SMUS Teacher Feature: Mr. Eric Donatelli

Eric Donatelli

Mr. Eric Donatelli started at SMUS in September 2016 as a Senior School physics and science teacher. Originally from Ontario, he spent the last three years teaching in Colombia.

Let’s get to better know Mr. Donatelli:

What was your favorite subject in school?
I loved biology. I actually thought I was going to go to university and study bio, because that was my passion.

What was your first job?
The first job I got paid for was a ball boy at the Canadian Open tennis tournament, when I was in Grade 7 or 8. I was a ball boy for people like Andre Agassi and Roger Federer. I had a steady paycheque for like a week.

What do you do on a day off?
For sure cooking. And for sure some sort of exercise like squash or mountain biking – and really any outdoor activity.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Anywhere in Asia, but I’m really fascinated with India.

What is one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
I’ve always wanted to start a not-for-profit basketball club for any kids that would want it as a summer program. That’s kind of what got me into teaching: my love for sports and how can I use that to connect with youth.

What did you do right after high school?
I went to Queens University. But the first thing I did, the day after I graduated, was I went skydiving with my best friend.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
It started when I was doing leadership camps in Grade 11. It was through those camps and the sports I did where I really realized I want to work with youth and I want to help people through my career.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
I wanted to be Jerry Maguire; I wanted to be a sports lawyer. I loved sports and I was starting to get to that age when I realized professional basketball probably wasn’t in the cards. So sports lawyer seemed like a really cool job.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
One: skydiving. Two: I went scuba diving with sharks in the Galapagos – hammerheads, whitetips, blacktips.

What was the first concert you went to?
I think it was Kenny Chesney.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
My family never did anything outdoors. My fiancee’s family is big into the outdoors and so in university they got me really interested in camping, fishing, that type of stuff. In third year university I decided I was going to put myself out there and try to be a forest firefighter. So I moved to Thunder Bay, lived on a farm and did that. I had no background or skills in that area, so I had to learn how to do everything from make a fire to use a chainsaw. That experience, gave me a lot of confidence knowing that I don’t need to have a background in something to be able to overcome an obstacle.

What movie have you watched the most in your life?

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
I had been preparing this unit of project-based learning for a Grade 12 class – all the learning we were doing about magnetism and sound and electricity was to build this speaker. They had a paper plate and a magnet with a coil of wire and they would attach that to their phone or iPod and they could play music with this speaker. Once the project was unfolding, I remember standing back and watching all 25 students completely engaged with what they were doing, and they were all excited about it. It was one of these moments where you put so much effort into something and you can see the learning that comes from that.

What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
We went to the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. I remember the cloud-making device was really cool, because you got to touch a cloud as a 10-year-old kid.

What are you currently reading?
Even Silence Has an End by Ingrid Betancourt. It’s about a former Colombian presidential running mate who was held captive by the FARC for seven years.

What’s the best part of your job?
The student interactions, hands down. And seeing a group of kids get excited about science or struggle through something and overcome an obstacle in physics or even outside of classrooms is amazing.

What’s your favourite meal?

What do you love about living on Vancouver Island?
Well, we’ve only been here two weeks but there are endless outdoor activities and opportunities to explore.

Have you ever been on TV?
Yes, as a ball boy. My mom would watch the TV and sit there with her camera and take pictures of me tossing the towel or tossing the ball.

What was your favorite childhood Halloween costume?
My last name is Donatelli, so for 5 or 6 years straight my brother and I were Ninja Turtles. Donatello was our go-to.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I think a really cool one would be something like teleportation. I’d be very happy living with the ability to go to different places instantly – Boom, I’m back with my family celebrating Christmas. Boom, I’m in India. Boom, I’m back on Vancouver Island.

If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?
I would probably be trying to start that basketball camp for youth.


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