Expert Bio: Tom D’Amico

Location:
Ottawa, Ontario Canada
Organization:
Ottawa Catholic School Board
Position:
Superintendent of Human Resources
Socials:

“Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you” – Mother Teresa

Tom D'Amico's career in education began in 1990 when he began teaching at Lester B. Pearson High School. There he taught physical education, geography, math, economics, computer programming, and religion. As he says, "It was quite a first year!" After several years of teaching he became the computer/business department head; changed schools and began a vice-principal at St. Paul H.S. in Nepean, Ontario. After several years at St. Paul High School, he was transferred and became the first vice-principal at Sacred Heart high school, a brand-new high school that was opening in the west-end of Ottawa. He was then appointed as PrOCSBincipal of continuing and community education. This was a system appointment and included English as a second language, international languages, night school, summer school, and general interest programs. He then left the School Board for private industry as he was offered the position of general manager at Malkam Cross-Cultural Training, a private training company.

Tom found that he missed the community of the education sector so he returned to the field of education as Principal at Immaculata High School. After 6 years as principal, he was appointed as the Superintendent of Learning Technologies. In this role he was also the lead for equity and inclusive education, and had the safe school's responsibilities. Today Tom is the Superintendent of Human Resources along with school responsibilities at the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

Tom, will you tell us about your educational background:

I have Honours in Physical Education, a Bachelor of Education, Masters in Physical Education (Administration), Business Specialist (additional basic qualification) and an Executive Certificate in Conflict Management.

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in a family of educators.  As a teenager I knew that I didn’t want to follow in my parents’ footsteps because I saw how hard they worked every day and every night.  My ambition was to play professional soccer!  It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that they worked so hard because it is so rewarding to know that you are having a positive impact on someone else’s life.

I played soccer at a high level including university but I had a career ending knee injury in my last year of university.  I channeled my love of sports into a Master’s degree in Physical Education – sports administration.  The program included courses from the University of Ottawa MBA program and it was here that I developed by interest in leadership and organizational behavior/design.

 

My dream of playing professional soccer was partially realized when I was hired as the general manager of Ottawa’s professional soccer team, The Ottawa Intrepid, in the Canadian Soccer League.  For the last 21 years I have remained involved in professional sports as an off-ice official for the NHL.

Tom, you have had a remarkable career in the field of teaching and administration. How did you go from the dream of playing professional soccer to becoming an educator?

The Canadian Soccer League was a fledgling professional sports league and the Ottawa franchise had little stability.  As a young person looking to establish a career and a family I decided I needed a more secure profession, so I attended teacher’s college and earned my teaching degree and resigned from my role as general manager of the Ottawa Intrepid, to began a career in teaching.  That career change took place 25 years ago.  I decided I wanted to go into education because I enjoyed working with youth and I felt that I would be the type of teacher that I had admired as a student, one who was respectful of students and who worked hard to help each one of them succeed.

How did your career as the General Manager of the Ottawa Intrepid influence your career in teaching?

My experience in running a professional sports franchise provided me with leadership and communication skills that would benefit me later in my career when I became an administrator.   Early in my teaching career I was assigned computer programming as one of my courses to teach.  Having no background in this area, I became self-taught and quickly realized how computers (25 years ago) helped to engage students.

I created the first Ontario Ministry of Education approved multimedia course.  This course in the early 1990’s was project based and focused on differentiated learning.  It was at that time that I really saw the benefits of educational technology as a means to motivate students, to keep them engaged, and to help each of them achieve in a personalized learning environment.

"I decided I wanted to go into education because I enjoyed working with youth and I felt that I would be the type of teacher that I had admired as a student."

Are you enjoying your current position?

I love all aspects of my current job.  I love the ability to continuously learn and to be part of a global learning community.  My passion is for leadership and educational technology.  In my current role I am fortunate to be able to spend time in both of these areas as I support 13 school Principals and the human resources department.  I am fortunate to work with a talented team of business and academic superintendents and I learn from each one of them.  I also am excited to work under a great Director and Deputy Director and participate in strategic planning and visioning under their direction.

Do you have a favorite job within the field of education?

I have loved every role I have had served in our School Board.   Each one brought with it unique challenges and rewards.  As an administrator there are many courses and qualifications that are needed in order to be able to apply to be a vice-principal and then principal and then superintendent positions.  I think most people who go into administration do so because they are lifelong learners and they want an opportunity to extend their influence beyond their own classroom.  In my case the requirements included:  Principal Qualifications Part 1 and Part 2, a Master’s Degree, and the Superintendent’s Qualification Program.

What is your definition of success?

I believe that success is something that one can strive for, but truly successful individuals are always on a journey of improvement, learning from failures and celebrating achievements along the journey.

What qualities should someone have to be successful as a superintendent?

The following are traits and skills that I feel are important in the role of Superintendent:

  • Sense of Humor
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Hard Work
  • Creative and innovative
  • Strong communication skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Technological skills
  • Problem solving and conflict management skills

Where does the field of education have room to grow?

I would like to see post-secondary education become financially feasible for all students who wish to pursue this level of academics.  It seems unfair the talented and motivated youth may not be able to afford the rising costs of post-secondary education.

What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?

By the end of my career I hope I have had the opportunity to open doors for many aspiring administrators, and I hope that I have helped to create the conditions for success so that talented teachers can help students pursue their dreams.

What advice would you give someone wanting to have a life like yours?

My advice would be to “be yourself”. Always take the learning journey, and don’t look for shortcuts.  Enjoy the role you are in without worrying about what might come next.  I would remind future teachers and administrators that the greatest gift that they can give to their students, is the gift of “hope”.  I’ve always believed that hope is what keeps all students engaged and will help them reach their potential.

Tom, is there a favorite quote you think sums up your career?

“Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you” – Mother Teresa

Other Teacher.org Interviews

Charles Wakefield

Omaha Public Schools - Chief Human Resources Officer

JaMonica Marion

Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences - Agricultural Instructor

Emily Levy

EBL Coaching - Founder & Director

David Kim

C2 Education - Founder & CEO