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Athletic Director

Peter Bowman – Principal of Orillia Secondary School

Peter Bowman - Principal of Orillia Secondary School
About Peter Bowman

Peter Bowman is the Principal of Orillia Secondary School in Orillia, Ontario. He began his career working with young people as a soccer coach at the age of 12. It wasn’t until 1991 that he began getting paid to work with teens as a computer science and mathematics teacher at Hodan Nalayeh Secondary School in Vaughan, Ontario.

He then moved north to Barrie where he taught science and math at Barrie Central Collegiate and Barrie North Collegiate. In 2007, he had the co-privilege of launching the North Barrie Alternative School program. From there he moved into administration as a Vice Principal of both Bear Creek S.S. and Barrie North Collegiate before being placed as Principal in Orillia. Over the course of his thirty-plus years, he has remained active in the sports community. He has served as Honorary President of the GBSSA, member association of OFSAA.

He has championed the development of Ultimate as a sanctioned school sport since he started playing and coaching it in 1995. He is thrilled that he is still able to help coach the school team today. Additionally he has been active backcountry camping, cycling, coaching soccer and playing drums whenever and wherever.

He is driven to see others reach their potential by providing leadership opportunities as much as possible. He is energized by others but also likes quiet times away – and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Connect with Peter: Email

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Orillia Secondary School

Simcoe County District School Board

Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations

Georgian Bay Secondary Association (GBSSA)

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


Peter Bowman (00:09):
Well, thanks for having me. My name’s Peter Bowman, principal at Orillia Secondary School currently and in my 30 year career as an educator, I’ve been in a couple of different school boards. Started in York region and then moved to Simcoe county and have been a classroom teacher, a variety of things. I’ve done some computer science, some math, chemistry. At one point I was in alternative education. So for five years, I was tasked with opening the Barrie North Alternative school program. Nice. And that was an awesome adventure. And then shortly after that got into administration and I’ve been vice principal at Bear Creek secondary school in Barrie and Barrie north collegiate and presently find myself principal in Orillia.


Sam Demma (00:55):
When did you realize growing up that education was the career you wanted to pursue?


Peter Bowman (01:00):
Well, I’m not actually convinced that it is yet. I’ll wait and see how things go. fascinatingly, when I graduated high school and I had a great high school career but I walked outta that high school and I said, I’m done with high school forever. And I have been there ever since it seems.


Peter Bowman (01:21):
So, so I, I was graduating from university almost on a whim or a dare from my roommate at the time I applied to teacher’s college. I’m thoroughly convinced that I was part of what was communicated as a glitch in the acceptance software and got in to teachers college at Lakehead. I was intrigued at the prospect of going to thunder bay for a year. I loved the outdoors. And so that was an interesting prospect. So I took off did teachers college wasn’t convinced I knew what I was gonna do, whether I would teach or not. But then landed a job at one secondary school sort of north end Toronto, and initially said, I’d stay for as long as I thought it was good. And I’m still, still going.


Sam Demma (02:08):
Did, did you have any educators in your life think and encourage you to think you were gonna get into this work and encourage you to do so or more so founded?


Peter Bowman (02:20):
I mean, my high school days were great. I was in a, a relatively new high school and a lot of the teachers were young-ish and a lot of opportunities, a lot of clubs and teams and activities and stuff. It’s interesting. I was talking with a colleague the other day and, and a name popped in Mar Ross was my grade nine fied teacher. Hmm. A very unique individual and he just had this way of lighting a fire under everybody. And for whatever reason, he, he maybe noticed something in me, but he kind of took me under his wing a bit, I guess got me doing some time keeping for the football team and involved in some other things. And, and, and in time gave me those opportunities for leadership, but also facilitated sending me to bark lake leadership camp. Mm. And so as a youngster, I think I would’ve been 14 or 15, went to bark lake and they taught you explicit leadership concepts mm.


Peter Bowman (03:21):
And gave you opportunities to demonstrate leading. And from that, I then got a job working in summer camps. I spent a number of years working at the Ontario camp for the death. Nice. And learned all kinds of things there and, and had opportunities to to lead, but also to, to struggle through challenges and, and work with teams of young people, as well as campers and, and other other staff. So I, I think it was not explicitly Mar Ross kind of lighting that fire under my butt to do more than just B. But I certainly identify him as one of the players. That was pretty key. And, and what I really like is in our school district, there’s, there’s a Mar Mar Ross Memorial award. Oh, wow. Given to excellent coaches. Mm. And through every year we have, you know, three really, really cool honors that are given out in athletics. And, and it’s really important for me to be in attendance at that annual meeting to, to just see who’s receiving the award and hear the awesome things that they’re doing. And, and I draw that connection to Mar and the impact that he had.


Sam Demma (04:35):
You mentioned Mar had this way of lighting a fire under people. What did that, obviously, not literally, but what did


Peter Bowman (04:46):
That, but I bet you, he would, he’s the kind of guy that I bet you, he would. So the, the one story I tell he, he was a, a unique character. So like literally if there were three guys walking down the hall and you looked up, your eyes would naturally go to him. Hmm. For no really solid reason. I mean, yes. He had really bushy eyebrows and that might have been it, but so one day back in that day, they had what was called level six. It was like an enriched fied class. And so this was all of the top athletes from all the feeder schools. All the elementary schools came in and they chose this level six fied in grade nine. So he had us, and I don’t know what we were doing. We were probably supposed to be lined up in our squads, ready to start the day.


Peter Bowman (05:32):
Obviously we were not performing to standards that he said, and he came in for whatever reason. He had a set of Kodiak boots on what PHED teacher has, Kodiak boots. He was probably outlining, lining the field. And, and so we had these boots on and he was not pleased. And he launched the, the boot across the, the gym. like, I can still tell you from what entrance to what corner that boot the blue. And he immediately had her attention for the rest of the day. Cuz you just, you, you loved what he wanted you to do because you loved him as a, as a leader. He was comfortable with who he was and and was open to, to banter with kids and stuff. So it was just, it was really an authentic, good vibe in that classroom, but he, again, just unique. Right? So he, that character draws you in


Sam Demma (06:26):
A hundred percent. How do you think that those experiences, as well as the other teachers and educators and coaches you’ve had, has informed the way that, you know, you lead today or you try to leave that same impact on other students?


Peter Bowman (06:42):
I don’t think it’s explicitly Mar that did, did this kind of teaching. There’s a lot of influence that I’ve had. But certainly servant leadership is one of the things that I, I cling to. So it’s not a lording over somebody else, an authority position. That’s, that’s gonna backfire way more than it’s gonna work in your favor. And I don’t care if you’re talking, working with adults or kids. Yep. So that servant leadership. So if I’m the classroom teacher trying to teach you how to, you know, expand, binomials I’m there to help you. I’m not there to dictate what your life is gonna look like. So that’s, that’s a big part. And then the other part is authenticity. Mm-Hmm . If I run into a kid at the grocery store, I’m the same guy that was in the math class.


Peter Bowman (07:30):
I’m not, I’m not different in, in one position or place than another, I don’t think. And I’d like to, you know, assume that that’s the way others will perceive me as well. Cuz I think if you try to be somebody you’re not most people see through that very quickly. And, and I mean, it’s not easy to say, but if, if you have insecurities and you try to cover that that’s a formula for disaster. So I think it’s, it’s valid to have your insecurities and, and to be open about where that may play out in your relationship with kids in a classroom or wherever. And so it’s, I dunno, that authenticity is, is so critical because that, that gives people the opportunity to see you wart and all.


Sam Demma (08:19):
I couldn’t agree more. Take me back to for a minute bark lake. Why, why do you think it’s so important? Students have opportunities like that to be exposed to different ideas, perspectives and leadership. I leadership concepts.


Peter Bowman (08:36):
So it’s not even just that bark lake had that program. That was so critical. Mm-Hmm it was also the age. They, they were very uniform that you were, and I can’t remember if it was 14 or 15, you had to be that age. I think it was 15. Yeah. So there was nobody that was 14. There was nobody that was 16. You had to be 15. And that that’s, I think more impactful than people realized, cuz was timing is critical. Mm-Hmm I don’t have my driver’s license yet. I, I may not have had much in the way of part-time job experience. So you’re at a critical agent stage. And so I look at grade nine and 10 in my school and I’m like, you kids have got to jump into something. I don’t care if you end up being a regular attendee at our Dungeons and dragons club or, or if you’re the, you know, the point guard for our basketball team, I want you to be doing something.


Peter Bowman (09:31):
I walked into a drama class the other day and we’re putting on a musical this year. And so it was amazing. I walk in the teachers, the it’s a team teach scenario are kind of at opposite corners in the, in the theater. There’s a student front front row center, you know, elbows on the stage in charge of choreography. Obviously there’s a student that’s sort of center of the audience location. Flipping through pages. That’s kids are reading their lines. Obviously the student director, I, I couldn’t be happier. Like I don’t wanna walk into a class and see that the teacher has to do everything. So in that moment, those kids are being given those leadership opportunities. It, it ties into personal confidence. I, I don’t care if that choreographer student ends up being a choreographer. Mm you’re. You’re comfortable with who you are.


Peter Bowman (10:27):
You’re confident to speak out when, when someone’s not where they need to be. You learn to collaborate cuz you’re not yelling it out. You are, you are trying to coax them into being in the right spot at the right times so that it ends up being a great product. So those, those things I, I value so much. I, I remember when I got the outdoors club going at Vaughn secondary and I was a young pimple faced teacher with a ponytail . And I would wear a dress shirt just so that kids knew that I was a staff member right. Like it was one of those early days. And, and I thought at first I needed to get the canoe trip information and get all the material ready and do all the teaching and instructing and very quickly realized that’s so not what I should be doing.


Peter Bowman (11:14):
Mm. So I, I identified kids that had a little bit of experience or had a little bit of time and, and passion. And we would meet for hours before our, our canoe trip club meeting so that they were prepared to lead them through the sessions on how to pack, how to prep a menu. And what I loved is I, I hear from those kids now, you know, decades later telling me about the canoe trips that they’ve been on. And I want that for my own children. Right. I want them to have done enough on our family to do trips that, you know, they’re now at a age and stage where they’re going off on their own. And I’m not quite at a point where I trust my son to read a map on Georgia bay, but on smaller inland lakes, he’s good to go.


Sam Demma (11:58):
That’s awesome. That’s amazing. It sounds like community is a through line theme through all of this. Like you, you know, students helping each other, everyone getting involved in playing a role. It sounds like the, the school you were at and probably the one you’re at right now, like one of the emphasis is building strong community. What are some of the things you focus on in the school culture?


Peter Bowman (12:23):
So right now I’m trying to push we’re we’re appropriate project based learning and, and again, where possible. Multidisciplines so nice. I met with, with a colleague the other day. We’ve got this beautiful blank brick wall on our third floor that has sunshine almost all day. So I’m talking with, with Philly and I’m saying, is there a way that we can maybe get a living while going?


Sam Demma (12:51):
Mm.


Peter Bowman (12:52):
And so she’s jumped right on board, and that’s the thing like, she, like, we’ve got great people. So she jumps right on board, and she’s already talked to the environ person at the board office. But I love that she and I are on the same page and that we’re thinking, well, we’ve got a Makerspace club and a guy who loves computer programs. So maybe we can get in our Arduino or a raspberry pie to, to program the, the cycling of water for, for hydration. And, and we’ve got a fantastic machine shop here, right? So guys can, can weld up frames and brackets and and build the structure. So that’s where I want to go with that. I’ve got a I’ll call it an art installation in the main entrance way of our school. Hmm. That’s got six old random computer monitors.


Peter Bowman (13:40):
Again, the, the tech guys built the frame to, to Mount all these monitors. And then the computer guys programmed these little raspberry pies to take a kid’s image from our digital media art class and break it up into six quadrants of, of the, of the screen. Yeah. Cool. So that you now have these funky little, so your, your image that you created is then exploded into these six pieces. And that’s three different disciplines that have a project, right. When you walk in the front door. Cool. so that kind of thinking it doesn’t always pan out. Like I have more failures than I have successes, but I like that because then that’s a student that says I did that.


Sam Demma (14:25):
Mm.


Peter Bowman (14:26):
What is, or new kids coming in that can say, I can do that.


Sam Demma (14:31):
Hmm. What is your perspective on failure? Like, I I’ve listened to some people that I respect and they say things like failures or stepping stones to future learnings, you know, and as much as that’s a positive thing, obviously in the moment, it kind of sucks. but how do you perceive failure and, and approach the those actions?


Peter Bowman (14:54):
I’m certainly not, I’m not gonna drop a t-shirt phrase, but yeah, it’s critical. Yeah. I, my alternative school days as you can imagine, these are kids that struggled and maybe didn’t have a lot of encouragement. Maybe didn’t have a lot of success in their time, in and around school. We often referred to ourselves as the land and misfit toys, which I thought was kind of appropriate. But in that we banded together and, and had a lot of fun. But again, it’s the math teacher. You’re almost the, the worst guy in the planet, right? Yeah. Cause I’m taking kids that have very likely had horrific math experiences. And the big thing I always said is if, if you know, we, we look at homework or 15 minutes after class work time if I went around and I saw that the page was blank. And if a student said, well, I tried, I said, no, if you tried, there’d be all over that page.


Sam Demma (15:51):
Mm.


Peter Bowman (15:53):
And so we got into this sort of mindset that you know, and this was before the modern version of the vertical classroom, which is all the rage, but it was every kid at a marker. And every kid who’s up with a whiteboard and you throw something out there and I don’t care if it’s right or wrong, you are going to write something. And, and eventually, cuz it certainly doesn’t happen right away. Eventually every kid is, is willing to take a shot. Hmm. And I think that’s that to me is victory. Again, most of those kids that I, that I taught how to graph a linear relationship are probably not doing that for a living right now. Yeah. but the boldness to make that first step to try and come up with a table of values that I think is something that they’re probably tapping into as a as a skill set or as a, as a willingness to trust themselves to try.


Sam Demma (16:54):
Mm yeah. It’s like a character trait you build through different activities, which is why, when you mentioned earlier saying leadership camp, wasn’t only about learning a leadership concept. It was about being a part of something. It was about getting involved, building confidence in an activity. I think school as a whole does that in so many different subjects. And if we find something that we love doing as well, while we’re there, it’s like added bonus. But the, yeah, I think the skills last a lifetime well,


Peter Bowman (17:26):
And, and the shared experiences. Yeah. Right. Like it is, it’s one of the things I absolutely love is when I, when I chat with former students. And, and sometimes like I’ll still run into kids in Barry cause that’s where I live. And I’ve taught in a couple of schools in Barry. And so you’ll run into kids periodically. And they vividly remember scenarios and situations as, as do educators. But the problem is, yeah, you, you end up with so many kids and so many experiences you, yeah. That those moments may not make your top 10 for, but for that particular student, it, it was and like with the old school man, we did some stuff that was crazy. Awesome. And again, it wasn’t that they’re gonna learn how to parse out the subject and predicate in a sentence. It’s it’s that they know that if you relax and try and enjoy life or we bit sometimes good things can happen.


Peter Bowman (18:24):
We, I think it was at it wasn’t all school. It was at a regular school. We had a field trip. This math class had done way beyond what I’d ever imagined. Hmm. They were just so willing to go on the journey of trying stuff. So I, I asked if we could go on a field trip and the vice principal at the time said help me understand, do you wanna take a math class on a field trip? Where are you gonna go? That is math . So I was able to document it, letting us go to Toronto. So from Barry to Toronto, and this is back in the day when you were allowed to rent passenger van. So we rented the passenger van cause it was a very small class. We drove to Toronto and we were gonna go down to the lake shore and we were gonna figure out how far away center island was from lake Ontario using trigonometry.


Peter Bowman (19:10):
And we were gonna measure certain Heights of buildings using trigonometry trigonometry. So we did a bit of that. Oh. And by the way, it was around Christmas and we were gonna stop at Yorkdale and, you know, wander around a little bit. And that was okay too. So for whatever crazy reason, wherever we parked in Yorkdale, again, we’re all traveling together like who in the right mind wants to hang out with a math teacher, but we all walk in, whatever door happened to be open from where we parked and we follow this long corridor and then we go up these stairs and not this, we ended up on the roof of Yorkdale, you know.

Peter Bowman (19:44):
Well, I’m standing on the roof with, and, and as we, as we come out and we’re realizing we’re on the roof, you know, the, the immediate don’t let that door close. So, you know, we laughed about it and, and then left. I don’t remember what else we did on the trip, but I’m sure those guys remember that experience. Right.


Sam Demma (20:01):
Yeah.


Peter Bowman (20:02):
So I don’t know. I really think those opportunities are so vital. And that’s why when I walk around the school as principal and I see coaches here to the wee hours working on stuff and, you know, teachers lining up trips to Europe and stuff like that. That’s, that’s awesome. I absolutely love that extra effort that goes into things.


Sam Demma (20:23):
Hmm. Shared experiences is a big one. I was, I was listening to a podcast recently and they were talking about building relationships with other people and shared experiences is one of the top ways to do that because you have this memory and moment in time, that’s linked with that other individual. And they were talking about it in a, you know, a relationship like an intimate relationship way and you know, like going on dates and why it’s important to spend with your significant other. But yeah, just as much applies, I think, to just building friendships and lifelong friends. Speaking of like lifelong friends and friendships the educators that had a big impact on you, do you still stay in touch with some of those, those individuals and also do you have any mentors that helped you along the journey that you wanna give a quick shout out to besides Mar?


Peter Bowman (21:15):
That’s a good question. I don’t off the top of my head. I don’t think I have any that I, I seek out. It’s kind of funny because right now as principal there are some supply teachers that are retired, teachers that come in that used to work in the school I was in. So it is kind of funny to run into some of those folks. Mentorship’s an interesting thing, cuz we, we love to formalize everything. Yeah, right. We love to turn everything into a numbered memo and a, and a program and a structured something or other. And I, I don’t see, I don’t see that happening very well as a formalized process in education. Mm. My, my mentorship is, is all over the map. You know, getting into administration is a really significant shift from, from classroom teaching. And so to find people, I, I mean, we always use the phrase, phone, a friend to find people who you resonate with as a, as an approach, cuz not everyone’s the same.


Peter Bowman (22:23):
There are certainly colleagues that I have great deal of respect for, but if the two of us had to run a school together, I think it would be a disaster. Because our, our approach is just so different. There’d be conflict and style and, and, and in some case decision making, mm. So the mentors are, are those phone of friends. That I guess if I checked my phone to see, you know, frequency of text messaging there’s lots. And I think it’s important also to recognize that the formalized mentorship, they always talk about find somebody that is in the position you want to be in and, and aspire to. And then, and then work there. I actually have some mentors that, that are not in that sort of next step mm-hmm they’re, they’re either at the same step or they’re maybe a step behind or two steps behind. And it’s really just somebody that, that similar passion and in a lot of cases that similar lens. And so if your, if your lens is, how can I best help kids? You got a good shot at being on my mentor list.


Sam Demma (23:33):
I love it. I think you, you just got me thinking about a thought I’ve had for a while and couldn’t, couldn’t bring to words and it’s this idea that yeah, mentors don’t always have to be someone in the exact position you wanna be in in the future. It could also be somebody who I think it could also be someone who’s in a totally different field who can bring a unique perspective into the thing you’re hoping to do.


Peter Bowman (24:01):
And I’ve, I’ve read various books on, on mentoring, like iron sharp iron and all these other, there’s a lot of writing that goes into it. And they, they do say sometimes it’s not within your industry. But I, like, I also say in some respects, the kids that I’ve worked with yeah. Have mentored me as well. Like I think of my early days as a vice principal, that’s a, that’s a really tricky role to play at school. Yep. And, and there are some kids that I would say you might call high flyers regular yeah. Interactions and those kids as a new vice principal certainly helped me figure out what would and wouldn’t work. Mm. And so in that case, the iron sharpening iron yeah. That happened.


Sam Demma (24:48):
Mm. Yeah. I love that.


Peter Bowman (24:49):
But only because you’re authentic. Yeah. Right. If I, if I tried to have that, that, you know, rock solid authority position, I don’t think you would ever get to that mentoring sort of relationship with somebody. Or, and again, it, I don’t know if I’m doing proper justice to that concept. I’m sure there are folks out there that have studied mentoring that are freaking out when I say this, but mentoring is really about learning. Yeah. And, and where do you find that learning opportunity? And I, I don’t think we should ever limit where that learning can come from.


Sam Demma (25:19):
Great perspective. Speaking of learning, you mentioned iron sharpens, iron, any other resources that you have read or courses you’ve been through or yeah, just resources in general, they’ve been helpful for you throughout your, your career. I’m just curious. And yeah. If another educators listening, maybe they could look into it.


Peter Bowman (25:39):
So like honestly, the, the biggest resource I have are my ears.


Sam Demma (25:45):
Mm.


Peter Bowman (25:46):
They’re not particularly large. They’re getting a little hairier, but it’s, it’s listening and, and allowing yourself to listen more. The recently the one book I read was white fragility challenging read as a, as a white male and coming from that place of privilege again, I didn’t necessarily follow everything that was being described in the book, but it really forced me to, to not pay lip service, to trying to understand white privilege. Yeah. And, and that, that hit me last year. And I shared with my staff actually, I, I shot a little video and I know you’re not supposed to operate your cell phone when driving a car, but I did shoot a little video while driving. I was, I was going to pick up my, my one kid and I was a little bit late. So I might have been going a little beyond what the speed limit was telling me I was supposed to do. And I actually had this, this thought in my head, ah, what’s the worst that could happen. I’ll get a ticket. And then it hit me that’s cuz I’m, I’m white. Mm. That is not the worst that can happen for a lot of people.


Peter Bowman (27:05):
And, and I was, I was messed up. Like, I was even late because I had to pull over. And even now actually saying this Sam, like it, it Wells me up a little bit because that’s, that’s a horrible thing to have thought. But thankfully as I’m trying to read and trying to understand and try and do better, I’m, I’m getting caught in some of that stuff. Right. And I recognize that other other experiences are, are very complex and, and I need to try and do a little better. So weight privilege was a tough read. It it, it got through to me in, in ways that a lot of other PD and workshops and stuff hadn’t, and again, it, it may not be the, the magic ticket for others, but I, I certainly found it a very challenging read as a white male.


Sam Demma (27:53):
I appreciate you sharing that and I’m sure other people will be encouraged to check it out after hearing this. If someone, you know, listens to this conversation wants to ask you a question, connect or reach out what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Peter Bowman (28:08):
I’m happy to chat. Like I, I very much wear my heart on my sleeve and and I’m certainly open to things. Welcome to send an email to me or call the school Orillia Secondary School and askto speak to the principal. We’re crazy busy with all that is school, but I’m, I’m certainly open to, to phone calls and whatever. I do social media, but increasingly I find there’s so much negativity and so much challenge with that, that I’m, I’m trying to back off. I never did get into Facebook. I created an account one year and, and friended my wife. That was what I gave her for her birthday or something. Because she knew how anti-Facebook I was and, and Twitter and, and Instagram I do. But it just, I find that people are just looking for opportunity to make that a, a negative space and that frustrates me because I can’t control it as well. And I, I also feel I do a bad enough job with the friends. I actually see, I don’t need to feel like I’m doing a bad job with the people I don’t necessarily run into.


Sam Demma (29:17):
Yeah, no, I agree. I, I took a year off social media about a year and a half ago now and it changed my perspective a lot.


Peter Bowman (29:27):
Is tricky because there’s, but there’s so much good that can come up. And, and if, if you could be part of a social media platform that forbid darkness and evil and then I’m in cuz there are a lot of great kitten photos and there’s a lot of great sayings and there’s a lot of deep insights that can occur. And these are wonderful platforms to, to challenge your brain and challenge your heart. But man, there’s so much poison it’s it’s really just worth it at times.


Sam Demma (30:02):
I appreciate Peter you taking the time to come on here and chat share some of your own insights and journeys and funny stories. and I, I hope to stay in touch in the future and continue to watch the great things that happen once the living wall comes to life. You’re gonna have to send me a picture of it.


Peter Bowman (30:20):
Knowing, knowing school board protocols and procedures, this could be years.


Sam Demma (30:24):
Yeah. but anyway, keep up the great work.


Peter Bowman (30:29):
I appreciate you doing this and highlighting some of the good things that are going on, because they’re certainly way more good than bad.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Peter Bowman

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Katrin Heim – Innovation Coach with Buffalo Trail Public Schools

Katrin Heim - Innovation Coach with Buffalo Trail Public Schools
About Katrin Heim

Katrin Heim (@HeimKatrin) is an Innovation Coach with Buffalo Trail Public Schools. Her rural roots and years of teaching, primarily in division one have shaped her approach to teaching and leadership. Katrin believes that people (students, families, and communities), are at the heart of our work as educators.   

