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Professor

Phebe Lam – Associate Vice-President, Student Experience UWindsor (Acting) 

Phebe Lam - Associate Vice-President, Student Experience at UWindsor
About Phebe Lam

UWindsor alumna Phebe Lam (@Phebe_Lam) (BSc 1995, BA 1997) began a two-year appointment as acting associate vice-president, student experience, on March 22. Dr. Lam earned master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from Wayne State University and has been teaching at the University of Windsor since 2015.

In addition to teaching the “Mentorship and Learning” course, she has helped to expand the reach of mentorship programs across the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and developed new student advising and support programs, including online projects such as the Pathway to Academic and Student Success peer mentor program and the Reach Virtual Online Peer Mentor Support. Lam has also served several roles in support of the Student Mental Health Strategy and as chair of the Senate Student Caucus.

Connect with Phebe: Email | Twitter | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

BIDE Institute UWindsor

Drew Dudley Leadership Speaker

Wangari Maathai (Environmental Activist)

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):
Phebe, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here, please start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about why you’re passionate about the work you do today.


Phebe Lam (00:13):
Well, thank you. Sam, it is, you know, a pleasure to, to be here with you in this moment. And you know, I’m very, very, very grateful for this opportunity to share some of my, my experiences. So my name is Phebe Lam. I by trade I’m a psychologist actually starting off as a educational psychologist. But you know, let’s maybe take a, a few steps back. My undergraduate degree was in, in science and, you know, pre-med, I, you know, thought I wanted to become a doctor. But things didn’t end up that way. I think pretty much within the first week of school, I knew that, you know, there was something else for me and that road you know, was, was something that I might have to, to put aside. And so when I finished my general science degree I switched over and and completed my psychology degree and really felt that that was, you know, you know, my, my true love you know, ever since my first memories as, as a child is, you know, always wondering, you know, why, why did that person say that?


Phebe Lam (01:32):
Or why did that person do that? And we know, you know, psychology is a science of, of human behavior. Right. And so that always fascinating me. And so I was, I was truly in, in the right place in psychology. And so I went on to do my master’s degree in marriage and family psychology at Wayne state university in Detroit, Michigan. And then went on to do my PhD in educational psychology. And so I’m a licensed psychologist in the state of Michigan and practiced there and worked at Wayne state university in the school of medicine for about 15 years in mostly health psychology and also doing in working in a immunology clinic working the specifically, specifically with children, adolescents, and young adults and their families infected and affected with HIV.


Phebe Lam (02:32):
And so that really, you know was the kickstart of many of the things that I’m I’m doing today was from the, those early the experiences working with some amazing clients, amazing families that, that really inspired me to, to, to who I am today. So, and then 2015 I I started working for university of Windsor going right back home, full circle, and working in the faculty of arts, humanities, and social sciences teaching doing administrative work, but working in student support creating initiatives for students for engagement for, for retention. And then also I taught a mentorship and learning course, which also was another moment that sort of redirected my journey in education and really sparked again, a lot of the things that I I’m doing today.


Phebe Lam (03:39):
And so where I’m at now I am in a acting associate vice president role of student experience. And I started that this year actually in March and it’s been quite the journey. So, you know, when you’re least expecting things to happen, they always happen. And I’m very grateful that I had the courage to, to take this on because there’s no looking back and I’m here today and I’m excited and really looking forward to them, many things that I can still do for, for the university community as well as beyond that. So that’s sort of in a nutshell.


Sam Demma (04:28):
That was an awesome response. Let’s backtrack to the transition from medicine to education. How did that transition happen? What prompted you to get into working more so into schools?


Phebe Lam (04:42):
Okay. So you know, I, I’m gonna give a, a little example and I might be dating myself by, by doing this, but that’s okay. I, I own it and I’m proud of it. So back in the sort mid eighties and late eighties, early nineties Kodak, the company had commercials and they were, you know, this Kodak moment, right? And the whole commercial was, you know your true colors, your true colors, you know, let your true colors shine through and, you know take those opportunities. And so throughout my life, I looking back, I had all these sort of codes, exact moments where they, you know, really changed, you know, my direction in, in life. And so so going from, from thinking about a career in medicine to, to education and psychology the turning point if I had to pinpoint was when I almost blew up our science lab because my partner and I, we didn’t know that our buns and burner was on and it was on, and suddenly the the GA at the time said, you know, I think we smell some, some gas and everybody’s looking at each other.


Phebe Lam (06:02):
And I looked at my little buns and burner, and I, I saw that it was indeed on, but with no flame. And so at that moment, we, you know, I kicked into action. I, you know, we turned it off. But inside, there was a moment where I thought, you know what there’s something more, and me sitting in this lab full of anxiety, full of stress, because I didn’t know it was my first year, first lab. I didn’t know where, what I was doing was unsure, but at that moment, because of that, I don’t know if it was the stress. It was that moment where some light turned on and I said, okay, Phoebe you know, hang tight. There’s something out there. And so from there on, I was always looking, always listening, always, you know, trying to you know, maybe you can sum it up as being just curious, curious as to what my journey should be.


Phebe Lam (06:59):
And so, as I was curious, talking to more and more people you know, learning and seeking out mentors it led me to, to hone in on, you know, how I love and I thrive to be in the environment where there is that learner teacher or mentee mentor relationships and, you know, supporting people in their darkest moments really, really touched me. And so then I knew that, you know, psychology and education was something that I wanted to head into. And at that moment, I still didn’t know what, you know, what, where that was going to lead. Right. But I was very open to those opportunities. And and here I am.


Sam Demma (07:48):
Steve jobs has this quote, and I’m gonna read it off of my phone because I shared it on Twitter recently. He said, okay, your work is gonna fill a large part of your life. And the only way to be truly five is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. And if you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, don’t settle. And based on what you just told me, it sounds like that little quote that Steve shared, it was at a 20, a 2005 Stanford commencement address sums up what sounds like your journey in education. It sounds like you were curious to find the thing you loved and that curiosity just kept pulling you forward. Where do you think absolutely. Where do you think that curiosity kind of comes from where you always, some, one that was interested in things growing up or was it cultivated?


Phebe Lam (08:46):
You know, a part of it was always interested, you know, and always curious of the things that I didn’t know. Mm. And very early on my especially my father really instilled in, you know in, in myself the, the desire and that passion to always be curious, you know, always ask questions. And as I’m speaking now, I can’t even think back to my grandparents who, who you know, had also very close relationship with. They would always, you know, we would always talk about or they would share their stories with, with me. And I was always very curious and very good listener. I think I mostly did a lot of listening more than asking questions. I don’t believe that I was that kid that asked a lot of questions. Right. I was always the, the, the observer, the, the listener and, and taking everything in and then, and then reflecting in the processing on that.


Phebe Lam (09:54):
But I, we really enjoyed stories, you know, listening to stories. I mean, that’s how I learn, learn the best. And that’s, you know, part of my teaching is through telling stories and listening to people’s lived experience. Wouldn’t it be great, Sam, if, you know, everybody could write their own story, you know, and we could tap into someone’s journey. And I think about that when I teach, I think about that when I mentoring students and working with students is, you know, taking that time to say, Hey, you know, what is your story? You know, what were your experiences? Because it’s not until I understand and hear those stories that I can be, be here to help support and, and truly understand, and, and, and listen and appreciate where they are in that moment when I’m with them. Yeah. Oh, I hope I answered that question.


Sam Demma (10:50):
You did, you did the importance of stories is connected to this idea of, of the importance of mentorship. I’ve had many mentors in my life who thinking about it now taught me so many things through the sharing of experiences and stories that they went through, which is why I think it’s so important to have somebody in your life who can mentor you, who can have your best interests at, and also be willing to invest some time into sharing some of their own experiences and learnings with you. You are a big fan of mentorship, helped turn it into even like a curriculum. And course, can you talk a little bit about that?


Phebe Lam (11:32):
Absolutely. and, you know before I start talking about it, you know, I use a lot of word interchangeably and I, and, and words are so incredibly important because, you know, I used to think about, you know, the, the education as the learner and the teacher, and now I’m finding because of, you know, that Kodak moment or that opportunity to, to head down you know, teaching this course mentorship and learning has led me to think about, you know, re or unlearning and relearning what education and what teaching really is. And for me teaching is actually mentoring because it’s not, there’s no boundaries. You know, when the class is done where you’re done taking my course, that relationship continues on. And I tell this to my students all the time, even my, anybody who I I’ve ever worked with. And a past teacher or professor you know, Dr.


Phebe Lam (12:35):
Clark Johnson back in my grad school days, he said this to all our students, you know, your tuition with me is good for a lifetime. Hmm. As long as you can find me, I’m here for you. And I offer that to all my students. I mean, you find me, I I’m here to support you. And through the, you know, 20, some odd year as of post-secondary teaching I’ve had students come back to me. I may not remember them you know, but I, you know, I I’m there. And so, okay. So leading into the mentorship. So in 2016 I was given the opportunity to teach a course called mentorship and learning. And it’s a fourth year level class that that teaches third and fourth year students to become mentors in a first year course in the faculty of arts, human to use in, or social sciences.


Phebe Lam (13:36):
And these mentors are in a majors only. So if you’re a psychology major, you would mentor in the first year psychology course. Okay. And so this class actually began in 2005 co-founders Tina Dr. Tina pules and professor Tson bacon. And so they gave me the opportunity to teach this class. I did not know what I was getting myself into. I mean, I did some work with mentoring in HIV where we would have doctors and nurses and staff at the hospital be mentors for, for, for, for children in, in our clinic. But this, you know, teaching mentorship, like I know about mentoring, but, you know, so I kind of just dove to it and said, you know what? I trust that they chose me. And you know, I’m gonna trust this process and I can tell you Sam it has changed my life, you know being a mentor and a mentee.


Phebe Lam (14:41):
It, you know, first year students that come to university is a transition period, and we know that they’re at risk, right. And so having these mentors who are their peers is incredibly important, right. We’ve seen the, the statistics in retention, but more importantly, this class is for these, you know, 25 to 50. Now we have about a hundred students mentors to foster and to to help them to grow in, you know, leadership and becoming mentors for the rest of their lives to seek out mentors to be mentees, but to also be mentors themselves. So, yeah. And and many of the students that I’ve taught over the years you know, they’re working alongside me in the office of student experience even right now. So these are relationships that have continued on. Yeah. And will continue on,


Sam Demma (15:41):
Did the BIDE Institute come to life with students in that class? Or tell me a little bit about the origins of the Biden Institute as well.


Phebe Lam (15:50):
Okay. yes. So the by Institute B I D E stands for belonging, inclusivity, diversity, and equity. And this is a student led student run initiative that focuses on those four pillars, belonging, inclusivity, diversity and equity, and the co-founders of these, this Institute are two two of my students who went through the mentorship and learning program. Cool. And I knew, you know, you know, when you see you know, the potential in, in, in, in students you know, my first, my first, you know, thing to do is to, to grab a hold of them and say, Hey, listen, you, you, you know, this is, this is a great opportunity. And actually they came up with this opportunity or this initiative I said to them, you know, back in may, I said, listen, you know, I wanna do something for the students.


Phebe Lam (16:50):
And, you know, it’s not me, it’s gonna be students working with students, students coming up with these initiatives. And within two months the Biden Institute came up and and we’re very excited to kickstart this very unique Institute for students. Basically it’s a platform where students can come to together share their experiences, share what they know, share their passion through conversation, through activities and providing a safer and brave place for them to be able to see their, their creativity, see their thoughts come in to to, to life and to be able to to, to, to build their legacy every day.


Sam Demma (17:44):
Hmm. It’s amazing. If someone is interested in learning more about the Institute, does it have a web URL or a, a page that someone can search to read about it?


Phebe Lam (17:54):
Yes. Yes they do. Yes, they do. Sorry. Yes, we do. So if I can share that link with you you know, after yeah.


