Q: What’s a favourite quote that you have?
A: Take your heart to work everyday, and expect the
best and most out of everybody else too… Meryl Streep.
Q: What’s your favourite time of the day?
A: When I’m teaching.
Q: Are there any specific things that you
like about it? Or do you just like it in general?
A: It’s just the interaction and watching
things fall in place for my students.
Q: Who’s a role model that you have?
A: My parents.
Q: Has it always been that way since you were young?
A: Yes. It’s always been that way.
Q: If you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be?
A: I’ve had deer, my family’s been involved in the raising of an elephant, I’ve had ducks, I’ve had rabbits, I’ve had dogs, cats, all of that stuff. I’ll go with a giraffe. So long as somebody else pays the cost.
Q: What is one song that can summarize your life or your values?
A: There is one song that I find is quite resonant. It doesn’t necessarily represent everything about my life, but every time I hear it, it makes me feel special. It’s the one we used on the Grade 12 exam last year: I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack.
Q: Try to summarize the meaning of life to you in six words or less.
A: Give and let give.
Q: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
A: I’m kind of both. Happily in the middle.
Q: If you could recommend one book to students to read, what would it be?
A: “Join the Club” by Tina Rosenberg, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. It is about how you can make things happen.
Q: We’ll be going on to some slightly longer questions now. What do you teach in the school?
A: I teach English and Leadership. This semester I’m teaching ESL.
Q: If you could know the answer to any one question, what would it be?
A: That’s a very interesting question. I’m probably going to have to go with: “What makes evil tick?”
Q: How long have you been teaching for?
A: I started teaching in the school system in 1993. It’s been about twenty-two years now. Having said that, you have to take two or three years out of it because I had immigrated to Canada. During this phase, I did teach, but not full time.
Q: How long have you been at Garneau for?
A: I came here in 2010, so this is my fifth year.
Q: Why do you teach?
A: I didn’t want to be a teacher. When I was young, I wanted to be a doctor. Then I ended up becoming a journalist, and then I also became a teacher at the time due to circumstances in my family. I don’t know if there is any other profession where you get to go in every day to a group of thirty to thirty-five of the brightest minds three times a day. Every class is an opportunity to go into a room of bright minds that vary from ready-to-tear-you-down to ready-to-absorb-everything-you-have-to-make-available-to-them, and that I find is quite exciting.
Q: So would you say it’s due to the variety you get out of teaching?
A: No, it’s the fact that if you know what you’re doing and you do it well, they fully engage. It’s a really rewarding experience to have that many people trust you and then actually discover that their trust was worth it. At the end of the experience, whether it’s thirty minutes or whatever time there is over the semester, they come out of it changed for the better. And they move on in their lives, leaving me behind to tackle the next set of four or five groups of 30-35 students. They leave me behind but I’m also better for that experience with them.
Q: What’s one aspect of your personal life that you’re willing to share, that students probably wouldn’t expect?
A: Six or seven years ago, I went away on an earned paid leave to teach in Dubai for a year. I was able to use my time well and ended up beginning a travel sequence that resulted in my visiting more than 100 cities in 35 countries over six continents in a little over the 14 months that I was away. I wasn’t doing very adventurous things, but because I’m interested in photography, I would go to photograph.
Q: Do you ever try to inspire your students through your teaching? If so, how do you do it?
A: The answer is yes. If it’s not worth inspiring through, or inspiring by, I don’t know why I should be teaching it. Everything that I do in class, including my silences, has some motivation behind it that I hope has a role to play in the larger inspirational experience.
And how do I do it right? I wasn’t very good at this when I first started. I hadn’t experienced it through my teachers either. That’s not a negative comment about them, it’s just the system at the time wasn’t as astute as it is now. There’s an intellectual element, there’s a social element, there’s an emotional element, and there’s usually a philosophical element as well to everything. If you could bring all four of them together, not necessarily all the time, but if they’re generally in alignment, I think things make sense. If as a teacher, I can find ways to make this complicated world sensible to my students, I think they get inspired. Then the world becomes manageable, the subject becomes manageable. Relationships become manageable. It also makes sense for them to then trust the ones that have gone before them. My role as a teacher is not necessarily to have them look only backwards, but if I can get their minds to look in all directions, they learn from the past, they experience the present, and then they prepare themselves for and shape the future.