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Educator

Joshua Sable – Student Activity Director at TanenbaumCHAT

Joshua Sable Student Activity Director at TanenbaumCHAT
About Joshua Sable

Joshua Sable is a veteran educator, speaker and memory maker. His personal teaching philosophy is to: “give students a reason to come to school tomorrow.” Joshua is also the Student Activity Director at TanebaumCHAT.

The way he fulfills this philosophy is through the memory-making machine of student activities and school culture. In this episode, Josh shares actionable strategies to help you students make memories, right now!

Connect with Joshua: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Tanenbaum Chat High School

Theater and Performing Arts at York University

Mentor College

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today we have on a very purpose driven and passionate educator. His name is Joshua Sable. He is a veteran teacher, speaker, and memory maker. As you’ll hear about on this show, his personal teaching philosophy is to give students a reason to come to school tomorrow. And the way he fulfills this philosophy is through something he calls the memory making machine of student activities and school culture. In this episode, Josh shares actionable strategies to help your students make more memories right now. I’ll see you on the other side, Josh, thank you so much for coming onto the high-performing educators podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. I want you to first introduce yourself to the audience, tell everyone who you are, what you’ve done in education up until this point and why you initially got started in the work that you’re doing today with young people.


Joshua Sable (01:03):
Thanks so much for having me here today Sam. Its a real, real pleasure. My name is Josh Sable. This is my, let me do the math. This is my 26th year teaching. So I’ve been teaching for 26 years. I’ve spent the last 23 years at a school called chats or TanenbaumChat in Toronto, which is a high school in Toronto. And I’ve spent most of those years as a teacher of dramatic arts in English, but mainly as the director of student activities, which I’ve been doing there for the last 22 of my 23 years.


Sam Demma (01:42):
Nice. That’s so cool. What initially got you into education. Was there a teacher in your life that heavily impacted you and swayed you in that direction? Is it something you knew you wanted to do since you were a little kid? Everyone’s story is totally different. I’m just curious what yours is.


Joshua Sable (02:00):
It’s a great question. I was really into performing theater drama entertainments as a teenager. And a young person was very involved in student leadership, sports arts at my high school and outside of the high school. And then when I went to university, I knew I wanted to study theater. I wanted to study performance. I wanted to develop my craft, but when I finished my four-year degree in theater and performing arts at York university, I knew that there was something else I still wanted to do. I was working at summer camps at the time and I loved working with young people. And the idea of working in the arts exclusively was exciting. But at the same time, I knew that there were other things that I wanted to accomplish and other things that I wanted to do. And all of those seem to surround working with young people.


Joshua Sable (02:51):
So I got my teaching degree, started teaching right away at the age of 22 and I’ve been teaching ever since. That’s awesome. That’s great. And then my first year asking about teaching philosophy and what got me started or what got me energized. Can I tell you a quick story about my first year teaching? Absolutely. That’s why we’re here. My first year teaching, I was teaching grade seven. So my first three years I taught at a school called Mentor College in Mississauga, which is a great school. And I was teaching a homeroom. I was teaching grade seven and I was, I wasn’t feeling that inspired. I knew why I got into teaching. I didn’t know if I was making a difference. I didn’t know what sort of impact I was having on the young people in my classroom. And I was, I was struggling a little bit going through a little bit of a down period in my first year teaching.


Joshua Sable (03:43):
And one of the things we had to do on a regular basis at this private school was called parents once a month, just to check in, give them an update about how their students, how their children were doing. So I called one student in particular, not on our regular day and not as part of our regular monthly call because he had been missing a number of days. And I introduced myself. Mum recognized me. We had met before and I said, is everything okay with Chris? I haven’t, haven’t seen him as frequently as we normally see him is everything okay? And mum then starts to tell me how Chris Chris’s parents, mom and dad were, were going through a really bad divorce. And I didn’t know. And Chris was really, really struggling with it. So I said to mom, I said, look, tell Chris to take as much time as he needs.


Joshua Sable (04:38):
You know, we’ll be here for him whenever he comes back to school, how can I help? What can I do to help? I am happy to do anything that you need me to do. I can call him over the phone. We can, we can work on his math, his English on the phone. What can I do to help? And she said, well, she said, no, you don’t understand. She said, the only reason that he wants to come back to school is to see you and to hear your jokes and to be part of your classroom experience. She said, thank you for giving Chris a reason to come back to school. And I got those goosebumps like we do sometimes. And I had no idea that I had been part had played any role in having such an impact on him. And it hit me, hit me pretty hard.


Joshua Sable (05:29):
And at the time I was taking some courses at Boise for personal education and development and they kept asking us, what’s your personal teaching philosophy? I don’t know, be nice. You know, so don’t, don’t get hit by the chalk. You know, I, I didn’t know what my teaching philosophy was. And it was at that moment, not to sound too cheesy, but I really had an aha moment there where I said, that’s it? What Chris, what Chris’s mom said to me was, was my PR became my personal teaching philosophy, which was give someone a reason to come back tomorrow. And I started to think, how, how cool would it be? If everyone in our schools, student leaders, staff, custodian, support staff, if each of us just gave one person a reason to come back to school tomorrow, how much better what our school environment be. And, and you can have that impact in so many different ways, small, medium, or large, but that became a personal teaching philosophy for me.


Sam Demma (06:32):
I love that. And sometimes teachers and educators don’t see the impact they’re having until decades down the road. So I think it’s so cool that you highlighted that was in your first year that’s, that’s phenomenal. And I’m sure you’ve had dozens upon dozens of more stories, just like that one. And I was actually going to ask you that later in the podcast, if you want to hold on to one or two more stories that you have, that you think would be really impactful, and we’ll share them a little bit down this down, this journey that we’re going on with this podcast right now, a lot of teachers are faced with challenges. One of the challenges being to give students like the student, you just mentioned those opportunities to want to come back to school during COVID. How do we create those scenarios? How do we make a student feel appreciated and cared for when sometimes you can’t do it in person and the virtual stuff is kind of different and difficult?


Joshua Sable (07:23):
Well, first of all, it’s not easy. None of us have a magic wand or a genie in a bottle where we’re all trying. And there’s so many amazing educators across the province, across the country who are doing whatever they can to create a sense of comfort, a sense of peace, a sense of fun in their classroom and in their schools. We’re all trying, everyone’s trying their best. I start by trying to smile with my eyes because we are now limited in terms of our smile, our smiles now go from about the bridge of your nose up to the top of your forehead. So I, I honestly try to smile with my eyes when I walked down the halls, when I’m in the classroom, when we’re engaging with students and student activities I really try to do that. I, I’m trying to learn as many names as I can, which we should all do as educators.


Joshua Sable (08:16):
People, people need to know that other people know your name. And it’s so hard in a time when once again, you’re only limited with the top party or face to face threat face recognition is even more difficult. So I’m trying to learn as many names as I can. We’re giving out as much free food as we can, even with the limitations due to COVID. So, first day of school, we gave our students a wrapped fortune cookies, and they were personalized fortune cookies, not personalized, but they were personalized for our school. So we had our student council come up with 25 specific fortunes that would be heard for our school environment. And we handed them out to the students on the way. And normally we’d be handing out free food, like cookies or chips or things that we putting our hands into. And obviously we can’t do that right now.


Joshua Sable (09:03):
So we’re trying to find rap snacks that still have a sense of fun in the sense of a culture we did pajama day, the other day, we usually do cookies and milk. So we found some packaged cookies that we got donated, and we were given out free packaged cookies for anyone who was wearing their, their PJ’s. A couple of other COVID ideas just before the summer, we were looking to do some, like everyone’s doing a lot of videos of social media during COVID for sure. The mass singer was big. So we came up with our own version of the mass singer, where we got as many teachers as possible to record themselves singing, wearing masks of any kind they could be wearing their they could be wearing a Darth Vader mask. They could be wearing their kid’s sweatshirt over their head COVID mask, whatever they prefer.


Joshua Sable (09:54):
And I had them record themselves, singing twice one with the mask and then a big reveal where they take off their mask. So we edited it together. We sent it out to the student body. Students had to guess whose voice belong to whom. And then we had a second episode of the mass singer where we revealed the identity of the mass. So we’re just trying to keep things moving, keep them light, look, students, they’re smart. They know we’re in the middle of the pandemic. They’re not expecting us to move mountains and perform miracles, but what they appreciate is any student leader or staff member who is trying to make a difference to connect with them, to learn their name and to give them a reason to come back tomorrow night.


Sam Demma (10:36):
I love it. The philosophy rings through even in all those principles. And it’s evident, you’ve practiced this for a long time and people would argue smiling with your eyes. How do you do that? Well, the first thing is with an intention, if you have the intention to do so, it comes across that you’re caring that you’re happy. You know, maybe we get some see-through mask or some magic material that allows you to see the mouth. But without that again, it’s just the intention behind it. And you have all the right ones, which is awesome. What are some of the challenges that you’ve seen in your school so far? I know virtual engagements, definitely one common one among all the educators I’ve spoke to. But what are some of the challenges you’ve been presented with or have faced?


Joshua Sable (11:18):
Well, like most high schools, we, we have limited our attendance on a daily basis. So at our school, we’ve got 50% of the student body attending each day and they’re only attending to lunch afternoons or virtual learning, which is similar to what other schools across Ontario are doing. But the biggest challenge, look, we all, we’re, we’re human beings. We crave social interaction, human interaction. We need to get close to people. We need to sense that they care about us. We need to interact. Sometimes we need a high five, a hug, a handshake, whatever way we’re comfortable communicating. And I think that’s, that’s difficult. It’s been really difficult for people to not be able to gather together as a community in the ways that they are used to gathering together at our school. Especially we have a great sense of community sense of traditions and at lunchtime or during break times, we gathered the students together or as many as we can in common spaces to do fun things.


Joshua Sable (12:24):
And it’s been really challenging, not being able to congregate as a group. So especially once again, we’re only half the student body as attending on day one and half the other half is at home. So that’s been really, really challenging. But as I said before, everyone’s frying, whether it’s synchronous, learning, asynchronous learning reaching out to the students, I have noticed an increased level of kindness and tolerance amongst people in educational settings, getting less frustrated in front of students or at students, because I think most people do realize that yes, we’re all in this together. Be this too shall pass. But see, the biggest thing we all need right now is human kindness, a little bit of tolerance, support and understanding, and, and not, not to be short with people or a short tempered person.


Sam Demma (13:20):
Showing us what really matters. And it’s about the relationships with our students and our fellow educators or student leaders. What keeps you going? What keeps you hopeful? You have this positive aura, this enthusiasm, this energy, even when things are difficult, I would imagine you’re the teacher lifting everyone else up. What, what keeps you hopeful and motivated?


Joshua Sable (13:40):
Well, I, you know, I mentioned before this, you know, part, one of the teaching philosophy, this idea of, of giving people a reason to come back tomorrow, when we meet with student leadership at our school at the beginning of the year, I often ask them, what’s, what’s, what’s your role this year? And they’ll say, oh, I’m, I’m the VP or I’m the treasurer I’m in charge of communications. And they usually don’t guess the next question, which is, well, that’s, that’s your title, but what’s, what’s your role within the school? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to do? What sort of difference do you want to make in other people’s lives? And one of the things we talk about is this amazing opportunity that we have to make memories for other people. And I call student activities and student leadership, the memory making machine, you know, we’re in our school and yeah, as a teacher, it’s great.


Joshua Sable (14:32):
If you teach French, you can teach them how to conjugate a verb. If you teach math how to do algebra, if you teach science, you know, how to dissect a pig. But we all have this other amazing opportunity to actually create memories for other people. And yes, the memory can take different shapes and forms. The memory can be doing this great program at lunchtime and a kid got to wear a funny hat or get five more face or pay money to his teacher in the face with a sponge. And that’s part of the memory making machine. But part of the memory making machine is also opening the door for someone or, you know, smiling thumb when they’re having a bad day or asking them how their test was last period, or talking to them about the leaf game, because, you know, that’ll be a good distraction from whatever else is going on in their life.


Joshua Sable (15:25):
So making memories is not limited to being the most creative dynamic person who grabs the mic and talks in a big, you know, game show book. It’s about who’s overstayed checks, you know, which some of us can do, but that’s, that’s only a small piece of the memory making machine. So I encourage our student leaders to make memories and so own this idea of the memory making machine as much as possible. And, and that’s what keeps me going. This is challenge to make a difference in young people’s lives and to give them a reason to come back tomorrow through the memory making machine. That’s all


Sam Demma (16:01):
Awesome. And I want you to recall those stories now where you have helped other students make their own memories for themselves. Maybe they wrote, you wrote you a letter, 10 years down the road. Maybe they told you right when it had an impact on them, but recall a couple more of those stories that you think would be worth sharing to remind some fellow educators why it’s so important, the work they’re doing.


Joshua Sable (16:20):
Sure. And, and, you know, educators don’t do these things for the letters. We do everything just for the money. No. we don’t do things for the paycheck. We don’t do things for the, for the nice letters we do it because, you know, generally we, we care about young people and we were trying to give them an experience that’s maybe a little bit better than the experience of the students the year before or better than our experience. And we’re just trying to leave this school, this world a little bit better than, than how we found it. So. Sure. Yeah. I’ve got a bunch of stories. I’ll share a few and you can cut me off or tell me to keep going your, your, your call. Th the, the other thing I challenged student leaders to do when we come into meetings, I tell them my, my five favorite words to hear at the beginning of a student council meeting are, wouldn’t it be cool?


Joshua Sable (17:10):
If so, I want them to start a phrase with, wouldn’t it be cool if, and they finish that sentence. So oftentimes they’ll come into a meeting and they’ll say, and we had a student council president about 15 years ago, who said, wouldn’t it be cool if we slept at the school? And he was a bit of a, I don’t know, he was a bit of a showman. And he had all these crazy ideas. And sometimes the ideas didn’t necessarily come to fruition, but we all sort of laughed. And he said, no, no, no, I’m serious. Wouldn’t it be cool if we have a sleepover at the school? And we talked about it at first, everyone thought he was joking. And I said, well, you know what, Adam, we run a United way fundraiser single year. We don’t have a kickoff event for it. What if we had students pay money or raise money through their neighbors, friends, family, to sleep at school and we can run, you know a sleep over in the gym.


Joshua Sable (18:04):
We could have all these activities, we can play sports, play games. We can also decorate the school for United way. And then in the morning when people get up in the morning we’ll give everyone shirts that say, I slept at school for United way, and they’ll be wearing these big red shirts. And throughout the day, yeah, their eyes will be closed. They’ll be sleepy. There’ll be yawning and flat because they didn’t get much sleep, but that will be our big kickoff. Sure enough, the event came to fruition. Adam had the biggest smile on his face. He felt so good that this program was his idea. Sure. It’s our job as educators to help deal with logistics, to make sure the custodians know where to be, to make sure, you know, no one gets hurt, but we need to develop our ideas or to be energized by student ideas.


Joshua Sable (18:50):
And that was a classic example of that, you know a couple of years ago during the winter Olympics, students said, wouldn’t it be cool if we gave out some gold medals to to students for being great leaders at the school. So we brainstormed this at a student council meeting, we talked about it and they said, oh yeah. So how many would we do? Well, let’s do one per grade. We’ll give it to one student per grade. And another student said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if every student in the grade got a gold medal and that they, the kids said, yeah, that would be great. That would be amazing. And then other ones said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if each gold metal was actually personalized for the individual student? And they said, yeah, yeah, yeah. And then they said, well, wouldn’t it be cool if it were not only personalized, but referenced a specific skill or traits or characteristic that the person had and the kids say, yeah, let’s do it. So we’ve got a thousand kids in our school. We took these student council members from each grade. They’ve divided themselves up. They took old CDs, which if you have a young audience members there, I don’t know. How would you describe it, Sam? What’s, what’s a CD.


Sam Demma (20:02):
It looks like a disk, the hole in the middle.


Joshua Sable (20:08):
Oh, we got our computer. Some departments that donate all these old CDs that they weren’t using anymore. We took a grade list. We had the students write down something specific about every single student in their grade. So it said, let’s say your name was John Smith says John Smith, great smile, right. Or Toby Toby Rosen is you know, great at dance or whatever it is, you know, has a great slapshot, nice hair, whatever it is. Then we had the student council come and set up all the classes all at the same time. And they handed out these specific metals on strings, put them around the kids. And every single kid in the school had their moment, their gold metal with these personalized metals around their neck. And I remember a moment where I was peeking into a class, taking some pictures during this. And one of the kids looked at his metal and he looked at someone else’s and he said, Hey, my mine’s different from yours. And he said, do you think that they wrote a specific trait or manual for every single student in the grade? And the kids said, yeah. And then said, how cool is that? So it was a great moment for the student leadership because they got to see a program start from the ground up and come to fruition. But it was a great moment for the students who received the metals, which was really, really, really awesome. Really great.


Sam Demma (21:31):
No, that’s amazing. I love that story. And I was just on the cusp of being too old to know what a CD was, but I did use them in my former earlier years for sure. That’s awesome. Now you’re also somebody who’s been responsible for bringing in external presenters, bringing in organizations from the community to come and work with students. Do projects, fundraise, someone that we both know you brought in was Blake fly. I remember I was there watching him when he presented over your 26 years of education, you’ve probably worked with dozens of speakers. How do you bring someone in, or what are your grounds for deciding, you know, this is a message that I want my students to hear. And I want to put her in front of them.


Joshua Sable (22:13):
There’s so many events, six speakers out there, and we know the impact that a great speaker like yourself or someone who has a message and idea that they want to share. How, how, how impactful that can be. So we just look for someone that we think is going to connect with young people, someone that has a message and idea, something that’s going to make a difference in a young person’s life. Sometimes they can inspire a hundred percent of the audience. Sometimes they’re only inspiring 5% of the audience to make change, but if they can help just a few people in the audience make their day a little bit better, switch their perspective, switch their focus, give them a new angle, a new, take, a new taste. We’re excited about it. So, yeah, I, I, you know, every once in a while we try to bring in someone and whether it’s to work with a specific grade or leadership group or with the entire student body we’re happy to bring that in because it can make a huge difference.


Sam Demma (23:10):
Cool. Yeah. It’s helpful for people who maybe just be getting into a role or into education to hear that kind of stuff. And in relation to the messages that you’ve seen that have had the biggest impact, is it the message itself, the delivery, is it how they interact with the students? What leaves the greatest impact on the audience?


Joshua Sable (23:28):
Look, it’s it’s, you know, as, as the audience may guess who are listening today, it’s, it’s oftentimes a combination of those things, combination of the contents and the delivery. But young people are smart. They know when they’re being talked down to, they know they want to be respected in the same way that you were, I want to be respected and they want that sense of trust and that sense of community we all want to be liked. So I think if they feel like there are parts of the speaker’s worlds and that they are not being talked down to that they’re being respected as an interesting young adult with ideas and plans and hopes and dreams for the future. There’s a good shot that we’re going to, we’re going to have a connection along the way. Cool.


Sam Demma (24:13):
Awesome. And there’s an educator listening right now. Who’s been enjoying the entire conversation. We’ve almost been talking for 30 minutes now, but I want you to imagine they were your age when you just started there 22 years old listening, just start in education. And this is their first year teaching, very different from your first year, very different from so many other educators. First year of teaching. What would you tell your younger self, if this was your first year, what words of advice would you have?


Joshua Sable (24:41):
Three words, take a nap. You got to rest up, you know and I’m not joking. What I mean by that is we, we all want every lesson, every program, every game, every show, anything we do in school to be perfect, to be 100% and it won’t always work out. So yeah, you can prepare for your English class or your math class or your history class or the game you’re about to coach or the kids. You’re about to direct in a play. You can do all that, but there are going to be curve balls along the way that you’re going to have to adjust to. So you need to be in it for the long haul. You need to have patients, you need to be able to have the resilience to bounce back on a daily basis. And if, and if you can do that, if you can stick with it for the long haul, the rewards are, are unbelievable.


Joshua Sable (25:40):
And, and many of them fall in that memory making machine worlds, because you get to hold onto this unbelievable collection of memories from your career, and you get to make a difference in the life of a young person and perhaps be ingrained in their memory as a person who made a difference or a program who made that made a difference or an idea that inspired them to get into politics or teaching or mathematics or construction or whatever they want to get into. We have this amazing responsibility as educators to pass these people on to the next stage in their life. And it’s, and it’s an amazing opportunity to make a difference and to ultimately make the world a better place.


Sam Demma (26:25):
Some of them wants to reach out to you and hear a little bit more about anything that we talked to today. That could be from a different province, different country, want to bounce some ideas around what’s the best way to reach out to you and have that conversation.


Joshua Sable (26:36):
Yeah. I, you know, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that you can’t find me on Facebook. You can find me on my wife’s Facebook. I do have an Instagram account, but it’s not public it’s private. Email is the number one best way to do that right now. I probably will have a website coming out a little bit later on this year for student leadership and training and workshops and all that fun stuff, but that’s not out yet. So the best way is through email I’ll it’s a long one. So I’ll say it a bit slowly. It’s jsable@tenembaumchat.org, and hopefully no one falls asleep or takes a nap now. So it’s great. S as in Sam, a B as in Bob, L as in Larry E that’s my name jsable@tanenbaumchat.org, which is my school. She hasn’t Tom a N as in Nancy, E N as in Nancy, B as in Bob eight U M as in Mary, C as in Charles, H as in hello, a T as in tom.org.


Sam Demma (27:37):
Awesome. Josh, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. This has been phenomenal, and you’ve definitely done many interviews before, and I can’t wait to see your website.


Joshua Sable (27:46):
Thanks so much for having me, Sam and good luck with everything. You’re you’re an inspiration for many people. So thanks for, thanks for doing this.


Sam Demma (27:54):
Another action packed interview with veteran teacher and memory maker, Joshua Sable. So many actionable ideas that you can take away from this episode. If you want more, definitely reach out to Josh and please consider if you enjoyed this taking a minute out of your day to leave a rating and review some more educators. Like you can find these episodes of this podcast and benefit from the conversations we’re having right now with all these educators. And if you are someone who has ideas to share an inspiring stories about the impact of education on young people, please reach out, you know, email us, info@samdema.com. So we can get your stories and actionable ideas out on the show ASAP. I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Joshua Sable

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.

Christina Raso – Experiential Learning Consultant for Sudbury Catholic School Board

Christina Raso, Experiential Lead Learner SCDSB
About Christina Raso

Entrepreneur and Educator, Christina Raso (@Christina_Raso), shares her journey in education from a new teacher to a special education consultant to most recently Experiential Learning Consultant for Sudbury Catholic Schools.

The past academic year was most memorable for Christina as she temporarily returned to the classroom to support the teacher shortage. In her teaching time, she entered her class and St. David Elementary School in the Mindshare Technology School of the Future Contest earning third prize in the national contest. 

