SMUS Teacher Feature: Mr. Eliot Anderson

Eliot Anderson

Mr. Eliot Anderson was recently named Interim Director of the Senior School for 2017-18.

Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and came to Victoria with his family when he was 7. His dad, a university professor, did a one-year teaching exchange to Victoria and the Andersons never left when the year was up. Eliot, an avid rugby player, graduated from Oak Bay High and spent one year at the University of Victoria before taking the next year off to live, work and play rugby (for the Sunnybank Dragons) in Australia.

He returned to Canada and the University of Victoria where he continued to play rugby while completing his bachelor of education. Eliot began working at SMUS as a houseparent in 1999. He has taught science and physical education and held the roles of Grade Advisor, Head of Physical Education and most recently Assistant Director, Student Life.

“I am excited about the year ahead and working with the faculty in a new capacity,” he says. “This is a great opportunity – I’m always looking to learn new things and there’s going to be a lot of that in this role.”

Eliot is married to Mrs. Becky Anderson (Interim Director of the Junior School) and they have two daughters at SMUS.

Let’s get to know Mr. Anderson better:

Why did you want to be a teacher?
I always enjoyed working with kids and young adults as a coach or running summer camps. I liked the energy and the dynamism of the job because it was never the same. That just naturally grew into an interest in helping kids find their way and learn new things and become better people.

What was the best class you took in school?
I took a course in university called Human Potential with Dr. Martin Collis. In my experience he was the first person to show how to work in order to get the best out of people. His focus on helping others improve is something we are talking about now with coaching in our work at SMUS. He looked at ways to help people become versions of themselves through a physical activity lens.

What’s been the most interesting job you’ve held?
During my undergrad I worked as a forest firefighter in the interior of BC. I spent six years travelling all over the province living and working in the woods. It was hard work but I have some amazing memories from my time with the unit crew.

How do you spend a day off?
Family is a priority for us in our free time so we definitely look for an adventure with our daughters when we can. I also like to find time to exercise and I quite enjoy working around the house. I tend to have a little DIY project on the go all the time. This summer I learned to tile – not well, but I enjoy learning.

Where do you most want to travel but have never been?
Travelling is a big part of my life and I love exploring new places with Becky and the girls. Colombia has been on my list for a while now. We spent some time in South America in 2013 but we didn’t get to Colombia. Its history really interests me and I think you’d be able to get off the beaten track pretty quickly there, which is always a draw for me when we travel.

Who did you look up to as a kid?
Like most young boys I looked up to my dad because he could do everything. He was an academic but he could just as soon help you build a go kart or change the oil on the car before heading off to his day job.

If you could trade lives with one person for one day who would it be?
If “one person” can be fictional then I would choose Batman – because if you can be Batman, then be Batman! If we’re talking real people then learning how Elon Musk spends a day would be fascinating. Or if I could go back in time, being Walt Disney would be pretty interesting. Both of those individuals have a great deal of creative freedom and ability which I admire.

What one accomplishment are you most proud of?
I completed an Ironman triathlon in Penticton in 2003. That required a great deal of training and a level of effort over the course of a year to prepare properly. Every now and then I think about doing another one but then I remember how I felt at the end.

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
Finishing my first year of teaching physics. It was a great year and a very positive professional experience. It was a new curriculum for me to teach, it was challenging, the students did well on the provincial exam and finishing was a real sense of accomplishment for me.

What’s the best concert you’ve been to?
We took our girls to see Shawn Mendes this summer, which I am sure was memorable for them but it doesn’t crack the top 5 for me! I saw Ben Harper and Jack Johnson at the Gorge Amphitheater in the early 2000s and that was a great show.

What’s the best purchase you’ve ever made?
When Becky and I were in Africa we took a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti. It was sunrise and we sailed over what seemed like millions of zebras and wildebeests as the sun came up. A tradition in the hot air balloon world is a champagne breakfast after a flight and we had ours in the middle of the Serengeti.

What’s the most memorable gift you’ve received?
I am not sure why this one is so memorable but my parents gave me a North Face backpack when I graduated high school. It was my university backpack and I still use it!

What’s something you enjoy but (up until today) have been too embarrassed to share with the SMUS community?
I don’t mind the odd country song.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
Until recently I would have said bungee jumping but last winter Pete McLeod (Director of Outdoor Education) took me on a back-country ski trip on Mount Cain. We hiked a ridgeline that was well beyond my comfort zone. It was invigorating but terrifying at the same time!  I have had a couple good scares thanks to Pete.

What was your dream job growing up?
I rolled through a lot of dream jobs as a kid: firefighter, pilot, police officer. When Top Gun came out I really wanted to be a jet pilot.

If a talent show was happening at SMUS today, what would be your talent?
I have been trying to learn to play the guitar for 10 years but it’s slow going. If I had to perform, I’d probably play Wheat Kings by The Tragically Hip.

What’s the best part of your job?
Working with the people who live and work in this community. They are just fantastic individuals all around who have a positive outlook on the future of education and for the kids that are here.

What are you currently reading?
The Book of Joy by Douglas Carlton Adams. He interviews the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu about their understanding of the roots of joy.

Where is your favourite place on Vancouver Island?
I have to keep it a secret but I’ll just say it’s a quiet cabin on the waterfront somewhere.

If you could time travel, when would be the first place you go?
The Roman Empire has always interested me and I would be keen to see the Colosseum at capacity.

If you could teach a subject or class that you don’t currently teach what would it be?
It would be a course where you walk through life skills-type stuff: changing a tire, changing the oil, general home maintenance, bike maintenance. Those are valuable skills that I think are important to learn.

What hobby would you pursue if money and time were no object?
Surfing. The first time I surfed was when I lived in Australia. I really enjoy being in the water and I enjoyed the sense of really being inside the experience and working with the water. It is definitely the hardest sport I’ve ever tried.

How would your high school teachers have described you?
They would have probably said I was “rambunctious.”

What are you passionate about?
My family tops the list. We are always looking for ways to create focused family time. And I am passionate about making sure that young kids have a good experience in whatever it is they are doing. The most important thing we do here is make sure that their experiences are challenging and positive.

What one piece of advice would you give this year’s graduating class?
Stretch outside of your comfort zone and try new things. Seek challenge, don’t look for the easy way. You grow and develop when you’re trying things that push you. You may fail but that means you have the opportunity to try again.

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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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