As it turns out, teachers do have lives outside of school; they don’t just live in the building, hand out homework and give tests. One such teacher is Michelle Burton, a math teacher at Riverside Secondary school, and an experienced race car driver and certified scuba diver. As it turns out, teachers do some pretty cool things.

Burton has been scuba diving since 1993, 24 years now. She says she doesn’t go diving as much as she used to; it’s been a few years since she last went. Some of the places she’s gone diving are Mexico, a lot around Vancouver, the Cayman Islands, and Cozumel.

“I like the warm water diving better,” she said. Around Vancouver, it gets dark quicker when going down, but in warmer waters, it’s clearer.

It was her husband who introduced her to scuba diving. Burton said that one day he got her to try on some equipment and test it out in their apartment’s pool. “When I went underwater for the first time, after taking the first breath and realised it works, I thought it was going to be cool and I went and signed up for a class with a friend and took the course,” she said.

For Burton, the most exciting part of the sport is the close encounter with other living things; however, it can also be quite scary. Once in Cozumel she started chasing a turtle and went deeper than usual; she’s also been face to face with a six-gill shark, and she’s had a sea lion put its mouth around her arm.

Just as with every other sport, there are guidelines to go by. “If you follow the rules and the training you’ve been given it’s a fairly safe sport, but if you’re reckless, dive by yourself, push the limits, dive in bad conditions, do things past your skill level then it’s going to be dangerous. So as long as you stay within the training you’ve been given it’s relatively safe,” said Burton. “A lot of people like swimming, or snorkeling, and diving is just that next level.”

Burton also drives race cars; she has been since 2006. Once again, it was her husband who got her into race car driving. “He was doing it and taking weekends to go away; he was the one who said, ‘do you want to do this?’ and I said okay and it turned out to be really fun,” said Burton.

Burton in her car after a race

Burton said she’s never had any accidents or mishaps. “It’s a very safe sport; the worst thing that can happen is you spin the car; it just means that you don’t go very fast as a result because you have to come to a stop,” she said. She drives on a course set with orange cones in Pitt meadows next to the airport at the ‘BC driving center.’

“I encourage everyone to do it,” Burton said. “You become a much better driver, you learn how to manage your car and look ahead. You understand what your car feels like when you push it to its limits. I’m a much better and safer driver as a result.”

Burton said that April to September there is a competition every couple of weeks and she participates occasionally. She also participates in Canadian Nationals, where drivers from across Canada come and race.

Burton said she never imagined herself race car driving when she was younger, but now she encourages everyone to try it out. “We have new people that show up all the time,” she said. “I think new drivers are great. When my daughter got her L, we got her driving right away.”

You don’t need anything special said Burton, “I drove a station wagon when I first started. You get to drive your own car, as long as it’s not a truck or a van. It must be a car that’s in good condition.”

So, as it turns out, teachers really do have interesting lives.