Relationships are the Foundation: Social and Emotional Learning with Justin Oberndorf

What do middle schools and corporations have in common? This may sound like the setup for a joke, but there's a lot to learn from our latest guest, middle school teacher and life coach Justin Oberndorf. As an ex-corporate employee, Justin found his passion in coaching middle schoolers and young adults, and is an inspiring example of how to take an $80,000 pay cut and never look back. In this latest episode of Uncover the Human, Justin teaches us the importance of building relationships with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), and how to show up for others so they want to show up for you.

Credits: Raechel Sherwood for Original Score Composition.

YouTube Channel: Uncover The Human








Cristina Amigoni: Hey, Alex. 

Alex Cullimore: Hey, Cristina. 

Cristina Amigoni: So we can't go back in time and re-record what you just said. But maybe you can remember it. We talked to Justin. Mr. O.

Alex Cullimore: Yes. Justin is Kelly's husband, and has been a middle school teacher for a long time. Does a lot of work with education and coaching and life coaching of young adults, but is truly – I don't know what he said. But like, and it's truly fascinating how much the work he's doing translates so easily to how we are approaching a lot of the corporate world, which is not a surprise. It shouldn't be a surprise. We are real people when we're in school. And we're real people when we're out of school. 

Cristina Amigoni: We’re people that grew up from school to go into the corporate world, somehow. It's not a separation.

Alex Cullimore: We talked about it in the conversation about how we do school as this like you're going to get ready for the real world. Like, “Well, okay.” What are you doing right now? This is also the real world. And we also like – Anyway, all of it is – It's a wonderful conversation. And the amount of connection between education and the corporate world is incredible. It's something I haven't considered because I haven't been in education or had kids in education for ever. So it's not something I had thought about for a long time. And hearing the way he talks about it, there's a lot of really helpful explanations of how to approach relationship building, and community building, and what integrity means, and having this all – 

Cristina Amigoni: Oh my God, integrity. 

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. His approach to making this happen in middle schoolers is incredible. So I hope you enjoy that. And there's so much that you can easily connect to how we approach our day-to-day lives.

Cristina Amigoni: I loved all of it. And yeah, it's really interesting, because just like the work versus home life, we have these like separations. Like we're – I don't know. What do we do? Like putting our human costs in a way at a certain age and then they got a new one when we're in the corporate world? I'm not quite sure what people think happened. But we are the same person, the same middle school kids are the ones that grew up and go into the corporate world. And how they were treated and what they learned in middle school they will actually bring into the corporate world. Shockingly enough, it's a separate thing. So yeah, it's great to have all those connections made, and the practical application that he explains on how do you build relationships with people that you don't know on the first day of class, which can also be, hey, the first day of working in a new company, or the first day of working as a team, or the first day of the week, for that matter on a new project. 

Like he says, a lot is like the soft skills, essential human skills, are not added to the plate. They are the plate. If you take that away, you've got nothing. And we say this a lot. You've got desks and chairs and computers, but that's it. If you don't actually focus on the humans, you don't have anything. You just have a lot of things that collect a lot of dust.

Alex Cullimore: We could talk about it being the glue of the organization. People are like the glue of the organization. Relationships are the glue for the people. And we can all acknowledge this. We can all say that. And then we treat it like it doesn't really matter if it's there or not. And Cristina Amigoni: Exactly. It's always like, “Well, this takes time. It takes time to meet with people and talk to them.” I’m like, “What else do you think your day is about?” Just out of curiosity.

Alex Cullimore: How much time does it take fixing miscommunications? We’d love to know that.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes, listen, enjoy. See how it goes.

Alex Cullimore: Yes. Enjoy it please. It’s a wonderful conversation. 


Alex Cullimore: Welcome to Uncover the Human where every conversation revolves around enhancing all the connections in our lives. 

Cristina Amigoni: Whether that's with our families, co-workers or even ourselves. 

Alex Cullimore: When we can be our authentic selves, magic happens.

Cristina Amigoni: This is Cristina Amigoni. 

Alex Cullimore: And this is Alex Cullimore. Let’s dive in.

Cristina Amigoni: Let’s dive in. 

Authenticity means freedom.”

“Authenticity means going with your gut.”

“Authenticity is bringing 100% of yourself not just the parts you think people want to see, but all of you.”

“Being authentic means that you have integrity to yourself.”

“It's the way our intuition is whispering something deep-rooted and true.”

“Authenticity is when you truly know yourself. You remember and connect to who you were before others told you who you should be.”

“It's transparency, relatability. No frills. No makeup. Just being.”


Alex Cullimore: Welcome back to this episode of Uncover the Human. We are here with our guest, Justin Oberndorf. Husband to Kelli Oberndorf we had a couple of weeks back. Welcome, Justin. Welcome to the podcast. 

Justin Oberndorf: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. 

Alex Cullimore: We're thrilled to have you here. We wanted to talk a little bit. You mentioned you wanted to talk about social emotional learning. And I'd love to learn a little bit about your journey into that work. What that means? Why it improves things? Just fire off.

Justin Oberndorf: I love that. I think to begin with, you need to kind of understand where I came from. So currently, right now, I am a life coach, a success coach for teens and young adults. But that was not always the case. I actually started out in the corporate world about 20 some odd years ago. Long story short, made a ton of money, but I was miserable in my job. 

And so as a result, I took an $80,000 pay cut to follow my dream. And my dream was to build community with young people. And I really wanted to direct a summer camp. And so that $80,000 pay cut had me – Landed me a job as the Associate Program Director of Boulder Valley, and so at the YMCA. So I ran a before and after school program. And that summer that I did, I ran my first summer camp of 77 kids out of Lewisville Elementary. 

So even though I wasn't making the kind of money I was making in the corporate world, it filled my soul. And it was the most amazing job ever. And I recognized, it was one of those jobs that I couldn't wait to get to work. And I really kind of hated leaving work. So I put everything into it. I then realized I needed to – I really wanted them during the day. So I went back to school at night, got my master's in secondary education and with an emphasis in language arts, and then applied for a position in eighth grade, language arts position at Platt Middle School in Boulder, Colorado. And that was around 17 years ago. 

And then since COVID hit and, really, after having that 17 years in the classroom, I really wanted to branch out and do what I do in the classroom on a private level, and really start working with people recognizing, finding balance in their lives, and helping young people really have a voice and have things to stand for, and then just help them along the way. So that's where I am currently.  

