Friday, 16 December 2016

Farewell CHHS, you have taught me much...

It's hard to believe a decade ago I walked through the front doors of this school unbelievably excited to be joining a different district and an unfamiliar school. After ten years of teaching, CHHS  offered me my dream job of teaching English and I leapt at the opportunity.  I was immediately welcomed by teachers, many of whom have left this great school for a variety of reasons: Brusky, Luyten, Jesse, Walker, McDougall,  Morely, Goepen, McOuat,  Stickle to name a few. I'm not sure how or when it happened, but gradually I became one of the “seasoned” teachers and the time left in front of my career is far shorter than the time that has passed. I have spent considerable time this past week reflecting on my time here and know I will miss this place. I owe everyone here for helping me grow as an educator and administrator; all of you have contributed in some way.

I have learned a lot during my tenure here to prepare me for my new role as a principal. Most importantly I have learned the importance of an administrator to facilitate and encourage teacher leadership, to empower and then get out of the way, to support from the background,  to keep my ego in check and understand its about the students and the teachers, not about me. To be an instructional leader, but not necessarily the expert in everything. To listen more than to speak. To be a leader and a team player, not a manager. Without relationships where people feel valued, listen to and trusted there is only superficial and shallow progress. The single greatest influence on a student's success is the teacher. If I have been successful with anything here it is because of the hard work of others; I take no credit for it.

I have laughed, argued, cried (maybe even yelled, before I Zenned out) here...this school has seen me at my worst and at my best.  As I look around tonight and walk through the hallways, visit a couple of my favorite spots and  box up my final belongings I feel sad, scared, excited, but mostly I feel proud to have been a member of this incredible community. When I look at the young teachers here and the not so young teachers I can't wait to see the inevitable growth and improvements that are sure to come. The smartest person in the room, is the room, and oh what a room you have here.

Be well,


Thursday, 22 September 2016


Our (this is my wife's journey as much as mine) recovery from heart disease has been as dramatic and in some ways as shocking as my initial diagnosis. 174 days ago my doctor offered me hospital admittance, uncertain of my stability, and the adventure began. Six months off work so far for treatment, monitoring, lifestyle changes, appointments, an ICU admittance and management of a whole lot of medications was ordered. Our lives have revolved around heart disease. Recently different medical professionals have contacted us expressing their genuine relief and surprise that we have reversed the once labelled “severe heart failure.” My heart, they said, has healed itself. Yesterday one of our specialists shared that we had far exceeded expectations and although we still had some work and careful monitoring to do, I was basically as fit as I was a year ago when I was participating in five and ten hour endurance events. I have shared that this has been the best thing to ever happen to me (I know that sounds crazy), but I have learned so many things during this experience and my greatest fear now is that in time I will forget. We have learned the power of a positive mindset. We know meditation and mindfulness played a role in recovery, as did connecting with nature. We know that each day is a gift, there is only this moment and what the mind believes the body can achieve.  We believe in the power of gratitude and humility.

I will forever be indebted to a team of medical personnel from Medicine Hat and Calgary who followed me closely and became more like really smart friends than distant professionals. I thank family and friends who believed, prayed, sent positive thoughts and vibes and messages of encouragement. Mostly, though,  I am grateful for my wife, Lisa,  who is my rock, my greatest supporter, believer and best friend who put her life on hold for ½ a year so that I could regain mine.

Be well my friends, seize the day.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Welcome George

Tomorrow morning I will be introducing George Couros at the Southern Alberta Teachers’ Convention. For me, this has meant spending time reflecting on who George is, how he has influenced me and why I so eagerly embraced the idea of welcoming George to my city and to some of the most amazing teachers in the province. What I quickly came to realize, however, is that I’ll only have about 90 seconds to introduce him and the audience isn’t there to listen to me ramble. My role is to simply set him up by sharing with the audience some of his background and accomplishments, not to deliver a tribute or share how connecting with George has helped me grow.

Even though I have never met George in person, I feel like I know him well enough that I could deliver a keynote session on him.  I’d like to tell the audience that his ability to connect with people and make them feel valued is most certainly a trait he acquired from his parents who as George describes made everybody not just feel special, but know that they are special. George has the ability to challenge your thinking and make you question your own practices all the while still making you feel very respected, accomplished and trusted. It is perhaps his greatest strength and his father’s legacy certainly lives on.

I emailed George over Christmas  thanking him for writing the Innovator’s Mindset. I shared that It gave my motivation to learn a rejuvenation that was needed. As an educator and administrator I’m not sure if anything is more important than fostering that love of learning and trying to get someone to do their best and for that I am grateful. That is what I strive to accomplish in my career.

I am Todd Samuelson and I’m an administrator for school division 76. I am very excited to be with you this morning and to have the opportunity to introduce our keynote speaker, George Couros.  George is the division principle for Parkland School Division and an innovative teaching, learning and leadership consultant. He is the author of the recently published book entitled The Innovator’s Mindset, has a powerful Twitter presence with over 107 000 followers, is author of the influential blog Principle of Change, and is the founder and creator of the blog Connected Principles.

I first heard George speak on the radio as he was being interviewed by a couple of local Calgary radio hosts and was immediately struck by how effective he was at pushing my thinking, challenging traditional educational practices and at the same time making the audience feel like they could stop in for a visit at any time. About a month later I followed up with that feeling and reached out and connected with George and we’ve been communicating back and forth ever since. George has made me a better educator and continues to challenge, influence and inspire me today and although I have never physically met him feel comfortable and confident in saying,  “I’d like to introduce you…to my friend…Mr George Couros.