It’s relatively simple for Mr. Mike Danskin to put himself in the shoes of his students, as he’s been in their position. He is a SMUS alumnus and a very proud SMUS lifer, having started at the school in his Grade 1 year. After high school, he pursued his passion for rugby and attended the University of Victoria to study kinesiology, and play the game at a high level. That eventually led to a five-year stint on the Canadian national rugby sevens team, including appearances at the World Cup and Commonwealth Games. After completing his first degree, he moved to Calgary before returning to Victoria to pursue teaching. He earned a bachelor of education while working as a SMUS houseparent, then he and his then-girlfriend (now wife), Ms. Jessica Hanna (who works in boarding at SMUS) moved to the Northwest Territories for his first teaching gig. He returned to Victoria once again in 2015, when he started at the SMUS Middle School.
Mike teaches Humanities, Social Studies and P.E., and is also an assistant houseparent in Bolton House.
Let’s get to know Mr. Danskin better!
What was your favourite subject in school?
P.E. and Geography were my two favourites. For P.E., I just love being active and playing sports. And I particularly love physical geography and landscapes and understanding our environment.
What was your first job?
Working for Doug Park’s crew doing maintenance work around the campus in the summer and over the holidays.
What do you do on a day off?
My wife and I love to go out, hike and explore the West Coast. I also love to cook, and right now I’m trying to hone my pulled pork recipe. I’m close to perfecting it!
Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Patagonia or Nepal for the outdoor pursuit potential in those places. There’s some incredible hiking and isolated adventure opportunities there.
What’s one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
I’d like to run a hobby farm at some point with chickens and pigs.
Why did you want to be a teacher?
I’d worked in a lot of different camps and recognized I enjoy kids, building relationships with them and connecting with them. Teaching was always in the back of my mind as I explored potential careers and job opportunities. Eventually I was tired of exploring other options that didn’t feel like a fit, so I wanted to go back to that passion of working and connecting with kids, and pursue it as a career.
What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
A baseball player.
When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
Running onto the field at the Commonwealth Games and representing Canada in front of a crowd of 52,000 people. It gets you every time. It was that, or my first bungee jump on the Nevis in New Zealand. That was a different kind of adrenaline rush.
What was the first concert you went to?
Barenaked Ladies when I was 10.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
In 2009 I started a fundraiser called 1 Day for the CMHA. The premise was it would be a one-day challenge that was physical and mental in nature, and I would raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association. In the first year I summited four mountains in Banff in a day; the next year two buddies joined me and we did the West Coast Trail in a day; and then the third year I had five people join me and we did the Grand Canyon double crossing – south rim to north rim and back. They were pretty big challenges. Even trying to figure out how to market them and how to get more donations was an interesting challenge. It was all really tough, but it was a pretty cool experience and over three years it raised around $50,000.
What is one thing you can’t live without?
Friends and loved ones.
What movie have you watched the most in your life?
Dumb and Dumber
What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
When I was up north, I did a project with my Grade 6/7 classes that integrated a lot of subjects and it was very experiential. We went out on the land, learned how to tie rabbit snares and tied them in different areas just outside the community. Then we went back and checked them and we ended up catching a rabbit. So we came back, went into the kitchen, we learned how to cut it up properly and made rabbit stew. The kids took pictures the whole way through, and made a photo journal based on the images and their experience. To see them excel out on the land was really neat.
Have you ever won anything?
Mr. Foe and I are having a TAG classroom Christmas decorating contest, and it was deemed this week that the Danskin TAG won the contest!
What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
The U13 soccer trip to Ontario in Grade 6. We went and played soccer at Appleby College in Ontario, but we also visited Parliament and Niagara Falls and the art gallery.
What are you currently reading?
Right now it’s Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. All I read now are Middle School kids books. I was told once, “If you’re going to be doing your job well, you need to read what the kids are reading.”
What’s the best part of your job?
The relationships with the kids and feeling like you’ve connected with somebody in a meaningful way.
What’s your favourite meal?
Mom’s roast beef dinner – it’s hard to beat.
What do you love about living on Vancouver Island?
That there are just amazing amounts of adventure opportunities, my list keeps on growing. And it’s green here all year-round.
What was your favourite childhood Halloween costume?
Superman. I loved dressing up in my Superman pyjamas, throw on a cape and some shoes.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To be able to speak every language out there; it would help with travelling.
If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?
Travelling, exploring the world, learning more languages, and doing some volunteer teaching along the way.