Connect with Christina: Email | Twitter | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

The YMCA of Northeastern Ontario

Skills Ontario & Ian Howcroft

Mindshare Technology Contest

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high-performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s guest is an entrepreneur and educator and her name is Christina Raso. She shares her journey in education from new teacher to special education consultant to most recently experiential learning consultant for Sudbury Catholic schools. The past academic year was most memorable for Christina. As she temporarily returned to the classroom to support the teacher shortage. During her teaching time, she entered her class at St. David Elementary School in the Mindshare technology school of the future contest, earning third prize in the national competition. Change is something that Christina is familiar with, especially because she also has a roots in entrepreneurship, which she talks about a little bit on this podcast as well. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this interview and I will see you on the other side…


Sam Demma (01:24):
Christina, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about the journey that brought you to where you are today in education?


Christina Raso (01:35):
Well, first of all, thank you, Sam, for the opportunity to share my story. My name is Christina Raso and I am the experiential learning lead for Sudbury Catholic. And I guess if we talk about my journey it started a long time ago. Believe it or not, I’ve been in education for over 20 years and it was my second career. So I think it’s important to talk about where I started and having parents that were immigrants I think is really important because they value education. Not that other people don’t value education, but they really have a sense of you know, coming to a new country work ethic and the importance of going to school and having higher education. So my dream when I was younger was to own my own business and to be an entrepreneur.


Christina Raso (02:32):
And my parents said, yeah, of course, you can do about all of that, but first you need to get an education and a degree I, I received, but I had to get one. So I did that. So while I was going to university, I knew that I wanted to be a business owner. So I started selling women’s clothes at different you know, summer events and then flea markets and things like that. So it actually paid for my university. And then when I graduated with my degree, I was able to full force and I opened up for a ladies clothing store in Sudbury. And that’s kind of where things began for me in education is that I did that for over 10 years, but in that journey, I learned a lot about life skills, right. You know, working and all the challenges that go with that.


Christina Raso (03:26):
But I met a lot of young individuals and I had a lot of students that were coming for co-ops and then the teachers were giving me a little bit more of the heart to serve students, you know, the ones that were disengaged. And then it ended up that YMCA reached out to me and said, we have, you know, a group of young adults that you know, have, have quit school, but they really need some, some work experience. So I’m wondering if you can take a group and, you know, teach them how to use a cash register sales and, and work with them. So I did that. And and then, you know, I got a lot of praise and saying, you know, you’re really good at this, you know, have you ever thought of becoming a teacher because you’re really able to work with these kids and you know, teach them some things that a lot of them were able to catch on at school and things like that.


Christina Raso (04:22):
So you know, it’s just one person mentioned that, and actually I had never thought of that. And it happened that it was the day before admissions were due registration for a teacher’s college. And I put in an application and I decided that I would only apply to one school, which was, you know, an hour and a half away because I still had my business. So I figured if it was meant to be, I’d apply, I’d get in. I could do both. And lo and behold, I got accepted and I did that. And teacher’s college at that year at that time was one year. So I finished my one year and then I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. So I started to, you know, as my leases expired I closed my business down and I went into teaching full time.


Christina Raso (05:10):
And my first my first teaching assignment was a long-term assignment in a grade five class. And I did that from September to January and then a permanent position came up in the same school, but it was a special education resource teacher. And everyone says, well, you have to apply because it’s permanent. Right. And the position you’re in is not permanent. And then I felt, you know, as teacher, you get attached to your kids and I almost felt like I’m leaving these kids, but I’m still staying in the same school. I almost feel like I’m betraying them. Well, I felt that right. So you know, my colleagues convinced me saying, you know what? You have to, you know, think of yourself and your future, you’ll see the kids, you know, and things like that. So I did apply. And at that time, obviously, I didn’t know very much about special education other than what I learned in school and the little bit on life skills that I had working with some young individuals.


Christina Raso (06:08):
So I remember starting and the first day of that assignment, it would happen right after Christmas holidays. And I didn’t really even have an opportunity to say goodbye to the other students. So anyways, that all happened. And I had a father wait for me at the front of my classroom door and he wanted to meet me. So I came out and talked to me. And obviously you had heard that I was obviously a new teacher and I think he was concerned because I was taking over the class and he asked me if I’ve ever taught a student with down syndrome and I said, well, no, actually a habit. And you know, so he said to me, well, I’m going to give you a little bit of advice and tell you a little bit about my daughter who has down syndrome.


Christina Raso (06:56):
And he says, you know she’s very, very honest and she’s either going to love you or she’s not. And wow. You know, when your dad, when you have a parent that tells you that, and then, you know, you really have to perform. But anyways I stayed in that position for five years and that’s where I learned everything about teaching, because it was like a multi grade class, right. So I was teaching grade one to grade eight and it was basic literacy and numeracy skills. And it was a variety of learners. So it was students who had intellectual disabilities, but there was also some students who had a learning disability or who were a little bit behind. And, you know, the idea was for me to work with them and to get them up to a grade level or as close as possible.


Christina Raso (07:46):
So that in those five years, like I said, it really taught me almost everything. I think that I refer to back today about learning, you know, learning styles and students. And then that prepared me for my next journey, which was, I was a special education consultant for almost 13 years. So I did that for 13 years and I, and I loved it, just, you know, I felt like now, you know, I could do more, right. I had the students, I know how to work with them, but now I was at a different level. And I really, really enjoyed that. And then with all things, you know, you need to change, you know, and I most recently, so this’ll be my third year. I switched into experiential learning and as you know, experiential learning is, you know, learning by doing and reflecting and, you know, really becoming aware of maybe what careers you may want in the future with a push on the skills trades and computer science.


Christina Raso (08:50):
And actually,
I really had a, a turning point in my career, again, this well, this academic year I I’m in well, you know, and I think this happened provincially teacher shortages, right. Especially, you know, with the smaller class sizes and then, you know, with both remote and in class being offered. So when we pivoted back to online there, I think it was close to the end of March. Was it well before Easter? Anyways? we were significant short in our board of teachers. And, you know, when you’re a team player, you know, you need to do what you need to do to, to make your organization move forward. So I I talked to my supervisor and I said, you know, put me in wherever you need. I, I don’t mind going in. And so I went into a grade one, two class. So at first, at first it’s very easy to say, Hey, boss, put me in where you want, but then when you that, then you’re like, oh my gosh, what did I get myself into right now? I haven’t been in a classroom since 2007. Right. So, and I was thinking about this the other day I was using VHS videos. Oh my goodness.


Christina Raso (10:08):
Well, no, but it really puts the stress on how things were different. I left using VHS videos and now I’m now I’m teaching a virtual classroom. Right. And I haven’t been working directly with kids for, you know what, 15, 16 years. So it was a challenge, but you know, as soon as you go in, it’s like, I never left. That’s how I felt it. Right. I felt like, yeah, I have been in education this whole time. I’ve just been doing different things. I’ve been in classrooms. I just haven’t been the person that the child sees every day to talk about. And I, you know, I really missed it. And I did that for three months until they found a new teacher. I actually wanted to stay to finish the year, but I had to go back to my job. But while I was, you know, I felt like I was there three months.


Christina Raso (11:05):
And I felt that I put in you know, the things that I’m taught or what we’re taught as experiential learning leads. I put that into action. And I think that’s really important because I I’m able to do what I said we should be doing. And it works, you know, and it was great to see kids doing that. And I also had the privilege to work in a school where your administration team is very, very supportive and you know, we had also sorts of ideas and they ran with it and we did, you know, all things that would keep our students engaged. And there was also a contest that I saw that was out by Mindshare. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Mindshare technologies. Well, they have a national contest every year and this year’s theme was create a under three minute video on things that teachers do to engage students.


Christina Raso (12:07):
So I entered that with my class, but not only with my class, but with the things that we did as a school in that three months. And actually we placed one of the top three schools in Canada with title of a school of the future. So yeah, so that’s one of my proudest moments. And I also feel like that was also a turning point because I’ve been out of the classroom for so long. And then I went in and we tried all these things that we know that works. And, you know, the days that we did hands-on activities where the days that we had the most enrollment like attendance, right. You know, that when kids aren’t fully engaged, they’re going to learn they’re present. So it was great. So like one day we made bird houses and you know, the students picked up the kids at school.


Christina Raso (13:00):
And then the other thing that it’s really, really important, especially during during this time with COVID is working with your community partners. Partners are invaluable at this time. So we worked with skills Ontario, and they actually taught the students and they actually provided the free bird houses for our kids. And they taught the lesson and these kids produced, you know, put together a birdhouse. And then our school principal held a contest on decorating your bird house, according to your personal identity. And you should see the beautiful artwork from these kids. So, you know it was a great opportunity and I feel humbled and I feel that kind of goes back to full circle. Right. You know, you started in a classroom and you did all this, and then you kind of ended up back in a classroom and then it makes your perspective better. Like, I feel like when I go back to work a couple of weeks I have a new insight and you know, I feel like it’s given me more of a drive and energy to continue the work in the area of experiential.


Sam Demma (14:08):
It reminds you how impactful experiential learning is. If you take those ideas into the classroom and see such a big impact, right. It’s, it’s a great reminder. And it also reminds you that the programs that you’re bringing into the schools are having a difference and an impact when you can see it firsthand with the students. I’m curious to know where, where did your entrepreneurial drive come from at such a young age? And what were your stores called? I’m just, just curious about that real quick.


Christina Raso (14:34):
You’re going to like that. Well first of all my mom, my parents split up several years after they arrived at Canada. And so my mum was a single parent and she raised me, but she became she went to college in Canada and then opened she bought a franchise of photography franchise and I worked with her for all those years. So from, I think it was 1985 to when I graduated first degree in 1993, I worked with my mom and she had four locations as well. So I ended up, you know, pretty much managing one location and she did the other three. And then I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. And a funny thing is I, I still have a business on the side, but we can talk about that later. But my businesses were called Sono Bella, because of what they’re.


Christina Raso (15:29):
So I’m beautiful because of what I wear. So I kept that email address for my personal, so that’s what I do, but yeah, and that’s, you know we worked you know, when you’re, self-employed, you can work any 12 hours of the day you pick, right. I can nine at that time, I was trying to tell my son, right. It’s different work ethic. Right. And, you know, he’s tired after working 16 hours a week and I’m like 16 hours a year age, you know, go to school, then work, it’s still do my homework and I wasn’t tired, but you know,


Sam Demma (16:00):
That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing.


Christina Raso (16:03):
No problem.


Sam Demma (16:05):
And what are some of the programs and things that you’ve brought to your schools over the past three years that you think have made a great impact and a difference, and maybe you can even talk to some of the impact that you’ve seen or heard, you know, based on a program that you’ve brought in.


Christina Raso (16:20):
So I think one of the biggest, biggest things that I was involved with was building a community partnership, especially with skills Ontario. I think if I look back in my three years and, you know, your first year you know, when, when you’re talking about my first year, it was COVID started too. Right. So even a full year, right. I, I think I started I didn’t even start in September. I think I started in November and then COVID hit in March. Right. So that year was kind of wasted and that not wasted, but it wasn’t a normal year for someone to go into a new role and to learn the position because it was completely a different position. But the biggest thing that I got from that is working with your community partners and they have so many programs and contests that engaged kids that you can’t go wrong.


Christina Raso (17:16):
So skills, Ontario, which started contests just after the pandemic kit. And we knew that students were learning remotely. So they started these contests called skills at home, and they were challenges for kids to do. And so what I was doing was I was promoting them and it was really important that I found that educators don’t always relate that some of these activities can be integrated into the curriculum. They’re not extras or add-ons, they’re things that you can do and make it part of learning. So they had all sorts of contests and our board, we had, I think we had five students place in CA in Ontario in their contests. So I was promoting those. So the last year and a half, I was promoting those contests. And then the contests, when I was a teacher in the classroom, I was pushing it.


Christina Raso (18:22):
So I’ll give you one example. So the one contest was on wacky hair. So I had a grade one, two class, and I said you know what, we are going to have some fun. We are going to work on wacky hair. And I made it into a procedural writing assignment. So I told the students that what we’re going to do is we are going to create a wacky hairdo. So we’re going to draw it. And then we’re going to write, how do you actually do that hair style? And during that week, so I did it over a week. So on Monday, you know, I read stories about you know, wacky hair, which Stephanie’s ponytail by Robert munch. And so we really did a lot of reading and writing that related to, you know, wacky hair. And then on the Friday we made it wacky hair day.


Christina Raso (19:12):
And like I said, I was very lucky to work in a school where the administration took that idea and made the entire school have a wacky hair day. Nice. So what ended up happening specifically on that one contest was we actually placed first, second and third in Ontario in one school. So I, my personal students placed first and third and then another student in the school place. Second. So it’s just something where you embrace your partnership. And again, hands-on right. Students are working hands-on and you have to see the hairdos that these students made. So the one student that plays first, she took a root beer pop bottle and put a ponytail through it and then put a cup on a headband. So her ponytail ran into the cup. So it looked awesome.


Christina Raso (20:07):
Hopefully you can cut that part out. No worries. That’s totally fine. I can cut it out. Sorry. so anyways, that’s one thing that we really worked with was the partnership, and then they provided us the bird houses, but I think a lot of things that I’m most proud of is is bringing hands-on activities to the classroom. And a lot of things are inexpensive too, right? So some of the ideas were making a bridge with marshmallows and straws. So a lot of times we feel that, you know, we don’t have the resources to make these things hands-on, or they cost too much, but, you know, when we look around, you know, we can find things that really work and engaged kids.


Sam Demma (20:53):
Yeah. I love that. I actually interviewed Ian Howcroft on the podcast as well, the director of skills, Ontario.


Christina Raso (20:59):
Awesome. Awesome. I was going to say that would be a, another guy to to invite because definitely doing a lot of things, but I feel that contests seem to really engaged our students. Like, you know, whether, whether it’s a big prize or a small prize, but it’s just a matter of you know, saying, Hey, you know, you know, we’re whether it’s a class contest or a school contest, I think that that helps us to engage kids, you know, a little bit of competition friendly, you know, is good.


Sam Demma (21:31):
And why do you think experiential learning is so important? You know, like if teachers are like, ah, yeah, I get it. But you know, we’re really busy and we have to get through the curriculum. Like, what would you say? Like why, why is this type of learning really important for life and also future aspirations?


Christina Raso (21:49):
Yeah, there’s a lot of reasons. And I think I’d start with the first one is that learning in a classroom is learning within the four walls, but not all students do well and not all students are made to go to university or college. Right. And hands-on, hands-on opportunities open the pathways to all those, right. You can be hands-on and still go to university and still go to college and still go into the trades and still go into the world of work. And I think when I think back of my experience working as a special education resource teacher, I think as some of those students that were disengaged, right, because they were having a hard time learning to read and to write. And I think if we gave them the hands-on activities we’re still meeting the curriculum because you still have to read instructions.


Christina Raso (22:42):
You’re still doing math, especially, you know, if, if you’re building something and I think that by giving students these experiential hands-on opportunities, we’re hitting a range of learners. Right. And you know, when, you know, you think of computer science, you know, it is hands-on, it is building, you know, and I think of the students that I had that, you know, a lot of them would be going to college and university, but there was also a large portion of those students that didn’t see themselves going to college or university and, you know, they were going to the world of work, or maybe they didn’t even see themselves going to the world of work. You know, maybe they thought, you know, they’d live on a disability pension, but when we’re looking at hands on activities and, you know, thinking of baking and cooking and, you know, there’s so many opportunities for our students that give them the opportunity to feel valued and needed in our community.


Christina Raso (23:42):
And I think of, you know, you know, chef helper or prep, you know, for these kids that thinking that, you know, they would just, you know, they, some of our students who have intellectual disability, you may stay at school until 21 because there’s really nothing else for them in our community. You know, we have one, you know, we’re at Northern community, so it’s not like we have all these big partnerships with companies and organizations. So we have one community partner that takes some of our students to work, but what about the other ones? So if we invest in them and they see themselves as, yeah, I, you know, I could do this, they could still get a disability pension and they still can work part time and feel valued. You know, every pathway is valued, but you know, if we can help kids see that there’s more for them and that they’re needed, especially in the skilled trades. Right. We know that we are already experiencing a shortage. Can you imagine five, seven years from now? So we really need to convince some of these kids who don’t see themselves going to post-secondary that there’s other pathways and there’s lots that they can do.


Sam Demma (24:52):
Every path is an option. Every student learner is unique, you know? I can agree with that more you yourself out of all the positions you’ve worked what are some of your favorites or not that you could rank them per se, but what are some of the roles that, you know, really stick out in your mind as like, this was such a great experience?


Christina Raso (25:16):
Well, I, I think one of the biggest things that I did and was when I was a special education consultant I ran some summer camps. The ministry of education gives us some funding to run summer camps for students who are behind in literacy and numeracy. And one thing that they really promoted was physical activity. It’s really important for our students to, to, you know exercise daily. And how can we incorporate that with summer camp, but still make, you know, literacy and numeracy the main focus of the program. So at that time my son was taking TaeKwonDo and he was doing it for a few years and he had a really, really awesome teacher as well. And TaeKwonDo, who’s actually a full-time stuck person now. Yeah. So I got him to teach our kids and he was doing just half an hour of physical activity in the morning, but it was TaeKwonDo.


Christina Raso (26:24):
So was kicking, you know kicking punching, but, you know, individual not and teaching the importance of self control at the same time. Right. and mindfulness. And we started every morning probably for a good six years with a half an hour of TaeKwonDo and mindfulness. And we felt that the students were better prepared to learn, you know, and, and, you know, and then the research does show, right? When students do exercise every morning that they’re, they become better learners. Whether they come to school then are not awake and then they become energized because they’re doing activity. So I felt that that was something that I really took away is that exercises important. And, and when I was teaching the grade one, two class most recently, you know, now we’re sitting in front of a computer for a long, long time.


Christina Raso (27:20):
And by the way, I can not teach TaeKwonDo. I did not do that, but, you know, grade one and two we got up a lot and we did a mind break, right? We needed mind breaks. And, you know, we did, you know, two or three minutes, I would say every 45 minutes an hour would be pushing it, but we would get up and we’d have a mind break. And I, I still think that if I was going back into the classroom and it was in a physical classroom, I still would incorporate that ability to get up and move because a lot of us, you know, I mean, I found it difficult to sit in front of the computer and I’m an adult. And you imagine, you know, these are little kids, like, I think of how old they are. And we’re asking them to sit in front of a computer, right.


Christina Raso (28:07):
First, really six hours, you know a day. And we’re asking them to do that. And they, they are doing it right. Like kids have stepped up to the challenge right. Of online learning whether they want to or not. So I think that that would be the other thing is incorporating physical activity, mindfulness and mind breaks into the classroom is really important. And it goes without saying the other thing that you know, I know you’re an advocate is positive reinforcement, right. And really, really motivating our students for them to be able to see themselves something great, right. Whatever they choose, they’re going to be great in life.


Sam Demma (28:50):
It’s so true. It’s so true. It reminds me, I’m working on a, and this is classified information, so don’t share it, but I’m working on a spoken word album. So it’s like 10 spoken word poems that I’m going to turn into videos as well. And one of them is called empty backpack. And the premise is that students and all humans carry around the thoughts and opinions of other people sometimes to a fault. And it weighs them down and a parts in our lives. We have to empty our metaphorical bag of the thoughts and opinions of everyone else and stop carrying it around. And yeah, I’m excited about it. It’s a, I have a six foot bag that I’m going to be bringing to schools with me and people are going to like drop it. Yeah, that’d be cool. Anyways, going on a tangent, this has been great. So if you could go back in time, Christina, and like talk to your younger self when you were in your first year, working with young people, knowing what you know now, and based on the experiences you’ve had and the learning you’ve had, what advice would you give your younger self?


Christina Raso (29:48):
My younger self. So my younger self when I first started teaching, I’m going to go back to to being a special education resource teacher. I think knowing what I know now I would have done more of the hands-on right. So I think that I would have brought in those opportunities being able to bring in those hands-on opportunities. I could see that, you know, I had a couple of boys that were really, really disengaged. And I think, you know, if I would have given them a couple of activities or a couple of assignments to say, Hey, here here’s some blocks, or here’s some things I want you to do work on this. Can you create this or give them a problem and give them, you know, some materials to figure it out, I think, and, and to promote the skilled trades. Because I think at that time, the group of students I had were really at risk of dropping out, right. Not finishing high school, there was a good percentage of them. And I think that if I would have given them more hands-on opportunities and maybe even promoted the skill traits so that they could see themselves in those roles I think that’s what I would have done know.


Sam Demma (31:04):
That’s awesome. And coming from a European family myself, all my uncles work in the trades, my dad is a plumber by trade, such a valid, an awesome career path. I couldn’t agree with that more. Oh, it’s awesome. Thank you so much for taking your time to come on the show, share your experiences or your, your ups and downs, the learnings, the journey. If another educator is listening and they just want to reach out and have a conversation, what would be the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Christina Raso (31:30):
They can email me and I think that you started a community. So I guess my email would be there and then they could reach out or they can call me and anyway, whatever they want. And it’s definitely been truly an honor, actually, to meet you and to be on your show.


Sam Demma (31:49):
I appreciate it, Christina, thank you so much. Keep up with us and work and we’ll talk soon. Thank you.

Sam Demma (32:01):
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 signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Christina Raso

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.

Alexandra (Allie) Raper – Signature Programs, Senior Specialist at Canadian Cancer Society

Allie Raper Youth Relay For Life, Canadian Cancer Society
About Allie Raper

A quote that has inspired Allie in all her pathways and endeavours…

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. – Aristotle

Allie believes that when we learn, we grow and when we learn what we love, we are cultivating culture and wisdom. Allie has completed an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Justice, Political Philosophy, and Law and a minor in Political Science at McMaster University where she grew a passion for working with youth. In her time at McMaster, she worked with hundreds of students on an annual basis in a range of fields varying from advocacy, student experience, and athletics.

Now as the Senior Specialist on the Relay For Life Youth Team at the Canadian Cancer Society, Allie works to inspire, empower, and instill leadership in post-secondary students on a National level. On stage, Allie brings an energy that is infectious, a passion that’s undeniable, and a smiling face gazing back at you. And as a young professional, Allie embraces new challenges while also motivating others around her to do the same and become the changemakers that each of us is”.

Relay for Life hosts 260 schools across Canada (annually), and they are always trying to grow that number too. To get involved please visit www.relayforlife.ca/youth

Connect with Allie: Email | Twitter | Linkedin | Instagram

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Candian Cancer Society

Youth Relay for Life

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 (00:03):
Allie welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by just introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about the journey that brought you into a position to working with young people today?


Allie Raper (00:16):
I definitely will. Thank you so much, Sam, for having me here today. I’m so excited to chat with you and about leadership and about relay for life and so much more that we’re going to dive into. So this is a loaded question, but for myself, it there’s a couple of different experiences that really inspired me to work with youth. But I think the one that stands out is that not too many years ago, I myself was a youth looking to get involved and to make a difference. And I think that is something that, you know, stuck with me being able to grow in leadership opportunities myself, and then being able to give that back to students as well has been a really full circle experience. And I think working with youth is so special in the sense that they can accomplish so many incredible things. And so many people unfortunately underestimate our youth, but when they put their mind to something and they’re passionate about creating change and they’re passionate about a cause what they’re able to do, the results are just incredible and so impressive. So definitely a full circle experience as to how I got to working with youth as definitely starting out as one of them. But I’ll get into a little bit more about my story. I think in some of the questions coming up.


