Vice President

Marco LeBlanc – Vice President of the New-Brunswick Student Leadership Association

Marco LeBlanc – Vice President of the New-Brunswick Student Leadership Association
About Marco LeBlanc

Hooked on Leadership and Community Service since 1999, Marco LeBlanc is doing leadership right! He’s been teaching since 2009 and has taken students to local, provincial, national and global student leadership conferences.

Married to the wonderful Sindy and father to Kate, Marco has also adopted his 29 year old cousin after the sudden passing of his Mother. Scott lives with a mental and physical disabilities but gives an entire new and positive meaning to quality time, he is amazing!

Marco is currently a director on the board of the Canadian Student Leadership Association, the Vice- President of the New-Brunswick Student Leadership Association, President of the Local Association for Community Living, where we run a learning center for 35 adults living with mental and physical disabilities as well as a community residence for 7 adults, and Co-President of a Drug Free Community Committee. He’s a Grad and Student Council Advisor and Homestay Coordinator for Atlantic Education International finding host families to give an amazing experience to international students.

Winner and Recipient of the 2008 UNB Unsung Hero Award, 2014 Tom Hanley Leadership Award, 2014 and 2018 NBSLA Community Outreach Award, 2015 CSLA Leader of Distinction Award, and 2019 New Brunswick Teacher’s Association Teacher Recognition Award.

Connect with Marco: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Canadian Student Leadership Association (CSLA)

Canadian Student Leadership Conference (CSLC)

New-Brunswick Student Leadership Association (NBSLA)

Atlantic Education International (AEI)

New Brunswick Teachers’ Association (NBTA)

The Transcript

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

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. I’m super excited. Today’s guest is Marco LeBlanc. He has been hooked on leadership and community service since 1999. That’s right; the year I was born. Not to age Marco, he’s a phenomenal dude. And he has been doing leadership right since that day. He’s been teaching since 2009 and has taken students to local provincial/national global student leadership conferences.

Sam Demma (01:03):
He’s married to the wonderful Sindy and father to Kate. He has adopted his 29 year old cousin after the sudden passing of his mother. Scott lives with the mental and physical disabilities, but gives an entire new and positive meaning to quality time and Marco believes he is absolutely amazing. He is currently a director on the board of the Canadian Student Leadership Association, the Vice President of the new Brunswick Student Leadership Association, the President of the Local Association for Community Living, and the Co-President of a drug free community committee. He’s a grad and student council advisor and home state coordinator for Atlantic Education International, finding host families to give an amazing experience to international students. His bio goes on and on. Marco has done so much in the world of education, so much for young people, and it’s really inspiring. And I hope some of his stories that he shares today in his podcast really touch your heart.

Sam Demma (01:54):
Marco is the winner and recipient of the 2008 UNB Unsung Hero award 2014, Tom Hanley Leadership award 2014 and 2018 new Brunswick Student Leadership Association Community Outreach award, 2015 CSLA Leader of Distinction Award, and 2019 New Brunswick Teachers association Teacher Recognition award. There’s a reason for all of that and you’ll hear about it on today’s podcast. And I hope that his stories really touch your heart and remind you why you got into teaching. I’ll see you on the other side, enjoy. Marco, 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, why you got into the work you’re doing in education today?

Marco LeBlanc (02:41):
Well, my name’s Marco LeBlanc. I’ve been an educator for about 12 years and a student council advisor for about 10. I’m part of the New Brunswick Student Leadership and the Canadian Student Leadership Associations. And I guess I would’ve gotten into this leadership journey because it was offered to me as a student and I just grabbed onto it. Totally fell in love with being of service in my community, whether that be in my direct community or my school community. And from there, I mean, I just wanted to share that passion with students and give them some purpose and, and things to do while they’re at school and so it’s been working great.

Sam Demma (03:29):
And what made you back when you were a student? What made you want to grab onto that opportunity of getting involved in the student leadership? Was it the, did encourage encouragement from another educator or were there other things in your life that really like drove you towards wanting to get involved?

Marco LeBlanc (03:49):
So that’s a great question. It was an another educator for sure. And she’s actually a colleague of mine now, which is kind of odd, but it, it works. We team tag now, so it’s partnership. But basically as a student, I wouldn’t, I would not have been involved very much in, in school and probably on the path to making a few wrong decisions consecutively in, in, in my teenage journey. However, this teacher was adamant that, you know, she saw that I was always willing to help. And then from there she just used that as the spark and always made sure that I had a project going. And so she kept giving me these projects and I kept falling into it and, and taking it by the horns and planning activities, doing fundraising is being involved and having something to do. And from then on, I was hooked on this leadership thing.

Sam Demma (04:50):
That’s awesome. I love that. And when you say hooked, I mean, if that’s the analogy we’re using now, you’re like a professional fisherman then, because you’re you know, you’re heavily involved with the school you’re at, you’re also heavily involved with the new Brunswick student leadership association. At what point in your, you know, your educator career, your teaching career, did you start getting involved in the new Brunswick, you know, leadership association and, and what drove you to get involved there? You know, cause I’m, I’m sure you were heavily involved at your school, but I’m assuming that took it to a whole new level as well.

