Happy New Year everyone! It's great to be kicking off 2017 with another fantastic educator feature for you to enjoy. I came across Dean Vendramin on Twitter after I shared a post looking for new people to feature on the blog. I don't have the honor of knowing Dean personally, but after reading through his responses, he reminds me so much of myself. It is obvious he is a passionate educator who loves the work he does. I appreciated his honesty (especially admitting he has a bad sense of humour!) and his overall joy of learning. If you enjoyed what you read, make sure you let Dean know and connect with him as well!
Tell us who you are! How long have you been working in the education field? What school district are you in?
My name is Dean Vendramin and I have been working in the field of education for 21 years. My school district is Regina Catholic Schools.
What subject/ grade do you teach?
I currently am an education leader and teach Math to grades 9-11. But I have taught many other classes including Social Studies and Communication Media (involves video, audio, web design, and graphic design). I also had a stint working in our district office as an educational technology coach and consultant which was great and I got to work with teachers from K-12.
Who was your favourite teacher when you were a student? What made them stand out from the rest?
In elementary school, it would have been Ms. Weisbroad because she challenged us, enjoyed what she did, and I felt she genuinely cared for us. In high school, it would have been Mr. Lundine because I really enjoyed his class and also he challenged us. Once there was an assignment we did where I had to pretend to be a teacher in a one room school house and he pulled me aside and said, “You looked natural up there! You would be a good teacher some day (which reaffirmed what I wanted to be even back then).
What was learning like growing up for you? Easy, challenging?
I was lucky that I was able to ‘get’ things fairly quickly when I was growing up and that’s why appreciated a challenge and also gave me a chance to help others ‘get’ it which is what I try to do to this day.
Who or what inspired you to become an educator?
I’m very lucky. I’ve always felt being an educator to be my passion and the experiences I had growing up added fuel to the fire so to speak. I see life as one big learning journey and there is always more to learn and share.
Describe what your dream classroom would look like.
Great question. A simple answer is one where me and my students feel empower, engaged, and excited about learning. A more complex one would involve a new look to education that would really put all student learning needs first and give them the tools (such as technology, furniture, supports) to follow their learning goals and passions. If you are asking about a space – I’m getting close with a laptop cart, iPads, organized room, flexible seating, sunlight, no teacher desk, and just a positive vibe and look in the room.
Tell us about a challenging moment you’ve faced in the classroom. How did you deal with it?
It is challenging every time you work with a student who doesn’t want to learn. I try to build a relationship with all my students and try to find out what’s going on with that student. There are many factors that can be in play and it is important for a teacher to remember that we don’t know what has happened in that student’s recent or long term past and to dismiss that student is not why we are there. Unfortunately, I haven’t always been successful in this challenge, but my motto is if I can be a positive influence or help one student realize their potential then my career has been successful … I try to live out this motto each day I teach.
What gets you pumped up before entering the classroom? (ex. music, car dance party, coffee?)
You know I’m pretty lucky this way. I really feel blessed and fortunate to do what I love to do. Some days are a challenge but generally it’s all good. I get extra pumped when I get to try something new in class whether that’s a joke, an app, a teaching tool, using Minecraft, coding, skyping, breakout box … I get pumped trying to be innovative.
What makes you a great educator? (Come on, toot your horn!)
You know I’ve been blessed getting to do what I do for a living and I try to honour that for myself and those I serve. I am also not afraid to fail or take a risk and this has lead me to have many awesome experiences though out my teaching journey. I have gained many skills to help me get better at my craft and have been fortunate to work with many great educators that inspire me to get better. I try to have a growth mindset not a fixed one and I really feel this has lead me to be a ‘great’ educator, but one can always get better.
If your students could describe you, what would they say?
He loves what he does, he cares for his students, he likes to try new things especially with technology, and he’s got a really bad sense of humor.
What was your best teaching moment?
Very tough to nail down one single moment, I still get that ‘feeling’ when I have helped a student discover that they can do it or challenge that student to do even more. To have students get out of their comfort zone and/or just make them smile. These are the moments that work for me.
What do you do to enhance your personal learning?
One of my favourite things about teacher is that I love to learn too. I have found twitter to be the best personal learning source that I have ever found. I have grown my professional learning community through this social media and have learned much about the art of teaching, new ideas, and myself. I have been fortunate to have been a part of a few amazing professional development opportunities such as being Microsoft Innovative Educator and currently a Global Minecraft Mentor. I also try to read a few books such as The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. Talking to staff and students always gets me thinking too. I have also received extra education in education technology and hope to expand this more.
How do you balance your personal life from your teaching life?
It can be tricky at times. Being an educator is part of who I am and my family and friends understand this. I try to leave ‘it’ at school as much as I can, but I’m lucky to have people in my life who let me share and vent. For the most part it works and I’m lucky to be grounded and have lots of love and support when it doesn’t.
Do you do enough to maintain your personal wellbeing?
I think so. I try to laugh a lot and appreciate everything I have been blessed with. It is important to keep strong in your faith as well. I make time to work out and be active. I love being with my family and hanging with them. I value the breaks we get but also look forward to getting back at it too.
Have you ever experienced burnout? What/who helped you cope?
Sometimes I have taken on too much and it can get a little stressful. I cope by taking a deep breath and tackling things one at a time. I also keep in perspective that the sun will rise tomorrow and things will get done. I’m not afraid to ask for help and I always try to keep a positive attitude. I also have a great support network of family and friends that help me too.
What do you love most about teaching?
I love that I have a chance to make a difference. I am a life long learner and I love the fact that there is always more to learn and share. I love building relationships and learn a lot about other and myself in the process.
If you could talk to your younger self (ex. elementary student, high school student, post-secondary) what would you say?
Keep learning new things, take time to just listen, and take time to appreciate what you have.
There may be teachers reading this who are in need of a reminder why they’re great educators. What would you say to help lift their spirits?
Just remember you have a chance to touch the future. The things we do and say can live for a very long time in the minds of the ones we serve and even to future generations. We are a vital part of the growth and development of our youth and in fact sadly in some cases the only positive adult some of our students will see each day. It is a great honour and responsibility we have to be great and do it with integrity, a growth mindset, love, and a little laughter too.
Teachers are more important than ever before. No longer are we the 'sage on the stage' we are more 'guides on the side'. With access to the internet students can know find information on their own, but whether that information is correct or how to use it is another story. We must teach students 21st Century Skills such as critical and creative thinking and collaborating with people not only in our class but around the world. We must give students skills and get them 'ready' for jobs that don't even exist yet. This is a challenge that I have invested a lot of time learning about and relish.
Jam Gamble - Connector of People, Ideas and Energy