Kells Staff Profile : Raffaat Ghanem

Kells staff make up the heart and soul of our school, but how much do we really know about them? This new series of profiles showcases the wonderful professionals who come together every day to ensure Kells students get the best experience possible.

First up, science and math teacher Raffaat Ghanem!

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

This quote by Raffaat Ghanem’s favourite author echoes this esteemed teacher’s philosophy about learning and life. From her early teaching days in Lebanon and Saudia Arabia and throughout her decade and a half at Kells, Ms Ghanem has made it her mission to continue to evolve as an educator and to inspire her students to find their own paths to lifelong learning.

What is your teaching style, and why?
I’m a very open person, and I appreciate open-mindedness. My style is a mix of everything. When I first came to Kells in 2006, I had a marker board. I’ve since grown by adopting technology. Even with experience, you have to keep growing as a teacher. I’m constantly working to improve my lesson plans and my communication with students. And while technology is important, I believe in having a humanitarian connection with my students. They need to see in their teacher the security that they’re going to learn and are going to make it. Everything I do is tailored to the specific needs of each student, so I vary my teaching techniques depending on the student and the class in front of me. Students need to be at the centre of their education. My job is to help them get there, while keeping a strong eye on the content they need to get them to CEGEP or wherever it is they want to go.

Beyond teaching, what other projects occupy your time at Kells?
As science department head, I coordinate all science activities, exams, lab equipment. I also run the “Extra help in Chemistry and Physics” group. I run the annual science fair, and am a member of the Educational Alliance for Science and Technology (EAST) where I volunteer as Scientific Review Committee Chair for the Montreal chapter of the International Science Fair. I work with high school and CEGEP winners from regional science fairs to ensure that they qualify for the international competition, connect with the university professors who review their projects and I chaperone students from Montreal schools, including Kells, who travel to the event held each year in the United States.

What advice do you give students?
Always believe in yourself. You're all capable. Give yourself the time and the chance to learn at your own pace regardless of the influence of peers or whatever. Your strength comes from within. You need to be dedicated. You need to have a plan and work towards it. Be strong, believe in yourself and work towards your targets. I’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words. You have to show who you are. This comes through hard work, transparent performance, believing in yourself and having something to look forward to. You make yourself significant through your work.

How can students interested in a career in maths and sciences best prepare for the future?
They must invest time. No matter how good you are, or how fast a learner you are, you really need to invest time in doing the work. Learn to study effectively 3-4 hours, several times a week. A good work ethic is an excellent preparation for CEGEP, which is highly competitive for sciences. Success requires discipline.

How can parents best help their children succeed as students at Kells?
Your children are still kids. You still need to pull their backpack and agenda to see if they have homework. Please get involved in your child's education - monitor, encourage and share the responsibility when they're not capable on their own. All parents have access to the portal; it needs to be checked. Kells is very good at following up with parents, so take advantage of this open communication channel. Email your child’s teachers and follow-up consistently.

What advice do you have for new teachers?
Happiness comes from doing the best that you can. Challenge yourself and work hard to produce the best results you can. You should be able to read the faces of your students, in order to adjust and take another trajectory if needed. Senior staff is always available to help. And keep growing throughout your career, whether that be in testing new methods or adopting new technologies. You need to keep growing.

What has been a highlight of your year so far?
I was at the airport and a young soldier came towards me. It turned out he’d been one of my students. I’d taught him in grade 7 and he graduated from Kells. He had a lot of problems, but Kells helped make his high school career a success. I’m happy that people come up and say hello, or come back to the school for a visit, even if many years have passed. To be remembered in that way is very rewarding, and gives me confidence that I’m making a difference in my students’ lives.

What are the advantages of studying at Kells?
I love Kells. I believe in Kells. I speak with all the positivity in the world about Kells. I've been here almost fourteen years and have seen Kells perform miracles with students. Kells is the best place for a child to feel secure, understood and well cared for. We care for the individual. Each student feels that his or her needs are cared for by professionals who approach them for the way they are and not for how people expect them to be. We move them forward from that point and bring out the best in them in ways they may not even have imagined. Kells provides a very friendly environment. We really care for each individual student. I take pride in telling parents that I am not only a teacher to their child, I'm also a Mom. Their children are in good hands. I have three children of my own, and so it’s important to me that I have a good rapport with my students, and bond with them. I joke with them and care for them. Everyone feels safe enough to express themselves openly in my class.