Share this page 


This summer’s Pan Am and Parapan Am Games will bring 7,600 athletes from 41 countries to Toronto and neighbouring locales. Here, they’ll find Ontarians from each of those countries, including many Ontario Certified Teachers. Meet 20 OCTs from 20 Pan American nations.

By Stuart Foxman
Illustrations: Leeandra Cianci

The Pan Am Games are the world’s third largest multi-sport Games (only the Summer Olympics and the Asian Games are bigger). It’s the province’s first international multi-sport event since the British Empire Games in 1930.

The Games draw athletes from across Latin America, South America, the Caribbean and North America. Over the years, the waves of immigration to Ontario from these countries are a big reason for this province’s diversity.

Respect for diversity is embedded in the College’s ethical standard and in teacher education. The Pan Am/Parapan Am Games are a chance to highlight the incredible diversity in the Ontario teaching ranks. The 40 countries (besides Canada) participating in the Games are the birthplaces of over 2,500 Ontario teachers. We asked 20 of those teachers to share their stories, their favourite sports/activities (in honour of the Games), their passion for the profession, and their views on diversity.

See Their Answers to These Five Questions:

  1. Why did you want to teach?
  2. How do you define a successful teacher?
  3. What’s the best lesson you’ve learned about teaching?
  4. How is diversity an advantage for you, the profession or the classroom?
  5. What do you want people to know about your home country?

Birthplace: Punta Gorda
Location/position: Listowel District Secondary School, Avon Maitland District School Board, C.O.P.E./NEXUS Alternative Program.
Background: Arrived in Canada at age two in 1978. Has taught for 13 years, after working as a logger, cashew salesman and hardwood floor installer.
Favourite sports/activities: Soccer, volleyball, squash, badminton.

  1. The impact you can make by being an advocate for students who are struggling. I don’t always see the evidence, but I know I’m planting seeds and all I can do is give that seed a chance in the most hospitable, caring environment possible.
  2. One who sacrifices much and pushes their students past what they thought possible, both academically and personally.
  3. You need to be consistent and fair, and care for every student for who they are at that moment.
  4. I teach a group of students who have been marginalized by society and their families. As a visible minority, I’m a great resource to aid discussions.
  5. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world with some of the happiest people.

Birthplace: São Paulo
Location/position: Brighton Public School, Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, Grade 3/4
Background: Arrived in Canada 1987, age 27. Worked in a warehouse, for the phone company, and as waitress/ hostess, cleaner and cook. Started teaching in 2004.
Favourite sports/activities: Walking, soccer and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

  1. For the joy of seeing students develop their abilities and reach their potential.
  2. [Someone who is] able to deliver lessons tailored to students’ needs and learning styles in a safe and caring environment.
  3. We all have good days and bad. Recognize that you did the best with what you knew at that time.
  4. The classroom is an opportunity for students to be exposed to different cultures, and to celebrate and welcome our many differences. I use my experience whenever I have the opportunity to make a connection with the topic.
  5. I’m proud of how the Brazilian people hope for a better tomorrow and dare to dream big.

Birthplace: Santiago
Location/position: Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute, Toronto District School Board, math.
Background: Came to Canada at age four in 1974, as political refugees. Has taught for 14 years.
Favourite sports/activities: Cycling.

  1. There’s an attitude that mathematics is difficult and dull. I always believed I could make it easy, yet challenging and engaging.
  2. Always learning about different strategies and new tools to engage students.
  3. There’s more to math than what’s in a textbook.
  4. We each bring perspectives, ideas and solutions that no one else would have thought of. Diversity fosters a sense of unity in my classroom.
  5. There’s a spirit that fights for justice and stands up to oppression.

Birthplace: Massacre
Location/position: St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, resource teacher and Grade 9 GLE 101
Background: Came here in the 1970s at age three, and returned home for summers. Prior to teaching, she was a hospital pharmacy technician.
Favourite sports/activities: Walking outside and aerobics.

  1. I realized after working in health care that I enjoyed helping people.
  2. Someone who reflects on the purpose and content of what they’re teaching, and keeps it fresh by relating it to not only their students but events around them. A successful teacher isn’t afraid to give students a voice in the classroom.
  3. Students remember not what you taught them but how you treated them.
  4. Our world is getting smaller. The more people we interact with from different backgrounds, the more we can appreciate cultural differences. Teachers from minority backgrounds can make a positive impact; minority students see them as role models.
  5. I know that wherever I go in life I’ll always be welcome in Dominica and never feel like an outsider.

