SMUS Teacher Feature: Ms. Emily Deslaurier

Emily Deslaurier

Junior School French teacher Ms. Emily Deslaurier was born and raised in Renfrew, Ontario, near Ottawa. She was an avid athlete in high school and subsequently studied physical education and kinesiology at McGill University, earning her bachelor of education. After university she lived and taught in Australia while also spending a lot of time travelling through Asia, Europe and Oceania. She returned home to Canada and while visiting a friend in B.C. decided that she wanted to live out west. She moved to Victoria in May 2014.

Emily has been part of the SMUS community since September 2014 (when she began teaching yoga at the Middle School) and joined the teaching team at the Junior School in 2015. This year she teaches French to our Grade 3-5 students.

What was your favourite subject in school?
Phys. Ed. and French. I liked Phys. Ed. because I was better than the boys in a lot of sports and I played everything. I was mostly into basketball, volleyball and hockey but I also did soccer, tennis, track and badminton. And French because I had the same French teacher for many years and he was great. I also had another French teacher convince me to go on an exchange to the south of France for three months, which was amazing.

What was your first job?
I worked as a youth programmer at the rec centre in town. I also worked in my dad’s shop as a kid. He’s a cabinetmaker so I helped with sanding and painting doors, and answering phones.

What do you do on a day off?
I usually drive out to where there’s no service, mainly to the beach, and I love to surf and camp. I also teach yoga and run yoga retreats. My mom has taught yoga for 35 years and as a kid I always felt yoga was too slow and a waste of my time. I got into yoga when I was in university as a way of relieving stress. I started training when I travelled to India and then I trained in Vancouver a couple of years ago. Next year my mom and I are going to run a mother-daughter retreat in Mexico over spring break!

Where do you most want to travel but have never been?
Japan because I want to try snowboarding there and because I love Japanese food.

What is one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
I would like to help introduce more resources into schools related to individual health beyond physical fitness. Health and your awareness of your physical, mental and emotional self is something you live with for the rest of your life. I feel like it’s another positive step in personalized learning: it’s all about individual growth and understanding.

What did you do after high school?
I immediately went to university in Montreal. Growing up in a small town, I was just so excited to get out on my own in a new city. I spent all of August getting to know Montreal.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
I had really great relationships with my teachers. Coming from a small community, building relationships with teachers who taught you year after year was very important; they became like friends to me. And I also loved working with kids. My biggest passion is people.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
A roller coaster designer. My friends and I would play Roller Coaster Tycoon to get inspired. And then we’d get the video camera and try to turn my backyard into a theme park. We’d try to figure out the engineering of the roller coasters and the business and marketing behind it. It was so fun!

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
Surfing in a hurricane swell in Barbados.

What was the first concert you went to?
Shania Twain when I was 8 years old.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
One of my siblings was diagnosed with a mental illness when they were 18. It’s challenging trying to understand and navigate mental illness in the family because there isn’t a lot of support for the families who deal with it alongside them.

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

What movie have you watched the most in your life?
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
When I was doing my practicum I had a Grade 6 student who was really shy and she wouldn’t try out for the basketball team. I talked with her and encouraged her and she ended up coming out of her shell. She recently found me on Facebook and she’s about to graduate university. She messaged me saying she still had this note I wrote her about how she was a very strong and confident young woman and that she should challenge herself and try out. She’s also been playing basketball ever since.

Have you ever won anything?
My high school dominated in most sports. We won lots of championships and I was on a couple of those teams. We even had the boys teams dress up as cheerleaders for some of our championship basketball games!

What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
In Grade 8 we did a week-long field trip to Montreal. I just remember staying in the old city and that the food was amazing. We also went to La Ronde!

Do you collect anything?
I try to collect a rock or a shell every time I go to the beach or when I travel. I have a little rock garden in my actual garden.

What are you currently reading?
The Island by Aldous Huxley

What’s the best part of your job?
The inspiring people. I love being inspired by the curiosity, the energy and the joy of the children. And I love being inspired, especially in a progressive school like this, by my colleagues. It makes me feel like I’m part of the future of education.

What’s your favourite meal?
Sri Lankan curry or Thai green curry, as long as it has galangal.

What do you love about living on Vancouver Island?
The most important thing to me is good people and I find the people here are progressive and inspiring. Vancouver Island has everything: nature, surf, culture, exciting food, good music. And I love that it feels like a small town.

Have you ever been on TV?
I was on a local TV station in Renfrew participating in a belly dancing performance.

What was your favourite childhood Halloween costume?
I was pretty much a witch every year. And even though it’s not a Halloween costume, I dressed up as Napoleon Dynamite for a university dance recital. The theme was couch surfing and I performed the solo dance from the movie dressed as him.

If you could have one superpower what would it be?
Teleportation with a tiny chip in your brain that lets you speak the local language. I just want to get somewhere quick and be able to communicate with the people there.

What are you passionate about?
Right now I’m planning to compile memoirs for my dad and grandfather in hopes of writing a book about the stories of their lives.

If you didn’t have to work what would you do?
I dream of having a large house on a big plot of land close to town with a huge community garden, a yoga space, an outdoor spa, lots of kids running around and lots of potlucks. I would love to create a retreat centre of sorts that also highlights community.

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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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