Sam Demma (18:05):
Awesome. Amazing. And what the does the day in the life look like in your current role and position you’ve done, you know, various different things. What, what does the day in the life look like now?


Phebe Lam (18:20):
Oh, wow.


Sam Demma (18:21):
That’s a tough one.


Phebe Lam (18:22):
Oh, no, it’s it, yes. It, it’s a, it’s a tough one, but it’s also really exciting just, you know, it is every day of you know, how can I even sum it up? It’s it’s leadership in a in a, in a way that I didn’t see leadership as it is the way that I see it today. And so, you know, just a few points, you know I’ve really learned that, you know, I don’t have to have the right answers and just the thought of that gives me freedom, right. Gives me freedom to, to be curious, because that’s also freedom. And, you know, understand that the power in leadership comes when we share it and we support it in others. And a large part of what I do is is, is fostering our future leaders and having students working in my office.


Phebe Lam (19:30):
Now I have, you know, this office has, you know five directors that are are, are so wonderful. And, you know, when I look at the work that they do it’s the commitment, you know, it’s their it’s, I see the inspiration that they have in them and the passion that they have in them to really serve the students, because they want to make, you know, this community this world a truly, a better place. And, and again, you know, that leaving that legacy be, be behind, right. As, as we move forward you know, in the day in the life, you know, every day is about being vulnerable keeping in check with who I am being aware and constantly reflecting and and assessing where I am where others are and to meet others where they are not expect to, to come to me and be at my place, but for me to put forth, authentic and genuine effort to go to where they are and to meet them where they are and see what our student needs are and what what needs are for those who work alongside me and to nurture that.


Sam Demma (20:54):
Awesome, something that I believe is important is being a lifelong learner. And you strike me as someone with curiosity, who is always looking for new ways to grow and learn new things over the course of your career, have you found any books or resources or courses or things that you had went through that were extremely valuable that you think if other educators had the chance to read, watch, or experience would also be helpful for their personal development?


Phebe Lam (21:29):
Absolutely. So I have a, a few a few a few videos or a few individuals that, that again have really impacted my view in perspective in not just, you know, education or teaching and learning and not just in mentoring and leadership, but for every day. Mm. So you don’t have to be a teacher or you can be a child or anyone, you know, I mean, there’s seven point what 8 billion people in this, in this world. And we’re all unique living beings, right. Each with our own lived experiences. So so yes, there are, there are the first one is Drew Dudley. He is a, you know, leadership speaker and he speaks to everyday leadership and the lollipop moment, how we should be creating impact every day through not just the big stuff, because most of us are not doing those big grand things, but those everyday leadership opportunities by, you know, as simple as acknowledging what somebody’s done for you, and those are those lollipop moments, and I’ve really done a lot, made an effort to do that more and more.


Phebe Lam (22:49):
And week I, I, I look back and reflect on my life and think, oh, you know what, at this moment, this person made a huge difference in my life. And it could have been easy as a, a, a, a constant smile that this person always had. And I, I went back and I acknowledged that, and, you know and that’s been really great. So ju du lead the everyday leadership, his Ted talk really really impacted me. The other person that’s really impacted myself is Dra woman’s right. A, she won the she received the 2004 Nobel peace prize for her work. And she speaks to the story of a hummingbird and where, you know, a hummingbird is in this huge Flos and this Floris is consumed with fire, and all the animals have, you know, come together and are, is looking with, at this floors burning and feeling, you know, very overwhelmed and powerless, and, you know, not knowing what to do, except for this little hummingbird and this little hummingbird, you know, said to itself, well, I’m gonna do something about this fire.


Phebe Lam (24:04):
So it flies back and forth to the stream and brings with this little beak, a tiny droplets of water and sprinkling onto this huge forest fire. And all the animals are, you know, animals bigger than the hummingbird, you know, said to this hummingbird, you know, what are you doing? You know, you’re so small, this fire is so big and your wings are so little, you know, you only carry a drop of water at the time. Like, what are, you know, what’s that gonna do? And, you know, this little hummingbird was not at all discouraged. And it turned to these, these animals and said, you know, I’m doing the best I can. Mm. And, you know, I, I carry that with me. And I shared, you know, this story with, with my students all the time, as I, you know, we can just do the best we can, you know, and and that’s enough.


Phebe Lam (24:52):
Right. And, you know, and it’s okay to be that hummingbird because there are other hummingbirds around who are doing this exact same thing. And, you know, we, we, we can, you know, we see each other and together, you know, is better. And you know, as, as small as you think that you are, or maybe you may feel insignificant, you really are not you know, you just need to do the best you can and to, to be able to reach out for support when you can. So those are, you know, the two you know, two little videos, short videos that that really has, you know, impacted my journey and has really, you know, given me some clear direction. I always go back to, to those two things. You know, especially when times are challenging and when times are difficult.


Sam Demma (25:43):
That’s amazing. Those are both two awesome resources. I’ll make sure to link them in the show notes and on the article. So you can watch those if you’d like as well, Phoebe, this has been a really enjoyable conversation packed with so many experiences and ideas. If someone wants to reach out, send you a message, what would be the best way for them to get in contact with you?


Phebe Lam (26:07):
My email at the university of Windsor I’m also on LinkedIn. I have to do better with that. Not as I don’t keep up with that as, as much, but that’s one of my goals for 2022. But yes, my email is, you know, Phebe.Lam@uwindsor.ca


Sam Demma (26:28):
Awesome. Phoebe, thank you so much. Keep up the amazing work. Keep being a hummingbird and making everyday impact. And I’ll talk to you soon.


Phebe Lam (26:37):
Thank you, Sam. Thank you again for this opportunity.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Phebe Lam

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Dr. Leslie D. Sukup – Associate Professor of Management at Ferris State University College of Business

Dr. Leslie D. Sukup - Associate Professor of Management at Ferris State University College of Business
About Dr. Leslie D. Sukup

Dr. Leslie Sukup is currently an Associate Professor of Management at Ferris State University where she is currently teaching Team Dynamics-Organizational Behavior, Quality-Operations Management, Business Integrated Experience CAPSTONE, Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, Managerial Leadership, Leadership and Organizational Change, and International Logistics courses.

Additionally, she is also the Business Administration Program Coordinator, the academic advisor for the Business Professionals of America Registered Student Organization, and the chair of the College of Business Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

Previously to her current position, Dr. Leslie Sukup has been an adjunct professor and was also on active duty in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years. During this time, she held numerous leadership roles such as the Superintendent of the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, and a variety of instructional roles including Air Force One Advance Agent training.

Dr. Sukup has also received many awards and commendations during her service including the Meritorious Service Award, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Information Manager of the Year, Quality Inspection Professional Performer, and numerous others. Dr. Sukup is also a certified Master Resilience Trainer and has instructed more than 5,000 military members and students in resilience skills.

Connect with Dr. Leslie D. Sukup: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Ferris State University College of Business

GIMKIT Live Learning Game Show Software

Business Professionals of America

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Dr. Leslie Sukup. Dr. Sukup is currently an associate professor of management at Ferris State University, where she is currently teaching team dynamics, organizational behavior, quality operations management business, integrated experience, the cap stone version, business ethics, and social responsibility, managerial leadership, leadership, and organizational change and international logistics courses. Additionally, she’s also the business administration program coordinator, the academic advisor for the business professionals of America registered student organization and the chair of the college of business committee on diversity and inclusion previous to her current positions. Dr. Sukup has been an adjunct professor and was also active duty in the US Air Force for 25 years. During this year, she held numerous leadership roles such as the superintendent of the air force agency for modeling and simulation and a variety of instructional roles, including air force. One advanced agent training, Dr. Sukup has also received many awards and commendations during her service, including the meritorious service award joint service commend medal information manager of the year quality inspection, professional performer and numerous others. Leslie is also a certified master resilience trainer and has instructed more than 5,000 military members and students and resilient skills. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did, and I will see you on the other side. Leslie, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Big pleasure to have you on the show here this morning. Please start by introducing yourself.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (02:52):
Thanks. Thanks for having me, Sam. My name is Leslie Sukup. I happen to be a, a faculty member here at Ferris State University, where I teach in the management department in the college of business. I teach a wide variety of management classes. I’m also the business administration program coordinator, the business professionals of America our registered student organization advisor. I am also the chair of the college of business committee and inclusion. So I think I’ve covered all of my different committees and responsibilities, but it, again, it’s a pleasure to be here.


Sam Demma (03:35):
Tell us a little more about the journey that brought you to where you are now.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (03:41):
Oh, great question. So the journey started when I actually, it started when I was 16 years old. So this is the time when I tracked down the air force recruiter and I was told I could not enlist in the air force. I had to wait a year. So I waited a year and tracked them down again, enlisted in the air force. And I thought when I graduated high school, I would just do four years in the air force and get out and go along my, my Merry way into whatever I had at that time, which at that time was PO potentially going into the secret service. However, I made it to my first duty station and I met my husband. That changed things. He was, he had been in the air force longer than I had and, and it was, it was easier to stay in so we could go to different places.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (04:47):
And I was enjoying my job at the time and I said, okay, not a, not a, not a problem, but I also had a lot of teaching opportunities and instructor opportunities in the year of force. And I found that I really loved the experience. I loved making a positive impact on different people that I instructed. It was very heartwarming to see people grow and develop. And I especially loved the aha moment, you know, or they get that, that big light bulb on top of their head. And you can see that they really grasp what you are teaching or instructing. So this led me to think, okay, I, I’m probably a lifer for staying in the military, but on top of that, I need to think about the second chap. So I thought, well, I really enjoy teaching and why not marry those two together?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (05:50):
So while I was active duty, I finished my bachelor’s degree, my master’s and I finished my doctorate one year before I was to retire from the air force. Wow, great, great timing. so when I retired from the air force, I started to apply to different institutions, higher education institutions, and one of them happened to be fair state university. And I was very lucky that I got selected or was hired into, into the job that I’m in. Now. I, I love this university. I love the, the culture, the small town feel it’s, it’s really, really what I is meant to do. And I can say that coming into work is never a chore. I never dread it. In fact, every day is kind of like opening a box of chocolates. Mm-Hmm you never know what you’re gonna get, but it’s always a positive feel. And I love being that change agent, the positive change agent to all of my students, it’s it really is a very rewarding job. And I’m very thankful to have chosen this as a second chapter for me.


Sam Demma (07:07):
I think every educator that’s listening to this right now is thinking the exact same thing about their work, which is absolutely awesome. You brushed over a and almost didn’t even mention the fact that while you were working with the military, you started doing sessions on resiliency. Can you talk a little bit more about your role as a master trainer and resiliency and also where that passion stem from and how you define resilience?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (07:36):
Oh, absolutely. So I’ll start off with the definition of resilience or my definition. And my definition of resilience is that you are able, when you encounter adversity, you are able to bounce back stronger than you were before. Mm. And that means that you may have learned new skills. You have learned just a, a different way of approaching a problem, but either way you’ve come back stronger than you were initially based upon that experience. And my love for resilient grew probably before I actually started to teaching resilience, but the two married up very well together. When I was 20, I had just turned 22. My dad passed away unexpectedly three days before Christmas, actually two days before Christmas and 1996. And he was 44 years old and totally unexpected that shook my world. Plus at the time I was about to PCs from my permanent changes station. So I was moving from my first duty station all the way up the east coast. So from Florida all the way up to Massachusetts, and when you’re going through that much change during the holidays, it’s a lot.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (09:14):
And that experience taught me a lot about resilience. So when I started teaching resilience in the air force, it was taking my life experiences, but also providing them with stories in the classroom, but really seeing the impact of teaching resilience to others can have on their lives. I’ve had, I’ve heard so many heartwarming stories where individuals have taken the skills that they’ve learned in the classroom and have improved their lives for the better it’s. I have so many stories. There’s no, there’s not enough time in, in a podcast to cover ’em all , but to see the improvement in their relationships, to see the improvement in their personal lives, their professional lives, and to see them become better people overall that’s where my research passion for resilience came about. It’s also the reason why I add resilience into my, all of my classes, because it has such a powerful impact, not just on myself, because it’s a way of boosting my own resilience, but it’s a, it’s also lending my students to become positive change agents in the world because they’re learning a little bit more about resilience and, and maybe not all of the tools and techniques resonate with them, but they’re gonna be able to take one away with them that does, and that can potentially help them later on in life.


