PMP341: The Power of Shared Leadership with Cissy Goodridge and Deirdre Timusk

Will Parker and guests Cissy Goodridge and Deirdre Timusk discuss shared leadership in this week's episode of the PMP.

Cissy Goodridge is passionate about the Middle Years and the Performing Arts. She has taught instrumental (band) and vocal music for 30 years in both single-sex and co-ed independent schools in Toronto, Oakville, and in Melbourne, Australia. Cissy holds a Bachelor of Musical Arts in Music Ed from Western University and a Masters in Education from the University of Victoria. She has worked with students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 and finds joy in helping students find their voices.  In her 30 year career, Cissy has held many leadership roles, including, Assistant House Advisor, Department Head of Music, Director of Performing Arts and most recently, the Head of Middle School at Havergal College in Toronto.

Deirdre Timusk has been teaching since she was just seven years old, starting with her younger sister as her first and only student. For years, she conducted lessons on reading, math, and science from a school desk in their basement. She later earned a B.Sc. in Physics from Queen’s University and a Masters of Arts in Curriculum Design and Education from the University of Toronto. Deirdre began her formal teaching career in Medellin, Colombia, where she taught math. She later moved to the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis, Missouri before returning to Canada to teach at an all-boys school in Toronto. During her 19 years at the school, Deirdre held various leadership positions, including Department Chair of Mathematics, Senior House Advisor, Director of Community Service, and Assistant Head of the Upper School in charge of Operations and Strategic Projects. In her most recent career move, Deirdre became the Head of the Senior School at Havergal, an all-girls institution in Toronto, Canada, just 18 months ago.

Can you fill in the gaps on the intros and tell listeners something else they may be surprised to know about you?

  • Deirdre – I’ve lived in Medellin, Colombia in the late 90s and taught there for two years  a love for Spanish and Latin dancing and am currently taking Salsa lessons. 
  • Cissy – I was nominated for a Juno (Cdn equivalent of Grammy) and Much Music Video Award and spent the first decade of my teaching career moonlighting as a pop singer.

What offerings and experiences are available at Havergal College that you would like other education leaders to know about?

  • Deirdre
    • HC-X, our innovation hub which is designed to support students and faculty through new contemporary programs and innovative learning experiences. As a lead-learning organization, we believe in providing the tools to adapt and thrive no matter what the future brings.
    • We are a Round Square school with a thriving exchange program
    • We have a Forum for Change which helps to connect our students with meaningful volunteer opportunities with our community partners as well as outside opportunities 
  • Cissy
    • We are a boarding school with students from 7 countries around the world
    • We have a robust Arts program that spans JK – 12, band, vocal, strings, drama, dance and visual arts.
    • Our competitive athletic program, with over 75 teams, begins in grade 5

Can you share the stories of transition in your leadership journeys that brought you into your current roles?

  • Deirdre
    • Never thought I would be an administrator
    • Wanted to make the school better and kept getting involved and putting my hand up
    • Began in a pastoral role as a senior house advisor at an all-boys school in charge of 80 students
    • Took on an academic leadership role and loved to create a vision and help the department work towards it
    • needed new challenge – went to a conference and was inspired by this advice:  you leave or you try another area in the same organization – expand your skill set 
    • Moved into a totally different area that needed a facelift; knew nothing about it 
    • Moved into operations and strategic projects – another area I knew nothing about 
    • Wanted a new challenge to round out my experience. 
    • Ultimately I’d love to be a Head of an independent school and am growing and working each day towards that goal. 
  • Cissy
    • I started teaching in a day /  boarding school 30 years ago. I was asked if I would take on the role of Assistant Director to an all girls’ Boarding House. That was my first experience in administration and working with students outside of music.
    • I am curious by nature and love working with young people.  I was at that school for 14 years and my Principal gave me many opportunities to grow my experience. 
    • I led exchanges, organized large music trips around the world and each time, I met new people and gained more experience. It seemed as though with every opportunity I took, a new door opened and I just kept walking through them.
    • Head of Music, Head of Arts, Worked closely with Director of Community service and Outreach
    • From there I moved to Australia to do a 6 month exchange, 7 years later I returned to my current school with a husband and child in tow. 
    • I moved back to T.O. went back to teaching and left administration for a few years, Director of PA, Co-ordinator of DEI, Head of MS
    • I’ve learned that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
    • I love working with young people, figuring out what makes them tick and how their school experience can help to shape the person they will become

For those seeking their first roles in education leadership – or for those thinking about a transition in their careers – what advice would you share?

  • Deirdre
    • Don’t wait to get experience – think about your transferable skills; if you organized X you can organize Y; just apply anyways
    • Talk to people – they want to help you – everyone likes to give advice – don’t be to too shy to ask – ask them about their jobs and what is great/not so great
    • Test the waters – Ask to take on projects to test the waters: organizing something large (I took 130 kids on a math trail through downtown Toronto), write curriculum, volunteer to help organize the accreditation visit; tell people you are interested in taking on more and try it. 
    • Prepare properly for interviews – at that level – practice, research, get questions, get your stories ready 
  • Cissy
    • Say yes, when you are approached by an administrator – Even when you aren’t sure that you are ready. Sometimes people will see in you what you don’t see in yourself. Some of my best learning has come from opportunities that leaders have asked me to take on.
    • Volunteer – get involved in all areas of the school. You may surprise yourself and find that you have a new skill or develop a new passion
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, or to challenge traditions – 110 students to a band competition in Vancouver Canada. Prior to that, the school had never sent the students to a national band competition. Now, the band goes every year.
    • Know that your journey won’t be a straight line – A career can span decades and every experience is a step toward your goal. Take all learning as a gift towards understanding your students and colleagues better.

What lessons have you learned in your experiences that you would pass along to other leaders – new or experienced?

  • Deirdre
    • Find mentors for yourself who you can ask for advice 
    • Find your people and help to develop them; I always wanted to help those who I hoped would replace me when I moved on
    • Pause, breath and flourish! Slow down- decisions don’t need to be made today; listen to others but don’t react too quickly; take time to think; breath; take care of yourself – choir, salsa, plays, seeing friends, exercise
    • You can’t over communicate; communication is so important to helping everything move smoothly. 
  • Cissy
    • Listen to hear, not to answer
    • Always acknowledge people’s feelings
    • Representation matters
    • Relationship, relationship, relationship, there is nothing you can’t solve if you have a strong relationship. That is the foundation to good communication
    • Find someone you trust. You need a mentor, but you need a sounding board more.

How has Principal Matters been a helpful resource for you in your leadership? How can listeners stay connected with you and any parting words of wisdom?

  • Deirdre
    • Listen to it every week; specific pieces of advice that are applicable tomorrow
    • Helps me to know that I am not alone 
    • Parting words of wisdom: listen to others but ultimately listen to your gut and lean into your values. 
  • Cissy
    • I have Deirdre to thank for your podcast. As soon as I got my new role, she sent me your link. I’ve listened to it every day since. 
    • I always have to stop and enter an anecdote that I have heard on your podcast in my notes on my phone. ( I walk the dog while I listen to you) Many of these anecdotes are written on my white board in my office. They serve as reminders, or inspiration when I need support, or help in a situation. Eg. people then profession.
    • Listeners can reach me at, or they can get on our website Havergal College and look us up.

Here’s an extra photo from our time together. Note the great choices in glasses from Cissy and Deidre! 🙂

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker