We are honoured to recognize members of the St. Michaels University School community as they retire and take on new adventures. In the 2022-23 school year, we pay tribute to five amazing faculty and staff members who collectively shared hundreds of years of service with the school before retiring. Thank you and Vivat!
2021-22 School Year Departees:
Kathleen Cook, Jennifer Fisher, Jerome Foenander, Alison Galloway, Bruce Kuklinski, Shona Lazin, Christopher Linn, Laurie Parker, Jane Rees '86, Paula Rennie, Judy Tobacco, John Townley, Joan Tweedie, and Leanne Wilkins.
2022-23 School Year Retirees
Within just a few minutes of talking to Ian Hyde-Lay about his nearly four-decade teaching career at SMUS, it’s quickly apparent how much dedication and heart he poured into his experiences, all while remaining incredibly humble.
Born in Duncan, Ian was quickly exposed to the strong community-minded nature of independent schools. Both of his parents had long careers at Shawnigan Lake School—his mother as the school nurse and his father in a number of roles, including coach, athletic director, housemaster, Admissions Director and then Acting Headmaster—and Ian grew up on the campus before attending for his high school years.
Passionate about athletics from a very young age, Ian gravitated toward rugby and basketball in particular. He continued pursuing his athletic ambitions while he completed a degree in history from the University of Victoria, where he was also first nudged into education after doing a directed studies course with the late Dr. Sydney Jackman.
“I ended up with a chance to teach, which I really enjoyed,” says Ian, and adds, “One of the biggest events of my life was when I managed to scramble my way onto the varsity basketball team at UVic when Ken Shields had just started. He was the first full-time coach that UVic appointed and he was exceptional at teaching the game. His attention to detail and his preparation—some of those traits rubbed off on me.”
“Coaching is teaching,” he adds. “For me to gravitate towards coaching was inevitable.”
Ian taught at Shawnigan Lake School for three years before returning to UVic for a bachelors in education to widen his opportunities.
“It was through a combination of very fortunate factors that I ended up at SMUS,” he says, explaining that several friends he’d known through rugby were on staff and had put in a good word for him with the Headmaster.
Initially hired on into the history department, Ian taught for six years before stepping into the role of Athletic Director, and he spent the next thirty-some years teaching PE to Grades 8 through 12, encountering some of the most talented students and athletes in the country.
“I’ve lost count of the thousands of really awesome kids that have come through that I was fortunate to work with, and particularly the athletes that have come through this school have been such an impressive group,” he says.
Students like basketball powerhouse Steve Nash, former captain of the Canadian National Rugby Union team Gareth Rees, and eight-time women’s world boxing champion Jelena Mrdjenovich, and Simon Ibell, who became close lifelong friends with Ian.
Simon, who was diagnosed at a young age with a metabolic disorder called Hunter Syndrome, made a lasting impact on Ian, through his teaching career and beyond.
“He arrived at the school in 1990 as the first student with a visible disability,” explains Ian. “He just had bagfuls of courage. Never complained about his lot in life. He always looked at what the opportunities were for him.”
Simon managed the Senior Basketball team for two years at SMUS and went on to become a huge advocate for those with rare genetic diseases, founding the iBellieve Foundation while pursuing a successful career in professional sports.
“He was an amazing guy. Never mind Nash and Rees and the rest, in his way he was the most impressive person that I’ve come across in 40 years of teaching,” says Ian. “You think about the lucky bounces in your life. I could have arrived at UVic at any time, and I connected with Shields who went on to have a huge impact in my life, and Simon ended up at SMUS, and I ended up connecting with him in this meaningful way.”
While the larger athletic and school community was always strong, Ian’s own family was nurtured on SMUS’s grounds as well. His wife, Lisa, also taught at the school for 25 years, and their two sons grew up on campus in a lovely echo of Ian’s own childhood experiences.
“Both boys had wonderful school experiences, and both of them remain very close with their core groups of friends from their grade groups,” he says. “It was a first-class education in every way.”
While Derek pursued kinesiology and has been in Australia since 2020, Graeme followed his father’s footsteps into teaching, and began the next leg of his journey with SMUS in September when he joined the staff teaching Math and Science.
“They can’t get rid of the Hyde-Lays altogether,” says Ian, laughing.
As for what he hopes he’s leaving behind as he moves into retirement, Ian’s work ethic and integrity come through clear.
