About Staci Whittle
Staci Whittle is currently the Principal at the Niagara Children’s Centre School Authority, located in St. Catharines, Ontario. She has been in education for the past twenty-three years. Staci has worked as a Secondary teacher, Vice-Principal and Principal in Elementary and Secondary schools within rural and urban settings.
Her enthusiasm and advocacy for students with disabilities is truly her passion. Staci has been the recipient of the Ontario Teacher Federation Award, the University of Windsor’s Odyssey Award, the Board of Governor’s medal from the University of Windsor and has now been recognized as a High Performing Educator.
**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.
Sam Demma (01:01):
This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is Stacy Whittle. Stacy is currently the Principal at the Niagara Children’s Center School authority located in St. Catherine’s Ontario. She has been in education for the past 23 years. Stacy has worked as a secondary teacher, Vice-Principal, and Principal in elementary and secondary schools within rural and urban settings. Her enthusiasm and advocacy for students with disabilities is truly her passion. Stacey has been the recipient of the Ontario teacher Federation award, the University of Windsor’s Odysey award, the board of governor’s medal from the University of Windsor, and has now been recognized as a High Performing Educator. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Stacy. I so look forward to you absorbing her genius and I will see you on the other side. Stacy, welcome to the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show, please start by introducing yourself.
Staci Whittle (02:02):
Hi, my name’s Stacy Whittle. I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity to be on the podcast today, and I’m a Principal at the Niagara Children’s Center School Authority in St. Catherine’s, Ontario.
Sam Demma (02:17):
Did you know, growing up that education is what you wanted to do? Tell me a little bit about how you got into education.
Staci Whittle (02:25):
I feel that I always did, like when, when I was younger, I always did like the let’s do let’s play school. Right. And do the teaching role and that sort of thing. And I really found it. I, I really found it worthwhile, I guess, or our heartfelt when I was doing that. So I think it was kind of in my bloodline to be begin in with, cause there’s many individuals on my dad’s side of the family that are educators. But that being said, the reason I really got into education was because an incident had occurred that affected our family in 1998. I believe it was where I had a little cousin. He was bullied and he was hung on a coat hook and he passed away in Chatham, Ontario. So, you know, after our family went through the two F of, of miles, and then we had the funeral for miles, there was a police investigation and a coroner’s inquest.
Staci Whittle (03:26):
I didn’t want other people to experience what had happened to our family, which by the way, I’m gonna do a shout out to my cousins. Mike and Brendan Nutz, who’ve created a foundation called making children better now in, in lieu of what had transpired with their son. So very cool foundation. They do great things for kids. But after all this had happened and I reflected on it, of course, I didn’t want another child to experience what we had to experience as a family and, and their families. And also, so I feel that I could get into education and I could change the trajectory of children’s life, who really needed the help in changing to be perhaps a better person or to be inspired by someone or something.
Sam Demma (04:15):
Wow. What a story. And I’m so sorry. I, I know it’s been a while, but I’m sure it gets no easier to talk about, I, I appreciate you, you sharing that and yeah, it’s just such an impactful reason to get involved in this work. And I think it it’s really your, it sounds like you lead it with your heart and you can kind of tell when you talk that it’s something that’s really important to you. What, what was your first position? And tell me a little bit about the, the different roles you’ve worked in and how you’ve got to where you are today.
Staci Whittle (04:47):
Okay. So my very first position was I was a halftime teacher in high school and I taught geography and science at the end of the year. I was fortunate enough to get a, a full-time permanent contract, but really what my forte was in the high school setting was working with at-risk children. So in that, in my experience there, I’ve had the, the classrooms that, you know, other teachers or other people would say, geez, that’s a tough classroom, but I just found it very easy to work with children who were at risk. And also I think it was my second or third year. I’m not a hundred percent sure where the principal of the school created a classroom for kids who were at risk. So in the morning we established, I taught the class, I’d work on English in other skills with them and then like math and, and those sorts of things. And then in the afternoon, they’d go off too and integrate in with the rest of the school community. It was a, a really, really good experience. It was, it was awesome. Like, I, I, I loved that experience. The respect that the kids and I had for one another was amazing. And to the point that a lot of the children, or I should shouldn’t say children, but high school students had to get their community service hours. So I took on coaching a hockey team because they’re all about hockey, so they could get their community service hours and yet do something they love as well.
Sam Demma (06:27):
Oh, wow. Were they helping you run the team? Is that what their task was?
Staci Whittle (06:31):
Their task was that, so they would help me coach we’d rotate. So they’d come to practices and, and work with the kids. And then a few in particular would come to every game and be on the bench. So we did that for the full year, which was amazing experience for everyone. I always look reflect back on that, and these are the, the students who were supposed to be at risk, but honestly they were amazing with the younger children, right. Cuz you gave them that opportunity so they could show their leadership and they could model what they felt was being a good hockey player or, you know, appropriate protocols or language or whatever on the bench. Right. So it all just kind of fit together and it was a totally amazing. And then another opportunity came about when I was at the high school and in conjunction with a gentleman who created and, and I supported and taught a school, it was called average school, which is night school for low German, high German Mennonite students who work during the day, but they still could get their education at night.
