SMUS Teacher Feature: Mr. Shawn Zhang

Mr. Shawn Zhang is originally from China, but comes to Victoria by way of Toronto. Born, raised and educated in China, he came to Canada five years ago after graduating with a teaching degree with a focus on Japanese. He spent a short time in southern China teaching Japanese, before getting a job in Toronto. Prior to coming to SMUS, he taught Mandarin at two independent schools in Ontario. He teaches Mandarin at the Grade 6, 7 and 8 levels, as well as two Senior School AP courses.

Let’s get to know Mr. Zhang better:

What was your favourite subject in school?
History. I like history so much. It’s fun to just imagine the same location where you are and think, ‘What were the people here doing 100 years ago or 1,000 years ago?’

What was your first job?
I taught Japanese at a college.

What do you do on a day off?
I like watching movies.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
I really want to go to Africa. It has a culture that is so different from other continents.

What’s one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
I want to travel to every country in the world. Every country has its specific cultures and traditions. I want to feel that. Travelling makes you feel rich – not money rich, but experience rich.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
My major at university was not my choice. I was put, by the government, into a teaching university. The system is different in China. I’m really lucky because I really like teaching.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
I wanted to host a radio program. When I was a kid we didn’t have laptops or video games, and my main entertainment was to listen to the radio.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Restarting my life in a new country. I didn’t know anyone here, I didn’t have any friends here. I just came to Canada with three suitcases and restarted my life. In China I had a school board job, considered a golden job, but it was too stable for me. I was in my 20s but I could see my path to retirement already. So I applied for a teaching job in Canada.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Movies.

What movie have you watched the most?
A Tale of Mari and Three Puppies. It’s a Japanese movie about a dog and dog’s family after an earthquake.

What has been your most memorable teaching moment?
The moment students can communicate with me. Because I teach language, at the beginning my students don’t speak a single word. But after 2 or 3 years they can. In that moment I feel so proud of my students and their effort.

What are you currently reading?
Lǚ Hòu. It’s about the empress during one dynasty of China, and how she helped the emperor set up a new country

What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
We don’t have that in China. We went to the military; for 20 or 30 days we got training from the army – shooting and discipline.

What’s the best part of your job?
Spending time with students.

What’s your favourite meal?
Any spicy food.

What do you love about living on Vancouver Island?
Everything is close; in 15 or 20 minutes you can drive anywhere.

Have you ever been on TV?
When I was in Grade 11, teams from different schools were interviewed about a competition. Our topic was to protect the ocean. We designed a tool to filter the water.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Time travel. I want to go back to a specific historical period and see what was happening here.

If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?
Travel around the world.

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Kyle Slavin
Kyle Slavin is the school's storyteller. Through words and photos, he shares with the community all the amazing things that happen on campus.

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