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Future builder

Education graduate removing newcomers' language barrier

special feature: Class of 2021

The Gazette’s latest special feature celebrates Memorial’s newest alumni.


By Angela Hunt

When Hajira Nusret left South India for Memorial University, she was ready to explore the Canadian classroom and build upon her 14 years of teaching experience.

A woman with a black hat and sunglasses on her head with St. John's harbour in the background.
Spring master’s graduate Hajira Nusret helped newcomers at a local junior high school overcome their language barrier.
Photo: Submitted

Now, she is graduating from the Faculty of Education with her master of education (curriculum, teaching and learning studies) degree with a specialization in science education.

Ms. Nusret was drawn to the sciences from a young age. She spent her childhood doing experiments and consuming as much information as she possibly could.

Her curiosity paired with an intense desire for information led to both a bachelor and master’s degree in science.

“From my childhood days, I was always excited by science,” she said.

“I was continually doing experiments and challenging different ways of understanding things. I always wanted to know more.”

Drawn to the sciences

That passion eventually led to a fulfilling career as a science teacher in Saudi Arabia.

It was there that she began to examine the effectiveness of different teaching strategies in the classroom.

Early on, she realized that many of her students were memorizing content rather than understanding the concepts.

“I started exploring different teaching strategies and implementing them in my classroom, and I quickly discovered that anything becomes relatable if it’s taught properly. From there, I started looking to formally further my teacher training.”

Challenges faced by newcomers

While completing her coursework in the Faculty of Education, she also took on a graduate assistant role in the Faculty of Nursing and the School of Pharmacy.

She says it was during this work that she came across some students who were facing difficulties in understanding English.

Witnessing this made her start to think about newcomers and the particular challenges they face.

“I started using my instruction strategies and removed the language barrier completely.” — Hajira Nusret

When it came time to complete the internship component of her program, Ms. Nusret says she knew exactly where she wanted to be.

“I had initially planned on exploring the Canadian classroom, but my experience working with newcomers as a graduate assistant led me to a very fulfilling internship position in the LEARN Program at a local junior high school.”

The Literacy Enrichment and Academic Readiness for Newcomers (LEARN) program was developed to meet the academic needs of immigrant students who have gaps in their formal education.

Some of the students have no previous schooling. Many arrive in Canada as government-assisted refugees.

“In the initial days of my internship, the students were not much interested to learn due to the language barrier,” Ms. Nusret said.

“I started using my instruction strategies and removed the language barrier completely. We stopped talking and we started doing. That’s when the interest peaked and I watched the shift happen.”

Near the end of the internship, Ms. Nusret developed a formal set of teaching strategies and course work that was adopted into the program and continues to be used, with great success, today.

‘Truly invest’

As for next steps?

Ms. Nusret’s passion for removing barriers in the learning environment is having an impact.

She’s currently working at the Fluvarium in St. John’s and plans to develop programs about climate change and watershed management that are fully accessible to all learners.

“As educators, we are helping to develop society. We need to give our students opportunities to build self-confidence. Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions and if we truly invest in our students, who knows what they’ll achieve in the future.”


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