Sam Demma (01:29):
I love that. That’s amazing. And at what age were you introduced or exposed to student leadership? Was it a high school thing for you? Like, take me back there and explain how it kind of came about for you.


Allie Raper (01:40):
So I remember even being as little as, you know, in recreational soccer teams and things like that. And my mom getting me off the field and saying, Allie, don’t boss people around on the field, or, you know, Allie, you guys are a team work together. And it’s one of those things where it has a little kid. I just always kind of loved that idea of working together and creating a team and kind of wanting to instill that sense of leadership on to other people as I, of course got older, that definitely shaped into more concrete examples. So when I was in elementary school, we had like a primary junior student council. And then I continued my involvement in high school in student council capacities. And then in university is really where my leadership journey took off. I was involved with residence life as a resident orientation advisor.


Allie Raper (02:34):
I was involved with different extracurriculars such as really for life, our student union. I was the manager at one of our student restaurants and so many more different opportunities like that. So it definitely started when I was younger, but it really, really shaped itself full circle when I was in university and came to fruition there. And I think the coolest part looking back on it as there’s a difference between being a leader and putting that hat on, you know, just to have a role or just to be in a position, but there’s a difference when you get to lead something that you are excited about. And I’ve really tried when I was in university to shape things that I was involved in into my interests. And that kind of catapulted me into the role that I am in today. Because cancer touched my life in a few different ways and it really inspired me to want to create a bigger change in leadership capacities to getting me to where we are today.


Sam Demma (03:30):
That’s amazing. And when you think back to your own educational journey, growing up, going through school, did you have teachers, educators that played a pivotal role in your development and believing in you, and maybe you can remember some of those stories or some of those individuals, and can you share something?


Allie Raper (03:48):
Of course. So I do remember my student council teacher I went to high school, might be Ontario and I had a wonderful student council advisor. And I remember being in grade 10 and a little bit nervous to take on a bigger role. I was a great liaison and didn’t know really what I wanted my role to kind of look like. And she saw something in me where I had a lot of interest in athletics. I have a lot of interest in extracurriculars and really trying to bridge that gap. And this teacher sat me down and actually together, we created a new role for student council that has been on a high school student council for 10 plus years. Now I want to say so since I’ve been out of high school and in that moment, it just kind of showed me that, wow, you know, leadership, isn’t fitting one box, it’s not checking off a few things to fit a certain mold, but it’s when someone sees something in you that they’re able to shape an opportunity together with you. And that year we were able to a lot of new things that our high school had never done before, just based on the capacity of that new role that was created. And I think the role was something along the lines of athletics communications officer, but still to this day is such a unique title in itself when you think about structures and whatnot. So pretty cool thing. And, and it was great that that teacher saw something in me that continued for years to come.


Sam Demma (05:10):
Yeah. Oh, that’s amazing. And a lot of the educators are listening to this. Sometimes they don’t even realize the impact they have. Like, you’re the perfect example of someone who was impacted as a young leader and then continue down that journey and is now doing such amazing work in the world. So for them, it’s just kind of gratifying to see it and hear it. So thanks for sharing. Yeah. And so like, tell me more about how you directly got involved with relay. So you ended university and did you know that you wanted to work for relay or how did that connection happen?


Allie Raper (05:40):
Yeah, so it kind of started when I was a little bit younger. My mum is a nurse in the ER and when I was growing up, she was always involved in different volunteer opportunities. And every year her and her coworkers would do relay for life and they would do it in the community. And I remember as a little kid, you know, going to the event with her for a couple hours and seeing people walking laps and understanding that they were fundraising for a cause, but not really understanding the bigger picture, fast forward a few years. And we had a couple of family members diagnosed with cancer. And as a little kid, I think that a lot of the time, you know, your family inevitably, it tries to shelter you from some of those serious conversations. So I knew what cancer was. I knew it was something bad and something serious when someone had it, but really didn’t know the impact that it had on someone as an individual or someone’s family and community.


Allie Raper (06:35):
So when I was in university, I saw relay for life being advertised. And I had a couple friends in first year and we were like, let’s participate. You know, it’s a great event. Let’s get involved, let’s meet some more people from the school and let’s raise money for a great cause because at the end of the day, whether indirectly or directly, we all know someone who’s been affected by cancer. And it was in that moment when I attended that event, I actually have goosebumps right now as I’m explaining this. But I went to my first event in that first year of university as a participant, I just, upon walking the laps around the track and hearing all the incredible stories of the different survivors speakers, I had this inkling that it was just something that I needed to be a bigger part of. And that same year actually I lost my grandfather to cancer.


Allie Raper (07:24):
And that was one of the first times where I was like, wow cancer really does have monumental effects that, you know, people don’t always talk about if there’s not an outlet to talk about. So that was kind of something that really inspired me to continue to be more involved. And then I was on our committee for the next couple of years. And then my final year at university, I was the head chair that led the event. And throughout those next three years, my other grandfather was also diagnosed. I had an aunt diagnosed and an uncle and a friend at university as well. So, you know, when it rains, it pours, they say, but it was definitely one of those moments where I felt like I was in the right spot at the right time and doing something that was really impacting the loved ones in my life that previously I hadn’t anticipated was going to affect me so close.


Allie Raper (08:16):
But I think that’s kind of with anything serious, you know, we all think it’s not affecting us right now. It’s not, it’s not going to, you know, we’re kind of in the clear until it happens to you. So cancer definitely has a close connection to my heart. And, and then coming out of university the gentlemen who was actually in my role previously, who worked with me as a student at McMaster kind of shoulder, tapped me upon graduation and said, Hey, Allie, you know, we’ve got some openings you should apply to work at the Canadian cancer society. And as a new grad, I’m, I’m sitting there thinking no way, I’m not qualified. I am not eligible like definitely. And a quick realization that, Nope, you, you are eligible. You are very well qualified to do this and take that jump and leap of faith and apply. And so I did, and that was just over three years ago as of last week. So it’s been three great years with the Canadian cancer society ever since.


Sam Demma (09:13):
What a story. Holy cow. Thanks for sharing.


Allie Raper (09:15):
No problem

.
Sam Demma (09:18):
So three years with the Canadian cancer society, how long running the relay program?


Allie Raper (09:24):
Yeah, so all three have been with relay on the relay for life youth team. However the difference has been I was working with high school programs up until this past June, and then since June, 2021, I’m now working with our national post-secondary program. So same concepts, just different audiences now, essentially, but the relay for life youth team for all three years.


Sam Demma (09:50):
Cool. And what is relate for people who have no idea what relay is? Maybe you can share a little bit about the impact.


Allie Raper (09:57):
Definitely. So relay is first and foremost, a fundraising event held through the Canadian cancer society. People might recognize the name from their communities from high schools, from universities and so forth. And the event is typically anywhere from six to 12 hours in a pre pandemic world. So we’ll explain a pre pandemic lens of relay first. So essentially what it is is it is an event where we come together to honor and celebrate the lives of those who’ve been affected by cancer. It’s centered around four different ceremonies. And what I love about it is that other than those four different ceremonies, every school has the ability to shape relay the way they best see fit for their school community. So the first ceremony that happens typically right at the beginning is what we call an opening ceremony. And this is where we have a cancer survivor in the community of the school or the community who comes and shares their story.


Allie Raper (10:59):
It could be a student, a staff, a parent and so forth who talks to everybody about how cancer’s impacted them shortly after that, we then go into what we call our survivor victory lap. And the idea was, this is throughout the six to 12 hours of your event. People are constantly walking the track and getting their laps in, but the survivor victory lap is the first lap of your event. So let’s imagine we are at a high school event and there’s 15 survivors. We get them yellow t-shirts to signify hope in the color of the daffodil and those 15 survivors do that first lap all by themselves while your whole school is on the sidelines, cheering them on. I can’t give it justice by just explaining it. I’m getting goosebumps again, explaining it, but it’s so powerful to see that happen. And just to see, you know, how much impact and support a school has given me survivors.


Allie Raper (11:55):
So that is the second part. Then later on in your event, probably the most signature feature of a relay is what we call the luminary ceremony. So people might otherwise know this as the white decorated paper bags, but everyone at your relay gets a luminary and they decorate on it, why they relay. So for example, mine, every year says I relay for both my grandfathers, my aunt and uncle, like I mentioned, and my friends. So that’s my personal luminary. And now picture later on lining a track with hundreds of decorated luminaries, with a little tea light in it, where later on you do a lap to a more slower song, and you’re reading the hundreds of reasons why your school is coming together and relaying it’s yeah, it’s very special and it’s, it’s incredible to really see that because no two stories are the same and, you know, we’re all connected by the same cause.


Allie Raper (12:49):
So that’s the third piece. And the last piece of the event is closing ceremonies. So what that typically looks like is a big thank you for coming to our event. And very exciting people announce what the school has raised in as their fundraising total, I’m going, it’s always great to see when schools exceed and reach their goals that they set. And then following that that’s the end of the event, but all throughout those six to 12 hours, the school can plan any form of entertainment they want to do any games, any kind of areas and so forth or different theme laps. So for example, staffer students games maybe, you know, like an arts corner maybe having a varsity sport, play a scrimmage or something like that, a talent show, the list goes on and on, and the students get to shape the whole event, which is really amazing.


Sam Demma (13:38):
That’s awesome. And how many events roughly happen per year if you keep like some stats on it?


Allie Raper (13:45):
Of course. So annually on average, you work with over 260 schools across Canada, and that we’re always trying to grow that number too. So we are working a lot more so in recent years to grow it nationally outside of Ontario. And that’s been really exciting to see other provinces and territories get really involved as well.


Sam Demma (14:03):
Awesome. And if a school is interested and wants to learn more like what would be the best way for them to do so?


Allie Raper (14:09):
So they can reach out to us via email qt relayyouth@cancer.ca so, relayyouth@cancer.ca or on our Instagram as well, which is just @youthrelay are the two easiest ways to get in touch with us.


Sam Demma (14:24):
Great. And, you know, you kind of brushed over the fact that COVID is here. So what are some of the challenges that relay has been faced with and the fundraising goals because of COVID and how are you guys striving to figure it out and still continue moving along?


Allie Raper (14:39):
Yeah. What a what a two plus years it’s been a, like, I don’t think any of us anticipated to be a miss landscape for this long, but here we are. So something I’ve been finding myself saying a lot and reflecting on has been, you know, COVID stopped and changed a lot of things, but it didn’t stop and change cancer. It didn’t stop and change leadership and it didn’t stop and change, you know, our means to be able to make a difference in an impact. Yeah. So it’s been really great to see students still rise to the occasion and just flip their mindset as to, you know, how can we still take the special parts of relay and incorporate them into a re-imagined event. So what our team did this year is we essentially took those four key parts of relay those four ceremonies and reflected on, you know, what makes relay really at its core.


Allie Raper (15:32):
How can we take those concepts and switch them into alternative methods? So this year we actually had four options for schools to choose from all across the country, depending on their restrictions. Of course, we had a restricted relay model, which was for areas who weren’t really impacted by lockdowns and didn’t have a ton of social distancing measures in place. But that was just a, yeah, it restricted relay in itself. Then we had some hybrid options as well for schools. So if they weren’t in cohorts, for example, maybe classes were taking time on their own, on their breaks to go outside and do some laps, but then you’re opening ceremonies, luminaries and so forth were all done via virtual videos that were sent out throughout the week. And then we also had a fully virtual option. So what we did in this one was we coached schools on having, you know, roughly an hour to two hour long virtual event, whether that was during school hours or after school hours, where the school’s hosted a broadcast and still had all the ceremonies and some entertainment, but just in a condensed virtual setting with the idea of going to walk in your own neighborhoods on your own time.


Allie Raper (16:42):
So it definitely was different, but something that was really cool this year, which definitely kind of inspired us, was we had a ton of new schools actually work with us this year. And it was interesting to see that because, you know, we were so nervous about asking schools to do something unknown that they’ve never done before, but schools were still so excited to take on something and seeing the resources and the options that we had outlined for them made it that much easier for them to put something into place. Yeah, so that was really, those are kind of the options.


Sam Demma (17:17):
Awesome. That’s amazing. And so for a school to get involved, do they have to pay a certain amount of money to get resources? Or how does it, what is it?


Allie Raper (17:27):
Yeah, absolutely not. So basically what it looks like is the program fully and relay in itself is student led and staff supported. And by that we mean, you know, we are giving the students and staff the tools to be successful, and we know that staff already has so much on their plates, especially in, you know, navigating to the landscape that we’re currently in, that we want students to really leverage that leadership and make relay what they want to make it. Because, you know, as a peer in high school, you’re going to be a lot more enticed to go to an event that your peers are planning as well, opposed to staff or myself planning, for example. So we actually provide schools with training resources and funding right off the bat as well. So if a school is hosting some sort of in-person or even a hybrid event in a typical year, we give schools a budget of 6% of their fundraising goal.


Allie Raper (18:24):
So it’s really nice to know that they don’t have to dip into school funds to kind of offset any event costs. And they don’t have to fundraise for the event themselves, but we want to invest in them because they’re investing in us and into the cause and into the program. So yeah, schools will set a fundraising goal and then we issue a 6% of that to them right off the bat. And then we also provide one of my favorite things actually is we provide a free leadership conference. So for high school level, we call it relay university where in a typical year, you know, we bring hundreds of people into conference centers all across the country. And they hear from survivors speakers, they network with other students and staff. They do breakouts. They go through mock ceremonies of relay and so much more, and they get a full complimentary conference day and last year to account for COVID.


Allie Raper (19:16):
We did our first ever national virtual relay university, which was really cool too. So, yeah. And then the other resource we provide to, to make things again, as easy as possible is we provide a full Google drive full of resources. So instead of having a student, you know, try to create a, to do list themselves, we’ve got a committee structure of 10 outlined or suggested roles for students to take on. They each come with a guidebook to keep them on track. They each come with resources as well. So let’s say I’m a student is a ceremonies captain for all of those ceremonies. I mentioned, we have scripts already outlined for them, and we have resources on, you know, how to have sensitive conversations and how to speak to people, living with cancer or sponsorship, for example, you know, we’ve got template letters and thank you’s that can go out to external vendors. So that way, again, students aren’t starting from scratch, but they have the resources to really then customize them and make them their own to be successful.


Sam Demma (20:15):
That’s awesome. And what keeps you motivated and inspired to continue doing this work?


Allie Raper (20:21):
I think it’s, you know, Sam, I think the easiest way to answer that is the students themselves. And when they come to me so excited to share an idea or to share a success that they had, that is why I love doing what I, what I do. You know, even the other day, I had a couple of conversations with students who did relay in high school, who have now gone on to the post-secondary level. And I was trying to see, you know, if their school, if they want to get involved through late at their school and whatnot, and they had a student text me and say, I wouldn’t miss out. I’ve already told all my friends relay was truly the highlight of my high school experience. And I want to get involved at my, at my new school. So it’s little things like that that you just kind of reflect back on.


Allie Raper (21:05):
And you’re like, you know, those conversations we had or those coaching sessions, when, you know, these students were in high school, they’ll stick with them. And the impact that they make are being able to reflect and look back and say, I ran an event that raised $80,000 at my high school. That’s not something that, you know, a lot of students can say, but for them to be able to put that on a resume and talk about that, it’s, it’s really incredible. And I think the other thing, as well as it’s rewarding, but it’s also a sensitive piece in the sense that seeing when students are able to grieve and process a loss through relay is also really special in the sense that, you know, if a school doesn’t do relay for life for having an outlet, some students, you know, maybe going through a loss in their family or in their life or undergoing a diagnosis of cancer themselves. But if they don’t have an outlet to share that with it can be really tough sometimes, but relay really unites everyone as to, you know, we’ve all been affected with, you know, one in two Canadians being affected by cancer. We truly have all been affected in our lifetimes. And when I’ve see those students kind of break out of their shell or share their personal vulnerable stories and, and be confident about that, that’s something that’s really, really special to me.


Sam Demma (22:20):
That’s awesome. This has been a phenomenal conversation, Allie, thank you so much for taking some time to chat about relay your own experience, growing up with it and what keeps you going and how schools can get involved. One more time, if anyone wants to reach out or get in touch with you, what would be the best way for them to do so?


Allie Raper (22:36):
Yeah, I’m, I’m looking forward to hopefully getting some people to reach out. So this is great. So email relayyouth@cancer.ca, that’s relayyouth@cancer.ca and Instagram @youthrelay. So @youthrelay on Instagram and either one we will reach out to you and get back to you as soon as possible. And we hope to hear from many of you.


Sam Demma (22:58):
Awesome. Thanks so much, Allie, keep up the great work and we’ll talk soon.


Allie Raper (23:01):
Awesome. Thanks so much, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Allie Raper

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.

Dulcie Belchior-Demedeiros – Principal of Student Success at the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Dulcie Belchior
About Dulcie Belchior-Demedeiros

Dulcie Belchior (@MsDBelchior) has been in education for the past 20 years. She is currently the Principal of Student Success, Learning to 18 and Secondary Program at the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board where she is able to share her passion for instructional leadership, teacher development and student success. Wife, mother, educator, and bookworm!

Connect with Dulcie: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

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Resources Mentioned

Specialist High Skills Major Programs

Principal’s Qualification Courses

The Edwin Platform

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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):
Dulcie, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind what brought you to where you are in education today?


Dulcie Belchior (00:14):
Sure. Thank you for having me, Sam. So my name is Dulcie Belchior. I’m currently the principal of student success learning to 18 and secondary program at Dufferin-Peel Catholic district school board. And how I got here. Wow. That’s very complicated. I think sometimes when you talk to teachers in terms of how they, you know, they decide on their vocation, it’s kind of a twisty, twisty, turny path, and there’s so many different things that happened in their life that, you know, make them reflect on the fact that, you know, you know, I can, I can do this type of job. I can work with kids. I can be a teacher and for me, I think it, it did start early. And I think if you ask a lot of teachers and starts early, when you’re a small child, when I was four years old going into JK, I grew up in a family that spoke Portuguese.


Dulcie Belchior (01:16):
So I went to school, basically. I was born in Canada. I was born in Toronto, but I only spoke Portuguese. So I basically entered school as an ELL student. And what happened from there is I did, was able to learn the English language quickly. And so in JK, I became a mentor for the other ELL students by the end of the year, trying to teach them to speaking with, Hey, you say this, do this. This is how you say that. So I think I remember that experience even though I was very young because I think it was very important to how I became a teacher. And so it started very early there, I think in elementary school too. I was that student that kids could go to for help. So if you didn’t want to go, you know, some kids don’t want to ask the teacher, they want to ask a friend or student.


Dulcie Belchior (02:11):
So I was that kind of go-to student, but they knew that if you went to Dulcey, you weren’t going to get the answer. That’s not what you went to Dawson. I was like, I’m not going to give you the answer. I will show you how to do this. For me. That’s very important. I think as a teacher, as a person, you know, that old saying where if you teach a person to fish, you know, they will be able to survive their entire life. You don’t just give them a fish. And so even in elementary school, I, I would show them how to do it. This is how you do the math problem, for example. And I think that was, you know, that helped them more than just giving them an answer and them walking away. So I think that’s another as to, you know, my reflection as, so I can be a teacher.


Dulcie Belchior (03:03):
I, I think that’s a good vocation for me in grade seven and eight, I helped in the JK class, you know, yours do that volunteer work in, in junior kindergarten class. When I was in university, I took a bachelor of science. But throughout university, I, you know, I was able to be lucky enough to teach international language program. So I taught elementary school kids, Portuguese. So I was doing that, not as a teacher, but as a late person, teaching them the language working for Dufferin-Peel at the time. And and I am a student of deaf from as well. I know a lot of teachers go back to the board that they were a student at and that’s the same with me. So I’m a different field graduate and very proud of that. And also in university at that time, they still had emergency supply teachers.


Dulcie Belchior (03:53):
So I was doing that throughout university, even though I was taking my bachelor of science. And after graduating with a bachelor of science, then you decide, okay, well, what can I do with the bachelor of science? What, or where am I going to go? So I had my eyes set on probably maybe pharmacy. I did work at shopper’s drug Mart in the pharmacy as an assistant pharmacy assistant for my whole entire high school career in university career. So again, you know, you’re doing something, you know, you can do it, you fall into that. Maybe I’ll be a pharmacist. So that was a choice that, you know, and in life sometimes you have disappointments and that was a disappointment because I was never able to get into the program. So I did apply then to nursing and I applied to teaching. So I did have a choice then between teaching and nursing.


Dulcie Belchior (04:52):
And that’s, I think, you know, where you get to that point where you really truly have to reflect, this is my future. One of my best stat. And I think both of those careers, their careers, where you can help people in different ways, but you can help people. So I, you know, there was a lot of conversations with family, with my fiance. Who’s now my husband with some teachers. And I did decide that teaching was probably the best vocation for me. And so with all of that that long journey, I went into the bachelor of education program at York university. So that is my complicated story of how I got into teaching.


Sam Demma (05:34):
Oh, that’s not such an awesome story. I’ve never had someone tell me about mentoring other students in JK. So that’s such a cool, like origin for the story. Thank you so much for sharing. No problem. Like what happened after university? So you go into your bachelor’s at York, did you return directly to Dufferin-Peel and what different positions did you work in before getting into student success? Right.


Dulcie Belchior (05:57):
So after I graduated from New York with my bachelor of education, I was lucky enough to get a position as a teacher at Jefferson Peele. So I started my career teaching grade seven and eight at a school which no longer exists in the board. So it was near the airport in Mississauga, and it was actually called our lady of the airways, which I think is such a beautiful name for a school. But that school sends closed down. So I taught grade seven and eight for two years, and I was teaching science as well. So I was doing some rotation science because I was lucky enough to have that background. So that was an opportunity to share my talent and my joy, because I love science with the students there. So I did that for two years and in those two years, I decided to apply for the master’s program at Boise.


Dulcie Belchior (06:53):
So I started doing that part-time within the first two years of me starting teaching. So I got my master’s a couple of years later, curriculum teaching, learning department and specialized in teacher development. So I started that in my first couple of years of teaching. After that, I I applied for a position at St. Francis Xavier secondary school in Mississauga. So I was successful with the interview. So I became a high school teacher teaching science, which I love. So I was able to teach chemistry, biology grade nine and 10 science. And I was also trained to teach in the international baccalaureate program there. So I taught biology with the students there. So I got a lot of different types of experience there as well. I was able to help support the student council there cause I love student council because I was the president of student council at father Michael Gates when I was a high school student.


Dulcie Belchior (07:57):
So I thought, you know, I think that’s something that I can help students with. So I supported them there as well after teaching at St. Francis Xavier for many years, I decided it was time for a change time for another challenge. So I started taking my principal’s qualification courses and I got my PQP part one and part two. And I went into the interviews for a vice principal position at the board and was successful. And my first position as a vice principal was at St. Margaritaville secondary school in Brampton. So I worked there for approximately four years, and then I was a vice principal at father Michael Gates. The school that I actually graduated high school from, which was a little weird sometimes, sometimes going back as a VP within some of the teachers who were still there, but it was a great experience. So I was a VP there for years. Then I became a principal and I was a principal at St. A Dustin secondary school in Brampton for one year. And from there, I became the, my current time in the current position. Now the principal student success learning to 18 and secondary program. So that’s how, again, I found myself where I am to.