You had mentioned social and emotional learning. Now, SEL is what we call it. And it's the new phrase. It's the new tagline. However, it's not new at all. In fact, this has sort of been going on since the 70s. But this is now the new push that they say, “We need to have social emotional learning.” And I'm a huge component of it. 

And basically, what that means is teaching these young people that it's the whole child that matters. It really is about interpersonal relationships. Relationships in general. It's that balance method. I find it very funny, because when you try to push SEL from a district level, or for anywhere, and you push it on to teachers, teachers that have been set in their ways, they're afraid of change, first off. And second, they're like, “Oh, God! This is a new thing. And this is just one more thing to add to my plate. I can't do this. I don't like this touchy-feely kind of stuff.” 

And that's where we really need to focus, because it's not about adding something to your plate. It's your plate. And if you don't do this, then none of the other stuff matters. If you don't build relationships, first, all that other stuff just – I mean, it's a gamble. Maybe you'll hit it. Maybe you won't. And that's been my method for the last 17 years, is like I take the curriculum, and I put it to the side. And I spend the first two weeks in my classroom just getting to know my students on a different level, I know that maybe language arts is not their jam. I get that. But maybe it's horseback riding. Or maybe it's girl scouts, or whatever the case maybe that gets them excited. 

And so I want to know what that is. So that when they are in my class, I can use that with them to kind of help push this curriculum. And the curriculum and language arts, it's really about having a voice. And so that's exactly what I've been doing is giving these young people a voice so they can stand for something rather than fall for everything. I know these little taglines I’ve thrown out all the time. 

SEL is something that I'm very, very passionate about. I ran a leadership program in the Boulder Valley School District. We have this leadership program that is called 360. And before it was called web, Where Everybody Belongs. And it was this – Basically, it was this program where I would teach eighth graders how to be leaders for the incoming sixth graders. And so we would run this program so that when the incoming sixth graders enter middle school, they have a big brother, big sister kind of looking out for them. 

Well, that's great. However, they're only two years apart, eighth grade, and sixth grade and miles apart, eighth grade and sixth grade. And so I spent a lot of my time training these eighth graders to be leaders. And what does it mean to be a leader when you're not in front of a classroom or with a teacher? What happens in the hallway when your buddies are acting a fool? How do you show up as a leader in the world and things like that? 

The problem, like most things in education, is the district loves it, but they don't fund it. And so we're constantly, every single year, trying to get funding just to do something that we believe is the foundation of what school should all be about. 

And so I think there's a disconnect with what we want to achieve in education and what is necessary. And so there it is, that's SEL in a nutshell. But if there's one thing I can really emphasize, and that is not something to put extra on your plate. It is your plate. It's the foundation.

Alex Cullimore: There's so much of what we do in the corporate world. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yes. That’s what I was going to say. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, exactly. We go in and we say you’re going to have to build these relationships. And the first reactions are things like, “Well, I mean, how much money is that going to cost? And I don't have time to do that.” If you don't have time not to do that, you're going to lose your staff. You're going to – This is your plate.

Justin Oberndorf: Can you imagine if – I mean, and I don't know financially how to do this. I guess if I did, then I’d be a millionaire. But if you just took – We have this phrase that I use all the time, and that's go slow to go fast. You got to go slow in order to go fast, as opposed to more, more, more, more, more, more. It's like, most teachers and more educators, they literally are like, “All right. Well, this is just another fancy term. I'm just going to say yes. And I'm going to move on and do the same old thing.” 

But if you just think about businesses, if they just took time to do corporate retreats, or just did something where you just got to get to know each other. And you may not be best friends. But you can learn to respect each other if you know each other's story. And it's complex, because everybody comes with their own narrative. Everybody comes with their own thing and their filters and what they share. But I truly believe that if you just got to know each other, then you can learn empathy, and you can literally work together. 

And man, think about – Again, the corporate world, when I was – I mean, if you acknowledge your workers for the job that they're doing and you feel seen and heard as a worker, there is not one person I know, that's like, “Sweet. I don't have to do anything now.” Everyone’s like. “Oh my god, I want to work harder for that person. They see me? Oh, my God! That feels good. Blah-blah-blah-blah.” And then you just go for it. And so it's like we really have to switch this and start treating each other with this level of humanity and kindness that is just missing in our world. And it's important.

Cristina Amigoni: Everywhere it's missing. Yeah, we're big proponents of seeing like a team is not just a bunch of names you put on an Excel spreadsheet and call them a team and say, like, “Hey, here's everybody's emails. You’re a team.” And like, no, you actually have to build a team before the team goes running and to win the marathon.

Justin Oberndorf: Exactly, right. 

Alex Cullimore: I think most of what we end up dealing with in the corporate world is habits that were learned at a time like middle school where you get very into these habits. So I love the fact that you're targeting this kind of like – Especially young audience with this idea. I'd love to understand some of the things you do to build that community, to get to know people in those first couple of weeks.

Justin Oberndorf: I love it. The very first day – I've been doing this every single year. And I think this is my magic sauce. And I'm just going to give it to the world, right? Because I remember early on in my teaching career, I'd have these nuggets. And it would just – Kudos to me. Check my box. And then I realized, “Wait a minute. The ego is wanting to hold on to that? Until I realized, “Wait a minute. If it benefits the kids, why not give it away and have everybody do this?” 

So I started giving it away and just not being afraid of it. So to answer your question, the very first day of school, I spent the entire day or the entire class period. We have 40 some odd minutes or whatever. And I go through two things. I go through a routine. And I go through getting to know their names. I promise them. So I say, “There's two things you're going to learn today. One, you're going to learn my daily routine and what to expect every single day you come into my class. Two, I'm going to memorize every single name in this class by the end of class period. That's my promise." 

Now, for teachers, I don't know if it comes easy. There's some teachers that have a difficult time memorizing names. To me, it is the foundation of the rest of the year. If you can't memorize the people in your room and you can't see them for who they are, then it's going to be an uphill battle. So that's what I do. 

So my classroom – I'm a musician. I love music. And I'm also a DJ. So I spin house music. And I have more modern club type music. Not so much pop music. Although I'll throw a couple in there just to connect with my eighth graders. Because the older I get – They stay the same age, and I'm getting older. 

