Jana Fisher – Teacher and Student Council Advisor of the year in 2020

Jana Fisher Student Leadership
About Jana Fisher

Jana Fisher (@Fisher_Jana) is a teacher, mother, and student leadership advisor at Wynard Composite Secondary School. As a member of the Saskatchewan Association of Student Council Advisors, she is always striving to provide her students with unforgettable experiences. In 2020, Jana was recognized as the student representative council (SRC) advisor of the year and was named by the Canadian Student Leadership Association, as the Leader of Distinction.

During the pandemic, Jana decided that student leadership was more important than ever. To take that belief and bring it to life, she partnered with Sam Demma to facilitate a virtual program for her leadership students.

Connect with Jana: Email

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Resources Mentioned

Saskatchewan Association of Student Council Advisors

Canadian Student Leadership Association

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator Podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Jana reached out to me back in May after I shared a graduation video with her. And since then we have worked together. We did a seven-week virtual program together for her student leadership council. And she’s just an all round amazing mom, parent and educator. Jana is a teacher, a student leadership advisor at winery composite secondary school. As a member of the Saskatchewan association of school council advisors. She is always striving to provide her students with unforgettable experiences and during the pandemic, she decided that student leadership was more important now than ever. And to make that a reality, she partnered with myself to run a seven week virtual program for our leadership students. She has so much to offer and so much to share. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I’ll see you on the other side, Jana, thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educator podcast. I love the backdrop with the chemistry. Can you please share with the audience who you are, what work you do and why you do the work you do with youth today?

Jana Fisher (01:11):
Definitely. Thanks, Sam. I am from Wynyard, Saskatchewan. We’re a very small school of about 200 students. Grades seven to 12 and community is about 2000 people and I’m teach mostly senior science, but I also am the SRC advisor and I’ve been an SRC advisor. This is the third school that I’ve worked with with student leaders and why I do what I do the youth they’re our future. And if we don’t have somebody giving these students some guidance we’ve got fantastic students, but they do need some guidance from some adults about how to be effective leaders and how to be positive role models. And so I think that’s, that’s probably why I do what I do.

Sam Demma (02:00):
When did you know, in your journey towards education that you were going to be a teacher?

Jana Fisher (02:06):
I was bossy from about the time I was six years old. And so I think I just always knew I’ve got some teachers in my family, but I think that I would consider myself lucky because it’s really hard at for, for students to, to try and figure out what they are going to be when they grow up. Right. And so I was, I think I’m lucky, but I think I’m in the minority and I, I, I always consider myself lucky that I’ve known that I wanted to be a teacher. And then along the way I taught swimming lessons and that’s what told me that I wanted to teach older students and rather than be in the elementary school. Cause they’re cute. But I have more patience for older, older kids than I do for, for little kids.

Sam Demma (02:46):
You should also know Jana’s a mother. So that’s why our patients is running a little low these days. How, how are things going for you? I know every teacher and educator I speak to has a totally different experience right now with COVID. It’s like we’re all in the same lake, but in a different boat is through always says, do you know what is your experience? And do you have any hopeful stories to share with other educators about overcoming challenges or continuing to do things despite the current reality? I know you put on a killer grad last year. Maybe you can talk about that a little bit or any other story where you’ve overcoming COVID related obstacles?

Jana Fisher (03:27):
Right? Sure. So I think March 16th was one of the most frustrating days of our lives and not just frustrating, but unknown. And I think if we could go back to March 16th and live that day again, we would’ve all hugged each other and, you know, made some, had some closure with our classes, right. Because we were kind of left with, well, maybe we’ll be back in a couple of weeks or maybe this’ll be a short term and little did we know that, that we weren’t going to return back to school? So yeah, so being that there were definite challenges and, you know, as far as, as mental health goes, I would say my mental health is pretty strong, but some of those times through April, as we’re trying to, you know, encourage students to get online and, and to try and learn some chemistry it’s got to be a little bit frustrating, but talking about successes, I think first year, right, our grad was, it was a huge success.