Sam Demma (09:18):
That’s awesome. What does the role entail? You know, student success and secondary programs, you know, certain educators are sitting might not be familiar with it, especially if they’re outside of Canada. So what does it, what does it entail? What does it look like and why are you passionate about it? What do you think student success means?


Dulcie Belchior (09:38):
I’m passionate about student success because my model, or, you know, what motivates me is that I want to inspire a love of learning in every student. Students need to see themselves in the learning. They need to see themselves be successful in the learning and our jobs. As teachers, as educators, is to provide the environment where they will be successful, not where they can meet, where they will be successful. And I think having this position at a system level really helps me help the principals, the administrators in the schools, and helps the teachers in the schools as well to provide professional development, to provide resources, to provide critical and culturally responsive resources for schools that will have students be able to number one, see themselves in the learning and number two, be successful at that learning. So again, that student success encompasses a lot of things that are in campuses, programs like, oh, yeah.


Dulcie Belchior (10:45):
Program programs like SHSM and even programs where students who may not have been successful in the past, I may have left school without graduating can come back and we invite them back to finish and to graduate and to get that opportunity to do that at a time in their life where they’re ready to do that. So I think there’s so many layers to this job where it it’s exciting. It’s exciting. And it’s a job where you can show people that teaching is not just filling a bucket full of knowledge. And here you go, that’s your knowledge, okay. It’s igniting a flame in students and in teachers and in all educators where everyone loves to learn, they see themselves as learners, they see themselves being successful and they can move forward and do what they are passionate about. So they have an opportunity to actually see what they’re passionate about, to experience things, different things so that they can make choices for their future, which is the most important thing.


Sam Demma (11:54):
I love that. And where did your passion for student success come from? Was it originally something that you wanted to explore and try, or did you know that it was something you were, you know, extremely passionate about?


Dulcie Belchior (12:07):
It’s something I’ve always been extremely passionate about. And as you know, when I became an administrator was an opportunity to become that instructional leader for teachers. And so when I started having that opportunity to pass on this passion, I guess, for students success for, you know, instructional leadership for assessment, for evaluation, for rich tasks, just doing a lot of great teaching whenever I had the opportunity to share that with others, I took it. And I think now in this position, it’s, it’s just a perfect place where I’d love to share different experiences, different resources, different opportunities, different types of professional development so that our educators can, you know, we’ll be able to ignite that flame in all of our students.


Sam Demma (13:05):
I love that. That’s awesome. That’s so cool. And what do you think right now are some of the challenges that we’re faced with in education and on the other coin, also some of the opportunities that these challenges may be bringing to us and, you know, a very difficult scenario.


Dulcie Belchior (13:23):
Well, I think, you know, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, which is COVID-19. And I think that’s been a huge challenge in education, especially since we’ve had to pivot sometimes on a daily basis and where educators have had to really, really change their mindset on what teaching and learning looks like. And students have had to change their mindset on what learning looks like. And, you know, going into a digital type, only learning has really pushed everyone to a new level. We really have been forced to become 21st century learners. And I think that is an opportunity in itself. So it is a great positive where we’ve learned how we can leverage digital technology as a wonderful tool to help students learn because that’s how they learn. That’s how they interact. That’s how they socialize. So it’s something they’re familiar with, which helps them be successful.


Dulcie Belchior (14:29):
Now, I don’t think that it should become the only thing that’s not what teaching and learning is about, but it is a wonderful tool that we can leverage in our classrooms. And I think so that’s been a challenge in itself, and I think it’s also an opportunity for the future. I think coming back in September, some of the challenges are going to be that, you know, students and staff, even though, and we’ve heard this before, we’ve all been in the same storm of COVID-19. People have been traveling through this storm in different vessels, different boats, sometimes a dinghy, sometimes a piece of driftwood. And now they’re coming back and we’re all going to be interacting with each other and we need to be kind, we need to be compassionate. We need to listen, and we need to understand that everyone is coming from a different place.


Dulcie Belchior (15:26):
So we are, we cannot, we cannot come back into our classrooms and expect everyone to be at the same level of learning at the same level of knowledge, at the same level of mental health and wellbeing, we are going to all be in different places. And I think so we have to come back with that understanding. And I think that’s the most important thing is to go slow, move slowly, listen, talk to students, get to know your learners, who’s in your classroom and what are the needs of every student in your classroom. We’re not going to go forward until we know what the needs of all of these students are because they’re all going to be different. And I think we have to change our mindset. We can’t think about it as a deficit. So, you know, the knowledge that they don’t bring in now because of COVID, that’s a deficit.


Dulcie Belchior (16:18):
No, we have to look at it as what are they coming in with and how can we move them forward? So how will we move them forward from where they’re at? So it’s not a deficit model, it’s a model of where are you at? We’re going to move you forward from there and we’re going to move everyone forward. And we’re going to use the best of our abilities to do that, but we have to do that with kindness and we have to do that with patients. And we have to know that it’s not going to happen in a day and it’s going to take a long time and that’s okay. That’s okay. Because we need to ensure that our students in our classrooms are healthy and that their well-being is taken care of and also our educators. Okay.


Sam Demma (17:06):
That’s amazing. The, you know, the cool thing, I think about student successes, that you have an opportunity to really impact a young person and not to not to say that, you know, every educator doesn’t have that opportunity. They all do, but when you’re focused solely on the success of the students, it’s, it’s a cool opportunity to make a big difference. Have you, you know, over the past couple of years being able to see the impact of some of the programs on the students directly and maybe you can share a story of one in particular that sticks out in your mind, and if it’s a serious individual, you can just change their name or just use Bob or something. Yeah.


Dulcie Belchior (17:45):
And, and in general, you’re right. It’s a great opportunity to see success and to see successes everywhere in the board. So it’s not just, you know, in one school it’s, if you have a, a program that you introduce, it’s how this supports a larger group of students or educators. So some of the things that we have done through program, number one, it has been we introduced the Edwin platform in our board for elementary students. So for grade seven and eight students, and what this platform did was actually provide students with one-on-one technology. So every student gets a laptop, a Chromebook, and the amazing things that I have been able to see, the amazing presentations, the research projects, just everything that’s coming out of the ability to change the mindset of learning and having students able to work together in a different way. And to have that one-to-one technology as a tool, it’s also helped the teachers change their mindset in how they teach in the classroom.


Dulcie Belchior (18:59):
And this was introduced before COVID. And I think that it benefited when we went into COVID with students already being kind of immersed in this type of learning. So it changes the way that they learn. It changes the way that they can present their ideas. You can do so many rich tasks using technology when students have it one on one. So I think that’s been great. And you see it, I see it in a large capacity, right? And students in general, families in general teachers saying how wonderful it is to have these things in their classrooms and how it has opened their minds to so many different ways of teaching and the different things that students can do. Students in JK, for example, coding, using the computers, we introduced a lot of different types of coding resources. And we, for example, the Bee-Bots, so it’s a little B that junior kindergarten students can actually code to move around a carpet or a floor.


Dulcie Belchior (20:15):
And they are learning coding at four years old, five years old. And that’s just, it’s amazing. So when you see videos that teacher’s tweaked videos, that teachers send us of their students working together in groups using these, Bee-Bots knowing that number one, they’re having fun. You can see that they’re having fun. Number two, they love to do it. And they’re learning a new language. This is a completely new language, and they’re learning it at four years old. It’s just amazing to that happening. So that was another thing that we did. I think another important thing in program that we’ve worked on is ensuring that, you know, we’re working on getting co culturally responsive and relevant resources into our secondary classrooms and our elementary libraries as well. But especially into our English classes, getting books where students can feel like they’re being represented, like they’re being reflected in the learning different characters relevant topics.


Dulcie Belchior (21:25):
And, you know, the letters that we have received from different students who were asked, here’s a book, let’s read it as a class. Give us your feedback on the book. What do you think, do you think students in your grade will like this book? Do you think it’s culturally responsive? Do you think it’s relevant to your generation right now? And the letters that I received from students saying, wow, thank you for actually asking that question. Thank you for having students involved in what we’re going to learn. You know, thank you for asking us, is this relevant to me as a student? And so again, I come back to that listening, understanding, knowing where kids are and, and asking the questions, you know, is this good for you? Will this help you learn? Will this help you love learning? Will this help you be successful? And I think that’s one of the biggest things that we’ve worked on that I find has been very rewarding. And we’re still working on that. It’s a large project obviously, and, you know, it takes time, but we’re working on it. So I think that’s been wonderful.


Sam Demma (22:37):
That’s amazing. And if you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, like, you know, first year teaching, but what the advice and knowledge you have now, what advice would you give to your younger self?


Dulcie Belchior (22:50):
I think when you’re when you’re a new teacher, and I think back when I was a new teacher, it’s almost like you’re in survival mode and you, you think, oh, I just got to get through all of this information. I just have to teach, you know, I have to ensure that everything in this book is done and the kids get it and they all understand it. And it’s all good and done. So if I’ve covered it, I’m good. I think the advice that I will give is to take it slow, to take that time, to talk to every student, to get to know every student. So get to know what they love, what they’re interested in, how they learn, what they like to learn. What’s their favorite subjects and base your whole year. Everything based on that, because you can teach whatever. It doesn’t matter what you teach, but if you are not connecting with your students, they will not learn.


Dulcie Belchior (23:48):
They will not learn. So I think taking that extra time, cause I know time is always an issue and it is time is always an issue for everyone in every career. But that is so important that time that you take initially with those students will make a difference for the rest of the year and for years to come, they’ll come back. And I think that’s the one thing that students will come back and say is you took the time to know me so that I could be successful. So that’s the advice I give to any new teacher.


Sam Demma (24:21):
Love that. Awesome. They’ll see. Thank you so much for sharing some of your stories, philosophies, perspectives. If another educator is listening right now and wants to reach out to you and bounce some ideas around, talk about cool programs, what would be the best way to get in touch?


Dulcie Belchior (24:36):
Well, they can get in touch with me on Twitter. So it’s at @MsDBelchior, or they can email me at dulcie.belchior@dpcdsb.org.


Sam Demma (24:55):
Keep up the amazing work. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Best of luck with the next school year.


Dulcie Belchior (25:02):
Thanks so much, Sam. Have a great day.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Dulcie Belchior-Demedeiros

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.

Peter Prochilo – Superintendent of School Effectiveness, Sudbury Catholic District School Board

Peter Prochilo
About Peter Prochilo

Peter Prochilo (@PeterProchilo) is currently a Superintendent of Education with the Sudbury Catholic District School Board. His portfolio includes the supervision of all Secondary Schools, Secondary Curriculum, Alternative and Adult Education, International Education and the Remote/Virtual School

Peter leads with a passion for equity of access and enhanced student pathways as he supports students, staff and school communities as they collectively strive for improved outcomes for all. 

Connect with Peter: Email | Twitter | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Time Blocking

Marzano’s Evaluation Method

It’s all in your head

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high-performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is Peter Prochilo. Peter is currently a superintendent of education with the Sudbury Catholic district school board. His portfolio includes the supervision of all secondary schools, secondary curriculum, alternative and adult education, international education, and the remote slash virtual school. Peter leads with a passion for equity of access and enhance student pathways. As he supports students, staff, and school communities, as they collectively strive for improved outcomes for all. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Peter. It was an engaging one with lots of actionable ideas and insights.


Sam Demma (00:45):
Peter, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Each pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about your upbringing and what brought you to where you are today?


Peter Prochilo (01:39):
Okay. Thanks Sam. Good to be here. So my name is Peter Prochilo and i’m the superintendent of education for the Sudbury Catholic district school board with primary responsibilities around secondary programming in schools. So my educational journey began back, I guess when we can go further way back started with my, one of my older sisters being an educator and, and watching what she was doing I’m the youngest of five. And there was a large gap between me and that sister. And so I watched her and the joy education and working with children and young adults brought her. And that was sort of my, my end, if you will. And then through university, it just became more and more clear through my involvement either in coaching various sports and just my involvement in the community that it was, it was going to be my path. And so that brings me to, you know, education. I had 26 years as a, as a teacher and then a special education resource teacher consultant program principal and school principal, and then the arose to apply to my present position here in Sudbury. And it became a big big shift at at my age to to take that leap and take that leap and come and take on this role and the challenges of the role. And it’s been it’s been great.


Sam Demma (03:19):
Wow. That’s amazing. And aside from your own sister, which must’ve been a huge inspiration and motivation for you, do you recall other educators or teachers that you had when you were a student that also played a pivotal role in your, you know, your own development as a student, but maybe even inspired you to consider education as well?


Peter Prochilo (03:39):
For sure. I think a lot of those came during my years in high school where we had a number of teachers that you know, it was sort of that unwritten rule. I didn’t need to be set. They were there for students. And we were able to students were able to connect with them and B became, they became mentors if you will. And then they and, and so they were, there were some go-to people that definitely paved the way, if you will, to see what, what a career in education would be like and, and what that looks like to help others. And so at that stage, it became for me realizing that, you know, educators are really the, the gatekeepers of equity and my friends and I, my, my peer group at that time were from a certain socioeconomic status.


Peter Prochilo (04:36):
And we were able to see how, regardless of your background, regardless of where you come from everyone was treated equally. And, and I was lucky to be in a school that that was espoused, but, you know, certainly for the mentors that I reflect back on as mentors, they were really championing that idea of equity before it became it became an entity, as we know it today, right. Being immersed in curriculum, immersed in policy they were living, they were living that idea of equity. It doesn’t matter. Who’s in front of me who comes through that door, we’re all treated the same and they should all have the same opportunities to succeed.


Sam Demma (05:22):
That’s amazing. And when you think about those educators that also had a big impact on you personally, like, what do you think they did for you? Like if you had to think back, and you’re not that old, so you can definitely think back to high school for a quick second, but if you had to put yourself back into a high school classroom, like, what do you think teachers do or can do to make sure that their students feel seen, heard and appreciated and, you know, make an impact on the students in their classroom? And what did your students do for you or your teachers do for you?


Peter Prochilo (05:54):
Well, I think, you know, reflecting back, I can, I can identify it now, but in the moment it was just accessibility. They were accessible. I think when you, when I reflect back on what it means to me now is that they were really showing their humanity. Right. We saw these people in the community, they were my coaches for soccer. They were like, we’ve seen them in, you know, community events or my church, or, you know what I mean? Like they showed the human face of service really, in a nutshell, they were, they were really exemplary in putting themselves forward. And we knew, you know, even at that age and everyone comes from different backgrounds, everyone has different experiences. Everyone has different challenges. Everyone is carrying things with them that we may not know right. Or that they’re dealing with, but they came into that classroom and that building everyday best foot forward, smile on their face. It’s old time, you know what I mean? I’m really cool with that. But it was like, it was, it was game time for them. Right. And so they knew being in that space, what they, what they could meet to the students that they serve. And that really shine through because you can see the, you can easily see the difference between those that ended up being mentors of mine, to those that were not as approachable.


Sam Demma (07:16):
Yeah. I think that’s really important, you know, making your students aware that you’re there for them and that you have time for them. My, one of the things my teacher did that had a huge impact on me was get to know me on a personal level so much so that he could understand my motivation for being in his class, right. For every student, the reason you might be sitting in biology class is different. One student might want to become a scientist. Maybe I just want to take biology so I could get into kinesiology in university. Like every student had a different reason. And if you know, the reason why a student is sitting in your class, it allows you to, you know, appeal to their motivation and interests. Yeah, accessibility getting to know the student were things that had a huge impact on me as well. So thank you for sharing that. What do you think are some of the challenges we’re faced with an education right now? I mean, obviously because of COVID, there are some huge ones. But what do you think are some of the challenges we’re faced with and what are some of the opportunities within the challenging?


Peter Prochilo (08:15):
I’m glad you said that Sam, because I see COVID as presenting, of course, the challenges that we all have come to understand, but it also provides a lot of opportunities, a lot of opportunities to meet those challenges. And one of the big challenges that we’re dealing with now, and I keep coming back to the idea of equity is, is equity of access. And so it’s really important in my role and for my colleagues and for all of our system leaders and school leaders is to really look at what are what are the, what are the impediments to equity of access in a remote situation when we’ve had to cycle into remote learning and you, it really becomes a parent students that, that need need more support than others. And there’s that you’re, you’re trying to try to bridge that gap, right.


Peter Prochilo (09:06):
In terms of providing and providing access, whether it be access to technology access to, to us. And just making sure that you are always acting as a community, right? Because you, you, you tend to a situation like COVID can quickly make people think in a, more of a siloed situation, right? This is, you know, this is my department, this is what I do. And the trick has been the push has been to make sure that everyone acts continues to act and they do to act as though we’re all, we’re all together because it’s more important to be together. Especially during this time, the opportunity comes in the realization that we’ve been able to very quickly and effectively leverage technology. And so for the last 10 years in education, we’ve been looking for ways to effectively use technology in a classroom setting.


Peter Prochilo (10:07):
Face-To-Face whether you’re a fan of Marzano’s work on, you know, the triad and using technology one, you know, one piece of technology for three students working collaboratively. And now you, you see that a lot of that change has that a lot of that shift has to happen because students are either at home working right. And trying to connect. And so the beauty came out in leveraging technology effectively to maintain that community feeling. And I think that’s one of the successes that, that shines through whether it was students in the elementary panel that had a complete remote school, and may we still partnered them with their homeschool. So they have that, that connectivity, and even for secondary students, right. Because in my, in my specific role, we’re going to go into this year where students have high school students that have a four year career, I’ve had two years jumping in and out of remote situation.


Peter Prochilo (11:04):
Yeah. And so now the opportunity is to really, when they come back face to face is to really, you know, show them what that community is all about because it’s been disjointed. Right. And so the opportunity and the challenge, you know, two-sided coin, the challenge is to you know, of course, all of our colleagues and, and, and my staff are ready to do so is to welcome them back with open arms, make them feel you know, deal with that, that, that little bit of trepidation, that little bit of anxiety will coming back face-to-face and really using that as an opportunity to showcase what a school community can be. All can be all about point.


Sam Demma (11:48):
Yeah. That’s awesome. And what personally, what personally motivates you every day to continue doing this work?


Peter Prochilo (11:57):
You must have a personal driver as well. They wakes you up and keeps you going as well. Yeah. It’s a number of things, but primarily that, that idea of being a guardian of equity, right. That’s the piece for me that, you know, it’s kind of the lens. I see a lot of problems through, you know, where, where is the equity piece in this? How can we make sure that the challenges challenges are met with that, with that lens you know, we have a group of students will always have a group of students that will do very well. We’ll always have a group of students that need extra support, but sometimes I find from my own experience is that we really need to connect with all students and making sure that they all have voice choice and see themselves as learners. Right. And it’s not only, and so you’re thinking not only for these four years that we have them in high school, but we need to help all of them see themselves or the next part, right. You’re preparing them for a few weeks that you, we may not see, but you, you, you want to make sure that we give them all the, all the tools that they need to make those choices. And, and to know that they’re better for having had us in their lives through grandiose.


Sam Demma (13:23):
Makes sense. My grandfather… I think you’re Italian? I come from an Italian background in Greek as well. And my Italian grandfather Salvato was a big gardener. And he would always bring me to his backyard, gardens, tomatoes, everywhere, cucumbers, zucchini, like everything. And the more I started working with students, I realized that educators or anyone that works with youth are kind of like gardeners and you plant the seed and you do what you can to water it. And, you know, sometimes, you know, you show up one day and the tomatoes fully there, you didn’t even see it grow. Sometimes it never grows until, you know, 20 years later and you don’t even realize it. And I think that’s the same with students. You know, you, you do everything you can to set them up for success. And you know, maybe 10 years later, they come up to you and say, Hey, Pete, I remember what you told me. I remember what you told me 12 years ago and, you know, whatever class. And you’re like, I don’t even remember what I told you. How do you remember what I told you? But I’m curious to know, do you have any stories that come to mind of, you know, programs that have impacted young people within the schools you’ve worked in, or students that have come up to you or teachers that, you know, and let them know about the impact of the work has had on them?


Peter Prochilo (14:36):
I’ve been lucky to have a number of really unique experiences. And I’ve been blessed with students that have sought either sought me out or met me by happens happenstance. And you either invited me to their wedding or made a you know, a king to came to my office to show me their first born child, you know, and they wanted me to meet there and see what they become. So at one point in my career I was facilitator, I mean, educator in a classroom that was purposely designed around students who always found themselves in physical altercations. So it was a standalone class where students came to me from different schools and we worked on we worked on an educational and a social plan for six weeks at a time. Okay. And so benchmarks were six weeks and we would, we assess work with the student and the family and have them go back to their home school.


Peter Prochilo (15:45):
Right. And so these students as you can imagine, were either on the verge of being expelled have multiple multiple incidents of physical altercations and the like, and I had I can remember each of their means for the two years that I taught that class. And I can remember even up to about four or five years ago, where one of those, one of those in this case, it was a young young man. Now an adult came to me and wanted to show me his, his welding, his new truck, right. Because he’s now, he’s now an underwater welder. So he took it to you know, and he wanted he came, he sought me out at the school where I was at and made the appointment to come and see me and want to, want me to see where he, he where he, where he’s been, what he’s been doing, that was great, you know, and it was I just stopped everything right there and made time for him.


Peter Prochilo (16:57):
And and we had a good, we had a good talk and I was good, you know, it’s, it was really good to see that some of those things that we, you know, we take each of the students’ interests to heart, of course, and you, you, you deal with each student individually, but it’s, it was good to see that sort of the cumulative effect of things that I stick to and say, you know, it goes back to your garden analogy. Cause my dad was a gardener as well. And so, you know, regardless of what produced that year, I knew that my dad did the same thing to that garden every year. She might tweak a couple of things, but the care that he put into that garden was the same every year, regardless. So the same thing in this case, this young man who came back in that, you know, it may have been at that point in time, I’m teaching this young person in that, in that immediate role when he was in that class, through these steps. Right. But sometimes we don’t think that, you know, we think it’s just a process, but it’s really a a connection that you’re making with the students. Right. And we, even though we might do it repeatedly, like you say, you don’t know that effect. Right. We may wonder what happens, but it was really great that the student came back to show me yeah. He was more proud of the certificate or his truck.


Sam Demma (18:29):
That’s awesome. That’s amazing. Yeah. The phrase that my teacher taught me that had a big impact that aligns with what you just said was you just got to take consistent action and forget about the result, take the actions and forget about the results. And his phrase was small, consistent actions. And I actually wear it on my wrist on this little wristband. I’ve actually, if you give them to the students too, but yeah, it was something my grade 12 older shoes teacher taught me and it’s such a good reminder. Yeah, you’re right. Like the process some years you stick to it, but the produce might not be as great, but you did everything that you needed to do. Same thing with teaching, you know, sometimes people forget that, you know, especially students forget that educators also have families and problems and challenges, and they’re also human beings themselves. You know, when they’re standing at the front of the classrooms, what are some of your own personal hobbies and passions? I know guitar is one of them, but maybe you can share a couple of those things.


