PS - September 2013

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r e m a r k a b l e T EACH ER Canada AM's Marci Ien thanks her elementary school teacher for waking up her confidence. star by Kate Winn, OCT Photos: jaime hogge M arci Ien is trained to report the facts as a co-host on Canada AM, and when it comes to discussing her education — and the woman who helped determine the course of her career — she quickly gets candid. Ien was born in 1969 to Trinidadian parents who moved the family from North York to Scarborough the summer leading up to Grade 2. Like many, Ien faced the challenge of starting over at a new school, Silver Springs PS. "I was scared to death and didn't know anybody," recalls Ien. "I was beginning a new life in a new city and was shy, and out of my element." Her saving grace? Kathy Cuffe [née Kerr], OCT, a teacher who was not only new to the school but to the profession. Cuffe remembers this time well but doesn't feel that she handled it differently than any other teacher would have. "We just do it naturally — when a new student comes in, you make sure they're comfortable in their surroundings and their environment because it certainly can be difficult." "When I think of Mrs. Cuffe," says Ien, "I remember the feeling of being welcomed. That's the kind of teacher she was. I felt at home and that was so important for a seven-year-old who was moving into a new neighbourhood — not knowing anybody, trying to make friends, trying to find my own identity. She was fantastic." These fond memories are definitely mutual. "Marci always came to class happy," recalls Cuffe. "She had this great big grin on her face and her hair was always done in these cute little pigtails. She was such a sponge, one of those kids who kept you on your toes, what we'd call Level 4 now — that was Marci. It was great because as a teacher you had to be prepared for that." Ien happily confesses that she was a huge fan of school, and as it turned out, this was rather ideal considering her father worked in education. Joel Ien, OCT, wore several hats throughout his career: he was a French teacher, a principal and a superintendent with the former North York Board of Education; and if that wasn't impressive enough, he later became a professor at OISE/UT. "My dad made everything into a fun learning experience. At a restaurant, he would make us order things in French — he knew how to keep things interesting. Education is important to my family, it was always front and centre." Listening to classroom read-alouds, especially Clifford the Big Red Dog, is a vivid Grade 2 memory that Ien holds onto. She attributes her love of reading to Cuffe, who personally supplied many of the books at Silver Springs PS — the school was new and short on resources. September 2013 | Professionally Speaking 29

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