Marco LeBlanc (05:22):
Yeah. So in, in my last year, as a high school student, I was able to finally take part in a new Brunswick student leadership association conference. And, you know, that was a wonderful experience. I networked so much by just being an attendee and, and learning many new things. And when I went into college and university, I mean, I still took part in, in some social clubs and, and I did a, a working group from the university as well. So when I returned into education at a school after, I mean, I, I dipped my feet in to get my first year under my belt, but starting second year, we went right into let’s get a student council going. And after that first year of having a student council connected with the new Brunswick student leadership Associa, and then have never looked back, went through as a, as a director. And then now I’m vice president and loving what, what we do and the opportunities we provide for our New Brunswick youth.

Sam Demma (06:32):
That’s an amazing story. And I’m curious to know, like, I’m, I’m sure there’s other educate who you share your experiences with with student leadership that are very fascinated by it. And there’s also other educators who sometimes think like, why is this stuff so important? You know, like what makes student leadership such an impactful and essential part of school? Like, we’re not, you know, we’re not teaching them math or science here, it’s, it’s life skills and other, you know, other things, what would you share with another educator who might be thinking to themselves? I don’t understand why this stuff is so essential and so important. Yeah. In your opinion, why is this this work around student leadership, very foundational to learning and growing as a young person?

Marco LeBlanc (07:17):
Well, I think, I think given the anything with student leadership is a lot about finding, finding out who you are and, and tuning into you know, the, the skillset you have and, and the things you want to develop and, and maybe try out, it’s also having that ability to take a risk also. And so once, once these students start entering into these, these leadership opportunities, you really see them develop and, and, and turn into, you know, students who wanna make a difference, wanna make an impact, wanna serve their community. And, and there are still those students that want to be at the background, and that’s fine because that’s still a foundational element of, of anything. And so in speaking with, with educators, I would say that the best thing would be, you know, the, the importance of this is that students find like their, their niche. They find something that they can and hook onto. They can invest in it and they see what happens. You know, they, there’s, there’s an automatic response. So it’s either, you’re gonna see that people are enjoying themselves at an, a event you’re running, or you’re gonna see that people are getting involved in a fundraising effort for a cause, whatever it be, if it’s social awareness and, and just that networking that happens, the connections, the community, partnerships, all these things, follow them beyond school. And, and that will be where the benefits will show.

Sam Demma (08:57):
Yeah, that’s a, I love that. And I mean, from the perspective of an educator, you’ve also seen the impact firsthand in your own life, but also in the lives of the students, in your schools and communities. And I’m curious to know, like if I had described the state of the world right now, I would say, it feels like sometimes it feels like someone has taken a large blanket and just dropped it on top of the planet. And it seems a little dark at times. And a little lonely at times, and student leadership provides a light, a light for students. And I’m curious to know in your experiences, if you’ve seen firsthand, you know, student transformations occur maybe because of student leadership or because of a, you know, a caring adult or educator, and do any of those stories come to mind. And if they’re, if they’re very serious, you can change a student’s name just to keep it private. And the reason I’m asking you just to be transparent to share it is because I think another educator listening can be reminded of why the work they do is so important. We hear about these transformational stories.

Marco LeBlanc (09:59):
Yeah, I guess the, the one thing that I always go back to is a story of I’d say about six or seven years ago, I had a student council election coming, and I had a student who was basically peer pressured by his buddies to, to join in, but it was, it was as a joke. It was as a first, it wasn’t going to be an authentic commitment and whatnot. And anyways, we went through the election process anyways, and I knew that, that this had occurred, but I wanted to see what the results were. And after student vote basically I had a tie for who was going to be leading the student council. And so this individual had received almost 50% of the votes from the student body. And so I sat down with the student with the two individuals, and I said, you know, I think this is an opportunity to, to work as a team show that teamwork is possible.

Marco LeBlanc (11:02):
That one position can become two, and maybe we can you know, have more success this way. And obviously the voice of the building was saying that they, they really think that that person might, you know, do the job real well and represent their student by. And so we went for it and everybody was in agreement. We had a wonderful year, tried new events. Everything went well so much success, but in the end, at the end of the year, we had what we call a turnaround award in our, in our school district. And that’s that award is actually created so that students who have totally flipped their lives, they were experiencing some difficult circumstances in their lives or academic, behavioral, troubles, whatever it’d be. And they’ve shifted their life around fully. And, and this student one, I mean, he had, because of peer pressure, he was obviously in a bad place, poor choice, poor decision making, but went for it anyways, got into student leadership, found out that it was a passion. And he obviously brought forth a major skillset that was lacking in our student council. From there, you know, then he, he just built upon, totally changed his perspective. Everything got better. His relationships got better. His academics got better. He looked into post secondary, which he wasn’t even considering before. And he was the recipient of that turnaround award. And, you know, it, it was the best kind of full circle moment at the end of a school year.

Sam Demma (12:41):
That’s such a great story to share. And that student any chance you stay in touch with him to this day or, oh,

Marco LeBlanc (12:50):
Yes, for sure. That student is working full time and started a new family and everything’s in the up and up. Yeah.

