February 1, 2013 - 2:37am


NANAIMO, BC – On Monday, Jan. 28, Jeff Saunders walked across the stage at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre to receive his hard-earned Bachelor of Education degree from Vancouver Island University . A day later, he was sitting on an airplane en route to his first teaching job in London, England.

“I’m excited and nervous,” said the 23-year-old Nanaimo resident. “It’s my first time overseas.”

Saunders will work for Classroom Canada, an agency in the United Kingdom (UK) that places new recruits in London schools to fill a shortage of trained teachers.

He is a dual graduate of VIU, having obtained a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies in February 2012, and now a post-baccalaureate education degree.

“I knew in high school that I wanted to become a teacher,” says Saunders, “but I wasn’t sure in what area.” In his grade 12 year at Woodlands Secondary, he gave up sports and other extra-curricular activities to dedicate himself to his passion for music.

“My dad, a mechanic, told me that I should do what I love to do,” says Saunders. “That was an epiphany. I have pursued teaching music ever since.”

Saunders loved his five-and-a-half years at VIU in the music and education programs. One of the highlights was an eight-week practicum at Kwalicum Secondary and Oceanside Middle School in Parksville.

“It was a great experience. The practicum forced me to hone in on what it takes to be a great teacher – patience and consistency,” says Saunders. “There’s no substitute for getting into a classroom and putting concepts you’ve learned into practice.”

Saunders heard about the opportunity to work in London from friend and VIU Education alumna Lauren Bush, who is pursuing her career in music and teaching in the UK.

“I applied to Classroom Canada, was interviewed over the phone and received an acceptance letter a week later,” says Saunders.

Saunders believes he was offered the job because of his education and experience – which includes seven years as a summer day camp leader for Nanaimo Parks and Recreation and experience working with children with special needs.

At first, he will teach a variety of subjects in elementary and secondary schools, but hopes to gain experience teaching music and social studies.

"I'm fortunate because I have no commitments and can easily take advantage of this great opportunity," adds Saunders. "London is notorious for having some of the toughest schools in the world so I should gain experience in classroom management. London is like any big city with social problems. Kids are kids regardless of where they live."

Saunders plans to work in England for at least two years. Eventually, he hopes to return home to BC, ideally to teach music on Vancouver Island.

Saunders was one of 218 graduates who received degrees at VIU’s 2013 winter convocation ceremonies. Credentials were awarded in six undergraduate and three master's degree programs.


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