you on the other side, Tina, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about your own story and journey into education?
Tina Mclnenly (01:41):
Yeah, thanks for having me, Sam. I I’m excited. Yeah, my name’s Tina Mclnenly and I work in Red Deer, Alberta, and a little bit about my story. So right now I actually hold a position of cognitive lead teacher at our board office. So I’m so lucky and I get to work with so many different schools in our division supporting students, but to go way back to my story when I look at like what got me into this work, if you look at my past, I guess a lot of where I’m at now is really weaved into all that. So like truly to start with what got me into this work is I loved working with kids. I think kids at the root are so fun and what really got me into this work first is when I was young, probably like, oh gosh, like 10 or 11, I worked as an assistant in a dance class.
Tina Mclnenly (02:34):
So I dance growing up and I worked as an assistant to a boy who has down syndrome and he’s this really amazing young man. And I remember my teacher asking if I could just help him out with, with remembering some spots, some moves some different routines, cuz he just needed a little bit of extra repetition and help. So I did that for the year and a couple years after. And so when, when I was reflecting on this and I look back on that now that opportunity of working with him really foreshadowed what I do now and like the pattern of my jobs as a teenager and as a young adult. So I always worked with children or adults with developmental disabilities. And so that was we throughout every of and becoming a teacher was just something that I was really pulled to do.
Tina Mclnenly (03:24):
The perks of the summers off helped a bit too, but it was always something I was pulled to do. And it’s, it’s funny how everything worked out because after high school I took quite a bit of time off to go traveling and I really got the travel bug and then it was time to come home and I had, it was time to go to college. My parents were like, it’s time, it’s time for you to go to college. So I, you know, I remember applying for business and I applied for education cuz I thought I really love traveling. Could I do business? And that would take me more traveling. And I got into education first. Like that was the first acceptance letter I got and thank goodness I did because like I am truly in the business of people, what education is and I am not a businesswoman at all. Love it. So that’s kind of my story and that’s what brought me to college and university and then teaching and, and where I am now. So
Sam Demma (04:17):
That’s amazing. And you mentioned that this theme of working with young people was peppered throughout your entire upbringing. Did you work in any other jobs with young people that you think foreshadowed your role in education?
Tina Mclnenly (04:32):
Yes, absolutely. I did. So I started off as a dance teacher and so I always worked with younger kids and you know, what the piece of working with with all different, like in such an inclusive environment, I am so lucky Sam, that I have a cousin with a developmental disability and to us that was our norm and yeah, it’s actually emotional thing, but no, that’s just our norm in our family and we truly value inclusivity and sense. So starting with my cousin and then I worked with a lot of younger kids in summer camps in dance babysitting and it just kind of kept going on. And so that actually brings me to like my why, like why do I do the work that I do now is because I think I, school is such an important piece of children’s lives. And if we can, if I can be a part of a team that creates a really positive school experience for these students that really values inclusivity and equity and creating a safe community for them to be the best that they can be. And if I can be a role in adapting the environment, whether that started off in a dance class in summer camp in school. Now, if we, if I can be a part of adapting that environment for students to be so successful in their, in their own progress, that’s, that’s my ultimate. Why I think,
Sam Demma (06:00):
And I can tell that this individual from your family who has this, you know, this learning disability is, it seems like it’s touched you and really motivated you and also inspired you to make sure that you bridge the gaps for others similar to that person. That’s probably very close to your heart. How has that shaped the way that you approach education? You know, how has that shaped the way that you show up to work every single day?
Tina Mclnenly (06:24):
That’s such a good question that shaped the way because I truly feel that every child has a place in our schools and it truly makes me feel that we should be looking at students as a deficit base. Like we shouldn’t be looking at what students can’t do. We need to be looking at what students can do and how can we change the environment to make that work for them. So every student has strengths and every student and just like that every student has needs to. And so how can we change the environment to support them and make them feel that they’re right where they need to be, and they’re not compared to other students. So how can we help that child where they are at and not compare them to their peers?
