Our Privilege, Our Gratitude, Our Journey, Our Goal

Our Privilege, Our Gratitude, Our Journey, Our Goal

As a boy growing up on the North Shore, I was incredibly privileged and I am thankful every day for the love and support I continue to receive from my family, friends, and colleagues. When I was in elementary school I struggled immensely with reading and writing. My parents recognized this immediately, as thankfully both of my brothers are incredibly talented readers and writers, and were both surpassing their age-related educational checkpoints. Max, an avid reader, would wait eagerly for the next book in his favourite series to be released, and in a matter of hours would tear through a 500-page novel with ease. Matthew, a curious and intelligent youngster, would read the newspaper before school and excelled in academics from a young age. 


I on the other hand enjoyed my audiobooks and was more of a picture-book kinda guy. I feel so privileged that my parents identified my learning struggles and quickly arranged for me to undergo a psycho-educational assessment. At age seven it was determined that I am dyslexic and feel very fortunate to have had early intervention, assessment, and specialized teaching. After a few years of weekly tutoring with my hero ‘Pat’ and two years in a specialized program at a private school with multiple teachers, I was moved back into the ‘mainstream’. In any event, I learned how to read and write and feel incredibly privileged to have had the support I needed, because I know many people are not as lucky.


When I graduated secondary school I was an honours student, and I don’t feel this would have been the case had I not been so privileged. I am grateful for the teachers and mentors who guided me on my learning journey, and to my family for their immense support and care. I had no doubt that I wanted to become a teacher, and the following fall I began my post-secondary journey at the University of Victoria. The learning and growth that took place there only confirmed that I was destined to teach. I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to attend university, and of course, my deep connection to Vancouver Island and the beautiful Gulf Islands that surround it was only made possible by this opportunity.


I did have to work hard to complete my bachelor of education and struggled at times to find balance and fulfill my commitments to volunteering, playing varsity rugby, working as a behavioural interventionist, and studying, but I made it through. When I graduated, I was awarded the Vike's Honour Roll, for maintaining a high GPA while playing on a varsity team. Once again, I was overwhelmed with gratitude, because had it not been for my family, my professors, and my coaches, none of this would have been possible. I am so thankful for the privilege I had to live, learn, and play on Vancouver Island for six years. 


When I graduated, I began teaching full-time in West Vancouver where I continue to teach and volunteer as a rugby coach. Over the five years I have spent teaching in West Vancouver, I have taught science, math, physical health education, grade seven, and social studies, which I continue to teach now. In all of these roles, I did my best to support all of my students in their learning journeys and endeavoured to provide every student with equitable access to learning. This is again, not an easy task, but I am lucky to be surrounded by an amazing network of colleagues who share in this collaborative mission, many of whom I had the privilege of learning from myself as a secondary school student. Perino Zambon for instance continues to teach and coach in West Vancouver, and there is no doubt without his guidance as a teacher, coach, and mentor I would have the opportunity to work alongside talented educators like himself. 


As a teacher, I endeavour to be a ‘life-long learner’ and I still have much to learn. In the Spring of 2022, I learned that I not only have dyslexia but coexisting attention deficit disorder. To be honest, I’m surprised nobody noticed sooner, but nonetheless, it was an interesting revelation, and certainly answered a lot of questions I had left unanswered, or forgotten to ask. I feel very fortunate to have gained this insight, as it has only helped to lift the veil and make sense of my incessant need to exercise and my love of coffee! I am privileged to live in a time when learning disabilities are recognized and individualized education is not a novel concept. I know that my students and I benefit from the increased awareness and support available for students with learning disabilities. 


I have always loved to support people with disabilities, not just as a teacher, but throughout the journey of my life. I feel that my experiences and opportunities have been the driving force behind my conquest to support people with disabilities. It explains why in university I spent my summers as a camp counsellor for people with physical and mental disabilities, why I volunteered between classes and practice with Special Olympics programs, and why I worked as an Inclusion Facilitator for Recreation Integration Victoria on days when I didn’t have practice after class. I see all of the people who supported me in my learning journey and the privileges and opportunities they provided, and I aim to do the same for others. 


That is why I am pleased to announce that in September, I will start my Master's in Special Education and continue my endeavour as a ‘life-long learner’. It is not because people saw that I had learning disabilities, it is because they saw that I had other abilities, and they fostered in me a sense of self, a sense of purpose, and a sense of value. I consider myself incredibly privileged to have had all of the opportunities, support, and learning experiences that have now allowed me to continue my journey as a learner, with the hopes it will make me better at what I do. 


My goal is to foster in my students the same sense of self, purpose, and belonging that my teachers, family, coaches, mentors, and friends fostered in me. As I said before, it takes a community, and I am only one man, and that is why community is at the heart of Island Life Apparel Inc. Without my community, I wouldn’t have the privilege and opportunity to continue my learning journey, and endeavour to support everyone to find their best self, to find their best life…to find their island life. 

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