Thomas Gaudreau

Thomas Gaudreau Discusses Education, Leadership, and Teaching

in Opinion

Thomas Gaudreau is an educator who spent his entire career working in various roles in teaching, students, and leadership. He started in rural South Dakota where he worked as a middle school literacy teacher. This experience introduced him to the world of education, and he began developing lifelong skills that will play a major role in helping him be successful today.

Eventually, Thomas Gaudreau relocated to Minnesota and continued a much more versatile career in education. Not only did he continue teaching, but he also started mentoring, coaching, leading, and representing both his fellow teachers and the school district. Thomas Gaudreau was chosen to serve as the Teachers’ Union president, Teachers’ Rights chairman, and chief negotiator. While in Minnesota, Thomas Gaudreau also represented the school district as a curriculum consultant to the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning and as a subject matter expert on North Central Accreditation teams that traveled to area school district to audit their curriculum and make program recommendations.

How do you approach to staff development when it comes to your subordinates or co-workers?

Well, I approach to staff development by treating everyone as my co-worker or associate. I seldom or never think about people as my subordinates. Although I have plenty of those who fit the criteria, I prefer to level the playing field. This means that I value everyone’s input equally. I further make sure that I recognize people whenever they go above and beyond. Doing so motivates them to keep going as their hard work is not unnoticed. Lastly, I have spent a large portion of my career developing various forms of training that help educators be knowledgeable in the areas of instructional technology, alternative education, social studies, and instructional strategies.

How vital are leadership skills for educators?

Leadership skills for educators are about as necessary as the ability to write. When you are a teacher, you rely on an unspoken authority that you possess – this is your vibe. Students pick up on their teachers’ vibe very quickly and either buy in or check out faster. This, however, is often not enough to inspire classes where students may not share the same interest and passion for the topic. If you are a leader, powering through such obstacles and still conveying important ideas is much easier when you are personable, engaging, relevant and demonstrate a dedication to building relationships with students.

What are some ways to recognize good teachers?

Usually, school districts do this by giving out awards for outstanding teachers. Although they are mostly recognition-based and include little to no tangible reward, people are happy to receive them. Additionally, I think that constant positive reinforcement of good deeds is a great way to acknowledge someone. Being specific when recognizing a staff member’s positive efforts increases the impact of my recognition.

Are there any innovations in your field that you are happy to see?

Absolutely! S.T.E.M.s; Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math. All of those jobs went overseas years ago, and they are finally coming back. STEM Careers are high paying, engaging and make a positive contribution to our Nation and Society. Preparing students for STEM Careers are critical for our schools. Students learn best when they are engaged. During my career as an administrator, I have always supported STEM initiatives ranging from enhanced course offerings at our High Schools to building partnerships with industries that enable students to practice their skills in the real world setting.

How do you manage to lead while also teaching?

It is certainly quite challenging. In a way, there are times the two roles are nothing alike, and it sometimes feels like having two jobs – but, there are also times when as a leader you are more of a teacher. Staff and students are both learners in some respect in the World of Education. One of my dear associates, Dr. Jan Donovan, encourages leaders to view their team as students because making long-lasting changes in performance, it is essential that staff learn new skills like students do on a regular basis. I have fully embraced this approach when working with staff. It is very rewarding to see staff buy into new ideas, embrace those ideas and use them when working with students.

Is it common for educators to receive continuing education credits on the job?

Not as common as I wish it were because of the many factors linked to continuing education (licensure, credentialing, job assignment and salary). This goes back to the staff development question as continuing education ensures that everyone is up to date on topics that are relevant to their job assignment, school building improvement initiatives and needs of students. As far as my role, I once spent many months working on a teachers’ summer learning institute program with the school district as a way to help staff gain relevant job assignment skills and skills in understanding student needs. This summer institute began with a focus on Instructional Technology and had evolved into an annual event addressing a broad range of topics ranging from teaching with technology to the impact of Social Media and Instructional Methodologies.

The reason why I am a big supporter of continuing education for teachers is quite simple. Although the topics of a course may not change, the outside factors do. For instance, knowing how to approach students is extremely important. Naturally, that approach has to be objective and in accordance with the environment. Meaning, interacting with students as if it is the early 2000s is no longer acceptable. Many things changed and teachers are always expected to keep up with the never-ending social evolutions.

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