Tuesday, March 31, 2015

CIES EST Graduation Speech

Last week winter term ended at CIES and with it came our latest EST@CIES graduating class. Certificates were handed out, speeches were made and a celebration lunch was held with students and teachers in attendance. Of the day's events, one speech in particular, from recent immigrant Dorcas Awoyemi, stood out. It serves as a reminder of just what kind of difference we can make with those who come to us for assistance during a time in their lives filled with the many difficulties that come with cultural transition. Watch her uplifting speech below.

Friday, March 27, 2015

CIES Field Trip - Oh, Canada! Art Exhibition

On Thursday, March 26, 2015, three part-time SE LINC classes visited the Oh, Canada art exhibition at two different galleries: Illingworth Kerr Gallery and Nickle Galleries. Oh, Canada, curated by Denise Markonish from MASS MoCA, is at present the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside this country. This exhibition runs from January 31 to April 26, 2015. Since we are nearing the end of the Winter 2015 semester and our students have recently completed their benchmark tests, I thought it would be a good idea for my students to unwind by having a feast for their senses while picking up some Canadian culture and history at the galleries.

My first field trip that day was with my CLB 4-6 PT pm SE class, and we went to the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at Alberta College of Art + Design (ACAD). The works of art there which stood out included Ruth Cuthand's Trading series. At first glance, I was attracted to the beautiful bead designs, but I was slightly repulsed when I realized that I was actually looking at images of microscopic viruses! Cuthand's work stems from her intent to portray colonization visually, wherein glass beads from Aboriginal people were traded for epidemics of disease from European traders. The work which was the biggest hit with my students and their kids, however, was Widow, Janice Wright Cheney's imposing rose-covered bear. Although this friendly-looking bear may inspire romantic sentiments, it is meant to represent loss, grief, and survival.

In the evening, both my CLB 4 PT eve SE and Erin Brann's CLB 5 PT eve SE classes visited the Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary. Although there were not many works on display there, the ones offered were mostly very large and involved the creative use of video. One of my favourites was Garry Neill Kennedy's Spotted, an arrangement of photographs of airplanes. This work may appear mundane, but it contains indirect yet powerful political commentary. Spotted captures shots of planes used in the CIA's rendition program, wherein suspected terrorists are transferred to US controlled sites for torture by proxy. Most popular with the students, however, was David Hoffos's Scenes from the House Dream, which uses a combination of scale dioramas and pre-recorded videos. Both the students and their teachers found this work of art confusing and creepy yet strangely enjoyable! Unfortunately, the one child who came with us was too spooked and declined to enter the dark room housing this work!

In terms of pedagogical application, I can understand why many ESL teachers may cringe at the idea of incorporating modern art into their language lessons. I myself do not pretend to be an art expert. Another concern teachers may have is their immigrant students are likely to have little interest and would balk at learning about art. Such concerns are definitely valid. Earlier in the week, Erin and I discussed some of our students' poor response, and we started to second-guess our choice of this week's theme. However, when our students explored the galleries, it became clear that they began to see contemporary art in a much more positive light. Therefore, I firmly believe that a field trip to an art gallery is essential to a unit on art. For some ideas on activities you could use with students in conjunction with such a field trip, click here.

New Era, New Logo? Part II

First off, thanks to all those who offered feedback on the logos so far introduced. Some organizations take months and put forth dozens of designs before settling on a logo and its always feedback that drives new versions, alterations and inclusions, and thus arriving at a brand best suited to a new era.

Taken from our last round of feedback, several felt it was best to include the full name of the society in the logo. It has been our thought, that wherever the logo appears (reports, proposals, our blog and websites etc.) the full name of the organization will appear right next to it and therefore perhaps not entirely necessary in the logo itself. That being said, taking your thoughts into account, the full name has been placed below the CIES logo in a secondary, rather than a primary capacity. In designing this latest potential logo, I also took into account the great suggestion that we essentially have a single design that can work for both our SE and NE locations,

Consensus is as we are a settlement agency a maple leaf / flag should be included, as it represents a visual cue newcomers will automatically be drawn towards. Red and white, although not settled upon as colours, is what I will base logo designs on as an extension of Canada, our flag and a carry over from our initial logo. As before, please do offer your feedback, as what you see below was based on your suggestions.

Sing Out Loud @ CIES

It's great to use songs in the class, if only to do something a little different. But beyond using them solely to give your students some 'light relief', there are many other ways songs can be used in ESL classrooms to consolidate what students have already learnt.

