When the children you supervise accidentally call you mom, you know you’re doing a great job. For Farnaz Karimabadi, current Office Teaching Assistant (TA) at Chartwell Elementary and Sentinel Secondary, helping parents and students stay safe, happy and on schedule is a role she’s embraced with the kind of dedication and passion that makes everyone’s day just that little bit brighter.
Farnaz, herself a mother of two grown children, has worked for the school district for the past eight years. While most of that time she has worked as a TA, Farnaz also used her Farsi language skills by working two years as a Settlement Worker in Schools (SWIS), when that program was managed by the district. Today, she works with parents and students in the morning, takes and processes attendance records, handles minor first aid and acts as a communications liaison between the school and home. Lunch hour is spent at neighbouring Sentinel Secondary, where she assists with supervision.
Both on and offsite, interacting with children and their families is a joy for Farnaz, who lives in the same neighbourhood and frequently sees students and parents outside the school environment.
“I love the people I work with,” says Farnaz, who works closely with Chartwell Elementary Administrative Assistant Alysoun Mckaylee and Principal Aron Campbell. “It’s also a great thing to witness children growing up from Kindergarten age, successfully graduating from high school and moving on to the next educational level.”
It’s been a long path to West Vancouver for Farnaz and her family. Leaving Iran 35 years ago, she is now more at ease reading and writing in English, but remains fluent in Farsi. It’s a huge asset for the school, where the language is the second most common mother tongue.
When her spouse relocated for his career in 2002, Farnaz joined him on the west coast, leaving Calgary after many years in the city. She worked ten years as a library assistant with the Calgary Board of Education, had her own flower shop, earned her diploma in Office Administration and Interior Design, along with her real estate license here in BC before choosing education as her natural home.
In her previous role with SWIS, she witnessed the sometimes difficult challenges that students and their families faced settling and integrating into Canadian culture, due to language and cultural differences. As part of the SWIS team, she provided settlement counselling, referral to resources, accompanied families on field trips to local amenities and coordinated workshops on topics tailored to family needs.
Currently, she works with children of all ages, moving back and forth once daily between Chartwell and Sentinel.
“My friends and family are all proud of the public service nature of my work,” says Farnaz, who advises those new to the district to maintain good self-discipline and provide the best service they can. “I feel very lucky to live and work in one of the most desirable communities in all of Canada; Chartwell is surrounded by the mountains as a backdrop and 360 degree view of the ocean, Stanley Park and Mount Baker.”
It can be challenging shifting gears through the day, explains Farnaz, who is clearly passionate about doing the best job she can for everyone she encounters throughout the day. “Each age group requires different attention and care, but it’s great to know that I’m appreciated, whether with a wave or a kind ‘good morning, Mrs. K.”
Sometimes, the parents and guardians themselves have made her day interesting. On one occasion, a student’s grandfather, on picking his grand-daughter up from school in his new electric car, left the vehicle parked improperly with the engine running. The car began rolling down the traffic circle, making nary a sound. Holding the car with one arm, Farnaz desperately waved for attention with her other hand. The language barrier made for quite a scene, as Farnaz worked to control the situation. Today, she can laugh about it, but it was certainly a unique situation.
Multi-culturalism is an important part of the school culture at Chartwell, where, as a UN Rights Respecting school, the community comes together frequently to celebrate unique cultural contributions.
“Multicultural night at Chartwell is one of the most successful and fun events of the year,” says Farnaz. “We embrace different nationalities and cultures around the world with delicious food, beautiful costumes and good company.”
In her spare time, Farnaz enjoys spending time with friends and family, biking, hiking and walking. We are comforted to know she stays fit in her off time, in case she should need to hold off another runaway car! Thanks for all you do, Farnaz!