Jana Fisher (04:22):
We had to figure out we had 34 graduates and we had to figure out how to celebrate those 34 graduate, say they needed some closure, they needed a way to, to end this chapter of their life. So one of the things that we did as a staff was we got together and we traveled in separate vehicles from one house to another. We showed up honking horns and, and playing loud music. And, and of course we’re all trying to social distance as we’re meeting with each of the graduating families at their house. And with those, with with the graduate will also with their families. And, you know, we had so many comments about that saying that that was far more personal than, you know, a student wash walking across the stage and that type of thing. So I think we had a, I was exhausted by the end of that day, just because every house we went to there were tears, but they were tears of joy and tears of gratitude.

Jana Fisher (05:17):
And thanks for, for making that a fantastic day, that could’ve just been, you know, it was June the 12th and could have just come and gone. And I know that certainly was a success we did then go ahead and plan a big ceremony as well, a more formal ceremony that we did in August. And that was just a little bit different of a celebration, but I would not June 12th day for us, that was a huge highlight in this sort of dooms time of COVID. Because by that time we’d had quite a few students check out of our, of our you know, our programs and that type of thing. So I think that was really important that, that we did that day. And, and we could put stars beside that day, cause we’ll always remember 2020, but we’ll always talk very positively about June 12th, 2020 in the, in the COVID times.

Sam Demma (06:05):
That’s awesome. And speaking about the fall as well, the grad was a huge success. I know the fall brought its own. I don’t want to say problems. It just brought some challenges that we had to creatively leap over and figure things out as anyone in the school, including yourself, done something a little different this year that you think is a sharing with another school. Maybe there’s some cool ideas that have been executed. And maybe you can say Sam, it’s a little too early to talk about that, but I’m curious to know.

Jana Fisher (06:36):
We’ve we basically were told that our SRC or our leadership team were not, we weren’t, we’re not allowed to go ahead. And so we thought, well, we’re not okay with that. So not that we’re going against what, you know, what the people above us are saying, but we decided how could we do this and still fit in with right ideas. So we, I mean, we’ve been having bi-weekly meetings, but then we did, we partnered in with a young motivational speaker, which is you. And, and it just, it’s funny how the times work out that, you know, you had reached out to us with sharing a graduation video and that’s kind of how we got connected. And then, you know, we really, we were appreciative of your, I think that’s probably where I came from was I was appreciative of your response saying, no problem.

Jana Fisher (07:20):
You saw, however you see fit and then looking more into you and your high-performance program and that type of thing. That has been a fantastic opportunity for our students keeping us together. We have a really strong leadership team, but it’s hard to continue being a strong leadership team when people are saying we can’t meet and we can’t plan activities and we can’t, and we can’t, and we can’t. So we just said, well, yes, we can. We just have to do it in a different way. So, you know, we’ve partnered up with you. We also are looking ahead to seeing the, what can we do? So Halloween’s coming up. We usually have a fantastic, you know, couple of hours or hour to two hours of things throughout the day. So we’ve decided we’ve got a committee. Our students are going to come together and make a Cahoot, which if you’re not familiar with that, it’s kind of a quiz, something they’re thinking about, you know, dressing up all the teachers in which costumes taking years have contests and saying, you know, which, which is which, and so students can guess, you know, who’s Mrs.

Jana Fisher (08:22):
Fisher, who’s Mr. Oates? That type of thing. So we are doing some virtual games and that type of thing, our administration’s really supportive and they, they know the importance of molding these students and teaching them leadership skills through these activities. We’re also in charge of remembrance day. So we’re thinking about having some of the veterans in town, getting some videos of them and then virtually showing that as part of our remembrance day ceremony. So we are going to have to put that together. We’ll do videos of students. We, we have some musical students. So in the past we’ve have had steps. We have had students sing songs of remembrance, recite poetry of remembrance, do those kinds of things. So we’re not going to stop doing those things. We have to, we have to recognize the importance of leadership recognize our veterans, recognize that we do still need to do all of this just in a different way,

Sam Demma (09:18):
Just connecting students right now and giving them a community makes such a big difference. And I know in your years of teaching, you’ve seen that difference firsthand. You’ve definitely had students reach out, write Mrs. Fisher letters and let you know how much of an impact you’ve had on them. I’m curious to know if you can think of a story that sticks out in your mind of a young person whose life has been touched by education, who had been touched by leadership. Maybe they were struggling with something outside of school and maybe just caring for them or doing small thing for them made a huge impact. And the reason I’m asking you to share this is because there might be an educator listening. Who’s thinking what is going on this year? They’re feeling burnt out. They’re, they’re lacking hope and your story could reignite that fire within them. And by all means change the name of the student for the sake of privacy for the story. But the more vulnerable, it isn’t honest, the more of an impact it will have on others.