Sam Demma (12:58):
That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it. And did he have any realizations as he got into it? Like I’m sure at first he might have not been the most confident in himself, but through student leadership, did you see a change in him? Like how did he transfer form personally throughout the journey as well?

Marco LeBlanc (13:18):
Yeah, he, he definitely transformed because he, wasn’t going to start this with any level of, of knowing what to expect. And so he was coming at it quite blind. He didn’t know what to expect, what his role was going to be. And, and obviously he wanted the, the appearance to peers was a major concern of his if, if he’d be accepted or not, and, and what would be the repercussions of that. But his revelation was probably his first successful event and how many people knew his name would say hello in the hallway would start to, you know, ask him questions and, and suggestions of new ideas. And he took it on and he really felt that he got the student’s voice vote. And so he needed to commit to being there for them. And the minute he started doing that, I mean, it was, it was wonderful just to see how he could blossom early.

Sam Demma (14:22):

Marco LeBlanc (14:23):

Sam Demma (14:24):
Oh, awesome. And this year, obviously things are a little different.

Marco LeBlanc (14:30):
Very different. Yeah.

Sam Demma (14:32):
A little comedic, you know, but I’m curious to know, despite the, despite the challenges that are going on, I, I think that with every challenge, there’s an equal opportunity if we really try and find it and look for it. So I’m curious to know one, what are some of the challenges and two, what do you think some of the opportunities are as well during this time?

Marco LeBlanc (14:54):
So, I mean, a different a definite challenge is the fact that, you know, a lot of activities are not following the distancing protocols and so on and so forth. So they’ve been put on hold for the year and with a lot of activities that in involve having a lot of students gather it’s been a lot, a lot more difficult for our student council members to digest and, you know, to, to understand that those limitations exist. However, we do talk about limitations are often opportunity as well. So you need to check what can we do? And how can we flip this around so that people get to, to enjoy it too? So I mean, meetings are not in person. Meetings are virtual. We do theme days, we still plan classroom events. So if they’re in already in their bubble, we’re, we’re able to have those classroom events. And we’re starting now that the weather’s nice in new Brunswick, we’re starting to do some of the activities outside because we’re allowed to have a little bit more people outside. So, yes. Yeah. And I mean, they’re, they’re still committed. They’re still doing their part, it’s different, but they know that any, any time they commit and anything they do for the benefit of somebody else, then it’ll come back as being a successful thing.

Sam Demma (16:23):
And correct me if I’m wrong. But I also believe that this, there might be an opportunity of a reminder that reminded us how important relationships were. Yeah, I think it really showed us how important it was to maintain relationships and build relationships with not only our fellow colleagues and family, but the students in our classrooms. What is your philosophy on relationships? And how can we try and still build relationships during this like weird time?

Marco LeBlanc (16:52):
Yeah. I mean, relationships, so are key. That’s, that’s just, that is the foundation. If you don’t have the ability to sustain relationships and make relationships, then you know, leadership is very difficult. So you need to be very open to that. What students are, what I’m noticing here this year is a lot of, of youth empowerment is happening. We, we want positive messages out there. We want to tell people they’re okay. We want to have these moments of celebration and, and make sure that, that we take that time to do it because maybe before it was a little bit, you know, something that we just, we were too busy or caught up with with our own lives. But now we’re really intentional with the fact that we need to celebrate the successes. We’re having the great things that are happening. We need to tell people that we love them and why we love them. And we need to tell them why we appreciate what they’re doing for us. And I think not only do we need to say it, but people are really starting to show that they feel it too. And so you know, I think students are learning. There’s still a, a curve. Some people are struggling through this, obviously, but others are, are taking that advice and they’re, they’re going with it. They’re offering some positivity and it’s, it’s working for us.

Sam Demma (18:13):
Awesome. It’s so true. And you’ve been doing this for a while. Not to age you, you’re not old, but, but

Marco LeBlanc (18:26):
Yeah, no kidding.

Sam Demma (18:28):
You’ve been doing this for a wow. I’m sure you’ve, you’ve changed your own philosophies around education since you’ve started teaching from now. And I’m curious to know if you could go back in time and speak to Marco when he first started teaching, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now and from learning from so many, the other awesome educators?

Marco LeBlanc (18:50):
I think I’d actually go back to that relationship piece. When I was starting into education. I mean, it was all about the content and it was all about delivery and it isn’t about that. It’s about the relationship with the people you have in your class. You make sure that they feel valued. You make sure that they understand that they’re worthy and, and then you can get to content because they’re comfortable in your class and they’re ready and willing to learn. And I, I think I’d tell myself back then that it, it’s very important to spend a lot of time on building relationships and then the rest will come.

Sam Demma (19:23):
Mm, love that advice. That’s awesome advice. Awesome. Marco, this has been a, a great short but jam packed conversation and I appreciate it. For everyone who’s listening to this, Marco and I recorded an earlier episode about two months ago, and we had both some technical difficulties so he was kind enough to come back on and rerecord, and I’m so glad that we did. If, if an educator is listening and wants to reach out to you just to share some ideas or have a conversation, what would be the best way for them to get in touch?

