Diving into Education: Exploring Imaginative Teaching Methods with Salma Jaffer – Faculty of Education

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Salma Jaffer’s (BA 2001, PDP 2002, MEd 2022) journey through education is a testament to the power of passion, dedication and innovative teaching practices. Growing up in Canada as the daughter of immigrant parents from Tanzania, Salma’s upbringing instilled in her the value of hard work and the importance of education from an early age.  

“My parents immigrated to Canada in the 1970s from Tanzania, with roots tracing back to India. My passion for education and love of learning is a huge part of my identity and drives how I approach my life and career.”

After completing the Professional Development Program (PDP) at SFU in 2001, Salma began a career as a classroom teacher in the Coquitlam and Delta School Districts. For over twenty years, she taught students from kindergarten to Grade 7, finding joy in understanding her students and fostering their growth.

“Growing up, I was never an artist or an athlete. My skill was understanding people. I have always been fascinated by people, how we think, the questions we have, and how different people approach things. Teaching felt like a good fit for me, and going into education was the best decision I ever made.”

Decades into her career, Salma’s desire to enhance her teaching practice and delve deeper into pedagogy led her to pursue further education. Inspired by her love for teaching, she enrolled in the Imaginative Education MEd program at SFU.

“I knew I was ready to do my graduate studies and was looking around for a program to inspire me to dig deeper into my practice. I entered an information session at the SFU Surrey Campus one day. Dr. Gillian Judson was talking about Imaginative Education. Her passion blew me away and I became intrigued. This program aligned with my teaching philosophy. It was centred on pedagogy that I valued. Imaginative Education provided me with theory that supported much of the practice I was already doing. I decided right then and there to apply.”

Aware of her learning style, Salma sought a program that emphasized community. “I knew I needed an in-person program as I learn best being a part of a community,” she notes. “When applying, I began talking to a colleague about this program, and she also decided to apply. It felt comforting to know one person walking in the door. Before I knew it, I encountered a welcoming and inclusive community.”

Joining a cohort of like-minded educators, Salma immersed herself in an environment that enriched her learning experience. Through engaging discussions and collaborative projects, she gained new insights into teaching and learning. “Our cohort bonded so quickly,” Salma fondly remembers. “Everyone supported us as we engaged in our learning journey. We are still in touch and often connect in various capacities.”

Since graduating, Salma has returned to the PDP program as a Faculty Associate. “It feels full circle to return to PDP as an instructor after 20-plus years,” shares Salma. “Being able to impart my knowledge and experience to aspiring teachers feels incredibly rewarding.”  

Through the program, Salma honed her skills as an educator and gained a deeper understanding of education from various perspectives. She also discovered innovative ways to engage her students and foster their creativity.

“I was teaching my student teachers about the benefits of feedback. To illustrate this foundational component of education and the PDP program, I gave my students some gifts. They contained lemons, apples, onions, and a can of beans. They were wrapped in gift bags and tissue paper. My students were very intrigued.”

“We talked about how it felt to give a gift (wonderful). We also talked about how it felt to receive a gift (also wonderful). I encouraged that feedback is a gift – it is something you give to someone because you care about the person, you want to celebrate them, or you want to see them grow. However, the gift of feedback could be sweet, like an apple. It could be sour, like a lemon. It could make you cry like an onion, or it could give you an upset stomach like some beans. It is essential that when you get feedback, it could make you feel horrible, or it could make you feel fantastic, but remind yourself of the intention with which it was initially given and remember that feedback is a gift.”

Reflecting on the program’s impact on her students, Salma noticed a significant increase in engagement and connection to the material. “By integrating cognitive tools into my practice,” she explains, “my students have become more engaged and have developed a deeper connection to the material.”

For prospective students hesitant to enroll in the program, Salma offers this advice: “Pace yourself – it is going to be a busy two years! Lean on your cohort – they are amazing. Lastly, know that you will become a different educator – take the risk. It is worth it!”  

Read more from our Imaginative Education Series

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