“To hopefully encourage the kids to take as many opportunities as they can, to understand the value of being thorough and working hard, and I think just being hopeful and having a sense of gratitude,” he says. “The world’s most powerful prayer is two words: thank you. And I’m thankful I was able to be here for as long as I was. It’s just been a fantastic career.”
When Diana Leggatt first joined the community at SMUS as Controller almost three decades ago, she knew immediately that it was exactly the kind of job she’d been searching for.
Born and raised in Victoria, Diana had an aptitude for math from an early age, and was first introduced to accounting through a few high school courses that she enjoyed very much.
After graduating she attended UVic for two years, but found another program that better suited her needs.
“I heard through friends that Camosun College offered a business administration program where once completed equated to the first three levels of your CPA,” she says.
Diana did exceptionally well and was very quickly hired on at KPMG, an international accounting firm where she completed the remainder of her CPA.
And then in 1994, opportunity struck.
Diana had been working with small businesses and the occasional audit—including audits for other private schools. SMUS—who is a client of KPMG—had some staffing changes and needed someone to step in on a three-month contract to shepherd the school through its annual audit.
Diana was perfect for the job.
“I started in early July, so my role was literally to get in the door and start working on this file to get things organized for the audit,” says Diana, remembering the hectic schedule. At the same time, she got her first introduction to the tight-knit and supportive community at SMUS, clearly making an impression on the school as well.
“About six weeks into my contract, the Director of Finance at the time said to me, maybe you should consider whether you want to go back to KPMG. I think he was impressed with the work I was able to do in such a short amount of time,” she says, smiling. “And that was exactly what I wanted: to stay.”
Though KPMG had proved a fantastic training ground with a variety of experiences and opportunities, Diana was ready for something she could make her own.
“You can take your accounting career down many different paths, but my goal was that I wanted to be a part of a business where I could sink my teeth into a position and own it, and work to support the needs of all the different aspects of the organization.”
As controller for SMUS, Diana managed all the day-to-day finances of the school, including payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable. She had a key role in undertaking the annual audits and managed a small and highly skilled team in the finance department.
“From when I started to today the school has changed drastically over time,” adds Diana. The fundraising has grown substantially, student enrolment increased by at least 25 percent, the American Friends of St. Michaels University School Inc. was established to better accommodate American supporters of the school and the Vivat Foundation was established.
And though it’s grown larger, SMUS remains devoted to fostering a welcoming and inclusive community through students and staff, something that Diana has always felt a part of.
“I was very fortunate to have my two children go to the school,” she says, explaining her two boys joined the school in Grades 4 and 6. “My kids had a wonderful experience there, and I’m really grateful they had the opportunity. It also gave me the opportunity to see things from the other side, as a parent, and get to know the teachers from a different perspective. It was really great to see them in action and see how they do what they do best.”
After 29 years, Diana leaves with a wealth of lifelong friendships and memories.
“It’s such an amazing environment to work in. The faculty and staff are exceptional and the sense of community is unbelievable,” she says. “And it was always so interesting to see the students in their limelight. I wasn’t a teacher, so I didn’t have that same kind of contact with them every day, but then you go to a school play, or the choir concert or some sporting event, and you see this incredible talent coming out.”
As she and her husband, Peter, retire together, they’re looking forward to slowing down and enjoying a more relaxed pace as they delve into house projects, outdoor activities, the books on their to-be-read lists and more.The couple have a 1913 house in the Gorge with nine ancient apple trees on the property, and would delight SMUS regulars with jugs of fresh-pressed apple juice, and have been making their own apple cider for some years now as well.
“There’s so much that a house and property this age needs,” says Diana. “There are so many projects we want and need to do. We’re looking forward to having the time to start them.”
The pair are also going to Italy for three weeks in September, and they have plans to do some more local trips to various parts of the Island. But mostly, Diana is looking forward to a relaxed sense of freedom as she retires.
Peter Leggatt has spent the last 28 years at SMUS teaching chemistry, coaching soccer and being an integral part of the musical theatre department, but the legacy he leaves behind goes far beyond academics. With his relaxed approach, sense of humour and genuine drive to create heartfelt connection with his students, Peter moves into retirement having encouraged countless SMUS graduates to be their best, authentic selves.
Having initially explored marine biology at university, Peter quickly found his calling in teaching, and spent three years on the lower mainland in the public school system before an unexpected move back to the Island in 1995 changed the trajectory of his career.