Sam Demma (10:59):
Yeah, it’s so true. Resiliency is a tool that you need to pack in your toolkit or in your backpack, because it’s not a matter of if something will happen that challenges you, it’s a matter of when, at some point in all of our lives. Can you tell us a little bit more about your transition from working with the army to getting into the classroom? What was that transition like and how did you adjust and adopt this new role?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (11:31):
Great, wonderful question. So that anytime that you’re moving from one culture to another, it, it can be a little unsettling. And because I had spent 25 years in the air force, you know, this is something where you’re wearing a uniform every day. You, for females, you have to have your hair up and you are expected to act a certain way, which is called your military bearing. And once that goes away, it, for some, it could be a form of a loss of identity, but I found per personally the transition to be fairly easy. And I think that’s because there was a lot of change occurring those last few years while I was in the military. And because at that time I had finished my doctorate degree. I also had my so second baby. She was, she was born two weeks after I defended my dissertation.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (12:40):
So it was, that was part of my motivation to get it done because I knew that having another baby after, and I already had a small, small child at the time. And my oldest daughter, I knew adding another one into the mix would make it a little bit more difficult to reach that finish line. So my motivation was high to make sure I got everything done before, before she was born. But she was also born with CDH, which is Congenital diaphragmatic hernia. And that mean, that meant that when she was born, she had 18 people in the in the operating room just for her. Cause I had to have a, a C-section and, you know, she was Whis away to the, to the NICU and she survived she’s she’s my warrior. But when you have all of these moving pieces happening, it’s, it’s a lot. But I also leaned upon my resilience and what I had learned myself, but also what I had taught to others. And I think that made the transitioned really, really fluid for me. It was almost like just taking off the uniform and putting on a different uniform, you know, more, a little bit more business professional, but you know, it was still putting on clothes and going to work. And I, I, I think it, I, I think I, it, well,


Sam Demma (14:18):
That’s awesome. And speaking of transitions, everyone that works in education went through a couple of massive transitions over the past 24 months, relating to COVID and going to online learning and back to in person learning back to online learning. How did you deal with those transitions and what do you think were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (14:41):
Oh, the, yes, the last couple of years have been a little bit of a rollercoaster, but I found that the way to make it through, it was one, be honest with the students, they’re going through the same journey as you. They’re not expecting you to know it all. They’re just expecting you to be real and to be clear with the communication and transparent. Yeah. You know, don’t pull any punches, don’t try to, to change things to where it may be more difficult or, you know, adding additional hurdles. But I found that that open communication really lended itself to keeping that cohesive this with my class and, you know, telling them, okay, we’re gonna try something new. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll throw it to the side. But if it does all right, you know, no, no harm, no foul, but that communication piece was, was huge.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (15:49):
But I also took the time to reflect after all of my classes to figure out, okay, what didn’t go so well, mm-hmm, what did it, what do I wish I would’ve done differently? And that helped me to prepare for the next semester. And then also leaning upon others who may have been doing this a little bit further or more with more time under their belt and getting their advice and seeing, okay, how did you approach? I mean, COVID is new, but not online teaching or high flex teaching the different modalities. Those have been in place for a while. So leaning upon the best practices that, that are out there seeking. I did a lot of webinars or zoom sessions with industry leaders and, and others who had that experience just seeing, okay, what other nuggets of knowledge can, can I add to my own toolbox to help create the best experience for my students? Cause really it’s all, I want them to have the best experience to get the most out of the class. So that way, when they graduate, they can be the best of themselves. They can go out and be those positive change. Agents,


Sam Demma (17:07):
Educators are always hunting and on the lookout for other educators, best practices to tools and tips. And I’m curious to know what some of those things have been for you not only during COVID, but potentially through your entire journey and career and education. Are there any tools, ideas, or resources that you have consistently leaned on and learned from and brought into your classrooms?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (17:33):
I think for, for me, it’s always having that open mind is probably one of the, the toolkits per se. But as far as technology, I find that games are very appealing to kids. Whether Kahoot is a big one. I found a new one during my during COVID that I added to my toolbox. And I think the students really like it cuz it adds a different appeal in the classroom. It’s still that quiz based game, but there’s no time associated with it. Mm. And I think that takes away a little bit of that anxiety that some students may have when you have a countdown timer at the top of the screen where it’s going 20, 19 18. And you’re thinking, oh, I don’t know this answer. I guess I gotta pick the best one. So it takes a little bit of that anxiety away, but you can also have the students and teams in the classroom where they’re competing against each other. But it’s, I find that when you add a little bit of fun into the mix that students take more away from the material, cause you’re, you’re tying it into a positive emotion. Do you remember? So games I think are, are really good.


Sam Demma (18:57):
Do you remember what that second quiz-based game is called? Just outta curiosity. Oh sure.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (19:03):
It’s called GIMKIT.


Sam Demma (19:05):
GI kit, like G I M


Dr. Leslie Sukup (19:07):
GIMKIT. And so surprisingly it was created by a high school student who found that it was boring learning information. And so he took the initiative and created a game that I I think is awesome. And it has a really good function too with reports. So you can see what questions they answered wrong, which ones they got. Right. so that I can take away, even though they’re playing a game, I can still use these reports to tailor the lessons or reinforce material that they might have missed along the way.


Sam Demma (19:47):
Give us an idea of how you leverage that tool. Would it be something you use at the end of a lecture to quiz the class on what you just taught them? Or how do you leverage it?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (20:00):
Oh, absolutely. So one of the ways that I, I leverage it is by having it right before a test or right before a quiz. So they have read the lessons. Maybe they have watched some videos, they have, we’ve done some lectures, some activities in class. Well now before they jump in to the test or the quiz, they can use this and they can play it as many times as they wish and build boost their confidence.


Sam Demma (20:35):
That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. I appreciate it. Sure. Along with challenges and pivoting, there’s also opportunities. And I’m wondering what you believe are some of the opportunities that the challenges in education that are facing us today are also providing…


Dr. Leslie Sukup (20:55):
Great question. The, I think that one of the opportunities that has arisen from these challenging times is flexibility. I think that the traditional classrooms are probably not going to be the new normal. I think the new normal is going to be that flexibility where students, if they want to attend face to face, they can, or if they want to, you know, they, they overslept. And instead of getting a feeding ticket on the way to class, they can, or they’re just not feeling well. Maybe they got the sniffles well, they can choose to attend via virtual means as well. So I think there’s a lot of, a lot of flexibility, at least in higher education but I also see it happening in K through 12. One of the things my daughter was in first, well, she start, she was at the end of kindergarten when COVID hit.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (21:58):
Mm. First grade was really where she had more virtual days. She had sometime in the seat part of the week, part of the week virtual, but I saw a growth in her that I probably would not have seen if it wasn’t for COVID. She is more tech savvy. Now she, she really blossomed with being virtual and as a parent, I was able to see more of what her world is like. So I think there there’s that opportunity too, on the parent side to be a little bit more involved in the education to see what their student or their child is learning. And maybe for that into a, a stronger bond between the two, cuz we would do homework together. And so she had the teacher teaching part of the lesson, but then when it came time to do the homework by herself, you know, she would, she would ask questions and I would be there to, to kind of help her along. But it was bonding moment as well.


Sam Demma (23:11):
That’s amazing. And that sounds like it was a result of you also being proactive because an opportunity is only as good as what you make of it. And it sounds like you had a growth mindset about the situation, because it’s also true that there could have been people who look at the challenge and said, I’m not changing. I don’t wanna change. There’s nothing good about this and missed out on all those areas of growth that you’re mentioning now. So I think like you said earlier, the flexibility, even in your own perspective is super important to take any adversity and turn it into a, an opportunity. Would you agree?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (23:50):
I do Agree. I think it’s that definitely the growth mindset it’s taking that perspective of, instead of looking at the glass half empty, looking at it as half full and what can you take out of that, that challenging time and turn it around into an opportunity.


Sam Demma (24:08):
I love it. And if you could go back in time and speak to Leslie year one in education, but with all the wisdom and experience that you have now, what advice would you impart on your younger self?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (24:24):
I would say more confidence in yourself, but also be more authentic and not, you’re not just the rule of the professor or the teacher in front of the room, but be more of yourself. And I have noticed that as I’ve brought more of my personality, the true me into the classroom, the students really resonate with that. They, they love seeing you as a human, as opposed to a teacher or professor that figurehead in front of the classroom. But the more authentic you are with students, that’s what I would, that’s what I would give is advice to my earlier self, be more authentic, you know, you’ll be able to enrich those students lives even more so. Yeah.


Sam Demma (25:18):
I love that. I, I think that’s such a good reminder, not only to impact the people you’re affecting, but also just to enjoy life more. If you’re being yourself and you never have to adjust yourself to fit a role or a situation, you’re gonna have more fun too. So that’s a phenomenal piece of advice. Leslie, thank you so much for taking some time to come on the podcast. I really appreciate it. I hope the rest of the year goes well. If someone is wondering how they could reach out to you, ask a question or even talk about resiliency, what would be the best way for them to get in touch?


Dr. Leslie Sukup (25:56):
Yes, absolutely. They can get in touch with me. Either through LinkedIn, I’m on LinkedIn or you can send me an email it’s LeslieSukup@ferris.edu.


Sam Demma (26:22):
Right. Awesome. Leslie, thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your Friday. Have a great weekend. And we’ll tell to you soon.


Dr. Leslie Sukup (26:29):
Thank you, Sam. It’s been a pleasure.


Sam Demma (26:32):
Hey, it’s Sam again. I hope you enjoyed that amazing conversation on the high performing educator podcast. If you or someone, you know, deserves some extra recognition and appreciation for the work they do in education, please consider applying or nominating them for the high performing educator awards, go to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. You can also find the link in the show notes. I’m super excited to spotlight and feature 20 people in 2022. And I’m hoping you or someone, you know, can be one of those educators. I’ll talk to you on the next episode, all the best.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Dr. Leslie D. Sukup

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.

Jeff Gerber – Speaker, Teacher, Relationship Advocate

Jeff Gerber - Speaker, Teacher, Relationship Advocate
About Jeff Gerber

Jeff (@jeffgpresents) has a natural way of connecting with people and moving them to action.  He was a leader on his high school campus, active in Student Council, won a bronze medal at the Canadian National High School Debating Championships, and was voted by his peers to be Valedictorian of their graduating class.  

At the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) he remained active in public speaking, being recognized as an Outstanding Delegate to the prestigious Harvard National Model UN and broadcasting on campus radio.  He also played several seasons with the football Mustangs earning a varsity athletic letter.

​As an educator, Jeff is blessed to teach at his alma mater.  ​As the Student Activities Council Advisor and Leadership Teacher at Waterloo-Oxford DSS, he leads one of the largest and most impactful leadership programs in the province of Ontario.  The school’s inclusive programs to welcome new students are a model for the region.  Their school-wide Relay for Life fundraising events for the Canadian Cancer Society have raised over $625,000 in the last decade. He further gives his time coaching several varsity school sports teams, and has led teams to league championship teams in two different sports.