Dominican Republic
Birthplace: Santo Domingo
Location/position: St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School, Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, Core French.
Background: Arrived in Ontario in 1997, at age 10. Has taught for four years, and previously worked as an ESL instructor.
Favourite sports/activities: Volleyball.

  1. Some people in my family did not have the opportunity I had and couldn’t pursue higher education. Education breaks barriers.
  2. Somebody who cares and takes the time to make connections.
  3. Don’t sweat the small things.
  4. It helps to be receptive and open-minded about other cultures and religions. Being born in a different country has also helped me to make cross-curricular connections.
  5. The people who earn very little don’t seem to worry about the next day — they enjoy the simple things and live life to the fullest.

Birthplace: Cuenca
Location/position: St. Matthew Catholic School, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Grade 5 English, math, science, social studies, art, drama, dance, religion, family life.
Background: Arrived in 1975 at age one. Has taught for 12 years.
Favourite sports/activities: Volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball.

  1. I love children.
  2. Someone who’s patient, planned and professional.
  3. Voice inflection and intonation, from my first principal.
  4. It allows for greater ethnic/cultural representation. I can also draw on my socio-economic background — as a descendant of a third-world country raised by a single parent on social assistance — to identify with children who also come from low-income families.
  5. Ecuador, or more specifically the Galapagos Islands, was where Charles Darwin explored his theory of evolution.

El Salvador
Birthplace: San Miguel
Location/position: École élémentaire Marie-Curie, Conseil scolaire Viamonde, kindergarten.
Background: Came to Canada in 1990 at age seven. Has been teaching for five years.
Favourite sports/activities: Soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis.

  1. To make a positive difference. We can create the foundation for personal and academic success.
  2. I am successful if a student feels comfortable and appreciated — and is learning.
  3. Stand up for what’s right, even if you have to stand alone.
  4. By having diverse backgrounds in the classroom, we have the opportunity to experience and learn about different cultures.
  5. Even though we’re the smallest country in Central America, we have a lot to share in terms of culture.

Birthplace: Guatemala City
Location/position: St. Margaret’s Public School, Toronto District School Board, Grade 4/5
Background: Family arrived in Canada in 1985, when he was six, as political refugees. Has taught for eight years.
Favourite sports/activities: Soccer, boxing.

  1. I [wanted to] to build a classroom that embraces the pillars of justice at the core of pedagogy.
  2. An individual who espouses a world view that everyone is capable. A good listener who is caring, entertaining, challenging and motivational.
  3. Goals are not accomplished by being victorious on the day of the race but rather in the preparation for that race. I tell students to trust the process; mastering the process is what leads to success.
  4. Diversity in the classroom ignites schools to include, respect, affirm and encourage curriculum that’s inclusive of every consciousness, understanding and belief.
  5. Guatemala is the land of the Mayans, a rich, vibrant and indigenous population that continues to thrive regardless of years of oppression.

Birthplace: Georgetown
Location/position: Artesian Drive Public School, Peel District School Board, junior teacher.
Background: Parents came when she was almost three, in 1978. Teaching has been a second career for the past 11 years, after working in the finance industry.
Favourite sports/activities: Volleyball, basketball, football, soccer, hockey.

  1. I really enjoy working with children and their sense of excitement for the littlest things. Children tell you like it is; they’re refreshingly honest.
  2. Someone who can accept the fact they’ll never know it all, and be willing to learn at every opportunity.
  3. We’re responsible for our students’ attitudes toward school and their love of learning. If we can make it a happy place, they’ll want to come.
  4. We’re the luckiest people in the world to live in such a diverse country. Children need to see success in all communities. Immigrant girls especially need to see strong, educated and successful women.
  5. The Guyanese are family-oriented, value education and work hard to give their children the best opportunities. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, if you’re in their home you’re treated like gold.

Birthplace: Jérémie
Location/position: École secondaire catholique Jean-Vanier, Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud, French and social studies.
Background: Came to Canada in 2003 and started teaching in 2006. Was an accountant, and has a degree in health services administration.
Favourite sports/activities: Volleyball.

