Dave Tran

Top 40 Under 40 2018

Photography Aaron Pedersen

Age: 36

Job Title: Department Head of Student Leadership, W.P. Wagner High School

Why He’s Top 40: He creates opportunities for students to cultivate their leadership skills.


When Dave Tran was in high school, he had a biology teacher whose passion for science and learning was contagious. During a field trip to Elk Island National Park, seeing her examining everything in sight, Tran realized something: “I wanted to have that same passion and enthusiasm for what I loved, to share that with everyone else,” says Tran.

He got his start teaching mathematics, but soon found his true passion – leadership, a new element in the curriculum that he says has been developing over the past decade. “I really like working with students, so to see them grow, that was my niche,” he says. “Kids at school are different than what you see outside of school, so doing leadership was a good opportunity for me to see kids outside the classroom. That was really rewarding.”

While he follows a curriculum, much of what Tran does with his students comes organically based on what interests them. Even the various fundraisers he helps lead are student-driven. “My job is to give them the guidance, to give them the opportunities and see where it takes them,” he says.

Tran has helped orchestrate a variety of fundraisers, from the 24-hour Bikeathon to the Taste of Wagner cultural event to the Helping Hamper campaign that runs over the Christmas holiday season. Proceeds from W.P. Wagner’s initiatives go to local non-profits like the Zebra Child Protection Centre, Youth Empowerment and Support Services, Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health (CASA) and more – and the school has raised over $500,000 to date.

As president of the Alberta Association of Student Councils and Advisors, Tran is also hard at work organizing a leadership conference hosted by several Edmonton high schools. But ultimately, it all comes back to the students for him. “They know the world, they see the world from a different perspective, and that’s so important,” says Tran. “I get the chance to coach alongside them, to walk alongside them. I’m always learning from them.”

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