The summer student experience at DIVERSEcity includes learning about workplace culture and about the different types of work our staff does to support our clients in their success. This series of staff interviews will provide different glimpses of what life is like at DIVERSEcity. From interviews with members of our executive team to front line staff, we hope our interview series provides an interesting and holistic insight into our agency.
What is your name and role at DIVERSEcity?
Crystal McFeetors. I am the Literacy and Essential Skills Learning Guide.
Can you tell me about the Moving Ahead Program’s (MAP) Literacy and Essential Skills Workshops?
The Moving Ahead Program offers clients two multi-leveled Literacy and Essential Skills workshops which are based on clients’ individual needs, interests and literacy abilities. These workshops are designed to enable those identified as Vulnerable Immigrants a more structured, supportive and sensitive environment in order to allow for a transition period so that once they are ready, they can successfully adjust to the more stringent expectations and independent learning environment of a LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) classroom setting.
How long have you been working at DIVERSEcity?
I’ve been here for almost 26 years – longer than anyone else!
Why do you do what you do?
Doing work that is socially significant is important to me. It’s important to me to be a front line worker and to work directly with individuals as opposed to being in an administrative or management role.
How do you spend most of your work time?
Either working directly with students or working on the development of the program. This includes things like deciding if the program structure needs to shift, developing classroom materials and also administrative tasks like attendance sheets, reports, and follow-up.
What advice do you have for your clients?
I encourage them to attend class regularly up to their ability. I try to get them to be self-motivated rather than having me tell them what to do.
What advice do you have for someone interested in working with vulnerable populations?
It really helps to understand the background of refugees, including things like the kind of life they’ve led and the trauma they might have had. It also helps to understand trauma and how it impacts people physically, emotionally, and how it affects their ability to learn.
What do you find most enjoyable about your work?
That you can directly see how you’re impacting individuals’ lives in a very positive way and also seeing the growth and change in individuals as they improve their literacy abilities and as they adjust to life in Canada.
What are some of the challenges?
Within this particular program, because all the students have individual literacy plans with many individualized needs, they need 1-on-1 help. Getting enough classroom support to each student is a challenge. Maintaining regular attendance with students who have multiple barriers and ongoing issues such as medical appointments is difficult as well.
What is the best thing about working at DIVERSEcity?
Definitely a lot of inspiring staff members who really care and go out of their way to help their clients. When you’re in an agency designed to help people, you attract employees who are more generous with their time and who are warm, caring individuals. The leadership we have is also very hardworking and have helped grow the agency.
What are your hobbies and interests and how do you de-stress?
Exercise! I bike on the weekends. Being in nature is important. I also spend lots of time with my kids. I’m very busy with 3 boys at home!
What country or city would you like to visit?
I’ve been to a lot of places all over the world. The next place I would like to visit is Italy and I would love to learn Italian before I go.
What book are you currently reading or read last?
Right now I’m reading book five of the Game of Thrones series. Two of my sons are reading it too, so it’s a way for us to connect.
Can you share something you are proud of or a success you have had at DIVERSEcity?
Just that I’ve been here for so long and I’ve touched the lives of so many individuals. I’ve had students directly come to me and shared with me the impact I’ve had on their lives and that they appreciated my support, help and encouragement.
What has been surprising for you over the course of your career?
When I initially started teaching I considered myself to be an introvert, so I found it difficult to be in a role at the front of the class with all the attention focused on me. Teaching has changed me as a person – I’m definitely an extrovert now. I’ve also recognized a shift in seeing a student as a whole person rather than as just a student. It makes you a better person.
Has your job affected your lifestyle? Has it changed your outlook on life?
You have more empathy for people when you recognize the level of struggles that there are. I have gained more of an appreciation for our position as Canadians and how much we really have as Canadians. A lot of that is due to luck and life circumstances.
If you could get the general public to understand something about refugees and immigrants, what would it be?
The majority of refugees that I’ve seen are here because they are fleeing dangerous situations. They do not necessarily want to leave their country. They all want to have full lives as contributing citizens: they want to work, to be part of society and to be accepted by societies. They’re not just here on a free ticket.
What is one of your pet peeves?
When people react to news with fear, protectionism, and in a reactive way without really trying to educate themselves on a political situation.
Do you have something interesting or quirky about yourself that you would like to share?
I have to have a banana with plain Greek yogurt every morning for breakfast.