SMUS Teacher Feature: Mrs. Shannon Williams

Shannon Williams

We are excited to introduce Mrs. Shannon Williams as one of our newest teachers at the Middle School.

Shannon was born and raised on Vancouver Island, and graduated high school in Nanaimo. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Geography from the University of Victoria and immediately followed that with an elementary teaching degree. She spent three years teaching in Burnaby before returning to Vancouver Island. She completed her master’s degree while teaching in the Comox Valley.

She spent the nine years teaching on the Island before moving to Tokyo for a year to teach. She returned to the Comox Valley where she spent another two years teaching and this past summer she moved to Victoria to begin her teaching career at St. Michaels University School.

This year Shannon will teach Humanities 7, Communication Skills 7 and English 8.

Let’s get to know Shannon better:

Why did you want to be a teacher?
I fell into teaching naturally. I figure skated as a child and because I spent long hours at the arena I started teaching younger kids. When I went to university teaching wasn’t my end game but when I got to the end of my first degree I realized that it would make sense because I enjoyed it so much. I enjoy helping kids learn.

What was the best class you took in school? 
My first-year Canadian history class at university was called the History of the National Hockey League. I learned about the NHL, the Patricks, Tim Horton and the Original Six all the way up to the Soviet Summit Series. It was a really great course!

What’s been the most interesting job you’ve held?
I don’t know if it’s the most interesting but the most memorable has been as a flagger. It’s mind-numbingly boring and people get angry at you all the time. I was the person with the least amount of control and knowledge of the situation and had to bear the brunt of a lot of anger. It was the absolute worst job.

How do you spend a day off?
I play squash, I spend time with my husband and family, I garden and I try to do some sort of active, outdoor pursuit.

Where do you most want to travel but have never been?
I haven’t done Europe yet. I want to take my time seeing and visiting Europe and I don’t want to work while I’m there, so I’ll have to make it a really long trip.

Who did you look up to as a kid?
I was heavily involved in figure skating, so people like Brian Orser, Elizabeth Manley, Brian Boitano, Elvis Stojko. I had their posters on the wall in my bedroom. I started figure skating when I was 5 and I was very fortunate that as much as I wanted to be on the ice, my parents put me there.

If you could trade lives with one person for one day who would it be?
I would love to be inside Stephen Hawking’s mind and know what makes him tick. It would be truly overwhelming, but amazing!

What one accomplishment are you most proud of?
In 2011-12 I directed a film called “Instructions For a Bad Day”. It was created in response to the tough year that we were experiencing in the Comox Valley. My Grade 9 film and animation classes developed, shot and edited the film and it was filmed at our school. It featured a poem written for us by Shane Koyczan and mastered by Corwin Fox. All three high schools in the area got involved in the film. Our choirs sung the back-up vocals at a local church, we made all the props, our students, together with local musicians, made the background music which Corwin wrote, and lots of students and teachers were extras in the film. The film took uncountable hours to complete and I am still proud of the finished product. The film opened at our school on Pink Shirt Day in 2012. It was then chosen to premier at the Vancouver International Film Festival. The film also traveled with the Reel Youth Film Festival and won third place in its global contest.

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
I took a group of Grade 9 students over to Vancouver for the debut of the video (see question above). The best teaching moment was sitting in the auditorium and watching my students up on stage being critiqued and taking part in the Q&A. The pride and accomplishment I felt for them and what they created was amazing. I hope they remember their accomplishment for a long time. 

What’s the best concert you’ve been to?
I went to see Nine Inch Nails a few years ago and it was awesome. The music is fabulous but the light show was amazing. It was a really professionally put together show! 

What’s the best purchase you’ve ever made?
Travel is always the best purchase we make. This summer I was teaching in Hong Kong and my husband joined me at the end of that so we could travel to Boracay, Philippines. Normally we enjoy more immersive cultural travel but this was a great way to end our summer relaxing on a beautiful sandspit.

What’s the most memorable gift you’ve received?
My daughter.

What’s something you enjoy but (up until today) have been too embarrassed to share with the SMUS community?
I love playing strategy board games. When our family gets together, I make some appetizers and we play games like Risk and Settlers of Catan.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
Getting on the plane to work in Japan was a big adrenaline rush. We sold everything we had – our house, all our belongings except our clothes and sports gear – and moved to Tokyo for a year. It was an intense experience giving up everything we had but it was so amazing.

What was your dream job growing up?
Professional figure skater. I desperately wanted to be in the Olympics. If I could still have a dream job it would be pro athlete but I have yet to find a sport at my age that I can do well enough…

What’s the best part of your job?
Every day is different, every day is full and every day is interesting – particularly at the Middle School.

What are you currently reading?
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Where is your favourite place on Vancouver Island?
I love being at the top of Mount Washington on a crisp, winter, fresh-powder day and having to choose between Linton’s Loop and the Coaster.

If you could time travel, when would be the first place you go?
Any ancient civilization would be amazing to witness but I would have to choose some time in the Renaissance period. It’s such an enlightened period of time and it would be neat to witness that whole space around change and ideas and momentum that creates forward movement.

If you could teach a subject or class that you don’t currently teach, what would it be?
I’ve taught a lot of different subjects and Middle School humanities is my passion. I feel very fortunate to have this position because I am able to teach what I want and what I enjoy.

What hobby would you pursue if money and time were no object?
I would love to be a travelling journalist/photographer for National Geographic. I know it’s long travel and sometimes the conditions aren’t very good but the whole idea of being able to travel and see the world while documenting it and storytelling would be awesome.

How would your high school teachers have described you?
High school for me was not an interactive, collaborative experience. I had teachers with the rolling overheads and lots of note-taking – that’s not my learning style. I probably gave the look of boredom and disinterest and lack of drive. But I was lucky. I was smart enough that I didn’t really have to pay attention and I could still get good marks. It was also a big high school; there were almost 3,000 kids in Grades 11 and 12 so I felt anonymous and unsupported. There were a few bright spots, though; some classes with great teachers who really got the best out of me.

What are you passionate about that not a lot of people know about you?
I am passionate about squash, I am passionate about my job and I am passionate about growing my own food. When I was a kid my mother grew all our fruits and vegetables. When I was raising my daughter I did the same thing and I still have great memories of telling her, “Go pick dinner,” and she would run outside and take what she wanted to eat. Our new place has a mostly ornamental garden so I’m looking forward to converting some of the space and to being able to grow my food in Victoria.

What one piece of advice would you give this year’s graduating class?
Breathe. And make sure that you take time to experience the world, not just run through it.


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