Growing up, Rob Kim loved learning, but was shy in class. One day, in Physics 11, Rob’s teacher, Darryl Barber, encouraged Rob to speak up and contribute. Mr. Barber’s words gave Rob confidence. Rob felt like he belonged, because someone stated that his contributions were valued. The impact of those words showed Rob how education could create a sense of belonging, which is what Rob has been trying to do ever since.
Rob taught seven years of high school science, primarily chemistry. Rob cherishes the bonds formed with students during that time. Rob was part of Byrne Creek Secondary’s inaugural year in 2005 and the Burnaby school’s community-based approach would inform Rob’s practices. The next seven years, Rob taught at Capilano University, supporting adults learning physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics, while also piloting a student success course.
For the last 3.5 years, Rob has worked for UBC’s Centre of Student Involvement and Careers (CSIC), supporting the ways a large institution can create belonging. As a Student Engagement Advisor, Rob oversaw UBC Collegia, a home away from home for first-year commuter students. Over two years, Rob oversaw the expansion of the program to get closer to UBC’s vision of having a commuter space for all first-years—going from one to three collegium spaces, 7 student staff to 24, 1 staff to 4 staff, and 150 paying members to over 1100 students in a no-fee model.
Rob’s current role as Career Strategist allows him to build belonging through identity development and career education. Rob, a Gallup Certified Strengths coach, has facilitated over 35 on-campus workshops to 400 students and staff to improve their process of self-reflection. Recognizing the challenges facing students in a world of digital distraction and social media comparison, Rob worked with faculty to use the classroom as an equalizer to deliver career education using a strengths-based approach. This led to a collaboration last year with the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, where Rob taught a series of career educational supports in four different courses, reaching over 900 students.
Rob is grateful for the communities he has belonged to at UBC and feels fortunate to continue to create belonging for others at a larger scale. Rob belongs to an ice hockey team of 17 years, while his heart belongs to his extended family, his wife, Dr. Mina Kim and their two children.
What is your most memorable experience from your time in the Faculty of Education?
There are many memories from one jam-packed year. Of course, my practicum at Steveston Secondary (RIP) in Richmond and working with Nancy Sharkey stands out. I would be remiss not to mention my Faculty Advisor, Allen Wooten, who had a big impact on me. He was passionate about science and his willingness to share his resources and practices, once I tried something out first, is something I try to do in my career. Like any good educator, he was willing to challenge me when to put the learner first and focused on my professional growth. I will always remember when Allen took our geology class down to Wreck Beach to look at how the formation of the cliffs occurred through weathering and erosion. Allen gathered us around a big boulder on the beach to talk about various land structures. We listened, a fully-clothed group of young educators surrounded on that summer day by all of Earth’s “natural” beauty. Allen, ever the consummate educator, unfazed, delivered his lesson with laser focus and enthusiasm as if there was nobody else with us on the beach.
Where has your education from the Faculty of Education taken you in your career?
My BEd has acted as a catalyst to my career. All the reactants were in place (lifelong learner + desire to impact youth + love of science + presentation skills), but what increased the rate of reaction to yield an eager educator was my one year in the Faculty of Education. Coming out of the teacher education program immediately led to opportunity after opportunity—seven years as a science high school teacher, seven years as an instructor at Capilano University, a year teaching in Korea, working part-time on cruise ships during school vacations, and delivering professional development workshops. This profession opened doors due to the hours of practice, working with people and honing presentation skills to build engagement and clarity. Currently, my education has brought me back to where it all started—UBC. The “classroom” has changed, but over the past 3.5 years, I still sought to impact students—first through my work in student involvement and in the realm of career education. So, answering the question, my education has literally taken my career to “careers”.
Where do issues of inclusion find a place in your life or at work?
I am proud of UBC’s Faculty of Education for promoting inclusive values within the teaching profession. I appreciate that the Faculty was actively addressing Indigenous rights when I was a student in 2000. I remember being astonished to hear the stories of the residential school system and its effects for the first time. The First Nations course that was mandatory for all teachers was eye-opening and I was sad that it took so long to hear about this troubling period in Canadian history, but also, I felt fortunate that the Faculty of Education finally gave me a chance to hear about it. The residential school system was a vivid example of how we can exclude people at a policy level. But I was also encouraged to focus in my work at how policy can try to include people’s stories as seen by the Faculty’s decision to make this course mandatory to reconcile the past.
Do you have any words of wisdom for current students? Newly graduated folks?
- Write down your dreams and hopes you possessed when you were first admitted the program. Re-frame the challenges of your courses and practicum by connecting them to your goals to keep yourself refreshed. Refer to your hopes and dreams to renew yourself through the year.
- Winter is coming… consider using your winter break to get a head start on planning and prepping for your practicum. Looking back, I did not use this time wisely. Any chunk of preparation that I could have done over the break would have helped me immensely in my practicum.
- When you return for spring and summer courses, please refrain from using the following phrase “When I was on my practicum…” In all seriousness, I had to adjust my attitude as I was struggling to engage with my summer courses. I know that if I hadn’t re-framed the summer as an opportunity to gain more knowledge and improve my practices, I wouldn’t have been open to learning opportunities. I’m not saying this to make the story better, but honestly, two of the best courses I ever took in my three degrees at UBC were from that summer in Education. Be open!