A Teacher Unlike Any Other
22 February 2019
“Hello, DanieleHenkel.tv team, I am writing to let you know that the science teacher at my daughter’s school is doing extraordinary work. Her projects captivate students so much that they win prizes every year, and they even attend her lunchtime workshops for fun. My daughter loves her!” – Kim Messier
After receiving the email from Jade Laramée’s mom, a student at École secondaire Verbe Divin in Granby, we set out to meet another woman in science. The one who inspires kids everyday to be curious and creative. A science and technology teacher unlike any other.
First love: physics
Like most of the kids in her classes, Gabriela Cismas also had a hard time choosing a career path at the end of high school in Romania. “A teacher once observed me doing a physics assignment and told me that I should pursue studies in pure physics. That’s when I realized it had become a passion.” During university she was recruited to teach in schools, while finishing her studies. “I remember being on vacation at my grandfather’s house, telling him how excited I was for school to resume so I could see my students. He told me that doing what I love is a gift. And I haven’t stopped since.”
Gabriela Cismas immigrated to Canada in 2003. “Growing up I saw my Hungarian grandparents uprooted from Romania a few times. I knew I wanted to leave the country when I got older. My husband saw an ad in the newspaper stating that the province of Quebec was recruiting engineers and teachers. It was the perfect opportunity to make my dream come true. I put my finger on the map, and we established ourselves in Granby. I was 36, our son was 3.”
Teaching with passion
After completing a Master of Education in the country she now calls home, Gabriela Cismas shared her knowledge with Secondary 3 and 4 students. But for the last few years, she’s been teaching mainly physics, chemistry, and biology at the Secondary 1 and 2 levels. “I love that they want to discover. Some like it, others not so much. I launched workshops during lunch asking students to choose experiments they were interested in trying.” Workshops in the lab are very popular so I introduced two different segments on Fridays, one for sciences, one for robotics. “I work with a lab technician whenever possible, depending on what the kids want. I organize field trips. We attend the Science Expo, and we organize an exposition at the school for parents, grandparents, and people from the community. The students are very proud to present their work.”
“I wanted to give students a time where they could discover the unexpected, and develop their passion. When we find what we love, school becomes easier and much more enjoyable.”
To the lab!
Sometimes, we push boundaries and do experiments that are generally reserved for CEGEP or university students. I adapt them, and link them to examples students can understand. We made lip balm that can also be used as a wax for cross-country skis. We dissected a shark with babies inside of it. We built a catapult. The students also enjoy flashy chemical reaction experiences.”
Gabriela Cismas makes her way to the lab as often as she can. She even asked the principal if she could combine two periods so that the students would have more time to express themselves. “To grab their attention, I use examples from everyday life. Why do we need to know the periodic table? Because whether on a water bottle, or a box of cereal, those signs are everywhere, and chemical elements make up everything that surrounds us, from blood to horseshoes.”
“Girls need role models to help them see what the field can offer them. Science is not just about abstract formulas or symbols. Everything we do in life is related to science.”