Humans of HDSB
A space where we celebrate the beautiful humans in Halton, sharing their stories and their insights
Meet the Humans of HDSB. Learn a little bit about what they love about their role, the successes and challenges they face, along with some of the things that make them Human. We asked each of these humans about what is working for them in their role, what their main challenges are, a tiny victory they've had, what they want you to know, and a couple of luck-of-the-draw personal questions.
Intermediate Teacher - Virtual School North
What do you love about your job?
Having the opportunity to learn alongside others - the students, colleagues, mentors within the Board and our community - is a huge part of why I love education. Every year provides opportunities to keep learning and growing. The opportunities to engage in Professional Development, even virtually, have been an amazing part of the journey. For me, this job is about relationships and connections and so I am very thankful to the people I have met along the way.
As someone who did not enjoy school as a young learner, I find that having the opportunity to be a small part of building a safe learning community with the students is also a major part of the job I love. I really do believe in doing the work with and for the students.
In this challenging year, what have you tried that is working?
At work, collaborating with others and those small ‘check-ins’ with friends and colleagues has really been a source of light this year. I am fortunate to have amazing teaching partners who support one another and create a safe space for trying and failing and listening and growing. The ‘check-in’ texts, virtual coffee chats, and physically distanced walks have gone a long way. It hasn’t always been easy and there are so many people I miss dearly at work and look forward to connecting again soon.
On a personal level, I have tried to give myself more grace. I place very high expectations on myself, and this year put that in the spotlight for me. I get frustrated because limitations beyond my control prevent me from doing the things I value and believe in to the standards I hold myself to. I feel defeated when I can’t sleep or my body aches from being on a screen all day. Negative self talk permeates my thoughts as I sit in my office by myself. These things (and then some) are still present but what is working is reminding myself that my feelings are valid and justified.
And so, I have been working on acknowledging and accepting how I feel in the moment and developing tools to work through them. Understanding that I am doing the best I can with the moment I am in, and seeking support when needed. I recognize that it will be a lifelong journey and I am okay with that.
What has been challenging?
Giving myself a haircut! Those side fades really are works of art… Anyone with advice!?
I also think a constant challenge that ebbs and flows is teaching virtually. For me, I know that being on a screen and sitting at a computer for hours a day was not something I pictured as an educator. I think this experience captures that pause for “yet” because I feel that I have seen how virtual learning spaces provide opportunities that differ from in-person learning. For all the tears, the uncertainty, the anxiety, the internet connections - it has been a challenge for sure. However, I remind myself that the situation we ALL faced this year continues to be in response to a global pandemic. In our virtual and in-person learning communities.
Something that I hope to carry with me from these challenges… I hope this pandemic gives us pause to really take a look at public education and leave behind what was not working, carrying forward new learning and perspectives, and to support one another as we heal and grow from adversity.
What is one tiny victory or quick win?
It took a while to really view it in this way, but in a virtual setting having the students log into our Google Meet each day feels like a victory. Whether it’s a few or all. All challenges aside, they come back and while each day may look different I have so much respect and gratitude that they come back each day. I want to carry that gratitude with me when I return to the physical learning community.
What words of love & encouragement do you have for fellow Humans of HDSB?
I feel unsure what I could possibly say, or share that could make an impact, but here it goes:
Remember why you love this world we call education - beyond all the emails, the many many many extra hours, the constant content creation, the internet problems, the rows of desks, the reminders to ‘stay in your zone’ and ‘put your mask on please’, the list could go on…
You are important. You matter. Advocate for the mental health and wellbeing of your students, colleagues, and ultimately yourself. Take care of yourself and take care of others.
What is your favourite word, and why?
Can I say ‘pizza’? Because I absolutely LOVE pizza and even the word brings me joy!
Have you ever had a nickname? What was it? If not, what nickname would you like to have had?
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a ‘nickname’ per se - some of my cousins called me Mikey when we were younger though!
Not sure I could think of one if I had to choose to be honest!
Health and Wellness Assistant - JWS/ Health and Wellness (HR)
Secondary Educator - Craig Kielburger Secondary School
Guidance Counsellor - Craig Kielburger Secondary School
Photo by CKSS photography teacher - Antonia Giroux
Vice Principal - Irma Coulson P.S.
What do you love about your job? What lights you up?
The people I work with everyday….and especially the kids!!! I absolutely LOVE visiting classrooms, and talking to the kids and families on the school-yard. With over 1000 students at Irma Coulson....they keep me energized and excited to be at work everyday! The staff are simply inspiring, and remind me that educators are some of the most caring, hardworking and selfless people I know!
What has been a challenge?
I’ve learned to accept that not everything will go as planned...this year is a great example of how COVID has impacted us all. This has been a great reminder to slow things down, to prioritize our health and wellbeing and to simply be kind to everyone we come into contact with. Keeping up with Public Health protocols have kept us all very busy...it’s great to see how our communities in Halton have come together during these challenging times.