Connect with Katrin: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Buffalo Trail Public Schools Website

What is an Innovation Coach?

Leadership and Mentorship

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 on this show is working in a position that we’ve never had the opportunity to interview before. Her name is Katrin, she is the innovation coach with the Buffalo Trail Public schools. Her rural roots and years in teaching, primarily in division one have shaped her approach to teaching and leadership.


Sam Demma (01:01):
Katrin believes that people, students, families, and communities are at the heart of our work as educators or those people who work in schools and in education. She is someone I have the awesome privilege and opportunity to work with for an event in September. I’m super excited about it, and I’m super excited about you listening to this interview with her. Enjoy this, I will see you on the other side. Talk soon. Kat, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by just introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind the journey that brought you into education?


Katrin Heim (01:40):
All right. Good morning. Thank you for having me, Sam. It’s wonderful to be here. As you said, my name is Katrin. I am an educator. I’ve taught for 11 years. This is my 11th year. I’ve worked primarily as a grade one and two teacher in a small rural school in Alberta where I also live and call home. And recently transitioned to our central office in the role of an innovation coach, and so that’s a fancy term for instructional coach support teacher brainstorm partner problem solver. And so my work partner and I work closely with the, the rest of our learning services department to support the teachers in Buffalo Trail Public Schools with anything teaching and learning related.


Sam Demma (02:40):
Now, how did you transition from kindergarten teacher to innovation coach? This sounds such a, this is so cool.


Katrin Heim (02:50):
Well, you know, I’ve, I’ve always loved working with other people. Okay. And so in my role as a grade one and two teacher in this small little school I was the only grade one and two teacher. And so I would often reach out to the other innovation coaches in our division as brainstorm partners or, Hey, this looks really cool. I’d like to try this, but I just don’t know how to get started. And so I just, I, as a classroom teacher, I started forming relationships with the innovation coaches we already had in Buffalo trail and loved it. I felt that I grew as a, as a professional. I felt that with their support, I became a better teacher. My lessons were more engaging and my students were impacted in a positive way. And so I just continued to develop those relationships and when the position became available, I just thought, yeah, you know what? I I’d like to do this and, and applied and here I am. So that’s awesome. Yeah.


Sam Demma (04:16):
And so at what point in your own career search, if we went back in time, 12 years, 13 years, like at what point in your own career journey and education, did you know that you wanted to become a teacher or an educator or at least work in education?


Katrin Heim (04:33):
it’s something that I’ve always known. Okay. From a very young age and it’s not like I can’t when I reflect back on even my childhood or my teenage years or deciding to go into education. I can’t recall a specific time in my life where I felt like this is what I needed to do or wanted to do with my life. It’s just always been what I wanted to do. My I’m a fourth generation teacher. There are, you know, great grandparents, grandparents, my dad, my sister is also an educator. And so it’s, I feel like it’s just in my DNA. But beyond that, I think going to university and coming home. So I went away to university in the city and then came back to this small rural, you know, Alberta community and decided to teach here. And the reason for that was that I wanted to make an impact in the lives of kids that I was closest to. Mm. I wanted to create opportunities for my own children, for my nieces, my nephews, my friends’ kids, the people who I love in my community. And that was really what what drove my decision to, to teach and to live here and still, what, what drives my, my work in central office, you know, these are, these are the people that I care about. And this is, these are the people, these are, people are the reason I do what I do. Mm.


Sam Demma (06:32):
Yeah. I love that. That’s awesome. And, you know, you mentioned the four generations of educators, which is phenomenal. did you also have teachers that taught you as a, when you were a student that had a huge impact on your decision to get into teaching? And do you remember who any of those people were?


Katrin Heim (06:51):
Yes. In fact there are. And I, I had the privilege to work with those people as a young teacher also.


Sam Demma (07:04):
Oh, cool.


Katrin Heim (07:05):
because I came back to the school that I graduated from in high school, I had the opportunity to learn and grow from those mentors as a teacher myself. And so, you know a couple of teachers that I can recall in particular really supported me as a new teacher when I was teaching my students to read, for example as a grade one and two teacher, that’s the biggest stressor perhaps even challenge in those years. And I never felt adequately prepared to teach children to read. Mm. Because it’s so complex. And and yes, and so I had one wonderful teacher who I would swing that, you know, swing into their classroom in the morning. And I would say, you know, I tried this yesterday and it’s just not working or this is what my kids are doing right now. How am I doing what do I need to know? Where do I go next? And having relationships with these, these individuals and having an opportunity to work alongside them and to be mentored by them on a daily basis was such a privilege and and really shaped how I taught. And yeah.


Sam Demma (08:55):
That’s awesome. Yeah. I was gonna ask you like those teachers that you had, even when you, do you remember even when you were a student, so like even before, when you were a young teacher, when you were, you know, grade seven grade eight high school, do you remember any of those educators, although I guess those are the same ones actually, that, that taught you as a teacher, when you were a student, what did they do that had an impact on you?


Katrin Heim (09:19):
Hmm. I think the greatest thing that I I can recall is that they created space for myself, my peers, my classmates, to be heard in their classrooms for each of us to be valued for who we were. We each of us had an identity and we, those teachers created the space for us to discover our identities and to to really shine in our own ways. I would say primarily, that’s what I remember from the teachers who had an impact. I mean, of course there were high expectations and there were beliefs that we, we could be successful and we would be successful and we were supported in those ways. But I really think that the teachers that I remember having the greatest impact created this space for each of us to shine and to be heard in their classrooms and believed in us.


Sam Demma (10:41):
Yeah. I love that. That’s awesome. And, you know, your problem solving skill set must have been highly effective and used a lot this past year because I’m assuming there was a lot of challenges. How have things, how have things been different this year teaching or working in education versus, you know, last year, in the years prior, because of COVID like, what are some of the challenges that you had to face and how did you try and overcome them?


Katrin Heim (11:11):
Yeah, there, there were many challenges. I mean, in my role as innovation coach my partner and I, my work partner, and I support all the teachers in Buffalo trail with, you know technology supports learning supports, like there’s a lot of different things that we help teachers work through. And prior to COVID, we spent a lot of time on the road and traveling between schools and meeting with teachers face to face. And that stopped very abruptly. And, you know, back in March, when we first transitioned to online learning, we we had to adapt very quickly to support our teachers in learning the skills that they needed to teach in an online environment. And so it meant you know, meeting with teachers using an online platform like Google meets or Google Hangouts to solve technology related problems so that they could get kids and families connected.


Katrin Heim (12:29):
That was the very quick sort of sudden shift back in March. And then it was just providing opportunities for teachers to learn these skills very rapidly because they needed them. And once the dust sort of settled there with that initial transition, it became a lot more our check-ins with teachers, there were, there were different levels to those check-ins I guess we could say because as innovation coaches, we were, we are supports to teachers so that they can, they can shine as teachers and they can create opportunities for learning with their students. And as we know, as teachers, as people, sometimes we need that social emotional check in. And so oftentimes when teachers would reach out with a question or a problem, or, Hey, could you help me with this? We’d set up a Google meet to solve, you know, a pretty straightforward question or problem, and we’d end up chatting for 15 or 20 minutes just about how’s life, like what’s going on.


Katrin Heim (13:55):
And so that was, I would say, also a change because people more than ever needed to feel connected. And so whenever we had an opportunity to connect with someone on a professional level to, to work through a problem or a challenge, that personal connection aspect almost became the priority, just very organically, like it wasn’t forced, it would just happen to be what people needed. So that was also, I would say, a change and the digital the way of connecting digitally with people saved us so much time traveling. Yeah. That we actually had amazing opportunities to connect with more people and perhaps people who we may not have connected with prior to COVID simply because there, the online learning aspect created the need for support, and then therefore we were able to connect. So I think, you know, in that sense, there’s a lot of good that has come from from COVID and online learning and for us in our work, the ability to connect with people online, you know?


Sam Demma (15:35):
Yeah, yeah. It changed a lot of gas too. Right. well, yeah.


Katrin Heim (15:40):
And, and time, and, and in so many ways it’s just as effective for someone to screen share or to talk through something and to bring people together.


Sam Demma (15:54):
Yeah. I agree. I mean, I would agree with the meetings, like the, the check-ins you can meet with so many people, I’m sure you find value in the, in person when you’re talking to a large group. Right. That’s where I think it makes a


Katrin Heim (16:07):
Absolutely


Sam Demma (16:08):
Absolutely makes a difference, but you’re right. Like, I, I mean, even myself, I was telling you earlier, like, this’ll be episode 120 something. Imagine I had to drive to every person’s school. Like , this should be impossible. Like I would have to fly to Alberta, you know? So there’s so many benefits that come with the technology, you know, and, and using it effectively, what are you forecasting for the next year? , it’s a hard question to ask, but I’m sure innovation, you know, I’m sure innovation focuses a little bit on the future, but do you think that the schools in Buffalo trail will be in person or a blend or a hybrid? Like we can’t, no one can really rub the magic ball and guess, but yeah. Curious what your thoughts are.


Katrin Heim (16:51):
I don’t know. I think honestly, it’s a it’s anyone’s guess at this point I don’t expect there will be a lot different from last year in terms of how we start in September, but again I don’t have a crystal ball, so it’s, I really hope that we can we can get back out into schools because spending time in classrooms, you know, anything online just doesn’t replace what it feels like to be in a classroom. So, yeah. I really hope that that’s in our future.


Sam Demma (17:36):
Love that. And in terms of your role, so I think you do a lot of supporting the schools, a lot of supporting the teachers. Does your role also include, like coming up with innovative ideas to build on, you know, programs that are already in schools? Like, what does the whole portfolio look like if someone’s listening to this thinking, this sounds pretty interesting innovation coach, and they wanna learn more, like, how would you break it down to a person that knows nothing about it?


Katrin Heim (18:01):
so I’ll just be starting my third year now as innovation coach. And there’s no


Sam Demma (18:11):
Set definition.


Katrin Heim (18:12):
I’ve never done the same thing twice. Let’s just put it that way. So when I started the focus of my role was a lot more around technology and innovative ways to weave technology into learning particularly with the lens of engagement student engagement. And as the role kind of shifted and progressed, we began to work more with the school based coaches. So we’ve got optimal learning coaches, inclusive learning coaches in our schools, in each of our schools. And of course our admin teams in our schools, our principals and assistant principals. And so as the role evolved, we, we shifted a little bit away from the technology side of things to the instructional aspect. And so a lot of our work and I say our, because I’m part of a team and we all sort of have that same focus.


Katrin Heim (19:30):
Nice. Although our portfolios are slightly different. And so we, we sort of shifted our focus to leading professional learning for our, our groups of teacher leaders in schools. Cool. And so we looked at pedagogy. So with our optimal learning coaches, the focus was on how do we create opportunities for student learning in our classrooms that are engaging rigorous and allow our kids to connect their learning so that they they have deeper understanding of the content and how it’s connected to all of the other content that they’re learning cool. So that they’re making connections and, and gaining that deep understanding and, and creating learning that allows students to transfer that understanding from, you know, between and amongst situations. And so back to your point, you know, so we’re leading this learning with optimal learning coaches in terms of our inclusive learning coaches, we’re supporting professional development for that group of teachers as well, looking doing some coaching with both of those cohorts in terms of supporting their work in schools, leading professional learning in their schools, but also supporting them with the work that they do with their teachers in their own schools.


Katrin Heim (21:19):
So nice sort of more about supporting the teacher leaders and the leaders in each of the schools so that they can then support their, their teachers instead of us like working individually you know, with teachers. So looking to have a bit of a, a larger impact by supporting those, those leaders and teacher leaders in, in schools. So that would be sort of the biggest shift that I’ve seen in my role. And I, yeah, I mean, I look forward to continuing to build relationships with those, those groups of teachers with our principals. Nice, because we find that those relationships that we build and we initiate and we nurture, and we support the work that is happening in schools. It allows leaders and, and teachers to do what they do best. And it creates again, just like, you know, the teacher that I reflected on having an impact on me in as a student in high school. Now we create the space for others to shine. We create the space for people to feel connected, to feel supported, to ask for help if they need to, or just simply to bounce an idea off. Because as we know, the more we talk through an idea and refine it the better it becomes. And so we really do our best work when we’re connected to others. And so that’s, that’s been a little bit of how my role has taken shape.


Sam Demma (23:20):
Yeah. It sounds like it involves a lot of people, teams of people. You never do the same task twice. You’re always solving problems and traveling a lot. Usually when there isn’t COVID that’s cool. Yeah, no, I, I, I just thought it’d be awesome to highlight what the role looks like in case someone wasn’t too sure about it or, or what it included. Now, if you could go back 11 years and give younger cat advice, knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self in your first year of working in education?


Katrin Heim (23:55):
Education is really about people.


Sam Demma (23:57):
Hmm. What does that mean? Tell me more


Katrin Heim (24:04):
It’s about kids. It’s about family, it’s about community. And I think I always had this sense, but I don’t know that I knew it or could have articulated its value the same way, you know, 11 years ago, as I, as I can now, you know, I’ve my first my first group of grade one and twos have now graduated.


Sam Demma (24:36):
Stop aging yourself.


Katrin Heim (24:39):
Know. I know. But


Sam Demma (24:41):
That’s


Katrin Heim (24:43):
Awesome. And to see, and to still to see these kids graduate. Yeah. And to be, you know, grow into the people that they are. And to know that not just myself, but all of their teachers through their school careers have impacted who they are as people who they are as learners. We’ve, you know, the relationships that I, as a grade one teacher established with my families sets the tone for their school careers. Yeah. You know, and, and these are the same families and the same students who are part of our community. And so I just, I just think education is really about people. It’s, it’s about kids. It’s about families, it’s about community and, and, and learning of course. But those relationships and those connections need to be front and center for that learning to take place.


Sam Demma (26:01):
Mm. I love that. Mm-Hmm, , that’s awesome. And I couldn’t agree more. I have a, a mentor who always tells me people buy people. Like at the end of the day, people buy people, you know, and relationships are extremely important. And I think it’s not only true in education, but in life in general, it’s like, it’s, it’s all about community and families and, and other people. If someone wants to reach out and talk to you, another person because it’s all about people, what would be the best email address to share, or what would be the best way for someone listening to reach out to you if they have any questions or just want to connect after listening?


Katrin Heim (26:38):
Sure. people can email me at katrin.heim@btps.ca.


Sam Demma (26:53):
Awesome. Katrin, thank you so much for coming on the show again. It’s been a pleasure having you on and keep up the awesome work innovating, and we’ll talk soon.


Katrin Heim (27:01):
Thanks Sam.


Sam Demma (27:03):
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 Katrin Heim

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.

Mark Cossarin – Principal at Lindsay Collegiate & VocationaI Institute

Mark Cossarin - Principal at Lindsay Collegiate & VocationaI Institute
About Mark Cossarin

Mark did his undergraduate degree with a major in physical education and a minor in sociology at York University. He grew up ten minutes away, so it was nice to save money and live at home. He was a starting power hitter on the men’s varsity volleyball team for four years, and he was also an assistant coach with the women’s program for one year. He moved on to Western University for grad school to complete a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology. He taught undergraduate practicum courses in volleyball, badminton and physiology. He was also the teaching assistant for his thesis advisor’s Canadian Sport History course, which all first year kinesiology students took. During my second year there, he became the head coach of the women’s varsity volleyball team. The Centre for Olympic Studies at Western was just opening as well, and he had an opportunity to work very closely with the founder who was a member of his thesis committee. After graduating, he moved back home and attended UofT to earn his B.Ed. 

Mark Cossarin was very fortunate during his post-secondary education to be involved in many programs that allowed him to interact with a variety of leaders. Whether a professor, coach, teaching assistant or administrator, he always valued his experiences under their tutelage. It made him understand that working hard and sharing your passion for your subject area with others, has a tremendous impact on the development of meaningful programs. In the area of volleyball, we held numerous skills camps for younger athletes as well as the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), where coaches, many of whom were teachers, attained their volleyball certification. During this time he became a certified NCCP instructor for indoor and beach volleyball, the Spikes Program, which introduced volleyball to younger kids and the provincial officials’ certification program.

Mark’s teaching career began with an LTO at LCVI two weeks before he completed my B.Ed. in April of 1994  They needed a phys. ed. qualified individual to replace a teacher on medical leave. After 2 LTOs and supply work, he was the second permanent hire at the Adult Ed. Centre in Lindsay when it opened in March of 1995. As the low person on the seniority list, he was bumped to FFSS and then back to LCVI.  From 1998 until 2000, during Mike Harris’ common sense revolution, his wife Mary (teacher at LCVI) and himself taught at the George Washington School in Cartagena, Colombia. Students earned an American and Colombian diploma and many continued their post-secondary education in the United States. Since Italian was his first language, learning Spanish was quite enjoyable. Mary and Mark took Spanish lessons two nights a week during our first year there. He was the head of physical education and the athletic director. He taught every single student from grade 1-12 (approximately 500 students). 

Similar to his post-secondary experiences, Mark had worked with a variety of people in different educational institutions.  He saw firsthand how administrators work and he was able to determine which characteristics are most effective.  

He visited LCVI when they returned to Lindsay after their first year of teaching in Cartagena. Mark chatted with Mike Trusz who was one of the VPs. He was describing our experiences and future plans. At that point, he said Mark should consider getting his PQP qualifications. He had already worked with him and he seemed to think that Mark would be a good fit as an administrator. It is amazing how a short conversation like that can have such a big impact. Mark was flattered because he was a very effective administrator and he had a lot of respect for how he did his job.  

Mark signed up for his junior qualification, which was the first time the Queen’s Faculty of Education offered an on-line course. He was fortunate because he had to do it from Colombia since their second year had just begun in mid-August. When Mark and his wife completed their two-year contract, they came back to Ontario and he did his PQP Part 1 that summer through Brock University and his PQP Part 2 during the evenings through the Durham Board once the school year began.

Mark became a VP at IEW in the fall of 2002. After 4 years there, he moved to FFSS as principal. At the end of 2 years, he went back to IEW, and was principal for 11 years. He am now in my third year as principal at LCVI. Mark would never want to leave the secondary school environment. He loves welcoming kids in grade 9 and seeing them develop over their four years in our school. Mark has worked with wonderful people – fellow administrators, teaching staff, EAs, secretaries, custodians and the great folks who work out of the board offices. Not to mention, he has enjoyed connecting with students and families in all three school communities.

Mark’s immigrant parents always told him, “Mark, we are lucky to be in Canada. Please make sure you listen to your teacher/advisor/boss and respect them. You can learn from everyone no matter how old you are.” He has never forgotten that. 

Connect with Mark Cossarin: Email

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Lindsay Collegiate & VocationaI Institute

Trillium Lakelands District School Board – Better Together

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® – FranklinCovey

Four Must-Do’s for Empowered Principals

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):
Mark, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show this afternoon. Start by introducing yourself.

Mark Cossarin (03:05):
My name is mark Cossarin. I’m a principal with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board. And I’ve been here with the board since gosh, 1995. And I’ve been a principal since two and gosh, when was it? 2000 and two, I became a vice principal and I’ve been a principal since 2006. I’ve had a chance to be a principal at FFSS. I spent a tremendous amount of time over at LE Weldon in Lindsey. And now I’m the principal at Lindsay collegiate vocational Institute, Lindsay Ontario.

Sam Demma (03:41):
At what point in your own journey as a, as a young student, did you realize I want to get into education?

Mark Cossarin (03:51):
Gosh, I would say probably during my undergraduate time at York I, I was fortunate enough to be a member of the men’s varsity volleyball team and I was a starting power hitter for four years. And it was during that time, I had a chance to work with a lot of good leaders in their areas. So whether it was a professor or a coach or a teaching assistant, an administrator, I always valued those experiences on their, their tutelage, I think. And I think it made me understand that working hard and sharing your passion for your subject area with others has a pretty big impact on individuals and by extension programs. So the volleyball program at York, we did a lot of things in the community as well. So we ran a lot of kids programs.

Mark Cossarin (04:36):
We did a lot of national coaching certification program work where even during the summer, we’d run a lot of camps where the ever coaches or people who wanted to become coaches and get certified would come in. And the vast majority of those folks were actually teachers. So it was pretty neat at such a young age to be able to start doing those things. And I realized, you know what, this is something I’m pretty passionate about. I, I like it. I’m pretty good at it. And that really sort of planted the seed for me. I think,

Sam Demma (05:05):
How did volleyball and being in athletics at a high level shape, the way you approach education or your desire to teach and be a part of a team in a school?

Mark Cossarin (05:17):
Right. Well, I would say, I mean, obviously I had a, I was pretty passionate about athletics and sports and things like that. And I thought, you know what? That is an area where I think there is room for everybody regardless of what your area of interest might be. Mm. And, and that’s what I keep telling kids. I said, you know, even though I haven’t played volleyball in a long time, you know, what, you can get involved in so many ways if you’ve become educated in the sport. So you can become a coach, a referee, a, an administrator, and you can still stay involved and get to a pretty high level. If you do sort of, you know, have a passion for it and, and share that with others.

Sam Demma (05:56):
So you went to school to get the educational degree and the, the learning what did the journey look like from that moment to where you are today?

Mark Cossarin (06:08):
Sure. So I, I did my undergraduate degree at York went to grad school at Western. And then I had an opportunity to teach there as well as a TA. So I had a chance to, to get a sense of what that would be like. And then I went to teacher’s college at the university of Toronto, and my wife actually got a job here in Lindsay the year before I finished and I followed her up here. And we’ve never left ever since.

Sam Demma (06:35):
Oh, that’s awesome. A along the journey, did you have other educators, people who had an impact or made a difference in your life mentor you? And if so, like who were those people and what did they do that had a significant impact?

Mark Cossarin (06:52):
Right. again, I, I, I was fortunate enough that when I first got up here, I, I, I did an LTO for contract for someone. And actually even before I finished teachers college, I came up here. And again, I’ve had a chance to work with a lot of different administrators, whether they’re principals of vice principals, department heads fellow teachers within certain departments. And I think everybody, I think everybody has an impact on you. I think my parents always said, you know what regardless of where you are, you you’ll always be able to learn from everybody. You may not necessarily love what you see, but that’s part of the learning where you go, oh, that’s good. That doesn’t work so well. And I just think having had an opportunity to be, you know, here at L C B I, and then at, at, at the adult ed center, and then at, at the other high schools in the area, I always had a chance to interact with a lot of individuals. So there were so many, I think I, I can’t even mention all of them because I think it it’s been a good experience. And, and it’s been very lovely working up in this part of Ontario.

Sam Demma (07:52):
You worked as well in adult education. What was that experience like for you and paint us a picture of the difference between the school you were in now and that experience?

Mark Cossarin (08:01):
Sure. So it was, I was actually fortunate because I think I was the second one hired there. It was opened in 1995 and it was actually underneath LC B’s umbrella. So the board had never had an adult ed center. And these were truly adults, every single person who started with us there was over 20 years and some of them were in their sixties and seventies. Wow. And it was amazing cuz there, I was looking for transcripts from people who went to high school in a, really in 19, in the 1950s sixties. It, it was great because these folks had been away for so long and they were given an opportunity to earn a secondary school diploma. It was just such a meaningful experience to have that opportunity to work with, with folks who had had a tremendous amount of experience in a variety of areas come back and actually finish that chapter, which is something a lot of them never had an opportunity to do.

Sam Demma (08:58):
I have to imagine that’s a pretty inspiring environment. You know, it, it sounds like every single one of those learners is coming back to reach for something. Instead of just not complete that aspect of their life. What would, what was your experience did, did you find it that the learners were, or the people that were in that situation really wanted to improve, grow and continue on? Or was it an inspiring situation?

Mark Cossarin (09:25):
I think it varied depending on who the individual was, but I would say the vast majority, they already had jobs. Right. And they had worked for a long period of time, but they really just symbolically if not thing else, the opportunity to truly finish something, they never had had chance to finish when they were in their teens. Now some of them were younger and needed an Ontario secondary school diploma yeah. To apply for some jobs. So there was quite a range, but literally there was a woman who was 77 years old who was in that, you know, and she ended up going, I’ll never forget. She ended up applying for position. I think it was at a library in COBA Concor just north of us here. And she ended up working there before she passed away. Wow. So it, yeah, it was pretty cool.

Sam Demma (10:05):
That’s awesome. And what is, tell us a little bit about your school, the school you’re working in right now. What is the culture like here?

Mark Cossarin (10:13):
Right. So I’m, I’m at Lindsay collegiate vocational Institute. It’s actually a fairly old school. It, it was found in 1889 here. So it’s been here for a very long time. The school, it it’s, it’s a composite high school in rural Ontario. We’ve got about 500 students now. The numbers aren’t nearly as large as they used to be. And I mean, there’s a variety of things that we offer. So I, this is something we always tell parents at our grade eight info night that regardless of who your child is, regardless of their background, regardless of what their future goals might be, we have something for everyone here. There is a pathway for every single individual in our school, but we try and impress upon in the importance of please show up, please show up every single day, show up, please listen to your instructor, the EA in your class, whoever’s around and try. If you can do those things, we promise you will get your diploma. You will develop skills and you’ll be able to move on and do something else in an area of interest.