Peter Prochilo (19:26):
You know, it’s really been trying to, like you say, try to stay consistent with things. So those are my own hobbies outside of, outside of my work, including my family. It would be certainly the outdoors is a big part of that, whether I’m golfing or I’m just out on a hike even, or for a run or even just a walk, especially around the lake here, it’s always, always trying to do new stuff like that. I’m always branching out that way. And also I know I mentioned golf even though it’s, it’s more of a long walk interrupted by hitting a light balls many times.


Sam Demma (20:06):
And swimming sometimes.


Peter Prochilo (20:10):
Yeah. And then, you know, for me, even one of the sort of escapes, if you will, is, is kind of the, the last few years has been reading nice items. Cause we’re always confronted with reading for for our occupation for work. And it’s there, but you know, making the time to read other items, right. Other other works, it’s always been non-fiction for me. I sort of been musically sort of the, the genre of music and biographies and the like, because music is certainly a big part of, there’s always a song in my head, said my staff one or two that are you humming today, right there. Yeah. So it’s just, it’s, it’s a sort of a combination of things, but certainly even with a busy schedule, just trying to maintain a level of physical activity as we get older, those opportunities for team sports seem to dwindle, but you know other than other than personal fitness getting out into nature is really.


Sam Demma (21:25):
I love that. Well, it’s on the topic of books about music. Here’s the one that I read recently that maybe you can check out. It might be a different genre than you’re used to, but I think you’d like it. So, this book is called it’s all in your head. Get out of your way by Russ Russ, Russell Vitaly is actually a Sicilian rapper from the U S yeah, funny. And I love his book. So he’s an independent artist and basically outlines the story of how he went from nothing to something. And what makes this story very unique is he never ended up joining a record label, turned them all down and kind of did it himself. And it just outlines this whole journey and story and what he overcame and how he got to where he is now and yeah, different genre, but you should check it out.


Sam Demma (22:10):
It might be something that you can listen to. And I think you’re so right about music too. Like when I think back to high school and every kid has different hobbies and they all play different sports and different activities, but I think something that every student has in common is they’ve listened to some form of music Friday. It’s like, it might be a different genre, but they all have a band or an artist or something that they like listening to. An art has such a way of connecting with young people so much so that I’m actually myself trying to work on a spoken word album to appeal to students as well. And yeah, you just really, you just nailed that connection in my own head. And I was like, ah, that makes a lot of sense. I think everyone has a piece of music that they’re always looking forward to. If you could go back Peter and speak to yourself in your first year of teaching, you know, when you’re, but, but with the knowledge and experience you have now looking back, what advice would you give your younger self?


Peter Prochilo (23:05):
Two things. One develop consistent habits right away. Okay. You know, because even the mentors at that time would tell me, you’re going to find your, you know, you’re going to find your way. Right. But you know, it’s really good to compare what you do. I always use the term skeleton, right. It ask my staff or Caitlin let’s deal with the skeleton and we’ll fill in the fill in the parts. You know what I mean? We’ll fill in the rest. But to have that starting point is really important. And I think if I would be able to go back, I would dig deeper in some of the literature and it would be non-educational. I would really go back and look at sort of the, the, the thoughts from the business world, how they manage time and how they, how you schedule your day and all those kinds of things. Because I still do that to this day.


Sam Demma (24:11):
Yeah.


Peter Prochilo (24:13):
I don’t know if you’ve seen time-blocking before.


Sam Demma (24:16):
I’m a huge fan.


Peter Prochilo (24:19):
And so I see this.


Sam Demma (24:22):
This is awesome.


Peter Prochilo (24:23):
I have one of these people make fun of me for it. That’s fine. But it’s my it’s my time blocking from five in the morning, till midnight. And what are my top priorities? What are my secondary priorities? And then a certain light rain.


Sam Demma (24:40):
Where did you grab the idea from originally?


Peter Prochilo (24:43):
There was a couple that floated around one strong Elon Musk that uses something similar. And then there were a few versions online and I just modified what I saw to fit, to fit. What’s going to work for me, but that’s what I mean by a skeleton. Right. So if I had something like that, when I started, that’d be number one, you know, searching for those elements that help you organize yourself and stay consistent. That’s the first, the second thing I would tell myself is don’t take yourself too serious. Yeah. Have a little, and I did have fun. Like, don’t get me wrong. There’s my stories are pretty hilarious from when I started teaching, you know, I had fun, I had fun with colleagues. I had fun working with students got involved. You know, I coached, I did some after-school group. Like we did a, I did a bunch of things, but not to take yourself seriously and just really enjoy where you are in that moment. Don’t think ahead too far.


Sam Demma (25:44):
I love that that’s, those are awesome pieces of advice. And you got me thinking again about the organizational techniques and tactics and ideas. Have you read any books that have been foundational in terms of your self-leadership stuff that you think you should, you know, would be valuable for another educator to check out or read or listen to?


Peter Prochilo (26:02):
Well, my experience has been fairly unique well in Ontario, because it’s always been through Catholic schools. I got in counted organization. And so I’ve always taken the Ignation view. So that’s been sort of my guidepost, spiritually and organizationally. Right. And so I really that kind of did that on my own for awhile. Yeah. Seeing that ignition thought. And then the concept of servant leadership really came forward in a boat 15 years ago, perhaps. Nice to forefront in terms of what, you know, green leaf had a whole series on servant leadership. And that was sort of the solidifying moment where it was, oh, this is a thing it’s not just something that’s rattling around in my head.


Peter Prochilo (27:01):
And and then just, you know, reading as much as I could about that and, and sort of identifying the items that I, the things that I already do, and then looking at what else I can incorporate, you can incorporate everything because you, you know, this is year 30 for me in education, 30, 31. So you know, educators take, you never abandoned the good stuff, right? Like it’s like a snowball, right. You start off with your core beliefs and then this comes along, right? This, this new thought, this new approach and you incorporate it into what you’re already doing, but you never let go of what’s at your core is getting bigger. But that in the center is still the center, still the center. Right. And you, you all, you pick up the great things and you know, some things go by the wayside, but you’re always, you’re always developing. You’re always adding to that core.


Sam Demma (27:58):
Love that. Awesome. Well, this has been a very awesome conversation. I really appreciate you taking some time to come on the show and share some of your philosophies, resources, stories it’s been. Yeah. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. If, if there’s another educator listening right now who feels a little inspired or just wants to, you know, reach out will be the best way for them to get in touch with you.


Peter Prochilo (28:21):
Probably just through, email’s probably the easiest at this point. And I can share that with you, if you want me to, to share.


Sam Demma (28:28):
Sure. You can actually say it now, or I can put it in the show notes of the episode as well.


Peter Prochilo (28:32):
Yeah. So it’s just peter.prochilo@sudburycatholicschools.ca.


Sam Demma (28:45):
Awesome. Peter again, thank you so much. This has been great.


Peter Prochilo (28:47):
It’s been great. Thank you for the opportunity. It’s been great talking to you and I look forward to listening to the rest of your series.


Sam Demma (28:57):
Now and there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the high-performing educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you want 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 signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Peter Prochilo

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.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Douglas Gleddie

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.

Kevin Wendling – Elementary School Principal at Northeastern Catholic District School Board

Kevin Wendling Elementary Principal
About Kevin Wendling

Kevin Wendling has been in education for well over 25 years and his diverse experiences working in different school boards, countries, and roles have given him the perspective needed to approach his work in a faith-based, holistic approach.

Kevin is a passionate and experienced school administrator in the elementary and secondary panels in private schools and publicly funded Catholic education system in Ontario, as well as an International School in South Korea. 

Connect with Kevin: Email | Linkedin

Listen Now

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

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 demo. Today’s guest is Kevin Wendling. Kevin has been in education for well over 25 years and his diverse experiences of working in different school boards, countries and roles have given him the perspective needed to approach his work in a faith-based holistic approach.


Sam Demma (01:00):
Kevin is passionate about influencing others in a positive way and getting through to students. He’s an experienced school administrator in the elementary and secondary panels and private schools and publicly funded Catholic educational system in Ontario, as well as an international school in South Korea. I hope you enjoy today’s interview and conversation with Kevin and I will see you on the other side, Kevin, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Start by introducing yourself and showing you a little bit, a little bit behind why you’re passionate about the work you do in education today.


Kevin Wendling (01:37):
Yeah. my name’s Kevin Wendling. I I work up here at Bishop bellow school and with the Northeastern Catholic district school board. I’ve been in education well over twenty-five years. And a majority of that has been as a principal vice principal or administrator. Part of my career has worked for different school boards. So I’ve worked some time in Niagara, ran Haldeman Norfolk, and actually worked overseas in Korea for three years at a national school. So I’ve had some very different and actually worked in the private schools as well, private school system. So in Ontario, so I’ve done a lot of different things. My, my passion is about educating kids and my passion is about being a leader and influencing others and all that really traces back to a faith based summer camp that I worked at when I was in high school and those opportunities, and then coming back and tutoring in high school really kind of set the stage for me to want to go into education. And actually I did some retreat work with Niagara Catholic district school board with grade sevens and eights. And that kind of put me on the path towards leadership or becoming a principal. And I’ve been actually a principal and vice-principal both elementary and secondary. So I’ve got lots of different perspectives and I’ve never, never met up an opportunity that didn’t help me. And I hopefully didn’t help the school that also helped the school community as well. So lots of lots of great things.


Sam Demma (03:06):
Can we go back to Korea for a second? Well, what brought you out there? What work were you doing there and what was the experience like living in a totally different culture?


Kevin Wendling (03:16):
Yeah, well my wife and I, we have, we have five children and basically my wife went to Europe one summer with some family and came back and we had a talk and she said, you know what? I have a degree in history, but I don’t understand the world. I don’t understand. I went to Europe, I went to Italy, I went to England and you know what what it says in the books. Isn’t, isn’t what it is out there. She goes, I really let’s try and do some international travel. Let’s try and maybe even do some international teaching and with a family of five, we were limited to where we could go. And so we ended up in Korea, we ended up a school that was a Christian based school that was just starting up. And so when we arrived, it was up to grade 10 and she taught middle school, you know, grade 6, 7, 8.


Kevin Wendling (04:01):
I taught high school, actually. I had just done been involved with six years of being an elementary principal. And we took a leave of absence from our jobs in Ontario and went there and basically within a year they needed a high school principal and I became the high school principal and saw the first graduation class. It was an IB school. So that was whoa, like the training involved with that, the, the expectations, the high expectations and some of the, you know, the, the best five teachers I worked with, I would say two or three of them were there. It was great. It was a lot of collaboration, a lot of working together, but we really went for our kids too. So our kids could get a different idea of a culture. So my middle daughter played hockey in Korea. If you can imagine that.


Kevin Wendling (04:48):
So my daughters, all five of my daughters actually danced ballet and all of that. So they really got a chance to see the culture. And they actually learned a lot of Korean, which is, I’ve been told one of the most difficult languages to learn you. Also, we also got to travel, do I be training? We had the opportunity to travel and whenever we traveled, we took the kids with us. So we actually, we went to the Philippines, we went to India, we went to China, a number of times to sight Penn for us, like a summer vacation in the Marguerite in the, you know, that part of us at the time. So we got a chance to kind of see everything. And we did that for three years. And after three years we had a choice. We continue to do this for the rest of our careers, or we come back to Canada to Ontario.


Kevin Wendling (05:33):
And we just decided to come back to Ontario. And it was fantastic opportunity as a principal. I probably gained more than anybody and experience just because of the way I was treated as a principal, some of the experiences I’ve had just phenomenal and really a very, very, the big difference I would say is that the committed people, when you go overseas, your committed, you are there, you know, it’s like Balboa, you burnt the ships you’re there. The people are very committed and actually their families are too. So we saw a lot of families and a lot of, you know, younger families with kids like us at the time. And we just had a great time. It was a fantastic experience and we’ve kept some of those friendships going even after we left. So really good.


Sam Demma (06:20):
Awesome. I love the balboa reference where you put logs on your back and do lunges in the backyard.


Kevin Wendling (06:27):
That’s Awesome.


Sam Demma (06:27):
Where did you, so, okay. Let’s go back now to the faith based summer camp. What was that camp and what about that experience encourage you to get into education?


Kevin Wendling (06:41):
It just, it totally blew my mind in terms of what I saw to that point in my life. Like I would, I was, I was in a really good high school, but it was one of my teachers at the high school who introduced it to me. And what he introduced me to was just a different way of leadership, a different way of, of looking after kids. You know, I, I ended up you know, looking after kids around nine, 10 years old. But then later on did trips to Algonquin park, canoeing and hiking with kids like 12, 13, 14 years old, it just was a true community feeling and true your ship in action. Like you had to be a leader, you had to go out and like leadership. Isn’t about stuff in that as, you know, stuff in textbooks it’s about going out and being a leader, that’s the best quote I ever heard is leaders lead.


Kevin Wendling (07:32):
And so you, you had that opportunity to go out and to be that leader for each other. And also the faith aspect was the fact that it was a, it was run by the bazillion fathers out of Toronto. And they really I learned a lot about spirituality from them and from the preset where there, it actually later went on. When I finished university, I actually was the first lay chaplain at the ethical camp for two years and was on the advisory board and did some other things with the camp. It ended up it’s doesn’t exist anymore. It kind of gave way to times and to things and to money and all kinds of stuff. And but that opportunity for me was just phenomenal. It really was part of my formation to become a teacher. And what it taught me is it gave me the confidence saying, you know, I want to be a teacher.


Kevin Wendling (08:21):
And in fact, one person I met there led them to the program. I went at the university of Waterloo math teaching option program. And it was someone who I met there that introduced it to me, but it was just later when I had a teacher who influenced me to go there, I said, is it, you knew exactly the influence is going to have on me. You knew exactly I belonged here. And you said, yes. And that’s why you need to be here. And that it was just that, that tale of teachers having influence and affecting the kids and affecting their students and making it a, a, a great place for them to become the leaders and the people that need to be.


Sam Demma (08:55):
I love that. And like you mentioned or alluded to like, now’s a different time, right? Like COVID is changing things you were telling me before we hit record that uncertainty is a common feeling amongst school staff, probably all around the world. What are some of the challenges that are going through your mind, your staff’s mind, and, you know, how are you all grouping together as a strong team to try and figure things out?


Kevin Wendling (09:18):
The number one is, is as much as we’re a school and we’re about learning, it’s the number one thing has to be about safety has to be about the kids being safe and, and the kids making sure that they’re not getting sick. So we were elementary. So majority of our kids, you know, really great, six down to kindergarten, haven’t been vaccinated. And so they’re very susceptible, especially with the Delta virus right now and how much it can affect kids. We want to make sure they’re safe, you know? So it’s making sure we’re masking making sure we’re sanitizing, our hands, social distancing, all the things you hear. We, we we’re teaching that each and every day to the kids and just reminding them of it. And yet throughout all that, we’re trying to learn and making sure that the learning is there for them and giving them the opportunities for them to learn.


Kevin Wendling (10:05):
And yet underlining all that is the uncertainty of, okay, could we shut down again? We shut down three times last year, we shut down once more than everybody else for an additional three weeks where we distributed the computers and they went out and and actually Lucy went through a time where it was really, we had a number of cases and it was surging. And people were really scared because it was like, oh no, is this really going to affect? And that’s been the case with all the flying communities, flying communities up the coast of James bay actually had over 200 cases in jail. And that’s, and over half of those were, were kids under 18. And so, you know, we we’ve seen it. We, we lived the fear, we’ve seen it. And it’s like, are we going to get through this year? Are we going to have to pivot again?


Kevin Wendling (10:51):
And let’s face it, teachers teach and are trained to teach face to face. It’s, it’s all about, I want to be in front of those kids. I want to work with them. If there’s a problem, I go beside them. You can’t do that on a computer. Technology is fantastic. Technology is great, but for younger kids, it’s, it’s not the way to learn for them. You know, whether it’s the mental health aspect, whether it’s the learning aspect, you gotta remember too. When we, when we dove into this 18 months ago, teachers don’t normally take courses on distance education. Suddenly you had to, you had to be an expert, and that was hard on a lot of people. And, and then you come back and say, well, yeah, you gotta wear the proper PPE and things like that. And you just feel a little bit distanced, you know, naturally you figure in the kindergarten class, there’s a lot of hubs and a lot of, you know, hand on the shoulder and things like that.


Kevin Wendling (11:38):
And people feeling closest together, physically, you can’t do that. Now. You really have to, you know, keep that distance and, and make sure. And again, we, we don’t do that. We actually do that now to show we care in a different way, because we want them to get sick and we don’t want them to. So those are, those are some of the things you know, as a principal, I don’t think people realize that when there is a positive case in your school of probate and suddenly a class that should shut down, you’re working with the health unit. And there’s a lot of things that are going on behind the curtain to make sure things are okay and people are safe and, and yet confidentiality is making. So there’s so much of that stuff that people don’t don’t know. And they don’t need to know because it’s affecting them.


Kevin Wendling (12:19):
And then we get the other side where parents are frustrated. Parents are incredibly frustrated, they just want consistency. You know, just think if you’re a a single mom and you’ve got two kids and you’ve got a job and that stowing, and suddenly you get COVID or someone you work with gets COVID or, or where you work has suddenly shut down. And, you know, and then you get another job or you got two or three, and then you got your kids and suddenly there’s something at school. And now they’re, you know, you got a great to integrate for, and suddenly they have to do, you know, virtual education. How does that work? How do you maintain your job and do all that? And the government’s been great. Government has had programs and things to help, but, but that’s not what they expected. That’s not what’s best for everybody involved.


Kevin Wendling (13:01):
So it’s an, it’s an incredible challenge. I think we’ve learned a lot from it. I think we’ve learned a lot about education Ontario and the value of it and want to teach, but we also, we’re living through a very difficult time. It’s a time where there is a time in the end right now we see a lot of hope and we’re hoping that it’s going to get better and we see signs of it. But then as we go through this with the Delta variant, and then the next wave we, we wonder if this is going to be a big wave or is this going to be a small way? You know, you know, it’s like waiting on the dock, but you don’t know what’s going to hit you. Yeah.


Sam Demma (13:35):
Yeah. So true. And do you think that there are things that will forever be changed? Not in terms of like PPE, but the disruption of COVID-19 may have also caused lots of reflection. Could we be doing things differently? Is there, is there anything to take away from this? Do you think there is anything that came out of it that was like, this is interesting. Might be something that we continue to do or revisit or, or look at as an opportunity?


Kevin Wendling (14:00):
I think every procedure, I think every procedure that, that we have at schools has had to be looked at from a, from a safety, a health and safety and you know, immunology, you know, like the whole science behind it, you know, let’s put in once things like that. And some teachers have found, there are some things that are better, you know, in procedures and how things go. And there’s things, maybe not like, for example, something they push for years is literally literally sludge. So in other words, you know, you come to school, whatever’s in your bag, you put back in and you take home and you throw it out at home. We’ve had to do that because of COVID. And actually, you know what, that’s something that environmentalist I’ve been saying for a while. Cause if you’re throwing out the garbage as a parent, maybe you’re going to pack the lunch in a different way.


Kevin Wendling (14:44):
Maybe you’re going to do things in a different way. So that’s, that’s just like one example of how, you know, things have changed. We also aren’t as supposed to accept lunches, you know, last year in particular through the day, like, because you’re not supposed to have parents come to the school. You know, so basically, you know, parents make sure the lunches packed. What’s sad though, is you’ve seen a lot of these pre-packaged lunches. Well now, because like, for example, like our school at one time allowed microwaves to warm up the meal, we, we can’t allow that right now. We can’t have microwave salon. You know, that may change soon, but, but right now that’s our policy and that, that was direction from last year. So there’s, there’s a lot of little things here and there. I, I, you know, the other is, I think you’re going to see the whole virtual school thing stay.


Kevin Wendling (15:32):
I think some parents like that. And again, what, what would be interesting to know what the reasons were because we’re really not asking the reasons, I think the other thing, the importance of mental health and you know, the whole idea of mental health and that awareness has become paramount. When it first came out, we saw it as important. We now are really seeing important. We’re seeing probably one of the things I really noticed up here when we had the vaccine clinics in June for 12, between the 12 and 18 year olds, you would think, okay, 12, 18 year olds. Some of these kids are just going to come on their own. You know, the parents will just say, just go and whatever, every student who got vaccinated that I saw in the clinic, I was in for the day to kind of help out.


Kevin Wendling (16:16):
And again, we were coming in to help because it helped you and ask, we need some people just to be positive support, but every one of those kids had a parent with them. And like even a 17 year old had a parent with them. And I would say some of these kids had their hoodies up over their head, kind of, kind of being really anxious. They were scared about the shot. They were scared about things because again, a lot of that’s out in the media and you know, there’s some positive stories and there’s not so positive stories. And again, they were worried about that. And again, to the point where I was doing like check-ins with kids every so often, and I knew some kids were just nervous because they didn’t know me cause there’s there’s schools that, that were being served by that clinic at the hockey arena.


Kevin Wendling (16:58):
And I actually knew that. So I would just go over and said, look, you don’t know me, but I got to make sure you’re okay. Just give me a thumbs up if I come by and give you a thumbs up. Just, just so I know you’re okay. Because if, if they got sick, if they had a reaction, I had to make sure of that. So it was interesting that way, there was a lot of things. I think we’re learning along the way with, with other things and other aspects, I think we’re learning about ourselves as a culture. You know, we have some people who don’t necessarily believe in vaccines, but yet we’re all supposed to believe in public health and make sure everyone’s safe. So I think there’s a, a push and a pull there. And I think some of it is very regional.


Kevin Wendling (17:36):
And that being said, you know, we great example, like I mentioned before, we had a community up here. We had access to the vaccine in February, March this year, all the communities did. And yet we still had a community that skyrocketed and 200 cases like that. Like it, it didn’t take long. This virus really can move quickly, especially with the Delta by period. So it’s actually up here in the whole Timmins area. There were a number of cases where if you remember some people don’t that in June, the rest of the province could have opened open up the government. We would have shut down. We would have no. Cause we had, we were searching in cases. It was unbelievable in the, in, in the Timmins and the porcupine health unit area, how bad it was.


Sam Demma (18:20):
Wow. Yeah, it’s a, it’s such a interesting time and just put it like that. And fingers crossed that things also started to clear up in all schools, across the country, across the world when it comes to making connections with students, you know, you talked about walking up to the ones in the clinic and giving them thumbs up, which is awesome during a time of stress putting the hat on, like we’re back in a regular school you sound like you’ve done so many different roles in education. What have you found is the most effective ways to build trust and a relationship with a student in a class or in a school?


Kevin Wendling (18:56):
Starts with a smile and a kind word asking them their name. Because again, you know, and again, I’m, I’m, I pride myself on knowing names for a good part of my career and that when I went overseas, it’s like, okay, I’m struggling with this. It’s, it’s just being very genuine and honest and caring about the person before you can make any relationship. You’ve got to show that, that empathy and compassionate, caring, showing you care about that person and you take the time to talk to them and get to know them that that’s where it starts. And then the relationships build from there. And again, it’s, it sounds simple. It’s not because you have to have a big heart and you have to go out and that’s how that’s again, that’s how the relationship starts. And again, we’re, we’re in a place right now in Lucy where, you know, over 90, approximately 95 or high 90% of people here are indigenous background.