Jana Fisher (10:18):
I know that that student leadership, we always there saying, okay, we, we want volunteers, right? We’re asking at the beginning of the year, who wants to be on SRC, put up your hand. If we have a certain number of students while we need to kind of have representatives from their particular classrooms. And so we get these room wraps and quite often, you know, it’s not us that are running, it sits, it’s different teachers that don’t necessarily totally understand leadership, right? So it might be a vote. Lots of times that’s a popularity thing. So what, we’ve, what we’ve decided that we need to do as students that we see that are sitting somewhere that are, you know, not involved. We think it’s important that we go to those students and we say, Hey, you know what? We have this really cool thing we meet once a week or twice a week, would you like to join us?

Jana Fisher (11:06):
And of course their answer, all, always this, you know, they’re struggling or, or it’s not for me. And, you know, if we can just get those students to come to one meeting, we quite often, we quite often will, you know, we’ll, we’ll save those, not save those students, but give them kind of a, a purpose and a, and a thing. Right? So in my opinion, every student needs a thing, right? We’ve got some kids have basketball, that’s their thing. Some kids have sports. That’s their thing. Some kids, you know, they have dance, that sort of thing. But if we have a student who doesn’t have a thing, I think as educators that said, this is a really good opportunity to just have them be involved with something within our school. So, you know, we do, I can think of a couple of students that, that are like that, but one in particular.

Jana Fisher (11:53):
And I think I won’t use the name, but one in particular, in grades, I partnered in with the grades sixes because they coming over from the other school. So we quite often have these kinds of conversations, you know, do we have a student who really doesn’t have a thing? So, so we kind of shoulder tap this, this one girl shy, you know, if you asked her to speak out in class, she would just wouldn’t do that. And so, you know, they said this girl, I think she needs a thing. They didn’t use that, that actual terminology. But that was my understanding. I talked to this girl and she just, she wasn’t going to do it. But I said, I said a few things about, you know, being a bound partner, it has to be part of a team, not necessarily a sports team. I’m a big sports person that my kids play lots of sports.

Jana Fisher (12:38):
I played lots, but being part of a bigger idea, I talked lots and this girl showed up in grade seven and she handed me this, this page. And here, it was a list of things that, that list of goals that she had and these goals that she had quite a few of them were things that I had said aloud to her. And I thought, wow, like if I had not talked to these grade six teachers and had this fading and said, you know, what could we, what could we do to make this work? What kind of students do you have with who should we do? You know, if we wouldn’t, we wouldn’t have gone ahead and had that kind of conversation she would have existed through she’s now in grade 11 she would have just existed through and gone out of high school, kind of as one of those students that you just don’t really know this, an unknown student that just try to blend, she tries to blend in. And I think that was a, that was a real success story. So that would be one example that comes to my mind.

Sam Demma (13:34):
That’s awesome. And how do we make students feel appreciated and heard and valued even when school is a little different, maybe things are virtual. Do you have any ideas?

Jana Fisher (13:47):
We have, we have some different ways that we communicate. We do have some chat groups on that kind of thing, and that’s extremely important to us right now because we can’t get together in a room. And when you can’t get together in a room, well, what happens is the grade 12 students take over right here. We let them, they’re going to be the bosses. They’re going to say remembrance day is going to be like this. And the Halloween is going to be like this, but so we’ve got these chat groups that we we meet with and it might be, you know, I might be at five o’clock at night. We started, we have, you know, we’re not doing this at midnight, please don’t send me a message at midnight. But, but I mean, we kind of have office hours and, and we say, Hey, let’s, let’s have these conversations today.

