Hoai Nam To didn’t speak any English before starting at the John F. Kennedy Adult Education Centre (JFKAE) six years ago. Now, he’s tutoring at the St. Michel-area school, passing on the support he received as a JFKAE student to those who come after him.
“When I came here to learn basic English, I really liked the teachers here,” Mr. To said. “The way they taught, it was like immersion in the language…So, I liked it and I decided to continue my education.”
The JFKAE centre offers Basic English, Basic French, Social Integration Services, and Academic courses for students looking to complete their secondary school or to complete CEGEP pre-requisites.
After immigrating to Canada from Vietnam, Mr. To spent two years taking Basic English courses at JFKAE. He then took a break before returning to enroll in the Academic courses for another two years. It was during this period Mr. To recognized the difference a supportive and warm learning environment can make in his educational achievements.
Mr. To struggled when he was learning Math in Vietnam, but since taking Math at JFKAE, he has excelled and found he even likes the subject. “When I came here, there was something that motivated me in this school, that helped me to learn more,” he said.
According to Mr. To, his teachers went the extra mile to help him and his classmates succeed. He recalls when one of the educators offered online tutoring on weekends and how another one of his teachers would stay behind after class to help with Math questions.
JFKAE’s administration recognizes their teachers often go over and above their call of duty and encourages a supportive learning environment. JFKAE Principal Elizabeth Lagodich says the importance of building connections with students is always reiterated during staff meetings.
“If a student is connected, if they feel like they’re cared about, they’re more likely to come to school on a regular basis and become more engaged,” Ms. Lagodich said. “It’s a big part of what we believe makes our centre different from other centres.”
Conducive Learning Environment
A lot of effort is put into creating an inviting aesthetic at the school as well. Clean, warm, and fresh are the words that will spring to mind when walking along the corridors and through the classrooms. The facilities are furbished with new furniture and the latest smartboards, and there are plans to install plant walls before the fall.
Learning also happens outside the school’s walls. With pandemic restrictions all but gone, excursions are coming back. In the past, those activities have included trips to Quebec City or Ottawa, ice fishing, skiing, and cultural outings to places like Place des Arts and the Maison symphonique. Ms. Lagodich says these activities are also opportunities for positive relationship-building between staff and students.
The school is ideally located a few minutes’ walk away from metro station St. Michel and close to several bus stops. There is also wide access to computers and printers. “There are a lot of computers you can use as a student,” To said. “So, if you want to do research, if you want to find something, you have it.”
There are several additional support services available to JFKAE students. The school has a re-education counselor and an academic advisor who can meet with students in-person or online or talk over the phone. Tutoring services moved online during the pandemic, but the administration expects tutoring to shift in-house more and more. With tutors like To, who are former students themselves, there can be a level of understanding and empathy that is unmatched.
Directives for hospitable conditions deriving from up top from the administration and trickling down to the dedicated educators means JFKAE students are met with unparalleled educational supports that take them as far as their aspirations.