Jeff and his wife Julie and their three children (twin daughters Brookelynn and Katherine and son Jackson) live outside Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario where they are active leaders and volunteers in their schools and community.   Jeff has served on numerous local boards, is currently a member of his local government Township Council (serving his fourth elected term), and has coached numerous local travel teams in baseball and hockey.   For his efforts and expertise in guiding young people, and their parents, he was recognized as Rep Hockey Coach of the Year for the local ​New Hamburg Hockey Association.

Jeff is a genuine motivator, always striving to learn more and do more.  He is excited to meet you and work alongside you to better your school, association, conference, or corporate community.

Connect with Jeff: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Jeff Gerber Website

Waterloo-Oxford DSS

Canadian Cancer Society

YLCC programs

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 met today’s guest just over a year ago at a conference in Waterloo, Ontario called horizons. Jeff was there with a group of his students watching me and a couple other people speak, but you should also know Jeff himself is a keynote speaker along with being a teacher, a husband, a father, and a student leadership advisor. I’m sure you’ll realize this in the interview, but Jeff has a very natural way of connecting with people and moving them to action. Back when he was in high school, he was a leader, someone who was very involved in, he was even the valedictorian of his graduating class. And then in his university career at Western university, he remained very active in public speaking. He was recognized as an outstanding delegate at the prestigious Harvard national model UN competition.

Sam Demma (00:57):

And he also was an athlete on the football Mustangs team, earning a varsity athletic letter, very, very involved throughout all of his education. Especially now as an educator, Jeff is blessed to teach at his Alma mater where he went to school at the student activity council advisor, as the advisor and leadership teacher at Waterloo, Oxford DSS, he leads one of the larger and most impactful leadership programs in the province of Ontario. The school’s inclusive programs to welcome new students are a model for the whole region. Their schoolwide relay for life fundraising event for the Canadian cancer society has raised over $625,000 in the last decade. And further gives his time coaching several varsity school sports teams and has led teams to league championships in two different sports. Now this man needs no more introduction his ideas, his insights, his passion, his energy really shines bright and comes through during this interview.

Sam Demma (02:01):

There’s so much on building relationships that he provides, and I really hope you have a pen and paper nearby because you’re gonna be using it in this episode without further ado. Let’s get into the interview with Jeff. I’ll see you on the other side, Jeff, thank you so much for coming on the high performing educator podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you, we talked a little bit about your Bower shirt, your at the school. Can you share with the audience who you are, what you do and why you’re passionate about the work you do with you

Jeff Gerber (02:31):

Today? Yeah, that’s awesome. Thanks. thanks so much for having me Sam, great opportunity. I’ve heard some of your stuff appreciate the work that you’re doing with high performing students and now with with high performing educators yeah, Jeff Gerber, as you may, I’m a, I’m an educator. So I’ve been at the I’m blessed to serve at the same school I attended. I’ve been there over 20 years now, been involved in teaching leadership and student activities. And that’s sort of been my main role within the school coach, a bunch of different sports and all those kinds of things. Just ways to build connections with students. And then outside of school active in my active, in my local church and a member of our local township council. And and I’ve gotten started sort of dabbling into speaking and presenting myself over the last over the last couple of years as well. So that’s been a fun a fun chapter to explore too.

Sam Demma (03:17):

And a father, correct? Oh

Jeff Gerber (03:18):

Yeah, yeah. Father, husband, brother, son. Yeah. All that sort of stuff. Sorry.

Sam Demma (03:22):

<Laugh> cool. Cool. the only reason I ask is cuz you mentioned shoehorning your own kids into hockey and they were growing up. <Laugh> what gets you passionate about the work you do with youth though? Is, is there a reason you got into education? Every time I talk with an educator and I, them that question, they usually say it was, you know, a tap on the shoulder or something happened, but I find everyone has a unique story. What, what, what got you into this? Yeah,

Jeff Gerber (03:47):

I think, I think probably for me it was, it was the opportunity to give back. I, as I mentioned, I’m blessed to serve at the school that I went to. I had a number of educators who, who built into my life, who gave me opportu to, to try things and do things and explore and discover, you know, talents and interests that I might not have known I had otherwise. And, and the opportunity to sort of, you know, do that in return and sort of, you know, pay it forward, pay it back. However you will was sort of you know, was certainly alluring to me. I mean, selfishly I mean the lifestyle for, you know, for families and, and for kids and all that sort of stuff is awesome as well. But I mean it, it’s hard work harder now than ever obviously. But yeah, I think mainly that chance to sort of, you know, just to sort of give back and, and give students an opportunity just to, just to flourish and, and, and discover themselves and grow.

Sam Demma (04:37):

Hmm. I love that. And I’m, I’m sure I’m certain, you have unique perspectives being both the father and a teacher as do many educators in talking about hard times right now, things are different and they are difficult. What are some of the challenges you’ve been seeing and how have you overcome them or, you know, went around them or dug under them, you know, got, got over them in some way, shape or form. Yeah.

Jeff Gerber (04:59):

I, I mean, obviously the challenge challenges and this isn’t just an education, but, but isolation is, is one of the huge challenges that we’re all dealing with right now. In school we see that just in a loss of the activities and the things that would normally give students an opportunity to connect. Yeah. So you just, you know, so you try to continue to provide those opportunities just in the, just in the new you know, just in the new realm. And certainly one thing I think, think that we’re finding this fall is, I mean, last spring was tough, right? We sort of, we, it’s funny. We had, we, we went back and found one of our, like our outdoor sign binder at school. When we put up the new sign in September, we had had a message in there, you know, March 15th you know, happy March break classes resume April 6th, right?

Jeff Gerber (05:39):

Because when we left for those two weeks after March break, that’s what we all thought was happening. So what we’re learning, I think is it’s, it’s a lot harder starting the year, this way than it is than it was ending the year mm-hmm <affirmative> wrapping things up in April, may and June, at least had seven months under your belt of working with students every day and knowing them and getting to know them and educating ’em, all that sort of stuff, starting it from scratch, launching it from scratch is, is a, is a different kettle of fish. We’re sort of in hybrid quad Mester. I mean, all the new words are so, so there’s a lot of unintended consequences of just the way the timetables set up and how often you’re seeing kids are not seeing kids. And it just takes a lot of your assumptions and ways you’ve done things. And you just have to, you know, you’re almost like starting over almost like being a new teacher in a way.

Sam Demma (06:23):

Yeah. Have you experimented with anything or maybe not yourself, but have seen other people try some things, a lot of people mention throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks has any spaghetti stuck for you so far. And maybe you could share that experience.

Jeff Gerber (06:39):

Well, I think, I think one of the, one of the opportunities that sort of come outta this are, I’m not sure if it, you know, if we’ve got sort of specifics down pat, but yeah. But one of the things I think is the idea that in, in the old, you know, in, in normally you’d have your leadership students, which is the people I’d be involved with, you know, running large scale events and giving all sorts of opportunities for people to connect with each other that they don’t normally connect with. Right. and now, so I sort of, I, we just talked about this at a, at a staff meeting last night, I sort of said, you know, normally we’d be crop dusting and, you know, providing all these opportunities out there for people to plug in and meet each other. Well, right now we don’t have any of those, right.

Jeff Gerber (07:16):

We’re not allowed to meet beyond the 15 kids in our cohort, in our classroom. So now instead of crop dusting, we’re doing all the weeding by hand. So it’s basically each individual teacher has those 15 kids. And, and you’re the ones that need to provide those opportunities for kids to connect and get to know each other. You need to maybe be a bit more, more vulnerable than you’ve normally been. You need to maybe take a bit of your academic time, set it aside to, to, to build connections. Because I think any of those opportunities and now people are sort of realizing that, yeah, I can’t just, there isn’t just a, a pumpkin car contest or some, or some charity thing, or, you know, what we call it sock pack at our school. Other schools call it link crew, whatever. Like there aren’t all these other things going on that are connecting people. I’m all they got. So, you know, so we’re just trying at our school anyway, to just empower the educators in our school and give them some of the tools and the resources and free them up to do some of the stuff that, you know, leadership or activities or other people might have done before. And, and that’s sort of neat to see and everybody’s sort of doing it their way. We’ve provided them with some tools and some resources, but yeah,

Sam Demma (08:19):

I know you do a lot of speaking on building relationships on student leadership. Why is these opportunities given to students so important and impactful?

Jeff Gerber (08:30):

Yeah. well, I have a little saying the, the biggest ship in leadership is relationships. So to me it all comes down to sort of connecting people, like I said before, the analogy I like to you uses we’re sort of and this is an old movie reference. I sometimes make old movie references, which I, I don’t wanna date myself, but I love the movie hitch and will Smith plays Alex Hitchens and his job is to let people meet who might not otherwise have met and give them opportunities to sort of build relationships. And I think in a school that’s sort of what activities and leadership is all about. It’s letting people at again, whatever event you’re running, that’s sort of the backdrop for just allowing these people to meet and get to know each other that might not otherwise have connected.

Jeff Gerber (09:09):

And it’s interesting just to see how, how people’s relationships and friendships and things form the opportunities to get at school. Like, it’s always interesting to me to read, you know, students who are writing sort of their last sort of letter in, in a, in a leadership class at the end of grade 12, reflecting back on the people they met in their group at grade nine night and how the friendships that came out of that you know, the opportunities to have a microphone in your hand, in front of a group of people know the opportunity to, to come up with a slogan or pick a theme song or somehow influence or shape things that are happening. And I, you know, I, I think that’s exciting and, you know, that’s sort of, you know, like we talked about at the beginning and that sort of motivates me, and I think it’s an important, and it’s an important part of school, right? There’s so much more to school. I mean, we could go on about how much, you know, in academics is it’s important to, it’s probably half of what kids need to succeed in their life outside of school. There’s a lot of other pieces there. And you know, and, and activities, athletics clubs, teams I’ll provide that. I’m I’m, I mean, I’m, I’m sure it made a difference in your life, you know, in, in your time as a student.

Sam Demma (10:09):

Yeah. I mean, my whole life changed because of, of an educator who believed in me when I was in a tough situation, which is why I wanted to actually ask you, I’m sure. In the dozens of years you’ve been teaching, you’ve had students write you those letters that you mentioned at the end of leadership class that probably bring you to tears sometimes and really show you why the job you do is so important. There’s some educators listening who might feel burnt out and may have a loss of hope. Right, right. Now, can you think of a story of a student who was so impacted by leadership activities by school culture, by relationships that were built that you’d like to share and the more open and vulnerable the story is, the more it’ll resonate. So feel free to change a student’s name for a privacy reason. But does any story kind of stick out in your yeah, I mean

Jeff Gerber (10:56):

I mean, I, I, there’s so many I mean, it’s funny, we’re just like, well, I, I wanna ask you about your social media freeze later, but <laugh> I, I, I haven’t been on it as much lately as I normally am, but I just saw a former student just posting their story. They’re running the relay for life for Carlton university. So I just sent them a quick note, Hey, congrats. You know, they were involved in relay at our school, you know, this is three years later. And they just sort of messes me back quick. Hey, it’s just neat to put into practice all the things that you know, that we had a chance to learn in school. But I think, I think the story I’ll share is one of the things I’ve started learning to do this in the last year or so is check in with students on a more regular basis.

Jeff Gerber (11:32):

And I got this idea from another organization that I’ve started doing some work with called character strong. And it’s called it, it just, it’s just a, it’s just a check in, you can either do it daily or weekly. It’s just a Google form. Hey, how are you today? One to five. Why do you feel this way? And you don’t have to answer right. That’s totally optional. And I had a, I had a group that I started with in the real classroom and ended up in the virtual world and we’ll call ’em the three Amigos. And they were just, well, you just sort of knew going in, just so sometimes you just look at your class list and, you know, okay. I, you know, I’ve got these three they’re in the same room and the first day did not go well.

