Every year, we are honoured to recognize members of the SMUS community as they retire and take on new adventures. Read the 2021 Retirees series to learn more about their outstanding contributions to the school. In this story, we recognize Senior School social studies teacher Tony Goodman.
Sitting in the sun at a concrete picnic table in the SMUS quad, Tony shares smiles with passing colleagues. “No meetings to do, no more report cards to write.” Soaking up his surroundings for one last time before retirement, he affirms, “I’m going to really miss SMUS … a good, good career.”
Tony applied to SMUS after 17 years teaching in the Saanich School District, where his roles spanned teaching English and social studies, being curriculum coordinator and teaching distance education. “By then, I’d pretty much done what I wanted to do with my career in the school district.”
At SMUS, Tony was Head of Social Studies for 14 of his 15 years. He taught nearly every class imaginable in the Social Sciences, including Criminology and Social Justice, AP Psychology, AP Art History and English.
He says recent shifts in how and what is being taught, particularly in the social studies curriculum, has continued to fuel his passion for teaching. He describes how, for the first part of his career, much of Canadian history was taught like “one long march” – from Anti-Asian Riots to Komagata Maru, to the Head Tax, to the extension of voting rights to Asians and after to Indigenous Peoples. Students are now engaged in critical thought and explore multiple perspectives versus being taught a single version or voice in history. Thoughtful discussion, creativity and collaboration between students invite more inclusive experiences and interpretations.
“This change has been fantastic. We are on a push to decolonize our perspectives and become more aware of the diversity of voices and represent equality and rights in a living way.” Tony and his students would work on identifying their own biases and ways to challenge them. He says that as an adult committed to growth and ongoing learning, he was always aware of the importance of dismantling his own biases, as a teacher and a parent.
Tony thrived at SMUS, working with “incredibly talented and creative individuals. We fed off each other.” His department colleagues were always game to brainstorm and work together for the sake of students. “There was a spirit of embracing in our department. … If you aren’t learning, you are standing still. You need a process of curiosity and excitement for understanding the world.”
Outside of class, Tony enjoyed chaperoning several Model UN and service trips to Singapore, Vietnam, China, the United States and Montreal. He vividly remembers visiting a Montagnard orphanage in Vietnam’s central highlands. (The Indigenous Montagnards are a heavily discriminated against ethnic minority with Polynesian roots. Their lands have been cut, there are low education rates and nearly zero chance of financial opportunities available to them.) Despite what students may have expected, the children at the orphanage were deeply creative, resilient and are excellent problem solvers. The time spent at the orphanage was about pitching in, but it also brought students an awareness of “their own bubble.”
“We want our kids to be self-sufficient. But when we prop them up against life’s knocks, we deprive them of the opportunity to fail. It is good to fail.” On these trips, students experienced firsthand the limitations of their own preconceived notions. Tony glows while reflecting on the incredible breadth of learning opportunities that have been available to students and teachers during his time with the school.
Tony is married to retired Junior School learning resource teacher Sharon Goodman, who now has a thriving speech therapy practice. Throughout his teaching career, Tony enjoyed working in the summers doing DIY projects, carpentry, renovations and landscaping. In retirement, he anticipates more time with Sharon and his family, undertaking more construction projects, as well as camping, fly fishing, hiking, cycling, running, gardening and some writing.