To Teach is to Nurture Passion 

By Vanessa Grillone, WorkStory Contributor

 A great teacher can nurture their students’  passions and help them reach their full potential.

 At least that is what Katrina DiFeo – Early Childhood Educator –  believes. Katrina works in the Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program with Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board. I’ve known Katrina for many years and know that she has the patience, passion, and determination to turn a kindergarten classroom into a place where children can learn and grow.

Katrina’s journey began at a young age. From babysitting and helping out in classrooms, she knew that she wanted to be an educator. In Grade 12, she tried out a co-op program at an elementary school close to home. This gave her a chance to be in the classroom and gain some amazing experience. After high school she enrolled in a two-year diploma program in Early Childhood Education at Seneca College. Katrina enjoyed all classes and loved learning about the ways a child absorbs information. She enjoyed coming up with teaching plans and spent much of spare time researching new ways to get children involved in their lessons. After getting her diploma she applied to the school board, hoping for a full-time position. Katrina admits that it “can be difficult to get a job with the school board but if you’re passionate, dedicated, and patient your time will come”.  Many people have to start with supply teaching before they find a full-time position. The supply teaching phase is an important one because it allows you to network, to engage with students and faculty members, and to prove yourself.

 When asked about a day-in-the-life of Ms DiFeo, Katrina said it’s busy but fun.

“In order to be successful I need to be 100% attentive to the students. Keeping an open ear allows me to document the children’s conversations and interactions, then develop invitations for learning based on their interests. An invitation for learning can be as simple as a blank piece of paper and pencil or as much as random, loose materials from the outdoors. We are sure to bring clipboards, pencils and the camera everywhere we go! I have to be prepared and on point every minute of the day in order to cover every area of inquiry the students may have. It’s important to help guide the children by offering conversations with open-ended questions to help take the learning to a whole new level”.

Katrina loves the spontaneity of her job. There is a lot of planning involved, but she also leaves a lot of things up to her students. This gives them a chance to discover their passions and learn what is required. She enjoys seeing eagerness and excitement in her students. Their enthusiasm when they see a centre of interest makes her feel rewarded. Her goal is to see her students grow socially, emotionally, and cognitively during the school year.

Katrina has worked in a classroom for three years and hopes to work at the board level and be an itinerant for the full day kindergarten program. She would like the opportunity to visit a number of different schools and full day early learning classrooms and assist in the presentation of the classroom layout and program development. She wants to be able to share her ideas and for the program based on what she’s learned through the experiences in her own classroom. 

For all of those future teachers out there, Katrina says, “Be prepared for a lot of planning and even taking some work home with you. Remember that patience goes a long way. It’s important to be loving, open, and kind to all of your students. Be a good role model, be the kind of person you hope your students will grow into. And don’t forget to have a little fun. Learning is fun.”


Employee Relations Officer


See Food, Differently

By Vanessa Grillone, WorkStory Contributor

Richard Hakim is a twenty-six year old Executive Sous Chef at One, a Mark McEwan restaurant in Yorkville. Impressive, right? Well, Richard was born with a spatula in his hand. With a passion for food, the patience to cook it right, and the creativity to see food differently, Richard has made a name for himself in the culinary world. 

Although he spent his youth watching cooking shows and helping his mother in the kitchen, Richard’s professional training began at Humber College. Richard enrolled in a Chef Training Certificate at Humber College right after high school. After completing that one-year certificate, he decided to take Culinary Management. This program would take one more year but Richard knew it would be beneficial to learn both sides of the industry. Richard enjoyed his time at Humber and chose it because he heard many good things about the program. The Humber Room, the college restaurant, was his favourite class. There he met his wife and got a feel for working in a restaurant. Butchery was another favourite class of his, breaking down whole proteins really intrigued him.

