Having recently embarked on his second year as principal at Kopahawakenum Elementary School on Flying Dust First Nation, Tim Biggins is looking forward to exciting times. Recently, Tim spoke with Northern Pride about his career, the importance of family and the future expansion of the school.
Q: Sept. 17-25 is National Coaches Week. Tell me about how you’ve been involved in coaching here at the school.
A: I’ll actually start back to when I was in Goodsoil. I started coaching volleyball at the senior boys level, as well as baseball, which Goodsoil never had before. In the school system, you have that “gut feeling” when kids are good at something. I noticed a lot of our students were good at dodge ball and said, “man, these kids should play baseball.” So, I got them involved and, within three years, we were at the provincial level. Now that I’m at Flying Dust, I’ve had an opportunity to coach younger kids. Working on skill development is a big part of what I do. It’s also been a great opportunity for me to get to know all the parents by getting volunteers to come into the school.
Q: How does the sports scene differ at Kopahawakenum?
A: Being a K-4 school, we’re not really competing at a league level. But, our school does have a hockey program that we’re quite proud of. I coached that last year. Floor hockey was one of the skills I saw the kids were really good at, and so we actually did some coaching in the school and had a competition against Jubilee. Waterhen took part as well. I look forward to continuing coaching.
Q: Why is it important for young people to be involved in sports?
A: Kids can see their progression when doing certain activities. Sometimes, with paper and pen, they get frustrated because they can’t see the results right away, but with sports, and with proper skill development, kids really do see results. I’ve always tried to have every kid succeed. They don’t have to reach the Olympic level, but they do feel happy and encouraged. It’s rare to see a child be sad while playing a sport, and it’s always fun to be around happy kids.
Q: Do you play sports yourself?
A: I’ve started to do paddle boarding and kayaking, and I also play hockey in the Goodsoil rec league. I haven’t had a chance to play with a regular team in a really long time mostly because of my busy schedule.
Q: You mentioned being in Goodsoil before coming here. Is that where you’re originally from?
A: No, I’m actually from the east side of the province – Carrot River, SK. And, before coming here, I was at Big Island Lake School. This is my 12th year in the education field.
Q: What led you to a career in education?
A: My mother was a Grade 1 teacher and, as I was growing up and teaching swimming lessons and coaching baseball at a young age, everyone said I should be a teacher. Well, a 17-year-old boy doesn’t want to be told he should be like his mom, so I did not follow the education path until I was in my late 20s. I got into education when I was 29. I had the advantage of having so many previous experiences in life, though, and could apply them to school. That really helped me.
Q: What were some of your past careers?
A: Before education, I owned a lounge in Saskatoon called Zombie’s New Urban Lounge. I started that from scratch. I also took my commercial helicopter licence, I worked at ski resorts, I really tried to spread my wings to see what would really fit my needs.
Q: And, so far, this has been the right fit?
A: Definitely. Education is my passion and something I think about all the time. I’m still learning. I’m still trying to be a better teacher. Now I’m in a principal role, so I have a little more influence on the big picture, which I’m happy to be a part of.
Q: Is this your first tenure as a principal?
A: This is my second. I was principal at Big Island Lake for two years before coming here and this is my second year here.
Q: What is the main difference between being a teacher and being an administrator?
A: There are a lot of challenges in education and my first couple years at the school made me feel as though I was all alone on an island and I was trying to do it all by myself. Now, I realize how important it is for collaboration and teamwork. My role is to manage the strengths of our teachers as best I can.
Q: What brought you to Kopahawakenum in particular?
A: Flying Dust is a really progressive First Nations community. They put education on the forefront and they’re also expanding this school to Grade 9. I think it will be in the fall of 2018 and that interests me to be part of that transition period. I’m getting the opportunity to be part of the project planning group, to meet with the architect, to really put forth what I think is the ideal classroom format.
Q: How will the expansion benefit the school and the community?
A: We’re making a transition to provide more opportunities to students for land-based learning. I know the Northwest School Division is as well, but – if we’re focusing on creating that identity for Flying Dust and for the students to really gain a sense of belonging – it can really be achieved by attending a school that’s on-reserve. Our goal is to really create that sense of belonging for the students.
Q: Do you currently live in the Meadow Lake area?
A: No, I do not. I bought property north of Goodsoil by Lac Des Iles in 2006. It’s my little piece of paradise. It’s really hard to move, so I drive here every day. I’m up each day at 5 a.m., on the road by 6 a.m. and here at 7 a.m.
Q: What’s it like to commute every day?
A: Truthfully, it’s really hard. In the wintertime, mentally, it’s very difficult because it’s pitch black when you wake up and it’s pitch black when you’re going home. That’s another blessing of this school. There are a lot of windows and a lot of light. I often spend my time just soaking up as much sun as I can get.
Q: Tell me about your family.
A: My wife, Suzanne, and I have three great kids – all boys. Our oldest, Joshua, is in university. His goal is to become a doctor, so he’s studying medicine. My middle son, Liam, is in Grade 12 and will be joining his older brother at the U of S. He’s thinking about science-based education. My youngest son, Owen, is in Grade 6. He’s 11 years old and is going to be my little partner on the ranch for a few more years. We had a little scare when Owen was four. He was diagnosed with neuroblastoma (a form of cancer) when he was four. Our life got turned upside down, but our community really supported us.
Q: It must have been a very scary time.
A: It was, but he’s doing well now. He was four then, is 11 now and no longer receives treatments. He’s cancer-free and doing awesome.