Sam Demma (11:18):
Hmm. It’s a really awesome personal philosophy. Is there any mindset shifts, beliefs that you’ve carried throughout your professional career and even also as an athlete that informed the way that you showed up every day? And if so, what are some of those beliefs?

Mark Cossarin (11:35):
Yeah, I, I, I know it sounds simple, but, and I’ll go back to it. Sure. Show up you really, you have to show up and you have to try, you know, you can’t be perfect at everything you do and you can’t necessarily be great at everything you do, but if you want to improve, you have to do repetition. there has to be repetition. You have to do things over and over to get better at it. So even if it’s something as simple as a skill in a sport, I can’t get better at something if I don’t do it over and over. And I would say the same thing in any subject area that you, you just gotta show up and you gotta try and just be, be positive. I mean, I think at the end of the day, you know, know what, when kids come into this building, I mean, this is a bricks and mortar school and it’s a traditional school, but we say, look, you know what?

Mark Cossarin (12:17):
We have a roof over your head. We will feed you and we will make sure you will be safe and we will listen to you, but we need you to be here. Please just come every single day if you can. Cuz I think that’s how kids connect. Right. And I just think, unfortunately, during the last two years, it’s had an impact on a lot of, well, all students, irrespective of age, right where we’re learning at home now we’re here now. We’re not, so it’s been challenging and I’d say moving forward, that’s probably one of the biggest challenges we will have now moving back to some kind of normalcy with students where guess what? We have a four period day again, you know, and we hope that you’re gonna show now it’s a little bit different. It’s not an OK master. It’s not a quad, you know, it’s not a hybrid.

Mark Cossarin (12:59):
Yeah. You’re, you’re back here now. So I think from a curricular perspective, that’s probably the most challenging thing moving forward, but it’s also great because now guess what, hopefully with normalcy, we have extracurriculars again and kids get to be part of clubs and they get to connect with others in areas of interest, you know, and we get to have dances and a prom and field trips and all of those things that, you know, over the last two years for the kids in grade, you know, in grade 10 or even the kids in grade 11, you know, they’ve never really had a chance to experience that very long or at all.

Sam Demma (13:32):
Yeah. So true. I’m sure you’re also itching to get back on the volleyball court with some of the kids.

Mark Cossarin (13:37):
Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s just a great way to connect right. With kids who have an opportunity to do something they like. And, but again, they put in the time and it’s after school and yeah. So I, I mean, whether it’s a sport, whether it’s a club, just anything where people get a chance to connect with other stakeholders and, and, and just connect with their schools and, you know, and buy swag and wear school colors and, and, and all of those kinds of things that I think have, has been challenging over the last couple of years. But I think with everything that’s happened, I think our, our board has done a really, really good job supporting our staff and our students to get to where we could get. I mean, we never knew what it was gonna look like and on a weekly basis it would change. And even though we’re not necessarily at the end yet I think our board really has done a very good job chatting with all stakeholders to get a sense of what they wanted. And by and large, you know, what all things consider knock on wood. It’s been pretty good, all things considered.

Sam Demma (14:36):
I love it. And I mean, it sounds like you focus on the positives as well. I think it’s very easy to also focus on the things that are extremely negative and your whole life becomes those things. right. So it’s cool. Even amongst the storm, you can find some sliver of sunshine yeah. And, you know, focus on that until it passes. What resources have you found helpful in the, over your career in education? It could even be people resources, but if you found any courses or books or podcasts you listen to, or anything of that nature helpful feel, feel free to share.

Mark Cossarin (15:13):
Sure. I, I would say I’ve worked with wonderful people. So whether it’s fellow administrators or teaching staff, EA secretaries, custodians, people who work outta the board office, if you ever have a question, there is somebody who can help you and can answer that question for you for sure. No question in my mind. And anytime we have a question, somebody will help you. It’s just important that you ask and you know who to ask. I’d say you gotta keep learning your respective of how long you’ve been at something. I mean, I think it’s important that, you know, if you are an administrator, you should be a member of a S C, D or PD PDK international, where, you know, there are excellent resources for administrators that keep you on top of things moving forward, because things change. I mean, even from a technological perspective, things have changed so quickly. And now that we’re teaching generation Z, for those of us who have been at it for a very long period of time, it gets even more challengingSam Demma (16:08):
I, I had a, a past guest on and I, his name is slipping, slipping my mind right now, but he was basically telling me he would tell his students, I will never get mad at you for asking a question. No matter how silly you think the question is, I promise you I’ll never get mad at you for asking a question. So please ask as many questions as you’d like. And he said that that outcome, once kids got comfortable with it would lead him to walk around his classroom for like an hour and a half after saying it because kids had so many questions and he said, you know, I’ll get mad at you if you do something foolish, but not for asking questions. And I think you know, you’re right, asking questions is so important and you don’t always have to have the answer, but someone else who you work with might definitely have the answer. And that’s why I think it goes back to what you said earlier about, well, you have to show up, you have to try. And the third is you have to listen. That’s what you said. And yeah, I think listening is so important. Yeah. Why do you think listening is so important?

Mark Cossarin (17:09):
Why, oh gosh. But I think we’re all so different. And I think sometimes we, we make assumptions until we find out who the person is. Mm. And it’s funny, just you mentioning that teacher answering questions and you, you basically just shared probably the most important thing a teacher can do is use proximity. Mm. You know, don’t just stand at the front, don’t sit at your desk, walk around, communicate with the kids, get, get an idea of what’s going on. Cuz the moment you can get closer to a kid, you get an idea of what they’re writing down, what’s on their tablet. You know what they’re looking at, what they’re wearing, you know, all of those things give you greater insight and allows you to connect with the individual. Right. And I think that’s the important thing because at the end of it, every single class is gonna be different.

Mark Cossarin (17:49):
Right. We’re back to you know, a four, a four period day. So every one of our full-time teachers now has three, three classes. Okay. So you’re gonna have different numbers. You’re gonna have a different course. And even though, you know, the curriculum in theory should be the same, it’s gonna be different because you’re gonna have different kids sitting in front of you. And I think it’s our collective responsive bit, those first three or four days to get an idea of who’s who’s sitting in front of me, who are these folks? Where are they from? How do they feel? You know, what, what are they interested in? You know, what, what are the things that they hope to do? What don’t they like? You know? So I think good teachers do a great job those first couple of days to get a sense of, you know, know what who are they?

Mark Cossarin (18:30):
You know, what, what do they want? And even reaching out to parents, you know, literally just something as simple as hi I’m so, and so just wanna introduce myself if there’s any questions or concerns. And it’s funny, cuz I just did an evaluation for one of our teachers and she shared with me some of the emails that she got from back from parents and they were just so beautiful. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I really appreciate it. And then even ones that came after the fact, because I knew that, you know what I’m allowed to communicate with this teacher directly.

Sam Demma (18:57):
So cool. Yeah. That’s so it’s just a simple way of opening the line of communication. Like, Hey, I’m for sure. I’m here for you if you need me, you know, and exactly. Yeah, once you open it, it stays open. It sounds like. So yeah.

Sam Demma (19:09):
That’s awesome. And I, I totally agree. I think listening enables us to wipe free of the assumptions we make, because as much as we say, you know, you don’t judge your book by its cover. We still make assumptions about people and about situations before you know anything about it and it’s just normal. It’s a human tendency. I’m curious to know though on the topic of like a ideas to improve as an educator improve your practice. If you could take the experience you’ve had in education, almost travel back in time and speak to your younger self when you were just starting in the classroom, knowing what you know now, like what advice would you have given your younger self? Not that you’re old now, but you know what I mean? right.

Mark Cossarin (19:51):
Yeah. Yeah. I probably, would’ve tried a little bit harder academically in all of my classes. Mm. You know, if I really had an opportunity, I probably would’ve tried in all the courses I was taking all the way, even throughout my undergraduate degree, cuz really, I really didn’t start working incredibly as hard as I should have until probably my third or fourth year. And I think looking back when I think about some of the teachers I would’ve had in some of the subject areas, or even some of the pros I had, I thought, man, I should have showed up and focused a little bit better. But again, as a young person, that’s part of learning. Right. When you realize, I mean, there are a lot of kids that crash and burn a post secondary because they don’t show up cuz they don’t have an interest. Right. And that’s just part of growing up and, and I think statistically, that happens to a lot of kids that we don’t realize that that’s just part of it. But I think, yeah, looking back now, I think I probably should have tried a little bit harder you know, grade, grade 11, 12 and grade 13 back in the day and then yeah. You know, first or second year university.

Sam Demma (20:53):
And I, I would say the same about my student experience. I also took the OAC the, the fifth year grade 13. Right. What about from the perspective of educator, mark? Like when you, when you first got into the, into the classroom, like if you could speak to your younger self and say, Hey mark you don’t know this yet, but this is what you need to hear. when you were just starting and teaching.

Mark Cossarin (21:15):
Right. let’s see, what would I say?

Sam Demma (21:21):
And keep in mind that there might be an educator listening. Who’s just about to get into this profession. right. Who is excited, but at the same time, very nervous

Mark Cossarin (21:31):
Right, right. I would say prepare as best you can and it’s not gonna work out exactly the way you think it’s going to Hmm so you know what, you you’re gonna have a toolbox and that toolbox will get bigger and bigger as you go along and if it doesn’t work per it’s okay. As long as you try and you get the feedback from the individuals you are around, whether it’s the students, whether it’s your department head, whether it’s you know fellow instructors who are teaching the same classes. I think that’s the key where it doesn’t make you a lesser person. If you end up having to change things or improve things or, you know, get greater insights from others who have done that before.

Sam Demma (22:12):
That’s a great piece of advice. Not only for educators, flies to all fields. Mark, thank you so much for taking this time to come on the podcast, share some of your journey, experiences, insights. If someone is listening, wants to reach out, ask a question or bounce of my ideas around what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you.

Mark Cossarin (22:32):
Sure. email again, I get it all the time and I would answer pretty quickly. So it’s mark.cossarin@tldsb.on.ca

Sam Demma (22:48):
Awesome. Mark. Keep up the great work. Thanks again for coming on the show and we’ll talk soon.

Mark Cossarin (22:53):
Thanks for having me Sam. Appreciate it.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Mark Cossarin

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.

Bluefield Leadership Class **Student Interview**

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.

Today we are joined by the students in his two leadership classes. We ask them all the questions you’d be interested in hearing as an educator.  

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

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 the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma, and I’m super excited to be joined again by Ryan. Ryan and I already did an interview. You haven’t heard it yet because it’s not live, but it’s coming out very soon, but today I won’t be actually interviewing him. I’m gonna be interviewing two of his leadership classes and the students inside those classes. And the reason I’m so excited about this conversation is that you’re gonna get the opportunity to hear from students, you know, from a different part of the world what their experience has been like going through school during this time. Ryan, why don’t you kick us off by just kind of explaining where this idea came from, and why you wanted to, why you wanted to do this?


Ryan Laughlin (01:15):
Sure. So like a lot of places in Canada, there’s been a lot of restrictions in what we’ve been able to do, especially with our leadership classes. So I was talking to a colleague, Melanie Headley, and we were brainstorming ideas where we could engage students with something creative and give ’em an experience that I have not been able to because of restrictions. So we were talking about podcasts, she mentioned your name and I reached out and we connected and here we are.


Sam Demma (01:39):
Yeah. And I’m excited; I’m super excited so thank you for taking this on. I mean, we could just jump right in. We’ve we’ve outlined some questions and you have some students selected so why don’t we just call Jordan up to get started? You know, Jordan, the first thing I’m curious to know is your experience, as a student, how has it been affected during COVID 19?


Jordan (02:01):
I feel that at the start of the year, it was the most challenging to try to get used to all the protocols and wearing the masks and stuff, but in the whole run of things, I guess it was really minor because they’re really adaptable and once you got in the routine of doing them you know, it’d feel very unnormal not to do them right now. But I feel I of the big thing that has been most challenging is the uncertainty that it’s brought to the school year. Like I found that not knowing whether or not the materials that were cut outta some of the classes this year will affect or make challenges next year, going into University.


Sam Demma (02:45):
Mm, yeah. Such a good point, and do you already know what you wanna study or what you wanna get into?


Jordan (02:50):
Yeah, I’m going into business next year.


Sam Demma (02:52):
Oh, nice. Very cool, thanks so much for sharing. I totally agree. The uncertainty, this situation has brought is not only thrown off school, but like literally everything. My heart also goes out to the athletes who spent years training for something and now it’s falling apart. Jayden, I’m curious to know your perspective, you know, how has COVID 19 affected you personally? And I see you’re all wearing masks, so I’ll virtually put mine on as well, but go ahead.


Jayden (03:19):
Well for like sports and stuff, it’s kind of taken away from some of the time that we could like spend doing that. Like the rugby season last year got taken away from like all the students so that was, that kind of sucked. And also like the normal prom and graduation, that’s also another thing that’s kind of taken away from a lot of the students. And also what Jordan said, the uncertainty of like, whether it’s gonna affect next year, or even if we’re gonna go into like another lockdown again, the first one was pretty rough for a lot of people. So, couldn’t imagine going into like another big one.


Sam Demma (04:00):
Yeah. I hear you, man. The mental toll that we all went through going through a lockdown is super real, and I don’t think it gets talked about a lot, but we’re not supposed to live inside our individual homes and never see other human beings. , you know, I, I think if we go through another lockdown, we’re all gonna become these socially awkward humans that don’t know how to interact and talk other people. But yeah, that’s so right. And, and thank you for sharing. We’ll move on, we’ll move on. Let’s go right to Grace or actually let’s, let’s go right to Grace Conley. What are some things Grace that you think your teacher or other teachers in your school have done that you think have been helpful during this time?


Grace Angel (04:40):
Well I’m Grace Angel. Grace Conley’s not here yet, so I’ll just, I’ll just go first.


Sam Demma (04:46):
Oh, perfect.


Grace Angel (04:48):
So I found it really helpful that teachers were, I thought of as kind to remind they’re very patient and they reminded us to sanitize and put our masks up like distance and they don’t tend to flip out over it. They know from the most part that we didn’t need to forget and they know how scary, stressful the situation is for us and adults, because they tend to have kids of their own. And they’ve given us like leeway on assignments and stuff. And they’re just, there’s overall very understanding of how hard this is for everyone.


Sam Demma (05:23):
And what does patients look like in your perspective? Like when you say they’ve been patient, what do you mean by that?


Grace Angel (05:30):
Well, they’ve like, okay. So every day, like they constantly tell us to pull up our masks cause we keep putting them down and nice. They’re not like send us to the office. They’re just like, they keep remind us over and over. And they’re not like getting frustrated with it right away. They there’s


Sam Demma (05:51):
No punishment


Grace Angel (05:52):
Learning curve.


Sam Demma (05:53):
Yeah. There’s no punishment. It’s almost like I remember when I was in high school, you show up to class late and then if you show up to class late a second time, it’s like go to the office. like, you know, I feel like in this time you’re right. Like that has been reversed. We’re a lot more understanding and empathetic of the situation because everyone’s going through this, this new learning. So I totally agree. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing. We’ll move on right to you Cassie Casie. I’m really curious to know what do you want more of right now? Like what do you think would make your school experience more impactful or a little better?


Jordan (06:32):
Okay. I’m Charlie. I think this one was my question. Okay.


Jordan (06:36):
So right now, like kind of just want normalcy, especially since it is our graduation year. And we are really lucky here in P because we’re able to be in school and we’re able to do things that a lot of other students in, around the world in, in the, in the country aren’t able to do. And I do wanna of COVID-19 and like why there are certain measures in place, but honestly it just kinda sucks. Like not being able to graduate with the people that we’ve been in school with for the past 12 years and not being able have school activities that make school enjoyable, just kind of make it less than ideal.


Sam Demma (07:17):
Yeah, I agree. And I made a mistake, so everyone listening, I apologized I asked their own question to the wrong people. But yeah. Charlie, thank you so much for sharing Cora, what’s your perspective on this?


Jordan (07:31):
Okay, so what was the question again?


Sam Demma (07:35):
like, what do you want more of right now? What do you think would make your school experience better?


Jordan (07:40):
Okay. So for what I wrote is I kinda just thought that we’ve done what, like 12 years of school with the exact same people. And I just think that in our last, probably like month even, it’s just been a lot of actual school work and I really just wanna be here with the people. Well, like doing activities like we, our grad week, we barely basically have like, like the activities that some of the other students gone to do, like seniors in the past years, we didn’t get to do anything nearly as fun. But like I, Charlie said, it’s not really anything you can do because of COVID, but yeah. Yeah. I just wish that we got to be here with the people and not do as much school even while we’re in the school.


Jordan (08:34):
And you


Jordan (08:34):
Can do that.


Sam Demma (08:35):
That sounds like what I would’ve wanted if I was in grade 12 again.


Jordan (08:39):
Yeah, exactly.


Sam Demma (08:41):
All right. Thanks for sharing both of you. I appreciate that. Well now move on to Cassie for real Cassie, if, if you had to give me an idea, like, what do you think makes a, a strong student leader or a good student leader? Nice glasses, by the way.


Cassie (08:56):
Thank you very much. I think that a great student leader is someone who’s selfless and kind. It’s someone who genuinely cares about other people and shows dedication and all that they do. It’s someone who contributes and is very involved in their school and community, and when they see opportunity to help or make a change that they take it,


Sam Demma (09:19):
Love it. And do you think student leaders are individuals that wear like clout goggles and glasses?


Cassie (09:25):
Yes. Specifically clout goggles.


Sam Demma (09:27):
love it. All right. Thank you so much for sharing. Sam, you have the, you know, one of the most beautiful names in the world. Can you tell me your perspective?


Sam (09:37):
Well, I agree with everything that Cassie said, but also someone who isn’t afraid to go outside their comfort zone, maybe like wear clout passes to school and someone that looks at things in different ways and tries to make other people fit in. So like having a spirit day that maybe includes the athletes and another one that includes like a different group of people, not just into like one group of people in the school, having a chance for everyone to be included.


Sam Demma (09:59):
Love it, man. Love it. What does your hat say?


Sam (10:01):
My hat says PEI rugby.


Sam Demma (10:03):
Ah, you play rugby. Yeah. Nice man. Love that. Love that. That’s awesome. Thank you both for sharing. Appreciate it. We will move on to Olivia. Olivia, what is one thing you’ve learned from this class ALA, you know, Ryan’s not listening that has had the biggest impact on you.


Jordan (10:20):
So one of the things I learned in this class that had a big impact on me was the meaning of servant leadership and what a servant leader is. It wasn’t really a philosophy I was very aware of before and knew much about, but we really dived into it here. And I really liked the project we did with it in class, where we like interviewed a servant of leader from a provincial organization, a provincial nonprofit, and we got to really meet them and connect them and share who they are to our class.


Sam Demma (10:45):
So if you had to, in your own words, describe what a servant leader is like from what you’ve learned. Like, how would you kinda, how would you explain it?


Jordan (10:53):
For me, a servant leader is someone who recognizes a problem in their community and takes charge by helping those people that are not as privileged or not, as, I don’t know, profitable in the community, like they’re taking charge and helping people that need it the most. Nice. And they’re serving by doing the work that they recognize that has to be done. They’re leading, they’re trying to build other leaders in the community. They’re not focused on having as much of the authority position as just trying to take charge and help others.


Sam Demma (11:22):
Yeah. They’re not focused on the CLO goggles. They’re focused on the work. love it. I’m just, that’s totally joking. thank you so much for sharing. That was a great answer. That another Sam, oh wow. We got lots of Sam. Sam, what do you think has been the most impactful thing you’ve learned from this class


Sam (11:39):
In this class? Definitely communication. Like throughout the semester, we’ve had like so many activities to focus on communication and working with others. Like we do nonverbal communication, like just like a month ago, we did one where we’d put in groups and like we’d have to put together shape without actually communicating like one person’s outta shape. Another person didn’t see shape. But anyways, the point is Mr. Locklin, I feel like, definitely focuses a lot on communicating, whether it be non-verbal or, you know, just like learning how to communicate as a leader. You know, like being polite and being respectful and like, you know, taking consideration, like reading the room or whatever, he taught us a lot, how to do that. Nice. which obviously is quite important in a leisure class. And of course, quite useful to assume the years in general,


Sam Demma (12:26):
Love that. Thanks for sharing. I think communication’s so important, like reading other people’s body language and also being able to express your idea is in a, in a succinct way, super, super valuable, especially in any future jobs you get into or any leadership position. So thank you both for sharing. Let’s move on to the next question. So if you could give your younger self, your younger high school self advice what would you say? Is Will here yet by the way? By the way, okay, so we’ll start with Will, ’cause I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask and see if he’s here and then we’ll move on.


Will (13:00):
I find everything kind of comes into your life for a reason whether you make mistakes, like you have to make mistakes and fail to like actually learn something. And I find that’s like one of the main things, if I like told like knew that whenever I was younger, like making mistakes is fine and like failing’s fine, but that’s like definitely the biggest one


Sam Demma (13:21):
For me. Yeah. I find that sometimes we attach our self worth to our school and our grades and our accomplishments. And if we don’t, you know, succeed, we feel like we’re worthless or like we, we failed when in reality failing to just you learn , you know, you’re realizing what you did wrong. So thank you so much for sharing. Is it Nalia?


Jordan (13:42):
Yeah. It’s Nalia


Sam Demma (13:43):
Perfect. What, what about, what’s your perspective? What’s something you’d share with your younger high school self?


Jordan (13:47):
If I could tell my younger high school self anything, it would be kind of just to enjoy the small thing. So like looking back as the class of 2021, we have one normal year of high school. So it was our grade 10 year. And I definitely took things for granted in my grade til year, if that was sports or social activities or just really the environment around the school. I do anything right now to go back to the way that was two years ago. So I think I just would really tell him not to take anything for granted and to every opportunity, but to make sure that you are making smart choices and you’re making the right choices because though we really think it’s not often the right time we learned this year that maybe you only have one time. So this world is so packed unknowns. I really just think you have to take advantage of every opportunity in front of you.


Sam Demma (14:33):
Yeah. I love that. It’s funny. Cause I read this post on online the other day was talking about when you talk about, you know, way back when, you know, when our parents are 40 years old and they say, oh, I remember back in high school, like these moments will still, we’ll still have those conversations, you know, so we should live it to the fullest of its potential regardless. And I, I agree. Totally. Thank you so much for sharing that and love the bucket hat by the way. super, super swaggy. All right. Last question. And we’ll start off with Matt, Matt mills, any final pieces of advice for another student who’s listening right now,


Will (15:08):
Some final pieces of advice would be don’t get too caught up in we’re about your future. Cause the people around you will be around you for a limited amount of time, cuz people go other high school or universities and go away for hockey. You know, you never know, right? So you gotta spend as much time with them as you can. And you don’t wanna be looking back thinking you could spend more time with them when you’re too busy, worry about your future.


Sam Demma (15:34):
Agreed. And I also think it’s important to stay like, you know, don’t let our egos get in between our friendships. Sometimes we hesitate or stop ourselves from reaching out to people that we haven’t talked to in a long time, because maybe there was something that happened five years ago and it’s like, yo, push that aside. You know that person and you could have a beautiful relief, you know, be the bigger person and reach out. I love that advice. And I’m giving you this advice as well and also sharing it to anyone watching, because I also need it at certain points. So thanks for sharing that. I appreciate it. And Grace, what about yourself?


Grace (16:08):
The most important advice I’d give to myself, I’d probably just to be more in high school. Like I found that if you’re more involved in your school and doing activities and spirit days and stuff like that, then it makes it a way better environment to grow up in. Yeah. And also like what said to not take your high school years for granted, like it’s some of the best years of your life. And I remember like when I was in grade 10, I was like, oh, be in grade 12. Like I just wanna graduate and stuff like that. But I think that the grade tens need to take this time and like actually experience high school and not just wish it away.


Sam Demma (16:45):
Yeah. Love that. Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate it. Great job everyone. If everyone on three could yell. Thank you. Appreciate it. Are you ready? 1, 2, 3.


Ryan Laughlin (16:57):
Thank you


Sam Demma (16:58):
So great to hear from you guys from leadership class with Ryan at Bluefield, this, this has been a phenomenal podcast. Ryan, we wanna pop back in for one quick second, just to wrap this up. Thank you so much for organizing this for setting up the idea. We have another class coming on the afternoon and will be slapping these two episodes together as like a long masterclass from the students, any final words you wanna share or things you wanna express or, or say


Ryan Laughlin (17:23):
No, I think this was great. The new experience for the students and you could tell they were a little nervous yesterday leading into it, and I think they did a great job and it’s interesting to hear the different perspectives from different people and connected them together and giving them a new experience, which I think is valuable.


Sam Demma (17:38):
I agree. I agree. And if anyone, if anyone’s listening and was inspired by something your student said and wanted to reach out to one of them to ask them a follow up question what would be an email that they could send you to relay it to a student?


Ryan Laughlin (17:52):
Sure. Yeah. So my email is rjlaughlin@cloud.edu.pe.ca. So they wanted to fire me a message. I could forward it to the students for the next month to five weeks here and then they’re on their way into their new adventures.


Sam Demma (18:06):
Awesome. Ryan, thank you so much for organizing this really appreciate it. It’s been a pleasure and let’s stay in touch. It’ll talk soon.


Ryan Laughlin (18:12):
Awesome. Thanks.


Sam Demma (18:13):
And we’re back with Ryan’s second class, Ryan. Thank you again for being here and bringing your students. It’s super exciting.


Ryan Laughlin (18:20):
Yeah. It’s great to be here. I’m excited to see these students have a conversation with you.


Sam Demma (18:24):
All right. We’ll jump right in. We’ll start off with Amber, Amber, I’m curious to know has been the most challenging aspect of COVID 19 for yourself as a student.


Jordan (18:34):
Well, especially being a part of the graduating class of 2021, it is evident that COVID has faced off with like several challenges from wearing masks on a daily to not being able to see your friends as often. I mainly think that the most challenging part of like having COVID would have to be just planning all of our grad events and not being able to have the, the like expected graduation and prom and just all those fun events that we always looked up to. I definitely think though that this is something, even though we hated at the moment, it’ll be something that we look back on in the future and we’re gonna be grateful for eventually


Sam Demma (19:13):
adversity builds strength. Right. I, I totally agree. Emily, what about you? What’s your perspective on this?


Jordan (19:19):
So I kinda said the same thing, the most challenging part would be missing out on a lot of the things that we got to do without COVID. So this year we didn’t have a winter formal at our school and going on field trips was harder and our pro graduation is a lot different than it typically would be, but I’m glad that we got to do in person learning.


Sam Demma (19:38):
Nice love that. Thank you so much for sharing. And I totally agree. I know you got some, a virtual background of a beach. I really miss just traveling as well, right. yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing. Perfect. Moving on. We will go right to Devon. I’m curious to know what is something your teacher or the teachers in your school have done this year that you think has been really helpful? Despite the situation


Will (20:01):
I would say they definitely helped a lot with the safety protocols because the start of the year, we were really good with sanitizing and everyone wearing their masks. And as the year just progressed, a lot of people on started lacking off with it. But for me, most of my teachers remind everyone when they come into class and since they’ve done that, everyone’s just kind of kept on track with it. So I’d say the teachers have definitely helped the most with that.


Sam Demma (20:24):
I love that. Love that. And I you’re all wearing your masks, so good job. Ellie, what about yourself?


Jordan (20:30):
So I my, my teachers have been really helpful as in, they’ve still tried to organize things to get us out of the classroom and just, they’re always smiling and always like understanding that we are going through a lot right now with COVID and it is a totally different experience than we ever would’ve expected. So we’re still going on some different forms of field trips and we’re getting outta the classroom and they’re organizing different events for us which is very helpful along with just them, them being nice in general as well.


Sam Demma (20:57):
Yeah. I hear you. It it’s like, I think teachers right now are working a hundred times harder to just even make school possible. You know what I mean? Yeah. So why don’t we on three? Just yell out loud. Thank you for everyone in your class for Ryan ready? 1, 2, 3. love it. Awesome. All right, moving on. We’ll move to Carla. Carla, I’m curious to know what do you want more of right now? Like what do you think would make your school experience better?


Jordan (21:28):
For me, it would be more gathering. So during COVID we didn’t get to have our winter formal, like Emily said earlier, our graduating like from is different this year. We didn’t like at the cafeteria table, we’re allowed to have four people in my group of friends is like a group of like eight or nine. So we can’t all sit together even just at school either.


Sam Demma (21:50):
Yeah. I hear you. Nice bucket hat by the way. Emma, what about yourself?


Jordan (21:57):
Yeah, so definitely right now is something I want is freedom. Of course, that’s almost physically impossible. We’re all trying to do our part with COVID, but ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of a big graduate and a very big prom and going to all the high school parities, but of course, with the protocols we’re we aren’t able to do that, but I live by everything happens for a reason. So I choose to take COVID. And even though there’s a lot of negatives, I choose to take the positives and realize how much I’ve grown and matured from the challenges and adversity. Come


Sam Demma (22:29):
Love it. Love it also, by the way, nice bucket hat. appreciate the answers. It really feels like you’re on a beach, so it’s awesome. I love that. Yeah, that’s great. Cool. All right. Moving on to the next question. Sabrina, what do you think, what do you think makes a great student leader?


Jordan (22:49):
So me a great student leader is somebody who is very involved in school and I’m personally very involved in my school and I love to include as many people as I can. And I think that’s what makes Bluefield really good school for leadership, because we are very inclusive and that’s like my main thing and just be kind to everybody. Nice. Yeah. That’s


Sam Demma (23:15):
By the way, we don’t actually use the video, so don’t stress too much about it. but I would, I would say like, you’re a superhero, like bouncing in and out of the video. , you know, like when I was a kid, I always wanted to be invisible, but no, that’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. I appreciate it. And again, don’t worry about it. We don’t, we don’t actually use the video. Jenaya what about yourself? And did I pronounce that correctly?


Jordan (23:38):
Yeah. Jenaya but that was pretty good, actually. So for me, like a great student leader would have to be someone who has like, I really like students interest and they’re like willing to hear everybody out. And recently we just picked like our Val Victorians. So like, I just like chose who I thought best like represented the school, but then also like every other student as well. They’re also the ones who make connections like in the hallway with like a simple, like, Hey, like how you doing? You know? And they just are really good, critical, cool thinkers and show like a lot of commitment and consistency within like the school as well.


Sam Demma (24:09):
Nice. It love it. Love it. Awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate you both sharing. you ever seen that vine where the guy goes like this and he just disappears? that’s literally what’s happening right now. Thank you both for sure. I appreciate it. All right, next question. Let’s go with Beth. Beth, what do you think is something you’ve learned from this class that has had a big impact on you?


Jordan (24:34):
Well, just from this class, I learned kind of how to express my thoughts and opinions. I’m the type of person who’s more shy until you get to know me. So I don’t really open up to people unless I’m comfortable around them, but in this class we have like a lot of great leaders and a lot of social people. So it just kind of allowed me to open up and share, even if I’m not like comfortable with them necessarily. So it just kind of encouraged me to step outta my comfort zone.


Sam Demma (25:00):
Love it. Love it. Thank you for sharing. Awesome. And Neil, what about yourself?


Neil (25:04):
The biggest thing I learned would be skills of patience. So I play and also coach sports. Nice. So you have to learn how to be patient with cuz I coach little, 10 and 11 year olds. So you have to learn how to be patient with them. Cuz what I think as a 17 year old would be easy, might not be the same as what they find difficult. Like I, I had a little dude who could only make it to half court and that was a big accomplishment. But if I was to look at one of my high school teammates during a drill thinking, they can only do their drill to half court, then that wouldn’t be up to standards. So you just have to learn to be patient and know everyone’s situation to be able to adapt to it.


Sam Demma (25:42):
Love that adaptability sounds like empathy as well. Sounds like it could be put in. They’re empathizing with the skills of different players on your team and their situations. That’s awesome, man. Thanks for sharing. And do you have aspirations to continue coaching?


Neil (25:56):
Yeah, I would like to continue coaching. My dad’s coached me ever since I was a little dude and I would love to have kids someday and coached them. That would be, that’s a big dream of mine.


Sam Demma (26:05):
Nice man. Awesome. Thanks so much for sharing. All right, perfect. Onto the next question. Let’s go with Gracie, if you could give your younger self advice, what would you say?


Jordan (26:18):
Basically just try and be optimistic, optimistic about things and things will like will change through time. I say this because looking back on myself, like in great and everything like I’ve developed more skills and knowledge and experiences throughout my whole high school experience. Also like I’m volunteer with my community. I’m able to keep a part-time job in overcoming struggles along the way through this, I’m able to reflect and change things through like experiences and everything. And back in grade 10, like I don’t think I would ever be able to do all the things I’ve done.


Sam Demma (26:53):
Love it. Great advice. Kaylee, what about yourself?


Jordan (26:56):
Yeah. If I could give my younger high school self advice, it would probably be to just live in the moment. Like you never know, the world’s always changing. You can’t really predict the future and you can’t change the past. You just gotta live in the moment. Focus on what’s right in front of you.


Sam Demma (27:12):
Yeah, love that. I think right now it’s a good reminder too, because we’re all striving to wait for the world to get back to normal. as opposed to live in life right now. So yeah, it’s great. Great advice. Thanks for sharing. All right. Onto the next question. You know, is there any final pieces of advice for students listening right now? Adele, anything you wanna share?


Jordan (27:33):
So I believe the path to enjoying high school is to get involved and not to be afraid to try new things. I always enjoyed musical theater, but I was always scared of what other people would think. But last year I was in a school musical and it was one of the best experiences of my life.


Sam Demma (27:51):
Oh, I love that. What did you act? Were you behind the scenes? Like what was your position?


Jordan (27:55):
Well I had quite a big role in the show, so I was involved in like all the choreography and like a huge part of harmonies and all that stuff, so yeah.


Sam Demma (28:06):
Oh cool. Love that. Awesome. Good stuff. And Jenna, what about yourself?


Jordan (28:10):
Well, mine’s kinda the same as Adele, but I think that high school will be like a treasure time of your life for the rest of your life. You know, you’ve heard from every wise woman, every grandma . So get involved, make friends study hard, but remember that your high school career isn’t soon, it’ll only be a memory that you look back on. So make it a memory that you want to look back on and appreciate.


Sam Demma (28:30):
Love it. Love it. Awesome. All right. Let’s yell. Thank you everyone. On, in on three for this episode, 1, 2, 3.


Ryan Laughlin (28:38):
Thank you.


Sam Demma (28:40):
Bluefield leadership. It was, it was a great chatting with you, Ryan, if you wanna hop back on for one quick second, we’ll wrap things up. Again, thank you so much for pointing to us together. It was awesome. Everyone already has your contact info for so no need to share it again, but I just wanted to say one final. Thank you. And keep up with the awesome work.


Ryan Laughlin (28:56):
I appreciate Sam. I’m glad that you were open to this and it was a really cool experience with the two classes. So I enjoyed it a lot. I wanna thank you for that.


Sam Demma (29:03):
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 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.

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.

Mark Brown – Assistant Principal and Author

Mark Brown – Assistant Principal and Author
About Mark Brown

As a high school administrator, Mark Brown (@heymarkbrown) is passionate about helping educators and students live life as their best selves and challenges everyone to embrace the call of Choose To Be You

Using his experience as a learner, an educator, and as someone who has spent the majority of his life chasing an image of someone and something other than his true, authentic self,  Mark delivers a message of hope and inspiration that is guaranteed to impact your life and your school!

Connect with Mark: Email | Instagram | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Choose To Be You

Mark’s Personal Website

Oklahoma Christian University

Virtual Pep Rally Ideas to Boost School Spirit

Hardball

Google Forms

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. Welcome to season number 2. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. We’re continuing to have this year, amazing conversations with educators all around the world and I’m super excited to introduce you to today’s guest. Today we had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Brown. Mark is a high school administrator and he’s passionate about helping educators and students to live their best lives.


Sam Demma (01:03):
And he challenges everyone to embrace the call of choose to be you, which is actually the title of his own book. It’s a mental health book and it’s, it’s a phenomenal read as I’ve heard from a lot of other educators. Using his experience as a learner and educator, and as someone who has spent the majority of his life chasing an image of someone and something other than his true authentic self, mark delivers a message of hope and inspiration that is guaranteed to impact your life and your school. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed chatting with Mark. Welcome to season 2. I will see you on the other side of today’s conversation. Mark, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast, huge pleasure to have you on the show. Can you start by introducing yourself, and maybe explaining how you got into the work you’re doing with young people today?


Mark Brown (01:47):
Yeah. Hey, thanks for having me. Excited to be here and excited to get to share a little bit with you today and your listeners. So my name’s Mark Brown. I am a high school assistant principal down in Newberg, Oregon. So out in the, on the west coast, in the beautiful Northwest down here. I also coach basketball; have a huge passion around coaching and that’s actually a lot of what got me into education was coaching. But I think the main reason why I do the work that I do is because I believe that being an educator truly is the most important job in the world. And even though I am not actively, you know, every day engaging in life saving research like cancer research or you know, doing crazy big jobs that people, you know, often get a lot of recognition for,


Mark Brown (02:36):
I have the opportunity to mentor and impact young people, and I get to work with students when they are truly in the most important, most formal years of their life, where they’re searching for their identity, where they’re trying to figure out what their truth is, where they’re trying to identify, like what is gonna be my future. And I get, have a part in that. And so I really truly believe that’s the most important job in the world. And it gives me energy and excitement every single day. Like there’s a lot of to-dos with education and there’s a lot of, you know, stuff that we get kind of wrapped up in. But when I stay centered on that fact that I get to work with kids who are truly, you know, preparing to make a difference in this world, like the fact that I gotta be a part of that just, I, I get super excited about that.


Sam Demma (03:21):
Ah, I love that. And tell me more about coaching. How did that all start for you and has it been a big, huge part of education? It sounds like it has been,


Mark Brown (03:31):
Oh yeah. I, I, I think a lot of what I do as an educational leader now as an administrator is rooted in what I’ve learned through coaching and, and I’m in a really special situation, blessed that my my principal, my lead principal has still allowed me to coach a lot of times, you know, when you move from teaching into administration, it’s kinda like, all right, you gotta stop any of that extracurricular co-curricular stuff, but I’ve been blessed to have a supportive principal who lets me still coach. And so, yeah, it started back when in college I I’ve always loved sports. I’ve never been that good at competing in sports. I’m not very athletic, you know, I’m, you can’t tell cuz we’re doing audio here, but I’m a pretty small guy about five, five. But my sported choice is basketball. And you know, I, I think a lot of it for me, it kind of started, I’m a real stubborn person.


Mark Brown (04:18):
My mom has always said I’m were stubborn. And so a lot of people were like, you can’t play basketball. You’re only five, five, but I was like, yeah, right, bring it on. I can do whatever I want to do. And so I think that’s kind of what started me down the path of having basketball as my sport of choice. But I got into it. I started as a student assistant coach at Oklahoma Christian university from there was a able to get on here in, at Newberg high school, right outta college about 10 years ago, 11 years ago, and then worked my way up to being a JV coach. And then now the varsity head coach and you know, they’re just, again what we do on the court. That’s fun, that’s exciting. The strategy, getting to game plan, you know, and compete strategically for basketball.


Mark Brown (05:02):
But every day there’s opportunities to learn life lessons through basketball and through competing and through practice and through the preparation. And so I just love the opportunity to get to not only coach basketball, a game that I love and be involved with that strategically from a sports side of things. But more importantly, like again, I get to work kids, young men who are excited about basketball and I get to help them be excited about life. And one of the missions that I have as a coach is, you know, I want to put a quality product on the court, but more than that, actually in my book, I talk about chasing titles. Yeah. And for me, it used to be about chasing those titles. You know, of the banners that we would hang on the wall of the gym or, you know, chasing those wins that would on the scoreboard.


Mark Brown (05:46):
And I quickly learned that my job is to chase the titles of, for, for my players in the future titles that they are gonna hold. And you know, not many of my players go on to play college basketball. Not many of them are gonna have a future in competing professionally, but they’re all gonna be dads. They’re all gonna be husbands. They’re all gonna be employees. They’re all gonna be leaders within the communities that they establish their selves in. And I gotta be a part of helping to shape and mold and mentor them in, in being prepared for that. So again, I, I love coaching. It’s a great opportunity and I, I just love basketball more than anything.


Sam Demma (06:20):
And at what point in your own career journey, did you know I’m gonna work in education? I know coaching and athletics was a big part of your life, but making the decision to work in a school is a big one. And you have to be a very specific type of person to always want to work with students and young people. And it’s clear that you have that passion, but I’m curious to know when you personally knew that that was your calling or your future career.


Mark Brown (06:45):
So I knew I always wanted to coach. I always, you know, I always had that desire to be a coach. Yep. But I didn’t go into college initially thinking I was gonna be, become an educator. I wanted to initially actually I thought I was gonna do sports medicine. Nice. But I quickly learned if you’re the athletic trainer, if you’re on the sports medicine side of things, your schedule doesn’t really align with being able to coach because you have to be there to support all the sports. And so you really don’t have the freedom to then coach most of the time. And so I quickly realized that and I, I knew I wanted to coach. That was something I, I knew I needed to do. And I had some good mentors in college. My first couple of years who really helped me understand like the best path to being able to coach is through teaching and being an educator.


Mark Brown (07:29):
But more than that, they helped me understand that in order to be a successful coach, I needed to understand teaching. I needed to understand how to educate and how to teach, because I think, you know, one of the things I’ve come to learn is guys who can strategize, who can drop the X and OS of basketball. They’re a dime dozen. Like there, there are a lot of people who are very successful, but the real successful coaches are the ones who understand how to teach and how to connect with kids. And you learn that through becoming an educator. And a lot of us, you know, a lot of educators, we kind to have that innately ingrained into us. It’s kind of part of our DNA. And then we learn some of the strategies, the tips and tricks but really understand teaching and pedagogy and how to connect with kids has really allowed me, I believe to be a much more successful coach.


Sam Demma (08:14):
And you briefly alluded to the fact that there’s so many life lessons that we learned through the sport, and I’m sure you’ve seen so much transformation happen in your own life and your students life due to the game of basketball. I’m curious to know, I’m tempted to call you coach Carter, but we’ll call you coach Bown. I’m curious to know what are some of those life lessons that you drill into your athletes that other educators listening should consider also teaching to their own students, whether they’re on a basketball court or not.


Mark Brown (08:44):
Yeah. So, you know, I think anytime you are competing in sports, you wanna win. Yeah. And I think, you know, I, I, I think that’s a good thing having that competitive drive, that competitive fire and, and wanting to win. I think that’s why we play sports. If that, if, if I didn’t have that drive, I would just go shoot hoops in my, in my backyard by myself, but I want to compete. And so I want to win, but I think if we put all of our value in just the fact that winning is the only way to be successful in sports, I think we limit the opportunity that we have to learn and grow through sports. Mm. And so for me, one of the things I’ve really learned early on in my coaching career, it was all about the wins. And if I lost a game, I, I went home and I didn’t sleep that night.


Mark Brown (09:26):
And I watched film. I watched the game two, three times before my next practice, you know, stayed up all night and drove my wife crazy. You know, but I, I was, so I had to figure out what was wrong and why we weren’t witty and what I’ve come to learn. And I now try to really coach my players on is the fact that it’s okay to wanna win. And we should all have that desire. We should all have that drive, but that’s not the measure of our success. If we, we step on that court and we give our best effort. And if we do everything with the right attitude and doing things the right way, doing things, you know, in a way that people can respect. And if we make sure that we have good sportsmanship, I believe there’s three things in life that we can control, having a great attitude, even our absolute best effort and making, treat other people the right way. If we do those three things, we cannot fail. The scoreboard might not always be in our favor and we might lose some games, but we can step off that court being confident in knowing that we did things the right way, we gave our absolute best effort and people can respect that out of us, regardless of whether, what the score. And so I think that’s a big life lesson that I’ve really learned over the years in coaching and that I really try to pass on to my, my other coaches and my players.


Sam Demma (10:45):
And even if it’s not on the basketball field, every person is technically playing their own game, which is life. You can look at life like its own field or choose your field. Maybe one field is academics, the field as athletics. And I think what you just explained is such a beautiful analogy because you can define success in each of those areas and make sure you’re showing up and the score takes care of itself. There’s a great book about that. And I think it’s, I think it’s really true in your experience, teaching and coaching, have you in some transformations of students and is there any that you think are worth sharing? And the reason I’m asking is because there might be another educator listening right now, who’s extremely burnt out. Who’s maybe on the edge of even quitting their, this job and this calling. Cause I don’t even wanna call it a job. And a story of transformation might be the thing that, that reminds them, how important the work they’re doing is, and gets them over that hump to, to keep going. And if it’s a yeah, serious one also feel free to change their name for privacy reasons.


Mark Brown (11:46):
Yeah. No, I’ll definitely use other names. So I have, yeah. Oh man. That’s a, that’s a good question. That’s a tough one. Cuz there’s lots of good stories and that’s one thing I think all educators can, can love about this job is every day there’s something new and you know, we could all by the end of our career, write a big long book of all the, the different stories and transformations. But I think the, the, the one that really sticks out to me is I, I had a, it was actually my first year as a head coach and it’s a story of transformation, not just around one student individually, but actually around my team. Hmm. And this, this group of young men, every year of high school, they had had a different coach. Well actually there was one coach. The coach prior to me was there for two years.


Mark Brown (12:36):
But they growing up through the youth programs and everything. I was the, the fifth head coach in six years. So there was no continuity in the program. But this group of young men, even through all the turmoil, E even through all of the changes and the unknowns and the frustrations that came with that for they stuck together. And what happened during their senior year, one of the most, the, the biggest tragedies that I’ve ever experienced in my educational career we, we lost one of our, our students. We lost one of our young men to suicide. Wow. And he was actually a cousin of a couple of the players on my team and best friends with most, all the players on my team. And he was in, in kind of the inner circle, even being on the team himself. And I, it, it AB it, it hits that team incredibly hard, right in the middle of our season.


Mark Brown (13:28):
In fact, we found out about it. We had just had our, our first league game. It was against one of our rivals. It was our first game in a new league. And we had won on the road. We came back and we celebrated, we all went out to pizza. And then later that night we get the call about this student and his, that he had died. And I didn’t know what to do. I was a young coach. I was like 24 years old. I wasn’t sure what my role in all of this was. And what I, I saw in that experience was because this group had already been so close, been so United, stuck together through all of the, the turmoil and all of the, the stuff that they had already been through over the past several years, they were prepared for this.


Mark Brown (14:13):
And I didn’t have to have the right thing to say. And that’s what a lot of educators feel. A lot of pressure we feel is we don’t have the answers. And especially right now with COVID right, we don’t necessarily have the answers. We don’t have to have the answers. We just have to be there. We just have to be there to listen. We just have to be there to hug. ’em When they need a hug, we just have to be there to provide what they need. And they will tell us, even without directly telling us, these are the things I need. They will tell us through their behaviors. They will tell us through their emotions. They will tell us they will show us what they need. And as long as we are there, as long as we show up, and again, we give our best effort and we, we love on them and we support them.


Mark Brown (14:51):
Like there there’s been absolutely nothing better for me in my career than that experience. Although it was absolute tragedy and still to this day impacts me. It was a great reminder to me on the fact that our kids are resilient and I have an opportunity to help support them through whatever they’re going through. And just that transformation of this, you know, maybe that wasn’t the transformation story you were thinking of, but that transformation of this group of kids who had so many things go against them in life, the fact they stuck together, they supported one another, like what a great example to me and what a great lesson for me to learn and has helped me then, and focus that much more on helping my students, helping my players find ways to stay connected and grow together as, as, as a community, because that community is so important.


Sam Demma (15:41):
Wow. What a story that is such a great story. There’s there’s a movie about a baseball team and the coaches piano Reeves, and it’s a very similar story. That’s team comes together and they’re not doing well. And midway through as they start improving, one of the players actually passes away and it’s, it’s funny. Something very similar happens in the movie and all the kids come together and they end up winning. Not that it’s about winning or losing, but you’re the real life story of the movie. So that’s a really, that’s a really touching story. And I hope everyone listening is thinking about how they can help their students also feel more connected to each other, you know, right now is a challenging time, like you mentioned, and I’m curious to know how do you ensure your students and teams and anyone in the school is, is feeling appreciated, valued, heard, and connected despite the, the challenges of the pandemic.


Mark Brown (16:29):
Yeah, I think that’s definitely one of the challenges we’re facing as educators in a school rules right now is how do we connect with kids? How do we reach them? How do we make sure they have what they need? Because it’s kinda, it, it’s easy when, well, it’s, it’s not easy, but it’s easier when we’re in the building and they’re walking the halls and we can, you can tell when they’re having an off day, you can tell when they’re having a bad day and a lot of times when we’ve built those relationships, kids will stop by your room. And just, you know, you can, you just kind of know when they need a little bit of extra time, a little bit of extra love, a little bit of extra attention, but right now we don’t have that opportunity. And so what we’re doing, we’re watching obviously the big things of grades and attendance in the virtual classrooms.