“I thought it would be difficult to find a job,” he says, explaining he’d gotten on the substitute list in Victoria and dropped off a resume at SMUS in September, not really expecting to hear back.
“There were no job postings at the time, but then I got a call at Christmas break from the Senior School Director,” he remembers. Another teacher had left, and SMUS needed someone to step in to fill the January to June stretch. A colleague at Peter’s former school simply and emphatically told SMUS, “Hire him,” and they did. He quickly took over another chemistry teaching spot, and found himself firmly ensconced in the SMUS community.
“Having only attended public school and having taught in public school, I had no idea what I was jumping into,” says Peter. “The support of the administration was always there. You always felt like your thoughts were listened to and considered, and implemented where they could be,” he says. “The teaching environment, the facilities, the colleagues, they all made it a great place to work.”
Particularly impacting was how alumni and past faculty remained a big part of the community.
“Coming to SMUS and going to your first alumni weekend and seeing students coming back from five, ten, 20 years ago—it’s what sets the school apart. You have teachers who have retired who come back every year for Remembrance Day services. You always feel like you can come back.”
From the beginning of his career at SMUS, Peter dove in with enthusiasm and dedication, getting involved in far more than his full slate of chemistry and science classes. For his first ten years, Peter coached both the Junior- and Senior Boys and Girls Soccer teams.
“We had a two-year situation where we had a group of grade 11s who were extremely talented, and they won everything in their year,” he says, adding it was the first soccer provincial championship for SMUS. “And most of them chose to play AAA as Grade 12s, and won everything except provincials. They were third in the province. That was a pretty exciting time.”
A longtime woodworker in his own time—Peter has a full workshop on his property—he also became involved with the theatre department building set pieces for their annual productions, building the background pieces for shows like Grand Hotel, Secret Garden, Fiddler on the Roof and what he says was his favourite: My Fair Lady.
“Higgins’ house was very much styled after my house,” he says, gesturing to the many details of his 1913 home. “So I got to put together the wainscoting and the chair rails and put it all on stage.”
Shifting from making meticulously crafted furniture to the fast and portable set pieces necessary for theatre was a challenge, he says, but one he enjoyed immensely.
“It was fun to learn the craft and learn where you can cut corners because it doesn’t matter. It’s just the base. The set designers would come on set, and what they could do in so little time to turn a piece of plywood into a brick house was just incredible,” he says. “To see what you build appear on the stage and how the students could bring it to life was amazing. Attending the musical every year was always a huge highlight.”
As he and his wife, Diana, retire together, the couple is looking forward to slowing down and enjoying a sense of relaxed freedom.
“To me it’s about having no fixed schedule and the time to do things,” he says. “To get back to playing golf, get back to fly fishing, get back into the workshop. Things that have really been put aside for a long time.”
“With our project list, we’ll be busy for years,” he adds, laughing.
Looking back at all his memories, it’s the relationships he made and kept through his 28 years that will stick with him the most.
As well as lifelong friends in the faculty, “You have so many friendships with building and grounds guys, with people in the dining room, the cleaning staff,” he says. Peter watched his four children go through from Kindergarten to graduation (with his youngest graduating next year). “And I absolutely loved being in the classroom,” he says. “The connection you make with the kids is hands down the most important piece. It was always fun and relaxed, and I always felt I got their best.”
When Peter Steed joined the faculty at SMUS eight years ago, it was a full circle moment for the Computer Science teacher, who’d first become interested in working for SMUS two decades prior.
Peter grew up in Niagara Falls, attending university in Kingston and then Ottawa, graduating with a degree in architecture from Carleton University. He worked in Ottawa and overseas, settling in Ottawa with his partner, Rita, to raise their kids, but there was always a pull to come to BC.
“Rita was born in BC and as long as I’d known her, she would talk about how great BC was with the mountains and the ocean,” he says with a laugh. And then in 1995 they spent six months living here and “Suddenly it all made sense. It is the greatest place!”
Peter made the shift into education, and when they arrived in Victoria permanently in 2000, he applied for a teaching job at SMUS, but it wasn’t meant to be at that time.
He went on to spend 15 years working in the Victoria public school system until he happened to be glancing through job postings and saw the position opening up at SMUS.
“I had always known about its reputation and aspired to it,” he says of the school. “I guess it was meant to be.”
With 20 years’ experience, a masters degree and an infectious sense of humour, Peter quickly became an integral and much-loved member of the SMUS community, and helped to revitalize the computer science program.