Jeff Gerber (12:10):

And I just sort of closed the, I just asked them stay, cuz you don’t want to, you know, confront people in front of other people. Like it’s not about, you know, it’s not about power. It’s not about, it’s about, Hey, you know, we’re gonna get through this. How are we gonna do it? I just sort of closed the door. And I said, I know maybe you’re used to, you know, getting sent to the office a lot, cuz I, I know that you’re I see you there. But I just want you to know that whatever happens here, this, this room is like Vegas, whatever happens in this room stays. So we’re gonna deal with whatever happens in here. I’m not setting you off somewhere else. I’m not, you know, you’re not anybody else’s concern right now except except mine. Mm. And that was sort of just to sort of set the tone that, Hey, I, you know, I care about you and we’re gonna, you know, whatever is bothering you right now, or today or the next day, we’ll sort of get through it together.

Jeff Gerber (12:53):

And through the check-ins you sort of start to learn a little bit more about people’s backgrounds. And then the one day the one guy was just sort of, you know, he was, he was on his phone and looking down and I could see he was sort of troubled and he, he eventually left the room and I just sort of fall out in the hall. I said, Hey, what’s wrong? And he started crying and he was having some problems with his dad and you know, his dad was sort of disowning him, sounded like, and, and we just had a, a real, just a real good conversation about that. And then when we went to the virtual world, we were able to sort of, again, through the check-ins and through Google meets and through, you know, emails back and forth, just sort of just sort of keep in touch.

Jeff Gerber (13:27):

And it was interesting. We had this huge spreadsheet of of kids who were just sort of dropping off the end of the map, you know, dropping off the end of the, of the know, like it’s April and may and they’re not connecting, they’re not. And it was interesting just tracking him through this process. And it was at one point there was a note beside his file just said, civics with Gerber is the only class he’s doing <laugh> and, and he had, he had already told everybody else he had. And, and the only reason I think that was, was because we had taken some time in to look a little bit deeper into each other’s lives and understand each other a little better and find out what each other are going through. So I think that was sort of, you know, that sort of extended into COVID and that was just a simple daily, check-in just an opportunity.

Jeff Gerber (14:08):

Hey, and again, you don’t have to write anything, but you know, what’s going on. And and it just opens the doors to so many other things. And, and that’s one of the things we’ve been doing at our school. And I, we’ve sort of launched character strong at our school this fall. And, you know, just trying to get some again, what I talked about before, give each individual teacher the chance to build those relationships and connections, because I mean, the research shows that it’s the number one thing that that’s gonna, you know, that’s gonna turn a kid around or, or help a kid stay engaged.

Sam Demma (14:34):

Speaking of character strong, I know Houston talks so much about kindness. Yes. I’m curious to know how do we, how do we make sure students feel and receive those acts of kindness even a, even in a virtual world?

Jeff Gerber (14:47):

Yeah. I mean, you gotta keep it, you gotta keep it front and center. Right. I mean, you, you also have to model it, right. I mean, that’s one of the things, I mean, it’s one of the things I like about, I like about, about, about character strong is it’s not something it’s not, it’s not something to do to students. It’s something done with students like the adult work in the building, you know, what the adults are modeling as far as their relationships with students, their relationships with each other. I mean, that’s all that also important. And there, and what the other thing about, I mean, and anybody who’s listened to Houston knows this, like there’s so many other, like, I know he hates the phrase, you know, throw kindness, throw kindness around like, like confetti, right. He hates that because he thinks it sort of cheapens, you know, there’s, there’s a little bit more to it than that, right?

Jeff Gerber (15:26):

There’s a, a few things that undermine kindness, right? Some skills you need to know. Empathy’s a big one, right. And, and we know kids today research tells us, I mean, they’re more anxious, you know, than ever. Right. Michelle BBA and her book on selfie talks about the relationship between anxiety and empathy, right. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> as anxiety increases, empathy decreases. So you’ve got a whole, you know, you’ve got a generation that’s generally for a whole other set of reasons, preexisting COVID, you know, who are already perhaps more isolated, more lonely, less connected, and more anxious in previous generations. And then you throw this into the mix. So just, you know, just sort of being able to, to remind students that, you know, we’re all in our, we’re all on our own ship during this storm <laugh> and we’re all experiencing it differently. Right.

Jeff Gerber (16:12):

So the storm’s big, but you know, some of us are in a rowboat. Some of us are, you know, some of us are in yachts and it hasn’t really affected us at all. And others are, are sinking every day. And you know, just sort of keeping that first and foremost, another need another need analogy. I mean, this kind of, you know, focusing on these kinds of things, it’s, it’s like parenting, like, it’s not like a, it’s not like a 10 minute lesson, or it’s not like an assembly where, okay, we’ve checked it off. We’ve, we’ve talked about kindness today. We put up the poster, it’s all done, you know, it’s you have to do it, you know, it’s gotta be part of, it’s gotta just be built right in there. It’s like, you know, the weeding that we’re doing every day, those, you know, showing grace and, you know, there a couple little sayings in the COVID world that, I mean, people in education have probably seen them, but, you know, relationships before rigor, you know, connection before content, grace, before grades, you know Maslow before bloom, like there’s a lot of different sort of phrases to sort of remind us all that, you know, as much as we’re as much as we’re worried that, Hey, I’m not getting through my, my grade 11 university math CU, right.

Jeff Gerber (17:14):

We’ve got students in front of us who have a whole lot of other things going on in their lives right now. And focusing on those is actually gonna help us teach the curriculum. Right. Sometimes we see these two things as opposing each other, right? Like socially emotional learning or character development and academics. They actually, they actually work together really well, which again, is someone who’s been involved in leader. If you see that, right. The more kids are engaged and connected to other people, the better they’re gonna do. So, you know, some people say, well, you know, that assembly just cost me an hour of, you know, time in the lab. Right. Well, yeah, it did. But you know, we might have, we might have done some other stuff in that time as well. And, and you know that from being in schools and how important that time is, and those messages are

Sam Demma (17:54):

It’s true. And you were the perfect example with your student in class, that little conversation that you had with him in the hallway led to him staying in only your class. And I think that’s half the reason why student leadership is so effective, you make, so someone feel like they’re a part of the family and they’re gonna contribute to the family and not slack off as much. Yeah. Speaking about student leadership, I know you’ve worked in it for so long events. This year are canceled. Not maybe not canceled. Totally. We’re gonna get unique about it and do things differently. Yep. What do you, think’s gonna happen in the next couple of months with events, with speaking, with all those sorts to things?

Jeff Gerber (18:29):

Yeah. I mean, there’s certainly some opportunities to do things in the virtual world. And I know a number of, I mean, I know you’ve been involved in a number of those virtual events and, and run a number of them yourself. And we’ve been involved in a couple of them together. I know that when they took GSL S or GSL D and when Y L C C, who does so many awesome things across the country for students both LCC and CSLA, I know you had Dave Conlan on on your show as well. You know, they’re both providing great frameworks for, for virtual materials to be delivered and, and entrepreneurs and speakers and, you know, leadership, examples like yourselves are also doing that. So even OS L C I know, is gonna be running virtual this you know this fall. So there’s, there is certainly lots of opportunities and ways to connect with people, you know, that you wouldn’t have had that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Jeff Gerber (19:17):

And, and, and in your building, you know, there’s ways to, you know, there’s ways to do that as well. You know, you know, virtual, pep rallies, and, you know, you’re bringing people together and having live hosts or recording it and, you know, all the, all those things are good. It, it is also uncharted territory. And, and for, you know, to sort of say right now, Hey, I got this idea and it’s gonna work. Nobody, you know, nobody really knows yet. And, and even, and it’s hard to even gauge, you know? Yeah. I guess you can see if you’re posting, you know, if your school’s posting stories on it to Instagram, you know, you can see how many people are viewing it and all that kind of stuff. There’s some ways, but it’s, you know, it’s, it’s different. That’s all there is to it.

Sam Demma (19:53):

Yeah. No, it’s all true. Very different. And I think anyone who’s in their first year of teaching is thinking, what the heck did I just sign up for? Yeah, exactly. If you could sit down with an educator, just let’s say, it’s yourself, you know, 20 something years ago, and you’re speaking to your younger self, and this was your first year of teaching and it’s crazy. It’s different. What advice would you give that younger self or that new educator?

Jeff Gerber (20:18):

Yeah, I mean, I would, I would just sort of reiterate some of the things we’ve been talking about is, you know, focusing on relationships, focusing on connections, looking for opportunities to, to put yourself out there and to give students a chance to share a little, a bit, you know, off, off topic. And, and there’s so many ways to build it in, like in, in addition to being involved in leadership. I mean, I’m, I’m lucky I’m into social sciences. So people always say, well, it’s a little easier, but you still have to, you still have to intentionally do it. Like when I’m teaching civics and I’m talking about, you know, civics is really, you know, how people live together in groups. Yeah. Well, what personal characteristics help people live together in groups better? And that’s a launching point to talk about some of these things like, you know, kindness and respect and forgiveness and all that other stuff you know, in careers, yeah.

Jeff Gerber (21:01):

Careers is about what do you want to be when you grow up? But let’s talk about what kind of, you know, how do you want to be when you grow up, what person you want to be when you grow up? Mm. So whatever subject area you’re in, you know, find those opportunities to, you know, to bring in something, to bring in something from today, or to bring in something from, you know, current and, and, and just have a conversation about it. I mean, you know, I think that’s what people, I think that’s what people remember. You know, I mean, there’s a famous Maya Angelou quote, right. People, you know, they might not remember what you say or what you do, but they’re always gonna remember how you make them feel. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. So if you, as an educator can sort of focus on, you know, how are my students gonna feel when they’re, you know, when they leave this interaction with me or when they leave this class, or when they leave this Google meet, right. Or this zoom meeting, you know, are they gonna feel like they were heard to listen to, or are they gonna feel like, you know, I was just so, you know, I was just in such a to get through the quadratic equation that I didn’t even, you know, that I didn’t even realize what was going on, you know, in the room or, you know,

Sam Demma (21:53):

Whatever. That’s awesome. This has been a great conversation, Jeff, I’m sure we could talk for hours. If any other educator wants to reach out to you, bounce a conversation around, share some ideas, how can they do that? Yeah, for

Jeff Gerber (22:06):

Sure. Yeah. email like jeffgerber.ca works. I am on Instagram and Twitter, @jeffgpresents. So those are all ways to ways to sort of connect and, and, and speaking of social now, I know you’re the interviewer, but I know I know let’s see about two or three weeks ago, you sort of, you sort of made this to you know, to social media free year, which I think is amazing. And I’m just curious and I don’t know, maybe you have a whole other, a whole other way to update your, your listeners as to how it’s coming, but just between me and you, I’m curious.

Sam Demma (22:41):

Yeah. So we’re still live so everyone can hear this as well. There was three reasons that I decided to take a break. The, the last reason I’ll go from the third to the first, the last reason was just to try and experiment. Everyone is spending so much more time on their devices now because of COVID, especially, and screen times through the roof. I, I was like thinking to myself, what would happen if I do the exact opposite and instead of spending way more time spend no, and kind of get lost in my boredom and live life as if I was growing up in your generation, <laugh> without a cell phone. And <laugh> see what it’s like. This, the second reason in the middle was a personal reason. I found that on social media, it’s one so easy to compare yourself to others, but two, it’s also so easy to fall into this trap of always feeling like you need to tell everybody what you’re doing.

Sam Demma (23:35):

Yeah. And if I’m being vulnerable and honest right now on the podcast, I think I didn’t use social media as effectively as I could. Not every single one of my posts were about, Hey, look at me. And here’s what I’m doing. But a majority of them were, whereas they could have been of service to others. Hey, here’s something that can help you. If it’s a picture of me speaking in a school, it’s not just, Hey, I spoke to all these kids. It’s I spoken to school today. And this girl came up to me and taught me this lesson that I think might be of service. And so I thought, let me not just back in with this new mindset and get back on the app right away. Let me take a break and try and dismantle that ego that I have. I’m still a young guy.