But anyway, I'll have music I mean in my classroom. So they'll walk in and they're – I mean, it's banging. And they look at me like, "Who is this guy?" And now, I have a reputation. So they understand what to expect when they're like, "Oh gosh, here we go." However, I have music playing and I just sit there and I welcome people at the door. And, "Come on in. Feel free to dance if you got any moves," whatever, just make them – And most of them are like, "Who is this guy?" right? Which I love. 

And then I go back to my desk and I press pause. And it's almost like this freeze dance kind of thing. Like, they all stop and look. The music's loud, and then it stops. And then they're all quiet. I'm like, "That was great. That was great." And some kids are talking or whatever. And I'm like, "Oh, we're going to try that one more time." And then I press play, and then the music plays. I'm like, "Mingle around. Talk to each other. Go look around and all that stuff." I press pause, and then they slowly get back to the chair. I'm like, "That was okay. Let's try that one more time. But here's the deal, when the music stops, I want you in your chair ready to go. Alright? So this is a challenge. I don't know if you guys can handle this or not." And then I press play. And the music is playing. 

And of course, you get your Yahoo's that are like, "Woo!" and like trying to do everything they can not to do anything except be crazy. And then you got timid ones that don't even get out of their chair, and they just sit around or whatever. And I make them get up and mingle around, and then I stop. And then they rush back to their seats. 

And I do this for about five to 10 minutes. It's like this little game. At the very end of it, I say, "Okay, great," when they nail it. And I mean, they will nail it every single time. They're back in their seats, quiet, ready to go, right?

Now, I don't want a quiet, ready to go compliant audience. However, I'm teaching them a routine. Routines create safety. They know what to expect every single day. So I tell them, if you hear music in my room at the beginning of class, you're not late. This is your opportunity to mingle if you want. You can come and talk to me. I may not have time at that moment, but just feel free to do whatever. But when that music stops, we start class. Is that a deal? And they're like, "Yeah." I'm like, "Great. Perfect. Now the roster." And I take the roster. 

And I have a way of being in the sales world memorizing names. We all have little tricks. So I usually look at someone. And I look and I'm just, "Alex. Alex. Alex. Alex. Alex. Alex. Alex. Alex. Okay, great. That's Alex. Great." And now I know your face. I know that thing. And I usually do – It's alphabetical. So I go through the whole list. And I take attendance. 

One other thing real quick. I also create a circle in my classroom, because the circle is, as we all know, the first base of community, there's no hierarchy. Everybody's voice means something. So they don't have assigned seats. And I do that on purpose. And I let them know. The reason is because, listen, you could sit wherever you want. It's whether or not you can handle sitting next to your friend when people are talking and all that stuff. So these are just little nuggets of just over the years that I've picked up to kind of figure out how to really create that safety and understand what's going on. 

So anyway, I go through the roster. And by the end, I spend the rest of class just going over that. The next day, I tell them, "Okay, today's going to be me talking at you. I apologize. After today, it's going to be a lot of give and take. But today, I just need to let you know." And then I tell them the story of how I got to be their teacher in front of them. And I tell the whole story of like I mentioned before, started out in the corporate world, made a ton of money, hated it. 

My girlfriend, Kelly, who is now my wife, she actually called me a hypocrite. This is a funny story. So as I mentioned, I was working corporate. I was also having my weekend evenings filled with dances and raves. I was a DJ, and that was our community. We're dancers and DJs. And we were getting ready for a show on the weekend, and she asked me when I had to work on Monday. And I kind of snapped and I said, "Why are we talking about with Saturday? Like, what are you doing?" And this is when I was in my corporate job not really loving what I was doing. I'm loving the money. Didn't like what I was doing. 

And she looked at me and she's like, "You're a hypocrite." And I was like, "What?" And she goes, "You are." I was like, "Do tell." And she says, "You tell everybody in our community that you have to have passion in life. Like if you don't have passion, if you're not balanced with passion, and you're not passionate about what you do, well, then you're living a fake life, an inauthentic life, if I may." 

And so all of a sudden I'm like, "Okay." And she's like – And she asked me the question, and this question has really changed my life for the good. And she asked, "If we didn't have to work for money, if we had all the money in the world, how would you want to spend your day?" And like I said before, my dream was always to run a summer camp to build community, because I love that. I love that in the DJ world. I love that in the regular world. And summer camp is the best place, because kids go to summer camp and they let down their wall. They connect with each other. They don't have to put on this facade or this act just to fit in. And so I loved it. And that was my dream. However, in my mind, I'm like, that's just a hobby. You'll never make a living, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Just a bunch of rhetoric in my head. And she says, "Great. Do it." And it gave me the freedom to actually go for my dream. And why have regrets in life? Like, just go for it. Money's made up is what she said. 

Now, that was 20 some odd years ago. There is an importance of money. Don't get me wrong. However, when I'm young, and I'm trying to figure out what it is I want to do every single day in my life, I really wanted to do this. Money will eventually show up. And I've worked hard to get it. However, at that time, she was absolutely right. So by taking an $80,000 pay cut, that was a huge step. However, I never looked back.

Now I tell this story to the students. And I also tell them about middle school and that there are stereotypes in the world of middle school. And I said, "You know there's a stereotype about you guys in eighth grade, right?" And of course, they're like, "Maybe. I don't know." And I said, "Let's list them. Let's list the stereotypes of eighth grade. What are they?" So you're obnoxious. You don't have much to share. You smell sometimes. Your hormones are crazy, right? One minute your friends, the next second you hate each other. I mean, it's just all over the place, right? Right. And is that true?" And they're like, "Yeah. We don't care." And they start throwing all the stereotypes, if you will, at what it means to be a middle schooler. 

And I said, "Raise your hand if you want to be taken seriously." And every single hand goes up. I said, "Raise your hand if you've ever been misunderstood before." And almost all their hands go up. And I said, "Okay, so the reality is you are what your actions state. Like you show up, that's how you're going to show up." So in this class, you could show up two ways. You could show up as a stereotype, and I'll babysit you. I'm not that good at babysitting, especially – I was like, "I don't really like doing that. But you know what? I'll do it." Or you show up as a young adult, and I'll treat you like a young adult. It's completely up to you. 

So that in itself gives some of these students the breadth of saying, "Okay, I'm going to challenge this. Or I'm going to show up like a young adult, because I want that respect." Because most of the time people look at them as like, "Oh, you're just a middle schooler." And I said the reason why I know there's a stereotype is because when I tell people that I'm a middle school teacher, I get two responses. The first one is I'm going straight to heaven. Thank God, whatever you're doing, you're just amazing. 

