By Melissa Campeau
Linda Soehner, OCT, Holland Centre, Ont.
Has held the PQP Part 2 for 27 years, PQP Part 1 for 28 years.
From a young age, Linda Soehner had a clear sense of what she was going to do with her life.
“Growing up in England, it was a very class-driven society and I thought that only education could help children change classes, otherwise they were kind of stuck where they were,” she says.
Soehner studied in England and taught there for five years before coming to Canada, where she took up a post with the North York Board of Education (now the Toronto District School Board).
Eventually she earned an M.Ed. and her Principal’s Qualification Program (PQP) certification and became a principal with the Avon Maitland District School Board.
Being a principal was rewarding, she says, but a favourite memory is from earlier days.
“I was teaching in North York and a stray cat wandered into our classroom,” says Soehner. In short order, the class adopted him, named him George, and proceeded to look after him for the entire academic year. There would be times where you’d hear an announcement saying, ‘George is in the library. Would someone please come and get him?’” Soehner recalls.
“Then there was the day when the caretaker threatened to get rid of him because he was digging up the plants in the vestibule,” she says.
“Keep abreast of new discoveries, especially the ones that deal with the science of the brain and how we learn. Take those ideas and look for new ways to teach using those discoveries.”
— Linda Soehner, OCT
In response, students volunteered to be “plant monitors,” doing independent work in the vestibule, two at a time. “All sorts of happy things happened in that classroom because of George.”
Although she left the board several years ago, Soehner has never stopped teaching.
“I now run my own school,” she says.
Determined to help students struggling to read, she set out to create a program to tackle the problem. “So that’s what I did,” says Soehner.
She wrote a program called Everyone’s a Reader (under her charitable organization Reading Rescue Ontario) and is now involved in helping 35 children to read each week.
The charity works with several schools and also helps adults, people with learning challenges and anyone who asks for a hand.
“When we get students who present a new challenge, I just write a new part for the program and we solve that problem,” explains Soehner, who absorbs and implements new research as it’s published.
And that, she says, is likely her best advice to new teachers.
“Keep abreast of new discoveries, especially the ones that deal with the science of the brain and how we learn,” says Soehner. “Take those ideas and look for new ways to teach using those discoveries.”
Oi-Yi (Ivy) Chan, OCT, Toronto
Has held the PQP Part 2 for 23 years and SOQP for 20 years.
“I’ve always cared very deeply about teaching, in any form … I want to find ways to make what I want to impart to people easier to learn and more enjoyable — that’s what draws me to [the profession].”
— Ivy Chan, OCT
Ivy Chan started teaching piano when she was just 12 years old. While music may have been her first love, it’s her passion for teaching that’s helped shape her diverse career.
In 1976, shortly after arriving in Canada from Hong Kong and earning an M.Ed., she began work with the Scarborough Board of Education (now the Toronto District School Board) teaching Grade 7 and 8 students, eventually moving on to high school students.
She developed an expertise in English as a Second Language (ESL) and developed assessments for the board designed to help teachers better understand how students — whose first language was not English — were progressing. “People were beginning to become very interested in how ESL informed teaching and learning,” says Chan.
Along the way, Chan continued her studies, earning a PhD in education, as well as her PQP and SOQP certifications. “I’ve always cared very deeply about teaching, whether it’s teaching piano or language, teachers or students, or sharing with principals and colleagues,” she says. “I want to find ways to make what I impart to people easier to learn and more enjoyable.”
Chan has been a quiet trailblazer for much of her career. When she accepted a role as principal at a school in Thornhill with the York Region District School Board in 2002, she became both the first Chinese-born principal and the first female principal the school had seen in its 151-year history.
Until this past spring, Chan was principal at International Education Services with York Region District School Board. “We work with students from 37 countries, and we’ve grown from having 800 visa students to more than 2,000,” explains Chan, with pride. “It’s the biggest program of its kind in Canada.”
Over the years, she’s influenced policy and helped steer teachers’ understanding of ESL learning, but Chan says her fondest memories involve seeing the influence she’s had on her students and their families.
She recalls the father of an ESL student, newly arrived from Vietnam, approaching her one day. “He said, I know you helped “I’ve always cared very deeply about teaching, in any form … I want to find ways to make what I want to impart to people easier to learn and more enjoyable — that’s what draws me to [the profession].” — Ivy Chan, OCT The Trailblazer Oi-Yi (Ivy) Chan, OCT, Toronto Has held the PQP Part 2 for 23 years and SOQP for 20 years. my daughter very much. Can you help me find a place to live? So I became a real estate agent, too!” she jokes.
Chan recalls a few years ago a man approached her in a grocery store one night. “He said I looked familiar and asked if my name was Ivy,” she says. Chan had been his teacher. That night, she discovered he’d grown up to be a police constable.
“He said to me, ‘I always wanted to tell you, I think about the changes you made in my life,’” says Chan. “And that was so precious to me.”