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Teacher Feature: Kari Marentette

Kari Marentette journeyed around Canada – and the world – prior to landing as a teacher at Island Pacific School. Now, she’s already leaving her mark on the institution, with no plans to slow down in the future.

While the destination may have taken some time to decide, what was never really in doubt was that Kari would be a teacher one day.

“My father was a teacher and I have fond memories of spending summer days in his classroom setting up for the new year. I think this is where my interest in teaching initially began,” she explains of her early life growing up in Kingsville, Ontario.


“I used to play teacher, making up fake tests for my imaginary students and I would help my Dad with his marking. When it came time to decide what I would do at university, teaching was really the only choice for me.”

Kari would eventually head to Kingston, Ontario to pursue her love of teaching at Queen’s University, and after graduating with a Bachelor of Science, followed by a Bachelor of Education with a specialization in French and Science, it was off to try out her practice – on the other side of the world. She accepted a job teaching French and Science to high school students in Australia.

Kari’s fluency en Français is a skill she takes great pride in. She began learning the language when she was five, and currently heads the IPS French Program while pursuing a Masters of Second Language Education with the University of Ottawa.

“The French program is always evolving and I look forward to finding more ways to have the students engage in authentic learning experiences,” she says for one of her five-year goals. “I will hopefully have finished my Masters by then and be implementing all I’ve learned into the French program at IPS.”

It’s also part of her ongoing goal to continue learning whenever possible.

“It’s hard to be a teacher and not want to learn. The environment in which you work just naturally lends itself to constant learning,” explains Marentette. “I’ve always been an avid reader and in the last five years or so realised my love of memoirs and personal stories. Since graduating from Queen’s, I’ve taken a variety of additional qualification courses for teachers, and the Masters program felt like a natural next step.”

Kari arrived at IPS in 2019, and currently teaches French Language Acquisition for Grades 6-9, Individuals and Societies for Grade 6, and runs the Grade 6 homeroom. She’s also sparked several new initiatives at the school, including establishing the Gender & Sexuality Alliance Club (GSA), and last year organizing the school’s first Pride meetup featuring a parade through the Cove and activity day at the Bowfest Field, which included six schools from the mainland and more than 150 students. Marentette points to both of these as some of her proudest moments at IPS so far.

Kari’s work in this area has spread to other parts of the school too, for example the IPS Grade 8 French class exploring musicians from the LGBTQ2S+ community, and the library adding many new books with an LGBTQ2S+ focus. The Pride Event, held on June 1, 2022. to kick off Pride Month, featured a wealth of activities including painting stations for kindness rocks and Pride flags, button making, games such as hula hooping and spike ball, and a reading station with the Bowen Island Public Library.

The successful first run means Kari has plans to bring the Pride event back even bigger this spring. “We would like to invite all of the schools on Bowen to join as well as other Independent Schools Association of BC schools from the Vancouver and Vancouver Island communities. Finding opportunities for our students to engage with students from other schools is such an important thing as I think we tend to be stuck in a bit of a bubble over here.”

While Kari has worked hard to carve out a groove at IPS, forces beyond anyone’s control meant things didn’t get off to the cleanest start in her first year. The outbreak of the Covid pandemic in March 2020 closed all schools and sent lessons into the virtual world. “I really did not enjoy the isolation of working remotely for those few months. Relationships are so essential for this type of work that working at home really just didn’t cut it. My mental health suffered and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one,” says Marentette.

But Kari managed to find a number of ways to deal with pandemic stress (and stress in general), methods which she continues to use once in-person learning returned. “Some things that work for me include taking walks in nature, spending time outside, relaxing with a good book, cooking a nice meal for friends, and doing yoga,” she explains.

“Laughter is also really important, so activities that induce fits of laughter, like playing board games with friends, is essential. I am also working on delegating tasks more so that I don’t take on so much stress – Pam (Matthews) is always telling me to delegate! Learning how we deal with stress is always a work in progress.”

Of course, Kari enjoys a full life outside of the classroom, and it’s rare she doesn’t grab an opportunity to head off exploring B.C. and beyond. Though there is plenty she enjoys when not out and about too.

“I like to spend a lot of time with people and outside. I am passionate about learning about the experiences of others through literature. I love skiing, hiking, camping, swimming in the ocean, playing board games and cards, doing ballet, rock climbing, cooking, and doing yoga! Too many hobbies and never enough time!” she says.

One of these hobbies – reading – is something Kari says helps her develop in all areas of her life.

“Reading helps me understand people and helps make me more empathetic to everyone’s experiences and challenges. I read a lot of memoirs and community/culture books that teach me about the experiences of marginalised peoples. For example, right now I am reading Disability Invisibility (edited by Alice Wong) which is a collection of essays by people with disabilities. As a teacher, I find it is really important for me to be aware of the diverse experiences and challenges of people, but it is also just a personal interest of mine.”

She’s set some goals for the 2023 reading list. “This year I am aiming to read 25 books, which may not seem like much to some, but this doesn’t include all of the reading I am currently doing for my Masters and for work!”

Even with her three classes, plus extracurricular activity with the GSA program and planning the Pride event, Kari says there’s even more she wants to build and achieve while at IPS.

“I would like to see some evolution in our junior community service program. I wish we did more community service and I wish what we did allowed the students to build long-lasting relationships with people in the community. In my experience, you feel more rewarded when the volunteering you’ve done has directly helped someone, and if you can really know that person, even better! This is something I’ve been working on, but it takes time,” she explains.

Given Kari’s accomplishments in just four years here, it’s very likely she will continue to elevate that program, and many others, during her IPS tenure.

Kari just lead a group of students in the Covenant House: Sleep Out Student Edition 2023listen to her and our students talk about that experience. 

Julia McCaig
Director of Community Engagement
Island Pacific School