And the second one is, you must be smoking crack. Why would you even spend time with middle schoolers? And I tell the students this. And again, they're listening. It's like, at this moment, they want to know what's going on. And I basically tell them, I said, I chose eighth grade. I wasn't a high school teacher that didn't get a job and so I settled for middle school. Like I literally chose middle school, because I truly believe that you guys – When I say you guys, I meant my eighth graders, my class, my eighth – Or my 13-year-olds, that you have a voice. You just haven't found it yet. And I believe what you have to say actually matters. And I care about that. And we're going to work this year on trying to find that voice so that you can possibly, once you find that, be able to start applying your voice in a way that people will take you seriously. And that's my charge that very second day. 

And then I say, "Okay, now for homework," and I get the, "Ugh. Homework? It's the second day." And I mean, you can probably imagine what eighth graders are thinking at this moment. And my very first assignment every single year is an assignment not for them, but for their parents or guardians. 

So when I say, "Okay, time for homework," and on the board it says a million word essay, is the title of the first assignment. And so when I say homework – And of course, I'll get a couple kids that will ask, "Do we have to write a million words?" and all of that. So when I explain to them the first assignment is – And here it is. It's, "In 1 million words or less, please describe your child. Describe everything about your child. The ins, the outs, the positives, the negatives. What are they really good at? what they struggle with? Whatever you want as a parent," because we all love to brag about our kids. And so we just give them carte blanche, basically an opening to then explain who their child is. 

So now what I've done, A, the students love it. They're like, "Oh my God! My parents have homework." And I'm like – And then I even tell them, I said, "Absolutely. Not only do they have homework. But next week, a couple of days before it's actually due," because I give him a week to get it done. I say, "So if it's Wednesday night, it's due on Friday. Your parents are hanging out after work, and they're watching, I don't know, America's best model, top model or something.  I say, "If they're watching that show, you can politely say, "Hey mom, hey dad, hey guardian, whatever, did you happen to finish your homework?" And if they have not, you could say, "That's great. Can we do me a favor and could we just turn the TV off and let's get to that homework? And then when you're done, you can turn it back on." The kids love it. Because all I'm really doing is basically mimicking what they go through, right? So they just – And I said but you got to be kind. Because if you're just like, "Do your homework." Well, then you're just being your parents doing that, right?

And so we kind of talked about that or whatever. But basically, those three things, creating routine, establishing a safe space, getting to know their names, and memorizing their names, and then giving their parents homework. Just those simple things. I then spend the next – I would say, once I receive those, I would spend the next two weeks reading every single letter that I get. And trust me, there are some parents that write four sentences. There are some people that do bullet points. And then there are some people – I mean, I've read an essay that would have – I mean, I think the most was like seven pages. And I commit to all my students that I'm going to read this. 

And so again, it allows me to see the child not as only my LA student, but I see this child as someone who has multiple levels of support. And I can see the parents that want to do this, the parents that are busy, the parents that don't want to do this, the parents that are going to hover like a helicopter, the parents that are going to be like, "I have a kid? I didn't even know." There are so many different level – 

Cristina Amigoni: An eighth grader? What? 

Justin Oberndorf: Yeah. Eight grade? How are they doing? Let me know their name. I mean, it really is incredible. But that foundation has set me apart from a lot of teachers, because I get to know who these kids are. And now – Like, I'm making names. Cristina, little Cristina in my class, who's quiet as a mouse, I now find out as a black belt in judo. 

Cristina Amigoni: How'd you know? 

Justin Oberndorf: Yeah, that's what I thought. I was just making that up. But I would never know that. And so now when I see her in the hallway, and I say, "Hey, by the –" Oh, there's one other thing, and I'm going to explain it. But I see her in the hallway, and then we have a conversation. We now can relate. And I can ask questions. And she could be an expert. Now all of a sudden she knows that I'm not just lip service. I actually follow through with what I'm saying. 

One other thing that I do, and I've mentioned this to teachers. And a lot of teachers, they're like, "There's no way I'll ever do this." And I have done it every single year. And that is I tell my students, "Listen, I know you have lives outside this class. I know you have things. You are more busy than I ever was. So I know you are extremely busy. You go to this club, or that club, or this sport, or whatever. And the reason why you're doing that is because you really like it. And so what I want to know is if you're on a sports team, or if you have a competition, or if you have a recital, or whatever it is, let me know. And I'll show up." 

And some kids will challenge that. Some kids are like, "Alright, we'll see if he actually shows up." And without fail, I show up to their – It was a lot easier when I was younger, because my kids were younger. And so I would take my sons to dance recitals, or equestrian jumping competition, or soccer. I mean, all the regular sports that we're used to. And I'll show up.

And I'll never forget this one time. I had a student who had a cello recital, and she's like, "I have a cello recital this weekend, Mr. O. I just want to let you know." And I was like, "Alright, great. Well, what time?" And I said, "Let me check my schedule. And if I can make it, I'll definitely make it." And she's like, "Okay." And that was like on a Monday or Tuesday. That Saturday, I showed up for this cello recital. And as I'm sitting there, all of a sudden, the mother of this child who knew me, she says, Mr. O, what are you doing here?" And I said, "I'm supporting your daughter playing cello. She told me that she had this recital, and I wanted to come see her." And she's like, "Do you have a kid in the program?" And I said, "Yeah, yours. That's why I'm here." And the parents are like taken aback. But all of a sudden, they start to see me as more than just a language arts teacher. I'm an adult in their world that has integrity, and that cares. And I show up. Because we can talk all day long that we care about our kids. But without action, that's just a bunch of talk. And so I actually show up. 

Those four things, Alex, to answer your question – Those four things are how I establish community and how I've had a reputation that who I am is who I am. And if I say I'm going to show up, I'm going to show up. I'm not just going to give it lip service. So that is, I truly believe, what has set me apart from a lot of teachers.

Cristina Amigoni: That’s incredible. All teachers should be like you. Can we clone you? As well as all leaders out there, like I was thinking, like, what if we actually asked anybody who has direct reports to do the same as you asked the parents? To have to write letters about who their direct reports are? How many would do it? How many wouldn't do it? And even before they get promoted, that could be a stepping stone to promotion, is like, "Do you know the people in your team before we promote you to leading them?" And if you don't, then you're not the right person? 

Justin Oberndorf: That's exactly right. 

