The numbers in brackets [e.g. (0:25)], are the times in the interview. In the embedded SoundCloud player, you can click on that time frame and listen to what I was referring to.
For this leadership project, I decided to interview my 7th grade teacher – Cheryl Angst.
Mrs Angst is a gifted ed teacher, specifically for MACC. She’s been teaching middle school aged kids for quite some time now, and her first year at Citadel, my old middle school, was when she was my Grade 7 MACC teacher.
With a Bachelor of Arts in English and Geography from SFU, a Bachelor of Education in Special Education from UBC, a Masters of Curriculum and Instruction from University of Phoenix, she’s definitely well trained for what she does. She was a cadet until the age of 18, briefly in the army force (12th Med), but after six months she switched out to work in the air force. And she never stops learning and trying new things! Recently, just in October, she passed real estate training services course and is now also a licensed realtor! She still teaches MACC 7 at Citadel at the moment, however.
You can check out her official real estate site here and her real estate blog here.
Here’s an article, Teaching in BC, that she wrote when job action was happening two years ago.
I decided to interview her because after half a year of being in her class (more on that later), she made such an impact on myself and my peers, and I really went through some personal growth in her class. You could tell she worked incredibly hard to make us invested and engaged in our learning, and she let us be independent with our work. As a class, we gained responsibility, courage and passion in the classroom environment.
She was able to show her leadership skills as a teacher very well. She let us know that it was always okay to make mistakes, and she would give us “the opportunity to try. And the opportunity to fail, and then pick up and try again.” (3:48)
She would have dominance over the class and gave us structure in our learning, yet still let us have freedom and explore on our own. She would always communicate with us whenever she saw a problem, or just wanted an update on how we were doing. Communication is very important in any relationship, and she made us feel comfortable in doing so. She embodied confidence and commitment incredibly, and it was inspiring for us all. To see how much she put into making the classroom atmosphere one that we could all feel accepted in was amazing, and the rewards were evident.
She knows where she wants us to get, and works incredibly hard to get us there. She actually gained an interesting philosophy while working in the military. “The Department of National Defence has a very interesting definition of leadership, and I quite like it. It’s a bit Machiavellian, but I like it. (4:40) It’s the art of influencing human behaviour to accomplish a mission in the manner so desired by the leader. And that is what I like to do. I know where I want my students to get to, I work behind the scenes to help them get there.”
Being able to handle a MACC class itself is an incredible accomplishment! In addition to that, she is a Young Adult author, and has written a science fiction novel called The Firestorm Conspiracy. She values passions immensely, and says that “there are so many things that we have to do just to function within society. But there has to be more to life than just functioning. Passion is essential, it brings joy.” (13:28)
She loves learning and exploring, and outside of work, she views herself as a “student rather than the leader. I have these passions because I want to learn more, I want to improve, I want to get better.” It’s great that she can step into both shoes, as the best leaders are constantly learning and improving themselves. In the MACC program, we have a year-long project called the Passions Project, similar to In-Depth. (14:40)
This lets us explore different areas and try to find that spark that ignites our fire, for where there is motivation, there is success. We need to learn to apply ourselves, because the process of learning, learning how to learn, is what’s really important. “The content is a tool, it’s a vehicle. It’s the process of learning that’s important.” (14:30)
I wanted to know how she inspired us so easily, what her underlying goals are throughout her teaching career. I came into the interview with a main questions in my mind: What do you want to leave with your students and how do you make sure you do that?
It was great getting to catch up with her! I actually learned a lot about her through the interview, things that had never come up in 7th grade. She spent time in the military, I had no idea! I also learned that for a while in her teenage years, she wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon! Yet, even when she pictured that career in her mind, she always imagined teaching others how to be a surgeon – it’s always been in her. (0:25)
In fact, on her first day back from kindergarten, she proclaimed to her mother “I am going to be a teacher.” Not that she wanted to be one, that she was going to be one. “I was born to be a teacher,” Mrs Angst says. (0:10, 0:45).
When I asked her what is something she wishes to leave with her students once they move forward from her class, she said she wants to leave them with two things. “1. Knowing that it’s okay to make mistakes, that you don’t have to be perfect the first time you try something, because no real learning happens if you’re perfect the first time you try something. And the other one is, I want them to actually like learning. I want them to have that spark, that curiosity. I don’t care what your passion is, but get out there and do it and don’t be afraid!” (2:03)
I thought that was amazing. She definitely implemented those two goals into her lessons on a regular basis, it’s easy to recognize when you’re looking back. When asked what her somewhat “ultimate” goal as being a leader is, she replied with a very uplifting, encouraging response. “I want them to realize that they’re better than they think they are,” she says. “My goal is at the very least, the absolute worst case scenario is for me to say ‘I believe in you.’ Go as far as you want, stand on my shoulders, I’m not gonna be the one that reaches the star, you’re the one that’s gonna get there. And I will be proud to be the one at the bottom of the totem pole that gets you up there. That’s my goal as a leader.” (5:48)
It was amazing to see what her intentions were the entire away though, what she’s constantly working on. It really makes you appreciate everything you were provided with, all the opportunities and learning experiences that came our way. When I asked her why she wanted to inspire her students to be leaders, she said “We need more leaders. The world needs people who are comfortable in themselves, comfortable in terms of what they believe to be right and wrong, who are willing to speak up and not stand on the sidelines.” I completely, whole-heartedly agree.
One of the main reasons why I wanted to interview Mrs Angst was because around mid March, she became vice principal and we got a new classroom teacher. She got that opportunity and took it, because she knew it would be a great learning experience. I really wanted to observe what the transition was like from being a classroom teacher to a vice principal, if it was intimidating to have the whole school to set an example for (6:56). She actually had a very interesting approach to being a vice principal – her main goal was to connect with the students. She says “If we know someone, if we feel like we’ve had a connection with them, we’re far less likely to do something that would be hurtful to them.” This is very true, and as she explained through a specific example in the interview (8:19), it definitely pays off.
All in all, it was a very intriguing and inspiring interview. I thought it was wonderful to see what she was really trying to show us the entire way through, and her tactics to do that. It just made me appreciate everything she did for us even more! I loved the interview process, and came up with a lot of new relevant questions on the spot. Here’s a comparison from my original list of questions to the questions I actually ended up asking during the interview that were built upon answers – there’s definitely a difference!
Mrs Angst said some pretty great stuff during this interview, and I would love it if you took a poll I made to vote on your favourite quote of hers!
If that doesn’t work, you can vote here. You can view the results here! My final question to Mrs Angst was “Getting to the end the interview, is there one final thing you would just like to say? Actually our TALONS class as a whole, we’re going through a lot of work right now, a lot of stress but it’s definitely valuable. Any advice, tips for these potential future leaders in our class?” I loved her final statement, and I hope all of you guys take it to heart!
“It’s worth it . . . You’re going to survive, and you’re going to be stronger for having survived it, and you are going to be able to take those skills further with you. And they’re skills you’re not going to get in any other setting. So take that advantage and run with it! And change the world and make it a better place!”
What’s the most inspiring thing a teacher has ever left you with?
You can listen to the entire interview below! Thanks!