Our Favourite Teacher

You probably have that one teacher who stands out.

You know, the the one whose classes were a blast, the one who went that extra mile or ten to support you, or the one who just taught you a lot about learning and life.

For us that teacher is Mr. John Smallwood.

Mr. Smallwood has been with Virtual High School since our school was established in 2001. By that time, he was already a local legend. His former students use words like passionatebrilliant, and authentic to describe his character and teaching style.

Now, after two decades with VHS, Mr. Smallwood’s multitude of grateful pupils includes students from all over the world. Earlier this week on the blog, VHS teacher Pamela Frassinelli said he’s the reason she became an educator.

In February 2019, Mr. Smallwood shared his story in a staff spotlight. If you missed it, we encourage you to go and read about his early employment history which included “being a foreman in Northern Ontario where the blackflies virtually halted work.” You can hear Mr. Smallwood in every generous sentence, every spring-loaded image and humble sentiment.

Mr. Smallwood turned 75 this year, which also marked his 50th year of running. He celebrated this double-milestone in a fantastic and inspiring article published on a popular running blog. It’s packed with insights from a life spent in running shoes:

I’ve made full and constant use of the state (endorphia?) in which solutions to life’s dilemmas surface from out of nowhere mid-run. Now when I’m running, I’m not necessarily thinking about running. The activity is a catalyst, one that brings about other unexpected possibilities and responses that I can use in dealing with everyday issues, my writing, my relationships with others. 

Thoughtful, generous, witty, humble, receptive, selfless—those are Mr. Smallwood’s prevailing qualities, the ones you hear throughout that passage. He represents all that is desirable in an effective educator committed to students. That’s why the John Smallwood Bursary exists, which provides enrolment subsidies to economically disadvantaged students.

Thank you, Mr. Smallwood, for changing the lives of so many students, and for changing ours by being such a wonderful and inspiring colleague and friend.