Grads breaking barriers for the betterment of education

Ajmeri Rahman and Hana Albqaeen are driven to make a difference in the lives of children, including their own.

The Brock University graduates, who each crossed the stage during Spring Convocation Monday, June 13, were fuelled to succeed by their experiences both as mothers and as immigrants, all in hopes of giving back as educators and advocates.

Born in Bangladesh, Ajmeri’s own education was unusual.

With her family moving every few years due to her father’s job with the United Nations, Ajmeri attended schools in Sudan, India and Nepal throughout her childhood.

She would later go on to complete an undergraduate degree and Master of Business Administration in the U.S., getting her career off the ground in the corporate world before making the move to Canada and deciding to become a stay-at-home mom.

Once her children began school, Ajmeri noticed gaps in advocacy for families with unique needs, such as immigrants from minority communities. Her son’s autism spectrum disorder diagnosis also made her more aware of the challenges facing children with exceptionalities.

Ajmeri decided to pursue a Bachelor of Education at Brock in order to better advocate for families like hers, who may have less of a voice due to their backgrounds or circumstances.

Having now completed Brock’s Consecutive Teacher Education program, she plans to work as a classroom teacher so she can better understand the needs of students, educators and families.

“As an immigrant, I felt like I had to educate myself because I didn’t know a lot about the education system,” she said. “If I want to be a spokesperson for my daughter and my son, I need to know the system.”

In addition to juggling an intense academic schedule, Ajmeri was supporting her children with online learning at home during the pandemic, helping to care for an elderly parent and managing her own chronic illness. While she doubted herself at times, she persevered with the support of her family and mentors in her program at Brock.

Perseverance has also been a hallmark of Albqaeen’s path to graduation. She moved to Canada from Jordan with her family in 2006 to provide more opportunities for her children.

“My husband and I faced different challenges and discrimination in Canada, so it was a tough journey,” she said.

Despite being recognized skilled professionals in their home country, Albqaeen and her husband had to start over in their careers upon their arrival in Canada.

Albqaeen worked as a science teacher in Jordan for almost 12 years and hoped to continue her work in the classroom following the move.

With a passion for teaching and advocating for children, she completed an early childhood education (ECE) program at Mohawk College and worked as an early childhood resource teacher with immigrant and refugee children for more than a decade.

When her workplace closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Albqaeen saw an opportunity to accomplish her longtime dream of going back to school.

“I decided to go further with my education and support other educators in this field to help children grow healthy and develop their skills in inclusive environments,” said Albqaeen, who graduated from Brock’s Bachelor of Early Childhood Education (BECE) program.

Her personal and professional experiences have sparked an interest in nurturing inclusive learning environments. She believes equity in the classroom benefits all children and families, regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances, especially in a multicultural country like Canada.

Albqaeen plans to eventually complete a doctoral degree in hopes of making a positive impact in the ECE field as a post-secondary instructor and researcher.

“I’m so blessed to be a student at Brock,” she said, adding she feels like she has more of a voice thanks to the support and acceptance she experienced at the University. “Brock has a very diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment that makes me feel visible and confident.”

Like Ajmeri, Albqaeen had to balance her academic and family responsibilities. She said she was able to cope with the help of her family and Brock staff and instructors, and expressed particular gratitude toward Sandra Della Porta, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education.

Both Ajmeri and Albqaeen will be returning to Brock in the fall to complete the Master of Education program. They plan to explore ways relationships between educators and students can enrich the learning environment or impact children’s development.

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