SMUS Teacher Feature: Mrs. Sarah Donatelli

We are pleased to introduce Mrs. Sarah Donatelli to the SMUS community.

Sarah is originally from the Ottawa region, where she grew up and went to school. She remained nearby for post-secondary, studying education at Queen’s University. Her first teaching job after graduation was in Barranquilla, Colombia, where she and Mr. Eric Donatelli taught for three years. Last year she taught math and science at Queen Margaret’s School in Duncan.

This year Sarah is teaching Science 7 and 8, and Math 8.

Let’s get to know Sarah better:

Why did you want to be a teacher?
I’ve wanted to be a teacher my whole life. My sisters and I would play school when we were young and they would submit their homework to me and I would mark it! I also wanted to be a teacher because I struggled in elementary school. If it weren’t for the teachers who helped me and who made a huge difference in my life, I wouldn’t be here teaching. They inspired me to hopefully help other students the way they helped me.

What was the best class you took in school? 
I took a class at university called The History of Life. The professor was great and the class explored where first life began and he took us all the way up until now, touching on climate changes and the evolution of different species.

What’s been the most interesting job you’ve held?
My family owns a maple sugar bush in Ontario and ever since I could walk I have been helping out there. We have a walk through time there that shows how maple syrup is made now, how it was made when my parents were younger and then further into the woods how the pioneers used to do it. I used to dress up in costumes and take people through the process. It was really fun. I still go every March break and work there.

How do you spend a day off?
We have a chocolate lab puppy, Max, so I enjoy waking up early and taking Max for a walk. Since we’re still quite new to Victoria we try to explore somewhere new. I also love to go out camping and to just spend time outside.

Where do you most want to travel but have never been?
Italy. I want to eat lots of great pasta and drink great wine!

Who did you look up to as a kid?
My mom because she’s a very caring lady. She is always taking care of the people around her and she has boundless energy to help everyone else. I also looked up to my older sister because she was always true to herself. She’s very passionate, smart and strives to help others share her passions.

If you could trade lives with one person for one day who would it be?
I’ve always thought being Ms. Frizzle (from The Magic School Bus) would be really fun. I want to go inside the human body. And I love her motto, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”

What one accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m proud that when we went to Colombia I learned to speak Spanish. I never thought I would be able to learn another language as an adult but I learned enough that I could have meetings with parents in Spanish and I could communicate well with them.

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
Last year I had a student in one of my math classes who, at the beginning of the year, said she hated math. One day when we were working on a problem I overheard her say to a friend, “This is fun!” It’s small, but that was cool to hear!

What’s the best concert you’ve been to?
We saw Zac Brown Band in Kitchener right when we came back to Canada from living in Colombia. They’re my favourite band ever and seeing concerts like that was one of the things we really missed about life back home.

What’s the best purchase you’ve ever made?
Our dog, Max.

What’s the most memorable gift you’ve received?
My engagement ring from Eric.

What’s something you enjoy but (up until today) have been too embarrassed to share with the SMUS community?
I love listening to news on the CBC. Last year I had to drive far to get to work so I got to listen to the news every morning. This year we live so close to the school that I try to make sure we time our drive so I get to listen to the CBC News on our short commute.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
We biked down Death Road in Bolivia. I’m a very safety-oriented person and the name ‘Death Road’ really fits this road. It’s a small road right along the edge of a big cliff. It wasn’t a positive adrenaline rush!

What was your dream job growing up?
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

If a teacher talent show was happening at SMUS today, what would be your talent?
I love to sing, but I’m not good at it. I started taking singing lessons last year. It was a Christmas gift from my family because they knew how much I love it. Right now the songs I’m learning are “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, “Country Roads” by John Denver and the song from the short film Lava.

What’s the best part of your job?
The students because even if you’re having a hard morning and you’re tired or you’re not feeling 100%, when they come in the room and they’re happy to see you, it always brightens you up!

What are you currently reading?
The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence

Where is your favourite place on Vancouver Island?
My backyard. We just bought a house this summer and haven’t had a backyard before. Now we have space to play with Max!

If you could time travel, when would be the first place you go?
I would want to go back to the time of the Suffragette movement to be a fly on the wall at one of their gatherings and listen to these amazing women talk.

If you could teach a subject or class that you don’t currently teach, what would it be?
I’d love to teach an Explore Your Interests class where every student chooses something they’re deeply interested in and they spend the year learning that. I think it would be great because then I’d also get to learn so much from each of them on such a wide range of topics.

What hobby would you pursue if money and time were no object?
I would want to pursue baking more. I’d love to work in a little bakery somewhere and learn all their secrets to fancy baking.

How would your high school teachers describe you?
They would say I was kind, I was hard-working and I was very involved. I did a lot in high school: student council, leadership camp, I played basketball (I wasn’t very good, but I did it), I played flute in band and I did peer tutoring.

What are you passionate about that not a lot of people know about you?
Fishing. I’ve been fishing since I was little because my dad’s an avid outdoorsman!

What one piece of advice would you give this year’s graduating class?
If you asked me when I graduated high school if I would ever teach overseas or move to B.C. I would’ve said, “No way.” So be open to new possibilities because you never know where they might take you. 

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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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