Back to School: Don Chandler on finding purpose by following your passion
Don Chandler has been a fixture at Salisbury Composite High for a long time. It’s where he graduated from high school and landed his first job as a teacher. Looking back on his teenage years, Chandler can see how the school helped shaped him into who he is today—a teacher guiding a new generation of Salisbury students. After calling Salisbury home for almost 30 years, he’s certain: there’s no place he’d rather be.
For someone that confident they’re in the right career, you’d think Chandler wanted to be a teacher his whole life. Not so. “In junior high and senior high, I wanted to be an accountant,” says Chandler. “My dad was a financial planner, my mom a banker, and I always liked math. Accounting seemed like the natural progression for me.”
True to form, math was where Chandler excelled. “I really enjoyed math in school,” he says. “and, overall, school really felt like a place I wanted to be.” Chandler credits that, in part, to the effects of a good set of teachers. “My three math teachers in high school were Mr. Boychuk, Mr. Broemling and Mr. Lazaruk,” he says. “They would bend over backwards to assist students and did their best to make mathematics an exciting subject. You could tell they wanted to be there and wanted to connect with students. They inspired me and influenced me.”
After graduating from Salisbury, Chandler entered the world of finance, earning a bachelor of science, specializing in math and finance and securing a career with a major national bank. While he achieved his goals, he wasn’t quite content. “I realized while I was very good at what I was doing, my job with the bank was focused on sales,” he says. “The best part of my day was when I could teach clients about their finances—how to invest, how to save. But that wasn’t what I spent most of my time doing.”
Ironically, Chandler’s wife, Shari, was finishing her education degree. That inspired him to follow a new career path—one where his passion for education could shine. Within two years, Chandler was back at Salisbury Composite High—this time on the other side of the classroom. “The teachers and staff welcomed me back with open arms,” says Chandler. “I was even lucky enough to teach alongside my three favourite math teachers.”
Fast forward to today, Chandler is now celebrating close to 22 years of teaching at the school. He jokingly wonders, when it’s finally time for him to leave Salisbury, if they’ll have to drag him out? “We had a sign in the school that said, ‘Through these halls walk the finest people in the world: Salisbury staff and students.’ Those words meant a lot to me. This place is special.”