SMUS Teacher Feature: Ms. Amanda Chen

Amanda Chen

Ms. Amanda Chen was born and raised in Edmonton. After high school she heading over the Rockies to study communications at Simon Fraser University. She earned her bachelor’s degree and spent a couple of years working, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She worked as an ambassador at a Canada pavilion during Beijing Games and as a production assistant for NBC during the Vancouver Games. She returned to SFU for her bachelor’s degree in international education, then moved to Switzerland to teach at a private school in Montreux, Switzerland. In 2015, her husband got a job teaching at the University of Victoria so they left Europe for Victoria, and Amanda quickly found a job at the SMUS Middle School.

This year she is teaching Humanities and Mandarin.

Let’s get to know Ms. Chen better:

What was your favourite subject in school?
Languages and art. I loved reading and I loved languages, and I just always enjoyed doing art. I appreciated aesthetics and design and I loved that art was a bit of a break from academics.

What was your first job?
When I was in middle school I tutored elementary school kids in English and Mandarin.

What do you do on a day off?
I like to read, I like to get outside and explore, I like to spend time with family and friends, I like to go to festivals and events, and I love to travel when I can. Right now I’m working on the team that’s doing costume work for Willy Wonka, too.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
It always changes but right now it’s either Morocco and Japan. Morocco is a place I’ve always been interested in because the culture is so beautiful and it’s so colourful there. As for Japan, I’ve always been interested in the culture. I also love Japanese food!

What is one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
I just want to be at a place, years down the road, where I can look back and feel really proud and happy of the work I’ve done, of the influence that I’ve had on those around me, and that I’m living a happy life. I think that for me is the ultimate goal in life.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
Both my parents were teachers and it was a career that was always in the back of my mind, but something I wanted to shy away from because part of me wanted to break that mold and not follow in my parents’ footsteps. I tried my own thing for a bit and I was really interested in broadcasting, but after being part of that world for a bit during the Olympics it opened my eyes to what the life is like, how cutthroat it is and how unkind that world can be. I turned around and took a good look at teaching and said, ‘Ok, let me give it a go. People have been telling me my whole life I’d make an excellent teacher.’ And I fell in love with it! It’s such a rewarding job.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
It changed on a weekly basis but at different points when I was 10 I wanted to be a pediatrician, a marine biologist and an art history professor.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
I was given tickets by NBC to watch the men’s gold medal hockey game during the 2010 Olympics. It was amazing just to get gifted those tickets to see that game. It was an incredible game to be able to see live.

What was the first concert you went to?
The Backstreet Boys when I was 12.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Trying to find my own way while moving from place to place to place. That said, it really opens your eyes as to who around you are your true friends and it makes you better recognize what you value in life.

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

What movie have you watched the most in your life?
Love Actually.

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
There are so many moments throughout the day, the week, the months that really brighten your day and stick with you. When you make connections with the kids and you see a eureka moment, I think that’s really special.

Have you ever won anything?
I feel like I’m quite lucky because I’ve won quite a few things; everything from how many jellybeans in the jar to hockey tickets to an entrance scholarship to SFU. In Grade 8 I also won an award for having the highest grades on my report card in the school.

What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
In elementary school, at the end of every school year, we would go to the water park at West Edmonton Mall. That was, by far, the best – a whole school day with your friends at the water park!

Do you collect anything?
I like to collect little rocks or canisters of sand from all the different places I’ve visited.

What are you currently reading?
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews.

What’s the best part of your job?
The kids – the connections you make with them, their smiles, their jokes, their innocence and their naivety sometimes, and their senses of humour. When I was in Switzerland I was working with little kids – three-year-olds – and I was having lunch with them one day and asked one, ‘When were you born?’ The kid says, ‘I was born when I was a baby!’ I was already laughing when another joined in and said, ‘I was born when I was a baby, too!’ I burst out laughing. They weren’t wrong – maybe I just didn’t ask the right questions. Kids really do say the darndest things. I like that the Middle School students I’m with are at that age when they still have that innocence but it’s also cool to get to have mature, deeper conversations with them.

What’s your favourite meal?
Sushi, especially anything spicy.

What do you love about living on Vancouver Island?
The access to nature, how close we are to bigger cities but the fact that there is still a small town feel to Victoria – it’s like Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

Have you ever been on TV?
Yes, I was a dancer during the closing ceremonies of the World Championships in Athletics in Edmonton when I was 11. It was a really huge dance with hundreds of people and I was part of a Chinese dance which was part of a bigger performance.

What was your favourite childhood Halloween costume?
I was Snow White on more than one occasion and I really enjoyed that costume.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I would love to time travel because I could go back to any time, any place, and see history as it unfolds. And I would also like to see what’s going on, too. If I have that power to go forward in time I would like to use it use it for the better: ‘Hey guys, this is how climate change is impacting us in the future,’ provided I don’t mess with the universe.

If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?
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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