SMUS Teacher Feature: Mr. Chris Bateman

Mr. Chris Bateman has taken on a lot of roles at SMUS, the earliest of which was as a student when he joined our community in Grade 8. A boarder from Salt Spring Island, Chris graduated in 1994 aiming to become a park planner. After earning a degree in geography and environmental science from the University of Victoria, he worked for Yellowstone National Park and BC Parks. While working as a houseparent in Bolton House at SMUS, he had the opportunity to cover art classes for a few months – that’s when he realized he loved teaching. He earned his Bachelor of Education degree and he moved to The Bahamas to teach at, and then run, an experiential school. After four years, he and his wife Jenn returned to Canada. Chris has been teaching art at SMUS since 2009, he was Senior Bolton Houseparent for seven years and he is now Head of Visual Art and Design.

He and Jenn, who also teaches at SMUS, have two daughters: Grace and Cleo.

Let’s get to know Mr. Bateman better:

What was the best class you took in school?
The UVic Arts Education classes were amazing. We learned practical skills that could also be applied directly to our teaching. The Digital Art class particularly opened my eyes to the possibility of the medium. That was also an example of a class where we were learning technologies that were either industry standard or ahead of the curve at the time – something I aim for my own students to experience.

What was your first-ever job?
I worked as a labourer on a construction crew for a year. I did simple tasks and cleaned up and eventually was given some more important jobs to do. I learned what a full day’s work felt like. I am also grateful for the practical skills the tradesmen shared with me.

What do you do on a day off?
I enjoy playing with my kids. Right now, Lego is very popular. My old castle Lego has been absorbed into their princess Lego and we are being very creative in our building.

Where do you most want to travel but have never been?
There are a couple of places to do this but I want to snorkel or SCUBA dive with whale sharks or some similarly giant sea creature that won’t eat me.

What is one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?
To write a screenplay.

Why did you want to be a teacher?
I didn’t think I did but I was given the chance to try it and absolutely loved it. I love the energy of working with students. I have an outlet for my own creative energy by working as a guide for the students and constantly giving formative feedback. Students love being in the art room and I feed off that energy. Also, it’s exciting that creative thinking and design skills will be such crucial life skills for them in the future and art class helps students tap into that.

What was your dream job growing up?
I intended to be a park planner and had done an internship at Yellowstone National Park and a few contracts at BC Parks before switching gears.

What was the first concert you went to?
The Tragically Hip at the Royal Theatre for their Fully Completely tour.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
At the school in The Bahamas we all participated in an exercise program with the students. Every morning at 6:30 we all trained boot-camp style for either a half-marathon or a four-mile open ocean swim. The semesters played out in such a way that I ended up doing one of each every year for 4 years. Exercise does not come naturally to me or give me positive endorphins the way others describe it so it was full grit the whole way through each time. The memories of swimming in the ocean at dawn with fish and sharks down below me (and dolphins or eagle rays if I was very lucky) will stay with me forever.

What’s the best part of your job?
I am very lucky to have a fun and dynamic experience every day. Visual art is really one of the original personalized learning experiences. For most studio assignments we have a general goal, problem to solve or technique to become familiar with. As a teacher, most of class time is spent buzzing from one student to the next, meeting them at their learning, motivating where necessary and pushing students to do their very best. There are always examples of students who wish to approach a problem in a unique way and it’s a fun challenge to accommodate these creative twists while still meeting the learning goals.

We are at an exciting point where design skills and the ability to think creatively are important traits to hold in this new and constantly shifting economy. In addition, new technology like virtual reality and augmented reality, 360 cameras and 3D printing are opening all kinds of amazing avenues for artistic expression and communication.

The art department is this amazing team of dynamic individuals. We all bring different skills to the team and I am inspired every day by their creativity and dedication as artists and educators.

Where is your favourite place on Vancouver Island?
Just off Vancouver Island is Hornby Island. I love the massive beaches, unbelievable parks, great wildlife and the laid-back attitude.

What was your favourite childhood Halloween costume?
I once went as a giant UNICEF box and thought I was being pretty clever. You could put the candy in the front where the money would go in a real UNICEF box.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To slow down time.

What are you passionate about?
I’m interested in the increasingly rapid advances in technology and the implications for humans as creative individuals.


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