CLB 3 LINC instructor Rob Macinnis from our NE location in Whitehorn submitted a list of songs he likes to use as teaching tools in his classroom and asked me to share them all. Simply click the song titles below to hear the songs. Further still, if anyone would like to add a song or even a category of songs to this post, simply send it on over and I will make the addition. Happy singing! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A New Era, A New Logo?

With many significant changes coming over the last few months, new initiatives, new ideas, new projects and new leadership have opened the doors to a new and exciting era at the Calgary Immigrant Educational Society. At yesterday's CIES Board of Director's meeting, the idea of a possibly considering a new logo was discussed. As of right now this may or may not happen, but the green light has been given to come up with a few possibilities. The thought here is to share and get feedback from all concerned, so below is one such possibility. Let us know what you think!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


The CIES Employment Skills Training Program has been running since 2009. Six Years, 24 intakes and more than 600 students later and EST@CIES is still going strong. One of the reasons we are able to provide the top notch services that come with our programs is the relationships CIES has built and continues to build with the Calgary Community. One such example is Sarah Hernandez-Silva, Senior HR advisor for Tervita, one of North America's largest environmental service companies.

Sarah has been donating her time to CIES as a quest speaker, once a term with our EST classes for more than 2 years. She spends up to three hours with our EST students, lecturing on job readiness and expectations from a Calgary employer's perspective. Another vital part of her time with our clients is the end-of-term mock interview sessions, where Sarah takes the time to interview each and every student individually and provides immediate feedback on their performance.

Sarah immigrated to Canada with her family from El Salvador at just five years old and recalls the services Canada provided to her mother upon arrival. The help her mother received has now come full circle, as Sarah now provides newcomers to Canada with guidance and coaching on how to best adapt to the Canadian workplace.  It is people like Sarah that make CIES possible. We salute her long term service and Tervita for providing us with her expert knowledge. See you next term Sarah!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Nowruz from CIES

With nearly 100,000 Iranian born residents and more than 160,000 residents of Iranian descent living in Canada, well over a quarter of million people began celebrating the New Year on March 20th, 2015. The exact moment of the new year is called Tahvil. Nowruz lasts 12 days in Iran.

The Persian New Year marks the first day of spring and also is the Baha'i New Year, but the holiday is celebrated by Iranians of all religions. The celebration's origins can be traced back to the Zoroastrian tradition. The word Nowruz is a compound word, combining "now" which means "new," and "roz" which means "day."As the holiday coincides with the vernal equinox, its date changes every year.

The Persian Golf Club held a big celebration to mark the onset of the New Year at the University of Calgary's MacEwan Hall and posted an album on their Facebook page. The University of Calgary is also currently hosting the Iranian Photo Exhibit "Burnt Generation" at the Founders Gallery through April 12th. The exhibit's title refers to the generation that grew up with Iran's 1979 Revolution and through the Iran-Iraq war's end in 1988. The Canadian Art Foundation listed the exhibit at number four in the 15 Photos exhibits not to miss this year. For a more detailed look of this time in Iranian history, the academy award winning animated film Persepolis (trailer below) is also worth checking out.

All of us at CIES send you best wishes in the New Year!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

CIES Field Trip - Fort Calgary

Last Friday LINC students from our NE Whitehorn location took a field trip to the historic Fort Calgary. The construction of the fort was initiated all the way back in 1875. The government ordered the fort built in order to force out whiskey traders from the area. Commanded by Éphrem A. Brisebois, soldiers travelled north from Fort Macleod to find a spot on the Bow for the fort. On arrival at the location one Corporal George Clift King was the first soldier to set foot on the location, which is why he is sometimes cited as Calgary's first citizen. Construction began soon thereafter and the fort was completed in time to host Christmas dinner for the local residents,

Fort Calgary’s website offers the following words:

"In the fall of 1875 the North West Mounted Police built a small wooden fort at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, and laid the foundation for the city that became Calgary. They came to bring law and order to the west, to stamp out the whiskey trade,and to befriend the First Nations peoples in preparation for the treaties that would open the land for settlement. The hopes, dreams and values of that time are still evident in the city we enjoy today. 

Fort Calgary is located just east of downtown Calgary on a 40-acre site. Open year-round, the Fort offers Calgarians and their guests fun, interactive exhibits, tours and school programs. The 1888 Barracks and Interpretive Centre are available for private rentals, including weddings, meetings, banquets and Christmas parties. Fort Calgary is owned by The City of Calgary and is operated by the Fort Calgary Preservation Society.”

