Meet Our Instructor: Winter ’17

Amie Pilgrim amie

What is your professional/educational background?

I completed my degree in Second Language Teaching and Psychology at the University of Ottawa in 2006. I then spent three years teaching English in Okinawa, Japan. I have since completed my Education degree in Primary, Junior and Intermediate.

What compelled you to become an ESL teacher?

I always knew I wanted to teach English, but it was an instant match when I discovered the program at Ottawa U. I loved the opportunities to meet people from around the world and give them an enriching and mutually beneficial educational experience.

How long have you been teaching at QSoE? Where did you teach prior to QSoE?

I have only been at the QSoE since the summer of 2016 when I started with the QBridge Program! Prior to that I was on maternity leave from the Limestone District School Board.

What do you love about teaching, or QSoE?

As a lifelong learner, I find that my work at the School of English allows me many opportunities to grow not only as a teacher, but as a global citizen. I believe that teaching goes beyond the classroom and that my students take the lessons and the experiences, and they too grow… You never truly know how far your reach is with teaching at the School of English.

What is your favourite aspect of your job?

Meeting and working with so many people from all over the world. Students, staff … other teachers… they all bring so much passion and creativity to QSoE. Every session is a new and exciting adventure, as well as an opportunity to connect with others and bring out the best in myself.

What do you like to do in your free time? amie 3

Nowadays, I spend a lot of time with my family; my son, Coulson, is a year and half now. My husband and I play softball every summer, and I am an avid photographer in my free time! We also try to make a point of getting out in nature a few times each season for a hike.

Which countries have you visited? What do you enjoy about being in other countries (could give a specific example from one country visited)?

I loved my time in Japan. I have so many friends that I have kept in touch with from the three years spent there. I loved experiencing the culture through karate classes, cooking school, travel, food and various Okinawan art experiences including pottery.

I have also travelled to South Korea, UAE, Qatar, France, England, and Switzerland.

amie 2Name a country you would love to visit – why do you want to visit this place?

My husband and I are really hoping to make it to Costa Rica some day! We love hiking and being in nature. I am also planning to take my family to Japan in 2020 for the Olympics and to show off where I lived in Okinawa years ago!

What are 1 or 2 things you love/find unique/admire about Canada?

I love the nature and picturesque landscapes. We often go hiking at Frontenac Park, Lemoines Point and various trails around town.

What is one thing you think is really cool about Kingston?

I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the Frontenac County Schools Museum up in Barriefield! I was a summer student there for a couple years, and now I volunteer as their social media and newsletter person. Truly a little gem when it comes to cultural heritage in and around Kingston.

Student Learning Extends Beyond English Language at QSoE

by Rachel O’Dell

Just before winter break, QSoE ended the Fall 2016 EAP session with graduation — the first one I had ever attended. It was very powerful because it gave those of us who are not in the classroom everyday a glimpse of the passion and care that the talented QSoE instructors put into their work, and of the friendships formed within classrooms.

A couple of the QSoE instructors have been teaching here for more than 15 years, but with the level of enthusiasm and appreciation conveyed in their speeches, you would think that they were fresh out of teachers’ college. As an audience member listening to their congratulations to students on their achievements, I felt like joining their classes, or maybe re-visiting teaching as a career; they are clearly deeply rewarded and continuously inspired by teaching English to students from diverse cultures.

The class valedictorian, Bander Alsekhan, summed up the QSoE experience well in his speech:

“I started this program expecting to improve my English, but I ended up with much more. I got to meet so many people from different backgrounds, and that changed me as a person. I thought I would have teachers, but I got mentors. I started out with classmates and ended up with great friends.”

Although it was a large group graduating, it was never tiring to listen as each student’s name was called. It was quite heartwarming to hear classmates cheering and whistling for each student, and to see all of the smiles, hugs, and a few tears (some students were returning to their home countries that day).

Students come to QSoE to learn English as part of their education or career goals; they want to be able to connect with people of the world as global citizens, and English is the language that opens them to a broader world. As Bander mentioned, towards the end of the sessions, many students find themselves reflecting on how the QSoE experience has helped them to grow and learn beyond just becoming more proficient in the English language.

