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Former Sooke teacher and vice-principal returns to EMCS bursting with excitement

Mike Bobbitt got promoted and sent back to his first school
Principal Mike Bobbitt is thrilled to be back in the thick of things at Edward Milne Community School, such as in the garden where a wily gardener can spot hops, persimmon, corn, potatoes and quince. And that’s just in this photo. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)

That’s principal Mike Bobbitt to you.

The former teacher and vice-principal at Edward Milne Community School left for six years as he filled a vice-principalship at Royal Bay Secondary School but will return to Sooke this year as the new principal at EMCS.

And Bobbitt couldn’t be happier.

“This has always been the goal, to end up here,” he said.

Though school administration runs in the family, he didn’t think he’d end up doing it himself. He studied plant physiology and ended up in a lab – hating it. He wanted to be around people, not beakers. He volunteered at a project in Guyana, a small country beside Venezuela on South America’s north coast. He found himself teaching plant propagation and pollination classes to students in a small village. “Turns out they knew everything I chose to teach, but they respected the opportunity to have a new teacher.”

It made Bobbitt reconsider a career in education. He went and got a teaching degree and got his first job at EMCS with a small group of students who weren’t “engaged in school,” as an administrator would say. Bobbitt was given time to develop a science-based curriculum to try to re-engage these students.

He studied First Nations and environmental education. Along with another EMCS teacher, Megan Bondurant, he turned the re-engagement curriculum into an Environmental Studies program still being taught at EMCS.

“The goal was to connect students with a sense of place by increasing their local knowledge of flora, fauna and traditional ecological knowledge. Sooke is so rich in diversity, and this was a natural place to build the program and inspire local kids to connect to nature and the larger world around them,” Bobbitt said.

In a roundabout way, he found out teaching might be in the blood.

As a principal, his first goal is to build relationships with staff and students who now make up the EMCS community.

This year already has a lot of stress and anxiety coming into it, and he wants to build a safe and inclusive community for all. Before he knows what that looks like, he needs to know everyone to find out what they need. It’s a challenge to build relationships behind masks, but that will be the reality. And while classes will be back to regular sizes, they still won’t be doing any school-wide meetings.

On the other hand, EMCS is less than half the size of Royal Bay, so the opportunity to build community at the school is perhaps more available.

“You already feel the sense of community when you walk in the building,” he said.

READ MORE: Sooke school’s ECO Academy receives $1,000 boost

And as a community school, there are already established partnerships and mentors with the community.

On a tour of the eerily empty school waiting for its students, Bobbitt pointed out all the “keys” to the school – the theatre, Eddie M’s professional kitchen, the Sooke Makerspace and the garden out behind the school field where summer work experience students weeded and tended, preparing the garden for September growth and learning.

Bobbitt is tangibly proud of the school and loves running into graduates around town. It’s happening more now that he gets to spend more time in the area. He lives in Otter Point, can ride his bike to work, spend more time at work and still get home at the same time.

“I’m super excited to be back in this community. I think one of my favourite things is running into past students in the community and seeing them as adults doing well,” he said.

“The goal of the school or our education system is building those citizens to go out in the world and do better. And to see that happening in Sooke, to know a lot of those people have stayed around or come back is super cool.”

Bobbitt’s boss, superintendent Scott Stinson, is also happy to see him filling this role. “I think Mike is the right person at the right time to continue the great leadership at EMCS,” he said.

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