Connecting the dots: my first foray into teaching
No saying can be any more true than, “Life happens when you’re busy making other plans.” That is how I became a professor at Seneca College.
My entire life, I’ve been surrounded by strong academic presence—only I hadn’t quite realized this until recently. But when a surprise opportunity to teach presented itself and it felt all too familiar, it hit me that a large part of my family’s background is in academia. My mother was a professor in Ukraine. Her parents were a principal and elementary school teacher. My dad’s parents taught chemistry and mathematics in college. My aunt is a professor. And my cousin is a developmental councillor in school. I was essentially conditioned to be a part of something, without even being aware of it.
Most of my childhood memories revolve around this world too, specifically books and term papers. I remember my grandparents grading at night. But most of all, I remember my mother preparing for her classes after our nightly family dinners. She was in her mid 20s when she was juggling being a full-time professor and a mom. I don’t know how she managed it! She did it all, which, at times, resulted in me sitting in her lectures when I was 5. I remember her students being friends with me. I also remember visiting my grandparents in school too many times to count. I remember my aunt defending her thesis on Ukraine’s Banking System. I remember going to the library with my cousin while she prepared for her exams and I did my grade 3 homework; I felt so grown up doing so.
My favourite hobby growing up in Ukraine was helping our school librarian. I could spend hours with her, cataloguing and chatting about what we’d read. Our book interests slightly differed—as may be expected considering she was a lady in her 50s and I was a grade 5 kid—but nonetheless, the conversation is what I loved. She introduced me to international authors and I helped her with cataloguing the arrivals. I loved being surrounded by books.
Now having an opportunity to stand in my family’s shoes feels like coming full circle. I wish my grandparents and aunt were alive for me to share this with. Growing up, I always joked that I would never teach. Ironic, I know. But despite all the things I’ve accomplished, and all the things I feel grateful for in my career, telling my mother that I was offered this role was one of my most cherished moments. To see the pride in both of my parents’ eyes... You see, my parents were not thrilled with me quitting my fine art job to start a business. .
Teaching now fulfills every aspect of what I had hoped to pursue, by allowing me to give back to an industry that has given me a career beyond my wildest dreams.To continue learning while sharing my experiences with the next generation is a privilege beyond words. As for the next step later in life, perhaps it will be academic research. In the meantime, I’m adjusting to this new routine, establishing a new rhythm, which has been both challenging and exciting!