Leaving your known world in your home country to come to a new place, with new people and a new language is definitely exciting, but also a bit scary and uncomfortable for most people. When you land at QSoE in your small class with caring instructors and staff, you will find yourself among others who are in the same situation, and this gives you re-assurance.


During class, at their homestays, and during socio-cultural activities, students learn to use English to listen and to share their perspectives with others (often from other cultures). As they learn about and experience Canadian culture, students become more aware of themselves, and of their own culture. They begin to think more about and how they interact with others. This is the part of the learning that happens at QSoE that surprises many students –- they leave here with honed capacities, not only with the English language, but also with their confidence in connecting with others.

Here are some highlights of the Fall 2016 EAP Program:

Two of the classes focused part of their learning projects on service to the Kingston community. Read our post about how Amie Pilgrim’s Class 140 supported the Kingston Youth Shelter.

Another class –Rasha Farim’s Class 150 — raised $512 for Immigrant Services Kingston and Area’s (ISKA)  Newcomer Youth Program! Christian Medina, from ISKA, delivered an acceptance speech at the QSoE fall 2016 graduation. He also put out a call for volunteers to help participants in the ISKA Multi-cultural Youth Group to learn about Canadian culture and the opportunities available to them in the Kingston area.

Other highlights of the Fall 2016 EAP Program included a delicious multi-cultural potluck dinner, the QSoE Variety Night, and the Class Competition. Thanks for the smiles, everyone!



QSoE Students Get Involved with Local Charity

An Idea for Giving Grows

Each session, QSoE organizes a candy grams event to raise funds for a local charity. Students, instructors and staff can purchase a candy gram – piece of candy with a personalized note attached — to have delivered to others within QSoE. It is quite popular, and makes everyone feel good. The class which sells the most candy grams gets to designate the charity that will receive the money raised by all classes.

For Amie Pilgrim’s 140 class, one of the homework assignments was for each student to research a charity and present to the class what this charity does and who it serves. Students presented on a variety of charities, some of which raised money in other locations for both people and animals. The class then voted on which charity they would support if they had the opportunity (if they raised the most money via candy grams).

kysThe class collectively decided that, if given the opportunity, they would like to support Kingston Youth Shelter. Several members of the class explained that as a class, they felt that they could best support this charity because they could easily relate to who it serves (youth of similar ages to themselves), and they liked the idea of keeping the money raised within the local community.

When Amie’s class did not get to designate the charity which would receive the candy gram money (Rasha’s class 150 sold the most candy grams), she didn’t want to just suddenly abandon the momentum that had been built up through the presentations and discussions about different charities. She decided to ask the class if they would like to continue their discussions and work on a project involving helping Kingston Youth Shelter. They decided that this was something they would like to do, and began brainstorming how they could help.

Helping Kingston Youth Shelter

The class decided to host a café in early November as one part of their project. They worked together to create posters and advertisements, coordinated supplies, and managed sales as they served hot beverages and treats to student and staff in the Duncan McArthur Hall. They managed to raise $225 to donate to Kingston Youth Shelter!cafe

In addition to the café, the class organized a donation collection area in QSoE for winter clothing items and school supplies for the youth in the shelter. They were surprised to receive so many winter clothing items – numerous bags full – and will continue the collection until November 30, 2016.

Real Projects for Real Learning

In addition to working together to plan and coordinate the café and clothing/supplies donation drive, Amie’s class gained a deeper perspective into the history and operations of Kingston Youth Shelter via a class trip and tour of the shelter, and through a discussion held in their classroom with Executive Director of the Shelter, Jason Beaubiah.

The class prepared a list of questions for discussion with Jason, and learned that the shelter provides several different services to Kingston youth: emergency overnight shelter, transition shelter for up to a year, and family communications support services. It was interesting to learn that Kingston Youth Shelter began with volunteers 16 years ago, with the intention of operating for only 6 months. Also, unique to Kingston is this statistic: Of the youth using Canadian shelters, 50% are males; however, in the Kingston Youth Shelter, 70% of the youth using the shelter are male.bunks

Amie’s class also learned that making real, meaningful projects happen as a group is loads of fun. They said that they’ve gained valuable planning skills through coordinating these events, and have learned a lot about delegating tasks. Students agreed that working as a group brought them awareness regarding their own strengths and areas for improvement, and helped them to appreciate other peoples’ creativity. For some students from developing nations, discovering that even ‘rich countries’ such as Canada have issues around housing was surprising, but also strangely comforting and unifying.

