SMUS Teacher Feature: Ms. Ruth McGhee

Ms. Ruth McGhee is no stranger to the SMUS neighbourhood. She was born and raised in Victoria, and her childhood home was three houses down from the campus. After some years working in Calgary, followed by her first teaching assignment in Budapest, she earned her master’s degree in England. She then returned to Victoria with her family and bought a house right across the street from SMUS.

Ruth came to SMUS in September 2015 as an academic advisor in our University Counselling department. Before that, she worked at another Victoria high school as head of the English department.

Let’s get to know Ms. McGhee better:

What was your favourite subject in school?
Math and French. I like formulas, I like patterns and I have a good memory.

What was your first job?
I cleaned houses when I was 14. The things you find when cleaning other people’s houses…

What do you do on a day off?
I love to walk on the breakwater, I love to cook and bake, I love to entertain, I love to read books, I love to binge watch TV shows, and I love going to consignment stores and finding treasures.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
India because I like the idea of being in a culture that’s very different than ours. The idea of the sensory overload of different sounds, sights, smells and experiences appeals to me.

What’s one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
I’d like to run a marathon.

What did you do after high school?
I went to work for the phone company – BC Tel – for two years in their telephone repair office.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
When I was in Calgary I was a youth worker planning activities and programs for teens around the city and province. I did that for three years and realized I really liked working with teens. I enjoy learning from their perspective. I also enjoy sharing the joy of learning. I love learning.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
I don’t remember what I wanted to be at 10, but when I was in high school I wanted to be an air traffic controller. I loved the idea of guiding planes into airports, interpreting a radar and talking to pilots.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
The second time I ran a half-marathon and beat my first time by 15 minutes.

What was the first concert you went to?
Burton Cummings. It was terrible.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
I didn’t go to university for three years because I didn’t think I was smart enough. On a day when our honours algebra teacher got mad at us over homework and said, “You guys are all stupid”, I was one of those kids who believed him. I didn’t go to university for three years because I didn’t think I was cut out for it.

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

What movie have you watched the most?
You’ve Got Mail.

What has been your most memorable teaching moment?
In my first year of teaching there was a poetry lesson that went horribly wrong. It was terribly boring and I realized that 20 minutes in to the lesson. I found the courage to say to the kids, “This is a terrible and boring lesson, and I apologize.” I gained the trust of the students by being honest with them, and they let me make a mistake and recover from it. It forced me to look at what I was doing, to be innovative and to try something that would engage them.

smus-teacher-ruth-mcghee-cookingHave you ever been on TV?
When I was in the UK I was on a show called Ready, Steady, Cook. It was a BBC show like Chopped that aired every day. They had a professional chef working with a studio audience member, and together with the audience member you make a meal and it’s judged by the audience. When I applied they asked, “Why do you want to be on the show?” I wanted an angle to help myself stand out. My husband has always loved fish, and at the time I didn’t like fish or cooking fish, so I said to them, “I need to learn how to cook fish to save my marriage, and you need to help me.” I brought halibut and they taught me how to prepare it a couple different ways. I ended up winning the show by one vote!

What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
Going to McDonald’s and seeing how they made hamburgers and French fries when I was a school patrol member in Grade 6. An attractive feature at Richmond elementary was every year they took all the crossing guards to McDonald’s for a tour and a free meal – that’s how they got students to sign up.

Do you collect anything?

What are you currently reading?
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part is the worst part, and that is that I want to be 17 again because there are so many amazing programs that kids can follow. I’m excited to walk alongside of kids and be excited about the programs out there for them, because there’s an opportunity and a good fit for everybody. I love to sit alongside and encourage and be with kids on their journey.

What’s your favourite meal?
Fish tacos. I now love fish!

What do you love about living on Vancouver Island?
I love being surrounded by the ocean.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To manufacture time – I need more time.

If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?
I would go back to university to study art history, Greek and Roman culture, and languages.


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