Buchanan knew early what career path lay ahead

It's likely your first job did not spawn a career choice.

Whether it was selling lemonade, delivering papers, doing yard work, shoveling snow or repeating the phrase, "Do you want fries with that?", most first jobs only inspire us to head in a completely different direction. That was not the case for Daniel Buchanan (BA, BEd '02).

"Growing up in Hanna, Alta. I had a job as a summer camp counselor in high school," remembers Buchanan. "That helped me realize right then that I enjoyed the energy of working with kids and they seemed to relate to me also. So becoming a teacher fit me quite well."

After high school graduation, Buchanan headed to Calgary and enrolled in the pre-education program at Mount Royal College, majoring in English.

"During my second year, I attended a presentation given by the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Education. I heard so many amazing things about the education program, and I realized that the U of L seemed to cater to what we were already doing at Mount Royal. Most of us in the pre-education program transferred to the U of L that year," he says.

Buchanan completed his third year of undergraduate courses at the University of Lethbridge in spring 2000 and was admitted to the Faculty of Education that fall. Thrown immediately into the refiner's fire, Buchanan fondly remembers Dr. Frank Sovka's technique for preparing students to become teachers.

"It was the first week of classes and Dr. Sovka dropped this assignment bomb on us. In between planning units, lesson plans and teaching in our practicum, we had to look at the Alberta program of studies and write a paper on the learning outcomes of our particular teaching strand. We hadn't put in that many hours before and felt hard done by, but in the end, it was great because it was a good introduction into the busy life of a teacher," says Buchanan.

Motivated by the professional, personable demeanor and the high expectations of his professors, Buchanan graduated with distinction in 2002 and moved back to Calgary, but not before he left his mark on the University.

"A bunch of us got together and decided to form a lunch club. About three days a week we got together for lunch, relaxed and planned our weekends. We painted a lunch club mural in the tunnel and put our names on it," says Buchanan. "The club became our circle of friends."

Substitute teaching and taking on several short-term contracts, Buchanan worked in Calgary for three years before taking a year off to backpack throughout Europe, north Africa and Argentina.

"When I was in Argentina I worked for about six weeks as a resource teacher. It was a real heads-up; I realized how fortunate we are here," he says. "When I came back to Calgary I taught at Harold W. Riley Elementary School, but I had fallen in love with the country of Argentina so I returned there to teach English for a year."

In 2006, Buchanan returned to Riley before transferring to Simon Fraser Middle School when Riley closed in 2009.

Last year, Buchanan was awarded two prestigious teaching honours: the Alberta Education Excellence in Teaching and the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence.

Buchanan is well respected among his colleagues, students and the community for his dedication and commitment to students and for his innovative incorporation of new technology to improve student learning, experience and success. He is actively involved in extra-curricular activities including school recycling and digital literacy programs, and spends many personal hours cheering for his students at hockey games and other community events.

"I think it is important to take an interest in students both in and out of the classroom because it is important to them and it leads you to appreciating the whole person," says Buchanan. "Each summer is bittersweet because you have to say goodbye to students you have a connection with. I hope that at the end of my time with my students, they are independent, they feel safe and are confident to go on to new endeavors."


• Engaged, Buchanan is to be married in April.

• He was instrumental in securing several grants for Harold W. Riley School, including a $60,000 Hewlett Packard Physical Education Equipment grant from Kidsport.

• Buchanan speaks Spanish and ran his first half-marathon last year.

• He was a Kimmitt Scholarship recipient at the U of L in 2001 and was on the Dean's honour roll at Mount Royal.

• One of his current initiatives is a students/staff recycling project where they make wallets out of used tetra packs.