What is one tiny victory you've had?
Seeing our Coulson students from JK to grade 8 follow all the new Health and Safety protocols and expectations while remaining positive and happy at school is a win for families and educators alike! We all want our kids to be safe and happy! I’m just as thankful for all the great work my own children’s HDSB school is doing to keep them safe and excited to be there everyday.
Do you have any words of encouragement for other Humans of HDSB?
Nothing is forever...remember that these challenges will pass! Remember to take care of yourself and to reach out to support those around you. Find ways to laugh...I’m so thankful for my Coulson Family who shows this kindness, care and empathy to others everyday! It really does make a difference!
What is the last thing you bought for yourself?A mask (really....lol).
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?I’m honestly happy with who I am. I’m in no means perfect... but I don’t think anyone should be. Our weaknesses and imperfections build our character, our empathy, and our resilience. I know I have a lot to offer but I also know I have a lot to learn. I have an incredible husband and family who are there to support me and two beautiful kids who I’m beyond proud of. Teaching our kids to be proud of their identities and confident in their own bodies and voice their contributions is a wonderful gift that we as educators and parents have an opportunity to do everyday!
English Teacher - Virtual Secondary School
Photo by CKSS photography teacher - Antonia Giroux
Grade One Teacher - Virtual North
What do you love about your job?
No matter how much I may be dreading my day - from staying up late the night before prepping and feeling inadequate as a teacher - the minute I see those smiling faces on the screen excited to see me and telling me that they would rather be at school with me than on winter break or the weekend, totally lifts my spirits!
What has been a challenge?
Having to assess my students according to the standards of the current curriculum expectations when our teaching models have had to undergo so much tremendous change with fewer resources available to us for enriching and engaging learning.
What is a tiny victory you've had?
Most of my students can now navigate from the Google Meet to their online activities with independence or much less guidance than they needed at the beginning of the year. They are becoming more proficient with the online learning tools that we use in class. Oh! I also helped my daughter’s teacher who just started virtual last month with presenting online readers to the students because she was having trouble showing it on the screen. I actually knew some of the jargon to use to explain it to her instead of saying, “click on the thingy on the bottom and then the thing that says Pearson Readers….”. She managed to successfully read with my daughter on the screen and thanked me for my help.
Words of encouragement for the other Humans in HDSB?
It’s a lot but the small victories can be the fuel to get you through each day if you focus on getting through one small step at a time. My father-in-law always says to my kids, “How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite.”
It may seem like there is no end in sight and you want to give up. I think about it everyday. Keep focusing on those little steps then suddenly when you look back you see that you’ve made it to the end of January already. March is just around the corner. You’ve got this and I am here cheering you on the whole way through.
If you could hire someone to do one job for you for the rest of your life, what job would it be?
I would want a personal trainer because I want to get in the habit of having a healthier lifestyle, and I feel like I’m utterly failing when I do it on my own. I do a lot better when someone is motivating me to push myself.
Have you ever had a secret admirer? Would you want one?
I can’t recall ever having a secret admirer. No, I wouldn’t want one because I don’t like the idea of someone putting me on a pedestal. I don’t like to be the centre of attention at the best of times, and the thought of someone admiring me creeps me out.
WINS: My two grade 1 colleagues and I share a portable as our virtual instructional space. We decided to bring our classes together for some read-alouds, mindfulness, and activities. It allowed the kids to get to know different teachers, the educators to get to know more students, and the students to get to know each other. And, it gave us, as educators, a bit of a breather from being "on" and gather our thoughts, which was nice for our mental (and physical) well-being.
The parents of our kiddos have been so supportive! They recognize and acknowledge the effort we're putting in all day long, and are getting a more realistic behind-the-scenes understanding of what happens in a day. They are also so helpful in times when tech issues arise.
Who would you like to have dinner with?
I would love to have dinner with Kamala Harris. I don't follow politics greatly, but I think Harris has something really unique about her, and I feel a connection to her in some interesting way that she sees the world in a way that I see the world, and she sees people in the same way I see people - looking at people like humans, and being a kind, nice human being matters. That's important to her. She had a quote the other day that being a kind human matters - and I just was like, "YES!" Of course, I want my students to learn to read, and write, and do math, and all the other things, but ultimately, I want them to be kind human beings - because, if you're kind, you can collaborate better, and if you can collaborate better, you can work out that math problem with others, you know?!
So, I think it would be amazing to have a conversation and learn more about her as a person, how she got to where she is, what her plans are... Tomorrow, we're going to read her book, "Superheroes are Everywhere", and talk about the picture of her with all the other Vice Presidents - all the white men in their white hair - and then Kamala at the bottom, a black female. I've never really brought politics into the grade one classroom before, but I think this is important enough. So yeah, I would totally want to have dinner with her, and get to know her.