Staci Whittle (07:42):
Another amazing experience I learned so much. Right. And that’s, that’s part of me. It’s like in order to respect everyone, you need to know about everyone and, and respect that diversity. So at which 0.4 years into my teaching career I became a vice principal. I was a vice principal for the next six years. Then I moved to Saskatchewan. Then I was a principal in a large percentage or population of indigenous students. And that was at the elementary level. My dad took ill. And then I moved back here to Ontario and I’m ending up working with multi exceptional students, which is amazing work.
Sam Demma (08:27):
Mm. What do you think is required to build a relationship, a trusting relationship with a student
Staci Whittle (08:36):
In order to build trust, you have to open yourself up and accept every student for what they are, who they are, where they come from, whatever, but just building that that respect or, or, you know, showing kids you care. Right. And you care specifically about them has really is really what a, a building a relationship is all about. Right. And, and just not, I like for instance, Sam’s in my classroom, but when Sam’s outta my classroom, Sam’s gone he’s to a different person or, or whatever. It’s about building the rapport, no matter what whomever you teach whenever, but keeping that rapport going even when they’re not in your classroom and, and just showing kids, you’re, you’re dedicated to them and that you very, you care very much about them.
Sam Demma (09:30):
Hmm. I love that. Through your different positions, which have you found personally, the most rewarding now I know, you know, at the center of this work is the students, but from your perspective, what was the most rewarding position and why, why do you think it was the most rewarding?
Staci Whittle (09:48):
I don’t really think that I could choose any one position that was most rewarding. Yeah. Because I think that all the experiences I have have made me who I am, but that’s where the reward comes from is, is that growth that you get when you work with other people and exposing yourself and experiencing and opening up? I think to that extent, every one of my teaching, my vice principal are principal’s experience have kind of led me here. Which is an amazing place to work with. We get to do a lot of magical things with our children who have no voices who have multiple complex disabilities or abilities, if you will. I just love it, like what we can do, and I have the ability to be creative and innovative. So we’ve come, we’ve done a lot of great things for the children here, but at the end of the day, it’s everything that you live through is your lived experience. And I think there’s a reward in each one of those experiences that we, that we do.
Sam Demma (10:59):
Hmm. I love that. That’s a great perspective to have too, that everything offers a learning and everything offers an opportunity to reflect and grow. Can you tell me about a experience or a story where you saw the firsthand impact of a program on a learner or on a student that really touched your heart?
Staci Whittle (11:20):
Yeah, I, I have one experience when I was running the, the classroom for at-risk children. I had one student who had a heart issue. And so he wasn’t able to go to school all the time because of his heart. And they’re trying to figure out the medical professionals were trying to figure out what was wrong with him. So at the end of the day, each day, I’d gather up his homework and I’d drive it to his house. And then I’d sit down with him to ensure that he could do his homework. Right. And I think the magical thing is there are the best experiences that I think he would’ve been a kiddo that would’ve dropped out of school if he hadn’t had that little extra care from someone outside of the family. And it’s, it’s quite amazing because he will still contact me to this day. Right. Yeah. You know, and we, we kind of have that back and forth and it it’s really nice because even when I go back, like I don’t live where I started in education, but even when I go back the kids that are their adults now, but I see them around they’ll come and give me a hug. They’ll stop. And talk to me, they’ll shout out my name. I think that was an awesome experience, right. In that particular location.
Sam Demma (12:42):
Awesome. Throughout your journey who has been resourceful for you, are there some educators that have mentored you along the way? And, and maybe if, you know, you can probably think of some people and maybe there’s also resources or things that you’ve been a part of or read that have been helpful, what resources come to mind in terms of people and also hard coffee resources?
Staci Whittle (13:04):
Well, I think that I did have some very good mentors I had when I was a teacher. I had a, a vice principal a principal at my first location, they were amazing. And they, they kind of took you under their wing and they had you grow as a professional and as a, a teacher. Right. And then my first vice principal job, the principal I had who ended up being a superintendent, he knew everything. Like, it was such an amazing experience to grow, cuz he was so knowledgeable and he was very bright. And you know, those are the kind of people where you sit back and say, oh geez, I would like to be like that person. You know what I mean? Yeah. So that was kind of the driving force, which by the way, I forgot your question already.
Sam Demma (13:52):
Yeah. Resources that’s okay.
Staci Whittle (13:53):
So resources, I read a lot, lot about leadership. I found the best possible thing that I could do for myself is I explored emotional intelligence, right. For myself to grow as a professional, but also as a person. So I mean Roman’s work is, is being basically what I used for that particular aspect. And then I guess other things like self-regulation has really been helpful if you couple emotional intelligence with self-regulation, I’m just a calm personnel, right. I don’t get worked up, you just kind of flow and go with, go with whatever’s happening. But I think in combin we all need to learn how to regulate, but we also have to be mindful of what our strengths and weaknesses are as people. So we can make the world a better place, make the classroom a better place for the school because you’re learning about yourself. And I know we’ve all made mistakes as leaders or whatever, but you learn and grow from that.