As part of the Humber Certificate, each student must complete a co-op at another restaurant. Richard worked at the Marriott Hotel downtown for two months. Even though he enjoyed his time there and worked with great people, he learned that the hotel industry was not the cooking route he wanted to follow. So, he applied to One and found himself in his element. In the kitchen there are six stations, pantry (cold foods), hot appetizers, veggies, pasta, sauce and grill. Twenty-year-old Richard started on pantry, worked hard and absorbed everything his chefs told him. By age twenty-three, after working his way up through the various stations, he was promoted to Jr. Sous Chef. His hard work and dedication to cooking continued and Richard was made an Executive Sous Chef last year.

For Richard, the best part of cooking is about making people happy, “It means the world to me when I send out a dish and get amazing feedback from the customers. It reassures me that I'm in the right career”. He also loves transforming ingredients into dishes that could potentially be on the menu. He loves to create delicious and aesthetically pleasing meals. “The worst part of being a chef”, he says “are the hours but in order to move up in the cooking industry you have to put in a lot of time”.

 For all aspiring chefs, Richard has some advice:

“Be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices – I’ve missed a lot of family functions and time away from the people I love most for my job. You have to be willing to work very hard and make a balance in your work life and home life. Most importantly, you need to have a passion for cooking in order to succeed.”


Return to campus is music to professor’s ear

By Paul Mayne, Western News.  

“When I was in fourth year, I lived in a house on Piccadilly Street; now I just moved into a place less than a block away,” said Hodgson, who started teaching (trumpet) at Western this fall. “I really have come full circle, working in the same building and living in the same neighbourhood. If you told me during my undergrad I would be teaching here, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s funny – and  great – how things happen.”

An accomplished solo, chamber and orchestral musician, Hodgson has been praised for his lyrical playing in his short career. He has been broadcast nationally as a soloist by CBC Radio’s The Signal, his orchestral performances include appearances with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and l’Orchestre de la Francophonie, and he can be heard on Naxos and Analekta records as principal trumpet for recordings of Bach’s Magnificat, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and Beethoven’s complete symphonies.

Growing up in Vancouver, Hodgson applied to university for music and engineering. Having come from a long line of engineers, he recalls the pressure to follow the family trait. But halfway through his final year of high school his mind was made up.

“I knew I had to do music. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” he said. “It wasn’t that I decided against engineering; I just loved music so much that there wasn’t anything else I’d be happy doing.”

Hodgson remembers vividly what brought him to Western.

“I had such a friendly experience on audition day. All these student volunteers showing you around, introducing you to the school and helping you relax, because it was a pretty stressful day,” he said. “An audition is a test, so you go to these schools and they are testing you. But you’re also trying out the school as a potential student and that was one of the things Western does, and still does, very well. That whole experience made up my mind for me.”

While at Western, his father would make regular calls quoting the average starting salaries of engineers. But the calls grew less frequent after Hodgson’s Western degree led to graduate studies at Yale University.

“Whatever disappointment they had, when I got into Yale, they calmed down, and then when I got a job everything was alright,” Hodgson said. “But honestly, my parents have always been very supportive throughout all my schooling.”

Hodgson spent three years at Yale, completing what he calls an odd, but beneficial program. In it, all coursework was completed in three years, before they push you out the door.

“They expect you to leave the school and build a career, and then you are invited back (after two to five years) for your final recital and oral exam,” he said. “It’s bad-tasting medicine, I suppose. They force you to have a career, which can be scary and difficult. But it is good since it makes the degree mean a lot more. Everyone who has completed that degree hasn’t just gone through school, but they’ve also established themselves as a professional, which is really valuable. Not all degrees are like that. They treat it like your dissertation is your body of work” 

Upon leaving Yale in 2008, Hodgson began teaching at Newfoundland’s Memorial University while building his professional portfolio. At Memorial, he founded the Reveille Trumpet Collective, a group dedicated to exploring new paths for trumpet while connecting performers, composers and audiences in innovative ways.  

“I came up with this project to keep in touch with close friends, collaborate with them. And it’s been very successful,” he said, with collaborators in Canada, the United States and Australia. “Usually, when you get a composer to write you a piece, it will be played once and sit in a drawer for 10 years. But in this sense, it’s very appealing to a composer to have their piece played many times. We are trying to take new pieces and, as performers, work with the composers and introduce their work to a wide audience.”