Marco LeBlanc (19:53):
So the best way would be through email probably. So it’s quite simple; marco.leblanc@nbed.nb.ca. I can also be reached through any student leadership platforms, whether that be the Canadian one or the New Brunswick one. So feel free, reach out.

Sam Demma (20:10):
Awesome. Cool, Marco, thank you so much for calling on the show.

Marco LeBlanc (20:14):
Thanks Sam. Keep doing that amazing work of yours. We appreciate that.

Sam Demma (20:18):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Marco LeBlanc

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.

Kirstin Johnson – Vice President of Competitive Events, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)

Kirstin Johnson - Vice President of Competitive Events, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)
About Kirstin Johnson

Kirstin Johnson joins the National Executive Council with six years of FCCLA experience. Previously, she served as the Washington State Vice President of Competitive Events and Washington State Vice President of Region 7. During her time in FCCLA, she has also competed in five different STAR Events, each of which earned gold at the national level.

Outside of FCCLA, Kirstin is involved in Knowledge Bowl, Running Start, Youth Group, and volleyball. She enjoys fishing, creating art, and spending time outside with friends, family, and animals. After high school, Kirstin plans to pursue a career as a midwife.

Connect with Kirstin: Email | Instagram | Website

Listen Now

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

Resources Mentioned

Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO)

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)

FCCLA Star Events (Competitive events)

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 interview is very special because it’s not with an educator, but actually a student. Kirstinjohnson is the national vice president of competitive events with FCCLA, family career and community leaders of America. Kirstin joined the national executive council with six years of FCCLA experience previously. She served as the Washington state vice president of competitive events and Washington state vice president of region seven. During her time in FCCLA, she has also competed in five different star events. Each of which earned gold at the national level. Outside of FCCLA, Kirstin’s involved in the knowledge bowl, youth group and volleyball. She enjoys fishing, creating art and spending time outside with friends, family, and animals. After high school Kirstin plans to pursue a career as a midwife.

Sam Demma (01:05):
I hope you enjoy this conversation with Kirstin. I hope it gives you some insights into how teachers impacted her student leadership experience. And I will see you on the other side, Kirsten, welcome to the high performing educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. I’m super excited to chat with you. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself and just share a little bit about who you are with the educators and the audience who might be tuning in today.

Kirstin Johnson (01:33):
Awesome. Yes. Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here. My name is Kirstin Johnson. I’m a senior in the small town of Kititas, Washington. I’m 17 years old. And this year I’m serving as the vice president of competitive events for family career and community leaders of America. FCCLA is a student leadership organization. It’s a career technical student organization with family as its central focus. We use skills. Our members use skills from family and consumer sciences classes to develop and implement projects, to impact their communities and all sorts of places at this regional state and national level. We use our personal power to make a difference to empower others. We grow as leaders and we prepare our members for college and careers as they go out leaving high school and beyond it’s a new ball game and try to help make sure they’re as ready as they possibly can be.

Kirstin Johnson (02:28):
I got involved in FCCLA really early on. So most schools are gonna be ninth through 12th grade, but some schools are fortunate to offer middle school chapters for family career and community leaders in America. And my school did, we offered a sixth grade chapter and I heard about it, my neighbor, nice. I went over to their house and honestly, it’s kind of a funny story. I got involved cause I wanted to go to Disneyland. Just short and sweeter. I went over to my neighbor’s house and she wasn’t there. I was like, okay, where’s Annie. And my name was, oh, she’s in, she’s in California. Why is Annie in California? And your whole family is here. She went for school. Hang on, hang on. How did Annie get to go to California for school? Yeah. Oh, she’s going with her FCCLA chapter.

Kirstin Johnson (03:15):
And I turned to my mom. I don’t know what that is, but I wanna do it. Okay. I guess so. And so the first day of sixth grade, I walked into my Nowad advisor’s classroom and I said, Hey, are you the person who does FCCLA said, yeah, can I do it too? Yeah, it it’s a lot of work. Are you sure? Yep. I’m in. I wanna go to Disneyland we don’t always go to Disneyland. You know that right. I didn’t, but I still wanna do it. Okay. And so that year I kind of just threw myself into deep end. I started with my first star event, which saw our events, Stanford students taking action with recognition. And my event was environmental ambassador at the time. And I peer educated elementary and middle school students on the importance of composting. And I taught them how to make compost men.

Kirstin Johnson (04:03):
And I loved it. I had a blast. And from there I kind of realized, Hey, this, this isn’t so bad. I can make a difference. I can speak up. And I I’m just, I’m one person. I am a sixth grader, heck, before I started this, I could barely just talk in front of anyone. And now I’ve got the, to actually insight change. I wanna keep doing this. And so then I got involved with student body government and I continued to get involved in my school. I was team captain for multiple sports teams and I just kind of kept the ball rolling. And every year I just kept coming back to FCCLA a and getting involved with office was kind of a different story.