Sam Demma (07:10):
I love that. There’s a little picture I’ve always seen online of a goldfish, a horse, a gorilla, a giraffe. And there’s like someone in front of them judging them by their ability to climb a tree. And, and it’s like, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, you know, you’ll always think it’s a failure and it’s totally not true. And I love that new lens or that paradigm shift that, that that you’re mentioning. And I’m curious to know because teachers also have such an influential role in the lives of our young people today. Have you had any teachers growing up that had a huge impact on you and maybe you can share their name and what was it that they did for you that made such a big difference. And on the reverse, if you had any teachers whose names you can keep to yourself that weren’t so great and it, it showed you, you know, what to be cautious about.
Tina Mclnenly (07:57):
Yes, absolutely. I have. And I’m thinking bad. There was one teacher grade four, her name was Jeanette Thompson and she was my grade four teacher. And she was so lovely Sam and she, I can’t even pinpoint what it truly is, but it was how she made all of us feel. We had such an inclusive classroom. She was so happy to see us every day. She just really lit up when we saw, I never remember her getting upset and isn’t that so interesting. I don’t remember what she did, but I remember how I felt in grade four. And I actually ran into her like two years ago, I ran into her at a golf tournament, wind up and I said, oh, Mrs. Thompson, it’s you? She was just as lovely. So I think that just goes back to that piece of creating a place where students feel that they belong.
Tina Mclnenly (08:50):
Cuz I think every student felt that they belong there. And there was also I just remember two other teachers too. Like there was one in when I was in high school and hernia was actually Tracy Nichols and she still teaches in our division to this day and I ran into her this year. But what she did is in high school, she held such high standards for us. So like that piece let’s be adapting for everyone in an environment, but also hold really high expectations and she held those high expectations for us and I’ll never forget that. And so that’s where I kind of remember that, you know, students can stretch, like they will stretch the, the amount that you expect them to. And I think, think that’s so important.
Sam Demma (09:37):
And just giving students standards and responsibilities and opportunities can sometimes make all the difference. I had a past guest tell me that he had a student he was struggling with and to show him that he trusted him. He gave him his car keys and said, can you go get my lunchbox outta my truck? And oh, wow
Tina Mclnenly (09:53):
Sam Demma (09:54):
You know, the student looked at him and was like, like, you want me to get your lunch? And he’s like, yeah, please. Here’s my keys. And yeah, you know, the student came back and, and gave the lunch and they started building this really cool relationship because of standards and responsibilities that were placed on the young person. Even when I was an athlete growing up, I had a coach, his name’s BAAM and you know, if we walked off the cobble path down to the field, them went, you know, cut across the grass. When we got down to the field, he’d make us walk back up and then walk back the path and not step on the grass. And it’s these little like standards and responsibilities that had such a big impact on my character and characteristics today. And I’m curious to know those standards that you mentioned. Do you remember any of them, when you say your teachers held you to a high standard or how, you know, the classes are high standard? Like what does that look like or sound like?
Tina Mclnenly (10:43):
Yeah. Well in high school it sounds really different. And I, I love that you mentioned that piece about the coach, because I feel like when we acknowledge those HIL, the children are teenagers are that we’re showing them that we’re, we trust them and we wanna give out opportunity to grow. And so this teacher in particular, like she was very much like you are here on time. You we expect you to do your notes. Like I expect you to do this. And it was very routine and we did projects and I remember one time actually driving to school, I think I was 16 and I got to my first car accident. Didn’t like, I, Alberta winters, I just slid. It was a very minor accident. I slid into a car. And so I was a bit late for her class. And so I got to class late.
Tina Mclnenly (11:28):
I was a little bit flustered and I said, oh, hi, I’m here. Like, I, I was just in a car accident. And she was like, okay. She goes, are you okay? And I said, yeah, I am. She’s like, okay, sit down. Like we’re working on this. Like, that was it. And it was so good looking back on it now. Cause then she checked in with me after to make sure I was okay, but it was like, I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you for coming and let’s get to work if you think you’re okay. And so it was those pieces that she was teaching us and she also taught me how to really study to cuz she was very good at summarizing information and very clear cut. And I remember sitting down to write our diploma exam that year and I’m pretty sure everyone in the class did so excellent cuz the way that she adapted to that class and what we needed.
