Meet Our Teacher Leaders - Sofia Saleem
We have always been proud of our passionate group of Teacher Leaders. And during this global pandemic, we feel even more grateful for the wonderful work they do, sharing their knowledge and inspiring other educators across Canada to bring STEM into their online and in-person classrooms. Over the next few months, we would like to introduce you to some of the Teacher Leaders who are making an impact in their school communities.
Meet Sofia Saleem
How much does Sofia Saleem love teaching middle school? She cannot say enough great things about it. She also loves being a Teacher Leader with Let’s Talk Science. Sofia, who has a background in math, science and technology, is currently hosting a series of webinars on the topic of Artificial Intelligence. It’s a fascinating subject, which Sofia is passionate about.
What are you most proud of so far in your career as an educator?
My willingness to adapt and welcome new challenges by integrating new technology into my programs. When I was in high school, I was completely risk and technology adverse. There was nothing about technology that I liked. I was scared of it. And even when I started my teaching career, I was still in paper and pencil format. But then I had a turning point. It was when I had my twins, and I took some time off work to be at home with the kids. During that time, I taught myself how to create a website, from scratch to finish, and I ended up creating a tutoring program for math students. And I fell in love with the technology.
I’m really proud of how I’ve become a digital leader in my school board, bringing technology into the classroom in a way that really engages my students. I’m 18 years into my career and I’m not done yet. I’m constantly refining my teaching practice by integrating new forms of technology.
This past school year has been one of great change and challenge. Any silver linings that you can share?
I’m teaching a Grade 6 class virtually this year. Which means that I’m teaching all the subjects—from drama and music to art and science. I’m teaching EVERYTHING. Except for French. And what I love about that is that I can easily make connections—and my students can make connections—between subjects.
What do you enjoy most about being a Teacher Leader?
I get to work with teachers from across Canada, and that is really cool. The best thing is definitely the connections I’ve made across the country. It’s opened up my eyes to the unique experiences and perspectives of educators—everyone’s experience is different depending on what community you live in, whether it’s in the urban centre of Toronto (like me) or in a smaller town out on the East Coast.
You’re hosting a series of webinars focused on Artificial Intelligence. Can you tell us more about the webinars and your interest in this subject?
The whole concept is that we know Artificial Intelligence is everywhere—from voice and facial recognition to healthcare and autonomous vehicles. It’s in everything we do already. We’re using these things every day, but we’re not really giving it a label because it’s so seemingly integrated into our lives. For educators, it’s a great opportunity to see where and how they can bring this idea into their classrooms and programming—and how they can get students to acknowledge and realize that Artificial Intelligence is present in their lives.
And as an educator who likes this kind of stuff anyway—science and technology and where we’re going in the future—it’s a natural fit for me to be part of this because it’s something that really interests me.
What do you hope teachers will come away with after participating in one of your webinars?
I’m really hoping that they’ll take the tools we’ve given them back to their classrooms and get their students thinking about how AI is impacting our lives, looking at ethical implications and what it will be like in the future. Basically, bringing those conversations into the classroom so kids are starting to talk and think about them in a critical way. And then using that knowledge to also get students talking about problem-solving. For example, is it okay for a database to have everyone’s health information? What are the implications? It really connects to all subjects, from social studies to math.
Do you have any advice for teachers who are hesitant to bring STEM lessons and activities into their classrooms?
Start small and with a simple idea. And on top of that, build on what you already have rather than starting something from scratch. For example, if you teach math or history, how can you start to bring maybe one new STEM-related idea in once a month or even just once a year?
Any more webinars or other projects with Let’s Talk Science that you’re looking forward to?
Right now, AI is the thing that I’m focused on. But I am always excited to see what Let’s Talk Science is going to come up with because they are always on the cutting edge of the latest and hottest topics in STEM. They are always ready. So, I don’t think there’s ONE thing—I think it’s ALL things.
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