Kirstin Johnson (04:42):
It was more of a slow climb where I met. It was less of a dive right in. Yeah. A lot of people, I was fortunate enough to run for national office last summer, which is why I’m hearing now and talking to a lot of people, I got to hear their stories and it was amazing to hear everyone’s stories. It felt like everyone had this aha moment. Like they saw the national walk officers walk out on stage and they’re like, that’s gonna be me. They’re so cool. And that was not what happened with me. It was, I guess I could do a star event and then I did it and it wasn’t so bad. I guess I could do a skill demonstration event. Hey, that went pretty well too. Maybe I’ll do chapter office and then low and behold, it worked out. But I saw the state officers on stage, no way.

Kirstin Johnson (05:33):
These people are crazy. Who would wanna talk in front of 800 people? That’s way too many and then my advisor, Hey, one of our candidates dropped out for state office. No. Okay. Maybe. And I came in with the application the next day and then we were good. And then it was, I believe it was last summer. We’re talking. So you’ve got a little qualifications now, do you wanna run for national office? I mean, I guess I could. I know I can make a difference. I guess I’ve got the skills to do it. It’s a matter of finding out if it’s a good fit, I’ll run and I’ll see what happens. And that, that was kind of how every step of my journey went. And I think it’s probably a pattern I’ll continue to follow. Cause I’m not really a, I’m a go-getter, but I don’t like to feel like I’m out of my depth, if that makes sense. And FCCLA has really helped me figure out where my personal strengths are and where I can actually succeed with that mindset. And it’s helped me to figure out you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to know everything going into it to actually step into a successful leadership role. And that’s kind of how I got started and how I’ve been involved and how I’ve stayed.

Sam Demma (06:47):
Where do you think your next, I guess I will, is gonna take you in life. Like where, where do you kind of foresee yourself going in the future?

Kirstin Johnson (06:55):
Great question. Right now I’m looking at attending university and I want to be a midwife. I wanna be part of making women feel loved, cared for and safe during every step of pregnancy birth and postpartum care. Especially I think that’s really important. I feel like right now in our world, a lot of the times women feel like their numbers just being pushed right in and right out of a hospital. They’re like, get in, get it done and get out, have fun taking your baby home. And I want women to make sure that they’re, they feel loved. They feel prepared. I want someone when that baby is crying and they’re just trying to use the bathroom alone because they’re overwhelmed. I want someone I wanna be able to, to help them and just hold the baby. It’s okay. Take a deep breath. Or you’ve got this. I want, I want, wanna be there to support them. And I, so right now I’m applying to colleges and I’m hoping to be on the right track to succeed in that career field.

Sam Demma (07:47):
That’s so cool. And let’s go back to your, that first day you walk into your advisor’s class, you know, that was the start of a relationship that you probably didn’t even realize you were gonna build and have for the next couple of years. Can you me more about, you know, what your advisor did for you that had such a positive impact on your life and, you know, got you involved in leadership because other educators might be listening, thinking. I wish my students were just as you know, interested in motivated as Kirstin.

Kirstin Johnson (08:14):
Yeah. Mrs. USY. So I’ve had the pleasure of working with her. Now this is our seventh year together and she’s just amazing. She is one of the kindest, most caring, most dedicated individuals I’ve ever met. I love her so much. It was definitely an interesting relationship at the start because I was terrified of her. I was so scared. She kind of has this reput of being the big, bad, scary teacher at our school. Cuz she’s strict with her deadlines. She has a very type, a way of getting things done and it works, but it can be overwhelming, especially as a sixth grader, who’s used to just elementary work and kind of pushing things off to the side. And then you hop in, whoa, I gotta, I gotta do stuff now. And she doesn’t take too kindly to just slacking off. And so it was a lot at first and I’m gonna be honest.

Kirstin Johnson (09:07):
I hardly talked to her probably the first year. And then the second year I had her in class she’s I would go up to ask her questions about FCCLA, Mrs. USY can you help me with no, I have heard you talk with your friends way louder. You can speak up. I know you got that confidence and it was little things that she helped me with and she really, she believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, she saw potential that I didn’t know I had. And I think that’s something that really amazing teachers are really good at is seeing the potential in students. And she going back to that dedicated part. I was kind of a train wreck as a sixth grader. Anyone who knew me can attest and I, I was clutsy. I was a mess. I was all over the place.

Kirstin Johnson (09:59):
And so I had no idea what I was doing. I wrote my speech for my first competitive event, the night it, or the day it was due, what I had to finish the project the night before. And she stayed with me till 1230 at night in the school helping me make sure I got it done because she wanted to, he succeed, even though I probably had not done enough to deserve to succeed at that point in time, she believed I could. And she made me believe that I could and together we were able to accomplish that. And it’s been like that through our whole relationship. It’s been, I, I didn’t know if I could do it. And she was there to push me and she was there when I failed. She was there with love and support and encouragement and also like, Hey, this is how we gotta get it right the next time it wasn’t just a, oh, we’ll do better.