Cristina Amigoni: Then you're not leading people. You're leading tasks. And that's not leading.

Justin Oberndorf: Absolutely. 

Alex Cullimore: Huge thing that I can see benefiting everybody in the corporate world. And I love how you're doing it in the education world, is the acknowledgement you're talking about. Like, what are the stereotypes of eighth graders? And that is something that I think I never had a teacher who acknowledged. It was just always like you knew it was there. You knew that like this was the impression of middle school. You weren't having a great time in middle school. But then we talked about it. Nobody ever said like, "Oh, yeah, this is what it's like." Or gave you the space to be like, "Yeah, go tell your parents how to do homework, and figure out what it's like to have to politely approach somebody about that." And I guess there's like exercises in empathy, exercises in acknowledgments. Just pointing out the elephant in the room. So we're not just hanging with it. 

If it's not like a big elephant, just like, "Oh, yeah, here's some stereotypes about eighth graders." But let’s acknowledge this, instead of just being like, "I'm going to treat you like nothing or treat you like the same as every other person or whatever." I don't know. It's just that I love that acknowledgement piece, too. Because you can bring that into any situation just to point out like, "Hey, here's the things that we see a lot. Here's the things we hear a lot. We know that – And we've worked with, like, engineering companies." And like, well – And some engineers will come out and be like, "Yeah, we know that like we're not – We don't want to do emotional intelligence work. We don't feel like we have this." But they all do. And they are able to. And just point that out to me like, "Yeah, it's fine. If that's the stereotype, it's fine." You feel attached to. There's already like the first step and just trust. I love it. I think that's a wonderful way of doing it.

Justin Oberndorf: You know, I mentioned how I put the curriculum aside so I can get to know the kids. I don't. I mean, I kind of do in the fact that we're not going to, "Okay, let's pull out our notebook, and let's do this, blah, blah, blah." But to have them reflect, to have them write about it, to have them ask questions, to have responsibility. I mean, everything I do with these kids in the first two weeks is all curriculum, especially for language arts. So I get to – And little by little, we throw in more of the curriculum. I need to see how they write. So then I give them a prompt. All that stuff will come. 

But again, to be honest with you, I think a lot of new teachers go through this feeling of, "Oh, I better I better perform. I better make sure that I get these kids homework, because if I don't, then I'm the teacher that doesn't give any homework. And you have parents that are like, "Why don't you have any homework? You have nothing to do? What is that teacher doing?" And all of that stuff. 

And so I remember early on in my career, I knew how important what I just explained how I start the year off was. But I was fumbling through that balance of, "I need to know my kids. But I can't let that parents know that I'm taking time to do that, because I really need to – We need these standards. And we really need to push all this blah, blah, blah." Until I realize that it doesn't matter what you teach. It's how you teach it. And like I said before, if you don't know your kids – Me, I build the relationship, and then I could teach them anything, because they show up and they want to learn. 

So I'd say it was about year five that I finally said, "You know what? I'll deal with parents that are going to be upset. I'll deal with anybody that wants to challenge anything that I do in my classroom. I don't mind. Because everything I do in my classroom, I can back it up." And I know how important it is to build relationships, to have this social emotional learning take place. Because nowadays, like I mentioned, everybody can have content at their fingertips. But they need teachers to guide them through life. 

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah, that's so important. And I was actually going to ask you, because I'm sure you get pushback, or you used to get pushback from the parents that are so into, like, "Well, they got to have homework, and they got to learn math, and they got to learn this, and they got to learn that," which was the same outrage that was happening during the pandemic when the kids were not in school. They were like, "Oh, they're falling behind. And how are they going to learn all these things?" And I'm like, "You're missing the point. It's not about what they're not learning. They're going to forget the next day anyway. Which one of us remembers how to calculate the area of a triangle without having to look it up? So it's not that.

Justin Oberndorf: It's really important, because when I look back at my education, I cannot tell you what I learned in middle school. Not one thing. But I can tell you who I had as a teacher in middle school. I could tell you the report or the project that had me outside of the classroom working with my friends on a project. I could tell you about that. And that right there – And you can ask anybody as an adult if they remember specifically the content they learned, or the people in the relationships. And that right there is the proof that we need to start with connection and relationships.

Cristina Amigoni: Yeah. I remember how the teachers made me feel in middle school. I do not have a clue what the content is. 

Justin Oberndorf: True. It could be both positive and negative.

Alex Cullimore: Yeah. Studied math all of high school into college. And now every time I help tutor anybody going through math, I have to look out every single piece. I have no idea how any of this works. Every time I'm like, "Right. Okay. Okay. I think I remember how this works. Let's do this." But it's really fun. Because you get to do this, like you get to see like people get excited and understand stuff. But I don't retain any of the – I retain none of the information. But it is 100% you learn the people. 


And I heard recently, there's a podcast. I'm trying to remember which podcast it is. It was Happiness Project, I think, and they were talking about how there's basically been two generations straight where we not only did not teach emotional intelligence. We taught to push that down and suppress everything about it. To not react to emotions. To make sure you're only thinking or doing, and there's no feeling in any of it. And we're kind of suffering the consequences of that one. But this is a great way to reinvigorate the like, "Hey, why don't we restarted this connection? Let's do SEL. Let's get this back into our program so that we can learn this from an early age so we can carry this into our adult age.

Justin Oberndorf: That's exactly right. The terms in the adult world, in the corporate world, the soft skills. We don't have time for soft skills. You should know that. Okay. But it's never the problem. 

Cristina Amigoni: Maybe you actually do need the soft skills, because you can't communicate to another human being. 

Alex Cullimore: Soft skill is the way to say that. 

Justin Oberndorf: That wasn't very soft. Was it? Yeah. No, I totally agree. And I think the reality is that now we're starting to see industries and companies dealing with people that don't have these skills. And so you may have all the expertise about your product. But if you can't relate it to someone, you can't have a conversation with someone, it doesn't matter. So there is a need for soft skills. And they don't teach that. And that's what we really need to reinvent. We need to get back in there and directly teach it so that everybody benefits. Because again, kindness is what is lacking in this world. And we really need to get back to that. 

