6/30: Thank You to Mrs. Reece

Mrs. Reece was my first ever mentor. Though I didn’t realize that was the nature of our interactions until we’d already been chatting regularly for 8 years. I was fascinated by her. Among many little things along the way, she made 2 specific impacts on my life at 19 and 24.

Sault Ste. Marie mentorship was simple, home-y. Mentorship in The Soo happened at cozy kitchen tables. Mrs.Reece was the most successful career woman I’d ever known. With a true career path, not just a job. We talked about the choices she made on her journey.

Growing in Parallel

Mrs. Reece rose the ranks from a Teacher to a Principal to working at the Board. She went from Superintendent of Elementary Education to the Director of Education for the whole school board. It was inspiring to watch.

I didn’t know anyone else who changed jobs: my mother was always a nurse; one uncle was always an optometrist; and another uncle always worked at the liquor store. The idea of getting different jobs across your career was new to me. With my small-town naïveté, I didn’t even understand the concept of promotions outside of movies.

I met Mrs. Reece as my principal in Grade 5. As I entered high school, I became her back-up babysitter. When the main babysitter, who by the way was my French teacher Mme. Iacoe’s daughter, was busy. Babysitting maintained our connection into high school.

As Mrs. Reece catapulted her career, I was growing too. In previous posts, I referenced how I was 19 when I realized that I would need to be a billionaire to impact change in the world at scale. I approached Mrs. Reece at this age with an idea. One that would take 5 more years to implement.  

Throwback Facts

When I was a lifeguard, I would watch kids at free public outdoor pools in lower socio-economic areas of town. Kids would walk to the pool with no shoes and one towel in a plastic grocery bag to share between 3 siblings. The kids would stay all day: 1pm – 7pm. The pool was their summer camp.

Most of the time we would play games with the kids on our breaks. I remember being struck by the fact that they didn’t like school. No matter how many questions I asked, there was nothing about school that they seemed to enjoy. I didn’t understand that. I loved school. I loved learning. My mother instilled in me early that education is the key that you can use to change your circumstances. Even more, I loved achieving. Winning academically fulfilled my competitive nature and affirmation needs.

By the time I was in second year university, I read the report: “With Our Best Future in Mind” by Charles E. Pascal to the Premier in June 2009. It talked about the importance of education early in life. And how inequalities begin shaping children as young as 3 and 4. In effect “pre-destining” them one way or another. To me, that didn’t seem fair. And I wanted to do something about it.

The Power of No

This was the idea I brought to Mrs. Reece when I was 19. I told her that I cared about literacy and numeracy. Key areas for children’s growth and development. I showed her the report, which, of course, she had already seen.

Mrs. Reece said no to me. She was wise enough to tell me that I was too young and too inexperienced; that simply caring about something wasn’t enough to give me license to just do something. She encouraged me to learn more and grow.

That was the first time I understood the power of saying no. Something I have to do every day with my company. No to research projects that I really would like to do. No to hiring certain people, even if advisors recommended them. No to certain investment offers too. Mrs. Reece showed me how to say no and wait for the right time.

5 years later was that right time. At 24, I approached her again. By this time, I’d grown from second year university to almost finished my master’s. I’d led club after club and negotiated with university administration. I represented my university to lobby officials in the provincial government. I’d worked multiple jobs advising executives at multi-million-dollar organizations. And this time, I had a plan.

I came to Mrs. Reece with the hope of replicating a program I participated in at my university and a program run by a new acquaintance at U of T up in Northern ON. This time, she said yes.

Thank You

Thank you, Mrs. Reece for talking with me around the kitchen table. Thank you for asking questions about my hopes and dreams. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for saying no when you knew I wasn’t ready. Thank you for saying yes and giving me opportunities when I was. Thank you so much for your example as a leader. It’s been an honour to know you and to work with you all these years. Thank you.

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