Kirstin Johnson (10:47):
It was like, Hey, we can work through this and we can grow from this. And she’s just always been that person. And I’m, I’m so grateful to have worked with her. And I mean, to be working with her still, she’s just one of the most amazing people. I’m I’m sorry. I did this at state too. I tell she won the national spirit of advising award, which she totally deserves and our teammates one, my teammate and I, we had to speak about her at our state conference and we were both bawling by then. I, I’m just honored to say that I’ve worked with her and she has changed my life in more ways than I could probably say.

Sam Demma (11:29):
Ah that’s so, ah, that’s so kind she sounds like an amazing leader, you know, and an amazing human being and I’m, I mean, I’m curious to know, like what do you think makes a great leader? What do you think makes a great student leader?

Kirstin Johnson (11:45):
I think this is a really open-ended question and I’d love that. And I think it’s a hard one to put into a mold because a leader can be so many different things. It can depend on the role you’re trying to succeed in. It can be who you’re trying to lead, what you’re trying to accomplish. And I don’t think you have to fit into a specific box to be a good leader. But I do think there are some things that make a leader really stand out or encourage them to succeed more. I would say one thing that we all learned from the pandemic is that a good leader is adaptable. Cause you never know when this is a really specific and personal situation, but I was packing up to leave for a state leadership conference that I had spent months prepping for the day before I left, it was shut down and we had to plan an entirely virtual state leadership conference in two weeks.

Kirstin Johnson (12:43):
And it was terrifying, but you have to be ready to roll with the punches. Anything can come your way and you have to be ready to take it and adapt and use it. Don’t don’t let it get you down. You have to be ready to use it and see it as a new opportunity to do something different. Cuz if you’re not able to deal with a new situation coming, right, how are you gonna show other people yeah. To deal with that? I think another kind of in the same area is a good leader is optimistic. You can’t really lead anyone and a new direction or an, to an exciting new place. Or so then how do succeed? You’re like, well this sucks. Nothings going on anywhere. It just doesn’t work like that. You need to be forward thinking. You need to be excited to make a difference to pave a new road, to just set your sights on change, to, to set your sights in a new direction.

Kirstin Johnson (13:37):
And I think part of that is just having an optimistic outlook. You don’t have to be a bubbly person. Personally. I am a bubbly person. My nickname has been smiley for a long time cuz I just don’t stop. Yeah. But you don’t have to be a bubbly person. You just need to have a good attitude, good outlook on life. And I think that’s gonna make a lot of difference. And then this is one that I didn’t, I wasn’t super aware of until this summer. And it’s made a huge difference in my life and the way I view others as leaders and myself as a leader and that’s authenticity, a good leader means to be authentic. If you’re trying to fake it till you make it, people are gonna see that people know they see right through that guys. There’s no way that you’re gonna succeed in whatever role that you’re trying to do.

Kirstin Johnson (14:29):
If you’re being someone you’re not, and it’s not gonna be fun if you’re interviewing for a job, if you’re taking on a new role as a leader and you just fake your way through an interview or you’re like, I’m gonna be someone I’m totally not. Cuz I know that this is what the people in this role normally look like. It’s not gonna work because then you’re in a situation that doesn’t work for you. If you’re, if you do your best to be your real, authentic self, as much as possible, you’re gonna end up in situations that fit you, that fit your personality. And you’re gonna end up surrounded with people who fit you and your personality. But if you’re faking it, if you are, I’m so excited to be here, I wanna be an accountant and you don’t wanna be an accountant and then you get to the job and you’re with your coworkers.

Kirstin Johnson (15:18):
I hate my life. What is happening, everyone. It’s not gonna be a good situation for anyone whatsoever. And then, oh good leaders are supportive. Mm. They wanna see other people succeed. They’re not looking to have a title. They’re not looking to be yep. I’m the president of the United States like this, that’s not what they’re going for. A good leader is striving to facilitate the success of others. So you should be supportive and encouraging. And I think that probably goes in hand, hand in hand with the optimistic outlook. But I think all of those together being supportive, adaptable, authentic, and optimistic are some key traits that good leaders exhibit.

Sam Demma (16:05):
Yeah. That makes perfect sense. I absolutely, I absolutely agree. I don’t think , I don’t think you miss point at all. Those are, those are great pieces of advice. And I don’t think that only applies to students as well, you know, for all the educators listening to this right now also think about embodying those four characteristics for your students. Like if I had to guess your advisor probably embodied all four of those things, would, would you agree? Most definitely. Yeah. That’s awesome. Mom. I’m so glad to hear. So what’s the future of, or what’s going on with FCCLA this year and for everyone who’s in Canada and has no clue. Not, not no clue about FCCLA. I know you mentioned it a little bit, but maybe give them a little more of a breakdown on what you guys do every single year. Yeah.

Kirstin Johnson (16:52):
So I’m, I, I completely forgot you guys were in Canada. That’s messing with me. Oh good.

Kirstin Johnson (16:57):
Our organization. We are a CTSO, as I mentioned earlier, which is a career and technical student organization. We prepare students for the real world for college, for the workforce through stem skills, through facts or family and consumer sciences programs. Do you guys have family and consumer sciences in Canada? Do you call it the same thing?

Sam Demma (17:19):
Nah, we don’t. We don’t really have it. It might, it might be family studies or career and civics.