Alex Cullimore: I'm curious, this definitely in the corporate world. And especially as we see this transition like through resignation, a lot of people are doing this upheaval. There's a lot of – There's some resistance just because they haven't done it before. And then there's almost this, like, post regrets that they hadn't done it. So why start now? And then I'm not going to do this because now – And middle school is I think a good time to kind of address this again because it's a very transitional, especially eighth grade, you've already gone through seventh grade. So now you're about to go to high school, whatever. There's a bunch of transitions happening. How do you approach ingrained habits and slowly having people changed how they relate to learning faster more to each other? Have you had found strategies there?

Justin Oberndorf: I have, by listening to them, by having them talk about their fears. A lot of middle schoolers, they try to keep it together, and they try to act super cool. And I empathize with them. I said, "Listen, I understand that it's important to fit in. It's important to be – I mean, I get it, I get the need that you want to fit in. And you want to be cool," right? That is like the number one thing that most middle schoolers want. They want to avoid not being cool, and they want to be cool. And then I kindly remind them, "Yeah, but you're in eighth grade. It's not that cool, right? So let's really kind of like take whatever it is you're dealing with now, and let's really be real about it. How many of you are scared of going to high school?" And of course, all the cool kids are like, "Yeah. I'm cool with it." 

Most hands will go up and they're like, "I'm actually kind of terrified." And I was like, "Thank you for being honest. Because I guarantee you this, all of you are nervous." Doesn't have to be scared like you can't do it. Because guess what? You can. And I'm here to tell you can. And I will try to lay out exactly how this transition is going to look. But during this opportunity, really take a look at yourself and reflect and be authentic. Be real about it. Because if you're not, you're just living a lie, and you're living this facade. So transition is huge. 

And then I kind of give examples in my life when I transitioned. When I went from corporate to taking this pay cut. Transitions through my own kids when they went from middle school to high school. How tumultuous that was. And some work. Some didn't. There's a lot – And then challenge them to have conversations with their parents, and ask them questions. 

A lot of my reflections that I give as homework are not necessarily – They're just not random. A lot of them ask your parents. Ask your guardians. How did they reflect? What transition? Are they ever nervous when they have to do something new that they've never done before? And what do we do? And then that gives me the opportunity to also talk about how learning is awesome. But then we go to school, and it sucks the joy out of learning 100%. So it's like it just doesn't make sense to me. Why can't we shift and teach them that there is joy in learning?

And then again, also, really teaching them that they're going to fumble a bunch. And this went back to what I was talking about, is that we do not do a good enough job teaching our young people how to fail. Everything is mastery. And when I was growing up, that just meant, "Oh, I got to get this done. I don't have time, because I don't know how to prioritize my world." And so what do I do? I called my friend who finished it. And I'm like, "Let me just copy the answers. Let me get that done." 

And if we're really honest, there's a lot of cheating that goes on in school when you have that kind of rigid thing, as opposed to writing me a letter and telling me why you didn't do the work. Own it. Because when you can own what you didn't do, that gives you the opportunity to then do something different. To then, first off, you did it. You owned it. Now, what are you going to do? And I really emphasize that. It's not about getting it right. It's about having your word mean, something, and having integrity, and part of that sometimes is owning it. And it's difficult. No one wants to own something that you forgot. No one wants to own that you spent your time playing video games versus doing the work that I've been telling you every single day that it's due. No one does that. 

So, basically, my way of doing it is I relate with the kids, and I let them know that transition is inevitable. You're going to transition millions of times in your lifetime. Don't be afraid of change. Embrace it. Find your people. Find your support system. And I let them know I'm one of them. So if you can find your support system and you could say, "Hey, listen, I'm about to do this podcast, and I'm really nervous. What should I do?" "Well, the podcast is about being authentic." "Oh, yeah, I guess you're right. I guess I just need to show up."

Again, having not had that conversation with my people, I could approach this a lot differently. Again, I think just explaining it to my students, and then just being real, and using real world examples helps them out. 

Alex Cullimore: I think there's so much like padding in education. I felt like when I was in the school system, there's so much padding I felt. Like this is your school, and then there's the real world. But we're not going to really talk about the real world. And we're not going to act like this eventually does anything. We're just going to – Somehow this is preparing you for what we're never going to talk about. So everybody, be very quiet about it. We're getting there.

Justin Oberndorf: I love that you said that. Because I say that back to school night with the parents. All of this talk about getting you ready for the real world. Well, guess what? This is the real world. You're in it right now. 

Cristina Amigoni: It's not the Matrix. 

Justin Oberndorf: It's not one day someday you're going to graduate and be like, "Oh, I'm mature now. Now I'm going to organize my life?" No, it's like this is the world. So what are we waiting for? And again, I love the approach to. Well, get ready, because the world sucks. That doesn't really excite anybody.

Cristina Amigoni: No, it doesn't.

Justin Oberndorf: Life is not fair. Thanks. Okay. So that's – 

Cristina Amigoni: You're supposed to hate your job. 

Justin Oberndorf: Exactly. It's just we're setting – Again. This is, like you said, habits and patterns over the years, and it hasn't changed. We need to change the entire – We need to flip the script. And we really need passionate teachers that recognize that this system is not working. It's a system that is the broken system. And don't get me wrong. I'm not bashing the system. It's just a broken system. And it needs changing. And not adding more things on top of it that are the same thing. We just need to really flip it is my opinion. 

Cristina Amigoni: Is there any hope of that happening? 

Justin Oberndorf: I'd like to think there is. 

Cristina Amigoni: I'm not feeling a lot of hope with my kids in school right now.

Justin Oberndorf: You know, I think the thing is, is that, unfortunately, you go to school and it's kind of like the roulette wheel. It's a gamble. Because you're going to have some decent, awesome teachers. There's no doubt about it. There's not one school that has just everybody is awful. Like I haven't – Every single school that I've ever been to, or ever known, or colleagues or whatever, every school has somebody who gets it. And it's a gamble. 

So when you go to high school, unfortunately, you get that gamble. You have some teachers that are amazing, and some teachers that aren't. And so yeah, I think it's hopeful. And I think if the admin actually stood up and say, "No, my non-negotiable is I'm going to have passionate teachers that care about being here at work. Because guess what? You don't like being at work." We all know, in the corporate world, as well as the education world, a student shows into your class and you roll your eyes like you have to deal with them. Right then and there that shows like why should I even perform for this teacher? They don't want to be there. 

And now, the scary part is now we're at a point where teachers are leaving the industry. Like myself, I left. And now we have this situation where there's not enough subs. So now everybody's trying to kind of figure it out and fill the holes, because we rushed back to get here. And now it's like it's inconsistent. 