Sam Demma (24:10):

I’m figuring it out. The first reason was related to business. I always convinced myself that I was on social media for business, and I did it myself, an audit and found that I spend an average of three hours per day on social that equates to about 1,095 hours in a year. And I had about two speeches booked through social media. And I asked myself is 1,095 hours worth the two talks. And on the very surface level, the answer is no. But what it made me realize was if I spend that 1,095 hours trying to instead be of service level up me, my life, and work on myself, read more books, relating to self leadership for young people that I can actually use to help others. And like you said, build relationships, real relationships with real people, as opposed to staring at a picture online, maybe in a year from now, my life will be totally different and I’ll have something unique to share. So

Jeff Gerber (25:02):

Yeah, no, that’s no, that’s real great. I, I really appreciate you sharing that. That’s yeah, I, I, yeah, I like it.

Sam Demma (25:09):

I like it. Yeah. And it’s, it’s weird. It’s odd. It’s out there. It’s a big decision. I thought like, let, just look for it all <laugh> and

Jeff Gerber (25:16):

It’s a year, like a lot of people will, you know, you’ll, you’ll see people, Hey, I’m gonna stay on social media until tomorrow. Right. Or I, or I gonna give it a week or a month, I mean, a year. That’s awesome.

Sam Demma (25:25):

Yeah. So we’ll see how it goes, but I will be staying up to date through this podcast. People can register and sign up to get all the new episodes. And maybe Jeff will be the messenger. <Laugh> putting it out there. But

Jeff Gerber (25:38):

Now I have dilemma. I haven’t posted, I haven’t posted for, I don’t know when the last time was sometime this summer, I had a fair, how do I post I can’t, if I tag you, you’re not even gonna repost. So I, but let the world discover us.

Sam Demma (25:48):

It’s true. Anyways, Jeff, thanks so much for coming on this show, man. It’s been a real pleasure.

Jeff Gerber (25:52):

Hey, thanks for having me, Sam loved it. Thank you. Keep up the great work.

Sam Demma (25:55):

Awesome. And there you have it. The full interview with Jeff Gerber, he would love for you to reach out and connect and talk about relationships and different ideas that are working in your schools or to pick his, his brain and ask him something related to the interview that you just listened to. But as always, if you have some ideas and insights that you would love to share on this show, we would love to have you on and share them for you. So please shoot us an email at info@samdemma.com. So we can get you on the show and as always, please consider leaving a rating and review because if you do, it would help more educators, just like you find this content and benefit from the ideas and the network. Anyways, I will see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Jeff Gerber

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.

Douglas Gleddie, PhD – President of Physical and Health Education Canada and Professor at the University of Alberta

Douglas Gleddie President PHE Canada
About Douglas Gleddie

Douglas L. Gleddie, PhD, is a husband and father who also happens to be an Associate Professor and Acting Vice-Dean/Associate Dean Academic in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta (UofA). He teaches physical and health education curriculum and pedagogy to undergraduate students and graduate courses in health and physical education, reflective practice, physical/health literacy and research methods. Doug’s research focuses on narratives of physical education, school sport, physical literacy praxis, meaningful physical education, and teacher education.

Doug’s life-long journey of exploration into joyful and meaningful movement has enabled him to work with a wide variety of people and organizations across Canada and around the world. Doug began his career as a K-12 teacher, spent 6 years as the Director of the Ever Active Schools program, served 2 years as the Alberta Board member for PHE Canada and has chaired local, national and (coming soon) international conferences. He co-authored three books including the most recent – Healthy Schools, Healthy Futures. Doug can be found on Twitter (@doug_gleddie), writes a blog at www.hslab.ca and takes care of his own wellness by being active with his family; improving his guitar picking and seeking new adventures.

Connect with Douglas: Email | Twitter | Website

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Meaningful Physical Education: An approach for teaching and learning

Healthy Schools LAB

PHE Canada

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):
Do you want access to all the past guests on this show? Do you want to network with like-minded individuals and meet other high performing educators from around the world? If so, go to www.highperformingeducator.com. Sign up to join the exclusive network and you’ll get access to live virtual networking events and other special opportunities that will come out throughout 2021. I promise you I will not fill your inbox. You might get one email a month. If that sounds interesting. Go to www dot high-performing educator.com. Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Doug Gleddie. Doug is a husband and father who also happens to be a professor at the university of Alberta in a career filled with change. The only true constants have been physical education activity, working with students and how joys filled the spaces in between this lifelong journey of exploration into joyful and meaningful movement has enabled Doug to work with a wide variety of people and organizations across Canada and around the world.


Sam Demma (01:16):
He has published numerous articles in academic and professional journals, and co-authored four books, including the most recent, meaningful physical education and approach for teaching and learning. Doug is a founding member of the healthy schools lab, and his research interests include narratives of physical education, school sport, physical literacy Praxis, meaningful physical education, and teacher education. Doug does his best thinking on a mountain bike or around a campfire. I’m so excited for you to hear today’s conversation with Doug. I will see you on the other side of this interview. Enjoy!


Sam Demma (01:57):
Doug. Welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by just introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what brought you to where you are today in education?


Douglas Gleddie (02:08):
Yeah, sure. Thanks Sam. I appreciate you having me on it should be fun. You promised it would be fun anyways, so that’s good. Yeah. So I’ve been in education now for almost 25 years, which seems kind of strange. Cause I don’t feel that old, but I guess I am so yeah, it took me a while to kind of find my way into education a bit because I you know, with my own kids now, I always, I always encourage them to think about no matter what they’re working in or what they’re doing. Just think about what they enjoy about it. Right. And, and what are they good at and what skills are they learning and how does that apply to different things? So for me, a couple of commonalities emerged the first was just a love working with children and youth anywhere from Sunday school to babysitting, to playing with cousins.


Douglas Gleddie (03:05):
I just, I really enjoyed that piece. So that’s kind of stuck. And then, you know, physical activity movement has always been a key part of my life from like I grew up on a farm and I basically had free range of the half the section and could, you know, run around with very few restraints and you know, climbing trees, hopping, fences, getting chased by cows. It’s all, it’s all part of the game. And so that, that physical activity was really good. And just so those two things kind of connected eventually and led me to a career in education and specifically more physical education. So that went through from, you know, I spent almost 14 years as a teacher K to 12, but most of that time, junior high, but I’ve, I’ve taught everything except food studies, I think. And then and phys ed K to K to 12, settled at kind of junior high that seven to eight and then eventually ended up getting a master’s degree and then a PhD in ending up at the university. And sometimes I still feel I don’t belong, but I’m still a teacher first.


Sam Demma (04:13):
That’s awesome. It’s a cool journey. What about physical activity appealed to you or phys ed. And where did that interest come? Did you also play sports growing up like a lot or?


Douglas Gleddie (04:24):
Yeah, I did. I, you know, I played a lot of sports. I still do. It’s I really think it’s the environment. It’s just, it was that opportunity. Like we didn’t have, I mean, I certainly don’t have the distractions that kids have today with, with devices and social media and everything else. Like we were barely allowed to watch TV and there was only really out on the farm. We only got one or two channels consistently anyways, so it wasn’t a big draw. And so it was just, I think that foundation of, of just being encouraged to be outside and we made up our own games, we played and then like I never played organized sports until junior high. I played one season of outdoor hockey before it moved into or, and then it was too expensive. And so we couldn’t do it anymore, but we always played, you know, we played hockey on our pond.


Douglas Gleddie (05:19):
You know, my brothers and I, and my sister, we, we invented games, you know, throwing a tennis ball at the back steps and you had to catch it before, you know, one person will throw it. The other person have to catch it. And if it hits the screen door, y’all ran like hell, cause mom would get mad. So he figured out the rules. But I think it’s also just, just the freedom of being able to choose what you enjoy. So if you feel like what you need is a walk in the woods, then you choose that. If you feel like what you need is a, a super competitive game of tennis with someone who really pushes you to be better than you can choose that.


Sam Demma (05:53):
That’s awesome. I love that. And I’m really fascinated farming for him. We’ll get to that in a second with, with this idea that if you don’t, if you don’t so anything, you don’t reap anything to go at a young age, you get taught, like if you don’t plant the seed, you’ll never get the vegetable. So I feel like whether, you know, it or not, you’re taught that if you want something, you have to work for it. And I’m curious to know for you personally, if that life of growing up on a farm, like taught you a lot of principles that you think you still hold today.


Douglas Gleddie (06:25):
Oh. And you know, you have to, you certainly have to take care of things. There’s responsibilities. Like we, we had mostly livestock. I mean, we did crops and we had a massive vegetable garden. And so you do, you have to put the work in and you can’t just plant the seed. And then, you know, three months later start picking tomatoes, you know, there’s, there’s weeding, there’s pest control, there’s fertilizing, there’s, you know, all that kind of stuff in there and it takes work. Right. And and then with livestock, you learn a lot of both sacrifice because you can’t, you can’t take care of your own needs before your livestock’s needs because that’s your livelihood. And so, you know, there were years, like I remember a year when my dad, my dad hurt his back and I was, I was one of the only, I think I was the only kid at home.


Douglas Gleddie (07:13):
My older brothers were away at college and it was like minus 50. So we had sheep and we had, you know, probably six, 700 ewes to take care of. And so they’re all outside and, and they had shelter, but you need to get on feed them. So you, you bundle up and you put on your ski goggles and you, you do what you need to do, but you have to take care of that before you take care of your own needs, because literally they will die without your care. So I think that work ethic, that, that ethic of care, and, and also like we did things together as a family, like it was a family farm. We work to get stuff done. And when, you know, when it’s time for the, you know, the, the, the phrase making hay while the sun shines and comes from a real place, because you got to get that hand. So, you know, I spent time sitting on a Baylor past midnight you know, picking up hay bales, stacking bales because you have to get it done. And it was, it was hard work, but we did it together. Right. You’re in it together. Yeah.

Sam Demma (08:19):
That’s awesome. Like I, my, so my grandfather worked on a farm for most of his life. He came here with nothing and he work at GM at night and then on a farm during the day and barely ever saw my, my dad, my dad would tell me that once a week on Fridays at like 2:00 AM, he would come home and get off early. And he would wake the family up for a pizza and a, they would all eat together and like the mall, cause tomorrow tomorrow’s not school, everyone can sleep in. And you know, it’s funny cause like the things you’re saying are like similar things to my grandfather, I think passed down to me about like hard work and these types of values to transition the conversation slightly. I was just curious about asking you about that. But to, to transition this slightly what, what, what led you into education? So you could have taken like the passions you grew up with in many directions, coaching athletics. Why, why did, why did it end up that you went into teaching?


Douglas Gleddie (09:16):
And a good, good question. Sort of go back to what I said earlier about trying to find what, you know, what kind of makes you tick and what you enjoy, like the outdoors children and youth mood. But, you know, I, I considered being a conservation officer like being an official wildlife cause that’s outside. But so I think for me, I, like I had an experience of, I ended up teaching overseas for, for a year in south America. And I really enjoyed that experience of working with the kids. And I think for me the difference was that being a part of a kid’s learning journey and being a part. And, and when you see, when you, when you have a student in specifically in phys ed, that they kinda, they kinda get it and that, that, you know, that switch kind of turns it or that, that switch flicks and you kind of know, they go, wow, this is really fun.


Douglas Gleddie (10:13):
Like I enjoy this and you see them picking it out. Like I’m a big mountain biker. I love, I love to mountain bike. And I used to run in the junior high. We ran a mountain bike club and we did stuff. And to, to, to see someone and specifically there’s a, there was one girl. I remember she was pretty tentative about stuff, but she came on a trip with a bunch of us and there, she was the only girl on the trip, but she did awesome. And she went off like this two foot jump that she never would have done before. And she was just so excited. Right. So, so to kind of see that and to encourage that and to get people excited about movement and, and taking care of themselves, I think that’s where I ended up, you know, going down that road to teacher education. Cause I didn’t, I did an undergrad degree in, in basically history and physical education, a major concentration. And then I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a while. And I played around with stuff and I, I played sports. I did some coaching, but it was really that, that physical education piece in those early, that early learning and being able to connect with kids that way, I think.