Sam Demma (15:04):
Awesome. Well, when you mentioned self-regulation tell me more about self-regulation. What is self-regulation?
Staci Whittle (15:13):
So our, a threat in our school, as well as in our staff is self-regulation and so basically it’s allowing your body, whether it needs to be revved up or calm, so you’re alert and ready to learn. So I’ve used I’ve done courses and read books from SHA. So that’s really what we practice in our school. For instance, I, I can give a be better illustration cuz every adult’s different. Like I love to watch clouds. It calms me down. You know, I like nature. You know, I like playing with my grandchildren in those sorts of things that make you calm down and, and kind of reflect on who you are as a person. So if you have a child in the classroom who comes and one of the major things for all of our kids here is to learn to self-regulate so they can participate in a classroom with all their peers.
Staci Whittle (16:09):
Right. So we would discover perhaps you like deep pressure, so you need a vest or you need a blanket or you like sensory things and lights and you need to have the lights, whatever that looks like for the child to calm them down. Or you need a quiet corner where it’s just Sam’s and you can go in there and it has all your stuff that makes you feel again. So we, we have a, a, a bag of tricks here, a big bag of tricks that we, we help. And like for instance, we had a child on the spectrum. She would independently because the goal of self-regulation is to calm yourself. So you can go back to learning or focus. Right. And she would independent go in the classroom, use a mini trampoline. Right. And then when she calmed herself, cuz she needed the up regulation or whatever calmer she would use the trampoline, then she’d come back and do her work. So it’s kind of amazing to see children do that because I think if we all practice that I think our world would be a better place.
Sam Demma (17:16):
That’s such a good point. Instead of acting out of emotion, give ourselves a chance to come back to a stable, emotional state. Yes. Before action, which I think is so important and that ties into emotional intelligence, like emotional intelligence is really just understanding our emotions and how they affect us or how would you explain emotional intelligence? Well,
Staci Whittle (17:38):
It is about how it would affect you because you’ll have strengths and weaknesses, right? Yeah. Depending on what they were. But I think from a leadership perspective, it makes you mindful of what your weaknesses are. So you need to work on whatever techniques you’re using to work on that, to better create a collaborative learning environment for all students, staff and, and families. Right. So it’s really given me that perspective. I know now for myself, because at one time I would get, you get worked up. Right. But now I’m just calm. I I’ve learned how to reflect. I’ve learned how to pick up patterns of what I need to change for myself. And I think that makes you a better leader in a school environment and even in a school board, it would make you a better leader.
Sam Demma (18:27):
I love it. Makes a lot of sense. I really appreciate you sharing Stacy. If you could take your experiences, all of them in education, bundle them up, which is really difficult, not possible and travel back in time, tap yourself on the shoulder. And some of your beginning years of teaching and working in education to give yourself advice what would you have said or told your younger self?
Staci Whittle (18:54):
I think I think the advice would be that I wish I would’ve discovered self Reagan, emotional intelligence back there. I was very driven. I’ve always been very driven. Maybe just slow down a bit because I’ve been told on more than one occasion. Sometimes I take more on than what a, a a typical individual would. But that’s just me. Right. Cause I have that motivation and drive to help students learn and, and help them be successful. Right. Right. Not only in school, but in life in general. So I think that I would talk to my, my old self about that. And maybe I would’ve had a better trajectory or game plan for how it was gonna go about all my like going about different things and all the experiences that I’ve had in education. I guess, like I would say too, that be careful because you know that you’re a doer and sometimes you just need to step back. You can’t do everything for everyone and you need to prioritize. What’s really important and then work in that realm if you will
Sam Demma (20:12):
Got it. Ah, I love it. Thank you for sharing. If someone wants to reach out, ask you a question based on anything we talked about today, or just have a conversation, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Staci Whittle (20:25):
Well, they could get in touch with me through my email address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org or just pick up the phone and give me a call. My number’s (905)-688-1890 (Extension 230). I was going to try to do; well, I might still do this Sam, but I’m not sure. Do a hashtag and, and kind of learn that new technology ’cause I know nothing about Instagram and Twitter and whatever. But because it was a snow day here today, my staff are not here and the person who was gonna help me is at home so I can’t do that haha. So anyway, that’s me.
Sam Demma (21:09):
Awesome, well it’s okay. Stacy, thanks so much again for calling on the show. Really appreciate it, Keep up with the great work and we’ll talk soon.
Staci Whittle (21:16):
All right. Thank you so much, Sam.
Sam Demma (21:19):
Hey, it’s Sam again. I hope you enjoyed that amazing conversation on the High Performing Educator podcast. If you, or 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.
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