Mark Brown (17:06):
And those are a lot of times our identifiers to us that maybe something’s going on, if grades start dropping or attendance start dropping, but we’re reaching out. We at our school this year, I’m super excited. We several years ago, got rid of, kind of that homeroom advisory where there’s kind of that one, you know, that core group of students that is with an educator all year long, we got rid of that. We brought it back this year because we knew that we needed everyone to kind of have a home, a home base, a spot to check in. And we, we started the year, went through the first couple of months. And then what we started doing a couple weeks ago is during that time, instead of like the group of 15 students meeting with that educator, we actually scheduled one-on-one individual meetings. So all 1400 kids in our high school got a one on one individual meeting with an educator that they already have a relationship built with just to check in. And we had kind of a we used a Google form, a standard set of questions that we asked everyone, cuz we wanted to get some data kind of like how, you know, distance learning going, what can we as a school do to improve of what’s your experience like, but then educated, you know, and I did it with my students. I have a group of students that I gotta meet with. It led into like a long conversation of just checking in with each other. And it was so cool that even in this virtual


Mark Brown (18:22):
Setting, we were still able to find that connection point and still able to build those relationships. And so, you know, one of the things I encourage is whatever you can do you to again, look for ways to build that community. We did that in our homeroom. We call it tiger time cuz we’re the Newberg tigers. So we call it our tiger time and everyone knows that there’s nothing academic there. There’s no great associated with that class. It’s just a time to check in. We do a lot of, you know, character development, social, emotional learning. We do some fun things. We do some like virtual pep rallies. We have ’em coming up on Monday that we do nice. But then we also created those opportunities for that more intimate one-on-one checkin. And so that’s something we’re trying to do is still find ways to have that, that, that more informal check in that we often get in the classroom setting, just kind of by happenstance. We’re looking for ways to create those opportunities.


Sam Demma (19:07):
I love that the Google form is such a simple tool to use. And if any educators listening, if you’re listening, give it a try, maybe try scheduling those one-on-one meetings. I’m curious to know in your own personal experience, you said they led to much longer conversations and lots of dialogue, but overall, how did the students, how do students feel about those one-on-ones with you?


Mark Brown (19:27):
Oh, I think they love it. You know, I, I think they, they, they feel like we care. Yeah. That I think as, especially a lot of the time when we’re in the virtual classroom, it’s easy to get lost. And even though our class numbers are actually smaller, we were able to set it up. So in all of our, you know, classes, we have no more than about 15, 16 students per class, which is a great class size. But it’s really easy to not say anything and to turn your camera off and just kind of get lost in the crowd. Yeah. But when you’re one on one, like you can’t be silent, you gotta talk. Right. And so I think it’s, it’s forcing some of them to come outta their share a little shell a little bit, but more than that, you know, I, I know students, they showed up on time for that meeting.


Mark Brown (20:09):
Like they were eager to get, to have a conversation and know that someone was there to listen. One of my good friends and mentors, Philip Campbell, PC, his big thing is, you know, all students want to, they want to feel seen. They want to be heard and they want to feel loved. Yeah. And you know, I think by us setting up those one-on-one meetings, like students felt seen, they felt like we were listening to them. They felt heard and they felt loved because we just sat there and listened and got to, got to connect. And so I think they loved it.


Sam Demma (20:38):
I love that. And you’ve written a book, you’ve been a coach. You’ve been an assistant. You’ve been a teacher. If you have, you have so much to share with other educators, but I’m curious to know if you could go back to when you first started teaching, what advice knowing what, you know now would you give your younger self?


Mark Brown (20:57):
Be you? And you know, the title of my book is choose to be you. My, I, I have a, I have a battle that I fight against anorexia I’m anorexic and you know, that’s something that even I’ve written a book about it, I share publicly about it. I speak about it. It, it’s still hard to say that. And honestly, you know, as I I’m, I’m getting to see you cuz we’re doing a video here through the screen, that’s still hard to say. Yeah. because the, anytime I make myself vulnerable, it, it sometimes feels embarrassing and it, and it challenging to get to that level. But as a young educator, I ne I didn’t embrace vulnerability and I didn’t embrace my true identity and who I really am. I tried to create this, this, this picture of who I wanted people to see Mark Brown is.


Mark Brown (21:42):
Mm. And I, I became very successful in education. I’m, I’m a very young educator. I was a very young head coach. I climbed the ladder very quickly and I was really proud of that. And really like, I, I put a lot of value in, in those accomplishments. Yeah. And I, I put my value really in the wrong places for a long time. And I put my value in creating this fake identity to kind of try the, try to hide the real me. And what I’ve really learned is it doesn’t matter what Sam, what you see of Mark Brown, what matters is what I see in my reflection in the mirror. And, you know, I can, I can create all these lies. I can create all these, you know, win all these awards that I hang in my office. I can get all these titles added to my resume of things that, that I’ve done.


Mark Brown (22:29):
But at the end of the day, I’ve gotta be able to look in the mirror and be honest and truthful, cuz it’s really, if you’ve ever tried to lie to your reflection of the mirror, it’s hard. Yeah. And you know, there’s a lot of people who I’ve learned through counseling and going through therapy. There’s a lot of people who actually don’t look in the mirror. They don’t, they very unintentionally, they avoid mirrors that in the cost, because if we are not being honest and true to who we are at our core, it’s hard to face that reflection. And so I wish as an early admin, as an early educator, younger educator, I wish I would’ve been able to embrace my reflection. And you know, I still struggle with that even though, you know, I’m a champion for it now, and I’m an advocate for it. And mental health awareness is a big part of my message and who I am. It’s still hard. It’s not like it becomes easy. I’ve just learned tools and strategies with how


Mark Brown (23:23):
And how to make it a part of my, my daily life, my daily routine. But getting to that point where I can look myself in the mirror and say, you know what, mark, you’ve got some challenges. You’ve got some struggles you’re not perfect. And there’s some things you’ve made some mistakes. I’m a failure. Guess what I have failed time and time again. But what’s important is if I can look in that mirror and I can look at my reflection and I can choose that my next action is going to be done with the right intent. And my next action is gonna be done, giving my best effort and doing it with the right attitude and making sure that while I do it, I treat those around me the right way. And I bring people into my life who are gonna be able to support me as long as I can do that. I know I’m gonna be successful. And so that, that’s something I wish I would’ve done. A better job of earlier on in my career is embracing my true reflection rather than trying to create this image of who I really am not, or just who I wanted people to see.


Sam Demma (24:16):
You’re speaking to my soul man. I was, I was trying to be a professional soccer player, my entire life. And at the age of 17, I had three major knee injury, Reese, two surgeries, and a torn labrum in my right hip. And my identity was based on the fact that Sam was the soccer player. My whole family saw me as the soccer player. Sam’s gonna be the prodigy soccer player. I lost a full ride scholarship to a division one school in the states. I had to stop playing sports and it became hard for me to look in the mirror and I’m sure you’re, if you’re listening, you know, you have your own battles and struggles and challenges as well. And it’s so true. You always have to, at the end of the day, look at yourself in the mirror and decide who you are.


Sam Demma (24:56):
And even if you lie to yourself you know, that conversation is gonna come up personally at some point in your future and you’re gonna have to face it. David Goggin’s, who is actually an ultra marathon runner and ex Navy seal talks about this all the time and by the smirk on your face, it sounds like you know who he is. And he says the most, you know, the most important conversation you have is the one you have with yourself. And he has it every night for 15 minutes while he shaves his head so all I wanna say is thank you for being vulnerable and sharing because it’s gonna give everyone else listening the opportunity to do as well, and I really appreciated this. If someone wants to reach out, hear more about yourself, your book, your coaching tactics, or just wants to connect and have a conversation, what would be the best way for someone to do so?


Mark Brown (25:40):
Yeah, reach out. I do have a, a website www.heymarkbrown.com where there’s ways you can contact me there. You can learn a little bit more about me. There’s also links on there to my book, it’s available on Amazon; both amazon.com and Amazon Canada. Actually fun fact, my publisher is Canadian; Codebreaker, they’re a Canadian group. And so I love my Canadian friends. But yeah, if you wanna check that out, it’s on Amazon; Choose to be You. And then I’m on social media, and I’ve really learned that social media is a great way to connect. I’ve, I’ve met some of my best friends actually through social media, some educator friends. And so I’m on Twitter @heymarkbrown. I’m on Instagram @heymarkbrown, or you can look me up on Facebook, Mark Brown.


Sam Demma (26:25):
Awesome. Mark, thank you so much, Coach Brown. I really appreciate it and I, I look forward to staying in touch and seeing all the great work you’re doing.


Mark Brown (26:33):
I appreciate what you’re doing and yeah. Thanks. Thanks for the opportunity.


Sam Demma (26:37):
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 Mark Brown

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Jason Pratt – Principal at St. Martin Catholic Secondary School

Jason Pratt - Principal at St. Martin Catholic Secondary School
About Jason Pratt

Jason Pratt (@jasonpratt) is the Principal at St. Martin Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga. He is in his 22nd year in education, and working in his fifth school in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

An English and Special Education Teacher for 10 years, he spent 8 amazing and exciting years at two different schools as a vice-principal before being promoted to Principal at St. Martin, where he oversees a highly successful and exciting Regional Sports Program, which is run in conjunction with the mainstream neighbourhood school. He is passionate about all students and is involved in the community as a coach and volunteer. His experiences growing up and being involved in various community sports make him a great fit for the school.

Growing up the oldest of five boys and being a father to four active and energetic sons allows him the perspective of a parent and caregiver in his decisions running a school, and is something that informs his practice daily. Jason believes it takes a diverse and balanced set of opportunities, staff and experiences to support student success, and with a loving approach, students can grow and develop to their full potential.

Connect with Jason: Email | Twitter | Instagram

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

St. Martin Catholic Secondary School

Regional Sports Program DPCDSB

Naval Ravikant – The podcast and book

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

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):
Jason welcome to the high performing educator. A pleasure to have you on the show here, please start by introducing yourself.


Jason Pratt (00:08):
Thanks, Sam. It’s a great honor to be part of this really interesting podcast. My name’s Jason Pratt. I am the principal at St. Martin Catholic secondary school in Mississauga Ontario. And this is my fourth year as a school principal. This is my first school that I’ve been a principal at. I was a vice-principal for eight years previous at two really fantastic schools as well. And before that I was a teacher for just about 10 years with a background, mostly I, I taught in English and special education before I got into administration. So it’s my 22nd year now in education.


Sam Demma (00:49):
Did you know since you were a child that you wanted to work in a school or what was the yeah. Journey to where you are now?


Jason Pratt (00:56):
Yeah, so like I was telling you before I, I had actually listened to a few of your podcasts and I had to stop because I didn’t wanna get too modeled. And you know what I reflected on that because I’d listened to some of your previous podcasts and it’s not something you’ll hear sometimes where people who wanna get education when they were really young. I knew all along for me, it was, it was a little bit more of a, a lengthy journey. I’m the oldest of five boys. And I ironically I have four sons, so I grew up with four younger brothers and now I have four younger sons. And we moved into a, a neighborhood in Mississauga, both neighborhoods I lived in, I was one of the older kids in the area because, you know it was the suburbs and we were moving in there and my parents were, were pretty early and moving into miss to, so, and I remember, you know playing right around where square one is now, and it wasn’t there.


Jason Pratt (01:49):
Then when I, when I was a kid and, you know, it was a lot of really cool experiences, but everywhere around me was all younger kids. And so I just naturally took on this leadership role of kind of organizing activities and games and, and we we would spend a lot of time in the outdoors and, and whether, you know, going to the park or going to like undeveloped areas, there was a lot of force in that area, if you can believe it back then. And we had tree houses and, and really cool things like that. And then when we moved our second time and I was, you know, in my, you know, early teens on, you know, I had these four younger brothers and we moved once again to a new development area, but we backed onto a park.


Jason Pratt (02:32):
We had tennis courts and, and, you know, baseball diamonds. And so I grew up with you know, a really good you know, an accessible space in which I could kind of organize and, and, and run these games. And my mom would often say to me, she was a teacher. She would say to me in the summer break, get these, you know, get your brothers out of the house, keep them outta the house for six hours. And I was the oldest one. So I’d organize, you know, tag or we’d play, you know, capture the flag or just different games. And a lot of kids in the area kind of you know jumped on, on board, right? So I would, I’d be kind of that organizing, you know, the organizer and I would get involved with a lot of these these activities with the kids.


Jason Pratt (03:57):
So I wasn’t a qualified teacher, but I got to, to spend some of time in a school. These were elementary schools at the time and got to be around kids. And I, and I said, you know what? This is actually pretty cool. So I, I finished my undergrad went to teachers college, and then I was lucky enough at the time the, the climate in the late nineties was such that you know, they were, they were offering permanent jobs right away. So it’s very different than it is now, where there’s a much more lengthy process of getting in, you know, on the supply teacher pool. And then you become an LTO. So I was actually fortunate enough to get hired permanently, right at a teacher’s college at a great school St. Francis, Xavier and Mississauga, that one of the bigger schools on the board with, you know, two housing plus kids at the time, and worked there for seven years and, and really enjoyed it.


Jason Pratt (03:13):
And then I think as I grew up, I, I didn’t necessarily, wasn’t drawn to toward teaching as much as I was coaching. So even at a young age, maybe 18, 19 years old, I started coaching my younger brothers, hockey teams and, and, and getting involved with being in that role. And I think it lent itself naturally to the position of teacher. And as I had mentioned, my mom was a teacher and my godmother, she was a teacher and the two of them were, were influential as going through my undergrad saying, you know, do some supply teaching. My godmother was actually a principal and she got me in as, as one of those emergency supply teachers. So actually before I finished university, I went in and it was like in a, you know, an emergency volunteer. And then I became an emergency instructor.


Jason Pratt (04:47):
And then while I was there, I got in with I wouldn’t say the wrong crowd, but the right crowd, a bunch of guys who were in and girls who were interested in getting into administration. And, and it kind of took me that way. So it was never something that I, I was, you know, you, people will say, I want to become a, a principal. I want to be everything just kind of happened with, with a certain natural flow. So I’ve really enjoyed the ride. It’s been great. And that’s kind of how I’ve ended up here.


Sam Demma (05:17):
Because this podcast is solely audio. No one can see the off, some metals hanging over your right shoulder there. How has sports impacted your journey in education and also your background?


Jason Pratt (05:32):
Well, as I had mentioned, I, I, before I wanted to become a teacher, I was a coach. And and I think the, one of the first things I did when I was a teacher is I signed up to coach hockey and we never had a strong team at St. Francis sea, but we were competitive, but we were never the elite hockey and Mississauga and hockey in particular, in the defer, in the, in the, in the robs league is, is, is pretty much just a handful of teams. It was back then, but I I, I truly enjoyed coaching. And, and, and one of the things I, I really enjoyed was organizing a lot of intramurals in the school. I thought that was almost as reward as, as coaching the school teams, because when you’re coaching the school team, I know if it was the same when you were playing same, but there was a lot of competing interests with the kids playing with club teams.


Jason Pratt (06:28):
So it was almost as if you were begging these kids to play on the school teams. Yeah. It’s very much different than the us model where the, at the, the high school teams, especially with hockey in Minnesota, they don’t even have club teams. It’s just, it’s, everything is high school, but I felt you know, with, with sports, it was a natural, it was a natural for me. I, I loved coaching. And so I coached all the way up until I became a vice principal. And even my first year as vice principal, I tried to help coach, but it was offer because, you know, the practices were right after school and you were busy dealing with stuff. So it was it was, it was, it was tough to, to have those competing interests. So, you know, I’ve gravitated more towards my role right now, as, as a school principal here at, St.


Jason Pratt (07:14):
Martin is, is really providing opportunities for these kids to to train in a, in a good safe environment. One that is financially available to a greater section of students. And that, that also comes from my experience as being a parent of my, of my kids. Two of them played at the triple a level, and I coached them both as a head coach, one with the Masaga rebels and one with the Masaga senators, both AAA organizations. And, and I took on that role as a head coach and loved it as well. But I also saw some of the, the, the pitfalls that parents can get into getting into that, that culture with with the sports and the training. So one of the thing, things we do here at this school is provide a really good opportunity for students to train and to earn credit phys ed credits, and some leadership pH ed credits, and some other elective credits while still training for their primary sport.


Jason Pratt (08:16):
Cool. And, and, and, and balancing them, playing on club teams versus is versus training. So it’s, it’s, it’s allowed us to win a lot of medals here, but that the championship medals and, and, and the, and the, the high school leagues per se, are almost a, a, a secondary now compared to these kids in their club teams. A lot of these kids go on to, to, to get a lot of success in sport because they they’re playing on club teams, whether it’s hockey, soccer, as you mentioned, like, you know, like the FC academies now, there’s, there’s a lot of different soccer academies, a lot of our basketball kids that are here our they play club basketball as well. In addition, high school is probably one of those last high school. Basketball is one of those last environments where it still is pretty competitive.


Jason Pratt (09:05):
And then now we have kids who are baseball, but we have kids that from our school have scholarships for tennis, golf swimming gymnastics, lots things. So we, we, we tend to bring a lot of kids in here. And, and so the relationship between sport and and schooling is, is so important to me. I, I did one of my master’s thesis proposals was on the relationship of sports and, and performance in school. And, and I, I it’s always been a passion of mine. So, like I had said, I’m, it’s a dream, you being at this school being surrounded by so many student athletes and, and their families and, and, and it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s been quite a ride so far. Well, but COVID is yeah. Yeah. That’s the other real part of it. I know. That’s, yeah. It’s kind of put everything on pause for a couple years.


Sam Demma (09:54):
Yeah. Athletes are being forced to get very creative, unfortunately, high school sports isn’t happening as much as it would have in the past, but, you know, I think as an athlete, you live, eat, and breathe or sport, you gotta figure out a way to continue training and stay sharp. And even if you gotta do it in your home basement for the time being, but you mentioned your school is one of the only re regional athletic schools. Can, can you explain a little bit about that?


Jason Pratt (10:21):
Yeah. So we are the only school in din peel that has a regional sports program. There is one offered in our determinist board, which is the PO district school board. So din peel. We are the only one and we’re located pretty far south we’re in the year on park valley, which is Mavis and, and Dunas which is really far south in considering our board goes all the way up to Dran county, which is right on the, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s pretty, pretty far up there. Like when you’re, when you’re looking at the board, it’s, it’s a very large geographical board. And so the way it, cuz the students apply out of grade eight, they apply to our program it’s regional. So we accept students from all around the region. They don’t have to live in our neighborhood area. Transportation is not provided so the students have to come here.


Jason Pratt (11:10):
So it’s a big commitment on, on the students and the parents to come to the school. They, they get references from their teachers of coaches and they, they themselves go through a discernment process. They apply just before the the winter break. And then when we get back, we, we have a selection committee that goes through all the applications and we take roughly 110 to 120 students each year. And those student in are in the regional sport program for two years. And in the regional sports program, the difference is, is that they do full year training in their sport of choice or if they don’t have a sport of choice, we do have a non-sport specific class. And they do that for the entire year from September to June and they get a PHY-ed credit and a leadership PHY-ed credit.


Jason Pratt (12:02):
So they get those two credits. And then in grade 10, we continue the, the program for the entire year, but those teachers are infusing the religion credit in with their PHY-ed credit. So the students will come to the school. They’ll, let’s say they select soccer, they’ll be in the soccer a focus course, which is large group activity course, but it focuses on soccer training. They’ll be with other kids of that same mindset. So the other kids who are in soccer and they’ll train for the entire year from September to June, but it’s not every day because they’ll intersperse the training with leadership activities and in class. And then in grade 10, they train once again for the whole year, but it’s interspersed with religion. So they may be the first two, three weeks. They be doing a lot of the religion work, then they’ll go on the ice or, and on the field.


Jason Pratt (12:50):
And then they’ll kind of do so it’s a real mix match. And like I had said before it back balances out all the training these kids do at night. So a lot of these kids are training 4, 5, 6 days a week with their clubs. Yeah. But we supplement a lot of that training. So I, I, you know, a lot of times when, when you’re playing, let’s say soccer or hockey at a high level, a lot of these clubs and teams that do a lot of systems and tactics they’re, they’re working on, let’s say, you know, their free kicks or their corn kicks. There’s a lot of stop. You know, let’s, let’s work this out a lot of Xs and O’s work, right. Especially at the high school level, these kids now are not doing dribbling activities or kicking. They’re expected to know that. So what we do is we supplement a lot of what these kids will be doing in their on their hockey teams and their soccer teams on their basketball teams with skills.


Jason Pratt (13:37):
So we don’t, we don’t, we don’t do the X’s and O’s here. We do a lot of skills development, but you can’t do that every day. The kids get, you know, burnt out. So we, we try to do it maybe two to three days a week, what then they’re doing their in class work. A lot of times we do yoga with them. We do nutrition with them. So they’re getting a lot of that training. They would get at a, you know, a secondary facility. And we do it for a fraction of the cost because the teachers that are teaching these programs are, are teachers and they’re getting excited. So the students don’t have to pay for it. The only thing they do have to pay for is a facility whether we’re renting ice or we’re going to an indoor bubble for soccer. This year we started a baseball pathways.


Jason Pratt (14:15):
So we have students now who are elite baseball players. So we, now we have the soccer, the hockey, the baseball, the basketball, and the non-sport specific pathways. Mm. So it, like I said, it’s a great program. We have kids from all around the region, as far up as Brampton. We have kids who come from the east and the west and they make it work. The parents make it work because a parent, myself, of, of high performing children, you’re willing to do what it takes to give your kid a good environment and a good opportunity for him to train or her to train and be successful. And then once again, when you have the culture is built around that the, the teachers here at the building are very supportive of these students. Yeah. A student may be gone for a week because they went to Florida to go to tennis tournament.


Jason Pratt (15:01):
And our, our teachers will work with that student and, and give ’em the work that, that he or she needs and, and welcome them when they’re back and not say, well, you missed the whole week of school. Now here’s a, a load of work for you to catch up on. So the culture here it’s, it’s wrapped around that, that mindset. Now, while we are a regional program, we all are still a neighborhood school. Yeah. But we do have kids that, that live in our area that come to our school. And that’s been, obviously not a challenge, but something we look forward, like, you know, something that we are looking for, of managing is managing our neighborhood school identity with our regional sport identity, because it’s, we’re not just a regional sports school. We’re about 50, 50 half of our kids are regional sports.


Jason Pratt (15:43):
And half of our kids are neighborhood kids. Yeah. A lot of them are new immigrants, new Canadians. And you know, they’re not interested in hyper a form sports. They’re just interested in, in learning what they need to do to be successful Canadians. And so it’s really managing all those intangibles and, and, and, and making it all work. And it, and it does. It’s a really good environment. The kids here are fantastic. We have very, very few behavioral issues because the kids are busy and they’re doing stuff they love to do. And then even if those kids are not in regional sports, they’re around those kids and those kids for the most part, as you know, of being a high performing athlete, when you’re in high school, they’re focused, they’re focused on their sport and being successful and not getting into trouble. Yeah. And eating relatively healthy and you know, and, and just, and they have parents or for family who backed them up and pushed them. So it’s great. It really is. It’s been good, but COVID has been like a real drawback on all this, but


Sam Demma (16:41):
You’re making me wish. I went to a regional sports program growing up, man.


Jason Pratt (16:46):
I’m the biggest ambassador for this school. I mean you know, it’s having son, like my oldest line is now in grade 11 and he’s actually in the us playing hockey with with, with a team around Pittsburgh. And he’s kind of in the same type of program, but the school and the, and the training are not related like we are. Yeah. and he would’ve loved to have come here. He really did. But at the time it was one of those things about having your son come to the school. But my other son now is, is a 2008 he’s he’s in grade eight and he’s very interested. And a lot of his friends are because they hear good things about the school. And like I said, it’s, it’s a fun place to be. It’s, it’s pretty exciting. It’s, it’s it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s been quite a ride, but like I said of it has really put a damper on things, but we’ve managed to still make it work, because like I said, it’s about training. And even though we haven’t had any teams to be able to compete, because this is part of their curriculum, the kids are still coming here and training and that’s, that’s important.


Sam Demma (17:49):
That’s super important. I was gonna ask how it’s continued, but you just answered it. Yeah,


Jason Pratt (17:54):
Yeah, yeah. So we, we don’t have a league, like our teams don’t compete, but like I said, these kids are all part of club teams anyway. So the parents aren’t coming here because they wanna win an off the championship or win robs is soccer. That’s a secondary thing. And that’s great if they do, but they’re coming here because of the training and because of the environment. And because, like I said, the culture here supports a student athlete, and I think that’s a huge part of its success.


Sam Demma (18:18):
You mentioned doing your masters in the connection between high performing athletics and education. What inspired you to do your masters in that and what was the learning, or what did you take away from that experience?


