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‘She’s my partner in crime’: Twin sisters, teachers are now OISE graduates

November 18, 2021

Perry King

Twin sisters Victoria Pawlina and Julia Woznowski, pictured above with Pawlina's baby, Maria, are members of OISE's Class of 2021 (photo by Gary Beechey).

Victoria Pawlina and Julia Woznowski grew up together, became French immersion teachers together, entered OISE together as students, and now, after enduring the pandemic, will graduate together in 2021.

The twin sisters, who are graduating with a Master of Education this fall, have had a long road to this moment. The pandemic threw an additional wrench into their plans, but they adjusted.

Pawlina and Woznowski had initially enrolled as part-time students, but they ended up switching to full-time studies during the pandemic—meaning that they moved through their OISE education faster than expected. They took part-time courses Fall/Winter sessions while working as French immersion teachers in the Toronto Catholic School Board, and enrolled full-time during the summer sessions.

“Graduate studies was not necessarily what we were expecting or envisioning but it's been very exciting nonetheless,” added Woznowski.

“OISE offered a wide range of both synchronous and asynchronous courses. This made it really easy to choose courses that I could take while teaching full time and then later, that I could take when my daughter was born. I am really grateful for this flexibility,” added Pawlina.

At OISE’s Swag Day on Nov. 15 they got a chance to take photos together, engage with their peers and expose Pawlina’s baby daughter, Maria, to the place that the sisters spent the last few years.

Polyglots in their own regard, the sisters are graduates of York University’s Glendon College and speak fluent English, French and Polish. They were drawn to OISE because of traits that felt similar to their time at Glendon—intimate classrooms, the tight knit community, and engaging conversations.

“Glendon is a very small campus and OISE is nice in that regard, because I would see some of the same people in my small graduate seminars and courses,” said Pawlina.

“I was pursuing the collaborative specialization with CREFO, so even the classes that I took through CREFO were very small, nine to 10 students. And even when we were in class through Zoom, they were still synchronous classes so I felt some connection with my classmates,” said Woznowski, about CREFO, the research centre that focuses on the educational, social and language practices of the Francophonie.

Although their studies were sped up, the twins made an effort to make the most out of their time at OISE. In a highlight, Woznowski was featured on a podcast produced by CREFO director, Professor Emmanuelle Le Pichon. In Quoi de Neuf, Le Pichon interviewed five teachers-in-training, including Woznowski, about their experiences. Woznowski served on the OISE Library Student Advisory Committee.

Pawlina took advantage as well. Even though her daughter Maria was born this past January, her instructors were accommodating and understanding as she looked to improve her skills.

“My teaching philosophy has really evolved and I feel like I've been gained a new critical lens of how I approach teaching,” she says. Pawlina, in her time at OISE, took an interest in mathematics, which really propelled her skills as a French immersion teacher.

“In French Immersion classrooms, French is the language of instruction, but it's also the vehicle of instruction — meaning students are learning the language and the content at the same time,” she said. “I am looking forward to applying some of the research and theories that I learned at OISE once I'm back in the classroom.”

It was an eventful couple years for the twins, but they leaned on each other as they neared the end.

“I think in three or four classes this year that we completed, we took the same ones by accident.” said Woznowski, “But we definitely did rely on each other in them. We had some group projects together and it was nice to have one another.”

“She's my partner in crime,” said Pawlina.

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Embodying adaptability: Athena Tassis on graduating, education technology, and the next steps in her teaching journey