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Jon Carr

Man with facial hair and wearing puffy vest smiling and standing on a beach.
  • Category: Indigenous Community Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Science in Geography, 2010; Bachelor of Education, 2012
  • Current hometown: Victoria, BC
  • Birthplace: Victoria, BC

About Jon

A visitor on the Coast Salish lands Jon Carr has served many roles over the course of his career in education. While working as a teacher in the Indigenous Department in Sooke School District, Jon wrote the second NA’TSA’MAHT Indigenous enhancement agreement for the district. He also taught Social Studies, English, ELL (English Language learner), Math and Computer Science for Grades 5 to 12 and was an elementary vice-principal and principal before becoming district principal of Indigenous Education in the Sooke School District. Jon has presented workshops on co-creating curriculum with local First Nations and helps organize cultural learning events that bring community and students together, such as the annual Grade 12 Indigenous Celebration on the Land event and the NA’TSA’MAHT Indigenous community dinners. He also volunteers with the Métis Nation of Greater Victoria and has served on the Board of Directors since 2019.

An avid traveller, Jon has taught in Jiaxing, China and Istanbul, Turkey and recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Tiger Leaping Gorge in China and Machu Picchu in Peru. 

What’s a favourite memory you have as a student at UVic?

The first one that pops into mind was my experience at the Coastal Geography Field School with the UVic Whale Research Lab in Ahousaht. Being there with a team on the water with connection to the Ahousaht community and the Elders there, it was just such a life-changing moment that inspired me to go into the field of Indigenous education.

What skills or traits are needed for you to be good at what you do?

Being able to make space to listen to others, what they're going through or their perspective, or what their culture is. Another skill is being able to navigate two worlds—to work through the colonial systems of education, but also to see the perspective of Indigenous ways of knowing, and to find that common middle ground. Being able to see through both perspectives and solving problems and helping the systems talk to each other, to improve the outcomes for Indigenous learners and to work with First Nation communities.

What’s a characteristic in people that is underappreciated?

Quiet leadership. Often people get accolades for being outgoing or having a strong personality, but often it's that quiet leader in the room, or that quiet person, who can have such a tremendous impact or influence on a young person, and being able to listen to what traditionally quiet people have to say can teach us the most. Students are often looking for that safe person to connect to. And sometimes it's not always the outgoing adult. It might be someone who's a little bit more humble in their approach.

What motivates you?

I don't like getting too comfortable with life, so new challenges, new ways of growing as a person, of challenging my own biases. Things that push me to see things from in a new way, a new perspective. Change is the only constant. Also cuddling my cat, Oliver.

What's a valuable piece of advice someone has given you?

It was given to me by [an Indigenous education] professor at UVic, Dr. Onowa McIvor. On the first day of class we were sitting in a circle and she gave the advice, “You are where you're supposed to be.” Whenever I have found myself in a situation of discomfort or that is challenging, I remember that there's a reason why I'm here, and this is an opportunity for me to see things in a new light, or to grow and to enjoy the moment that I'm in, because it's where I'm supposed to be. Trying not to dwell on the past, or anticipate what the future is, to take a moment to ground myself in the moment.

Is there a food you can't resist?

Anything my mom or grandmother makes—she brings family recipes from Greece. I also have a weakness for dumplings. After living in China, it's hard to resist Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings). Those are my favourite.

What is a secret talent you have that might surprise people?

I play percussion: Kit drums, hand drums, xylophone-type instruments… I also love videography and filming. I always do that whenever I can, whether it's in my travels or my work. I've been doing that since I've been a young kid picking up those VHS cameras.

What’s the appeal of climbing mountains?

The feeling of climbing a mountain involves experiencing both hardship and joy; there is self-growth as you talk to yourself going up, and then that feeling of accomplishment of overcoming a challenge, revealing there is no end to growth, and I could push myself beyond the limits that I ever thought I was capable of.

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

Nominations for the 2024 awards are now closed. Nominations for the 2025 Distinguished Alumni Awards are open through Oct. 18, 2024.