The story of my journey is one of chance; “right place, right time” and lots of luck. Before Shawnigan I taught at Rugby School in the UK; a coeducational boarding school remarkably similar to SLS but with many more students. Once my wife, Hilary, and I started a family we knew we wanted to move to Canada and I wanted the same full-on teaching experience I’d had at home. I don’t ever want to just be in the classroom, the banter on the sports field and in the boarding houses is too good to miss. Hil happened to see my SLS job advertised online and we agreed that it looked like a perfect fit for family life and career satisfaction.
Would you say it is the boarding aspect you enjoy the most?
Definitely. If I didn’t love the boarding part of this job, there’d be no point being here. There are plenty of day-schools to work at. I’ve lived in a boarding house before, in fact my eldest daughter spent the first year of her life living with 50 teenage girls, it was great for her and great for the girls we lived with. This summer, when the Headmaster asked me to create a new boarding house at Shawnigan, I didn’t even think twice about it. For me, House Directing is the top job in the School.
You’re now in charge of a Grade 8 only house, how does that feel?
I’ve never really interacted with the Grade 8s before, having only taught seniors, but I was a passionate supporter of this type of house as a concept. The Assistant House Director, Tim Stephens, residential assistant, Travis Gronsdahl, and I have created a great space out in the forest where the boys can settle into life at Shawnigan without the pressures that come with trying to live in a house with boys 5 years older. Grade 8 to Grade 12 is a huge difference and now they have a chance to learn the routines of Shawnigan and still be themselves, it’s going to be a fun year for them.
I understand you’ve become a little obsessed with the house namesake, Cpt Tiny Levien
That started when I went looking for skeletons in his closet, the last thing I wanted was to name it after someone with an embarrassing past. There may be many anecdotes written about Cpt Levien that turn out to be false, but I can forgive him letting those become tall tales for the moral character he showed during his time in Canada. His is a story of rebuilding his life after tragedy, staying the course through some of the School’s most difficult times, and advocating for those who didn’t have a voice. After I spent some very long nights in the historical databases, I have enough to write his story one day.
What are your hopes for this inaugural year in Levien?
I think we will measure the success of the House in years to come. The measure will be the strength of the long lasting friendships first formed in Levien House and also how the boys treat the younger students when they are in positions of responsibility. I hope we mirror the success of the girl’s dorm, Stanton House, and that our two Grade 8 Houses work together as Eleanor Stanton and Cpt Levien did nearly 100 years ago.