Kevin Wendling (19:49):
And I’m not of indigenous background. I so guess what, I’m maybe someone that I will be trusted right away, especially with everything going on right now with, with the residential schools. And, you know, there wasn’t one in Mussolini, but there’s been a few of, there were a few off the coast that were closed down. And so whenever they kind of happened in the spring with regard to residential schools and that issue came up, that hit us hard too, even though we were, we were virtual at the time. So we had been in front of the school and we actually had parents and grandparents who were survivors of the residential schools actually have a teacher on staff, survival, potential schools. So, so again, when, when you talk about making those connections and making those things, you have to see where that person is as well.


Kevin Wendling (20:32):
And you have to come in. And I think the other thing too, being up here has kind of confirmed that, but even overseas and anywhere, it’s like, are you going to be here tomorrow? Are you going to be here to continue this relationship with me? Or are you going to pack it up and leave suddenly that’s important as well. People need to feel that basis that you’re at, you’re here for the long haul and that you’re here to help them and that you want to help them, you know, and, and that’s, that’s really key. And I, you know, normally you would say maybe that’s just for elementary kids, but I think that’s also secondary now too. I think the secondary kids, especially with this, I’ve been hard hit and the anxiety and things that they face is quite big.


Sam Demma (21:08):
Teaching is such a giving vocation, giving, calling. You’re not only giving students information, but sometimes they’re also like a coach and a mentor. Even if you’re not coaching a sport, you know, you kind of give students a shoulder to lean on. Sometimes if they need to talk to you about something that’s uncomfortable, what’s your experience been like with boundaries, you know, separating work from life and making sure that although you’re consistently able to give you’re also filling up your own cup and making sure you’re not burning out, especially during a time where you might be staring at a screen for seven hours a day and, you know, answering phone calls twenty four seven.


Kevin Wendling (21:43):
Yeah. I, you know, because my very first school I was principal at was in my hometown. You know, it was in port Colborne Ontario and, you know, so I would go out with my kids for activities and sports and I would see other kids around and, and you know what, they, they knew the boundary. They knew that I was Mr. Wellman. They knew that I would say hi to them, but they also respected the fact that from their parents, from their upbringing to kind of have that, that boundary there, however, my life has always intermixed. You know, I’ve, I’ve actually coached my kids and coached a lot of sports. Even the whole morning. I coached Shane love volleyball, and then did a lot of volleyball coaching and at the travel team level and, and various levels all the way up to UAA team.


Kevin Wendling (22:27):
So I had that experience as well, but it’s really about, you just naturally have to make, you know, those boundaries and just let people know that things are. And so when a student kind of crosses that boundary, like even as something as simple as, oh, I remember I was at one school was out for the buses and it’s, it’s a little joke when kindergartens grade ones learn that you have a first name, you know, it’s not Mr. It’s, you know, my first name’s Kevin. So they would come up to me and I remember them whispering and going, we don’t want your real name. And they go, yeah, it’s Mr. And they go, no, no, no, no. We know your real name. And I said, well, what do you think it is? And they go, well, we’re not supposed to say your real name because, you know, and they knew it wasn’t right.


Kevin Wendling (23:10):
I said, don’t just tell me. And they said, we think it’s Kevin. I said, it is, what should you call me that? And they said, no, you’re Mr. Lenley. But they think it’s funny because you’re human, it’s human side to you. And we’re like, when I show them pictures or they come to my office and they see pictures of my family. So it’s not, you know, boundaries are important for respect, but you gotta be careful that that boundary doesn’t dehumanize you as well. You’re, you’re very much you’re very much a human being and they know that. But when they realize that you have a family and you have a white friend that you have kids and they see those kids and they see pictures, or you’re out at a hockey game, you know, that’s the thing you don’t want to create the boundary where a kid comes up to you and says, hi, Mr.


Kevin Wendling (23:51):
Welling, how are you? And you just kind of push them off or shut them off. Some kids though, don’t want to come up to you and they see you. So you wave you wave. And that makes them realize that you’re a human being as well. But boundaries are incredibly important when you, when you talk about from a leadership standpoint that, you know, in terms of like your employees and people you work with and things like that. But in terms of kids, they actually know the boundaries and you may remind them of it, but you do so in a way that’s human and compassionate because that’s, that’s part of being a teacher. That actually to me is an incredible teachable moment because yeah, today, right now, some kids really, you know, some schools, you actually see people call them, you know, they I’d be called substitute Mr.


Kevin Wendling (24:31):
Kevin. And I’m like, oh, well, I don’t like, well, they can’t pronounce your last name. I said, you know what, I’d rather them not pronounce my name, last name properly and learn along the way saying, well, I can’t say your name. Cause it’s, it’s difficult for me to say and just rename you something, you know, your name is part of who you are and part of the respect that you got to give to others. So there’s that one to unpack that one. There’s a lot of stuff that when you talk about boundaries and you know, that, that can be incredibly tough, but in terms of kids and stuff, like, yeah, they need to know the boundaries, but they also need you. You can’t use that as a way of dehumanizing who you are. Yeah.


Sam Demma (25:08):
Also you put up a barrier that’s not necessary right there. It makes it even harder for them to reach out. I think our online that you’ve been teaching for 27 or 28 years now.


Kevin Wendling (25:18):
Yeah, yeah. Teaching and being involved with education. But considering I like tutored kids even back in high school. It’s it’s and I was a leader of a cup pack. You know, even before, like, it was funny, I’m brilliantly pack leader who worked with others that actually had to get a drive to the, to the, to the meetings cause time. So yeah. All the kids and working with kids for a really long time. Yeah. Probably, probably over 30 years, but professionally as a professional it’s I think it makes 27.


Sam Demma (25:49):
Okay, cool. And so it might be a tough question, but if you could take all the experience and wisdom that you have gained over the past 28 years and distill it into a couple of pieces of advice for your younger self, when you were just starting this work, like knowing what you know now, what would you share with your younger self?


Kevin Wendling (26:10):
Be honest, be genuine and just love the kids. And, and as you teach them just help wherever they are just help them. And and everything else will work out. It’s really about loving kids. It’s really about teaching them for myself as a, you know, that’s for me just general that’s, that’s my 24 year old self, just starting to teach, you know, who was nervous about lesson plans and this and that. And it’s like, no, this, this will all work out. We’ll be okay. As a, as an administrator, as a principal. And I learned this very quickly. So I was lucky. It’s really about four things. You know, you want to create a school that, where kids learn, where kids feel safe and where kids wellness is looked after, but I would even say have fun. And from a face standpoint, you do all that, knowing that God is with you in that below of the holy spirit is with you.


Kevin Wendling (27:09):
And that, and that basically from a faith standpoint, that all those things have to come from a faith perspective as well. So those would be two piece of advice I’d give, give my younger self. And, and the other thing I would say is to do this job, it’s not just you, it’s also your spouse, it’s also your family. So, so my kids, you know, let’s face it a family with, with two teachers in it. There’s certain rules you learn and, you know, there’s certain things you learn and certain things you say and don’t say, and, and, but it must’ve worked because my oldest is going to be is a teacher and she’s just going into her second year. And I probably have at least two other teachers, I’ve got two who said, Nope, I’m not teaching, but yet I watch how they work and interact with others.


Kevin Wendling (27:54):
And there you’re just like teachers. They’re just like teacher. I have one daughter who’s probably going to go into the medical field and yet she could tutor and help kids read and do all that and analyze it better than almost any teacher. I know. And her biggest frustration was, I don’t understand why parents don’t help their kids. You know, like I don’t understand that. And she just sits back with that. But, but that’s the thing it’s, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s a whole, almost like a family thing. And again, if I look too, there’s no teachers, my family, but I look at my wife, her whole family is teachers. And one of the best teachers I know other than my wife has actually her mother who was awesome kindergarten teacher. And actually as a young principal, I would go to her for advice and say, look, you’re a veteran teacher.


Kevin Wendling (28:39):
What am I missing something here? What do you think? And she was, she was always awesome with the advice. So I guess that would be the other piece I would give is you’re not alone. You need to collaborate with others. You need to work with others. You need to, to know that you don’t know everything. And I’ve probably early on my career. I was a little stubborn that way. I figured I knew things, but man when I kind of let that down and work with others, it’s phenomenal how much others can build you up and teach you. If you have an open mind to that and going overseas taught you that as well. Oh my gosh. You want to change your life, go overseas for a year. It true. Like that’s an old saying that they say, but it truly makes a huge difference.


Sam Demma (29:21):
I love that. That’s awesome. Kevin, thank you so much for being generous with your time and sharing so many coolest stories and ideas and principles and your journeys traveling overseas, your journeys at summer camp. If there’s an educator listening right now who feels inspired or just wants to chat about something related to the podcast or anything they heard, what would be the way for them to reach out to you?


Kevin Wendling (29:43):
That’s the way we be at my address at the school on that. KWendling@ncdsb.on.ca. That’s, that’s probably the best way to do that. And I would, I would love to hear and if stories to share or people that, you know, along the way, like, Hey, let’s talk! I’d be more than open to those opportunities.


Sam Demma (30:09):
Awesome. Kevin, thank you so much for doing this. I appreciate your time and keep up the great work.


Kevin Wendling (30:15):
Thanks for having me on the show.


Sam Demma (30:17):
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 dot high-performing educator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not feel your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Kevin Wendling

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.

Paulette Lippert – Experiential Learning Leader for Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board

Paulette Lippert Experiential Lead Learner BGCDSB
About Paulette Lippert

Paulette Lippert (@paulettelippert) is passionate about all things education.  She has been devoting her time and energy to her work for the past 27-years.  Growing up in a rural area, she realized that access to opportunities was a challenge and now she bridges these exact gaps for the students in the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board. 

As the Experiential Learning Leader, Paulette spends her time bringing new programs and hands-on opportunities to the schools in her board.  She is also a mom of two amazing kids, disabilities & mental health advocate & avid Arts enthusiast.  

Connect with Paulette: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Rural and Ready

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 Paulette Lippert. Paulette is passionate about all things education. She has been devoting her time and energy to her work in education for the past 27 years. Growing up in a rural area herself, she realized that access to opportunities was a challenge and now strives to bridge these exact gaps for the students in the Bruce grey Catholic district school board.


Sam Demma (01:07):
As the experiential learning leader, Paulette spends her time bringing new programs and hands-on opportunities to the schools in her board. She’s also a mom of two amazing kids, a disability and mental health advocate and avid art enthusiast. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Paulette. It was amazing, and I will see you on the other side, all that welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Love that you’re tuning in from the woods. You got the forest behind you, although no one can see it. I think it’s awesome. Yeah. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about why you do the work you do today in education.


Paulette Lippert (01:48):
Oh, sure. Well, first of all, thank you for having me. It was a huge honor to be asked to be a guest on this podcast and I’m, I’m super pumped. I always love talking about education because it’s my passion. So I really appreciated the invitation. So thanks for having me. My name’s Paulette Lippert I live while you, you can see behind me, the, the woods I live in Bruce county, near Kincardine Ontario. And so behind those woods is also like Huron. So I’m very blessed to live in this area because it’s very beautiful. I also grew up here and didn’t really think growing up that I would remain here as an adult, but I’m certainly glad that I did. And yeah, so I’ve been, this is actually, I, I had a bit of a session this week with some of our new teachers who are just joining our board and before I met with them, I had to actually get out the calculator and check my math because I could not believe that this is the beginning of my 27th year in education. I just, I just don’t know where the time has gone. I’m sure lots of people say that, but time flies you’re having fun. Yeah. So how did I get started? Is that the question you asked before I went into that lengthy introduction?


Sam Demma (03:08):
Yeah. And before, before you even jump into that, there’s a bunch of educators. I want to give you a round of applause for the 27 years of service. What got you started and brought you to where you are now?


Paulette Lippert (03:22):
Well what got me started, I’m going to go way, way back. So I’m going to go to the time when I was a really young child and I was just starting school myself at that time with my parents and I, we were living in the city of Cambridge and but we would come back to Bruce county, which is where my parents were from on weekends. And I can remember coming back and, and playing lots with my older cousins. And we used to play school. That was one of the things that we played. So I always wanted to be the teacher and then we would come home after being there on these weekends, playing school with these older cousins. And then I would want to play school with my younger sister and I was the teacher and I would get very upset with her when she could not do the math and the reading that I was assigning to her, which of course she cut into.


Paulette Lippert (04:12):
She was younger. And I remember my mom having to, having to speak to me about this and saying you know, you need to realize your sister is younger than you. She can’t do the work that you’re used to doing at school and you can’t be so hard on her. And so I guess that was my first introduction to learning some good pedagogy as a future teacher. You know, how important it is that you know, your students and understand where they are at before, you can possibly try to teach them what it is that you want them to know. So that was my first lesson. So it’s just kind of a cutesy story to reflect back on, but I also had a couple of teachers in high school who were really key to encouraging me. I had an English teacher.


Paulette Lippert (04:59):
His name was Mr. Forest. Absolutely wonderful man. Really great in the classroom had really wonderful classes that were engaging and he had good relationships with his students and he was also a guidance counselor and he wasn’t the guidance counselor that was assigned to me. But the one day that I made an appointment with the guidance counselor that was assigned to me, that guidance counselor happened to be a way that day. I think he was sick. So Mr. Forest stepped in and did this guidance session with me and I was in such a hurry at that time, I was graduating grade 12 and I wanted to go to college at that point because I wanted to get started in my career. I was just so anxious to get going and get started. And Mr. Forest looked at me and he said, a lot of people would wouldn’t necessarily say this to you, but I’m just going to say it to you.


Paulette Lippert (05:51):
I’ve taught you twice. Now you are not going to be happy doing that. You need to go university. You are a university bound student. If you go this other route, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this, but I’m telling you that at the end of that two or three or pro three-year program or whatever it is that you choose to do, I guarantee you you’re going to want more because you love to learn and I highly recommend that you not do that and apply for university and then see what happens. And so I remember when he retired, I saw a notice in the newspaper that he was retiring and I had to write him a letter just to thank him for being so upfront and so honest with me, but also for encouraging me to take that path because I think he was right.


Paulette Lippert (06:39):
So that’s kind of how I got into the, to the work. It wasn’t a straight path for me though. I actually started in a different direction in a, in a related career. But I S I was in the end of high school. I was debating between social work and education, my last couple of years of high school. And I couldn’t make up my mind. And of course these fields are very much related. But much of the work I have done as an educator has definitely been very much informed by my studies at the faculty of social work. So I actually pursued a master’s in social work degree at Wilfrid Laurier university. And it was actually during my work placements when I was completing that program, that I realized that I really needed to move to the education system rather than remain in social services.


Paulette Lippert (07:31):
When you begin the program, you are asked to select one of two specialties. So as a social work student, you can either specialize in individuals, families, and groups, or you can go into community development. And so I chose individuals, families, and groups, cause I thought I was going to be family therapist. And that was, that was my goal. And then I started one of my work placements in, and that was in child welfare. And what I found was that I was not seeing enough results for my, for my work. So I would work with a family and things would be going really well. And I would think we were making some really good progress. And then just when you thought you were on the right path to change and to improvement something unpredictable would happen to that family. And then it kind of felt like you were right back at square one.


Paulette Lippert (08:27):
So whether it was a traumatic event or, you know or an illness in the family or a death or something, some big event would have occurred. And they almost like you’re starting over again. And I, and I felt like I was spinning my wheels. And I remember coming home from when I was with children’s aid society. And I would be cooking feverously in the kitchen. And in particular I was baking a lot and I would bake and I would say I was married. I was newly married at the time. And I would say to my husband here, help yourself. Cause I’m, you know, I just made something last night and here I’ve made something again tonight. And, and he looked at me and he finally said to me, who are you? And I said, what do you mean? He said, you hate to bake.


Paulette Lippert (09:17):
This is not what you like to do. Why are you doing this? Like, I hope you’re not doing it for me because I don’t expect this. And I suddenly had an aha moment. I sat back and went, oh my gosh, why am I doing this? I hate baking. You’re right. Why am I doing this? And I realized I could throw a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, mix them up, stick them in the oven and come out with a product. And I was not feeling that at work at all. And so it was like this big aha moment where I went, I need to see results for my work and I need, they can’t be that long-term, I need to see results for my work sooner than later. And that was it. Then I knew I’ve, I’ve got to go to education because one of the things I learned really quickly, I also did a placement as a school social worker. And I got to watch all of these great teachers teaching their classes and I, I could see the kids making connections and I could see them building skills. And I could see that these teachers were seeing growth in their students right away. And teaching does that for you. You get that immediate feedback from students. And then that was it for me, I knew this was the path and I, that I needed to take.


Sam Demma (10:30):
That’s amazing what a story and the analogy between the baking and the end result. That’s such a powerful one, like right. When you were making the connection, I could totally understand that feeling. And I’m sure there’s so many educators that can relate to that. Some of the most meaningful experiences of education is seeing the seed grow that you plant in a student. And as you know, probably sometimes you see that, you know, within 10 days and other times it takes 15 years. And I know there’s a difference for students growing up in this city than there is for students might be growing up in a rural environment. And I’m curious to know, like, what do you think are some of the challenges and also maybe some of the benefits as well, like both sides of the coin being a rural student.


Paulette Lippert (11:13):
Well, the benefits are this is going to sound very stereotypical, but everybody knows everybody in a small town. Sometimes that can be a blessing and a curse. So, you know, you know, we all know what, how gossip spreads in small towns and that kind of thing. So there are challenges with that, but overall having these connections and knowing how everyone is connected is really, really useful for you as an educator. You know, if you know who so-and-so’s aunt or uncle is, that’s sitting in front of you in class and you make reference to them and they light up right away. They know that you know who they are and, and, and they know that, okay, so she knows my aunt or uncle, I better straighten up here. You know, there’s some of that effect as well. It’s just really, really helpful that to know those connections when you’re working in a, in a rural and small community and, and for lots of reasons, it’s really good to know who everyone is connected to.


Paulette Lippert (12:11):
And, I’m not saying that you can’t get that in an urban environment. I think you can, but I think it, it’s more challenging to be able to make those connections. So that’s a real benefit for sure for educators. I mean, I just remember recently teaching a student and and I’ve known his grandparents my whole life. And he was, and he was, he was an easy student where he was, he, he enjoyed if you joked around with him a lot. And, and he asked me a question about something about how soon does this work have to be done. And I said something like, well, you know, the deadline, and I think you have enough time to complete it, but just know I have your grandpa on Twitter. I can tweet your grandpa at any time. And he just looked at me.


Paulette Lippert (12:55):
And so, you know, that’s the beauty of being in a small town is is having those connections and letting your students know that you know, who they are and knowing their name and knowing how to properly pronounce their name and knowing just where they fit in in the community is really, really helpful. So that’s, what’s, that’s the benefit but there are challenges as well. You do have to work really hard to find opportunities for your students that are probably often taken for granted, maybe not often, but sometimes taken for granted and larger, more urban centers. So, you know, we don’t necessarily have the fancy summer camps here that students would have perhaps access to in the city. And traveling is, you know, you put a lot of mileage on I put 50,000 kilometers on my car every year and I’m living in a rural area.


Paulette Lippert (13:59):
And so I I’m living an hour away from my work place. And that’s not uncommon many people do. And so, because we don’t have any public transportation here this can be a huge barrier for students who want to seek opportunities that aren’t necessarily in their own community or are in a more urban environment. We don’t have colleges and universities right in our backyard. You know, we have one campus, we have Georgia and college, which is not their main campus, but it is the campus in Owen sound. So we have one college. We do also have Fanshawe college that has some outreach campuses that our students can take advantage of for some programs. But really all of our students are at least two hours away from, from other institutions, colleges, and universities. So that can be a barrier there’s you know, there’s costs associated with travel.


Paulette Lippert (15:01):
So, and, and even for our students in the south, there’s still an over an hour away from Georgia and college. So even the closest college that would, we would consider is in our community. They’re still an hour away from that. So it makes it really challenging sometimes. And I work closely with our OEM coordinator and he always says to people who don’t really have this understanding of our geography, you know, he says, just remember that Bruce county is bigger than prince Edward island. So, you know, in prince Edward island, you’re just about half an hour away from everything, but it takes us a lot longer to travel from one end of our county to the other. So where our communities are spread out and it’s a vast geographical region. So that, so sometimes our students, because of that geographical factor, sometimes our students can feel more isolated than urban students.


Paulette Lippert (15:56):
And sometimes what I’m hearing more and more from this is something I’m discovering in this rural as the experiential learning lead is that our students are often feeling less prepared when it comes time for them to leave secondary school and venture out into a more urban environment. So that’s something that I’m really paying more attention to is hearing stories from students when they are expressing this. And and it’s also having me work harder to find organizations and mentorship opportunities that could help with that. I’m, I don’t know, Sam, if you’re familiar, there’s a youth led organization that I was recently introduced to and it’s called rural and ready. Oh, cool. And it’s it’s student developed and student led and it’s a nonprofit organization that is all about creating opportunities for rural students to help build their readiness and their independence for post-secondary education and the world of work.


Paulette Lippert (16:59):
So, you know, here’s a little plug for them. They, they started, it was three young women who were in who decided to pursue stem careers and they got off into their prospective university programs and found out really quickly that there were things that other students just knew and took for granted that they didn’t know. So an example they gave is that some of those students have been doing their own research for years in labs. And they just ha in their realm of experience, they just hadn’t had that opportunity. And so, and, and many of the students they were in programs with had also attended private schools where some of these programs were readily available as well. And they had attended a rural high school and just didn’t have the same access. So they began this, this organization called rural and ready and you know, they might make fantastic guests for a future podcast. I’m just going to give them a little plug.


Sam Demma (17:59):
Yeah. I’ll definitely check them out. That sounds amazing.


Paulette Lippert (18:02):
It’s kind of interesting because when I first listened to them, I attended a session that they gave for, for experiential learning leads in in our region. And they, of course, were targeting experiential learning leads who were from rural communities. And at first I kind of got my backup a little bit and I was like, no, that’s not the experience of our students. We are preparing our students. I know we are because we have so many students that go out there and they’re very highly successful at university and they come back and they share their stories and we’re definitely preparing our kids. Then I started listening more closely to what our former students and current students were saying. And I realized, okay, there are some barriers here for rural students that we don’t pay enough attention to. And so I’ve started paying closer attention to what they were, what they had to share. And it’s definitely an issue. Yeah.


Sam Demma (18:55):
Thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it. And along with the struggles, you know, there are also still those stories of transformation and amazing impact that programs have, or teachers have on students. And I’m curious to know if some of those stories kind of stick out in your mind, you know, you mentioned at the beginning of this, and maybe even before we hit the record button that educators throughout their lives, they collect those stories, you know, put it in the little envelope on their desk. And maybe when they’re feeling down, refer to them to pick themselves back up. But do any of those stories stick out in your mind that you feel like?


