Next up in our Women of Distinction Alumni interview series is Linda Innannen. This WRDSB teacher inspired the pants off us in 2015 with the many intentional ways she built an empathetic classroom and school culture. Read on to hear how her award win helped shift her focus as a leader.
What was the experience like, of being nominated for a Women of Distinction award?
It’s helped me in many ways. I’ve learned to enjoy being acknowledged for my teaching efforts in a Roots of Empathy classroom. I didn’t realize the impact of my teaching until a mother of an ex-student told me she had specifically come to the awards night to cheer me on. As I had shown her son empathy and encouragement, the year I taught him, he started to believe in his abilities and his life changed. It was wonderful to have the support of my friends and family when I received my award, but knowing that I had truly made a difference in a young student’s life humbled me and made me feel proud, all at the same time.
Name the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned about leadership.
As a teacher, I’ve come to realize it’s more rewarding to be the type of leader known as the guide-on-the-side, and to invite students to form the leading inquiry questions. Certainly, I know the destination of our curriculum expectations, but when I guide a unit of study, it’s actually about all of us leading on a new journey, discovering big ideas, redirecting misconceptions, and forging new pathways and relationships with each other.
What have you been up to since the big win?
I’ve been trying new things. I’m learning to let my hands, feet, and spine guide the rest of my body in Tai Chi classes. I’ve tried painting with acrylics which, I’ve found out, is very difficult to do. I’ve gone up in a hot air balloon and lived to tell the tale. I’ve gone back to my Finnish roots by travelling to Stockholm, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg, and visiting my paternal grandfather’s homestead and relatives in a little place called Parikkala. And, I continue to write, read, knit and overthink everything.
What’s the best piece of advice when adversity comes and I need to get back up?
My Go-To advice is from Michael Leunig’s work: ‘Let it go. Let it out. Let it all unravel. Let it free and it can be a path on which to travel.’ I love the idea of setting an idea, a problem, or an expression of ourselves free in order to construct new beliefs in ourselves as we journey through life.
If you want to cheer on and encourage this year’s winners, you can purchase your tickets for Women of Distinction 2018 here.