SMUS Teacher Feature: Ms. Amy Stark

Amy Stark

Middle School humanities teacher Ms. Amy Stark is one of our new teachers this year.

Amy was born in Comox but with her father in the RCMP she spent her childhood moving around Canada (3 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, 1 high school) in four different provinces. She graduated high school in Prince George and stayed there to earn a B.A. in history and English from the University of Northern B.C. She spent a year teaching English in Korea before returning to Canada to formalize her teacher training at the University of Prince Edward Island. Since becoming a teacher Amy has taught in B.C., as well as two years teaching abroad: China and Korea for a second time.

Amy currently teaches Humanities 7 at the Middle School, and is a Junior Houseparent in Timmis House.

Let’s get to know Amy better:

Why did you want to be a teacher?
I had really great students in Korea who were eager to learn English. I realized that I had the ability to help them with this skill, which was something I hadn’t really thought about before arriving. I saw progress in them, I saw that the things I was doing were helping them and that was a really rewarding realization.

What was the best class you took in school?
My Grade 8 language arts class. Unfortunately, I was going to school in Manitoba and two months in we moved to Labrador. It might just be that the honeymoon period for that class never ended, but I had a teacher who really knew his stuff and he was very engaging. He had us watching videos, talking about narratives from teen TV shows, he gave us really interesting writing prompts and we interviewed a professional writer. It felt like grown-up and really important work.

What’s been the most interesting (or memorable) job you’ve held?
I was a camp counsellor at an ESL summer camp in Nova Scotia for international students. They came for the summer from all over the world and lived in college residence with us. I wasn’t a teacher so I got to do the fun stuff with them! It was a really fun way to spend a summer in Nova Scotia and getting to hang out with a bunch of really interesting teens.

How do you spend a day off?
I have a dog, Meena, so we go for lots of walks on the beach or in the forest. And I like to read a lot. I also really enjoy sharing meals with family and friends.

Where do you most want to travel but have never been?
Turkey is high on my list. I’m really interested in the Cappadocia communities in the rocks and the hoodoos. I watched something as a kid about these hotels and whole towns that are built into these rocks and it has always stuck with me.

If you could trade lives with one person for one day who would it be?
I would love to be in the mind of an author like J.K. Rowling to see how those ideas travel through their mind and how they can create these worlds. I’m not a great fantasy thinker, let alone fantasy writer, so I’m very interested to see what that’s like to be able to think like that.

What one accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of the little girl who moved all over Canada and started school mid-year three times and somehow managed to not do anything bad or rebellious. I was the little girl in Winnipeg who always saw the moves as a great adventure. It was a valuable opportunity and it’s shaped who I am.

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
I was teaching a young, beginner ESL class in Korea and none of them spoke any English. It was a tough go and they were always asking questions like, “How do you spell this?” and it would be things that we had gone over on the last page of the textbook. But there was a day when it hit me that my class could get through everything without speaking Korean; when I had taught them enough English words to communicate without needing their native language. It was really satisfying being able to see the effects of teaching.

What’s the best concert you’ve been to?
My most memorable was a music festival in Mongolia. It was my first-ever music festival, I went with a group of travelers I had met and it was interesting to be with young Mongolians and getting to be a fly on the wall of Mongolian youth culture.

What’s the best purchase you’ve ever made?
When I moved to Chetwynd I bought my car. Chetwynd was a tough go for me, so she was my getaway car for a lot of scenarios. She would get me to enjoyable weekends with my family.

What’s the most memorable gift you’ve received?
I got a hamster from Santa when I was 9. It was my first that I was responsible for. I had been hoping for one for a while. It was a pretty exciting Christmas morning finding that cage beside the tree.

When have you felt your biggest adrenaline rush?
Every time I get on an airplane to take a big trip or a big move. That’s when I feel the most nerves but it’s too late to back out of the decision.

What was your dream job growing up?
I was a not very practical dreamer. I remember wanting to be a ballerina but I’ve never taken dance classes. I wasn’t willing to work for it. I just thought “They’re pretty. I want to be one.”

What’s the best part of your job?
The people I get to spend my time with. It’s the best when I feel like I know a kid; when I know what I need to do to get them to laugh or how to sell them on an idea. I also love the adults that I get to teach with. It’s the best when a group of teachers are working together and come up with an awesome project idea and get excited about showing it to the kids.

What are you currently reading?
The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. It’s a book the students will be reading in Humanities 7.

Where is your favourite place on Vancouver Island?
I really enjoyed visiting Tofino and Ucluelet for the first time this year. I would love to go back to both of those places and do some deeper exploring.

If you could time travel, when would be the first place you go?
I would go to 1940s Canada. I’ve always kind of been interested in the Second World War and would be interested in knowing what it was like during wartime in Canada.

If you could teach a subject or class that you don’t currently teach, what would it be?
I would love to be a yoga instructor. I’m always in awe of the yoga instructors I’ve had because it’s really about lifelong learning. I’m envious of that, as a teacher, because we can say, “You learn for a lifetime,” but then, “Report cards are next week.”

What hobby would you pursue if money and time were no object?
I would love to run a travel blog. I would love doing photography, traveling the world and writing about my travels.

What are you passionate about that not a lot of people know about you?
I’m passionate about meeting people and interacting with people I normally wouldn’t when I travel. I’m passionate about learning new skills when I travel so I can have a deeper experience when I’m somewhere else.

What one piece of advice would you give this year’s graduating class?
Take with you the memories and the emotions from high school that make you feel more confident and that help you along the road. Leave behind the insecurities that drag you down and make the going tougher.


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