Bob Cormier is GGP’s one of our most tenured teachers, and his path to get here is an interesting one. Bob worked as a meteorologist for 36 years before retiring from Environment Canada Weather in 2009. Like his upbringing in a Nova Scotia coal mining town, his career hadn’t exposed him to many immigrants. That was about to change in a surprising way.
An active, outgoing person, Bob didn’t stay retired for long, taking a part-time job at a grocery store. The store employed many immigrants from Eastern Europe and Bob started helping some of them build English skills. Finding he enjoyed it, Bob enrolled in the CERTESL program and met a classmate who volunteered at GGP. He became a GGP volunteer and eventually took a job teaching Literacy classes. That was in 2013, and Bob is still going strong today.
Building English skills and relationships
Bob has a lot of great memories from his years at GGP. While volunteering in an immigrant seniors class, Bob got a thrill out of clients bringing their friends to class. He says, “I thought if they’re bringing friends, they must see value.” As a teacher, he clearly remembers the first student that successfully moved up from Literacy (a level often for clients lacking literacy in their native language) to the regular CLB stream.
Sometimes Bob runs into former students in public and delights in seeing their progress. “We say hello and have a bit of conversation. I can see how much English they’ve learned and how much conversation they’re able to carry about their families or experiences. Feeling like I’ve contributed to that in some way is very rewarding.”
One aspect Bob enjoys about teaching Literacy classes is that he tends to have the same students for a long time. “It can take a long while for clients to establish a trusting relationship in their new country,” Bob says. “I feel that when I have students for as long as I do, I’m able to gradually establish that trusting relationship. Eventually you get to know a bit about their family, where they’re from, and how they feel about things.”
Over the years, Bob has also made great memories with fellow staff. He notes GGP’s special environment saying, “The end goal for all of us, no matter what type of work we do, is essentially helping refugees and immigrants make a better life for themselves. Anytime you feel you’re achieving that, it’s very rewarding. That’s what keeps me going.”
Learning is a two-way street
There’s no doubt Bob’s teaching has positively affected countless clients and their families, and Bob is quick to note how he has been affected, too. “Teaching English enabled me to see a side of life I didn’t think much about before—integrating into a foreign culture,” he says. “I’ve developed a real sense of empathy for people and the situations they were born into, as well as the situations in their new life.”
Working at GGP has exposed Bob to different people and cultures (and food!), which he thinks builds understanding that’s important in today’s world. “A lot of the problems we have in our country now between various groups of people are basically the result of people not talking to one another or knowing each other,” Bob explains. “When you actually get to meet people and experience some of their thoughts and their culture, that breaks down a lot of barriers. For me anyway. I feel that I’m a more enriched person since I’ve started doing this teaching business.”