Paulette Lippert (19:28):
Absolutely. Absolutely. So I’m going to go back several years. And one of my favorite things to teach is the social sciences courses in our high school. And I’m one of those courses that I, I got to teach many, many times that I absolutely loved was the, the parenting courses. So there’s a great 11 open parenting course, and there’s also a college level parenting course, and one is called living and working with children. And then the other one is really focuses on becoming a parent and it really looks at pregnancy and birth really closely. And and so I, I loved both of these courses and was always really excited to teach them. And I remember this group really well. This was the open class, the pregnancy and birth class. And so one of the field trips that we always take is we go to our local birthing center for a tour and we have a wonderful birthing center in market and by the way, a shout out to them because it’s absolutely phenomenal.


Paulette Lippert (20:34):
So, and I had, as an, as a young mom, I had had the experience of having one of my children and in this birthing center and and actually started out having both of them in the birthing center, but had to be transferred to a larger center with one of them. So I knew the great work that they did there. So I was always excited to take students there. So this one particular day I took my class. We, we made it sometimes we had to cancel our trip because they would have too many people in labor and they would have to say, oh, you have to come at a different day. It’s too busy. But this particular day, it worked out and off. We went and we had our tour and we were at the point now where the obstetric nurse was was asking the students, okay, what questions do you have?


Paulette Lippert (21:19):
I want to answer all of your questions. So it does, there’s no silly question to ask. And so a couple of students ask some questions about the equipment that they had seen, and then one student put up her hand. And the first question she asked was at what stage in pregnancy should an expectant mothers start taking maternal vitamins. And I thought, okay, that’s, that’s a good question. And it’s not a question that I, I expected. And it was something that I knew we would cover in the course, but that we hadn’t covered that yet. And then the next question was, if someone has a baby here and they want to give their baby up for adoption, how does that work? Do the adoptive parents come to the birthing center right away and take the baby right away. And that question stopped me in my tracks.


Paulette Lippert (22:11):
And I saw the nurse look at me, and I knew that we were communicating with our eyes. We were both thinking the same thing. And I realized that, oh my gosh, this student is expecting a baby. And I don’t think she’s told anyone yet. So I, we got back to the school and on my prep that day, I called her out of class and we had a conversation and sure enough she was expecting a baby and she hadn’t told anyone. She hadn’t shared it with her parents yet. I was the first person to tell. And I just said to her, well, what was the questions you were asking? I knew right away. So she did have the baby and she did keep that baby. And now fast forward 14 years, and this young woman walks into my classroom, the first week of school starting in September.


Paulette Lippert (23:04):
And she looked at me and she said, my mom told me I had to come find you. And I said, oh, why is that? What can I help you with? And she said, well, you are the first person to ever know that I was coming into the world. And I knew right away. I knew, oh my gosh, this is that baby. This is her daughter. And she said by the way, my mom said she would love to be a guest speaker in your, in your class, if you ever want to reach out to her. And I went, oh yeah, I’m reaching out to her. I want her to come as soon as possible. And the other neat thing was this baby was born on my birthday. So we shared that information too. And, and that was just kind of a weird coincidence at the same time.


Paulette Lippert (23:47):
So the great thing is she came back as a guest speaker, told her entire story to the class, but then she went on to talk about, you know, how hard it was to be a young mom and how hard it was to pursue her education. But she did it. So she talked about all of the challenges that she faced, and she was, she had already achieved her bachelor of arts degree. She got a sociology degree, and then she shared with the class, but I want to go further. I really want to become a researcher. And I want to research pro I want to do research and sociology that really matters to students. So she then explained that the research that she was already embarking on was really looking at sex education programs, whether or not students had adequate information that they needed to make these big life decisions.


Paulette Lippert (24:47):
And she shared with the class that in her family, sex was never really talked about. You know, her parents assume the school was doing that job. And yes, the school did have family life programs in place, but she really felt that she lacked information that she needed. And she was also looking at places where there were really robust sex education programs in place in high schools and found that there was a correlation that students who had all the information they felt they needed were delaying sexual, their sexual relationships. They were waiting longer before they became sexually active. And so she was telling my class, all of this and my class was absolutely riveted. And, and then to hear that she, you know, she had hoped then to go on and do her doctorate and become a professor and just to see the journey that she had taken. Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you how much that meant to hear her speak. I was just enthralled as the students were. And so, you know, sometimes the work that you do, you don’t find out, as you said earlier, you don’t find out how important that work is until many years later. But there, she was in my classroom living proof and and she was really excited to come and share that information with me. So yeah,


Sam Demma (26:13):
Yeah, yeah. And the sharing of birthdays like,


Paulette Lippert (26:21):
Oh, I know it’s crazy.


Sam Demma (26:22):
That’s so cool.


Paulette Lippert (26:24):
It’s crazy. But I was just so incredibly proud of her. And recently I saw a teacher post something on Twitter that said, you know, when I retire, I don’t want flowers and I don’t want a big meal and I don’t want the big retirement party. I just want my adult students to come back to me and share with me what’s going on in their lives. And I’m like, yes. Like, like, like if you could have a multiple like button on Twitter yes. That’s how teachers feel. We, we don’t need all these fancy presence and we don’t need you know, all the, the FA the public thinks we really just want to know how our students are doing and that they’re fairing okay. In this crazy world. And so she did that for me that day.


Sam Demma (27:06):
Thank you so much for sharing that story. That’s a great story. Now, you have a reason to reach out to her again, so feel free to do so. You know, if another educator is listening to this right now, Paula, and is a little bit inspired or reminded of something, and they would love to chat with you what would be the best way for them to get in touch?


Paulette Lippert (27:26):
They can definitely find me on Twitter. My Twitter handle is just my name at Paulette Lippert. I’m also on LinkedIn, so anyone could reach out that way as well. I don’t, I don’t check LinkedIn as often as I should, but I’m definitely on Twitter pretty regularly. And that’s what actually, that’s one of the things that we’ve been finding out about our rural students is they needed some support knowing about all, about LinkedIn too, and, and the importance of that networking from an early age. So I got to get better at that along with, as I promote that to my students.


Sam Demma (27:59):
Nice. Oh, awesome. Well, this has been a phenomenal first conversation I say first, because they’ll probably do a part two sometime in the future if you’re open to it.


Paulette Lippert (28:08):
Absolutely. I would love


Sam Demma (28:10):
To, this was great. Keep up the amazing work and we’ll talk soon.


Paulette Lippert (28:14):
Okay. Thanks again for having me. And I just want to wish everyone good luck out there who is beginning. Their teaching career are beginning a new school a year. It’s been challenging for educators. And so I just want to wish everyone the best of luck.


Sam Demma (28:28):
I actually, you know, what? You just prompted one last question. Oh, sure. If you could go back in time and speak to Paulette year one of education, knowing what you know now with the experience you have, what advice would you give for those educators who might be just embarking on this journey?


Paulette Lippert (28:44):
That, that one is easy for me. I think I, I began my teaching career and I really, really wanted to be the best possible teacher that I could be. And I really think that I thought I had to be perfect. And, and I didn’t know when I should be reaching out for help or support. So if I could give one piece of advice to my, my younger self and to any new teacher it would be that you will definitely make mistakes. And just as there are no perfect parents out there anywhere, there also are no perfect teachers. So my advice would be to be reflective enough so that you recognize the mistakes when you make them. But then also not to be so hard on yourself tell yourself that it is okay to make mistakes and learn, and and know that when you admit, when you make mistakes to your students, that then they have the permission to make mistakes as well and learn from them.


Paulette Lippert (29:50):
So and don’t be afraid to reach out to the supports that are there when you need them. And that can be, you know, assistance of any kind advice, resources, coaching, whatever it is that you need. There are people there to support you in your own building, but also in the district. And those of us who have been in this field for a while, we all want you to be successful because we know how much we need you right now. And we always need good educators, but we really need them right now. And so we want to be able to support you and nurture you as you begin your journey and and continue on your journey. You know, we’re never done learning. I’m, I’m learning all the time, even after 27 years. And that’s what keeps you fresh, and that’s what keeps you motivated in the profession. So don’t be afraid to reach out for those supports. I can think of some times when I really needed those supports and should have reached out and did not. So that would be my piece of advice.


Sam Demma (30:51):
Love that. What a good way to end. Thank you so much again for coming on. That was amazing. Keep up the great work and we will definitely talk again soon.


Paulette Lippert (31:00):
Thanks again. Take care.


Sam Demma (31:02):
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 signing 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 and.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Paulette Lippert

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.

Paul Dols – Climate & Culture Coordinator at Monrovia High School in Southern California

Paul Dols Student Leadership
About Paul Dols


Paul Dols (@PaulDWildcat) is the Climate & Culture Coordinator at Monrovia High School in Southern California. His responsibilities include being Activities Director, Renaissance Coordinator, and Link Crew Coordinator. 

A classroom teacher for 26 years, his passion and goal are to create a school that every student and staffulty member calls home and no one wants to leave.  Paul believes that education is the noblest of professions and provides the opportunity to “Sow the Seeds” each and every day.

Connect with Paul: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World

Josten’s Renaissance leadership program

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 Paul Dols. He is the climate and culture coordinator at Monrovia high school in Southern California. His responsibilities include being activities, director Renaissance coordinator, and link crew coordinator, a classroom teacher for 26 years. His passion and goal is to create a school that every student and Staffold T member calls home. And no one wants to leave. Paul believes that education is the noblest of professions and provides the opportunity to sow the seeds each and every day. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Paul and I will see you on the other side, Paul, welcome to the high-performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by just introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about why you do the work you do today in education?


Paul Dols (01:34):
Sure, sure. Sam, thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it. I’m flattered. So I I’ve started in education back in the previous century. I had my first classroom in 95, 96 at a middle school in Northridge, California. I did middle school for a couple of years. And then in 1997, I moved to Monrovia high school. For those who don’t know where Monrovia is, we are in the foothills of Los Angeles about 10 miles from Pasadena in the rose bowl, which is kind of our GeoCenter for everybody. Who’s not sure where we are. And I’ve been at Monrovia ever since. It is a home away from home for both my wife and me. She’s an elementary teacher in the district. She’s my reason for being in Monrovia. And we, we have been invested in the kids and the families of this community now for gosh, 23, 24 years.


Paul Dols (02:26):
And it’s a passion, it’s a passion for, for this community. And especially for the kids who grew up in this community. I was social studies teacher by training and, and love government and, and politics and that kind of stuff. So that was what I taught for a long time. In 2008, I got tapped to take over something called the Josten’s Renaissance leadership program from a friend and mentor of mine who moved into administration. And that kind of started my divergent journey a little bit towards student leadership and towards reaching into the more social, emotional side of things which is where I’ve kind of been ever since. I, in 2017, I picked up activities as the activities director created a title for myself. I started calling myself the climate and culture coordinator and, and encompasses the Renaissance side of things and the activity side as to do our link crew program for our freshmen mentor project.


Paul Dols (03:25):
And I’m all about the social emotional side of education now. And it’s something that I didn’t think about when I started, I was all about the curriculum. And now it’s complete 180 and I am preaching for the mountaintops that we’ve got to take care of our kids on the social emotional side first and throwing out the, you know, the Maslow before bloom phrases become very popular lately. We’ve got to take care of what our kids need first before we give them that curriculum. So in a nutshell, that’s me, man. I I love what I do. I’m super spoiled here that I get to focus on that side of things almost exclusively. And that’s it, man. That’s, that’s the, that’s the nutshell version.


Sam Demma (04:09):
It’s it seems like social, emotional learning is finally coming to the table of discussion in all schools, across the, hopefully the world for an educator out there. That’s still unsure why it’s important and what it’s all about. Like how do you explain social emotional learning to someone and why you think it’s so important?


Paul Dols (04:27):
You know, I think the easiest way to do it. And I think one of the most important things to understand with there’s such a wide range of where teachers are and educators are on the spectrum of this is it’s okay, wherever you’re at. For some folks, they get into this, this job and it is it’s the, the subject they teach that they love. And they come to realize that they love the kids even more than they love the subjects that they’re teaching. And, but it can be hard for people. People have had all these different life experiences and maybe being a little bit more open with their own life with students is not something that they’re really comfortable doing. But the way I, the way I try to, to bring people to my side of things is basically just to reminding them that the world that we’re creating for these kids now, the businesses that are looking to hire these kids, when they get out of high school and college, the corporations that are trying to grow, they’re now looking at what used to be called the soft skills and it’s everything that they’re looking for.


Paul Dols (05:27):
It’s no longer about their GPA or their sat scores. And people are finally beginning to realize that those measurements really only measure one very small part of who a person is. And when you’ve got corporations like Google and Microsoft and, and even the banking firms are looking for people, AI that can work well together, that can critically think and analyze a problem and then work with other people to solve them. These are things that we don’t teach that well in America, we don’t really focus on it. It’s more about that rugged individualism still, but I think coming through COVID especially, and I don’t think we’re completely through it obviously, but through what we’ve experienced over the last 18 months, I think we realized that that individual I’m just going to get through this on my own kind of mentality is actually really detrimental to what we’re trying to accomplish.


Paul Dols (06:18):
And once we kind of realized that, and for me, I tried to instill in my kids as the leadership kids on our campus, to demonstrate that through how they act you know, practicing kindness above everything else, putting other people first taking and putting themselves in somebody else’s shoes, that empathy gap that Michelle Barbara talks about in her book, selfie is just incredibly true. And you know, that she cites a statistic that says that the more that we have less, less empathy, we have, the more anxiety we have, and we’re seeing this huge uptick in anxiety in kids. And we’re lucky enough, we came back. This is our second or first day of our second week back to school and we’re back fully in person and God-willing we get to stay there. But the anxiety that I see on kids’ faces and the concern and the unsuredness of what they’re doing is very, very real. And if, if that is the case, then we have to practice that empathy with, for those kids. And that is where I come at with, with staff work question, you know, I don’t know if I want to do this or not. We have to remind them that they’re not going to learn if they don’t feel safe. And like my buddy, Phil Campbell says, if they’re not seeing her in love, they’re not going to learn. How do we make them feel seen, heard, and loved.


Sam Demma (07:40):
That’s awesome. I love that. And the, the principles are so important. And you even have one behind you right now. I know this is only an audio podcast, so most people won’t see it, but it says leadership is an action, not a position. What does that line mean to you? And how do you use that to help students understand that we can all be leaders?


Paul Dols (08:00):
You know, I think it’s, we, we put that up there right before the pandemic. It was, it was ironic, but we so often, especially with, with like the ASB mentality or the Renaissance mentality of kids who come in and I’m lucky enough that I have classes, I have an ASB class, I have a Renaissance class. So it’s about 75 kids who are in our leadership program for a lot of people. Sometimes it’s a title. It’s something that they drop on a college application. It’s I was the senior class president. I was the ASB treasurer. I remind them on a daily basis. It’s not who you are. It’s what you do. It’s, there’s a, there’s a poster, the Maya Angelou quote up above me. You know, they’re not going to remember, you know what you say, they’re not going to remember what you do, but they’re going to remember how you made them feel.


Paul Dols (08:50):
For me, that is, you know, I just hung that up. We came back to school because I needed to see every day to remind myself or my kids leaving the room feeling better than when they came in. And for my student leaders, that same challenge as the case when they go into, when they’re in here and in my classroom, our classroom, it’s easy. It’s easy to, to be that empathetic kind soul. But what are you doing in math class and hour later, what are you doing at lunchtime to make other people in your campus feel important, feel connected, feel seen. And so it is that’s there to remind them and they see it. They can’t help, but see it cause it’s right above the board. And you know, it’s also to remind them that people watch them. I think it’s really important that, you know, there’s, I don’t, I can’t attribute the quote to somebody, but it characters what you do when people aren’t watching. And I think that is important for students to realize, even when you’re out in the community, your actions that you’re taking is going to determine who you are.


Sam Demma (09:53):
And they also impact other people, whether we know it or not driving by and looking over, right. One of the reasons why we would, we would always pick up trash on Saturday morning in large groups in very populated areas is because our hope was that someone would drive by look and instead of throwing their cigarette butt out the window, say, oh, maybe I should actually not. When you see 20 young kids picking up their garbage, you know it’s true. Every action has an influence. And I’m curious to know if something influenced you when you were growing up that directed you towards education. Like, did you know from a young age, on your own career journey that you were going to be a teacher, or did you like fall into this? What was the story behind your own career journey?


Paul Dols (10:33):
You know, I, I just told the story yesterday in class. That’s kind of funny. So I knew from the sixth grade off I was, I was blessed and I use that word very carefully, but I was blessed with incredible teachers from the little tiny private school that my brother that I went to in Baltimore through my middle school journey and then high school out here in California, I was blessed with teachers that just got it. They cared, they, they were invested in me as a person, not as a number on a roll book. And I I’d had a natural love for learning that I think came from my mom and dad that that really kind of drove me. I love to read. I love to learn about stuff. I don’t know. And that’s from a very young age, you know, I remember this is going to date me, but there was a huge deal when my parents bought the world book encyclopedia.


Paul Dols (11:26):
So for all the young people listed here, there used to be these books that took the place of the internet, the internet replaced the encyclopedia. But I just remember every year that we would get an update of everything that was new for the year. And I thrived on that book, I would page through it and just, it was amazing. So that love for learning drove me. In my brain, I always thought I was gonna coach basketball and teach U S history. That was, those are my two loves. The history part kept growing and the love for basketball is still there, but the idea of coaching and, you know, to all of the coaches out there, God bless you for what you do for the small amount of compensation that comes to you financially. And the time you give it’s amazing. But I made a decision when our, when our first child was born, that I can’t give up that kind of time with the family to do that.


Paul Dols (12:19):
But I just knew from the first time I stepped into a classroom as an educator, this was it. This was what I was supposed to do. I don’t have a ton of stuff left over from my time at a middle school, but there’s one picture in my office that it was my very first class and it’s just a class picture. It was super weird eighth graders, like, what are we doing, dude? But still hanging in my office to remind me of that day. And, you know, I think it is just, it’s such a privilege to do this job. When you realized that, you know, anywhere from 120 to 180 kids a year, you, you have somebody’s most precious possession and what you do with that can shape their entire life and you never know. See, and that’s the funny part. You never know when you’re going to influence somebody.


Paul Dols (13:13):
And when you’re going to say something that just sticks, that’s a little scary. Cause it gave me as I have a first period conference I’m blessed to be blessed. You know, I think it’s, it can be really intimidating when you realize that if you’re not in the right Ted space and you say something to a kid, it could send them the other direction. And there are days where that could happen. Cause because as human beings, man, we people forget that the teacher in the front of the room may be having a bad day too. And it may have nothing to do with anybody in the room. It could be something going on at home. It could be something that happened on the freeway. It could be an illness, especially, you know, with everything going on now. And so I think it is if you maintain that idea of being a privilege to serve and you approach it that way, you get so much back in return and these, these kids that I’ve been lucky enough to work with over the years.


Paul Dols (14:13):
I mean, they’ve gotten me through some really hard times. I’ve lost both of my parents in the last five years, six years now. But other than my wife and two children, the people that got me through it were my students, their reaction to when I came back the way they would lift me up and, and just kind of carry me through and just messages of encouragement that periodically see, and they give it to you. And they, you know, there was a kid who left me a note on my desk just the other day. She said, Hey, you look tired. I noticed the first week, but thank you for who you are. I don’t know who sent it. I don’t know who left it on my desk, but I was like, Ugh. So they give as much as we probably more than what we give. And it’s a, it’s a need for us to be able to look at a kid regardless of where we’re at right now and say, okay, that kid has a story. They’re writing their story right now. And we were lucky enough to be a part of it. And because of that, you have to take that role seriously. You have to step into it and embrace it and cherish it really.


Sam Demma (15:16):
I love that. That’s so awesome. That’s so cool. The note on the desk too, and it’s so true that every student is writing their own story chapter by chapter. And the coolest part is that the things that you say, the way that you hold yourself could actually alter the way they write their chapter. Right? That’s the, that’s the coolest privilege. You know, you mentioned you had, you were blessed to have teachers that just got it. What does that look like? Like what did those teachers do? That another educator listening could strive to do something similar in their own classroom to have a, you know, a positive effect on their students. Can you recall any of the things that those teachers did for you that made a huge difference?


Paul Dols (15:55):
You know, I think for, for, to have an impact on a kid, you have to be real with them, be authentic with them. And it’s, it’s, it’s not simple, but it sounds simple. And it’s, it’s being open with them about who you are as a person and making sure that you see them as people, not just as kids, the, the phrase you’d all well, kids these days, and then you fill in the blank. It’s, it’s always irked me a little bit when, when people talk about, oh, how could you teach high school? They’re so hard. They’re, they’re, they’re just disrespectful then. I’m like, no, they’re not, they’re not. You know, I think, you know, Diane dollar was my AP us history teacher and inventor at point of high school. And she had a passion for history and she taught her butt off every single day.


Paul Dols (16:49):
And she held us to a really high standard and it was hard. It was the only AP class I took in high school. I wasn’t one of, I was an okay student. I wasn’t a great student, but, you know, I took it because I wanted to have her as a teacher because I had heard you’re going to learn more than you ever can imagine. So I took that challenge and it was hard. And, but, you know, I still have contact with her and we still periodically, we’ll sit down every couple of years and have a cup of coffee and, and I get messages from her on Facebook and to just be encouraging, I mean, and that’s been good Lord, it’s 30 plus years now that I was in her class and you know, not every teacher is going to be like that. And I don’t think there’s a mold to create what that looks like, except for the fact that if, if you care about your kids as people first and you really delve delve into who they are as people and realize that those stories that they’re writing, that you’re just lucky to be in it.


Paul Dols (17:54):
And in operate from that mentality. I think one of the hardest things is there was always this idea of classroom management that we get taught in teacher school, which you know, is kind of the worst and giant waste of time that we do because you can’t really teach how to teach. You just have to get in there and do it. But you know, it was always, I’m going to respect you as the students, when you respect me first. And that’s actually the reverse of which had happened. And it’s hard for adults, especially the longer you do this. It’s, it’s hard to look at a 13 or 14 year old kid and say, I’m going to respect you for first. And then eventually you’re going to come back and respect me as the older person in the room, because that’s the opposite of what we teach in society, respect your elders, respect your elders, respect your elders, which is true.


Paul Dols (18:46):
And they should. But when you’re coming at an adolescent, who’s dealing with his own stuff at home and has a 50 to 60% chance of coming from a broken home where there’s, you know, one parent or there’s a divorce or whatever they’re dealing with and you add onto it, their mental health and their mental wellbeing. And if you come at a student and you say, look, respect me in their brain, the question should automatically be, why would I respect you? What, why is that required of me? But if you come at them with love and you come at them with compassion and you come at them with empathy, they can’t help, but respect you. I have a couple of kids that I’ve been working with for three years now. And it’s been a three-year battle for me to break down the walls that they’ve put up.


Paul Dols (19:33):
I’m starting to see that happening with them. And it’s just persistence. It’s an unwillingness to give up on, on that relationship. And I think when we throw that word into it, when you throw the relationship word into it, it gives some people back off a little bit because they believe there has to be this barrier between the teacher and the student. But if you build that barrier, you’re putting up an unnatural obstacle to the relationship. And so I think for me, that is, is what I focus on a lot. When I was teaching my content back in the day, I was never the most effective AP government teacher. You know, back, we used to have rate your teacher.com. I think they still have it. I would periodically be brave enough to go out there and read what they said. And, you know, my comments were always positive for the most part, but that was kind of said the same thing.


