Ms. Woods teaches chemistry and is the head of the science department at MGCI.

Photo: Justin Ye

Q: What subjects do you teach?

A: I teach grade eleven and twelve chemistry and have taught grade nine and ten science.

Q: How long have you been teaching?

A: I’ve been teaching since a long time. I started teaching in 1999, but I’ve been teaching at Garneau since 2001.

Q: What inspired you to teach?

A: It’s funny because the only thing I knew the first year of university was that I was not going to be a teacher. Once I was in university, I realized that all the things I’d done before were teaching, whether it be swimming lessons, Sunday school, or coaching synchronized swimming. Halfway through university I realized it was what I wanted to do.

Q: Why chemistry?

A: My first teachable is actually biology and my second teachable is chemistry. I love biology, especially what is taught at university and the Grade 12 program, involving all the micro and genetics kinds of things. But I enjoy teaching chemistry in high school because there are more activities and labs. That’s how I like to have my classes, with more activities for the students than me up at the front. In the biology course, I find it difficult to do that.

Q: Have you been teaching chemistry since you came to the school?

AFor this school, yes. But I have also taught the grade nine and ten science. When you are a new teacher, you take whatever they will give you. For my first year, I had to teach English for one course. I taught grade eleven English, I was supposed to teach Fashion and math, but the chemistry teacher, who was away, stayed away an extra term, so I got to take over her position.

Q: What’s the most important thing you hope students take away from your course?

A: I hope they take away that science is fun and that they’ve learnt a good work ethic which involves making sure they come on time and that it’s really important to have things handed in on time. I know for some of the courses I teach, it’s not that big of a problem, but there are still some students who sleep in a lot of mornings and come five minutes late every day. Trying to instill that is very important in life.

Q: How are you always really optimistic in class?

A: It is easier to be optimistic (laughs). After having lived through a lot of things, you see that something so small as one thing that students get very upset over, in the grand scheme of things, means nothing. But it’s hard to see that in the moment. I remember in high school, I had a teacher for three years. In my yearbook, he had written not to worry so much about my marks and that it was much more important about the person I was and that I was learning during the process. I wish I had taken that to heart earlier in high school since there were sometimes in his class that were really difficult.

I’ve heard that you’ve travelled a lot, what’s been your favourite place?

A: That’s really hard to answer. I think I’ll have to go with Egypt. It was a trip we did a long time ago and I had not done a lot of research on that trip. There’s the Temple of Karnak and Temple of Luxor which were absolutely phenomenal. We are also big scuba divers and the Red Sea is one of the best places we have scuba dived.

Q: Best place in Toronto to be?

A: I love downtown. I used to live downtown right beside the Eaton center and so every time I’m down there, I really miss it. I just miss how busy downtown was and being open and awake for so long of the day. I lived there until 2003 and it was still really busy back then. Maybe not as busy car wise, but the streets were very full. I actually grew up in a suburb of a suburb of Ottawa, so it was very quiet which made me love downtown even more.

Q: How did you start swimming?

A: We had an above ground pool in our backyard, so we were always swimmers. I ended up being a competitive synchronized swimmer through high school and coached as well. In university, Waterloo didn’t not have a synchronized swim team because you need to go to the competition in the first semester to be able to compete in the second semester. Since Waterloo is all co-op, you would never have the same team in the two semesters, but you need that for a synchronized swimming team. I did join the swim team in the last two years at Waterloo. I would love for there to be a pool here, but unfortunately there isn’t. I had a student over a decade ago who came and asked me everyday to start a swim team. We finally got it together and it been working well ever since.

Q: You mentioned lifeguarding competitions, how did those work?

A: Yeah, in fact I used to compete in lifeguarding and we won provincials in 2001. There’s a whole bunch of different events in a lifeguarding competition. For example, one of them is called situations and it involves guarding a pool, but a whole bunch of stuff happens rather than like someone stubbing their toe. There is also the first aid event where you are brought onto a scene, which could be a car accident or a food poisoning incident or being in the middle of the desert type of thing, and you have to deal with whatever situation is there. There is usually a couple of relays involved and depending on the year, there are a few different events. I also now coach water polo, which is lots of fun. I coach the little kids, most of them are grade three to five. They have been doing really well so far. In fact, they just won a tournament a couple of weeks back.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?

A: When people spell fluoride as flouride.

Q: Who is your role model?

A: I would have always said my mom since she is a great role model. As I’ve grown older and had my own children, I’ve realized that I am a bit like my mom, but I’m actually a lot more like my dad which surprises me. My mom decided to stay home when she had me to take care of me and my three sisters, so she took twenty-three years off of teaching and it was my dad that stayed at work. I thought maybe I would do the same thing, but I realized that staying at home wasn’t for me and I would have better quality time with my children if I came back to work.

Q: What’s the best gift you’ve ever got?

A: One of my kids from the daycare had made a Mason jar full of things that they liked about me and you were supposed to open one every month. I thought that was really nice and it lasted all year.

Q: What is something interesting about you?

A: One of the things that is interesting is that everyone always asks where my ancestry is from. My family was actually on one of the first boats, so my family has been here since the 1500s. It’s been a very long time since we have been here. My mom grew up in Newfoundland and my dad grew up in Montreal and so we visited Montreal and Newfoundland quite a lot.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

A: Probably being too critical of myself. I try to do too much, but it’s not all done to the level I want it to be at.