So for example, the year I took off, this last year. I go back to connect with my friends and the admin. Because I get along with – Every admin I've ever worked for, I've got along with, right? So I go back just to check in and see how they're doing. And what's happening is I just recognize like this current eighth grade has not had a consistent LA teacher all year. So they've had subs. So now they're getting ready to go back, transition, like we talked about, transition into high school. They don't have the skills. They don't care. They don't have any teachers that care enough to stay in the classroom with them. And so now they're just kind of fumbling through. 

And so I'd like to think there's hope. I really do. And I think as long as there are teachers that care about them, then yes, they'll succeed. So fingers crossed. You get one of those teachers, or your kids get one of those teachers.


Cristina Amigoni: Well, and hopefully an admin that cares so the teachers will stay, because they actually care about their students, and it trickles down. Like, in corporate, it trickles from the top. If the top doesn't care, then, in the middle, you can bang your head against the wall, it's never going to turn into a door. 

Justin Oberndorf: Yeah. That's a great point. And I got to tell you, just to give a little shout out to my admin. I was extremely impressed with my admin. Last year, during the pandemic, we did this thing called hybrid, where you're half online and half in class. And I don't know who came up with that. And that was literally the worst thing you could have ever done to a teacher in the situation, because it was incredibly difficult. 

And I did my very, very best not to show that to the students in terms of how I'm completely drained every single day. I mentioned, I cried just about almost every day last year when I got off work. And it wasn't because I was sad. It was because I was mentally exhausted. And by the time I came home, I had nothing to give to my family. I lost the joy that used to be there in the classroom. I lost it all. 

And so, back to shout out to my admin, all of a sudden, I get an email from my principal who says, "Hey, Justin, are you doing anything this afternoon?" I say, "No." "Come by my office. I want to have a conversation real quick." And so I'm like, "Okay." I'm not the teacher to fear if the principal asked me to come down, because I'm like, "Sure, whatever." Again, my door is open. So I wasn't like, "Oh, God, what did I do?" 

And I went down there. And she was sitting there with the counselor, and she said, ``Come on in," and she shut the door. And so I shut the door, and I sit down, and she goes, "So how are you doing?" And I go, "I'm doing okay." Like that, she goes, "Justin, how are you really doing?". Like, the floodgates opened up. And I'm like, "Haa." And she's like, "I could tell, because I know how you show up. And I know how passionate you are, and you continue to do the best you've ever done. And I get that. And I also could see a difference in you. And I can see that you need some support and you need some help, and I'm here for you." 

And then she handed it to me – I think it's an EAP. I think it's a free six sessions that we all kind of get, or whatever. And she's like, "It helped me. I'm not telling you to. But here's some information if you want to talk to someone, because I know how helpful it is. And just know that we're here for you. And whatever we can do to help you out through this. We're all in this together. But I'm not just saying that I really, truly believe in you. And if you need some help, we're here for you."


I left that meeting. And it changed everything with regards to those that care. Admin is not just the district's puppet. I mean, this one actually helped me out. And so I will forever be indebted to her. And she's a dear friend of mine. She always will be, whether I'm in the classroom or not. And I mean, she tried to get me back. I took a leave of absence. She's like, "Any chance you'd want to come back?" And I'm like, "Not yet." But at the same time, she's a dear friend, and I really do appreciate her. And again, it's that kindness. It's showing that you care. Not her going, "Hey, step it up. I need the happy Justin again. Go." That made me very happy.

Cristina Amigoni: It's respecting the human experience.

Justin Oberndorf: That's exactly right. That's exactly right. 

Alex Cullimore: I appreciate you sharing that. It feels like we got to see two sides of the coin, you giving that to your students, and then you getting that support. And I think it shows that that's the circle. The benefit goes all the way around. This isn't just like all the way up the tree or something. There's just – Support is needed. And everybody needs it at some point. And those are just great examples, and how you open and share those as well. Because those are both just great angles to this.

I do have one question, because I really want to reiterate. I love that you're doing this in middle school, because so much of this is helping create patterns that will help for later. So for the people that didn't have this in middle school, and for the managers that are out there, one thing that you said a little while back that I was – And I liked the idea of, you mentioned, you don't want to create a compliant classroom. You don't want to just be there and just structured. That's the way so many people tend to approach management, if they haven't really thought about it. They'd go in and they're like, "I have to make people do the things that I say shouldn't be done." And of course, we've seen a thousand reasons that that ends up creating friction in this work. I'm curious, and I'm sure you've gotten resistance from parents and stuff, too. I would love to hear your approach to how you see helping people, helping create structure without forcing compliance, or how you see that playing out?

Justin Oberndorf: Well, I haven't had a lot of pushback from parents about that. Because, again, I let my students know that if you want, I'm open. So if you want to contact – If your parents have any issues, have them contact me. If they want to come in and watch what I do in class, by all means do that. 

In terms of compliant, we really kind of dive into what's important in the child's life. And if school is not – Again, parents want school to be number one or two in the list of priorities for their kids. But the reality is school is number 17 on their list of things that they care about. And so the job is how do we get them to move from 17 at least into the top five so they can – Because that's non-negotiable. You're going to school. This is kind of how it is. So I'm going to help you navigate through school and understand that I bring it back to integrity. 

So I had a student once who never did his work. I mean, never did his work. And every single day, he would come in, and I would say, "Hey, so do you got that work?" And he's like, "Oh!" And he would come up with just this really dramatic explanation. And I used to, "Man, that was really dramatic. That's awesome. Man. That's great. But make sure you do it, okay? Because again, it's going to help blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." Every day, I didn't do my work. I didn't do my work. 

Until finally I said, "Hey, come here for a sec." He's like, "Yeah." And I was like, "I'm not going to ask you about the work. I just want to let you know, I don't believe your word means anything. I think we missed the boat in terms of integrity. Your word means something. And so I'm not going to ask any more because you keep showing up as someone who's just a bunch of talk. And talk without action is just a bunch of talk." Now I do want to let you know, I care about you. I think you're cool, right? As a student, I think you've missed it. And I think it's only going to get harder. And if you continue to rely on your charm and your excuses as not doing it, it's going to be a rough road. And that's great. If you need me, I'm here. But you can let your parents know I'm just going to give you a zero. And that's it. And we're going to move on, because your word means nothing." 