  1. My mother, father and three brothers taught. I love sharing my knowledge with young people while also learning from them.
  2. The number of students you influence in their academic path, social skills or [life] choices.
  3. [School is also about] learning about life and feeling better prepared for the future.
  4. [Having] different life experience lets you compare cultures and introduce societal issues such as hunger, discrimination, racism and immigration.
  5. The courage of the Haitian people. They spring back from whatever hand life deals them.

Birthplace: Clarendon
Location/position: Fleming Public School, Toronto District School Board, learning coach.
Background: Came to Toronto at age 10 on Canada Day in 1975 In her 17th year of teaching.
Favourite sports/activities: Soccer, basketball, football.

  1. I fell in love with learning and wanted to do it for the rest of my life. The best part of being a teacher is seeing the joy in students’ eyes when they experience success.
  2. Knows how to motivate students to learn while building their confidence as learners.
  3. Assume nothing. My students taught me that.
  4. It helps me to see things from multiple perspectives. When an individual isn’t part of the dominant culture, he or she is more aware of inequities and the voices that go unheard.
  5. What makes me most proud is it’s the birthplace of reggae music — a music that reminds the poor and disenfranchised that they too can rise up in the face of extreme hardship.

Birthplace: Monterrey, Nuevo León
Location/position: Altona Forest Public School, Durham District School Board, phys-ed.
Background: Arrived in Canada 1999, age 23 Started teaching in 2004 Was a professional soccer player in Mexico.
Favourite sports/activities: Plays soccer competitively and coaches it.

  1. To make a difference. Coming to Canada wasn’t easy and completing a degree in English was even more challenging. I wanted to share my passion to become educated.
  2. Someone who believes any student can accomplish something, and has no fear of showing their passion.
  3. In my psychology class during first year university I was overwhelmed. The professor talked about not giving up. She [helped me realize] I was very capable and just needed to put in the extra time.
  4. At the time I was hired, I stood out from other teachers. My background — being a professional soccer player, a male minority and speaking three languages — was definitely a plus!
  5. People are very warm and want to make others feel good.

Birthplace: Panama City
Location/position: Dr. J. Edgar Davey Elementary Public School, Hamilton- Wentworth District School Board, kindergarten.
Background: Came here in 1988 (she was seven) as refugees, due to civil unrest. Before starting to teach nine years ago, was a waitress, bartender and cashier.
Favourite sports/activities: Plays beach volleyball and field hockey for the Hamilton Strikers.

  1. It’s a career that’s steady but also diverse. You still learn things about yourself.
  2. They instil manners, a sense of responsibility, and environmental and social awareness.
  3. We’re a second home to children — always make it great!
  4. We must never lose sight of where we come from. I share with students my celebrations and traditions, which allows them to appreciate their own culture and others.
  5. I’m proud to say it’s a culture of happiness, gratitude and giving. It’s believed the word panama means an abundance of fish, trees and butterflies.

Birthplace: Lima
Location/position: Lorna Jackson Public School and Vellore Woods Public School, York Region District School Board, vice-principal.
Background: Came to Canada in 1976 as a baby. In her 17th year in education.
Favourite sports/activities: Walking, kickboxing.

  1. There are no two days exactly the same, which makes this profession so exciting. The best part is watching students have that “aha” moment when they realize their potential and feel that sense of accomplishment.
  2. One who makes a difference in someone’s life. It doesn’t have to be a teacher by trade. We teach others all the time, in all walks of life.
  3. Be resilient. If you fail, get up with grace and dignity and try again.
  4. It’s important for children and community members to see themselves reflected inside and outside the classroom. I appreciate the similarities and differences that define us as Canadians.
  5. I consider Canada my home country, and I’m proud that we’re so diverse here. We still struggle with many “isms,” but in general we’re inclusive. My father says he’s Canadian not by birth but by choice.

St. Kitts and Nevis
Birthplace: Cayon, St. Kitts
Location/position: John D. Parker Junior School, Toronto District School Board, Grade 1, and provides training on technology in teaching.
Background: Moved to Toronto in 1981 at age 12. In his 14th year of teaching.
Favourite sports/activities: Basketball, cricket.