Kirstin Johnson (17:24):
Oh probably. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s your home EC. It used to be home economics back in around the eighties. It’s your learning to meal prep, learning to eat nutritionally, to prepare food, to care for children, to care for families, to learning, to sew, learning like textile stuff, interior design, graphic design, all sorts of anything in your hospitality and tourism, your visual arts and design education and training and hos oh in human services pathways. So sorry, I almost missed one. We set students up specifically for careers in that field, but you can use skills learn in our program in order to succeed in other careers, if that makes sense. Yeah. So really our goal is to make a difference and to develop leadership skills within our students. Nice. We focus on the multiple roles of the family member, the wage earner and community leader, and then students have different opportunities to learn to succeed in these roles.

Kirstin Johnson (18:36):
One of our biggest draws as an organization is competitive events, which as the vice president of competitive events, I’m a little partial to. So we have different event opportunities, star events. As I mentioned earlier, those are kind of a long term project. And students are given a rubric at the beginning of the year and then they with different criteria for each event. So for example, one year I did the chapter service project display event and my partner and I went off the rubric and then created a project that we saw we saw need in community. And that need was the growing number of homeless members of our community. And we were trying to see what we could do as high school, sophomores at the time, that’s a big issue to address, but we used the skills we had to actually make a positive impact. And so we brought in baked goods that we made a, in our family and consumer sciences classroom with our advisor every Sunday.

Kirstin Johnson (19:35):
And we would volunteer for around six hours at the shelter. We would bring in fresh, big pastries. And then we run around all of our community and we collected toiletries and other travel size items because a lot of the times people will hand out goody bags, homeless, and they throw half of it. But away because you have to carry everything you have when you’re in that situation. Yeah. So we didn’t take what you need style almost like a buffet bar, but it was the tree is another items. Yeah. I’m not sure of a better way to describe that. I hope you get a good visual with that. Yeah. And so that away we identified a need and then we address the need within our community. And then one of the main parts of the star meant after you identify a concern form, a goal, set a plan act, and then you follow up.

Kirstin Johnson (20:27):
Those are the steps of our planning process, which we use or encourage members to use to carry out all the, of their projects. And at the end, we create a 10 minute oral presentation along with a huge visual poster board or a portfolio. Some of the speeches vary. They can be five, they can be 10 minutes. And then you present in front of a panel of evaluators who evaluate your project based on the criteria of a rubric I mentioned earlier, and that’s kind of what a star event looks like. And we have more than 30 different events. We have fashion events, we have culinary events. We have all sorts of community based events. We have career investigations, you have the opportunity to explore careers. We have hospitality and tourism promote and publicize FCCLA star events are amazing because there’s something for everyone. And if the event at first glance doesn’t totally fit what you’re looking for, you can make it your own, which I think that’s the beauty of star events.

Kirstin Johnson (21:23):
That’s what, they’re my favorite. And then we have skill demonstration events are a shorter project. Those take leaves in the fall. In fact, our deadline was just a few days ago and they’ll be recognized during our national fall conference in Washington DC here in November. And for those it’s a shorter project and you do events like creed speaking, culinary, knife skills, fashion sketch. So it’s a short term pro project designed to show your ability to create something you’re well demonstrating your skills. Yeah, I guess it’s kind of in the name and we have life smarts knowledgeable, so you can demonstrate your knowledge. Do you guys have knowledgeable in Canada?

Sam Demma (22:06):
It might be something similar by a different name. And I know like the names for everything’s a little different probably, but we probably do. Yeah.

Kirstin Johnson (22:14):
So it’s, it’s like knowledgeable Quizible and then our addition is we have a family, we have a FCCLA additional knowledge category. That’s part of the challenge. There’s FCCLA I believe there’s a hospitality environment, consumer math. I’m pretty sure, but it’s loosely on those areas and students are test on their knowledge and their ability to buzz in it’s NICE’s almost game show. Like it’s a really fun and exciting way to show off your knowledge. And then we have virtual business and fashion challenges online, which are awesome because they’re free events that students can take place partly in and they can win money, which is a great way to support their chapter or their education, whatever they choose to put it to. But those are another way similar to skill demonstration events, where they can demonstrate their skills in order to be recognized. So huge focus is our variety of competitive event opportunities, which allows students to develop their skills, to use the skills they already have and to learn more about their interest areas or to learn more about just different fields in general.

Kirstin Johnson (23:28):
And those are a great way. And we also have a lot of scholarship opportunities through competitive events. We fortunate have to have a lot of new found partnerships that are really, really helping out our students. We had, this is slightly off topic, but it’s one of my favorite FCCLA moments. And I just wanna share it with you. Last year, we had a student, she came up on stage and we recognized the three top competitors on stage the first, second and third place. And she was the only one on stage. The other people weren’t able to attend the conference. We had a hybrid conference at the time because of, of the COVID restrictions. And she stood on stage. She was the only one up there and you could see her face as they announced the third place. It wasn’t her. They announced the second place.

