SMUS Teacher Feature: Mr. Kevin Cook

If you have been a SMUS student at any point since 1991, odds are you know Mr. Kevin Cook. Now in his 26th year at the school, Mr. Cook has held a lot of roles – from a houseparent to a math teacher to assistant director at the Senior School to Director of Service.

Born in Portsmouth, England, he and his family moved to Alberta when, as a four-year-old, he developed pneumonia and a doctor told his parents that they needed to go to a drier climate. After a decade near Calgary, they headed to the West Coast where Mr. Cook has stayed ever since. He earned a Bachelor’s of Education degree at the University of Victoria, while playing water polo and rugby for the Vikes. His first teaching job was at Brentwood College, where he worked as a houseparent and rowing coach. He then taught at Collingwood School in Vancouver for a few years, where he met his wife (and our Junior School assistant director) Kathleen. They returned to Vancouver Island and Mr. Cook taught at Brentwood for another couple of years, before both he and Kathleen got jobs at SMUS and have been ever since. In 2004, Mr. Cook earned a masters degree in Leadership and Organizational Theory from Columbia University.

Let’s get to know Mr. Cook better!

What was your favourite subject in school?
Math. I was good at it and it’s always come pretty easy to me.

What was your first job?
I worked for B.C. Ferries. Every summer for seven years I was loading the food onto the ships.

What do you do on a day off?
Right now I’m often taking the dog for a walk up Mount Doug. She loves it and I love doing it.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Southeast Asia – Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos. So much about that region fascinates me, like the whole thing around Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. It’d be an eye-opening place to visit.

What’s one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
My personal motto is, “I open the doors for others to see and realize their potential.” It’s not my goal for me, it’s my goal to enable others to do what they need to do.

What did you do after high school?
I went to university. I was playing water polo at very high level at the time, and was on the verge of going to Simon Fraser University, but that wasn’t a place I wanted to go to school. So I went to the University of Victoria and played on the Vikes. At the time I was also playing rugby, and in third year I flipped sports and started playing rugby full time.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
I always joke that I got into education so I’d have something to fall back on once I really found out what I should do. But really, education just fits. It’s neat when you get to shape the lives of young people, or at least influence them in some way.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
I probably wanted to play football. I was living in Alberta and watching the Calgary Stampeders. Until we moved out here, I thought that was going to be my path: go to the University of Calgary, play football and become a math teacher.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
I don’t know if it’s an adrenaline rush but I don’t know how else to describe it: when I was doing my Masters we were in the seminary just north of Columbia, which is right on the edge of Harlem. And in a city like New York, to find a place that peaceful and that quiet is very rare. At the time, we were reading each other’s educational philosophies with the view of trying to make it better. I remember just stopping in the middle of that and soaking in the fact that we’re sitting in this idyllic place right on the edge of Harlem with everybody so intensely passionate about helping each other.

What was the first concert you went to?
Bob Seger in Vancouver when I was 16.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Our daughter Stephanie is special needs. There’s obstacles every day. I do believe you get thrown what you can handle, and sometimes I get taken right to the edge of what I can handle. That, every day, throws us challenges. But Kathleen and I are so much better as teachers because of dealing with somebody with differences. She opens up your mind and your eyes.

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

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
One of the first trips I took down to the Dominican Republic. It was a small group of kids that went that time, and just to see them figure things out for themselves was like an aha moment: “This is something we need to do more often.” It was really pushing kids outside of their comfort zone in a controlled way, but then getting them to realize that they can cope with what’s going on.

What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
My most memorable was when we went camping, and we couldn’t have been any more than 14. One of the guys was cooking something and this brown bear came rolling through the campsite. And we, as 14-year-old boys, started chasing it and throwing rocks at it. I remember the moment when I realized the bear was too big for the tree it was against and thinking, “This is actually pretty stupid. If that bear doesn’t think it has an out up that tree, which way is it coming?”

What’s the best part of your job?
It’s a combination of working with the people I work with and working with kids who actually are really interested in making the world a better place.

What’s your favourite meal?
Breakfast – sausage and eggs.

What do you love about living on Vancouver Island?
The ability and access to everything. You can get outdoors 12 months of the year. And being out on the water is pretty neat.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I would want to get people to understand how trivial and insignificant power, greed and money are in the real world. So many battles and problems around the world, comes from ego and people’s need to have power or money or a life that nobody else can have… and usually at the expense of other people.

If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?
A lot of the stuff I’m doing now, plus some travel.

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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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