Tina Mclnenly (12:14):
So I think her sending those standards for us is a way that I still learn. Like I still summarize my notes the same way I did in that class. I still do projects kind of the same way that I did in that class. So I think, and this is the part of teaching that I believe is so important that I think teachers need to really give themselves so much more credit you, even with the teachers that I work with because they’re instilling this sense of curiosity that prevails so much longer after we leave grade 12 and beyond. And I think that’s the ultimate, the ultimate goal. There’s a really great book. I’m gonna mention it’s by an author named Kent Newburn he’s he wrote a book called the simple truth and he does a whole paragraph on it about the difference between education and schooling. And it is so influential and he talks lots about schooling is the act of us going to school. But education is the act of curiosity that that comes long after you don’t need to be in a classroom. So I think when I look back at the best teachers I had, they really instilled that, that curiosity that is long after and I’m still doing it like Sam I’m in my master’s right now. And so I’m like that curiosity and learning is still going on.
Sam Demma (13:24):
Well, let me flex my curious muscles right now and ask you this year probably looks for you a lot different than every other year that you’ve taught that you’ve been in a school building. What are some of the things that look different? What are some of the different challenges that, that you’ve been faced with and how have you or other educators, you know, you know, strive to attempt to overcome those things?
Tina Mclnenly (13:50):
I know what a year, Hey, like, yeah. So this year looked different for me right from the beginning because I started in a new P so my history in teaching is I started with grade three and then grade four and then I was a school counselor and then I did something called inclusion, lead teacher at my school. So I oversaw on a team with inclusive programming. And then this year I shifted to work at board office and oversee that team on a broader sense with a team here. So it naturally change with a change in position, but the hard part of this year is traditionally this job, we will be in schools 80% of the time. So we’re in schools, 80% of the time working with teachers and students to help them adapt teaching, to make, to help students be successful. And I’m on a team of four like three amazing are teachers as well.
Tina Mclnenly (14:42):
And this year, the biggest challenge has been, we haven’t been to really get into schools as much because of COVID. So we haven’t been able to like authentically really connect with students. So me as my first year, I haven’t been able to get to know students on that level that, that I would’ve liked because of COVID and, and in-person restrictions. And so that’s been, that’s been really tough, but we’ve had some, just some really excellent teacher is be so flexible in how we’re adapting things. And so rather than an in-person visit, we’ll do a Google meet, right? Like Google meet has been our best friend. And so we’ll do lots of meets to consult first. And then if our team goes in to observe, then we have to stick with like a 15 minute window or we’re in room for 15 minutes and then this one and we’re two meters away masked on.
Tina Mclnenly (15:36):
So we’ve had to be really flexible, but I mean, it’s worked, it’s worked, I’m so excited to next year when things start opening up a little more, but it’s, it’s worked and we’ve also had, but on the other hand, we’ve had a really cool opportunity cuz a lot of our classrooms have invited us online too. So when in December everyone was online and so we got to join these classrooms and then see more than we ever could in an online environment with everyone on. So the, the connection piece has been the hardest part, but I’ve seen teachers just pivot so well. And with, with their challenges, like some schools are focused solely on that social, emotional piece and just making sure they make contact three times a week if we’re online. And so the flexibility in teachers has just been outstanding, outstanding this year.
Sam Demma (16:28):
And if you could go back in time and speak to younger Tina knowing what you know now, like what advice or pointers would you give to your younger self?
Tina Mclnenly (16:42):
The biggest advice that I would give to myself and I hope every young teacher hears this is that you do not have to know how to do everything on your own. Sam. That is the biggest advice I’d give to people because it’s taken so long to get there. And I that’s something I still struggle with a bit too. I think the, it started way back in my first probably my first student practicum. So like in Alberta, we, well, I did four years at university and then you do two practicums. And I remember my young Tina south at first practicum. I just wanted to get it right and I wanted, I didn’t wanna make any mistakes. And this is my first time teaching sound like my first week in the classroom. And I was so scared of feedback. And so I think with, and it’s probably in lots of professions too, but perfectionism is an area that really got the best of me at that time.
Tina Mclnenly (17:37):
And I would be insulted if my mentor, teacher or facilitator would offer me something like just gimme feedback and it truly did it wasn’t that I thought I was that good. Like I just didn’t want to make a mistake. So, or have others think that I don’t belong there. And so it was a case of that imposter syndrome that I know, I know others feel as well because we’ve opened up and talked about this more. And I think now over time, what has really helped me in this is, and I just wish I could tell my younger self, this is that, that importance of growth mindset, right. And being very vulnerable and and authentic feedback processes. And I think working with a really strong team of colleagues over the years who I really value their feedback has helped me has helped me get better in that sense.