Paul Dols (20:24):
I may not have learned a lot, but I know he loved me. And I don’t know if as a, as a teacher, maybe that’s not the best compliment in the world for some, but for me, I’m okay with that. If, if kids leave here and they know what it means to be a good person and if know what it means to be kind to others and how to work with each other and to work their way through problems critically, I’m okay with that because I think that’s what the world needs. The world doesn’t need somebody, you know, that, you know, understands how the war of 18, 12 formed had happened and what was the relative salt of it because they live in a world now where that information is at their fingertips. They need to know how to relate to each other because that’s what honestly, that’s, what’s missing right now.


Paul Dols (21:17):
We’ve messed this place up so badly collectively as the adult for young people that we can’t fix it, the young people are going to have to fix it. And the only way it’s gonna get fixed is if they learn how to communicate, how to compromise and realize that it’s okay to have divergent opinions, if you’re willing to listen to each other and not see each other as that person is my enemy, they may have a different belief system. They may have a different faith. They may have a different opinion on masks. They may have a different opinion on a vaccine, but they’re still human. They still are writing their own story. And if we just talk to each other respectfully, we may not agree, but we have to be okay with that. And the adults in the room, whether it’s Congress or your state legislature, or your school board, or whoever, the adults in the room, aren’t modeling that. And because of that, what kids are seeing is society embracing conflict instead of compromise yeah.


Sam Demma (22:22):
Or discussion, right? Yeah. Yeah. It’s so true. It’s so, so true. If something that someone else says triggers you, it’s, it’s a, it’s an opportunity to go internal as well because people can’t make you angry. You know, they can say things, but at the end of the day, you’re, you’re in control of your emotions. And of course, sometimes, you know, we get upset and we say things, and again, that goes back to the idea that we’re all human, but, and then that all ties back to the importance of social, emotional learning and regulating your emotions. This has been such a great broad conversation. Paul, thank you so much for sharing a little bit about your journey into education, some of your own beliefs and principles that have served you and also the other teachers that had an impact on you growing up, if someone’s listening and wants to reach out and just have a conversation, another educator from somewhere in the world, what would be the best email to, to, to send or to get in touch with?


Paul Dols (23:15):
No, I would love that. I love talking about this stuff, man. I think, you know, one of the biggest, it’s a community of learners who do this job. I learn more from colleagues and from people all over the country that I’ve been lucky to meet through some of the stuff that I’ve done that social network and that, that PLC or that personal learning community. So yeah, you can reach out to me pdols@monroviaschools.net. I’m also on Instagram and Twitter at Paul D Wildcat. And I’m not on social media as much anymore because I watched the social dilemma. I am out there a couple of times a week posting some stuff and reposting some of the encouraging stuff that I see. But yeah, I would love to connect to anyone who wants to talk about social, emotional learning, what we do and why we do it and share stories. Cause I think it is incredibly important to pursue that.


Sam Demma (24:22):
Awesome. Paul, this was amazing. Thanks so much. Keep up the great work and I will talk soon. Thanks brother. Appreciate it. 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 signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Paul Dols

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.

Daniel Horgan – CEO and Founder of CoLabl and the Talent Accelerator

Daniel Horgan Founder and CEO CoLabL
About Daniel Horgan

A volunteer role with a YMCA summer camp at the age of 12 sparked Daniel’s passion for service and building community. At the age of 18, Daniel pioneered the first youth-led Community of Promise in Pittsburgh under Retired General Colin Powell’s national America’s Promise movement, landing him a seat on the national board of directors and recognition from President George W. Bush.

Daniel (@HorganDaniel) has over 20 years of experience working in the business and nonprofit sectors, fueled by his commitment to increasing others’ access to relationships and opportunities that transform their lives.

He has worked with companies of all sizes including the world’s largest global brands like Nike, Starbucks, and LinkedIn, some of the largest school districts, national and local nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Daniel has proudly served on several nonprofit boards and advisory councils including City Year DC, the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, Team Kids, and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership.

Named one of Pittsburgh’s 40 Under 40 Honorees, Daniel has keynoted dozens of conferences and training seminars and is the author of Tell Me I Can’t…and I Will. He currently resides in Arlington VA.

Connect with Daniel: Email | Linkedin | Website | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Zig Ziglar

The YMCA

The Talent Accelerator

Situational based leadership

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the high performing educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma, today’s guest Daniel Horgan is someone who I had the chance to work very closely with throughout the entire summer of 2020. He contracted me to do some facilitation, some keynote speaking, and some workshops for his programs that you hear a lot about in today’s episode. And as our working relationship built our personal relationship built as well. And today I’m super, super honored and excited to call Daniel a close friend, and you’ll see why on this episode, he’s up to some amazing work and doing some great things, a volunteer role with the YMCA summer camp at the age of 12 is what sparked Daniel’s passion for service and building community at the age of 18 Daniel pioneered the first youth led community of promise in Pittsburgh under the retired general Colin Powell, his national America’s promise movement, landing him a seat on the national board of directors and recognition from president George W. Bush.


Sam Demma (01:02):
Daniel has over 20 years of experience working in the business and nonprofit sectors fueled by his commitment to increasing others, access to relationships and opportunities that transform their lives at CoLabL. Daniel is working at the intersection of talent development and community building with this specific focus on creating and facilitating brand relationship and skill building experiences that support existing and future talent. He has worked with some of the world’s largest brands, including Starbucks, Nike, apple, LinkedIn, school districts, national and local nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Daniel has proudly served on several nonprofit boards and advisory councils, including city year DC, the community foundation of the national capital region team kids and the greater Pittsburgh nonprofit partnership. He was named one of Pittsburgh’s top 40 under 40 honorees, and he has keynoted and facilitated hundreds of conferences and training experiences, published several articles on forbes.com and is the author of “tell me I can’t, and I will.


Sam Demma (01:59):
I’ll tell you, Daniel works very closely with a lot of youth, and if you don’t have a pen and a paper beside you right now, I will encourage you to grab one because you’re going to have a whole page of notes. Here’s the episode with Daniel Horrigan I’ll see you on the other side…


Sam Demma (02:15):
Daniel, thank you so much for coming on the high-performing educator podcast. It’s a huge pleasure to have you on the show. Why don’t you start by sharing a little bit about yourself and why you got into the work you do with young people today? I know it’s a long question.


Daniel Horgan (02:28):
No, absolutely. Well, Sam, first and foremost, thanks so much for having me. I’m a huge fan of the work that you’re doing and I’ve enjoyed collaborating with you. So thanks again for, for having me on quick high-level overview of me. Like, so I started my, I say when I was 11 years old, YMCA summer camp, where my two older brothers were camp counselors. I convinced them to let me not just come to camp, but let me volunteer with the six year olds. And I would say that that really sparked my interest in service and really it sort of set me out on this path to really think about the unique contributions that I have to offer. And, you know, through the years I’ve worked in nonprofit management, running nonprofits, locally and nationally here in the U S spent some time in corporate social responsibility looking at the corporate philanthropy space.


Daniel Horgan (03:14):
And I think employee engagement with capital one and then launched my own consulting company CoLabL which I’ve been running really to help apply all of the lessons that I’ve learned, frankly, over the last 20 years. Like what drives me to do this work is that I see so many young people, especially just not have the social capital that unlocks their awareness of new opportunities or awareness of different paths or experiences that they can take on. And so I just tried to get in front of as many young people as possible, connect them to as many professionals in different pathways and see where it goes from there.


Sam Demma (03:47):
Speaking of connecting young people to professionals, you have a huge milestone to celebrate literally this morning as we’re recording this you want to share a little bit about it and how it kind of came to be.


Daniel Horgan (03:58):
Yeah, absolutely. So I’m super excited for this morning. We crossed a major milestone in matching 278 in Canada, Deloitte volunteers with young leaders all across Canada. Most of these young leaders are ages 18 to around 24. Some of them are in college, some of them were in sort of non traditional post-secondary education pathways. And the goal is that we work to connect these diverse employees with them to explore their career pathways, to share their insights that they’ve gathered through their deployed experiences. You think about like a traditional, the, what employee. They had the opportunity to work with a lot of different clients and a lot of different projects. So they were able to glean a lot of lessons from those experiences. And so we want to create this experience where for one hour, that’s a minimum commitment. We’re asking these Deloitte volunteers to share what they’ve learned and really at the same time, learn from the young people, like let the young leaders shared their questions, share their own unique experiences.


Daniel Horgan (04:57):
And if it sparks something beyond that one hour, that’s amazing. I’ve already gotten a bunch of emails from people that were like, are we allowed to like follow up and have a second meeting? And I was like, yes, you’re absolutely allowed to do that. And so it’s been a pretty cool project. As you can imagine, we sort of skyrocketed when we first launched the program to about 200 volunteers signed up right away, which shows us, I think that there’s a huge appetite and interest among a lot of people to give back and to positively contribute to young leaders on their own.


Sam Demma (05:28):
And you had mentors, I would suppose back when you were going through high school and, and university, and some of those were people that you probably didn’t even meet. I.E. Zig Ziglar, which I read about in your book, do you want to share a little bit about how like mentorship and mentors in your life have played a huge role in your development?


Daniel Horgan (05:48):
Yeah, absolutely. So Sam, it’s so funny, you mentioned Ziglar. I was doing a training last week where this big Ziglar quote came to mind in the middle of this training based on what somebody was saying. And I shared it and somebody was like, oh, tell me, how did you connect them? Like, here’s the story? 20 years ago, I was working all day taking night classes and I lived about 47 minutes away from the university I went to. So my nitride home, I would listen to cassette tapes and they were like, what? But yes, I would pick the set tapes in my car to listen to Zig Ziglar on tape, basically like, you know, just learning and trying to get as much as I could from, from all of his amazing lessons. But what’s interesting about your question to me is when I reflect, I do so much work in the mentorship space.


Daniel Horgan (06:32):
And I think that so many people work here in mentor. They think traditional like big brothers, big sisters one-on-one matches oftentimes for a long period of time. And when I look back on my own life, I don’t think I really had people that I would say, quote unquote, were my mentors. I never referred to them like formal advocates, coaches, devil’s advocates, like people that just challenged me in all sorts of ways and cheered me on when I succeeded, helped me troubleshoot when I was failing at something. And so I think that, you know, whether it was my student council advisor, who would never answer a question with a straight answer, he would always return a question with a question which taught me to be curious or people like the, the Zigler or Oprah or Les brown, who I just, I studied their craft in a way that they were inspiring people and the way that they were serving through their words and through their coaching and trainings. And I think those people had probably the biggest impact on me.


Sam Demma (07:35):
And that’s awesome. And what pushed you into the direction of starting your own work? I think lots of people listening educators are like, had a defining moment when they decided I’m going to get into this work that I’m doing with young people, because it lights a fire in my soul. It’s meaningful. It’s building tomorrow’s leaders. Why did you decide to not pursue corporate work? I know you did for a while, but then take the leap into entrepreneurship and try go full on with this youth empowerment stuff.


Daniel Horgan (08:05):
I think there’s two quick stories I’ll share with you. One is when I volunteered at the YMCA, you, I told you I did it because I was home for like the first two weeks, the one summer where my both of my brothers went to work. And I was like, this is not fun anymore. Like I’m all by myself. I convinced them. And like, I always wanted to follow in their footsteps. And for the first year that I volunteered at the camp, that’s what I did. It was the second year that I went back to the camp when I was 12, I was matched with a young kid named Patrick who had down syndrome. And the entire summer I was matched one-on-one with Patrick. And my goal was to make sure Patrick had like the best summer experience possible. And it was that summer, honestly, that like I learned that it wasn’t about following in someone else’s footsteps, but it was about basically carving out my own path and part of carving out your own path.


Daniel Horgan (08:51):
I think if you’re going to be successful is learning how to the needs, the wants the desires of others so that you can serve in the fullest way possible. And so with Patrick, you know, Patrick parents were super protective and rightfully so. They wanted to make sure that like, he didn’t get hurt, that he was only engaging the things that they thought he could or wanted to do. But then I would see Patrick, while we were sitting on the sidelines and the rest of the kids were playing a game of kickball and Patrick had this look in his eye and they’d be like, do you want to play? Right? And he’s like, yeah. And I’m like, well, let’s play. And he’s like, well, my parents don’t want me to play. They don’t want me to get hurt, like, but you want to play. So let’s just test it.


Daniel Horgan (09:30):
Let’s just see, like, can you bring this to life? Can you bring this interest, this passion for life? And we got them to play. And he had an amazing time. And even his parents over the course of the summer started to realize that you have to make this switch at some point where you’re not following someone else’s chosen path for you, that you are creating and, and, and sort of designing your own experience. And so fast forward in time, you know, I worked in lots of different contexts locally and nationally and incorporate a nonprofit. And I had a coach when I was at capital one who taught me essentially the skill of taking a step back and zooming out to see where in my career at that point was like 15 years in, was I most happy. And what she made me realize was I was most happy when I was creating an entrepreneurial. And so coming out and doing my own thing for me was the space where I could be the most creative, I’m a fast paced person. So like, I like to move quickly. If I see a problem, I want to fix it. I don’t want to like talk about it forever. And so like the ability to test and learn and iterate has been something that I would say continues to fuel. The entrepreneurial spirit within me.


Sam Demma (10:44):
That’s such an amazing, it’s such an amazing story and example to highlight that point. And I think a lot of educators can relate in the sense that, you know, in life they might’ve been going along. And then they had a defining moment where they decided, you know what? I want to teach these young people. When they first start teaching, they have this idea that, you know, I have to follow the curriculum a hundred percent and make sure I get all of these lessons done in this amount of time. And then as I, as they progressed, and as I’ve talked to more veteran educators, they tell me, you know, if I could go back, the piece of advice I would give myself was to go off. The beaten path was to serve the students, not really, and not relating to what’s on the agenda today, but for what they need today, if during our discussion, something came up, you know, I had to veer off track is that’s the best way to serve them.


Sam Demma (11:32):
And it’s like you said, you have to stop following the rubric or the agenda or the footsteps of others, and just carve your own path based on those desires and needs of others, which is a, such a sort of fascinating point. And all the educators listening could probably relate. If you could think back to when you were in school, did you have any teachers or educators in your life who deeply impacted you? For me, it was my grade toll road issues teacher who opened up my eyes to different possibilities and social impact. I know you’re not that old, so it’s not too long ago, but is there anyone that comes to mind?


Daniel Horgan (12:11):
Yeah, I mean, I would say I mentioned him earlier within my student council advisor, who also taught a leadership class at my high school. So it’s, it’s funny, like doing the work I do now. I am a naturally introverted to where I get my energy is like through my own sort of individual reflection and sort of learning process. And so I was like re and I also went to like a much, much smaller school and then transitioned to a campus style high school that had like 1500 people in my class. So it was like a very big learning curve for me and an adjustment. And I were not like my first year and a half, I was pretty much like just went to class, you know, did well in school and just like do what I needed to do. And like, just didn’t want to be noticed to be honest.


Daniel Horgan (12:55):
And my locker was right outside of Mr. Meyers is his name, Mr. Myers, his office. And like halfway through that school year, my sophomore year, he started talking to me about student council and like all these activities. And he’s like, Hey, you know, you should get involved in some of this stuff. And I was like me, like, why would I go? Like, I just didn’t see it. But like, I think he saw something in me and the way that like we interacted each day. And then we, I said hi to him and have small chat. And I think what I would share with you in terms of that question is Mr. Meyers convinced me this next semester to take his leadership class, which unlocked for me, like an entirely different understanding of leadership. We, I remember clearly the handouts on situational based leadership and how you apply different leadership strategies to different contexts.


Daniel Horgan (13:40):
And it made me realize that, like, I don’t have to be the, you know, the outspoken person in charge all the time. Like I can be in different contexts playing different roles. Then he also got me, encouraged me to take forensics, which was like speech and debate where I started like taking on different acting roles and competing on the weekends in these states. And what high would in hindsight, like, I didn’t know it at the time, but when he was doing with getting me to come out of my shell and he was trying to do it in a way that was like, take on a different character and like compete in the acting thing. Right. It’s not, you it’s like somebody else that your TA and I would take on these crazy characters because it was totally not me. And it felt like I could do that.


Daniel Horgan (14:20):
Right. But then I started translating it to leading workshops, but he had me do it like the local and then state level. And I went on to like lead a statewide camp for middle school kids. And it was all about his training, right. He was slowly patiently coaching me, seeing within me something I didn’t see in myself and challenging me with questions instead of telling me what to do, which is today is like my top advice for educators and mentors is lead with questions and curiosity and bring the answers out of people because oftentimes students and young people, especially they have the answer, they know what they want to do. They just haven’t given them themselves permission to do it.


Sam Demma (15:04):
That’s such a good reflection. And I’m thinking about situations in my life, even like on a personal note where you might want to tell someone your advice, but it’s probably a lot wiser and more impactful to ask a question and help that person come to a realization themselves. Even if it’s not the answer you were looking for. That’s a great piece of advice and I need to hear, and I hope anyone listening needs to hear it as well.


Daniel Horgan (15:25):
Yeah. It’s hard to do, but you can do it with practice.


Sam Demma (15:29):
Small patient challenges like your teacher. That’s amazing. Since then, you know, and you’ve developed, you’ve developed and delivered, I’m sure hundreds of sessions, you know, maybe even thousands by now, what have you learned one about facilitating to young people and impacting youth, but also virtually cause I know you’ve, you’ve been doing a lot of work virtually and one of the things that educators are struggling with is engaging young people virtually and you know, you know, every time you do a presentation, you probably learn something new, learn something different, the more online presentation you give, you learn something new. Have you had any realizations, has anything stuck that you’ve, you’ve figured out that you think might be worth sharing with an educator who teaches a virtual class?


Daniel Horgan (16:14):
Yeah. I mean, my number one tip that I’ve been sharing lately is when, when COVID hit and so much of the world, I mean, my business completely went from being in person. I was in like three different cities a week. So like all of a sudden doing everything a hundred percent virtually. So like I got stuck in the trap in the very first, I would say months where I was just like constantly researching and trying to find like every trick in the book around virtual learning, virtual engagement and like tested things out in different, in different formats. And what I realized was that it’s not about the tricks. It really is about an authentic connection with the audience, quote unquote, right? With the students, if the students feel your vulnerability and the way that you’re teaching, coaching, being curious, they will connect with you and stay engaged with you in whatever experience you’re creating.


Daniel Horgan (17:07):
And so I would say, you know, focus less on like the tricks and more on the authentic connection. And then second I would say, which is one of my favorite Maya Angelo quotes, you know, peop students, well, from an educator’s perspective, students will forget what you said. They’ll forget what you did, but they’ll never forget the way you made them feel. And so what I always try to reflect on when I create, or I’m speaking or doing training experiences, if it’s the experience that you’re creating, that is going to pull them in to, how do you want that student to feel in that virtual context? And how are you tapping into, by being curious how they’re feeling? Right. So like if you’re a student who now all of a sudden can’t see their friends as much and don’t have the social interaction in the school building and are trying to adjust to this whole new virtual world as well, like lean into the fact that we’re all in this together, lean into the authentic stories of what you’re navigating and what you’re going through and where you fail or where you try something that doesn’t work and share those funny stories and what you’ve learned from it, with your students and invite them to share with you in return.


Daniel Horgan (18:17):
And it creates a common bond. And I always say that common bond recreates the foundation upon which you can build that relationship. And that relationship is so pivotal for, I think, any educator to be, you know, an effective instructor and an effective mentor to these students.


Sam Demma (18:32):
That’s awesome. I love that. And you’ve been doing this for a while. I had the pleasure of working with you on the talent accelerator, which is a phenomenal program for young people who are working on their professional development and career development. Would you mind sharing a little bit about that specific program and how it works?


Daniel Horgan (18:50):
Yeah, totally. So the talent accelerator was launched. I say the silver lining of COVID, right? So a lot of the companies that I work with in a lot of the communities around the U S they were canceling their summer internships or job opportunities for young people. And the reality is just economically. A lot of young people rely on these experiences for the funds to support their next semester of school or the miscellaneous expenses tied to books or transportation, things like that. And also these experiences are what gives young people an opportunity to test different career pathways and decide what they want to pursue or don’t want to pursue. And so the town accelerator, we created a virtual experience where students are engaging in project based learning assignments related to different career pathways. Each project takes about 10 to 15 hours and students, they pick their course.


Daniel Horgan (19:38):
So they pick which projects they’re most interested in. They work through the project, learning about in the research section, all about the context, seeing examples, then they get to create something, their own original work, which is a way for students to build up their portfolio and sort of showcase the value that they can bring to potential employers. And then the opportunity to gather feedback. So every student is matched with a group of coaches who are employee volunteers from different companies, representing different industries, functions and levels. And so the idea again, is that students are, are creating something. They’re getting feedback, they’re getting coaching. The number one takeaway that you know, Sam and I, when we work on this over the summer as a pilot with 460, that’s quite a pilot, we learned to let Mike one of the key takeaways, then the student’s feedback was so many of them had not had practice or a lot of experience presenting.


Daniel Horgan (20:30):
And so the idea of presenting in front of their peers, presenting in front of professionals, getting real time, coaching and feedback. It enabled them to not just develop that skillset, but boost their confidence, knowing that their voice mattered and their creative ideas could unlock other opportunities. And so again, I think the most educators listening I’m sure will relate to the experiential learning. The project based learning design of the talent accelerator is I think what really pulls the students in because it’s not somebody just lecturing at them. It’s a real experience. Self-Directed learning. Like we’re not teaching them. It they’re sort of teaching themselves. And then reflecting back to us, their application of learning


Sam Demma (21:10):
So true. And you can see the improvement of these students after they finished and the smile on their face after they finished their presentation, the, the feeling of teaching and seeing a student or young person grow is such a fulfilling feeling. And the TA talent accelerator does a great job at just allowing kids to build themselves up in all areas of their life. And if someone’s listening and thinking, you know, Daniel’s a really cool guy. I would agree. What would be the best way for them to reach out? Maybe just ask a question or have a conversation with you.


Daniel Horgan (21:43):
Yeah. So they could definitely reach me by email. It’s just Daniel@colabl.com, or they can check out our website, colabl.com or on Twitter @HortonDaniel. So love to connect with anyone who’s interested in.


Sam Demma (21:57):
Awesome. Dan, thanks so much for coming on the show. It’s been a huge pleasure having you on and we’ll stay in touch and hopefully do some more work in the future.


Daniel Horgan (22:04):
Absolutely. Thanks Sam.


Sam Demma (22:06):
And there you have it. The full interview and conversation with my good friend, Daniel Horgan. If you enjoyed this episode, consider taking two seconds to leave a rating and review on the show. It’ll help more high performing educators, just like you find this content and benefit from hearing it. And if you do have something that you want to share, some insights or inspirational stories of transformation in education, please shoot me an email info@samdemma.com and we’ll get you on the show as a guest as well. Anyways, I’ll see you on the next episode. Talk soon.

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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.