Every year, we are honoured to recognize members of the SMUS community as they retire and take on new adventures. Read the 2020 Retirees series to learn more about their outstanding contributions to the school. In this story, we recognize Gisèle Di Iorio, Data Centre Manager.
Gisèle and her husband Peter moved to Victoria for his job in early 1990. She was from Mackenzie, in the BC Interior, and he was from Vancouver Island. At a friend’s recommendation, Gisèle connected with a local temp agency in May 1990 to find her feet and to connect with this new community. After a brief typing test, she was assigned to SMUS to stuff envelopes to support the big fall mailout. By July 1, she was hired full-time at the school to work in several departments. This was her very first job in Victoria. The assortment of projects and people appealed to Gisèle, and her balance of intelligence and positive “let’s do it” attitude was a welcome fit for the school.
One month later, an arsonist burnt down a newly built boarding house on campus. “I can still remember the ATCO trailers in front of School House that the boarders lived in during the reconstruction,” she reflects. Gisèle was moved to reception to help manage the incredible volume of overseas calls from parents. She remained as the school receptionist for the next few years. Her straightforward, empathetic professionalism and organizational skills were ideal for this position
In 1993, the SMUS Data Centre, which housed all past, present and prospective student information, was expanding the DOS electronic system to better process information and support the growth of the school. Gisèle joined this department and started working with Wendy Wilson under Brian Faulker, who was in charge of all the technology at the school. When Wendy moved to the Junior School in 1994, Gisèle took over the SMUS Data Centre. In 1996, SMUS shifted to Trevlac, a more robust student management software that she could customize for the increasing student body. Gisèle was the key point person for organizing, optimizing, understanding and sharing how data is stored, managed and used.
Reflecting on her time with the school, she shares, “I really enjoyed my job. In the early years, there was a lot of interaction from the kids. With no iPhones, they had to come to see me in person. I loved working with the attendance and students and being a support for all the faculty. They were all so nice.”
New challenges continued to nourish Gisèle’s appetite for learning. Trevlac, based in eastern Canada, lacked a western Canadian educator and support person. Ever-interested and fast to learn, she became an expert, and “got to travel and teach. The variety was fantastic.” With her help, other BC schools were able to learn and maximize the many benefits of this, at the time, cutting-edge software.
In 2009, the school changed to SDS (School Data System), which remains the current data system. She laughs, describing the past unwieldy massive ledgers in the accounting office and marvels at how far technology has advanced. She adds, “as has the school, in terms of both size and scope.”
Gisèle has seen five heads of school through SMUS and enjoyed witnessing how the focus shifted based on the leader and their approach, beliefs and values.
In her early days at SMUS, Gisèle admits it was very much a “boys’ club,” and she appreciated seeing more women teaching and in leadership positions over the years. Initially, there was also a marked separation between administration and faculty, which she wanted to see change. “I pushed hard for a more cohesive community and started having more coffee with the teachers and connecting.” Gisèle remains continually impressed by the school’s ability to adapt and evolve with the times. When asked about what she misses most about the school, Gisèle says she misses everyone: her co-worker and the kids, she misses socializing over coffee.
Shortly after she and her husband retired in January 2020, they sold their house in Victoria and moved to Creston, BC, to build their dream home. It should come as no surprise she is pitching in to the process and learning about drywalling, framing and construction. There’s always more to learn, she says. Granted, it is also fuelled by her desire to get out of their intimate trailer and into their dream home.
Gisèle’s first, last and in-between jobs have all been with SMUS. She smiles, “I’ve been very happy at the school, and I’ve had a great career, and the kids and staff have always been fantastic.”