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HomeNewsSD54 Music Teacher, Mike Doogan-Smith calls it a career after 32 years

SD54 Music Teacher, Mike Doogan-Smith calls it a career after 32 years

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Chartrand

After 32 years of teaching within SD54, Mike Doogan-Smith will retire as of Friday.

Although 32 years may not have been the exact number, a career such as this was the goal for Doogan-Smith when he began his educating in 1986.

Like most people, Doogan-Smith wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he graduated from school.

He originally went to Camosun College in Victoria while he decided what he wanted to pursue. After a couple years there, Doogan-Smith transferred to the University of Victoria to focus on elementary music and the elementary curriculum. This allowed him to secure his first job at Telkwa Elementary where he spent the first 15 years of his career. Over those years, Doogan-Smith says he took multiple professional development programs and courses to further develop his skills at both the elementary and secondary institutional levels.

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Chartrand

Here’s Doogan-Smith talking about some of the changes he’s seen in the education system since beginning his career over 30 years ago.

“Public schools are the single most effective institutions in North-America. What I mean by that is most agencies and organizations that want to implement a new concept or curriculum, go to the schools first. Public schools have always been the institution that tries to instill and make a change. I’ve also seen a change in the sense that teachers are becoming more of a parental figure for students. Schools are a safe-haven for many students and to provide that consistency is extremely important. I suppose that would be the greatest change I’ve seen over my career.”

After 15 years at Telkwa Elementary, Doogan-Smith switched gears and was hired at Smithers Secondary as the Music Director where he has been ever since.

In terms of career highlights, Doogan-Smith says there are so many things he could speak on. He says if he had to choose just one, it would be initiating and maintaining a performance tour to Cuba. The trip runs every three years in coordination with local music great, Alex Cuba and his father, Valentin Puentes. Through this program, Smithers has a partnership with the Town of Artemisa to have concerts when students make their way to Cuba and vice-versa.

We asked Doogan-Smith what it takes to survive both 32 years of teaching and the biggest thing kids have taught him over that timeframe. His answer was the same to both.

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Chartrand

“Patience. It’s all about a willingness to get to know your student’s thoroughly. I think it’s all about connecting and not so much about what we know as individuals. Everyone needs to know one another and I think that has been the secret at Smithers Secondary. As teachers, society has contracted out the duty of allowing us to shape the next batch of greats. It’s important to realize they aren’t adults yet. I’ve learned from my students over the years that everyone has a bit of growing up to do, which has instilled a greater sense of patience in my life.”

So what’s next for Mike Doogan-Smith, the soon to be retired man?

“For me, it’s all about simplicity and focusing on my family. My daughter and her husband are expecting a child in July, so my wife (Darlene) and I will become grandparents for the first time. Our oldest son Adam is engaged and will be wed as of next year and our other son Alex is working as a mechanical engineer in Vancouver. I’m really looking forward to now being able to travel freely and visit with them whenever I please. Honestly, if you’re looking to find me in the future, I’ll be fishing, camping, practicing the piano and simply embracing life. One thing I won’t have to worry about anymore is waking up stressing about certain facets of the job which is a surreal feeling.”

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