  1. I simply love to learn, and it excites me to see kids engaged in learning.
  2. One who can engage a child no matter where they are on the learning continuum, about any subject — because they want to, not because they have to.
  3. Never tell a child their answer is wrong. Instead, pose questions. Encourage their ability to think things through.
  4. Within the last decade, we’ve become more global in the way we relate to each other. This has led to a social and emotional shift in not only how students view themselves but also in how we view the students.
  5. We’re a nation of proud people who are very friendly.

St. Vincent and The Grenadines
Birthplace: Kingstown
Location/position: Toronto District School Board, Special Education Short Term Program.
Background: Came to Canada in 1972 at age two. Has taught for eight years.
Favourite sports/activities: Coached volleyball, basketball, badminton, soccer, a girls dance group.

  1. I was a child and youth worker and an educational assistant before becoming a teacher. I wanted to support children with the tough stuff outside the classroom so they could build confidence to tackle the academics in the classroom.
  2. A chameleon, and has the ability to teach others to be one too.
  3. [Establishing a connection] with your student is important to provoke change.
  4. I’m empathic to families that emigrate to Canada. I know the hopes and dreams they have for their children.
  5. They call us a small island but it’s beautiful and untouched, and we are ambitious people.

Trinidad and Tobago
Birthplace: San Fernando
Location/position: Summitview Public School, York Region District School Board, Special Education.
Background: Arrived at age four. In his eighth year of teaching. Favourite sports/activities: Running.

  1. Many of my aunts and uncles in Trinidad were (and some still are) teachers or principals. You’re always learning, and sometimes from your students.
  2. Respect the position and respect the students.
  3. A kindergarten student once asked why my skin was brown and hers was white. I was fumbling for a politically correct answer. Before I could, she answered her own question: “We just are.” Then she walked away happy. Kids are just kids, simple and complex.
  4. I represent something outside the norm. I feel it has benefited my students to see that a guy like me can simply be like any other teacher. And where else would they have an opportunity to learn about a little old country like Trinidad?
  5. They’re on “island time” and seem to laugh and not stress the small stuff.

United States
Birthplace: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Location/position: Waterloo-Oxford District Secondary School, Waterloo Region District School Board, social sciences/ family studies/guidance.
Background: Arrived in Canada in the late 1950s as a toddler. Has taught for 23 years after working in the addictions field for 11.
Favourite sports/activities: Downhill skiing, snowshoeing, swimming, cycling, walking.

  1. I love working with young people, being part of their growth and development and having an impact on their future.
  2. A listener who gives and receives respect, is accommodating, and is reasonable but still expects the best.
  3. Early in my career, a student was being uncharacteristically disruptive. When I asked her to step into the hallway, she told me her father had just been diagnosed with aggressive cancer and she broke down. I learned to avoid jumping to conclusions and uncover the underlying feelings.
  4. I’ve lived all over Canada and the U.S., and had a lot of travel opportunities. I can speak with first-hand experience about different cultures, values and lifestyles.
  5. You can’t judge the U.S. by what you hear or read in the media. There’s such an incredible range of ideologies. I’ve travelled to 40 of the 50 states; one needs this kind of experience to appreciate another country.

Birthplace: Montevideo
Location/position: St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, science.
Background: Arrived in Canada in 1978 as a young child. Has taught since 2001
Favourite sports/activities: Tennis, volleyball, soccer, Pilates, yoga, dancing, hiking, biking.

  1. I really enjoy the interaction with youth.
  2. A professional with integrity in their work and a good rapport with students and staff.
  3. Be approachable, flexible and compassionate.
  4. It allows me to connect with a wide variety of students, and offer them a global perspective and unique cultural experiences.
  5. Besides the beaches and natural beauty, Uruguay is a small country of educated and down-to-earth people with a lot of heart.

Birthplace: Caracas
Location/position: Kensington Community School, Toronto District School Board, Grade 5/6.
Background: Arrived in 1997 at 28. Has taught for a decade.
Favourite sports/activities: Volleyball.

  1. To be able to change the lives of young people.
  2. A teacher who does their best to reach every child, no matter their socio-economic background.
  3. [How to] help the students grow into their full potential by combining school subjects with life experience.
  4. Diversity in the classroom allows for a richer sharing of experiences, enhancing the learning experience. I’m a role model for how other new Canadians can successfully integrate into Canadian society.
  5. The warmth and generosity of its people, the richness of its culture.