Kyle Peruniak is a diehard Edmonton Oilers and Eskimos fan, but nobody is holding that against him here in predominantly-Canucks’ and Lions land.
Peruniak, 36, is the new athletic director at Chemainus Secondary School, taking over from Jennie Hittinger, who moved into the vice principal’s office. He was born in Edmonton and hails from Athabasca, Alberta so his connection to our neighbouring province will obviously always remain strong.
Peruniak is happy to be here, in part due to sweeping legislation that restored class size and composition levels, and opened up numerous teaching positions in the province.
“It’s been huge right now, we haven’t seen in 20 years opportunities for young teachers,” he conceded.
Peruniak has been kind of a jack-of-all trades, leading up to his entry into the teaching profession.
After graduating from high school, he went to see his counsellor and asked, ‘What’s the farthest school away I can go to?’
The answer to that question wound up being St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, but he only stayed there one year studying human kinetics before transferring back closer to home to the University of Lethbridge to finish his degree.
Peruniak suddenly decided he was tired of school and kinetics at that point and went into Wild Land Fire Fighting, travelling around Ontario and B.C.
He moved to Vancouver in 2010 and went back to school for his education degree at Simon Fraser University, taking two and a half years to get it done.
“It was like a seven-year wait list to get a job on the Lower Mainland,” Peruniak noted.
At that point, he received an email from a faculty associate indicating there was a job available in Houston, B.C. He talked long and hard about it with wife Carla Morey before deciding to apply, but found he wasn’t qualified for the English component of the job.
That, however, led to a position in Smithers starting in February of 2013 that lasted four and a half years of teaching outdoor education at Smithers Secondary School.
Morey has extensive experience in the public health and nursing field so she was adaptable to living just about anywhere.
“My wife always wanted to move to Vancouver Island,” Peruniak indicated. “She’s interested in international public health. The opportunities are here for us.”
Scott Jackson was the principal in Houston at the time Peruniak was inquiring there and he’s now with the Open Learning Centre in Duncan. “His wife became my mentor,” Peruniak pointed out.
“They said lots of good things about the Cowichan district.”
He found out about the Chemainus posting and was accepted at the end of June that resulted in a whirlwind summer of trying to sell their place and finalize somewhere to rent here in town.
“We found a house in Chemainus and it’s virtually a five-minute walk from here (the school),” Peruniak noted.
So all’s well that end’s well for now. Morey is taking time off to care for the couple’s daughter Lana, who turns two in October, and is also expecting again next April.
Peruniak is still getting settled into the new position in many ways after just one month, but enjoying the experience.
“It’s actually quite similar to a lot of the communities around Smithers,” he said. “Lots of outdoor rec opportunities.”
Smithers had about twice as many students as Chemainus Secondary.
“Here’s quite a bit smaller,” Peruniak conceded.
“I really like working in small communities.”
He’s taken on coaching the senior boys’ soccer team (Grades 8 through 12), with assistance from twins Shane and Brent Brown. Peruniak also just happens to have a twin brother living in Montreal.
Hittinger and Kelsey Bell are back with the senior girls’ volleyball team that’s expecting to have another strong season. The next home game is Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 3:30 p.m.
A senior boys’ volleyball team and junior girls’ squad are also taking shape.
Peruniak will look to bring his strong outdoor recreation background into play at the school with the right community connections.
“What I like about it, it’s not about the winning and losing,” he confirmed. “It’s about getting out there and do it.
“It’s a great way to connect young people to positive adult role models.”
Peruniak is hoping as time goes on many adults in the community with time to spare might offer assistance to the program in some way.
“I’m still looking for parent involvement,” he added. “You don’t even have to be a parent. If you’re interested in youth, just come on out.”