SMUS Teacher Feature: Ms. Kate Knight

Ms. Kate Knight was recently named Interim Director of the Middle School for the 2018-2019 school year.

Kate was born in Penetanguishene, Ontario and raised nearby in Elmville and Orillia, just north of Toronto. After graduating high school, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in History and English Literature from Trent University and then took a gap year travelling through Europe and Africa. She returned to school (Queen’s University) to earn her Bachelor of Education degree and got her first teaching job in Cape Dorset, Nunavut on Baffin Island. After three years in the Great White North, Kate worked for a year as a Special Education teacher in Colorado before spending almost a decade working (and travelling the world) on Class Afloat, a tall ship-based school. She returned to Ontario in 2012 as the Head of a Learning Resource Centre at a Toronto independent school and subsequently joined the SMUS community in 2014 as a University Counsellor.

Let’s get to know Kate better.

What was the best class you took in school?
I took Grade 12 Law as a summer school course (because my boyfriend had to take summer school!) and it was one of the best decisions of my high school career. We were a small class of only 10 students and our classroom was a high school teachers’ lounge. We sat on couches dissecting and debating the Canadian legal system and discussing major political issues of the day. It opened my eyes to what classroom learning could be like – topical and engaging – and Mr. Bews was a great storyteller with an incredible sense of humour. 

What was your first-ever job?
Delivering newspapers when I was 12 years old every day after school. There were parts I loved, such as feeling very grown-up and independent, and parts that terrified me, like knocking on doors to collect payment every two weeks from grown-ups who seemed pretty scary to me at the time. However, I got so busy with after-school sports and activities that after a year my mother paid me $100 to quit my route – she was tired of delivering papers for me on days when I had games or events!

What do you do on a day off?
Read, spend time with friends out for coffee or a meal, or enjoy a nice walk along Dallas Road. I also love movies, live music, theatre and any opportunity to travel. I love board games and card games, especially euchre – a game usually only people from Ontario know how to play.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
India because of the vibrant colours, the incredible people and history, and the food!

What is one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
To remain active and healthy into old age so I can continue to travel near and far.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
I had two teachers who opened my eyes to the impact a teacher can have on a child. The first was incredibly positive – he took the time to get to know and understand me and challenged me to become the best version of myself. The other was very negative – she made assumptions about students without taking the time to understand the how and why of any situation, and she used her influence to minimize instead of maximize potential. I understood the power in the difference even then, and have always strived to model myself after my Grade 8 teacher, Mr. Lotimer. I love the platform that school and education gives me to make authentic connections with young people.

What was your dream job growing up?
I wanted to be a lawyer for a long time, mainly because I loved to watch the old black and white television show Perry Mason with my father. I was obsessed with solving mysteries and the dramatic courtroom scenes.

What was the first concert you went to?
New Kids on the Block in Detroit when I was 15. It felt massive – crossing the border to another country singing NKOTB songs in the car, sitting in a stadium with almost 50,000 fans and screaming at the top of our lungs. It was a total rush!

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
I’ve chosen to move several times in my adult life and take on new jobs in new places. Each time it’s hard to leave behind great people (friends, colleagues, students) and take that leap into the unknown, not knowing if I will meet new people with whom I’ll connect. It is still a little bit scary each time but the opportunity to take on something new and grow outweighs the fear. And so far, I have been lucky to always land in a wonderful new community.

What hobby would you pursue if money and time were no object?
I would love to complete an internship on an organic farm and then develop my own school on a farm. The satisfaction that would come from truly understanding where food comes from, growing what I eat, learning to care for animals, building buildings, and educating young people in an environment centered around food and community would be an incredible experience.

What’s been your most memorable teaching moment?
As a University Counsellor it was always rewarding to watch a student work through selecting which college or university they wanted to attend; the research, the applications, and then ultimately having to choose a path that was a good fit. It was always amazing to see students grow in their understanding and confidence in themselves to make the choice that was right for them and really own it. I always felt proud of their accomplishment.

If you could time travel, when would be the first place you go?
The 1920s in England. I’ve read many books on this time period (yes, I was a Downton Abbey fan!) and see it as an exciting time of transition and possibility for women and for cultural change in general. There were such significant shifts in music, art, politics, and thinking from 1918 through the early 1930s.

What was your favourite field trip as a kid in school?
My Grade 8 class went to Ottawa for three days. I was fascinated by the Parliament Buildings and the museums, though the bus rides were probably the best part of the whole trip!

What are you currently reading?
Double Bind: Women on Ambition edited by Robin Romm, and Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.

What’s the best part of your job?
Being surrounded by the energy of students on a daily basis and creating exciting opportunities for learning with great colleagues. I also love when students come back to visit after moving on to a higher grade or graduating – it’s awesome to hear about their next steps and how they have continued to grow.

Where is your favourite place on Vancouver Island?
Tofino because I love watching fog roll over the water in the fall or a summer thunderstorm, and the sense of being on the edge of the world.

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be doing for a living?
I think it would be fun to be a CIA (or CSIS) agent! I love solving puzzles and figuring out how things connect.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I would love to have Hermione’s Time-Turner from Harry Potter so that I could be in more than one place at a time. This would allow me to do all the amazing things there are to do in life instead of having to pick and choose!

What are you passionate about?
Animal protection. I donate to the World Wildlife Fund and I’ve volunteered at an animal rescue shelter. Watching the SPCA commercial with the Sarah McLachlan song “I Will Remember You” makes me cry every time I see it. I can’t comprehend how anyone can abuse an animal.

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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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