CIES strives to bring its clients in touch with local culture upon arriving in Canada and Fort Calgary is a wonderful example of fostering an awareness of the culture and history of our great city.   

CIES Field Trip - The Core Shopping Centre and The Calgary Civic Complex

On the morning of Wednesday, March 4, 2015, our CLB 3 FT class went on a field trip downtown to visit the Core Shopping Centre. Prior to this trip, we had been considering the theme of consumerism and had completed some real world tasks based on shopping and completing store returns. (These tasks had emerged from a student needs assessment that was conducted at the beginning of the semester). We had also previously learned how to navigate a shopping mall directory. Accordingly, students went on the Core Shopping Centre’s website, chose three stores that they would be interested in actually visiting, and plotted these stores, (approximately), on a handout with a multilevel map of the centre. On this same handout, (see attached document), the students were given a series of questions that we had practised in class, and were encouraged to use these questions, as well as those they came up with, at the Core. Some post field trip comments from Ashraf, a student in the class that is from Libya, can be viewed in the corresponding video. 

Overall the students really enjoyed the field trip. I have to admit that this was somewhat of a surprise for me. Mamadou, a Guinea student, described the centre as “paradise” as he considered the cleanliness and the consistent supply of electricity that was powering the lights. This was obviously a stark contrast to what he had come to know in his home country. Beyond that, it seemed the students enjoyed using some of the tools from the classroom in a real life context.

After lunch in the Devonian Gardens on that same day, we were also privileged to take in a tour of the Calgary Civic Complex. Our gracious and patient tour guide showed us around the interior of the complex, and explained the significance of various murals, paintings, artefacts and structures both inside and outside the building. As well, we got to sit in the gallery of council chambers, (on a day when council was not in session), and learn about what happens during council meetings and the basics of how the municipal government functions. You can download the accompanying activity to the trip by clicking here. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

LINC Home Study @ CIES

Many of you may know Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) is an English Language training program funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. That said, the Centre for Education & Training’s LINC Home Study program takes things a step further by providing free distance education for eligible newcomers to Canada who cannot attend LINC classes in person. 

What you may not know is that CIES is the only provider of LINC Home study within the municipality of Calgary, once again making the Calgary Immigrant Educational Society a leader in Immigrant Services in our city. 

CIES partners with the Conference Board of Canada

CIES is pleased to be partnering with The Conference Board of Canada for their upcoming event, Canadian Immigration Summit 2015: Towards a National Immigration Action Plan on April 13-14, 2015 at the Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa.

Canadian Immigration Summit 2015 is bringing together major stakeholders from across Canada’s immigration system—to explore ways to modernize and enhance our immigration policies and programs, and contribute to the development of a National Immigration Action Plan for Canada. See the conference agenda of list of speakers here.

Delegate Consultations on a National Immigration Action Plan – Represent Your Organization! Summit participants will be invited to share their views and insights, and take part in interactive discussions and consultation sessions to identify challenges and innovative solutions. Insights will be captured by rapporteurs, and used in the development of a National Immigration Action Plan for Canada. 

As a contact of ours, please use the code PRM27 when registering for the conference to save $300!

Friday, March 13, 2015

CIES on Twitter

In our continuing effort to expand our social media reach, CIES can be found on Twitter. Follow us at #YYCCIES, tag us in your own posts and share with your students. 

The best way to get the most out of Twitter is to use it. It is an amazing resource for ideas on education and teaching, and here you can find a great guide for educational hashtags to follow to point you in the right direction. As an example here what we found when you search #ESL or another like #TESOL. Follow people you find interesting, exchange ideas and conversations with others using the #hashtag, conversations you can choose to become involved in. And if you find interesting things on Twitter, such as lesson plans idea or classroom activities, share them.

Just like going to the gym once every two weeks isn't going to keep you in top shape, participating in Twitter #hashtag chats and interacting only occasionally isn't going to establish a Twitter community for yourself.  You don’t have to be am obsessed Tweeter by any means to stay regularly involved – but it is important to check in regularly to get the most you can our of what is a great tool.
CLICK HERE to take you to our Twitter Page and lastly if there is anyone who would like to post on behalf of CIES feel free to get a hold me...

More social media to come...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

CIES on Facebook

The Calgary Immigrant Educational Society's Facebook page is now active and ready for teachers, clients, staff, and anyone else who pops by, to enjoy and share with others.

Like us and feel free to post directly to our wall. We encourage everyone who comes across our page, and who would like to contribute, to send us your thoughts and ideas. Lastly, if you have photos you would like us to share, send them to davidhohol@immigrant-education.ca and we would be glad to post them on your behalf. 