This kid came back to me as a senior in high school, came back to visit me. And I was like, "Hey, how's it going?" Like, "What's going on?" Reconnecting and all that stuff. And he says, "I just wanted to come back, and I wanted to thank you." And I said, "Why?" And he says, "Because no teacher ever told me that. When you told me that my word didn't mean anything, I had to really think about that. And you were absolutely right. I was just saying all the things to get away from doing it. And you're right, it actually matters. Your word actually does matter. What you said in this class actually matters. And I just want to apologize. And I also want to let you know, thank you, because I'm going to take this on in my life." 

And I mean, you talk about a full circle. It's like that, to me, is about really, really changing the script for some of these kids. You may think you're not impacting them. But the impact is there, and it's present. 

Now, with regards to compliance. I've never let my – I mean, it's hard not to get – Like when I have an entire class do their work, it's hard not to celebrate that. And I don't want them to celebrate compliance. I focus a lot of my stuff in the classroom, on personal stuff, and reflections, and owning and give a time when you felt this and why, things like that. So it's not so much read this and then respond, although I do that. It really is about, "So how did you feel about that?" And it goes back to the feeling. 

So each individual has a voice in my class. And so by nature, it's not – I mean, it's compliant in the fact that they do their work. I mentioned compliance. I just don't want them just to do work and have no relationship, no connection. It's not like a checkbox. And in high school, a lot of it is, "Hey, you have to get 220 credits. That's to graduate." But a lot of classes will say, "You need to have so many points, and then you don't have to take the final," or things along those nature. 

I honestly think grades, it's unfortunate, but I think we need to change the whole thing about grades. And if it were up to me, I'd get rid of grades altogether. Now I know people are like, "Well, how are you going to assess them? How are you going to do anything?" right? Change it from grades to portfolio. Have them defend the work that they've done. Tell me three things you've done this year that changed you as a person. Tell me three things you've done this year where you failed and what you did to actually overcome that. Tell me three things, the goals that you set that you didn't make. Tell me three things that you did make, and how did it make you feel? Then for your final grade, we're going to have a one on one. And you're going to tell me what work you've done. Because I can see the work that you've done. But now I'm going to let you have your voice, and you tell me. And it's not about mastery. It's how you defend your portfolio. Have at it.

And all of a sudden, that changes everything from, "Well, I got an A, and I got –" Who cares about the A? They care about the moment. And those are the moments that are going to stick with them to then utilize later on in life when you're working in the corporate world or whatever career you're working in. You can reflect back upon those. Aren't those interview questions? Aren't those things that reflect upon your life? No one's going to be like, "Well, I got three A's in that economics class. So I'm good with numbers." It's like, "Who cares?" right? So that's what I would – I would suggest a portfolio-based grading system, first and foremost.

Cristina Amigoni: Yes.

Alex Cullimore: I love that. Good. I'm glad you put that behind you, because it's not allowed.

How have you dealt with failure? Also, if you work here, we expect you to never fail. You're like, "Okay. Well."


Justin Oberndorf: Yeah, I always love it in education. They talk about standardized tests and all that stuff. We are charged every single year with differentiation. This is the word in education. You got to differentiate your instruction. And then we're going to give you a standardized test that's not differentiated at all.

Cristina Amigoni: Slight lack of integrity. 

Justin Oberndorf: Yeah. And not only that, but we're not going to be able to help you at all. It's like mixed messages. What's going on? 

Alex Cullimore: These are all absolutely fantastic suggestions. And thank you so much for your candid approach to all this. These are all really super interesting. Lots to think about. I have a lot of things about just about how we've approached some our work and some new things we can implement. I love that portfolio one, for example. So in that realm, though, thank you for joining. And we would love to ask you one question before we get to some of the places people can find you. And that is what does authenticity mean to you?

Justin Oberndorf: Great. I honestly believe it's thrown around a lot, authenticity, or be authentic, be your authentic self. And when I look at it that way, to me, authenticity is real, is truth. It just kind of equates to truth. Be your true self. Don't do it for others. But really, reflect and be authentic with the situation. Don't do it in order to. Don't be authentic in order to please. Be authentic, because that's what we're here for, is to find our true authentic self, and then show up. And so to me, it's the word I would say synonymous with truth, raw. I know it that has a negative connotation. But to me, I think the truest form of us is we're not perfect. And that's awesome. We are our authentic selves. And so that's what authenticity means to me. Show up and be yourself.

Cristina Amigoni: So where can people find you and all the wonderful things you're doing?

Justin Oberndorf: So right now – Yeah, right now I am Well, right now, like I said, I'm a life coach for teens and young adults. And you can sign up. You can check out my website. It's So I'm going to spell it out. It's And that's my website for my teens and young adult life coaching. 

I'm also working with a partner right now and establishing a company name called Illuminating Bridges, where it's a facilitation and coaching business. And the website, the domain is not there yet. I'm still in the works. And we're trying to get that going. But that will eventually be live pretty soon. And that will be another place that you can find what I'm up to. Yeah, that's pretty much it,

Cristina Amigoni: Sounds great. And we'll have all this in the show notes, especially your new one when that comes out.

Justin Oberndorf: Excellent. Excellent. 

Alex Cullimore: Thank you so much for joining, Justin. We truly appreciate it. And thank you, everybody, so much for listening.

Justin Oberndorf: Thank you. 




Cristina Amigoni: Thank you for listening to Uncover the Human, a Siamo podcast. 

Alex Cullimore: Special thanks to our podcast operations wizard, Jake Lara; and our score creator, Raechel Sherwood. 

Cristina Amigoni: If you have enjoyed this episode, please share, review and subscribe. You can find our episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Alex Cullimore: We would love to hear from you with feedback, topic ideas or questions. You can reach us at podcast, or at our website,, LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. We Are Siamo is spelled W-E A-R-E S-I-A-M-O.

Cristina Amigoni: Until next time, listen to yourself, listen to others and always uncover the human.


Justin OberndorfProfile Photo

Justin Oberndorf

Young Adult Life Coach

An award winning teacher and life coach for teens and young adults. He helps young people find balance in their lives so they can be the best versions of themselves.

Justin, a.k.a Mr. O, is a Teen and Young Adult Life Coach who has years of experience facilitating and coaching teens to be successful young adults. He is a Banyan Collective Facilitator that facilitates building authentic communication and connection within teen communities.

Mr. O worked in the classroom for 16-years and is now a Life Coach, Certified Facilitator, and Motivational Speaker for teens and young adults.