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
**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):
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.
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