CLICK HERE to see our Page

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

CIES Fashion Show Fundraiser

Vespucci Lady's Consignment along with Miss Monika Horvat, finalist in the 2015 Miss Universe Canada pageant, are co-hosting a special fundraising event on April 7, 2015 in honour of the Calgary Immigrant Educational Society. Proceeds will go towards further advancing the CIES mission - to provide Calgary immigrants and economically challenged individuals with a solid foothold in Canada and to afford them the opportunities to grow into productive and confident Canadians.

Prior to the fashion show itself, an open casting call for models among our own CIES students will be held at our Northeast Welcome Centre location on Friday, March 20, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. If you have any questions contact Kate at

Monday, March 9, 2015

CIES Attends Spirit of the NE Career Fair

We'd like to thank everyone who took the time to come down to the Spirit of the Northeast Career & Resource Fair this past Saturday, March 7th, 2015,

From 1:00pm to 4:00pm our staff were on hand to answer questions and guidance regarding our LINC / English programming, computer skills for employment, and Employment Skills Training. Also attending was Monika Horvat, finalist in the Miss Universe Canada pageant who is representing CIES as her named charity. 

It was a pleasure to meet with our fellow members of the community and we look forward to seeing you out and about soon!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

C.I.E.S. Helps Celebrate Chin National Day

On February 21, I had the great pleasure to attend Chin National Day. My Burmese student delightfully invited our class to attend the first celebration of Chin National Day in Calgary. About 15 students from Burma, study in the LINC program at the Welcome Centre, almost all of who participated in some form of dance and song at the festival. Chin is one of 153 sub ethnic groups in Burma, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, commonly shortened to Myanmar. The Chin people make up a new wave of immigrants who only started settling in Calgary about 6 years ago.

Before my interaction with the Burmese culture, I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Myanmar, since the majority of our students are recent immigrants to Canada. However, this past semester I have learned a great deal about this dynamic culture from a very special student of mine, a 22-year-old university graduate, who lives in Calgary with her husband and 2-year-old son as well as her extended family. Recently, she surprised me with a wedding gift- a beautiful Burmese traditional dress. After I tried it on for her, she immediately told me I have to wear it to Chin National Day.

For the past two weeks our class has been exhibiting PowerPoint presentations on their countries of origin. Ca Sung decided to do her presentation on Friday February 20, the day before the festival and the national day of the Chin people. (click here to download her presentation) This was a great idea because it informed the students about Myanmar particularly about the Chin people.  We didn’t know much about Myanmar so everyone seemed very engaged in the presentation, especially when she showed us the map of Myanmar illustrating 153 different sub ethnic groups and languages! Unfortunately, this wonderful ethnic and religious diversity has been controlled by a military dictatorship for more than 50 years. The country has been immersed in ethnic strife and numerous ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world’s longest-running ongoing civil wars. The Burmese ethnic group is the most dominant group that is in conflict with all the other groups, such as the Chin group. Most of our students are Chin, consequently the ethnic strife between the two groups caused the Chin to emigrate to Canada.  

After the wonderful presentation, I was excited to attend the festival the next day. I arrived on Saturday afternoon to the Marlborough Association Hall and was greeted with warm and friendly smiles. Everyone looked so beautiful, people dressed in diverse traditional clothing, ready to perform. The performances included energetic bamboo dances, songs, etc. Some of our talented students played the drums, sang traditional and modern Burmese music, and others performed traditional folk dances. The evening ended with a modern rock concert that everyone participated in.

At some point, Calgary Mayor Neheed Nenshi, a.k.a. the world’s best mayor, showed his support by saying a few kind words about diversity and the vibrant Burmese culture growing in Calgary.

The C.I.E.S. Chronicle - First Edition

The month of March marks the launch of the inaugural CIES Chronicle. The Chronicle will be published monthly and will serve as a window into what we as an organization are involved with for staff, instructors, clients, potential clients and stakeholders. In the end, our newsletter, like our blog, is a representational tool, as we hope to spread word about our existence, and let people know the many great services we provide for the immigrant and newcomer populace of Calgary. This month includes a message from our Executive Director Dr. Sally Zhao, our manager of Drop in Classes and Volunteers Melissa McKinnon, our volunteer of the month Abbie Bartel and much more. Please send us your ideas and suggestions for features and stories, as we would love to hear from you and enjoy our first edition of the Chronicle.

CLICK HERE to download.