Caledon English teacher named among province’s best
By Danielle Marr
Learning a second language can be an unbelievably daunting challenge. Almost every single thing that an individual does in a day is dependent on accurate communication. Whether it is ordering a coffee or talking to a childâ€™s teacher, a person must be able to communicate effectively.
Suma Balagopal, the teacher at Caledon Community Services in charge of the English as a Second Language classroom has dedicated her life to helping newcomers to Canada develop their language skills. This year, she was recognized province wide as the winner of the Sparks of Excellence award given out by TESL Ontario for her exemplary work.
Balagopal was the first inaugural teacher for the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program hosted at CCS, which provides free English classes to individuals who have recently immigrated to the country.
“Suma is very aligned with the agency’s perspective,” said CCS Chief Executive Officer, Monty Laskin. “What we want to do with them is exactly what our teacher hopes to do for her students, so there is a real synergy between her efforts and the agency’s perspective.”
For the last three years, Balagopal has also had the grand prize winner for TESL’s province-wide contest for ESL learners, which she said is rather exciting coming from a tiny community like Caledon.
“I think that a large part of my success is my employment with CCS,” said Balagopal. “Their focus on newcomers, the support that I receive and the trust that they have shown in me has all worked together to make this happen.”
Balagopal was a newcomer to Canada herself years ago and she says that her personal experiences likely contribute to the success that she has had with her students, because she understands their struggles.
While language was not a problem for her, she had to deal with the other challenges of immigrating.
“I understand their stories and their needs because I have been through it,” she said.
Whether it is studying for a driving test or filling out paperwork to get credentials evaluated so that her students can enter the workforce with their education recognized, she says that helping them find their way in Canada is as beneficial to the community as it is to the students themselves.
“If a mother is educated in the language then her whole family is educated,” Balagopal explained. “There are so many benefits to having newcomers in the community and when they develop a better understanding of the language and the culture, they become much better citizens of Canadian society.”