Toronto Star
Oct 02, 2008

Nicholas Keung

Ayesha Bashir wishes someone had told her about the Teach in Ontario program sooner.

It could have saved the Pakistani immigrant years in her quest to land a teaching job in Canada.

A graduate of Kashmir’s Al-Khair University and proficient in English, she already had teaching experience when she arrived in Canada in 2001. But the hoped-for teaching job never materialized.

She underwent a series of frustrating experiences and interviews, feeling increasingly “lost,” before finally taking a job as a cashier at the CN Tower, making $7.75 an hour. Her husband worked as a security guard, although he is a chemist with a master’s degree from Pakistan.

Eventually, a friend told her about the Teach in Ontario program. It proved to be a real eye-opener.

Until she enrolled in the six-week program, Bashir says she’d thought teaching in Canada would be the same as teaching anywhere else.

“But,” she says, “you have to know all the terminology.”

It can be as simple as learning new lingo such as “managing” the class instead of “controlling” it, or a “student with special needs” rather than a “special student,” she notes.

For Bashir, 35, who grew up in Islamabad under a British education system, it also involved a shift from a teacher-centred, textbook-based format to one focused on developing problem-solving skills through teamwork and participation.

“The instructors in Teach in Ontario teach you everything,” she says. “They teach you how to walk again.”

Bashir now works as a supply teacher for the Durham District School Board. Her tale is one of many success stories for the four-year-old joint program by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, the Ontario College of Teachers and community agencies to help foreign-trained teachers resume their old career in their new land.

The program’s manager, Carol Norton-Sargent, says foreign-trained teachers offer something the education system is lacking.

“These teachers are life-long learners and risk-takers who embrace changes. They are representative of the characteristics we try to instil in our students,” she says.

Bashir now works two to three days a week as a supply teacher, a job she hopes will one day lead to a permanent position.

“For all of us, disheartened and told that we cannot teach in Canada, the courses give us hope and confidence,” she says.

Reference: Toronto Star