Sam Demma (11:20):
Cool. And whereabouts were you in south America when you taught overseas? Oh,

Douglas Gleddie (11:23):
I was improved. Oh wow.

Sam Demma (11:26):
That’s awesome.

Douglas Gleddie (11:26):
Very small jungle town.


Sam Demma (11:30):
Did you ever hear music like this? [inaudible] That’s awesome.


Douglas Gleddie (11:39):
You just have that handy right there.


Sam Demma (11:41):
Whatever, whenever you tell bad jokes, I’ll crack this one, but that’s awesome. What brought you out to Peru? So like w was there like an opportunity? Tell me more about that.


Douglas Gleddie (11:55):
Yeah, it was it was. after I graduated from my first degree I just, I wanted to, actually, I was looking at traveling the world that wants to just maybe take a year and travel around, but I wanted to kind of give back. So I wanted to either go and, you know, volunteer somewhere or work on a mission or do whatever. And so I was looking at opportunities and I just actually wanted to do that for about a month. And then I just wanted to travel. But one of the guys I talked to he’s like, well, we’ve got an opportunity at this school if you want to come here and teach. But it’s a full year. And I was like, nah, not interested in, he looked at me, he said, I think you’ll be back. And it was at this big, I don’t know mission Fest.


Douglas Gleddie (12:37):
It was called all these different opportunities for different service organizations and that sort of thing. And so, and yeah, I was back and I talked to him a little bit more and, and and you know, they needed someone to teach phys ed and a little bit of history. So it seemed like it was tailor made for kind of the training that I’d had. And so that’s how I ended up there. It was great. It was a fantastic experience just to be immersed in completely different culture, different language. You know, I took some Spanish classes before I went down, but I basically learned on the fly, which was fun. And I was teaching mostly Americans at the school. But just to, just to live in the community and, and I would love to go into town and go play basketball and volleyball with people. And there’s just different, different cultural situations that you have to learn and figure out. So it was yeah, I would say it was a pretty formational experience.


Sam Demma (13:33):
That’s amazing. And did you find it challenging or if so, like what were some of the challenges at first?


Douglas Gleddie (13:40):
Oh, yeah, it was challenging because like, I didn’t know anyone there. Right. And you, at the time, like you have to think this is, so this was in, let me see 1993, it seems like a long time ago now, but very little internet. I did get an email address when I went down there, but I literally only knew one of the personal email address. And that was my brother who was at the university of Saskatchewan at the time. Like even phone lines were one way. So literally if I would phone you, I’d be like, Hey, how’s it going, Sam over, over?


Douglas Gleddie (14:23):
So, you know, a little bit of isolation, but great community. The language was a challenge, but I, you know, I enjoyed that. I’m, I’m pretty open and pretty willing to take risks. So you just kind of jump in and you mess up some words and you, you know, you figure some stuff out. Yeah, I don’t, I just found it to be a really, like, there were lots of challenges, but nothing seemed unsurmountable. You just kind of go through and, you know, you’re 23 and you figure it out. Right. You know what that’s like?


Sam Demma (14:57):
Yeah. I mean, in two more years I will. But people always talk about gap years, fifth years especially now with COVID, it’s being talked about even more. And something that always emphasize is travel. Like, do you think traveling to another country is an experience that everyone should go through living somewhere else? Kind of off topic, but just curious about your thoughts on that.


Douglas Gleddie (15:22):
Yeah. I do. Like with my, with my classes, with pre-service teachers at the U of a, I, I certainly encourage if you have the opportunity to try and like go teach in Cambodia, go teach in Thailand. There’s lots of opportunities. You can still teach, for example, using Alberta curriculum and some of these schools. And so it doesn’t, it doesn’t hold you back for your career in Canada. But and I do think there’s a difference between just traveling and visiting. Like you can go, you know, you could go visit Peru for a couple of weeks and you’ll get a sense of things, but when you live there, you know, I, I kept on my favorite phrase after I’d been there for awhile is a, I’m going to butcher the Spanish, but it’s like, I’m not a tourist. I live here like this. So I go to the market and someone would go, oh, this is, you know, this is five solos. And I’d be like, no, no, no, I’m not a tourist. I live here. Oh, you know, half that.


Douglas Gleddie (16:22):
But so I do think going somewhere and spending a significant amount of time with the people that are there. Like I had an opportunity to spend three weeks in Kenya, a number of years ago, and it was different than spending a year improve. And I still, you know, we were working with the local community and, and we were you know, we, we shared tents with, with locals and we shared meals and we did that the whole time. And so that was really good, but it was still only three weeks. And so you’re still kind of parachuting in and then running away. Whereas when you’re there for a longer time, you can deal with Velop relationships. You can get deeper understandings, I think, but I would definitely recommend if you have opportunity, not everyone has the opportunity and you know, it can be difficult to find the funds and to find the support to do that. But if you have the chance, but yeah. Going to a, you know, a resort and Ken Kuhn doesn’t count as visiting another country.


Sam Demma (17:18):
Yeah. I think that’s very important to state. I actually, I’m a big fan of traveling just for new perspectives and awareness. Like I did Iceland two summers ago before COVID and we drove in a car, slept in the car, like crazy experiences, but to the whole country in like 10 days, and I’m actually going to Calgary and we’re going to do like again, a big road trip, not staying at any hotels, they’re all like hostels and Airbnbs, but yeah. And I think it’s a great experience for anyone to have only teachers, but people in general, I’m curious about people who made an impact on you while you were still in school. If you can remember. I know you’re not that old, but, but think back to, you know, you and high school, even in college university, did you have any teachers that at the snap of a finger you can think of this person had a big impact on me as a student? Maybe even like pushed me in this direction a little bit.


Douglas Gleddie (18:16):
Yeah. I think there’s certainly, I mean, I, I did have I had a physical education teacher in elementary, junior high, who and I didn’t really recognize it until later kind of looking back his impact. And it was interesting like quite a number of years later, I was doing a workshop out our teacher’s convention here. And he signed up to to introduce me, which was kinda neat because it was like, oh, that’s Mr. Goodell. He gets to, he gets introduced, man. So he started out, he’s like, well, this is Doug. I taught him in elementary and junior high. And if this is a great session, I taught him everything. He knows if it’s not a good session, he couldn’t teach that dang kid anything.


Douglas Gleddie (19:02):
But, you know, he, he was very innovative in his own way. He tried some really unique things with participation in schools, Ford and not, and, and those are things that I’m working on now. So I think looking back, like I wouldn’t have recognized it at the time, but looking back, I, I see, yeah, there’s some, there’s some impact there. I had a volleyball coach and just for one year in my last year of high school who came in and, and took a completely different approach to coaching that was much more developmental and fundamental that just let’s play games. Let’s just scrimmage.


Sam Demma (19:33):
What does that look like? Like what did she, or what did that person do that made a big difference?


Douglas Gleddie (19:38):
Yeah. Well, I think first of all, he came in with like, he had some high-level coaching experience in Japan and different places. And so, you know, we would, instead of just all these set drills and we would still ran some drills, but he, he had all these different games, like small side of games that helped you become a better player. And you know, it just, and he had ways to motivate. And I know not, not every player necessarily have the same experience that I did, but I just found the year before, when I played, it was just basically just scrimmage. And if you’re on the starting six you’re on that side and you got a different approach, and if you weren’t in the starting six, whereas this coach, he was just like, no, I want to develop everybody. I want everyone to be better at what they’re doing.


Douglas Gleddie (20:21):
And, and he was setting up plays and he was teaching us new things and there is a sense of fun. And so yeah, I took a lot on of his instruction. And then I had, you know, I had some, some you know, other T like a chemistry teacher and English teacher in high school who had just, again, more looking back, I just recognized, no, I had an English teacher in grade 10, and I don’t know if people still read death on the, the classic Canadian story of, of sealing outside of Newfoundland and stuff, but she was looking for what’s the big theme. What’s the, and I basically wrote a whole paper saying, it’s just a book. Like, it’s just a book. It doesn’t have to teach it. But as I was writing at events, I came around, well, okay, fine. There’s themes. And, and she really challenged me in a good way.


Douglas Gleddie (21:09):
Right? Like she could have just given me a zero on the paper and said, you didn’t do what I asked, but she said she actually engaged with me and went through and that’s good. Right. I had a chemistry teacher who chemistry, biology teacher who kind of made things real. And it’s interesting. I went back and told him, so he he’s actually directly responsible for me being able to, to save a couple of people’s lives, which is kind of crazy. And I was actually when I was in group. So he told us a story and in a grade 12 biology class about carbon monoxide poisoning and how, when they were on a road trip with the school and not in those days, kids could drive their own vehicles and go to school events. And, and there was a couple of kids who they had the exhaust was leaking into the car and they started to fall asleep.


Douglas Gleddie (22:03):
And so he was saying to us, well, you know, someone has carbon monoxide point and you cannot let them fall asleep. You got to get them out in fresh air. You got to get them breathing. You got to get moving. So, you know, probably eight, nine years later, maybe not quite five, six years later when I was on a, a boat trip across lake Titicaca in between Bolivia and Peru. And it’s a big lake, it’s one of the highest navigable lakes in the world and the boat, we are on the diesel fumes. It was a stormy stormy afternoon. And the diesel fumes are coming in the, in the cabin when we pulled into port. And I spent most of the time outside in the rain, cause I didn’t want to breathe the fumes. And we came in and one lady from France was completely passed out and her son was going in and out. And so I knew what to do B because of this teacher. And so I got them outside and literally with the young man, I just, I really just slapped the hell out of him because I had to keep him awake.


Douglas Gleddie (23:07):
And then for the, for the woman, like she she was completely out she had locked up her jobs, so I couldn’t give her multimode. I had to give her mouth, the nose to kind of keep her in oxygen. And then we had to there’s no ambulance is there. So we had to call basically called a cab and took a cab to the hospital. And I was trying to remember all my high school, French. And but anyways, by the time we left, she was, she was sitting up on oxygen. She was healthy and thankful, and I hope she didn’t have any damage. But so yeah, there’s, there’s some, but just the fact that this teacher was trying to be real with us and trying to share, not just, this is what carbon monoxide poisoning is and you know, the carbon oxide of fixes to your red blood cells. So that oxygen can’t. And I mean, he taught that stuff too, but he also talked to rural applications. So that was pretty cool.


Sam Demma (24:02):
Have you already written a book or are you going to what? The Frick dude, like these stories are crazy. Find this 50 degree weather with sheep and saving some lives.


Douglas Gleddie (24:15):
Yeah. I’ve had a good, I’ve had a good life. I’ve had a good life.


Sam Demma (24:19):
It’s cool, man. It’s cool. Well, that’s awesome. I love it. Real world application is always something that inspired me in class. Cause it made me feel like I could use the things I learned right away. Maybe not in that case, but some point in your future, you could use the thing passion to, it sounds like this teacher was someone who was passionate about what he was talking about. And when I think back to the educators that made the biggest impact on me, it was the passion that really spoke through.


Douglas Gleddie (24:46):
And I, and I think they, the teachers that have the most impact, you can tell that they enjoy what they do. Right. And they also enjoy the people they work with, which includes students. Like when I was teaching too, there’s always a few people in the school I’m going, why are you here? Like you clearly don’t like kids, you clearly don’t like the subject that you’re teaching. So why are you here? And even when I had student teachers, I would just tell them, listen, if you’re passionate about teaching or your subject area, just like you said, you’ve got that passion for it. And you enjoy working with kids. There is no better job in the world as far as I’m concerned. However, if you don’t and you’re just here because you think it’s good benefits, it’s a decent salary for the education level. You like the summers off, you know what, honestly get the hell out. Cause we don’t need you here and we’re going to be blunt, but that’s, we’ve got better things to do. And these are, these are young people’s lives that you’re messing with.