Hodgson returned to Connecticut last fall for his final recital and oral exam, completing his Doctor of Musical Arts at Yale. He began teaching at Western this past September. 

“It’s a unique opportunity,” said Hodgson, who called it a “thrill” to be teaching alongside fellow trumpet professors Shawn Spicer and Peter Audet, both of whom taught him as an undergrad. “When you’re a student, you spend half your time saying, ‘Well, if I were in charge, I’d do this and this.’ Well, now, I actually have a chance to do some of those things and try to help build a stronger environment.”

Posted with permission; Western News. 


I am a Writer

I am a Writer. Always have been and always will be, but I also dream of finding a career in publishing. I am currently working as a Publicity Intern at Random House of Canada and I LOVE it. I love tagging along on author excursions, I enjoy ordering and mailing out books, and I enjoy taking part in events. Thanks to this internship I’ve had a chance to see what different departments do and I finally know what department I want to pursue: Online Marketing. I love the idea of working and connecting with people on a daily basis. I love the idea of spending my days making online marketing plans for great books and getting a wonderful book noticed. It also helps that I’m quite in love with blogging, tweeting, and social media.   


But where am I now and how did I get “here” -- to a place on the brink of my future, on the path to getting my dream job. Well, I guess it started with getting a three-year B.A in English from York University. After which I wasn’t sure what to do. I was working at a local pizza place and was lucky enough to get full-time hours there in order to save a little money. While serving piping hot pizza, I also worked on my writing, and hunted tirelessly for a job. I quickly learned that an English degree and NO experience would NOT get me a job in publishing. I still applied for jobs and wasn’t surprised when I didn’t receive any callbacks. I then spoke with my parents and we decided it might be a good idea to go back to school and get my publishing certificate. I found Chang’s School of Continuing Education and applied to for their publishing program. In order to qualify, you must already have a B.A from a recognized University. The great thing about this program is that you can complete the courses online or in class and you have up to six years to complete it. 


Another great thing about the Chang School program is that as a student you receive emails of upcoming internships and positions available. Most of which are from the top publishing houses in Toronto. One thing I realized from these emails was that all of them required the applicant to be enrolled in a publishing certificate. YOU NEED A PUBLISHING DEGREE OR CERTIFICATE TO GET INTO PUBLISHING. I also realized that I (obviously) wasn’t the only person to receive these emails. Every single student in my program receives them and most apply for them: publishing is a very competitive industry. 


About a week after enrolling in my first class I got a call from a children’s educational book publishing company asking me to come in for an interview. After two separate hour-long interviews I was hired as an editor and put my schooling on the back-burner. I stayed on as editor for about nine months before realizing that editing wasn’t something I wanted to pursue. So back to the pizza place I went, and back to school as well. 


I applied to Random House a few times before I got a callback. I went for two interviews for their Winter internship and was heartbroken when I didn’t get it. BUT when it came time for them to conduct interviews for the Spring, I applied and (obviously) got the internship and I lived happily ever after....


Okay, so my story hasn’t ended. In fact, it’s just getting started but I have learned some amazing things during my internship that will (hopefully) help me land a job. Firstly, publishing is a very small industry, everybody knows everybody, so it’s important to get yourself out there, to get to know people, to attend events, and to work your butt off so that people remember you! Having a blog, a twitter account, and an online presence has really helped. Thanks to my blog I was contacted by one of the online marketing coordinators at Random House and asked if I wanted to review books for them! I truly believe that having that on my resume and already having a connection with someone on their team really helped get the internship there. 


Secondly, it’s up to you to ask questions. It’s up to you to show interest and to make the MOST of your 12 weeks! I’ve kept a little internship journal on my blog that you can check out if you’re interested in learning more about what a publicity internship at Random House is like:


You’ll notice that I’m nearly finished my internship and pretty soon I’ll get to start a new chapter in my life. Hopefully this chapter ends with the job of my dreams but even if it doesn’t I still have my writing. I still have my blog, and I can still contribute to other blogs, and that’s perfectly fine by me. 


Vanessa Grillone
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