Jason Pratt (18:32):
Well, when I, I did my masters thesis in 2006 and at the time it was just an educational masters, but what I looked at was the connection at the time between student participation in sports and their academic performance, and essentially what all the, the studies had shown was that there was no difference. So a student who performed who was competing or participating in sports, their marks were not affected. So they did this cross-sectional study. And what that tells me is that, well, then that’s a good thing, because if these kids are, are able to keep their marks up and participate in, in sports then they that, I mean, the benefits are, are, are there, like we all know about the benefits of physical fitness in terms of, of mental fitness in terms of just being part of a social dynamic, being part of a team, you know, the, you can’t speak enough about how that’s so important for kids as they go through their high school years to be part of a team to be physically fit the connection between, you know, facing adversity, how to deal with loss, all that stuff.


Jason Pratt (19:41):
It’s, you know, team sports, individual sports, whatever it may be, the benefits way outweigh the the drawbacks of them competing. Since I’ve come to this school, I’ve actually started a second master’s degree in physical education. Nice. Because I thought it would be important for me to learn as much as I can about the phys ed side of it. So it’s, it’s, it’s a second master’s degree I’m working towards, but it’s a lot, it’s a lot harder this time around. It’s just, I can only tell, take one course at a time and it, it, it’s a lot of work and it’s gonna take me a couple more years and, and I think it’s gonna make me a better principle just having that background, but I think it’s important to kind of continue to learn. And it’s interesting being a student. I haven’t been a student, I started about two years ago, this second master’s degree. And, and it’s, it’s interesting how it’s tough being a student when you haven’t been a student in a while, but, but it’s fun and it’s good. And it’s good for me to, to, to stay grounded and, and to, you know, be that lifelong learner that a lot of us talk about being.


Sam Demma (20:44):
It’s rewarding. I was listening to a podcast with a tech investor, an entrepreneur named Naval, and he gave this analogy of climbing mountains and explained that every undertaking we embark upon, you know, think of it like climbing up a mountain. And when we reach the top, it’s, we’ve accomplished what the goal or that the desired outcome was. And he said, a lot of people climb a mountain, reach some form of success and get curious that, and wanna learn something else, but in order to do so, you have to climb down this mountain and start at the base of a new one yeah. And climb up it. And it’s so true that it could be overwhelming, but I think it’s such a rewarding experience. And it awesome that you’re also through your actions, not even by telling students or others, but just through your actions, proving that, you know, education happens at all ages and being a lifelong learner is extremely important. Yeah. So that’s, that’s awesome. What do you think some of the opportunities that exist today in education, there’s a lot of challenges and discussion about the cha like the, the negatives and things that are difficult right now. I’m curious to know what you think some of the opportunities are.


Jason Pratt (21:55):
Yeah. I mean, we all know about COVID and all those challenges, but you know, I, I think, I think the way that, that our, our planet is moving in, in be, you know, you can talk about globalization and, and, and that being obviously a huge factor in, in, in where students want to go. I, I think the fact that students have access to so much information and, and so much at their fingertips, it’s beneficial for them because they can look into whatever they want to, and they can research whatever they want to and, and have that, that kind of learning. But I I’m thinking the opportunities for students. I mean, we gotta think of where the world’s headed over the next couple years, next few years, and where these students are gonna, you know, where are they gonna graduate to?


Jason Pratt (22:49):
And I think a lot of it just comes down to the social piece, like how well do they work in, in team environments? How well do they work? You know, with, with their colleagues how can they manage to create a skillset that’s gonna be marketable when they, when they, when they graduate from wherever they do. And, and, and I think it’s, it’s so important right now, I’m, I’m seeing a lot of our students truly engaged. And I did mention the sports thing, but if I can put on the, the non regional sports hat principal for a second, and just talk about our specialist, high schools majors program, which is another big we pushed, which is the hospitality. A lot of our Stu you know, it’s, it’s at the last school I was at St. Marc Salinas. They had a highly successful baking program.


Jason Pratt (23:43):
And you would’ve never thought in a million years, like when I was going to school, like home EC was something you had to do and, and no one wanted to do it. I couldn’t believe it at the school, they had six full sections of baking. This is in hospitality. Hospitality is the cooking class where they learn a lot of those basics. This was a baking class. So when I got to this school, I said, let’s start a baking program. And now we had this year, we had two sections of baking. Now we’re a much smaller school than Marlins. But we had two full sections of baking. And I remember coming home one day and my kids were watching what was it, nailed it, the one where they have to bake cakes all the time. Yeah. It was reality show. And it’s just, it’s funny how kids will change.


Jason Pratt (24:24):
And, and so these are taking baking, and a lot of them will have this in their back pocket, you know, this skill. So it’s, you know, education, I, I think is, is about providing all these kind of student, you know, different kinds of students with opportunities to learn so many different skills in your traditional pen and paper textbook information. You know, there’s lots of great tech programs. We have a lot of kids who are successful in our, we have an electrical program, a lot of kids go into apprenticeship programs for electrical. We have an amazing construction class wood shop where the students are building, you know, excellent cabinetry. And, and they’re, they’re learning about you know, using the, the AutoCAD machine to kind of personalize wood. And they’re learning a lot of these principles and, and some of these kids are going on to university, but they’re keeping all these, these, these, these skills on the side.


Jason Pratt (25:16):
And I remember when I went to school, I didn’t do any of this, this hands on techy. I, I was more of a PhysEd guy and more of a pen and paper type kid, but I think we’re, we’re doing a good job at, in education by being, by diversifying the programs that are out there and giving students the opportunities to learn where, you know, what does success mean for you as you graduate? And, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to university and get a degree, but it, it’s just doing things you’re interested in being happy doing. And I think those opportunities and, and allow, want students to see those opportunities in a safe environment where they can experiment with it. Another big, real, another big program we have here. One of the more successful programs on our board is our co-op program.


Jason Pratt (25:57):
And I think one of the reasons is our, our co-op teachers are amazing at going out and getting really interesting co-op placements, whether it’s working at a veterinarian clinic, or one of our students is working at a co cosmetic surgery clinic. And, and just learning about that industry. We have a lot of students who work in other schools as elementary teachers, a lot of them work at you know, your traditional like mechanics things like that. And they get to experiment these jobs and kind of get a little snippet of what it’s like to work in that in industry. And then come back to school and say, you know what? I hated it, or I loved it. And I think that’s what high school is becoming for. A lot of these kids is, is experimentation finding out what works for you.


Jason Pratt (26:40):
And, and it’s about us working with these students. We’ve de-streamed the math for grade nine. And, and I it’s coming that we’re gonna DStream a lot more. A lot more of high school subjects will be D streamed. And I think that’s a good thing because it gives students more of an opportunity to experi, you know, experience challenges and learn and mature in an environment where they can kind of go back, make mistakes, change their pathway. But it’s, it’s, it’s definitely changing a lot from when I went to school. It was, you know, you go to school and you either, you’re gonna go to university and get a degree, or you’re gonna go and start working. And there’s really like, we’re seeing it now with colleges and, and providing students with so many more opportunities. I think it’s, it’s, it’s a huge, huge thing. So I think it’s just about providing a whole range of opportunities, allowing students to feel comfortable, choosing what they think is, is what’s best for them and, and engaging those families in that discussion. It’s all, it’s a very organic process now where I think it wasn’t so much when I went to school, it was very much, you picked the lane and stayed in that lane and that’s where you went. And that was it.


Sam Demma (27:44):
Yeah. Now students got the signals and they’re changing their lanes like crazy. Oh yeah.


Jason Pratt (27:50):
One eighties going back. Yeah. Know, I know it’s great. And it’s great to see that. And when you’ve empowered students and give them some say in what they’re doing, I think it changes them as, as learners. They don’t feel like they’re being forced one way or the other. They don’t have that pressure. They, I think they feel that they’re they’re in charge and that’s a, that’s an important thing for kids to feel like they have some say and some voice that’s.


Sam Demma (28:13):
A big, I, as a student who took a fifth year, a gap year, went to school, took a different path after school. I, I can’t stress the importance of all that enough. Yeah.


Jason Pratt (28:25):
Well, I’ll tell you something when I, so, I mean, my first year of university was not good. I was playing junior hockey and that was, you know, late games till 11, 12 o’clock at night. Yeah. And I was a languages major in my first year, so I had Spanish, French. And then, and then I took English as a, like secondary. And you had labs at 8:00 AM, and you know what, after a, a junior hockey game and, you know, you’re 19 years old, you’re going out. Sometimes you go out afterwards after the game, you weren’t getting home. And, and by the time I, I was not serious about it. So that first year was a disaster. I took a year off worked two full-time job, but well, one full-time job and a part-time job that was full time hours. And went back after that, you know, that third year, and then did well after that had kind of my focus on what I wanted to do.


Jason Pratt (29:16):
But interestingly enough, one of the side things I did as I was a student was I was worked in the service industry. And I did that for many years after I became a teacher. And what, what I saw in the service industry was a lot of my ex students who had graduated and these were the students. So I traditionally taught a lot of the college level Englishes and, and, you know, not necessarily the kids who were the best, most successful students, but what I got to see was I got to see them almost like a longitudinal study. I got to see them five, 10 years after they graduated. And what became of them. Cause, you know, you’re always like, oh my God, good luck to this kid. When he, when he, when he gets in school, what’s he gonna do? And they were all successful.


Jason Pratt (30:00):
They were happy. They were successful. They had families, they had businesses. They, they were really nice people. And these were the kids that traditionally didn’t do well in school. They were the guys who were in trouble, or they were the guys who were skipping or the girls that were, you know, you know, you know, whatever that may be like, they weren’t serious students. You would’ve thought, but no one sees them after they go. We don’t follow up on these kids after they graduate. But because I worked in the service industry and I worked for good 10 years after I saw some of the, the early kids that I had taught go on to become amazing adults. Like they were great kids and they just had to get through school to, to, but now I think we’ve, we’ve come to realize that there’s, it’s not like that anymore.


Jason Pratt (30:46):
It it’s changed. And so I’ve, I’ve, I, I was fortunate enough to have that experience and I think it opened my eyes a lot to what a school could become. And that’s part of the reason why I became a, an administrator is I loved the culture in my classrooms. I thought the only way for me to influence the culture in a school is to become a principal. And then when you become a principal, you can influence that culture. You really can. And you actually could as a vice principal, because I remember one of my first schools I started at the, there was, there was a lot of not conflict between the student and the teachers. They didn’t know how to handle. The kids were sent down a lot to the office. And as a vice principal, I role played a lot with the kids.


Jason Pratt (31:31):
I’d be like, okay, let’s, let’s go through how this happened. So I’m, I’m the teacher, you’re the student. So tell me what happened. And we would workshop almost how to, how to, you know, manage this, this conflict. And then I would go back to the teacher and say, Hey, listen, I worked with them, give ’em a chance. And, and it worked. And I think when the teacher saw that you had the kid’s best interest at heart and you were advocating for them, and the kids believed that it worked well. And I mean, I loved, I loved being a vice principal. That was an amazing role in a school when you’re a, a vice principal and you’re suspending dozens and dozens and dozens of kids, but never, they’re never angry at you. You’re doing a good job because those kids know that you like, you care for them and you’re being supportive.


Jason Pratt (32:20):
But at the same time, they made a mistake. And that was a, that was a fantastic job. I loved being a vice principal. Principal was more of an adjustment because you weren’t working so closely with kids anymore. And I felt as a vice principal, you have these really tight relationships with families and kids, and you’re working for them and you’re working with them. You’re like, come on, you can do it. I just don’t want you getting in trouble anymore. And you can get through this and, and you kind of work through them. Whereas with a principal, you’re more, it’s, it’s more of a broad picture of a school and you’re dealing with budget and staffing and scheduling and, and you’re dealing more with the adults in the building than you are dealing with the kids in the building. And that’s a change, right? So it’s like climbing another, I, I’ve not got to the peak yet of that mountain.


Jason Pratt (33:02):
I think I was at the peak as a vice principal, and now I’ve gone down and had to climb this next mountain, which I don’t know, maybe I’m getting older and it’s, it’s whatever it may be, but both roles are great. But that, that was really good. And then being a parent, being a parent gives you perspective too, on how your kids and I have, like I said, four boys who are good, good kids in that, but you get to see the parent side of it and the frustrations with my wife. And, and, and the teachers that they may have just in terms of, you know, how do we get these guys to be motivated with school and why the teachers, you know, sending this work, they don’t understand. So it’s really interest giving you all these perspectives. And I think it really influences you as a leader in a school.


Jason Pratt (33:45):
So, you know, I’m very much with, with my staff here, I’m always keep the parents informed, be very transparent, be very forgiving and understanding and, and, you know, just work with, if, if parents know you care about their son or daughter are in the classroom, that makes all the difference. When, when the parents have the impression that you don’t, that their kid is just a number or, you know, it’s, it’s not it, it, it’s just, well, the, you know, the mark is the mark and that’s what they got. You’re, you’re, you’re gonna have issues. And I said, you know, I say to them all the time, just work with parents, talk to parents, give them a call that makes all the difference in the world. And, and it has in this school, like I said, it’s, it’s a great school. We don’t really have any issues. And if we do, we resolve them quick and the parents are happy and the teachers are happy and the kids are happy, which is the most important.


Sam Demma (34:35):
Yeah, that’s awesome. It really sounds like the culture is something you focused on you, your staff, the teachers. Yeah. Even the students cuz they participated it as well. If someone wanted to reach out, ask you a question about the programs, the sports program, the way you try and embed school culture into the school, or just, you know, tell you about something they heard on this podcast, they enjoyed what would be the best way for them to reach out and get in touch with you?


Jason Pratt (35:01):
Well, if they wanna know more about the programs we do have a pretty good website with, with has some videos because we’ve had to be online the last couple years with our open houses, we actually saved a lot of our videos. Nice. So if people wanna find out more about the program, that’s where they would go and there’s excellent speakers and they talk about our program. But my email address is (email). They’re welcome to send me an email and that’s the best way for me to get ahold of anyone who needs to reach out. And if they have questions about the program specifically, or what not, I can direct them to whoever that may be. I’m always, I’m always advocating for this program because I believe in it, I would never, if your son, daughter is an excellent athlete and they live and you know, you can make it work logistically. We do have kids who come here all the way from Toronto, north York. Like it’s, it’s, it’s pretty amazing what people will do to be part of a good program. And you do it for your kids because you know, that’s so important to them, but no, it’s I’m always willing to talk more and and, and, and, and this was really great.


Sam Demma (36:12):
Thank you, Jason, for taking the time to come on here, share a little bit about your school. You, it is obvious that you’re passionate about your work and we need lots of passionate educators, so keep it up. And I look forward to seeing what your school and yourself and your staff bring to life post COVID. Yeah. With the sport programs, keep it up.


Jason Pratt (36:33):
Thanks a lot, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Jason Pratt

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.

Glenn Gifford – Principal at Saint Michael Catholic High School

Glenn Gifford - Principal at Saint Michael Catholic High School
About Glenn Gifford

Glenn Gifford has worked for the Niagara Catholic District School Board for over 28 years. Currently, he is the Principal of Saint Michael Catholic High School in Niagara Falls Ontario. Mr. Gifford began his career as a Long Term occasional teacher before settling in at Lakeshore Catholic High School in Port Colborne.

While at Lakeshore Catholic Mr. Gifford taught English, History and World Religions. He was also the head football coach of their Junior Football team for 14 years. Eventually, Administration called to him and he decided to finish the second half of his career as a high school administrator.

He has had stops as a Vice Principal or Principal at Denis Morris Catholic High School, Lakeshore Catholic High School and Saint Michael Catholic High School. With enthusiasm Mr. Gifford wants you to be “ALL IN” for both your staff and students!!

Connect with Glenn: Email

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Mike Loudfoot – Retired High School Teacher

Saint Michael Catholic High School

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

Glenn Gifford (00:10):
Okay. first off, thanks for having me, Sam. My name’s Glenn Gifford. I am the principal of St. Michael Catholic high school, in Niagara falls, Ontario. And yeah, thrilled to be here. Thanks for asking me. And I’ve been an educator now. It’s my 29th year. So one more year left after this and yeah, things have been going well. It’s different, but good. Yeah. So that’s for sure.

Sam Demma (00:35):
How did you figure out at a young age that you wanted to get into education? Did you know this since you were a kid or how did you stumble into this career?

Glenn Gifford (00:46):
Yeah, I stumbled. That’s a good word. Yeah, no, I didn’t. I mean, I had a good educational experience growing up. My dad was a teacher but when I went to university had had a good time at university and my grades were okay decent, but I, I thought it was gonna be a police officer and was, was ready to apply to the Ontario provincial police and figured that was the way I was gonna go. And I had a, a lab that I was asked to jump in and teach. I was a fourth year student and asked to help out for some first year students. And I went in and taught the lab. I think it was three weeks. I had to teach this lab and I had about well, my class kept growing in size, my lab.

Glenn Gifford (01:37):
And, and so the professor who came to me, remember his name is Dr. Rod priest. He came to me and said what are you doing after graduation? He said, I think I’m gonna be a cop. And he goes that would be a terrible mistake. And that was in fourth year university. And he said, have you given any thought to teaching? I was like, I, I hadn’t really but I liked it. It was fun in the three weeks limited time that I was doing it. And and so I applied to, to teachers college and and, and, and got in, and I hadn’t heard back from the police force. So I was like, I’ll do this. And nice. And the funny part is, is when I started teaching in Niagara cap, like I still remember the day I opened in my first check and I, I looked down at the bottom right hand corner.

Glenn Gifford (02:29):
And even then it wasn’t, it wasn’t a ton, but I mean, I was a student, so I looked at the bottom right hand corner and I thought somebody made a mistake because I had so much fun. I was like, they’re paying me this to do this. Like, this is, this is great. And I literally didn’t spend any of that money, Sam for, oh, probably about four months, because I thought like the, you know, somebody was gonna show up and say it would’ve made a terrible error who overpaid you. And I was waiting for like the Niagara police to come. And so I finally called the board and I said to them like yeah, this is Glen calling. I was at the time I was at Notre Dame Wellon and I said, and I just wanted to ask a question about my check and they’re like, yeah, sorry, Mr.

Glenn Gifford (03:08):
Gifford, we didn’t. And I’m like, oh, here comes like we didn’t we didn’t give you all your credit for your supply dates. We’re sorry. We’ll send you a retro check. And I was, oh my God. Then I realized, I was like, this is great. And that was truly what so thanks to my to my university professor for planning a seed that really got me to education. Then I realized, oh my God, I love doing this. And, and I’m, I’m paid at the time, you know? Yeah. I’m going from a starving student. I was like, oh my God, I get paid this to do this job. And to me, it, it just, it’s never seemed like work since then. So it’s always been just a, just a thrill to do it. And yeah, it, so the, I guess the, the thing to grab from that is you never know where, where it’s gonna come from, you know, somebody planning a seed that’s gonna grow into. So thing that, I mean, look, 15 years teaching and then five years as a vice principal and 10 years as a principal. And yeah. All from a, just a random comment from a, a university professor. So it was, I didn’t wanna start out as a teacher, but no regrets.

Sam Demma (04:16):
And tell us, tell me about what that journey looks looked like of, through the different roles and schools that you’d worked that you’ve worked at.

Glenn Gifford (04:25)
Yeah. When I first started, I was working at a, a program called the ACE program. And so it was really it wasn’t really, it was teaching, but it was with students who were struggling academically struggling with the whole concept of school. So what we did was we had ’em in class for a couple of weeks, and then we would have them at a co-op placement for a couple of weeks. And again, it was a lot of times for students, it wasn’t special education, but it was specialized education. And it was for kids who were struggling. And I think I had the personality where I could, I could kind of reach those kids and try to keep those kids in engaged in getting credits and maybe hopefully finding some type of career that they were interested in. A lot of them had had a lot of difficulty.

Glenn Gifford (05:11):
So that is a great way to start your career with regards to classroom management, with regards to all the, all the different things that come up in a, in a teacher’s career to start there with some pretty difficult kids. And I did that for about a year and a half and that worked out well. I think that laid a good foundation. Then I did some long term teaching for about a year. And then then, then received my full-time contract, where I was a teacher and, and football coach at lake shore Catholic high school in port Colburn. Nice. For, for teen years. And then and then again, just like I, I said with my professor, I had a, a principal who tapped me and a couple other colleagues on the shoulder and said, have you ever thought about administration and much, like when someone said, have you ever thought about teaching?

Glenn Gifford (05:56):
I was like, no, I haven’t thought about administration at all 14 years in in, and he said you should you’re you’re, I think you’ve got the I think you have what it takes you, you, I think people would follow you and I think you could lead. And really, again, just all the, all the planting that needed to happen there. And I looked at my friend and, and I said Brad, do you wanna do this? And he said, yeah, let’s go. And within six months we had all of our, our credits and our additional qualifications and, and and went from there then placed principal for five years, and then morphed back into a principal at league shore Catholic after five years of being a vice principal. So yeah, I’ve kind of, I’m pleased with it. I’m pleased that I spent enough time in the classroom that I wasn’t one of these people who just decided to when they enter teaching have decided that they’re going to be the superintendent of education and really don’t earn their stripes.

Glenn Gifford (06:59):
I guess, if you will, as teachers, I, I would like to think that after my 30 year career that most will remember me as a, as a teacher first and foremost, and then administration was Hey, you get to have your whole school as your classroom which is another, and they’re different jobs. Let’s face it, there completely different jobs. Like you would not believe so, you know, teachers that, you know, that’s rewarding and, and fantastic, and very difficult right now with COVID. But an administration is just wow. I just remember my time as a vice principal. I just, those people, those men and women they’re warriors. Yeah. It is so difficult. And then principal is a whole different ball game, as far as difficulty goes. And so many things come across your, your plate. You wouldn’t even believe things. I didn’t even realize when I was a teacher that were going on in a school, oh my God, that’s happening like it in 14 years, I had no idea this was going on. But as a principal, you see it all so different jobs, a hundred percent but no less rewarding.

Sam Demma (08:04):
I had another, another guest tell me the best principles are those that love teaching and didn’t want to leave their teaching job. And the, you know, if they were asked to teach tomorrow would do it gladly. And the best superintendents are the principles that never will wanted to leave being a principal and would become a principal again tomorrow if fast. And that mindset and mentality really reminded me of what you were just saying. Like, you really gotta love the work you’re doing.

Glenn Gifford (08:34):
A hundred percent. In fact, even now, like we’ll have teachers that are absent and I’ll look back, but my teachables English and social science and some world religions. And, and I’ll be like, oh, what classes, you know do we didn’t get a supply teacher? And they’ll be like, no, what class is it? Oh, it’s Mr. So-And-So an English teacher. Of course, I know what he teaches. And I would be like, well, I’ll do it. And I, and I, I just run in and do it. And because it was fun and I, I loved it and enjoyed it. And it gets the students to see you in a, in a different light, really, you know, some something in class as opposed to well, I, I see kids every day and I probably come up in one of these questions, but like, my things as principal is, I mean, you’ve gotta be invested into what you’re doing.

Glenn Gifford (09:21):
And I always use the analogy with my staff. I was like I look at a bacon and eggs breakfast. Let’s just look at it that way, the chicken participates, because the chicken donates the egg, but the pig, well, the pigs committed, right. Because the pig gives us life for the, for the meal. Right. So I ask my staff, I’m like, I need you all to be pigs for these kids. I need you to give it all. Yeah. And, and, and give me everything we’ve got all in t-shirts that, you know, the staff wear when I, when I first got to St. Michael’s and so I want, I want the level of commitment to kid. So one of the things I do is it sounds so silly, but I do cafeteria do all the time. And a lot of times places you know, teachers do that, or other people do that.

Glenn Gifford (10:08):
I do it, my vice principals do it because I want to get to know, I, I hand out we have a school of over a thousand students. I hand out about 250 to two or 80 diplomas every year, not since COVID, but even, even with COVID, I wanna know every single one of those kids. And I wanna make the effort to get to know those kids by first name, which is hard right now, because they’re wearing masks. But so it is difficult now, but I go back to pre COVID. And my, my goal is to be committed enough to, I’m not gonna be at a school for four years, and there’s gonna be a student that’s walking across my stage. And I have no idea who this person is. Mm. You’re not committed if you’re not doing that. So, and, and there’s a variety of ways that you can do that.

Glenn Gifford (10:49):
I just my personality was such, that is such that I can just get out there and just walk up to a table full of kids and start talking to ’em and chirping ’em and, you know, shooting the breeze with them and having fun and asking ’em questions about, you know, dad texting and all these other things and making fun of their phones or lunches or whatever. And you just get to talk to ’em and then they, they get to know you in a, in a, in a different type of relationship. And and that that’s worth its waiting gold when you’re, when you’re trying to establish an effective school culture that, that has made all the difference. So

Sam Demma (11:21):
How do you build deep relationships with students in the school building? Obviously communication is one of the major ways. And thinking back to your time in the classroom maybe you can pull from some of your beliefs on relationship building. Like how do you think you established that, those relationships with students?