Sam Demma (25:44):
Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t agree more. I think there’s, there’s a lot of other careers where you could be mindless and just show up and do the work and go home and it doesn’t have an impact on others. Yeah. Education is definitely not one of them. And especially when it comes down to the things we say, you know, kids look up to their elders and teachers most of the time and you tell a kid something like it might stick with them for the rest of their life, you know and, and affect them either positively or negatively. So, yeah, I totally agree.


Douglas Gleddie (26:14):
Although on that note, you never know what might stick. Cause I a number of years ago I met with a former student who we had reconnected on Facebook and, and so we went out for coffee and, and it was great. And he’s now a teacher actually in a, I think a very, a very good teacher. But I taught him in grade 7, 8, 9. And so he’s like, oh Mr. Gladney like, it’s so good to connect it to you. And he goes, I’ll always remember that one lesson that you taught us. And I was like, well, less than is that Never order a messy down there on the first date.


Sam Demma (26:54):
What’s the story. Can you share the story real quick?


Douglas Gleddie (26:57):
Yeah. So it’s like, I’m like, well, thanks that I’m glad you got one thing out of tire. Well, so what I, what I did, I was teaching grade nine, social studies and I used to run a virtual stock market. And so I give each of the kids a hundred, a hundred thousand dollars and they had to invest. And it was a, it was this website that was actually pulled numbers from the Toronto stock exchange and it kept track. And so I made a bet with my classes. I said, whoever can earn more money than me in this three months, time span with your a hundred thousand dollars, I’ll buy you lunch. And so it was these three, these three boys they all earned more than I did. And so I took him out for lunch and we went to this local dinner tour. And at first, you know, their typical junior high, you’re like, I’ll get a small something with this. I’m like, guys, I’m buying your lunch, get the jumble don’t air. They’re like all in. And then we’re eating these things and there’s mess everywhere. And that’s when I, I said, well, word of advice, guys, never order, you know, a big message in there on a first date.


Sam Demma (28:03):
Was so funny, man. That’s awesome. That’s funny. That’s, it’s, it’s true sometimes. Depending on what that person needs, maybe that person just needed a humor that day. Right. And like something to lighten the load. Like I sometimes I’ll do a speech and what I think is so important, someone else comes out to me and says, oh, and you said this, it was so important. And I was like, I don’t even like, think that’s an important thing, you know? And I think that’s also really important to remember every everything we say matters. Awesome. And so you’ve worked in a range of different school environments different settings. Explain a little bit about where you are now and what the job entails.


Douglas Gleddie (28:44):
Yeah. So I’ve been at university of Alberta and the faculty of education now for nine years. I think it’s sorry. I’m in my ninth year, I guess it would be more accurate. And I’m currently an associate Dean of graduate studies in the faculty. So I’m doing more admin than teaching which it’s been an interesting journey doing administration. And I do enjoy aspects of more leadership than administration, but I do miss the teaching. So I haven’t taught undergrads for a couple of years. I’ve been teaching grad students and I do love teaching grad students because we have a program. We have a health and phys ed master’s cohort program, which every few years we take in a new group of 24 students. And that is fantastic. It’s so rewarding. But yeah, so you know, we’re going through lots of change right now.


Douglas Gleddie (29:37):
So there’s, there’s budget cuts, there’s program changes there’s institutional. So it’s dealing with that stuff, but, but change management is very interesting. Just to see, you know, who’s, who’s okay with taking a risk moving forward and who wants to just stay comfortable. And the fact is we’ve been forced out of comfortable from because of the budgets and stuff like that. But I do really enjoy working with grad students. For example, I just, I just had one of my PhD students just successfully defended her dissertation on Tuesday morning. So that’s super exciting. And she’s got a wonderful career ahead of her. So that’s give a little shout out to Dr. Harden Krieger as of freshly minted, but yeah, I think, I mean, a university is a unique place and as a, as a teacher there is a lot of education that goes on there.


Douglas Gleddie (30:32):
It’s, there’s a lot of flexibility and there’s a lot of opportunity to try new things. So like this master’s cohort, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It took us about five years to get it up and running. But once we did now, it’s very successful. I’ve got some great colleagues that I work alongside that help out and, and share the load and bring their own expertise, passion, and innovation to the program. And so that’s, you know, good work with good people is, is really, that’s kinda my kryptonite. It’s hard to say no to


Sam Demma (31:05):
Awesome love that. Cool. And what do you think are some opportunities right now in education? Like I know COVID has changed things a lot. It’s given us tons of challenges, but I think along with all challenges or some little opportunities here and there, curious if you have some of that.


Douglas Gleddie (31:21):
I think you know, I kinda, I kind of get annoyed when people are like, well, what was the silver lining of? COVID like, well, there’s no silver lining. A lot of people died. A lot of people got sick and it really sucked for the last 18 months. But at the same time, like you said, we definitely learned something, right. So I think we, we learned that or were reminded maybe I always liked one of my favorite mark Twain quotes, and he’s got a lot of good ones, but never let school stand in the way of a good education. That’s a rough paraphrase, but school is just one way to get educated. You know, there are so many different places to get educated. And I think for post-secondary institutions, we’re learning that we can’t just sit back and say, Hey everyone, this is where it’s at.


Douglas Gleddie (32:09):
You need to come to us. We need to be out there, but we need to be innovative. We need to be reaching people where they are providing what they need. That doesn’t mean we give up on theory. It doesn’t mean we give up on the idea of a university in the idea of a university is to share ideas and discuss and debate. So I think that’s one way you know, even with our health and phys ed cohort, we, we recognize early on that the way to bring people in is to not have them all come to campus all the time. So we do a summer, we do like two consecutive summers where you come for two weeks and it is important that we connect face to face and then the rest is online, but they’ve created those relationships. So, you know, the fact that you can, you can interact and create pretty deep relationships with people without being in the same room. Now I still think ultimately face-to-face is where it’s at. And you have to get there eventually. But, so I think that, I think we’re going to see a lot of post-secondary programs that are pushed to innovate and the ones that don’t, they’re going to fall behind.


Sam Demma (33:16):
Got it. Cool. Awesome. And you know, I can’t remember how many years you said you’ve been teaching 29, 25?


Douglas Gleddie (33:23):
I think 25


Sam Demma (33:24):
Okay. And this is, might be a tough question, but if you took all the experience and knowledge you have now through the past, you know, two decades of teaching and you could give some advice to your first year younger self when you were just getting into the job, like knowing what you know now, what would you tell that first year Doug?


Douglas Gleddie (33:50):
Well, I think the consistent thing all the way through is that like teaching what’s like life, it’s all about relationships. So if you don’t care about relationships, the rest of the rest falls behind. And I think the biggest piece of advice is it’s not about you because as a young teacher, like I remember going on the gym and shooting around and, and you know, I used to play a lot of basketball and, and I’m, I’m pretty tall and I used to be able to jump. And so, you know, I go in there and I’d be like, I’d be like Dunkin on kids and stuff. And I’m like, yeah, I just dumped on a 14 year old look how good I am. That’s part of that’s just because I was young and part of it too, you’re insecure and you’re trying to cement your place into things. But I often tell my, my student teachers right now, as you may tell, I like a lot of quotes and a lot of different things, but there’s a, there’s a Soundgarden line. You know, be yourself, it’s all that you can do or it’s all that you can be. And so that’s really, you have to be yourself. And if you’re your honest, authentic self, and you’re also reflective and you’re relational, I think you’ll go far.


Sam Demma (35:06):
Cool. This has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for sharing some of your experiences and stories. And if someone’s listening is been inspired by anything and just wants to connect, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you and get in touch?


Douglas Gleddie (35:20):
Hmm. Well, probably I’m the only social media I’m on at the moment is Twitter. So I think I’m, I don’t even know what my handle is. Yeah. I think it’s d_ bloody pretty original. My email is dgleddie@ualberta.ca. Chances are nowadays, you can just Google stuff and you’ll find people I’m fine with emails to connect up. That works for me. Awesome. I also really appreciate the work you’re doing Sam in terms of this, like, podcasts are so great. Like I’m a huge podcast fan. I listened to a wide variety when I’m working out or just walking or biking to work or whatever. And there’s so many, you know, you asked about the way like institutions change and education changes. Like I write peer reviewed papers and there’s an important piece for that. But if it never gets into the hands of teachers or into the hands of people who can use it, it doesn’t go anywhere. So to do things like this, podcasts, blogs, talking to teachers, book clubs, whatever it is, that’s where it’s at. Yeah.


Sam Demma (36:29):
I appreciate that. I appreciate it. And I hope it continues to reach more educators so they can learn about everything we talked about. And I think I’ve interviewed like 120 people now, selfishly, I’m learning a lot. And I think everyone’s getting to learn from each other. It’s like free peer to peer personal development


Douglas Gleddie (36:48):
Now. So I’ve got a question for you. If that’s allowed?


Sam Demma (36:52):
Sure, we’re still live.


Douglas Gleddie (36:56):
It’s not an embarrassing question. So you’re, you know, you’re interviewing all these folks and you’re looking at education and you’re doing this. What’s your, what’s your plan moving forward. Are you, are you going to go into more formal education? Are you like, I think you’re educating people now. But what’s your, what’s your immediate then maybe longterm plan.


Sam Demma (37:14):
It’s funny. You mentioned never letting school get in the way of education. I’m someone that believes that, that as well, there’s so many ways to get educated, educated and informed. I actually went to university for two months. I’m a student to take a gap year. A fifth year, went to school, realized that it wasn’t what I wanted and then dropped out and coming from a European family, my parents immediately were like, what the heck are you doing? You know, it’s talking about us laughing that kid inside the head when you were in Cambodia on the boat. You know, I got, I got some math, a couple of times metaphorically. And I told my parents, I want to speak to kids. I have stories that I think would inspire them to follow their dreams, to be servant leaders, to give back. And I just started doing that at the age of 19 and I found a youth speaking university and I went and I, I flew to California.


Sam Demma (38:06):
I flew to Vancouver. I bought these programs found a coach, hired a coach kinda like dove in. And so all the work I’m doing is catered towards helping young people and youth realize the importance of their own potential and possibilities. And then also along that line, understanding that life isn’t all about you, but you have to also give back and be a good human being. So like, what’s, what’s the future right now. I’m actually working on a spoken word album and I won’t share it live, but after we hit the stop recording, I’ll, I’ll share it with you. And I’m also working on a book called dear high school. Me, which much of life lessons for students from someone not far removed from school. So I’ll get into formal education. I’m not sure I will continue doing the stuff I’m doing now, but just try and do more.


Douglas Gleddie (38:55):
Yeah. And just know, I don’t ask that question out of a, “you should really do formal education” because I do think we push, we push kids to university too much for some it’s absolutely the right place to be. Right. But like I said, there’s so many different places to learn. There’s so many opportunities to grow and develop. And so I think it’s really cool to see what


Sam Demma (39:17):
I appreciate that. And I, I love the question and I’m, I’m very cautious about giving other young people advice, because again, it’s not like it depends on where you want to go. Right. It’s like if I wanted to be a doctor engineer or a teacher, like you have to take certain paths. So yeah, I appreciate the question. And again, this has been an honor. Thank you so much for coming on the show, keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Douglas Gleddie (39:39):
Yeah. Likewise. Thanks for having me.


Sam Demma (39:41):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest and 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 to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you want to meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and sign up to join the exclusive network. You have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not feel 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.