Tina Mclnenly (18:28):
And just knowing that we are gonna make mistakes and there will be more problems to solve and we can do it in a team. And I dunno like the work at Brene brown really stands out to me a lot as I’m working through this process of kind of getting rid of that perfectionism and imposter syndrome is, is she really talks about that. Learning at its core is vulnerable and asking our students to open themselves up every day to learning and to make mistakes, but then oftentimes as leaders or teachers ourselves, we aren’t willing to do that. And I think that’s really important. And I have to remember that, that as a teacher, myself, I have to continue practice to be, to have feedback and to mistakes and to grow from them and to model that the empathy and courage in our, in ourselves that our students can. And it wasn’t really up until the last couple years, I started to look at that and see that these students were asking them to be so vulnerable every day to receive feedback all the time and how it, you have to think how it makes us else feel is really hard to do. And so we have to recognize that to open that up for the students. And so that’s the biggest thing I would tell my younger self in so many different areas that you don’t have to get it right all the time. Yeah.
Sam Demma (19:46):
I love that. I love it so much because I’m going through it right now. And I think sometimes the advice that we need to hear the most is the advice that we also give the most. And
Tina Mclnenly (19:56):
Yes, that’s so good.
Sam Demma (19:57):
I speak to a lot of students about getting out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to try new things. And recently I found myself not trying that many new things myself and I I’m, I’m making this project called dear high school me and it’s all about, oh yeah. Lessons for my younger self that I hope high school students can learn from. And I had a friend of mine say, these poems are great. I think you should wrap them.
Tina Mclnenly (20:20):
Sam Demma (20:20):
Okay. And I was like, what? And he’s like, you should, you should, you should make music. And the thought of it just made me sick. I love the idea, but I I’m so nervous, you know, to, to do something different and put, put it out there in the world in a, in a way that I never have ever put anything out before. And it just, it made me think about, I
Tina Mclnenly (20:40):
Think that’s so cool.
Sam Demma (20:40):
Yeah. It made me think about your example though. You know, like you don’t need to get it right. And you know, you can get feedback and we do need to be vulnerable by putting out the things that we wanna try and do regardless of how it’s received. And yeah, I just, I, I just think that’s a beautiful piece of advice and I needed to hear it today. So thank you. And I appreciate it.
Tina Mclnenly (21:01):
Yeah. I know. You’re welcome. And I need to hear all the time. It’s something that doesn’t go away. And when you read more I’ve been reading a little bit about like the ego and those types of, of things. And it’s so important and it’s, it’s really interesting how we, how we do that to ourselves. Right. And Sam, I think you’re doing such great things. Like I’ve listened to this podcast in different episodes and it’s, so it’s so great to hear other people’s stories and, and what they’re sharing. So
Sam Demma (21:30):
Tina Mclnenly (21:30):
Appreciate, and you appreciate it and you should wrap it. That would be really awesome.
Sam Demma (21:34):
I appreciate the encouragement. It’s starting to reinforce the belief. So here we come. Tina, thank you so much for doing this. This has been a great conversation. 30 minutes flies by has
Tina Mclnenly (21:45):
It already been yeah,
Sam Demma (21:47):
But tell me and the person listening where they can reach out to you if they want to get in touch?
Tina Mclnenly (21:53):
Yeah. So yeah, I actually have a pretty low social media presence. I have a Twitter account, I don’t seem to use it as much as, as I would like to, but maybe I could give you my email address then and if anyone wants to reach out, I’d love to chat and connect and they can reach me yeah, at that email address.
Sam Demma (22:10):
Perfect. I’ll put it in the show note to the episode. Okay.
Tina Mclnenly (22:12):
Awesome. Thanks so much, Sam,
Sam Demma (22:14):
Tina, thanks so much. This is a lot of fun. I’ll keep with the great work and I will maybe I’ll talk to you after you finish your masters.
Tina Mclnenly (22:20):
Yes, that’d be great. Thank you.
Sam Demma (22:22):
Cool. All right. Talk soon. 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 Tina Mclnenly
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.