Meet our Teams: Language


Naomi Kennedy

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to wander the halls of Newcomer Connections during break time, there’s a good chance you’ll play a game of “you first,” “no, you first” at the door. As you make your way down the hallway you’ll hear “Hello, how are you” countless times. As the students trickle back into class, you may see a group of ladies cleaning up their Arabic coffee cups, air-kissing and reluctantly parting ways to their classrooms. You’ll see men taking off their coats – their Tim Hortons in hand – and maybe some nervous students preparing for an upcoming assessment.

When the hallway is clear and the doors close, you’ll see animated teachers talking with their hands, beginning their elaborate game of charades.

When I first started my job as a language instructor at the YMCA, I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. After meeting my first students, those nerves dissipated and I knew I was in the right place.

Meet Our Teams Language

Members of the Language Team, back row from left: LINC Team Leads Will Dean and Cedric Mwambi-Kabongo, Language Program Advisor Abdullah Ghadab, LINC instructors: Yulia Roherty, David Hillier, Gary Flanagan and Ryan Harley. Front row from left: Language Program Supervisor Naomi Kennedy, and LINC instructors: Heather Hudson, Sue Hemmings, Rose Doucet, Stacey Arthurs, Anna Viziner and Matt Mott. Missing from photo: Linda Evans, Christine Eruokwu, and supply teachers Rob Jeffrey, Julie Ojuawo and Rhonda Peterson.

One particular moment stands out as the time I realized the impact that the Language team and our volunteers have on individuals in our community. On that day I had a new student who, through some gesturing and very basic words, informed me that this was her first day of school – everShe had never learned to read or write, or even hold a pencil. I remember being overwhelmed with a feeling of guilt for taking our education system for granted, and the responsibility to ensure she would become equipped with the skills she needed to succeed in our community, and pursue whatever she likes in her future.

What an honour it is to provide opportunities like this to individuals, no matter their background, age, nationality, race, religion or education – everyone is welcome here. What an inspiration it is to see the determination and commitment that our students show, despite the difficulties they faced to arrive here.

Each day the YMCA offers 26 different language classes for our newcomer community, and we need your help as volunteers! I can assure you that as much – or maybe even more – as you are making a difference in the lives of newcomers, they will have an impact on you.

Click here to learn more about our Language Program

There are a number of different opportunities in which you can offer your time and talents to support adult learners at Newcomer Connections. As an ESL Classroom Assistant, you can help students achieve their individual learning goals by providing support one-on-one or in small groups, with guidance from the language instructor.

If a classroom setting isn’t your style, consider signing up as an Independent Literacy Tutor. You’ll meet one-on-one  with an adult learner and provide the support they’ll need to improve their English literacy skills. The benefit of working as a tutor is that you’ll be learning as much from your newcomer match as they are learning from you, as you get to know them and learn more about their culture.

Of course, if teaching isn’t your style, you can try helping out with the Mom and Baby class. This class allows mothers to learn English together and socialize while bringing along their young children. Volunteers in this class spend their time playing games with the little ones and sneaking in cuddles to allow moms to keep their hands free, and their focus on learning.

Now, as I wander the halls at break time and observe the diverse group of people building relationships and community, I’m reminded of why we do what we do. It’s an honour to work with one another to accomplish our commitment to help transform our community into a lasting, healthy home for immigrants from around the world and all walks of life.