“When I started, SMUS hadn’t really had computer science classes for quite a while, and so we were looking at re-establishing a computer science program at the school,” he says. What started as a Grade 11 class and one AP course grew to more than twice that, with two AP courses and offerings for Grades 10 through 12. “There was quite a development over the eight years,” says Peter.
Looking back on his time at SMUS, there’s no one thing that stands out, but rather, “An overall sense of accomplishment about leaving the school in a much different and, I hope, better position, as far as providing computer science education,” he says. “Really it was about the students. Just so many memorable individuals—students who were just exceptionally gifted and well-rounded, the kind of people I would think, this is the future Prime Minister or CEO.”
Now that he’s retiring, Peter is looking forward to a relaxed sense of freedom, enjoying the Island and delving into his hobbies.
“I’m a big crossword puzzle enthusiast, and so I would love to construct crossword puzzles,” he says. “Having done 2,000 New York Times crossword puzzles, I know what they look like and the tricks and puns they put in there. I think I have it in me to make something.”
He’s also looking forward to travelling now that he’s not limited to summer and winter breaks.
“I realized it’s been 25 years since I’ve been out in the East during the fall to see the leaves change colour, so I thought I’d do that,” he says.
During his 14 years at SMUS, Peter Butterfield brought an incredible level of dedication, a world of experience and a deep respect for his students to his many roles at the school.
A lifelong lover of music and the performing arts, Peter calls Victoria his hometown, despite there being a bit of a transient nature to his younger years.
“My dad was a Navy person,” says Peter. “We travelled all over, but mostly lived in Halifax and Victoria.” The travel built in him an adaptability that would serve him well when he became a professional singer and performer as an adult. He spent decades travelling the world, performing on stages in the musical centres of the world: London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Vienna, Toronto and many others. He moved to Vancouver in 2001, and joined SMUS in 2009. He had been teaching, alongside his singing and conducting, since 1995, and when he learned of the job opening at SMUS, the timing was perfect for him to apply.
“I’m from Victoria, so I was aware of the school my whole life. I’ve known the choral teachers at the school for the last 40 years. One was my piano teacher, one was my babysitter,” he says, laughing. “It just all fell into place at the right time.”
“Life as a musician lends itself to pedagogy,” he says of his decision to move into teaching. “A natural extension of being a performer is to pass on lessons of style, technique and performing practices. It is a smooth path, and mine was incredibly rewarding and satisfying.”
Very quickly into his career at SMUS, Peter was involved in virtually everything that had to do with music, including teaching choir, coordinating all the chapel music, sponsoring the Piano Club and serving rotations as vocal coach and conductor of the school’s musical theatre productions. He is particularly proud of keeping the musical theatre program running through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—with a committed group of students—with performances of 21 Chump Street.
Soon after arriving, he also took on the responsibility of organizing European tours for large groups of students, shepherding them through incredible cultural and musical experiences in London, Rome, New York and too many others to name.
“To take students to Europe and to see everything through their young eyes is a wonderful experience,” he says.
Several years ago, Peter developed an exchange program with the high school in Ahousaht, initially through the SMUS experiential education program, where 30 or so SMUS students would travel to Tofino and then by water taxi to Flores Island. They’d spend a day or two with the high school students there, and later in the year the Ahousaht students would come and spend a day at SMUS.
“It’s a unique opportunity for the students to meet in two such diverse places,” he says, and adds that he would also bring several SMUS university counsellors with them to offer sessions to the Ahousaht students and their families.
Throughout his career at SMUS, guiding and supporting the students has unquestionably had the most impact on Peter, whether as a houseparent in Bolton House or in the classroom or with 50 or 60 students under his charge exploring Europe.
“That’s what any teacher’s job is, to enrich a student’s experience,” he says. “I’ve found that a big part of what I’ve done for years is to give people a chance to develop their own confidence, and to help them consider in what direction they may be headed.”
Though Peter has hung up his SMUS hat, he still has plenty to keep him busy. There’s conducting the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, practicing the piano again for the first time in decades, devoting more time to his garden, a rebuild of a 1971 MGB and of course, travelling to Italy as often as he can.
“I’ve got so much to do, and I look very forward to my next adventures,” he says, but adds that he’ll miss the amazing environment, friendships and all the students. “I don’t think there’s anywhere like SMUS, and I will miss it.”