Jana Fisher (14:34):
We’re going to have these conversations, you know, sometime around five, or I’ll send a message at work to talk about this right now. I think that’s, that’s really important. There is a fine line there, right? Because we’re, we’re dealing with some communications through this, through social media. There’s few challenges. As far as parents go grade seven students, grade eight students, for example, maybe aren’t allowed to use that particular type of social media then that involves educating parents and talking about, you know, the idea that phones and technology like that is not going to go away. So we, our responsibility is to educate those students how to properly use those, right? Because parents come and say, well, we’ve heard these horror stories about how so-and-so took this picture and ends up cyber bullying and that type of thing. And we have to teach kids how to use this technology. And I, and that’s what works for us is we do, we do have an, and this is, we used to do that before, but now it’s, you know, it’s, it’s times a times a hundred of what we did, you know, say a year ago just because it’s the only way that we can actually have discussion.

Sam Demma (15:43):
That’s awesome. And I don’t know if you remember your first year in education, but there are, there are a bunch of teachers who are tuning in educators who maybe it’s their first year in school. If you could give advice to your younger self, not that much younger, you’re still very young, but if you could give advice to your younger self, when you started in your first year of education, imagine this was your first year. Like most teachers starting this year, I thinking, what the heck is this? I did not sign up for this job. What advice would you have to, to share with them?

Jana Fisher (16:21):
I, first of all would say, congratulations on being part of this awesome profession. It, it really is, you know, there’s lots of negativity that goes on, but I think the first thing that we need to know is that it really doesn’t get much worse than this. They’re there on top of all of the things that they ask us to teach, we now are also trying to, you know, sanitize and make sure kids are wearing them and make sure they’re staying six feet apart. And add-ons right. So, so one, the best advice that somebody ever said to me was, as long as you are continually saying, how could I have done that better? That means that you actually are caring and you’re thinking about, and you’re, and you’re going to grow. If it, if you say that’s as good as I can do, this is the best I can do.

Jana Fisher (17:08):
That it isn’t true. You, everything that you do, you can do better at, but you can’t beat yourself up over something that you would consider a failure. You’re going to have classes. I’ve been, this is my 24th year of teaching. I sometimes have classes at the end. I go, whoa. And what was, what was going on there? Do we, you know, do we need to reteach that? I, I’m not sure what happened there, but as long as in my head at 24, you know, my 24th year, I’m still saying, what can I do differently? What do I need to do now? We can’t beat ourselves up. We can’t back up. We don’t have a DeLorean to go back to the future. We just need to be okay with what we did, but what can we change and, and moving forward, but it won’t get any more challenging than this year.

Jana Fisher (17:51):
You’re if it’s if you’re in your first year, it’s challenge, it’s the most challenging year you can possibly have to start with. And now we’ve, we’ve multiplied that by 10. So survived through this year B be an hour or two ahead of the kids, right? Don’t run out of material. So if you’re teaching something, make sure you’ve got an hour more than you actually think that you need. And then you live from one day to the next. And in soon enough, it’ll be, you’ll be 23 years into this. And you’ll say, how the heck did that happen?

Sam Demma (18:21):
That’s awesome, Jana, this has been a really fun interview. If someone’s listening and wants to reach out and share some cool ideas and talk to you, what’s the best way for them to do so.

Jana Fisher (18:32):
The best way to start off would be just to email me that’s how that’s, where we can start out. And then we can decide if we want to, you know, do a zoom call or something like that. But my email is jana.fisher@horizonsd.ca

Sam Demma (18:53):
Awesome. Perfect. Thank you so much for taking some time to record this interview with me. It’s been a pleasure and I can’t wait to stay in touch, continue the sessions we’re doing and see what other unique things you come up with during the year. Right.

Jana Fisher (19:05):
Great. Okay. Thank you so much.

Sam Demma (19:07):
And just like that, another interview on the high-performing educator podcast is complete. If you took something of value away from this conversation with Jana and myself, please leave a rating and review so that other educators just like you can find this podcast benefit from the ideas and feel motivated by the inspiring stories. And if you are somebody who has something to share, or, you know, somebody who has some inspiration and ideas to share, please email is info@samdemma.com. Should we can get your story and get you on the podcast and how hopefully connected with other educators around the world. Anyways, I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

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