Lisa Gervais: Sharing Expertise with the Academies | Aga Khan Academies

Lisa Gervais: Sharing Expertise with the Academies

Lisa on her first day training educators in a local schoolHyderabad, India is almost half a world away from Ontario, Canada, but Lisa Gervais was thrilled at the opportunity of moving to work at the Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad.

“I learned about the Aga Khan Academies in early 2013 following a visit from His Highness the Aga Khan to Canada, where the Canadian government pledged continuing support to His Highness’s work,” she says. “When a job opportunity came up to work at AKA, Hyderabad, I jumped at the chance as I am passionate about the Academies’ mission.”

Lisa is one of several Canadian Development Exchange (CADEX) professionals who are working at the Aga Khan Academies in India and Kenya.

CADEX is part of a joint initiative – known as the Partnership for Advancing Human Development in Africa and Asia – between the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. Within this partnership, the CADEX programme helps strengthen the capacity of AKFC’s partner institutions overseas – including the Aga Khan Academies – by drawing on the skills of Canadian professionals.

CADEX professionals are selected together with AKFC to provide specialised input into key areas of the Academies’ programme. Lisa, for example, has training and experience in teaching English as a second language.

In a training session with educators from surrounding schools

“From Ontario, Canada, I continued on the journey of lifelong learning when I embarked upon a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language (CERTESL) degree in 2010. While working full-time as a journalist, I put myself through part-time distance education at the University of Saskatchewan, from where I graduated as an honours student in 2013. I also had the great privilege of doing my practical experience at the Welcome Centre in Ajax, Ontario, helping adult immigrant newcomers to better settle in their adopted homeland of Canada.”

As one of two CADEX professionals currently at AKA, Hyderabad, Lisa wears two hats – one is as an English Support Teacher at the Junior School and the other is with the Academy’s professional development Outreach programme that provides training for educators in surrounding schools.

Lisa works with children in grades 2-6 in her English as an Additional Language (EAL) classroom and also visits government school teachers in Hyderabad as part of the Professional Learning for Educators Series.

Lisa is excited about both her areas of work at the Academy. “I am thrilled to be part of a team that is already shaping the future of India by producing its future leaders,” she says. “I am also passionate about the Outreach programme that is supporting teachers in government schools to not only improve their English language skills but their pedagogy as well. These teachers, and the students in their classrooms, inspire me every day.”

In addition to English language training, CADEX provides AKA with support for curriculum development, and additional people are being recruited to help with maths teacher training and student counselling.

The CADEX programme is making a significant impact on the Academies. Rupen Chande, Manager, External Relations and Outreach notes, “I believe that the array of mid-level professionals that we have attached to our Academies in Hyderabad and Mombasa through the CADEX programme have been invaluable in providing the kind of teacher capacity building that our growing Academies have required. The level of expertise they bring (whether in subject or technical capacity areas such as monitoring and evaluation or programme development) has enabled our national staff to develop long-lasting solutions to national and contextual challenges. Conversely, working within a school of excellence and in a developing world context has provided the Canadians with an enhanced professional experience.”

Lisa is already able to see the impact of her presence at the Academy – both on the school and on herself.

“The children tend to like the EAL classes because they get to work with a native English speaker who brings some new and different methods of learning to the classroom. The Outreach teachers are also gaining some valuable new English language tools and skills. And, beyond that, we are sharing each other’s cultures which has led to some fantastic experiences for all of us. I am learning as much as I am teaching, and you can’t ask for more than that!”


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