Glenn Gifford (11:39):
Well, I think you hit the nail on the head there, Sam. I, I think a lot of administrators spend too much time. And again, again, not like I have the blueprint here, but yeah, like there’s so much that happens in a day that you can get focused on. You know, and, and maybe this isn’t the greatest thing to say, but, you know you can get focused on curriculum or you can get focused on the OSSLT or EQ AO, or you can get focused on programs. And I just remember this people don’t remember what you say people remember how you made them feel. Mm. And so for me, getting to know kids and meeting them where they are, and maybe that’s where they are at the time is getting to my student council to engage kids on social media to do fun things at school.

Glenn Gifford (12:27):
It sounds so simple, but if school is fun and you do that, engage kids, the rest takes care of itself. And I know people sit there and say, what about the curriculum? The curriculum takes care of itself. Kids will learn, listen, right now, we’re, we’re facing the challenges we’re facing with COVID and learning gaps and all that other stuff is incredible. But if kids have fun and they like coming to school and they respect their teachers and their teachers treat them well, treat them with respect and actually care about their wellbeing so that they feel it, the rest is easy. And so I’ve, I’ve empowered my student council to go and don’t sit on the bench, get up and take a swing. Let’s try this. Let’s try, let’s engage here. We had a program not a program. We came up with something called super locker at my previous school, which was in another one of my colleagues Andrew Boone brought that to Notre Dame and holy cross.

Glenn Gifford (13:29):
And, and I had it at lake shore Catholic, and now it’s St Michael’s and you know, the student of the month that it gets this giant locker, it’s all decorated in doc. And, you know, we just, and we just, our, our social media pages are, are fun and interactive. And and it, it, it, it just is something where you’re trying to create a culture of things like color wars and a lot of different things that you can do to engage students, even during COVID like you, we were doing just silly things. You know, just to keep, try to keep school fun because let’s face it for the last two years. It hasn’t been, it’s been awful. And so to try to do things at distance, to try to keep things fun when, when you have a culture that’s working in a building and you can come up with some creative ideas to do that, all the other stuff. And I’m even talking about student achievement, all of those things will fall in mind.

Sam Demma (14:21):
Mm. I couldn’t agree more. I think back to my own high school experience. And when I was excited to show up to class, I actively participated when I was excited to show up to fourth period world issues with Mr. Loud foot. This is one educator who totally changed my life. I would take notes on everything this guy said, not because we had to, but because I was so I was so invested and engaged in the class because he was invested and engaged in all of us individually and as a, a whole class. He

Glenn Gifford (14:53):
Got, and there’s that where you use Sam, right? You just use that word invested that came through loud and clear with that teacher that you had. And look what you’re doing now. Like you’re running podcasts for educational leadership. Like, I mean, so it clearly had a huge impact. So that’s one I told, you know, my staff and I say my staff, but the staff, cuz they’re not mine. Just like kids, you, you rent ’em, you don’t own ’em right. So the is just be invested and that needs to come across. And all the studies show for all of my left brain, people who want to quote studies and statistics, you know, that all the studies show that it it’s the people that are truly invested and truly care about people with. And I’m talking all people in your building, I’m talking about your teachers, your, your, your students, most importantly your, your cleaners, your caretakers, your EA, your, your cafeteria people when they know, and they all feel that they belong and that they’re going to be listened to.

Glenn Gifford (15:47):
And that the people that are around them care about them. The rest is easy. The literally the rest will take care of itself. So that’s, that’s my main focus as, as an educational leader right now is to, is to, is to try to make people not again, I don’t know if I can motivate anyone, but hopefully inspire people to motivate themselves. Yeah. To be invested as best they can. Everybody’s not a cheerleader. I am. That’s I know that’s, that’s my role at this school. I’m, I’m kind of like at my school is, is I’m the cheerleader, I’m this. And I have some vice principals who are fantastic at logistics, which is great because I’m not. And I have the prudent humility to understand that that’s not my, you know, wheelhouse, but we have some people that can help out. So together at all, pretty smooth, but big ideas and trying great things and, and, and engaging people and kids that that’s.

Glenn Gifford (16:40):
So there’s probably administrators out there. Like, that’s not me. I can’t do that. I’m not on social media. No, but, but somebody is, you know, like I, I always use this one, you know, that the only time I’m the smartest person in the room, Sam is when I’m by myself. Yeah. Otherwise you gotta lean on your people and their skillsets. And there are some people who are like, you know, mathematics, isn’t fun. And I can, yeah. But just, if the kids know you’re invested and you care about them and their wellbeing, the math just teach ’em the math and they’ll, they’ll understand and they’ll get it. So, but they just have to know that from you. We don’t have the little kids, we don’t sit there and criticize kids, you know, and I’m not saying kid gloves, but I’m just saying, let them know you care.

Glenn Gifford (17:21):
And, and the rest will take care of it and then rely on your people that you have around you. Because again, everybody has gifts and talents that I guess the question is, are you, are you using now, are you using people to the, the, the, the peak of their talent? And are you getting the most out of them? And you have to figure out what, like I said, I have some vice principals who are so technically savvy. It’s incredible. I’ll come up with an idea to say, Hey, can we live Simon cast the announcements during COVID so that we can do, you know, hi, it’s Mr. Gifford here. And, and can we set up a link and do this and share this on the Google meet and blah, blah, blah. And they’re just ideas. Yeah. But I can’t do it, Sam. I can’t do it. But, you know, I have VPs who can I have, you know, teachers and tech teachers who are like, yeah, well, you have to do this. And then I lose them because they’re speaking some different language, some technic I don’t understand, but I’ll show up like this and click on a link and, and, you know, and go to town. So, you know, I think people need to really access the resources they have in front of ’em that way.

Sam Demma (18:22):
Yeah. You know, it’s funny. I started thinking about my experience as a soccer player, the first five or six years, my coach put me in centerback. And towards the end of my career, I, he moved me to center mid and it was like a totally different change. And it felt like I was supposed to be in that position for my whole life. But I was always placed in center back.

Glenn Gifford (18:43):
And I think, were you reluctant to go there? Like when he first moved you, were you like.

Sam Demma (18:47):
Yeah, slightly, slightly, because it was, so it was so fresh and new. But afterwards I realized that the skillset that I had and the way the ball passing and certain skills that I had were very suitable for a center, mid position. And I actually ended up loving it even more than I did center back.

Glenn Gifford (19:04):
You know what, that’s, that’s a perfect example. And I, here’s the example. I can give you an education teachers. A lot of times, administrators they get into this, well, that’s my class like I’m the grade 12 law teacher here, or I teach grade 12 university level biology, and this is my class. And I had a lovely teacher one time when I was a program chair who was teaching grade 12 and and, and doing a fine job, no question about it, but I just saw her skillset. And I just, the next year I, I moved her into grade nine courses and I cannot get over. I cannot tell you Sam, how upset she was at me for moving her out of her courses. And I’m like, wow, technically they’re not your courses, but let me tell you why I put you in this course, because I think your skillset is going to be ideal for this and kicking and screaming to the point where, you know, I’m not talking to him.

Glenn Gifford (20:04):
And at the end of the first semester, she came and thanked me because it was the most rewarding change that she had ever had in her career. So, but it’s not just teachers. Most people are very apprehensive to change. Yeah. And because they’re used to things we’re built for comfort, we, nobody likes to take a step outside their comfort zone and, and try something new. Like the I will, or I’ll just, you know, when you’re working on something, anything that requires that kind of discipline we’re, we’re not built, honestly, we’re not built for that. And, and teachers are, and administrators have it. We’re creatures of habit. We do things out of habit. And then when something disrupts that, you know, it’s hard. So when they ask you, when you were asked to do something at first, you know, I didn’t like that.

Glenn Gifford (20:48):
But you say it turned out to be, you know, a great thing. Some of the greatest things you’ve ever accomplished, weren’t easy. Right? And when you look, when you get to my age, you’re gonna be like anything worth anything that you’ve ever accomplished in your life required, some suffering and some discipline and, and, you know, not the easy, you know, unless you won the lottery or something, you know, most of the things you had to work for. And, and so I think that’s, that’s a great example and getting people outta their comfort zone and and, and, and pushing ’em to greater things is, is good. Hopefully you can convince them that it’s, it’s a good idea, especially when you’re, when you’re talking to teachers who may or may not, I’ve been teaching you know, the same course for 14 years. Yeah. And, you know, that becomes hard, but most of the time I I’ve had a lot of success with, with anything like that, that, that people at least are, are ready to move forward.

Sam Demma (21:41):
Education is like gardening, you plant seeds, like you mentioned earlier, your professor planted in, and sometimes you’re lucky enough to see them blossom. Sometimes they don’t pop out of the ground 15 years down the road. And they, you know, sometimes come back and they’ll tell you, you know, how big of a difference or an impact you made. What are, you know, one or two of the stories that come to mind when you think about seeds that have been planted in your school community, maybe by teachers, by yourself that you’ve been lucky enough to see blossom. And if it’s a, a serious story, you can change the, the student’s names, but do any, any stories come to mind?

Glenn Gifford (22:22):
Well, I always look at it as, as something like that as individual students. Right. I, I like, like you said, the flower rarely seeds the seed. So there are times when, you know, and this is, I really wish that kids when I call ’em kids, but young adults now, when, if they have a run back into their teachers, you know, have those conversations, cuz it’s so important. You mentioned the one teacher year that you had Mr. Long, long fellow.

Sam Demma (22:51):
Mr. Loudfoot

Glenn Gifford (22:53):
Loudfoot. Okay. Loud foot. Nice. Even perfect. What a great, what a great handle, what a great handle, but Mr. Loud foot, like what an impact he had on you and, and, and every, every student can remember. Some of those, I I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve had a few a few students that, you know, have, have been, have come back and, and, and said things to me and, and have told me, you know, what an impact that, that, that I’ve had on them. And and I say programs, programs, it would either be as a football coach or, or, but I, you know, going back to what I was saying, initially, Sam not so much programs is people coming back to you and saying, oh, Mr. Gifford, you know, I loved your class, you know? And I think you made me feel you know so, so like your class was funny and you made me feel like I loved learning and, and those type of cor those type of comments.

Glenn Gifford (23:47):
And so that’s the thing I’m going for as an administrator now, too, is to, you want them to feel something, not remember what you say, no, one’s gonna remember, you know, you know, how would you do right now, Sam on a, on a, on a great 11 biology test? Like you, you you’d fail it horribly, right? Yeah. As would I okay. As would, so, because I don’t remember. I have, I don’t, I haven’t taken that for 30 years, 40 years. So you know, the more the story there is, what, what the, the, I guess the edification that I get is, is kids going back and reflecting on their experience in the classroom or on, on the football field? You know, I have former student says to me, one time he calls me up and I don’t mind name dropping it’s Mattie Matheson.

Glenn Gifford (24:30):
He’s a celebrity chef. And he’s got his own TV shows and, and he’s hugely successful. And I’m so proud of him. He’ll you know, text me like on Christmas morning to go get a coffee, like just crazy. But when he says, oh, Mr. Gifford, will you be on my TV show? You know, or when another student says, Hey, Mr. Gifford, will you be on my podcast? You know? And, and it’s all, you know, just because of the relationships that you’ve made, right. Not the, oh my God, that class was great because of all the knowledge, you know, it was the, the relationship that you forged with, with those kids and, and, and had left an impact on them. And I think that’s, that’s, what’s important. And then now, now, as an administrator, you that’s, those were classroom moments, right? As an administrator, it’s harder, you know, you just wanna make sure that your school culture is such, that kids have a good time at school and are having fun and and are enjoying themselves.

Glenn Gifford (25:26):
School is a, you know, things that are important now for kids, school is a safe place. School is a place where you, can you, you address you address any kind of bullying that might happen, or you address some of the things that, you know, what do kids really need. And you look now, and there’s a, there’s a lot of needs now with COVID that kids, you know, they’re, they’re our emotional needs and their, their social needs have not been met for a few years. So, you know, we, we’ve got a, we’ve got a tall task and education ahead of us for the next couple of years, as we hopefully wind down through this pandemic taking care of kids, not only the learning gaps that they have for the last two years. I mean, you know what I mean, by a learning gap, right?

Glenn Gifford (26:06):
There’s kids that left the pandemic in March and we’re taking in a semester at high school, we’re taking mathematics. And then it was all basically online for grade 10 and now grade 11, it’s been in a, and so everybody’s sitting there going these, these kids, like, and it’s not the kids’ fault, and it’s not the teacher’s fault. Just this kid’s been outta school for two years, or he is been dropping in and doing a quad master or not bill Meer or online and synchronous and asynchronous and all these different terms. And at the end of the day, there’s huge gaps, learning gaps. There’s going to be maturity gaps. Oh my God, you know, you got, you got grade twelves. And you’re like, these guys aren’t in grade 12, but but they’re, you know, we have to work at it and we have to get through it. And, and if they feel like they’re, they’re respected and loved and wanted and, and respected in their building, the rest will take care of itself.

Sam Demma (26:56):
If you could take all the experience you’ve had in education, bundle it up into, you know, a little ball, which is almost impossible. Go with that ball back into your first class you ever taught in and hand it to your younger self and say, Glen, this is what you needed to hear. What pieces of advice would you have shared with your younger self? And I know obviously building relationships and being invested is two of the, that we’ve really touched on this whole interview, which is awesome. What else would you have told you younger yourself that you wish you heard when you first started?

Glenn Gifford (27:30):
I, that you don’t know everything yeah. That you need to have the humility to realize that, that, again, like, I, I, I didn’t start saying things like I you know, I’m the smartest person in the room when I’m by myself. I, when I was 21, you know, or 22, I kind of I’ll do it this way, because this is the way it is, you know, as, as you age. And I know everything just ask me and you know, as you age, you, you realize that, or, or different ways of doing things, or, you know, just because I had a certain personality and certain brain style, right. That, that, you know, I’m, I’m more balanced brain. I can see left and right. You know, I can see both sides and I’d see other people approaching something in a different manner. And I would be like, that’s dumb.

Glenn Gifford (28:15):
And now I look at it and I’m like, Jesus buddy, you really didn’t know much there. You, you were kind of fine by the seat of your pants and you, you probably should have been a little bit more yeah, probably would’ve been a better teacher if you were a better listener. Mm. And, and I think that’s I, I learned that probably about when I was 14 years in the classroom and probably about year seven or eight, where I just kind of really had a couple of colleagues who were, who were special teachers. And I thought to, and, and I thought I was, but then I looked at how these, these guys and girls were doing it. And I was like, man, the, like, it’s not all about me getting up there and entertaining people and making kids laugh. Like, I really gotta leave them with something other than a magical 60 minute experience with Mr.

Glenn Gifford (29:04):
Gifford every day I need, I need to leave them with you. You know, I gotta get to the, the business of education. And even my assignments, like, I mean, are you doing the same thing again? Like, are you really gonna pull this assignment out again? Like, you know, everybody knows that this is coming. And, you know, I had a colleague say to me one time, why don’t you, why don’t you look at it and do this and have the kids do? And I was like, oh my God, brilliant. But, you know, I wasn’t thinking of it because I wasn’t thinking of it. So I needed somebody else to kind of shine the light. So what I would say to younger Glenn Gifford would be listen, buddy, you can, you can even have a bigger impact if you start to listen to people as opposed to just listening to yourself.

Sam Demma (29:49):
Yeah. I love that. That’s a phenomenal piece of advice. And I think it’s, it’s a human thing. It’s not a teacher thing. I think that’s advice that we could all take yeah.

Glenn Gifford (29:59):
A hundred percent. And sometimes it’s an age thing right. Where you just think, ah, you know, everything when you’re young. And, and I remember one time, one of my grad speeches, I said to, it was funny because I just said to graduates, I just said, you know, you know, very little, you think, you know, but, but you don’t, you hear all the parents laughing because they’re like, yes, they know nothing. And they do, they know lots and you should listen to them as well. But you, you really, again, so I, I would say to myself, if I had to go back and visit young Glen, the teacher is you have two ears in one mouth. So you sort listen twice as much as you talk.

Sam Demma (30:36):
Love that. Glenn, if someone’s tuning in, wants to reach out to you, ask a question or just have a convers what would be the best way for them to get in touch?

Glenn Gifford (30:46):
They could contact me via email which is glenn.gifford@ncdsb.com, or they can call St. Michael Catholic high school. And and I’m not hard to find so St. Michael Catholic high school and that Niagara falls Ontario, or through the board website through the school website they can reach out and all the messages go to me.

Sam Demma (31:13):
Awesome. Thank you, Glen. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This has been a pleasure and a really fun time. Keep up the great work and we will talk soon.

Glenn Gifford (31:24):
Yeah, Sam, appreciate it. Thanks very much. I appreciate that you doing this.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Glenn Gifford

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.

Annibale Iarossi – Principal at St. Marcellinus Secondary School

Annibale Larossi - Principal at St. Marcellinus Secondary School
About Annibale Iarossi

Annibale Iarossi (@Princ_Iarossi), is the Principal at St. Marcellinus Secondary School in Mississauga.  Annibale’s passion has always been working with diverse learners and seeking opportunities for them to experience success.  He began his career in 2002 at St. Augustine Secondary School in Brampton as a Special Education Resource Teacher. 

In this role, Annibale sought to provide his students with the necessary tools they needed to achieve their best results.  In 2005, Annibale accepted a job as Student Success Teacher at the newly built St. Joan of Arc Secondary School.  In this role, he was able to work collaboratively with students, teachers, admin and support staff in planning for the success of all students. 

This role also motivated Annibale in moving forward with his personal goal of being a Secondary School Administrator.  In 2013, entered into administration as a Vice Principal until 2019 when we was appointed Principal of St. Marcellinus Secondary School.

Some of Annibale’s favourite moments as both an educator and a student have been outside the traditional classroom.  As a teacher, he has enjoyed coaching football, soccer, basketball,  and cross country. 

He continues to firmly believe that significant learning occurs outside the classroom when collaborating with other individuals in a team environment.  In his spare time, Annibale enjoys watching his children play basketball and working out at the gym.

Connect with Annibale: Email | Twitter | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

St. Marcellinus Secondary School (DPCDSB)

Catholic Principals’ Council of Ontario

Peel Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association

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):
Annibale, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show this morning, please start by introducing yourself.


Annibale Iarossi (00:10):
I’m my name Annibale Larossi. I am the principal at St. Marcina secondary school in Mississauga with the din peel Catholic district school board.


Sam Demma (00:21):
When did you realize in your own career journey that education is what you wanted to pursue?


Annibale Iarossi (00:28):
I think that was rather early. When I was a student, I, think what motivated me to get into teaching was having great teachers and great teachers allowed me to fall line myself and allowed to me to realize the leader that I was, and so that translated into me getting involved in, in things in high school. And then that moving, moving into volunteering while I was in university and working with learners of all types. And I realized, yeah, this is, this is for me. I want to, I wanna be a leader in my classroom, my school, and now ultimately you know, I’m leading the school as a principal.


Sam Demma (01:12):
Take me back to yourself as a student, you mentioned that you had some great teachers. Do you remember two things, one who they were, and secondly, what you do for you that had a big impact?


Annibale Iarossi (01:26):
For sure. And, and when, when I looked at you know, who these teachers I was talking about they influenced me in different ways. Some of them influenced me by actually teaching me in class. So I had to teacher I, I recall Mrs. Roberts and who who taught, who was a history teacher and, and that’s, that’s my teachable area. That was the area I went into, got my degree. And, and she really motivated me through her lessons. And you know, you never knew what was gonna happen in the class. She was very enthusiastic, very creative and which allowed me to then in, in turn grow in my creativity. Other teachers that I had that were fantastic for me were some of my coaches in, in high school whether that be my football coaches or soccer coaches you know Mr. Barco, miss Dayton, Mr. Dayton Mr. Hollowell, Mr. Desna, all these, all these guys that motivated me to be a leader on the field then, and and all played a part in building who I am as a person.


Sam Demma (02:45):
Were athletics, a big part of your upbringing as well?


Annibale Iarossi (02:50):
Yeah. You know what I was, I was always involved in, in sport. I guess not to the same degree as, as kids are nowadays, when you stay involved in sport. And I look at my kids were involved in both are involved in basketball and I was never involved that, that much into sport, but it, it kept me engaged in school and it kept me to be affiliated with something that had purpose. So it in school, especially, I love being involved in sports and that’s why when I moved to become a teacher, I, I coached and I, I coached cross country. I CRO coached soccer. I coached football all of these sports. And it, it, it allowed me to give back to what those educators did for me.


Annibale Iarossi (03:54):
Yeah. So, so when I started when I started teaching, so I started teaching back in 2002, 2003, I was at St. Augustine secondary school. And I was I was in the special education, the academic resource department. So I was working with some of our diverse learners and, and that’s where my passion started in terms of with diverse learners and helping them achieve success. I was mentored by my department head Joce, Neves, who has now passed away. And he cared so much for students. He cared so much for not only them getting their credit, but their wellbeing, where they were going to be after high school, what they were doing outside of school, were they okay. And that resonated with me and it wanted me to work to the same standard as he did.


Sam Demma (03:39):
Absolutely. And when you think about your journey through education, where did it start and what brought you to where you are now? And I don’t mean you as a student, but you as an educator.


Annibale Iarossi (04:56):
So as a special education teacher, I was, I was at San Augustine for three years and really loved that, but I felt, I felt I needed a challenge and then a new school was opening up and St Joan a and the principal at the time CLA pit Tosha. Another one of my mentors brought me on staff as a student success teacher and student success at that point was a new a new role. And I remember going into it not even knowing what I had to do. And ironically we started out in this building at St. Mar Salinas. We were housed in this building. And basically I was, I was ensuring students experience success, worked to the best, to their ability and ensure that they graduated and got to their post-secondary destination where wherever that would be.


Sam Demma (05:50):
And is that student success position, does it serve the same purpose today, or for someone who has never worked in student success, what does it look like and, and what are you doing day to day?


Annibale Iarossi (06:01):
Yeah, so student success it, it, it really, and the student success teacher, it really is defined by the, the, the person who is in the role. Cool. because everybody does interpret it in a different way, but the essence of it is how can I get my students to graduate experience success, go to the post-secondary destination that they need to get to, whether that be university college work apprenticeship what tools can I provide my students what support can I provide my students to get them where they need to go? So I think that’s how I always approached it. And, and it’s, it’s been those were, those were some of the best years of my life in term in education because the students I worked worked with in those eight or nine years, I still, I still keep in contact with them today. Whether I run into them in the neighborhood or they’re coaching my kids or, or whatever. They’re, they’re there. And, and it’s, every time I see it, I, I feel like, you know, I it’s, I, I, I live my purpose. I live my purpose through being able to support them.


Sam Demma (07:19):
Right now student success is very important. Student wellbeing is very important. Staff wellbeing is very important. Staff success is very important. All those things are kind of at the forefront because of what’s happening in the world. What are some of the challenges that are facing your school community and potentially other school communities right now that you and the staff and students are striving to overcome?


Annibale Iarossi (07:48):
Absolutely. I think you hit it right there with you know, being in a pandemic. It is highlighted a lot of challenges. Some of the challenges though have turned into opportunities and those opportunities to, for instance, a challenge at the beginning of the pandemic was technology and, and being able to navigate technology and, and staff and students being able to navigate technology well, that, that that’s turned into an opportunity to, to, as, as professional teachers, they’ve turned that into an opportunity to be better teachers and to offer their students more. And and as students you know, digesting that, that new, this new technology and these new apps and, and all kinds of things, it’s given them a different skillset. Now, if we, you look back to the wellness piece, I, think that’s high.


Annibale Larossi (08:46):
I think that’s something that remains a challenge. I think moving in and out of school buildings has provided students with some, some mental health cha challenges, some wellness challenges, and as staff, what we’ve tried to do is keep the lines of communication open through our guidance department, our student services support services such as child and youth worker, social workers but, but the people who are on the ground first, our, our teachers are the ones that, that bring it to our attention so we can deal with it. And, you know, I have a wonderful administrative team who, who you know, shout out to all three of my VPs, Maria Laurie and Sheena, who who do a fair, fantastic job every day promoting student success and wellbeing for all our students.


Sam Demma (09:41):
And how do you personally fill your own cup? I know it’s sometimes a challenge. I, I struggle setting boundaries between work and life. And sometimes when things get overwhelming, you might be spending every minute of every day thinking about work, how do you, you know, set up the boundary for yourself and also fill up your own cup?


