Teacher by day, magician by night: meet Alym Amlani

Thu, Jan 26, 2017

Jan. 31 is International Magicians’ Day marking the feast day of St. John Don Bosco, the Catholic patron saint of magicians.

Surrey, B.C. – How does a magician become an accountant become a teacher? Magic.

Alym Amlani, accounting instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), began his career not in numbers, but in showmanship. Pursuing a physiology degree, Amlani paid his way through his undergrad by putting on magic shows.

“It was more fun than waiting tables,” laughed Amlani. “My favourite trick to perform includes a 15-minute build up that ends with a signed dollar bill cut from a lemon inside a plastic bag inside a paper bag held by a random volunteer in the audience.”

While perfecting misdirection on the stage, Amlani continued to study moving his focus to cognitive systems. He noted the parallels between visual perception and magic tricks and published a paper “Towards a Science of Magic” with his cognitive systems professor Ronald Rensink. The colleagues continued working together, but outside of the world of academia, and Amlani earned his chartered accountant designation to help with their business ventures.

These days, Amlani teaches introductory and upper-level accounting at KPU and finds that years of working as a professional magician have taught him a trick or two about commanding attention in the classroom.

“Any performer knows that to engage the audience you need to make eye contact, connect with people individually and of course project your voice,” said Amlani. “Making the audience laugh by telling a joke doesn’t hurt either.”

A proponent of the "flipped classroom," Amlani frequently records his lectures for students to watch online in advance and uses class time to answer questions, work out problems and have discussion. While Amlani hasn’t yet incorporated magic into his accounting classes, he has plans to in the future.

“I don’t bring up the fact that I’m a working magician; said Amlani. “But somehow my students always find out.”

In honour of International Magicians’ Day on Jan. 31, Amlani plans to buy himself a new book on magic and teach himself something new. After all, education is a lifelong pursuit.

Watch Alym Amlani perform a magic trick. Photos of Amlani are available on Flickr.

About Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has served the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 learners. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs in business, liberal arts, design, health, science and horticulture, trades and technology, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 120 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at kpu.ca

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