Jeffrey Hopkins: Education Distinguished Alumnus 2018

Jeffrey Hopkins

We are proud to announce Jeffrey Hopkins as the 2018 Distinguished Alumnus in Education.

Few have changed the education industry as much as Jeffrey Hopkins. Not many can say they founded their own high school after all. But before he could change the system, he had to learn it first. 

Hopkins graduated with a Bachelor’s in Education in 1991 and has since gone on to work as a counselor, vice-principal, principal, superintendent, and Safe Schools Coordinator. “No matter what position I have been in, I’ve always found a way to teach,” says Hopkins. “I always have been able to be grounded in that way when trying to make decisions. It allows me to recognize in great detail how the education system actually works.”  

After he received his Masters in Counselling from UNBC, he worked as BC’s first Safe Schools Coordinator. “We were still dealing with bullying in schools in an old school punishing kind of way and it was ineffective. I was motivated into trying to translate the research I had a chance to see into practice in the school system.” Hopkins has since gone on to write several books on the subject.

His experience allowed him to see more of the education system than most. “I found a lot of kids really enjoyed learning, but some of them struggle with what schools are like culturally. We’re not serving the student’s needs, although we’re trying. The pacing might be too fast or slow. 

It inspired him to establish the independent high school, Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII). The school organizes learning in terms of competency where the students decide what they want to learn based on an inquiry project. PSII offers a new style of structure for learning where the student has a say. “I kind of created a school based on what I wish school was like for me. It allows them to adjust pacing to their own style,” says Hopkins.

The relationship between PSII and UVic has been mutually beneficial. “Since I’ve opened the school, I have had the strongest relationship with UVic that I’ve ever had. We’re finding all these people who are excited about what we’re doing with the school.” UVic allows PSII students to connect with different professionals and in return, has allowed UVic to learn from their new approach to education. “Our kids are out in the community at the university to access the expertise they need,” says Hopkins.  

Having opened in September 2013, the school has been a major success. With close to 1,000 professionals visiting the school, Hopkins hopes more schools like it will begin to pop up in other jurisdictions. “My mission is to change what mainstream education is in BC, Canada, and hopefully beyond. It’s hard to get people to step out of their status quo. I feel like that’s going to be my work for awhile.”