Annibale Iarossi (10:05):
Yeah, I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve transitioned from vice principal to principal. I know starting as a vice principal, I thought, I, you know, I was a single vice principal, so I had, it was me and the principal. And I thought I had to be everything to everyone. And I thought I had to be on call all the time. And you know, you let you let yourself slip you, you, you get into a rut. And and then you question whether you’re, what you’re doing is the right thing for, for everyone. And but as, as I’ve moved on with experience in this role and in having mentors in this role I’ve realized that the balance is important. So I, you know, I, do things like take care of myself, take care of my diet, take care of myself at the gym workouts get involved with, with of within the community as well.


Annibale Iarossi (10:58):
So it, it’s very important that that we do strive the balance. And, and I, I, I do now you know, I have more time to spend with my, my kids more time to spend with my wife being able to coach my son in basketball has been has been another great thing. So you know what, busyness, isn’t always bad. It’s just where you allocate the, the busy time that if you allocate it all one spot, it’s not always healthy, but if you break it up, busyness is pretty good.


Sam Demma (11:29):
It keeps you moving forward.


Annibale Iarossi (11:30):
Yeah. Yeah. Keeps you young.


Sam Demma (11:32):
Yeah. A hundred percent. And throughout your educational journey, what resource is experiences, programs, or things that you have been a part of, which of which of those things have been helpful to your personal and professional development? Did any, did anything come to mind?


Annibale Iarossi (11:51):
Yeah, I think I think first and foremost, I am a big proponent of mentorship. I, I think I’ve, I’ve served as a mentor through our administrative team through our principal vice principal association and through our board. And I’ve been a mentee I’ve, I’ve, I’ve had the opportunity to work some with some great principal within our board to be able to rely on for for assistance when I need it, because I don’t have all the answers. And you know, I, I think I’d be fooling people if I, if I had the answer to every question. I think relying on some PD through our association Catholic principals, council, Ontario and our board is, is, is, has been very beneficial to, to myself. And I, I would say most most administrators and, and that I’ve worked with.


Sam Demma (12:46):
Love that. And what did that mentorship look like? I’m also a huge fan of mentorship and there might be some new teachers wondering how do I find myself a mentor and might be a little overwhelmed with the idea of it?


Annibale Iarossi (12:59):
Yeah. Like I think so first I being, I remember being appointed a mentor and I was like, I’ve only been in this role for like three years. How am I mentor? Like, I, you know, I, I barely know anything. But then, you know, it, I think the cornerstone of a cornerstone of mentorship is listening and, and, and listening to what your mentees need listening to what they’re asking and listening to what they’re not asking. I think it, it’s, it’s, it’s very important. I’ve had some really great mentors as as principal, too as a principal as well. You know some former principles of mine Dan Kaun, Michael Grady guys, I’ve relied on to ask questions where I didn’t have the answer. And you know, what it allowed me to then pay it forward with other principles or vice principals that call me, or email me and say, Hey, do you have the answer to this? Or do you know, can you lead me in a certain way? And it it’s, I think it’s a great cycle to be a part of.


Sam Demma (14:07):
You mentioned earlier that in those moments of potential burnout or over pursuing work and not by balancing it with, with life and other important activities, sometimes you question not you specifically, but in general, as an educator, you question is this the right thing for me and everyone else. I’ve asked educators that similar questions a few times, and they’ve told me that during those days they have this little folder on their desk and it’s filled with all the notes that students would’ve sent over the years. And they’ll peek into this little this little notebook and remind themselves that the work makes a massive change. Yeah. Is that a true, is that a true thing that educators, do?


Annibale Iarossi (14:48):
You, you know what, so for a lot of people who really know me, they, they, they know that I am probably one of the least sentimental guys who are gushy or, or you know, that kind of guy, but I I’ll be honest. I, I do keep, I, I do keep, like, thank you cards. Like I’m looking right across from my desk right now to the table in front of me. I have about, you know, 12 thank you cards that are, that are there. And you know, I, I do keep those then in my desk just to, if I do need to rely on it you know, letters that I’ve gotten from students. Absolutely. I think those are the ones that really resonate and, and, and keep you are going on, on on days where you’re like, am I still making a difference emails from parents? You know, you always remember that you are make, you might not be making a difference for everyone, but you’re, you are making a difference for someone.


Sam Demma (15:46):
Mm it’s so true. If you could take the and knowledge you gained from your entire teaching career, kind of bundle it up into some advice and then travel back in time, walk into your own classroom of the first year you started teaching, tap yourself on the shoulder and say, Hey, an evil, you know, this is what I wish you heard when you just started. What would you have said to yourself?


Annibale Iarossi (16:15):
Yeah, I, I think maybe one of the first things, that’s a good question. One of the first things I, I would probably say is don’t take yourself too seriously. Mm. I know when I started when I started teaching, I, I was, I, at the time I, I, I, I was overwhelmed. I had a number of students in my, in my classes with a number of needs that I didn’t think I could I could help them with. And I, I even reached the point that I was like, is this teaching for me? And I, I, I think gaining perspective is important. Listening is always important in, in this profession. You need to be able to listen, you need to be able to process the information and then you need to be able to act. So I would say a first year teacher don’t take yourself seriously. Don’t stress out, get self balanced, and you’ll be okay.


Sam Demma (17:17):
Awesome. That’s a great advice. Thank you so much for taking some time to come on the show, share a little bit about your experiences, some ideas that have been helpful for you. If someone’s listening and wants to reach out what would be the best way for them to get a hold of you.


Annibale Iarossi (17:33):
Sure. Email is always good. I don’t know if you want me to, I can give you my email address. It’s annibale.iarossi@dpcdsb.org, or you know I’m on Twitter. So you can look me up on Twitter and or LinkedIn, and feel free to contact me.


Sam Demma (17:59):
Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show and keep up with the great work.


Annibale Iarossi (18:03):
Thanks, Sam. All right. Take care.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Annibale Iarossi

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.

Jamie Stewart – Teacher and Founder of Elite Basketball Training Academy

Jamie Stewart – Teacher and Founder of Elite Basketball Training Academy
About Jamie Stewart

Elite Basketball Training Academy’s CEO Jamie Stewart has been operating EBTA for 20yrs. EBTA boasts a 100% Scholarship Graduation Rate for players who attend daily! EBTA players on average Train for over 2000 hours Annually, play in over 300 games Annually, which fulfills the longtime belief of the 10,000 required hours needed to receive a Basketball Scholarship by the end of your High School Career. 

Jamie Stewart is considered a World Level Basketball Skills Instructor & many of the drills he has personally invented are being utilized in the NBA! Additionally; Jamie Stewart’s players are always considered the Best Shooters in the Country by their senior years! 

 

Connect with Jamie: Email | Instagram | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Elite Basketball Training Academy Website

ETBA Youtube Channel

Summer Break Academy

Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board

EBTA Blog

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 actually met and learned about today’s guest by doing a four day seminar to his class in the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board. His name is Jamie Stewart, and he has been operating the Elite Basketball Training Academy for 20 years. EBTA, the Elite Basketball Training Academy boasts a 100% scholarship graduation rate for players who attend and show up daily. EBTA players on average train for over 2000 hours per year playing over 300 games annually, which fulfills the long time belief that 10,000 hours is required needed to receive a basketball scholarship by the end of a high school career.


Sam Demma (01:20):
Jamie Stewart is considered a world level basketball skills instructor, and many of the drills he has personally invented are now being utilized in the NBA. Additionally, Jamie Stewart’s players are always considered the best shooters in the country by their senior years. Jamie; I brought him on because it’s interesting to me that he is both a teacher, an educator, and a high level world class basketball skills instructor. He brings a lot of what he teaches on the court into the classroom, and that’s why I thought he’d be an amazing guest for today’s episode. So I hope you enjoy this conversation and I will see you on the other side. Jamie, 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 about your background and who you are?


Jamie Stewart (02:12):
Okay. My name is Jamie Stewart. I was born and raised in Amherstburg, Ontario. I went to St. Thomas Villanova high school. Through, I’m considered an overachiever, through a lot of hard work, and diligence and sacrifice of many things, I was able to overcome a lot of obstacles and, and become, you know, like a three year scoring champ in the area. A full scholarship winner, I went on to the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut where I was a three year captain. I think it was second or fourth in assist a couple years in a row. My senior year when I was supposed to really, really break out, I was at about 25 points a game, and my career ended with a series of knee injuries. I just wanted to, I always wanted to help kids get better.


Jamie Stewart (03:03):
But I, I kind of didn’t know how so when I was in teachers college I, I met this I met this guy he’s actually from London, Ontario. I went to Western Ontario, Western university in, in London, Ontario. And he, he, he explained it to me how he’s put, put himself through school. And he ran a music business where he had a house and he had different people come in and teach instruments per room, you know, piano, one, one room violin. And I thought, wow, that’s, that’s wonderful. And he’s a music teacher now. And I said, wow, that’s wonderful. So you use your passion for instrument to not only, you know, help others service the community, but, and you’re able to get paid for it. I thought that was more, I should do that for basketball. I should, I should teach kids basketball skills, teaching better basketball.


Jamie Stewart (03:58):
And we actually had, we were in this class and we had to produce a website and I said, you know what, I’m gonna kill two birds in one stone. I’m gonna, I’m gonna do the website for my basketball business that I’m going to open. And, and, you know, and it’s gonna fulfill my requirements in class, actually create a website. And that’s kind of how, how it started. And then I, you know, drip, some business cards and brochures. And I was my, my first ever client, Dan chap, Japane bell river, Ontario. He was actually the last player on the grade nine Riverside Falcons as an OBA team. And he was my first ever client. So make a long story short. So he went from the last on grade nine, OBA to number five in Canada, his senior year high school, first team, all Canadian.


Jamie Stewart (04:53):
He played on national television, TSN all Canadian game. Some people had him rank number two in Canada. He full scholarship Columbia university of New York work where he graduated. He appeared on I think he was good morning America. He won, he won a, I think he won some money to start his business. Hmm. He has a lucrative clothing clothing line now. And he’s he’s a millionaire in Los in list. He’s doing really, really well. So I was my first ever client in over 19 years going on 20, all of my, all of my clients, all of my kids that I’ve trained have similar, you know, crazy improvement stories that, you know, it’s hard to believe unless you’re there and you, and you witness it. So that’s that’s kind of how I, how I got started and my passion for the, the game.


Jamie Stewart (05:46):
I, I can remember in university, I mentioned before, you know, I, I was always addicted to the game when I was in when I was in college university, they, they would call me Hurley. My idol was Bobby Hurley and my dorm room, I have two TVs. One was a big screen and one was a small screen. And the big screen usually had NBA games on and the, and the small TV had college games. And when I was, when I was home, no matter when I was in my dorm room, no matter what I was doing, those were on. And I was watching even while doing home and work, even, you know, even if I people in my room, I, so I, I was addicted to the game, addicted to player development, improving, and, and skills. And still to this day, I, I fall asleep with my laptop in front of me studying, studying basketball or studying my, my kids at my basketball academy and trying to find a way to make ’em better.


Sam Demma (06:39):
So where did your own passion for the game stem from? Take me back to when you were a young kid, why basketball? Where did that passion come from?


Jamie Stewart (06:49):
I remember I, I always loved dribbling the basketball and running out and playing with, with the older guys. I remember begging my, it was grade four and you had to be in grade six to play on the basketball team. But I, when I remember my teacher telling me, just go knock on the door and they’re having their basketball tryout and ask the teacher, if you can try out for the team. So grade four, that’s what I did. So I knocked on the door. I said, you know, can I please try out with the team? And the coach let me in. And I was on the team from grade four to grade eight. I don’t remember actually getting any playing time except for the junior team until maybe grade seven. I, I didn’t get in, but I just remember not being very good, but loving, absolutely loving playing at that time.


Jamie Stewart (07:38):
And eventually that, that love for playing, you know, created a work ethic where I was always playing. And then it kind of like from going in grade 10 to going to create grade 11, when I first started lifting weights, I actually started to get good. So, you know, I grew a little bit and the time that I spent on the core of those, the, the countless hours of, of playing, even though I wasn’t very good, I started to pay off. And I started to see fruits of my labor when I went from grade 10 aver and maybe eight points, a game to grade 11 aver and 25 and leading. And that was from junior boys to senior boys. Right. So that was a big jump. I probably grew four inches that summer as well. So I went from averaging like eight points game in junior boys, basketball as a 10th grader to, you know, leading the conference and scoring at 25 points a game at 15 years old.


Jamie Stewart (08:33):
So, but I’ve always loved it. Even when I wasn’t a good player, I’ve loved it when I was a decent player. I’ve loved it. You know, you know, I’m, I was a gym rat. You couldn’t get me out of the gym. You had to chase me out of the gym. You know, I’d break into the gym, I’d leave the back, I’d leave the gym door open in my high school and come back at 11 o’clock at night when the janitors left, you know, and I’d stay here until three, four in the morning, getting up shots and getting better. And you know, that that’s really how, you know, I, I made myself I made myself a, a decent, respectable scholarship, eventually an NCAA captain by, you know, just outworking and outsmarting the opposition. And, and that’s kind of the same, you know, the same philosophy that I had taken into my academy. We will outwork and we will outsmart everyone, you know, we come in contact with, or, or we compete against.


Sam Demma (09:27):
Hmm. And where personally, for you to teaching and education, like when did that come into the picture as well? Like, I’m sure at a young age, you know, when you had those knee injuries, you were devastated. What drew you to education?


Jamie Stewart (09:42):
It was definitely the the high school that I went to St. Thomas Villanova at the time was the name was brought Ontario. Now it’s in lasal Ontario competes their conference. There, there was a few teachers there in particular. Tony low was a former CFO football coach. And I, and, and and, and Linda Macelli was also there. And I just remember most of the staff just being, especially the, the athletic department being super positive nonjudgmental, and they, they wanted what was best for you. That’s not always the case, believe it or not, but I really think that I made it out of there because I made it out there with a scholarship, because I, I remember in grade 11, when I, when I kind of busted out as a really good player, when my coach coach de logio pull me aside, he said, you’ve come a long way.


Jamie Stewart (10:36):
And I leaving you, you can get a scholarship, just keep working. And it, and that, that, that positive effect that they had on me, I wanted to, to give back that’s what I wanted to do to others. That’s what I wanted to do to kids. Tell them, even though, even though you’re probably not, you’re not very good right now. If, if you are told, Hey, I believe in you, I believe in your work ethic, I believe in your perseverance, I believe in your character and I will help you get to the next level. That’s what I wanted to do for, for kids. I want to be positive inspiration, and I wanted to help them do things that they never would’ve dreamed that they’d ever be able to do. I, I remember in grade nine, I’m grade nine and grade 10 I’m, I’m probably 5, 2, 5, 4 playing.


Jamie Stewart (11:26):
And I, I seen somebody running, jump, running, jumping dunk, and I see somebody shoot a 30 foot jump shot. Wow, wow. I wish one day, maybe I could do that to like go into my junior year where I’m averaging four, you know, four dunks per game is like, right. It, when people inspire you to do things that you don’t think you can do, you know, that’s that, that it’s a trip trickle effect into your life. You know, having building confidence in sport, you know, through their positive interactions with me, you know, benefited me going forward in many, many other areas of my life, but definitely get back to your question more. So it was, it was St. Thomas Villanova led by coach Delo, just believing in me and inspiring me to do good and then better. And then, you know, be one of the best in Canada. You know, that’s why I wanted to, to become a teacher and an educator and, and eventually a basketball coach.


Sam Demma (12:28):
And I think what’s really unique about you as a teacher now is you teach, you know, civics and careers, which is a course that’s difficult to teach, but it has, it has very fruitful outcomes. You can include life lessons, you can include leadership skills. You can include so many awesome things in the curriculum. Being a careers in civics teacher, like how do you implement your philosophies from the game of basketball into of the, into the classroom per se?


Jamie Stewart (12:58):
The very first day that I met them was actually online cause we were on lockdown. So we were learning online. The very first lesson I taught them was the secret. If you read the book, the secret and then encouraged I, everyone to read the book and then eventually read the book once a year, and then you watch it on film. And in the first 20 minutes, I think really, really applies to like grade nine or 10 religion, careers in civics. You know, even phys ed is just to have a positive, you know, like a ridiculously positive attitude.


Sam Demma (13:37):
Mm


Jamie Stewart (13:37):
Right. So no matter how, you know, life sometimes is humiliating, you’re gonna fall so many times you’re gonna fail so many times. But if you have that true unconditional positive attitude, you’re gonna get back up every single time. You’re gonna keep trying, you’re gonna try to, you’re gonna try to strive for things that, you know, how many times was I told when I was in grade 9, 10, 11, even 12, you’re not getting a basketball scholarship. You’re not good enough. Right. And that’s another thing that, that we talk about all the time. Don’t listen to people believe in yourself. Hmm. Believe in yourself. And, and I would tell the kids all the time, you know, who’s your favorite athlete entertainer, or, you know, if you eventually wanna be a teacher, a doctor, who’s your favorite, Google them right now and ask the question. How many times was Wayne Gretsky told, or, or somebody was told they can’t do something.


Jamie Stewart (14:36):
Mm. And they will say hundreds, thousands. That’s just the world. Yeah. You gotta, you gotta laugh that that’s just the world and it’s never gonna change. Right. Cause sometimes people are offended by your goals and your dreams. But not to listen to them to get back up when you fall. And if you’re really truly determined to achieve something is ridiculous. As it sounds like you really can do it. Right. So having that ridiculous positivity in your life can really, really benefit you, help you get up when you fall all, you know, brush it off and move forward, bigger, stronger, faster, better.


Sam Demma (15:17):
I love that. That’s amazing. And this belief I’m assuming came from your teacher, I’m sure you’ve had other inspirations that, that led you to develop that belief and to try and share that with others. Where do you think that belief came from? Like, did you have someone in your life who poured belief into you or was it mostly your coach in high school? What led you to the secret and other materials to continue building that really positive mindset?


Jamie Stewart (15:44):
I always, you know, as a kid, you always wanna be successful. Hmm. And actually that’s another assignment that we do in our class. You know, what do you fear the most? And, and I always tell them if, if I was sitting in your desk right now and the teacher asked me that it was always the fear, the fear of failure. Mm. So anything that I tried to do, I tried to give it 100%. You know, I was told I, and I was, I was too skinny. I was too scrawny. So what did I do? I wanted to change that. I lived in the weight room. Right. I couldn’t shoot, what did I do? I shot 500 jump shots a day. You can’t dribble. Good enough. You have no left hand. What did I do spent hour or two every single day working on my ball hand.


Jamie Stewart (16:33):
So yeah, you know, my coach Delo had a, had a wonderful effect on me. Obviously there was something deep and down inside. Mm. And I also teach grade nine, 10 religion. And, and I, and I incorporate it into this class as well. You know, what, what motivates you, you have to find what motivates you? What, what triggers you? What trigger that triggers that inner animal in you? Right. For me, it’s being told you can’t do something. Mm. I remember I remember high school. I would score 30 and a half 25 and a quarter 40 in a game that really didn’t. Yeah, that’s good. You know, let’s keep going with it. But what really lit my fire was somebody telling me, like, and, and to this day, somebody tell me I can’t do something or I’m not good enough. Then it’s on you. Go on my run, mental Rolodex.


Jamie Stewart (17:36):
I write your name down on my phone. And I will look at it for the rest of my life. And it’ll drive me to absolute exhaustion at the end of the day. And this is just a competitor to me, has nothing against that person. They help me at the end of the day, I’m gonna make sure that everything I do is better than you I’m coming at you. Right. And, and it’s psychological. And, and I tell the kids find something that motivates you. Mm. Yes. You have your, you have your passion, you have your goals and your, and, and your daily routine. It should resemble the result being your goal. But what sparks a fire in you to push it to that next level? Yes. In my basketball academy, my kids wake up at five in the morning, every morning, they’re in the weight room by six, till seven 30, then they go to school and then they see me after school from four to eight inside of that, four to eight, they shoot a thousand jump shots. They make a thousand passes. They make 200 5500 defensive slides and 2000 to 5,000 dribbles. Okay. So everything, everything is systematic in, in what we do. So, sorry. I lost track. Sometimes I go off on tangents. Can you re bring me back to the initial question? Cause I just lost track of my


Sam Demma (18:54):
Yeah, no, no, no worries. I was just asking where your belief came from and you gave me a ton of great ideas from, from your coach. And then you said internally, right? Like you have to figure out what drives you. Personally. And I think it’s important to understand that every person is driven from something different. I relate to you. I, I love when people tell me I can’t do something and that drives me a ton. And yeah, I, I, I agree. I, I’m curious to know what are some of the things you think that drive your students? So when you give those assignments in religion class and, and in careers and civics, like what kind of ideas or answers come up?


Jamie Stewart (19:35):
A lot of ’em talk about, you know, cuz I always, I always go back to basketball with them, with me and the work that I have and my kids have, but I always say replace that with your goals and dreams and they, and they always do. They always do. And a lot of the kids in this class now say that they wake up and they exercise before school or they wake up and they’re working on their dream, whatever it may be. And a lot of ’em, they don’t know what they wanna do yet, but they wake up and they get an hour of schoolwork in before school that they weren’t doing. Mm. Right. So they’ve a lot of ’em have changed their schedule into putting more time into who they want to be in the future and obviously a lot less time on, on social media.


Sam Demma (20:27):
Hmm. I love that. That’s awesome. And I know we met because of the four day program that we, you did with your school, which I’m super grateful for. Which is awesome. Wh what would your advice be for another educator who’s listening, who maybe they’re in their first couple years of teaching. And I think teaching and coaching are very similar, which is why we can make these, these similar analogies. But if you could give advice to someone who’s in the first couple years of teaching what would you say? Like what kind of advice could you give them?


Jamie Stewart (20:58):
I always say, if you have passion for the kids, if you have passion for their development and you have the betterment their betterment truly on your mind. Mm. Obviously you’re gonna have to put a one an hour to three hours a day in understanding the curriculum and really not only understanding, but learning how to bring modern day contemporary issues that can drag the kids in to that. They, they enjoy what you’re doing. You’re gonna be successful. Hmm. I think with teaching you can’t fake it. The kids will know if you care or not. They will know if you’re on their side or not. So for all the advice I’ve ever given, new teachers is love the kids, put them first, put your ego to the side. It’s servant leadership. It’s sometimes gonna be humiliating, but that’s okay. That’s what, that’s what we’re here to do. If it betters the kids and you’re humiliated, good, you’ve done your job nice. Right. And I, and sometimes even, even in coaching, right. Sometimes you’re gonna be humiliated, but it, if it makes the kids better and they’re gonna learn from it and grow from it, right. And then you can build upon that, put your ego to the side for the betterment of the, the student to, for the betterment of, of the player.


Sam Demma (22:32):
Mm. I love that. It’s an awesome principle. And I think our egos get in the way sometimes.


Jamie Stewart (22:38):
So all the time, any, any, any, if you really look back as, as a coach or a teacher, whenever you get into trouble, whenever you get into conflicts, what is it really? It’s your ego. Mm. Right. They, Greg Popovich has a wonderful thing that I learned from you is get over yourself, right. Get over yourself in order, you know, to make the squad better, which in essence is gonna make you better as a person. And no matter how good, no matter how good you think you are. Right. You can still always get better.


Sam Demma (23:08):
Yeah.


Jamie Stewart (23:10):
I was having a, a conversation with Cedric BA Cedric Ben. He’s a boxing coach here in Windsor. He has a lot of national champions. And I told him, you know, back in 2011, when, you know, I had NBA Scouts calling me about one of the players that I had transformed from a really, really struggling player in Windsor to duke and Michigan and Northwestern calling and, and on offering scholarships. I thought that I was, I was one of the best in the world. I really, I really thought that. And I probably was, but from then, until now I am a thousand times better. And it’s because of my passion. And, and it’s because, you know, I study the game, you know, so thoroughly, so no matter how good you are, get over yourself, because you can always get better. You can always improve which, which is gonna help you benefit a benefit. Everybody that you come in contact with more.


Sam Demma (24:08):
I agree. I, I couldn’t agree more. And your progress has been super inspiring and you’ve helped so many young students inside the classroom and also on the basketball court. And if anyone is listening to this and is inspired by this conversation so far, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you and have a conversation, be it at basketball or teaching?


Jamie Stewart (24:28):
Yeah. So I’m online @ebta.ca. I’m, I’m on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube. My email address and my contact information, you know, is there along with other, other information. I’m always, I’m always getting calls emails from parents from, you know, they have a soccer, they have a soccer kid or, or another baseball kid. And then they’re always asking, you know, for my advice. And I always try to give the best advice as possible and it, and it’s usually about the work ethic of, of my kids and my academy that you, that you really, that you, that you really should have. So I’m open, I’m open to you know, to help anybody if, if they’re in need.


Sam Demma (25:21):
Awesome. Jamie, I appreciate you taking the time to, to have this conversation and I’m wish you all the best. Keep up the awesome work and we’ll talk soon.


Jamie Stewart (25:31):
Okay. Thanks buddy.


Sam Demma (25:33):
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.

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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.