SMUS Teacher Feature: Mr. Andy Rodford

Andy Rodford

Mr. Andy Rodford has been Director of the Senior School (and Deputy Head of School) since his arrival at SMUS in 2012. We recently announced that he will step in as Acting Head of School for the 2017-18 school year to help guide the transition to our new Head of School Mr. Mark Turner when he takes up the position in the summer of 2018.

We’re pleased to be able to let you get to know more about Mr. Rodford in this week’s Teacher Feature.

Andy was born in St. John, New Brunswick but was raised in Montreal and Oakville. His father worked for Royal Bank and his mother was a stay-at-home parent who took care of their three boys. Andy graduated high school in Oakville and went to Trent University in Peterborough where he completed two degrees (biology and geography). He spent a couple of years working for Royal Bank then went back to school to earn his Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto. After a brief stint of teaching high school biology in Toronto he took up a job running an outdoor education centre, Onondaga Camp, in Ontario.

After six years in that role he shifted back into the education world, first as Director of Advancement and Admissions at Albert College in Belleville, Ontario, followed by a stint as Director of Admissions and Development at Brentwood College.

In 2006, Andy became Head of School at Kempenfelt Bay School in Barrie, Ontario.

He and his wife, Liz, returned to B.C. in 2012 when he got the job at SMUS.

“We loved Vancouver Island, we had a lot of friends here and I knew of SMUS from my time at Brentwood and from spending time with Head of School Bob Snowden while we were both heads. We said SMUS would be the only school that we would consider moving back to B.C. for. And the job came up at the right place at the right time.”

Andy and Liz will live on-campus next year with Bella, their Wheaton-Poodle cross.

Let’s get to know Andy better:

What was your favourite subject in school?
Science, biology especially. I loved figuring out how things worked and I was really interested in the human body. I thought it was the coolest thing on the planet.

What was your first job?
Delivering the Sunday Express newspaper in Montreal. I was a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and I would occasionally wear my Leafs jersey on my route. I delivered to a neighbourhood where a couple of the Canadiens players lived, plus a lot of Canadiens fans, so being a Leafs fan set me up for a lot of persecution with the people I was interacting with.

What do you do on a day off?
We have half an acre of runaway perennials that we’ve slowly started to take out and put in food. We’re growing more of our own food and I love doing that, being a farmer versus a gardener. I also love playing in the workshop and trying to spend as much time as I can doing wood carving.

Where do you most want to travel but have never been?
Australia and New Zealand because we have lots of friends and people we’ve known over the years who either came from there or have travelled through there. And we haven’t met any Aussies or Kiwis we didn’t like.

What is one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
I would love to travel the Alaska Marine Highway, which is a marine highway that starts in Seattle that goes in and out of ports all the way to Alaska. Either that or just spend a year chasing the sun; move with the sunshine across Canada and then when it gets cold we go south.

What did you do after high school?
I worked at summer camp and I led a canoe and hiking program. I spent a lot of years at summer camps as a kid in high school and through university, even before my time at Onondaga Camp, as a camper, a counsellor, a program director and assistant director.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
My time at summer camps and as director of Onondaga Camp where I was a counsellor and teaching kids really made me realize I wanted to be a teacher. It was seeing those aha moments – a kid learning a new skill and finally mastering it, or someone getting over their fear of the high ropes course – and knowing you were able to have a part in their success that was really special to me. And being camp director was just everything that I loved to do: being outdoors, teaching, working with kids, organizing, problem-solving. It was like being Head of School.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
A garbageman. When I was a little kid I loved when the garbage truck came and the guys threw the stuff in the truck and I was fascinated by the mechanics of it. And that they get to hold on to the side of the garbage truck and jump off and on is awesome.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
Crossing the Strait of Georgia in our boat with very high seas and crosswinds and having to cut through the Whiskey Golf torpedo range north of Nanaimo. It’s a military torpedo range that is either closed or not closed, and we didn’t know which at the time, but we knew we needed to get off the water and if we didn’t cut across it during that storm we would have broadsided the whole way.

What was the first concert you went to?
The Box when I was 15 at McMaster University. My older brother worked at the university pub and he got me into that concert.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
I was offered a job with the Royal Bank as an opportunity to fix something. I came on as manager of Diners Club merchant services. The exciting part about it was when I started it was really broken: they were four months backlogged in inquiries. So I went in as someone who wasn’t a banker. I went in as someone with camp experience, so I turned the place into camp. We got to know each other and devised goals, we figured out plan to get us back to running current and I brought in all these changes that were very not bank-like. We set ourselves a goal of being caught up by July 17 – it was about seven months away. And at noon on the 17th we were caught up. It was challenging going in to a bank environment and all of a sudden the new guy turns the place into a carnival. It took a lot to just get them on side to me, but once that happened we worked together to turn the ship around and ultimately came out successfully.

What is one thing you can’t live without?
Aside from my wife and family: cheese. My favourite would be a toss-up between a very old cheddar or a finely ripened blue.

What movie have you watched the most in your life?
The Sound of Music

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
I think that memorable teaching moments come now, 20 plus years later, when kids come back and tell you about what was memorable for them. Having those reconnections to kids that you either taught or took through experiences or lived with at boarding school is great because you never know the impact you have on kids in teaching until sometimes way later in their lives.

Have you ever won anything?
I won an award from Royal Bank for my work there. It was an award given to the top 400 employees out of 70,000 in the company. I also won an Outstanding Contribution to Athletics Award when I was at Trent University. I was a rower, but I got hurt and couldn’t do it anymore so I switched to coaching and I coached rowing and basketball, and ran intramurals at the university.

What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
It was a geography field trip in university where for several days our class visited small towns heading north through Ontario to explore the argument of “Where does southern Ontario stop and northern Ontario start?” It was a very cool trip with a very cool prof where we stopped in mining towns and went to the pubs to interview locals about life in that town.

Do you collect anything?
I used to collect antique keys as a kid and I still have a bunch of them. I was a very distractable kid and I spent a lot of time sitting beside the teacher bored in class. My Grade 6 teacher went to England for his Christmas holidays and told me that if I got my act together he would bring me back a gift. I got focused and I improved and he brought back a couple of giant keys that looked like they came from a castle. From then on I started to collect old-fashioned keys from all over the place.

What are you currently reading?
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being around people who care about what’s going on in their lives. I get so much enjoyment standing in the quad in the morning just connecting with people, saying ‘Good morning’, congratulating them on things from the night before and connecting with staff. I think the community component of this job is really the most important.

What’s your favourite meal?
Raclette. It’s basically all about cheese.

What do you love about living on Vancouver Island?
I love the weather. I love the fact that there’s so many outdoor things to do. And being from the east, I love that you don’t have to shovel rain.

Have you ever been on TV?
I was a regular on The Dini Petty Show. Back in the ’90s she was a Canadian talk show host and I would come as the summer camp expert. So they would pitch a tent in the studio and we got in and I would talk about how to pick a good summer camp for your kid.

What was your favourite childhood Halloween costume?
It’s politically incorrect now, but I was a hobo a few times. It was the easiest costume to put together and one that you could put over top of a snowsuit because it was always freezing cold on Halloween in Montreal.

If you could have one superpower what would it be?
Teleportation. There are so many cool things to see in the world, and getting there is sometimes the journey, but it’s also a pain. If you could just want to get from here to there and avoid a 16-hour plane ride, I would be very happy.

If you didn’t have to work what would you do?
I would do lots of travelling and I would spend a lot more time on woodworking projects.

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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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