As Douglas Adam’s famously said “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” My undergrad degree was in Mathematics at UBC, but I had an interest in Finance. So, I went off to the University of Illinois in pursuit of an MBA. That eventually took me to Chicago and New York, working for big banks and small software companies, but I returned home and after briefly working at a software firm in Vancouver I decided to change directions and become a teacher. I thought that if I didn’t like it I could always go back to my former life. I was able to secure a contract at a private school even before I graduated. My salary was less than half what I was making at the software firm, but I immersed myself in teaching math and the life of the school and found it very rewarding. For most of my career I’ve taught mathematics, from Math 8 to Calculus 12, but I’ve always had an interest in computer science, dating back to when I learned to program on an Apple II+ computer when I was in grade 8. I now teach Computer Science at David Thompson Secondary and thoroughly enjoy it. I like the fact that I’m continually learning new things and helping students explore a field that will be a big part of their future regardless of what they decide to pursue.
What is your most memorable experience from your time in the Faculty of Education?
The 9/11 attacks took place during the first week of my B.Ed. degree. It made for a surreal day, but the discussions that followed in my communications seminar were very valuable. I enjoyed my Math-Ed courses with Katharine Borgen and Jim Menney. And I had an excellent practicum at Handsworth in North Van with Bill Kokoskin.
Where has your education from the Faculty of Education taken you in your career?
The first twelve years of my career were spent in a girls-only private school. Following that I took a three-year break to study computer science at UBC and online. I resumed teaching at a very small private school for children with learning difficulties and then joined the Vancouver School Board. After two years of teaching math at Point Grey I had to reinvent myself as a computer science teacher at David Thompson Secondary. I found the challenge extremely rewarding.
Where do issues of inclusion find a place in your life or at work?
Computer Science is a very attractive field of study for many students, but it’s disappointing to see that some groups are under-represented. I do my best to make everyone feel included by presenting articles, showing videos and having guest speakers who represent the diversity that exists in industry and academia. But, I feel there is more that can be done to attract a broader range of students to the class by creating further awareness of the welcoming environment of the classroom and the field itself.
Do you have any words of wisdom for current students? Newly graduated folks?
When possible, always choose the harder path. Push yourself. Otherwise, growth will not occur. For those of you who have already graduated, choose to help others wherever you can. That might mean serving clients well, or mentoring younger colleagues, or changing the focus of your career. If you are a B.Ed student, or recent grad, you may be tempted to switch careers when you see some of your friends in jobs with hefty salaries and generous stock options, but you have to remind yourself that a career in teaching provides much more opportunity to serve others and find meaning in your daily work life.