Student Spotlight Fall’16

Friendships Found at QSoE


Jose Izquierdo & Ryosuke Nunomura

Q: Where are you from? It is urban or rural?

Jose: La Paz, Baja, Mexico. It’s a city on the beach, a bit bigger than Kingston.


The coastline of La Paz, Mexico. By Az81964444 – Own work, Public Domain

Ryosuke: Nishinomiya, Japan. It’s a city, larger than Kingston, with mountain, beaches, and a lot of tourists.

Q: Why did you choose Queen’s School of English as your language school?

Jose: Because of QSoE’s great reputation.

Ryosuke: Because it is close to New York City!

Q: If someone were to visit your hometown, what should they be sure to experience or explore?

Jose: La paz has a lot of restaurants and bars that are right on the beach that are very fun. We also have great golfing. I like to wakeboard. Lots of people like to dive with the sealions and whale sharks.

Ryosuke: Similar to Kingston, we have some malls where people like to shop. It’s very nice to go for a hike on the mountain in the city.

Q: How long have you been studying English? How did you begin learning the language prior to QSoE?

Jose: I always had about 1 hour of English per day in school.

Ryosuke: I’ve been taking English class for about 7 years in school, once per week.

Q: What are your education and/or career goals?

Jose: I want to study business at a Mexican university.

Ryosuke: I also want to be a businessman; I’m in my second year of university in Japan studying business.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time – any sports?

Jose: Tennis!

Ryosuke: Also tennis; we play together a lot here at Queen’s on the outdoor courts.

Q: Have you traveled to other countries? Which ones?

Jose: Yes: Europe (English, France…and others), the United States (Nevada, California, New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston), and the Caribbean

Ryosuke: Hawaii, China, and Thailand.

Q: Do you hope to travel in the future? Name a country you would love to visit.

Jose: Yes, I want to go to Singapore next.

Ryosuke: I can’t wait to go to the United States!

Thanksgiving Holiday

This weekend, many QSoE students will have their first experience of celebrating Thanksgiving Day. When Thanksgiving was mentioned to some students, their first thoughts were of excitement for Black Friday, and the spectacular deals shoppers may find. However, Black Friday is a distinctly American phenomenon which coincides with Thanksgiving weekend in the United States. Although they celebrate the holiday in a very similar way, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the third Thursday in November. In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.


Cornucopia or ‘Horn of Plenty’ – a symbol of abundance and nourishment associated with Thanksgiving Day

Canadians have been officially celebrating Thanksgiving Day since 1879, when Parliament proclaimed it as “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed”. The practice of having a special feast in thanks and celebration of the harvest at this time of the year has been a tradition of First Nations and Native American tribes, and of peasant societies in Europe for long before any records of Europeans holding formal harvest celebrations. One of the earliest recorded dates of such an organized celebration by European members of society dates to 1578 when explorers in the Arctic wrote of their harvest celebration during this time of the year!

In the United States, much of the origin of Thanksgiving Day as a holiday is attributed to the Pilgrims (early European settlers in Massachusetts) who celebrated their first harvest with a feast of freshly harvested North American foods. These foods likely included wild fowl (such as turkey, grouse, duck, or goose), indigenous berries and nuts, seafood, and foods which Native Americans were cultivating such as corn, potatoes, beans, peas, squash, and onions.


Wild Turkeys

Today, both Canadians and Americans typically celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a day off of work/school, travelling to be with family and close friends, and honoring the blessings of their lives by sharing a feast including dishes such as a whole roasted turkey, squash, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin or apple pie. Roasting a turkey is something that is usually only done on Thanksgiving Day, though sometimes at Christmas or Easter as well. Although there are wild turkeys living in Ontario (which can be hunted and eaten), generally people buy domestically-raised turkeys from the grocery store, or from a local farmer.

We would love to hear about your experiences and see your photos of Thanksgiving Day celebrations! Email to share.