2021 Sparks of Excellence Award Recipients
Karolina Gombos' journey in Canada started when she immigrated to Canada from Romania with her family in 2002. She enrolled in and finished Level 4 and 5 LINC classes at the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County to improve her English at that time. Interestingly, the place she once studied turned out to be her future - and current - workplace. Karolina was a Mathematics and Physics high school teacher in Romania for 11 years. When she arrived in Canada, she was determined and eager to get back to teaching, but the road proved to be quite difficult and it took her many years to get back on the teaching track.
Karolina attended St. Clair College, receiving an Early Childhood Diploma, and going to work as an early childhood educator for three years. As much as she valued working with children, she wanted to get back teaching so she kept pushing forward towards her goal. She received CERTESL certificate from the University of Saskatchewan and then pursused additional courses to have her Bachelor's degree recognized in Ontario. After several years of studies, Karolina received a Bachelor's of Arts and Science from Athabasca University and a Bachelor's in Education through OCT.
Karolina started working at the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County in September 2006 where she fulfilled many different positions, including E.C.E, resource teacher and LINC instructor. She also taught citizenship and life skills classes and worked as an After School Program Assistant while teaching LINC classes in the morning. Karolina has now been teaching LINC classes since 2007 and has always remained eager to learn and experience new trends and practices in the field, participating in the piloting of Real World Assessment Tasks and the Multiliteracies Project research conducted by the University of Windsor.
When the pandemic threw the world a curveball in 2020, Karolina turned her attention to learning about online teaching platforms and techniques. She is currently working on her Stage 4 Avenue training and is greatly enjoying creating her own interactive materials. While teaching and learning online was at first intimidating, Karolina now says she has found it not only manageable and even exciting. Her online classes and recordings allow most of her CLB 2 students to continue to participate and improve their English.
As an immigrant herself, Karolina feels an understanding of her students' needs and feelings and strives to help them in any way she can.
Bushra Hanna is a proud TESL member since 2006, and a member of Executive Board of Directors TESL Windsor since 2020. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Adult Education from Brock University, along with a Master’s Degree in Translation and a Bachelor Degree of Arts/ English from Baghdad University Iraq. She has been working with newcomers for over 20 years. Currently, Bushra is a PBLA Lead Teacher at Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor, a non-profit organization that empowers women and upgrades their skills to excel in their careers.
In the span of her teaching career, she has taught Literacy up to LINC 7, as well as teaching ESL at the University of Windsor. Through her career, she has worn many hats, including certified court interpret with Provincial and Supreme Courts, with IRCC for refugee claimants, Settlement Councillor, Employment Services and GED instructor, and Editor in Chief for Arabic Newspaper Windsor Voice.
Bushra has a true passion for working with newcomers, whom she finds to be great resources of experience, and life lessons. She strives to create a positive, and funny environment in all of her classrooms.
Community is Bushra's other passion. In March 2020, she started a group of women called Ladies of Hope in response to Windsor Regional Hospital call to address a shortage of medical face masks for patients. Her goal was to sew 100 face masks, but the total number ended up being closer to 10,000. Weekly, she would drop 700-750 face masks to Windsor Reginal Hospital and was recognized by a Thank You letter from WRH.
She also created a daily newsletter with her learners through WhatsApp. Learners would share everything, including current community news, family events, job wanted, houses/ apartments for rent, workshops attended. This social media increased her learners’ Reading/ Writing and Researching skills. Bushra noticed that virtual Learning had made many learners depressed, especially seniors and the low income who were stationed with 6-9 children and spouses. often in small apartments. Many of them messaged her about missing "normal life." In July 2021, Bushra took action to do something for these leaners, arranging a biweekly picnic at Jackson Park in Windsor and included multiple activities, including bingo, barbecues, and even garage sales in the park.
Also an environmental advocate, Bushra arranged a simple workshop speaking about the importance of a clean environment during one of these learner picnics. In their last gathering, they cleaned the park with the support of their local Member of Parliament who attended to hand out bottled water to the participants.
Bushra credits her students with the inspiration for all the activities she undertakes.
Teresa Oliwa began ESL teaching in 1988 at Sydney City Mission (Australia). She taught newcomers English and helped them find employment. She later worked in the outreach program of the Sydney Institute of Technical and Further Education, teaching ESL and life skills to Arabic and Spanish speaking women and to people with developmental disabilities.
Teresa worked for Toronto District School Board before she started her job as a LINC instructor for the basic levels and later a Lead Instructor at St. Stephen’s Community House in 2003. She connects well with her students and enjoys preparing and creating teaching materials which are interactive and applicable to the real world.
Teresa knows how newcomers need a sense of belonging and her main goal is to help them integrate into Canadian society. She always finds opportunities to take her students to visit different places and encourages them to take part in community events such as World Aids Walk, where they can speak English with other community members. Her students have participated in different projects, for example, the “New Horizons”, in which they were trained to be peer leaders. They met regularly for many months, learned about all levels of the Canadian Government, and also went for a trip to Ottawa to visit Parliament Hill.
Teresa is encouraged by her students’ enthusiasm in learning and using English, acquiring new skills and actively participating in classes, including online. She is happy to share what she has learned from her teaching experience with her colleagues and other teachers. She welcomes the university and college students as well as student teachers who come to observe or volunteer in her classes.
Teresa keeps learning new technologies for online teaching. She believes that “A good teacher is a good student.” She is very thankful for all the helps and support she gets from her manager and colleagues.