This week, I met with an accomplished resident at St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux Centre who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Toronto District School Board.
Vinasithamby Nadarajah, known as Mrs. Nada by her students and friends dedicated her life to teaching and facilitating socio cultural issues among youth. Retired now, Mrs. Nada shares the journey she has walked and the milestones she achieved along the way.
Mrs. Nada obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography while living in Sri Lanka through a distance learning program in London, England. She decided to go into teaching and ended up spending 26 years in Sri Lanka doing just that. However, as the violent war approached Sri Lanka, Mrs. Nada and her family knew that in order to survive they could no longer build a home there; so they fled to Canada.
“I believe when you come to a new country, you need to uphold the values of that country and become an integral part of it. We were immigrants; we had to make something out of our lives” Mrs. Nada tells me.
As she started reconstructing her life in Canada, Mrs. Nada knew she wanted to teach and play a role in the education system. She eventually obtained an ESL Specialist Master’s degree from the University of Toronto, as well as additional qualifications. Later, she earned her certification in Guidance Counselling. Mrs. Nada went on to become a Multicultural Consultant for the TDSB and acted as a mediator between children and adults, in facilitating cultural shifts many Tamil immigrants were facing.
In 1989 Mrs. Nada was hired by the TDSB to teach Geography and ESL English. Sitting in her small but comfortable apartment, she pulls out a trifold brochure from her bookshelf.
“I didn’t have a car, everything was new," she tells me, unfolding a large map of all the schools in the district. “I’d pull out my map, figure out the bus route, write it down on a piece of paper and find where I needed to be”. I could tell how much her passion for teaching fueled her through her determination.
In the peak of her career, Mrs. Nada wrote her thesis, “Comparing Tamil Grammar with English Grammar” with her colleagues. Having extensive experience and knowledge of education and immigration, Mrs. Nada had the opportunity to lecture at the University of Toronto on socio cultural issues. She focused on emigrating from Sri Lanka to the west.
On January 28, 2016 Mrs. Nada was recognized for her accomplishments and achievements and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award by TDSB Trustee, Parthi Kandavel at Wobourn Collegiate Institute. Mrs. Nada dedicated years to the classroom because of her love for teaching and the need she saw in her community.
“I moved to St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux Centre 5 years ago and spend my time attending fitness classes, volunteering and enjoying the social aspect the Centre provides.”
On Mrs. Nada’s wall hangs a portrait of her late husband with a garland draped over to remember and honour him in the Sri Lankan culture. She fixes her glance on the photo before continuing.
“I keep myself busy, I have to. It keeps me going. I teach English 2 days a week at Sathya Sai Private School,; I've been a columnist for a popular Sri Lankan magazine (Tamils Information) for the past 25 years with a readership of 6000 people,” She graciously smiles .“I do yoga at the Centre- I go downstairs to our Centre Shop to read about current events and talk to my friends. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel happy.”
At 76 years old, Mrs. Nada has broken barriers by creating opportunities to educate youth and uses her voice to influence change. She continues to address issues there is a strong need for and authored, “Problems faced by Sri Lankan Students in Toronto Schools”.
She smiles humbly, the buzz of her inspired grandchildren whispering in the background while their grandmother speaks of her life.
“I have done a lot, and it’s nice that I can sit back now and reflect in quiet. However, if you asked me what my greatest achievement is, I’d tell you raising my kids and seeing their accomplishments. At the end of the day, I am proud of my work and what I’ve done, but nothing can replace the family I built".