I was born in Canada, but at age 8, my parents moved us back to Greece, where I grew up in a small village. I didn't speak the language when I entered the 3rd grade, but life in that village was nurturing and free. We were like a close-knit family of 1000, and I was drawn to people who inspired me with their stories. When we returned to Canada 9 years later, I was in grade 11, and life was vastly different. I missed the tight-knit "village" that had shaped me.
Reflecting on it, I craved connection, and I found it through teachers, mentors, and colleagues. I wasn't involved in sports and wasn't aware of opportunities in high school, so I flew under the radar. It wasn't until I started my undergrad and teaching degree that I realized my potential. I know I'm not alone in this; I see students like me every day in my 16 years of teaching.
At home, parents work hard to involve teens in activities that build leadership and resilience. But if, like me, you're an extreme introvert who prefers art, writing, and solitude, those skills might come later in life. Teenagers face numerous challenges that can strain relationships, despite parents being the most influential role models. When I lived in my village, I was more receptive to guidance from other family members and friends than from my parents. I needed a different perspective and the ability to navigate my own life. I challenged the status quo, but the community helped me learn to form relationships, be open to guidance, and trust my intuition.
I firmly believe that it takes a village to raise a child. The school system goes beyond education; it forms relationships and fosters personal growth. My journey in leadership through Indigenous ways of knowing made me wonder how my life might have been if I had continued to access such a community. Moreover, I wondered how empowered teens could be if they had the chance to develop leadership qualities early on, whether through family, school, or the community.
My mission is not new; I'm simply focusing on a group I connect with deeply—teenagers. I bridge the gap between thought leaders and their unique experiences, empowering teens and families to chart a path to success by teaching effective leadership strategies rooted in Indigenous wisdom. I draw from my own experiences, insights from experts, and our community to help teachers, teens, and families strategize for success. In essence, I am your village.
The lockdown and school closures affected teachers just as deeply as it did students. We found ourselves in empty classrooms or at kitchen tables, staring at virtual classrooms with our own reflections. Connecting with students became a struggle, and many began slipping through the cracks without support. It was a stark reminder of the power of relationships in learning.
Teens were also hurting, missing their friends and teachers. We've always known that relationships are crucial for learning and well-being, especially when students face challenges like bullying or difficult home environments. Trauma can hinder learning. This experience reinforced my belief in the importance of feeling seen, heard, valued, and safe.
To stay connected, I spent hours on the phone with my 120 students, discussing life and the world, maintaining that vital connection to our school family.
Parents were overwhelmed too, searching for resources on social media. So, I created a Facebook group and shared resources and "home coaching" tips for parents. I started the Teenacers blog to address their struggles, joining parent groups on social media and listening closely.
My growth came from supporting teachers and parents as much as their teens. It brought everything full circle, emphasizing the importance of community and Indigenous ways of knowing.
As Teenacers evolved, I realized the need to empower teachers and parents. Equipping them with tools and scripts empowers everyone involved. My work shifted to coaching teachers and parents, with a focus on virtual group coaching due to current circumstances. I'm also launching interviews with experts in their fields to help teens succeed, working with teachers to prevent burnout. It's like a virtual mentoring platform, influencing how we teach and inspire teens.
Looking ahead, I see Teenacers continuing to embrace Indigenous ways of knowing—storytelling, teachings, and mentorship. Frederick Douglass's quote, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men," resonates deeply with our mission at Teenacers. We're all in this together, shaping the future for our teens.