Describe your primary-school self.

Well-read. Frightened. Old.

Describe yourself in high school.

Rebellious. Frightened. Questioning.

Favourite subject?

I adored what you’d expect: history, geography and, of course, English.

Favourite literary pieces studied?

In grade school, I credit The Outsiders for making me want to become a writer. In high school,
I’m sure I was considered something of a snob. I loved Hermann Hesse, Jack Kerouac and Gabrielle Roy.

Favourite historical figures?

Winston Churchill. Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. Joan of Arc. Jim Morrison. Kateri Tekakwitha. All the rebels.

Lesson learned in kindergarten?

Whining doesn’t get you everything, but if done well, it gets you a lot.

What saved you at the primary level?

My mother being a teacher at my school.

And in secondary?

Punk rock.

What career did you aspire to have?

I’ve always wanted to be two things: a writer and a teacher.

Tell us about your teaching career.

I teach in the distance MFA program at the University of British Columbia, and I’ve taught most of my adult life, everything from early childhood education to outdoor education to college to university to grad school. I’ve been lucky enough in my writing career not to have to teach anymore. But I want to. Keeping that connection to young and not-so-young inquisitive minds is brilliant.

What led you down that path?

Coming from a family of seven older sisters (three of them half-sisters) — who were all teachers at different points in their lives — as well as being raised by a mother who was an absolutely brilliant teacher, I learned this: education isn’t simply a stepping stone to get you somewhere else; it’s a way of being. This was deeply ingrained in me. I was a student who never sweated getting all the best grades, getting into the most recognized schools and rushing through each course like it was an enemy to be slain. I truly loved my education and took classes not to get me closer to a degree or even a job. Instead, I focused on what drove my imagination. And, I hope I’m proof that all of us will find our niche — if given the time and, especially, the gift of patient, wise and understanding teachers.

NAME: Joseph Boyden