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 Nancy Mollenhauer, former Middle School physical education teacher and field hockey coach.
Nancy Mollenhauer is a team player through and through.
As a teacher and coach at SMUS, that meant giving her all as a member of a community to help students be the best they can be.
“Being at SMUS is all-consuming in a good way. It’s all about community; it’s all about being in the moment for the benefit of the students,” she says. “The community is what made it such a great place because people feel like they’re part of something bigger.”
That importance of community and being part of a team stems from her own background in sport. Inspired by amazing coaches, teachers and role models growing up, she credits everyone but herself for her successes.
Nancy came to SMUS in September 1989, soon after earning her teaching degree from the University of Victoria and finishing her career as an internationally recognized field hockey player. Both paths she pursued, she says, because of the support of people she looked up to when she was young.
She picked up field hockey in junior high school; a natural transfer from playing road hockey as a kid with her four older brothers. She was a multi-sport athlete – volleyball, soccer, basketball, softball – but it was the camaraderie of field hockey, which was unlike any other sport she played, that helped her focus on it as her sport of choice.
“It really was the team stuff that drew me to it. It was a lot of fun being with your buddies, running around and chasing a ball,” she says. “It was competitive, and I enjoyed the physicality of it – really, I liked everything to do with the sport.”
A trio of strong female coaches and role models in junior high and high school – Stephanie Doney, Barb Knight and Jean Melvin – helped her develop as an athlete; becoming one of the best young Canadian field hockey players.
Nancy made the provincial U19 field hockey team in Grade 12 to compete at nationals. It was her first real taste of high-level competition and she thought to herself, “If these opportunities continue to come my way I’d obviously take advantage of them because they’re pretty awesome.”
She joined the UVic field hockey team, represented BC at the Canada Summer Games and then, as a 19-year-old, was selected to join the Senior National program. From there, a whirlwind seven-year stretch on Team Canada followed, including two World Cups, a Pan American Games and two Olympic Games (1984 in Los Angeles and 1988 in Seoul).
While studying at UVic, Nancy pursued a degree in education – at the recommendation of Stephanie. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I started but I remember Steph sat me down halfway through the year and said, ‘Why aren’t you in education? You’re born to be an educator and a coach.’”
Nancy had coached as a teenager and realized then that education would be a great fit for her.
“I loved coaching. I realized how much I enjoyed those interactions with young people,” she says. “It went so much beyond the skill of the sport; it was about developing relationships, developing lifelong skills, exemplifying making good, healthy choices. That was really attractive to me and that’s what helped pull me towards teaching.”
Hired just weeks after graduating from UVic, Nancy spent her entire 30-year teaching career at SMUS. She taught physical education and coached field hockey at the Middle and Senior Schools. In that time, too, Nancy and her husband, Ian, had two daughters, Arden and Anna, and watched them both grow up through the school, graduating as SMUS Lifers in 2013 and 2017, respectively.
For 30 years, Nancy has been the strong role model to thousands of young athletes who have come through the Middle School and the field hockey program. She feels, however, that she got so much more from the students.
“It’s the kids that make the difference here. I stayed because I loved it here, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she says. “To have that opportunity every day to interact with young people has been what brings me the greatest joy and puts a smile on my face.”
Looking back on her career as a teacher, Nancy can’t help but tie it back to the SMUS community and her commitment to being one member of a larger team.
“What our kids see at school – the actions the adults in their lives take – are crucial, which is why I’m optimistic and positive,” she says. “It’s a privilege to help shape a child’s development and a huge responsibility for all of us.”