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Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

Waters Scholarship recipient aims to take teaching out of the classroom

 

 

By Fred Michah Rynor

 

Natasha Burford with kids

In Natasha Burford's mind, a classroom can take many forms and she's visualizing a teaching career that's definitely going to be non-traditional.

One of four recipients of this year's William R. Waters Scholarship, Burford, who is enrolled in OISE's Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education program, envisions a future reaching out to racialized youth and women.

After graduating, she sees herself not only within the four walls of a standard school but out in the field teaching in community centres, underprivileged neighbourhoods, homework clubs and other under-the-radar locations where people can't always access classes.

"I chose teaching because I really believe in the power of education," Burford states. "I tell people that learning is a life-long experience and it's the one thing that people can't take away from you. That's the message I want to spread, especially to children."

Receiving the Waters Scholarship was "a surreal, ecstatic moment," she recalls. "Yes, I'm honoured but I'm also humbled by it as well."

Burford knows first-hand how difficult it can be to attain a quality education having grown up in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood of Toronto. She says that, yes, this part of the city does suffer from a number of inner-city stereotypes but it also has certain difficult realities that impact on low income families.

"I want to take my training and offer it to children and adults such as these who want a higher education but don't have a way of achieving it. Three weeks after my first son was born I entered teacher's college in the Urban Diversity Program and it was then that I started getting into the concept of bringing schools to communities."

She remembers with gratitude how school administrators helped her when she was a young wife and mother.

"They enrolled me in a local school for my placement that was right across the street from where I lived so that I could breastfeed my newborn and still achieve my goals."

Married with three sons, Burford wants to give her children and others a future of limitless possibilities. At the Waters Scholarship reception in September, she found herself being asked to speak for all four recipients and it was here that she met her benefactor, William Waters.

Waters, creator of the scholarship, is Professor Emeritus of Economics and Finance at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at U of T.

OISE offers four William Waters Scholarships annually to promote excellence in urban classroom teaching. Candidates are already experienced teachers who wish to enter a full-time Master's program with interests in social justice and academic success for students from economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods and under-performing schools.

"It was amazing to meet him," recalls Burford, "especially since he spoke during the ceremony about his own life experiences and why he decided to be so beneficial towards students such as myself."

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