Every year, we are honoured to recognize members of the SMUS community as they retire and take on new adventures. Read the 2019 Retirees series to learn more about their outstanding contributions to the school. In this story, we recognize Jim Williams, former Middle School science and math teacher.
For Jim Williams, it’s not just about getting the answer right. It’s how you got there.
For 26 years, Jim listened, learned and taught at SMUS. “I’d always say to the students, ‘Don’t just tell me something without giving me something to support it,’” he says, noting five-word answers from Google didn’t get anyone very far with him.
Jim and his wife moved to Vancouver Island from Alberta and he later joined SMUS in 1993 as a Middle School science and math teacher. He was drawn to that age group because it’s when kids really start to consider things carefully, past the younger “why why why’s,” he says. Jim remained at the Middle School but taught several classes at the Senior School, including Planning (now Career and Life Education) and Pre-Calculus 11. He was also Middle School Assistant Director from 1994 to 1998. Deeply involved in service and the cultivation of philanthropy at both campuses, Jim also coached volleyball intermittently.
Always very fond of mathematics, Jim also values its strength in the development of critical thinking skills. But for the most part, Middle and Senior School math is relatively straightforward. With science, “it’s intriguing. You’re always expanding beyond the training you have.” At SMUS, he taught biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, marine biology and astronomy. “In science, there are different ways to tackle the same topic,” he says.
The Math Challengers, an optional program open to Grade 8-10 students (with a few keen Grade 7s), was a favourite for Jim. While the competition existed prior to his introduction to it in 2005, he was “pleased to report that we have had students from Grades 8 or 9 attend the provincial competition every year – except one – from 2006 to present!” Jim always encouraged students to give the contests a shot. He explains, “We don’t tell people not to try high jump.” In several instances, Jim shared that sometimes students who struggled with academics flourished in these contests. “How do I know that you can’t do some mental processing if I don’t give you that chance?”
During the last few years of his teaching career, Jim appreciated the shift to integrating technology for students who best expressed their unique understanding of concepts in less traditional ways, such as video or animation. This was critical to the success of many students. That being said, each student had to deliver something face-to-face to Jim, “because you are going to have to know how to do that.”
The students were always Jim’s priority. “What makes a school successful is students that value the importance of education with parents who support them,” Jim states. “I really appreciated that about SMUS.” He also made sure students knew what was expected of them. Jim aimed to be clear that when they messed up they were not letting him down, but themselves.
At times he felt he may have been seen as tough, but, “that’s okay. They have 80 other people to be friends with – they can come talk to me when they’re 20. If they still think I’m tough then? That’s okay, too.”
These days, Jim’s still learning and exploring. He’s delving into a few small wood projects and is pleased to have time for stained glass. He is continuing with his commitments with the Knights of Columbus, a men’s Catholic organization, and spending more time in North Saanich with his wife.