Kirstin Johnson (24:17):
It wasn’t her. And then they went to say first place. And it was a, along with that first place award was a full to scholarship wow. To a fashion Institute. And you just saw, she smiled so wide and she was sobbing on stage. She was so happy. I’ve never seen anyone more happy to be recognized on stage. And you could tell that her dream was coming true. And it was amazing to see someone pour their heart out into a project like that and find that success and find that it really did set them up for that college readiness. Now, I don’t know her story. Maybe she couldn’t afford college. Maybe she could, but it wasn’t the school she wanted to go to. And now she had a full ride scholarship to a school where she wanted to succeed. And then we got to watch her model, the dress that she had created and it was gorgeous and she walked on stage so proud with the biggest smile and it was, it was just so cool. So I think that’s so our competitive event opportunities, scholarship opportunities through that, we set students up very success.

Sam Demma (25:27):
You did a great job explaining it.

Kirstin Johnson (25:31):
Okay! I tend to ramble as long as

Sam Demma (25:34):
No, that was awesome.

Kirstin Johnson (25:35):
So much I could say about FCCLA and what it does for our students, what it does for our communities, not just students, but I, I could go on and on.

Sam Demma (25:46):
Yeah, I think everyone listening is wishing they’re, they’ve been, they could have been a part of an FCCLA chapter. So no, you’ve definitely done a great job. If you could travel back in time to when you were a freshman and give yourself advice. And maybe even when you were younger, like even as a younger student and give yourself advice, knowing what you know now, like what would you have told your younger self?

Kirstin Johnson (26:10):
I think the biggest thing I would say is don’t let fear stand in your way. Mm. As corny as that sounds, it is huge. A lot of the times personally, and in my experience as a high schooler with other high school students, we are afraid. We’re afraid of rejection. We’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid of not looking how we expect other people to think we look on stage or in the classroom. I think fear stops us in our tracks so much. And I would tell my younger self or another younger aspiring leader, don’t be afraid, take leap, join the extracurricular, join the club, start a club, do something. If you want to see change, start it. Don’t let fear get in your way. And on top of that, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think that’s a huge thing. I’m really guilty of that.

Kirstin Johnson (27:10):
I’m like I was talking about Mrs. UC earlier. I’m thankful that I had an advisor who saw when I was struggling, even when I didn’t ask her help. And she was there, but there are a lot of times in other aspects of my life, in my leadership, but I’ve been too afraid to ask for help because I didn’t wanna look weak or I didn’t wanna seem like I didn’t know what I was doing. I wanted to feel like I had it all together. And I didn’t, and I was afraid to ask for help. And that doesn’t only hurt yourself and your performance, but it hurts as around you, especially if you’re working in a team environment as an officer, a lot of the times you’re in a team of 10 or more people. And when one part of the team is falling apart, everyone falls apart.

Kirstin Johnson (27:48):
So if you have those people around you, if you have teammates, if you have an advisor, if you have a friend, if you have a parent, if you have a teacher, someone around you, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Cuz contrary to popular belief, especially speaking to students, I don’t know, as a 17 year old, I don’t know how much you grow out of it. But a lot of times it can feel like someone’s always off to the side or in the corner waiting for you to trip so they can laugh or just waiting to watch you fail so they can mock you. And I feel like we always have that little nagging voice in the back of our heads. And you just need to, don’t be afraid to ask for help because they’re not there. It’s that nagging voice is in your head.

Kirstin Johnson (28:29):
It’s not the people around you. The people around you want to see you succeed. They want you to make a difference and asking for help is one of the first steps to doing that. Cuz no one’s gonna know you’re struggling unless you say it and you shouldn’t have to have it all figured out. Especially as a student leader, there are things you’re not gonna no, no one prepares you as a freshman to just walk on stage and speak in front of a thousand people. Things are learned. And so you need to be, Hey, I don’t know how to do this. Is there a way I can get better? And so just don’t let fear get in your way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And I think if you can overcome those obstacles, it’s gonna give you a lot of room to grow. And I think that’s something I wish people had told me. And I would like to tell other people.

Sam Demma (29:18):
I love that. That’s such a great advice for your younger self and anyone who might be tuning in. I’m curious if someone else is listening to this and is inspired by it at all and wants to, to reach out to you, you know, share anything you’d like in terms of how they can get in touch and ask a question.

Kirstin Johnson (29:33):
Oh, of course, yes. Feel free to email me. All of my contact. My email information is on the FCCLA website. I’d write out my email address, but it’s really long. Cool. and I’d probably spell it wrong talking. You can get ahold of me. I have an Instagram account. You can do Kirstin Johnson, FCCLA. It should come right up. We have Twitter accounts. And then you can also reach out to, if you wanna learn more about the organization, we have all that information on our webpage and you can reach out to our communications department. But if you wanna talk with me specifically, the best way to get ahold of me is gonna be that Instagram account or my email for sure.

Sam Demma (30:13):
Awesome person. Thank you so much again for coming on the show. This has been a huge pleasure. I can’t wait to see what your future holds keep up. It’s great work with FCCLA and we’ll talk soon.

Kirstin Johnson (30:24):
Thank you so much.

Sam Demma (30:26):
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 in review. So other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show. If you want to meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

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The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.