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Q&A with Marisa Da Ros

After working for 10 years in the financial industry, Marisa returned to school and gained accreditation as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. As a daughter of two immigrants, Marisa has always had a love for teaching and learning and a desire to help new immigrants. Marisa has been an Adult Education Teacher for many years, most recently with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Marisa enjoys teaching “Math for the Trades” to the Building Up students, as she helps them prepare for the entry exams to the various trade unions.

What does your average week look like?

Like everyone else, my average COVID week is very different than last year!  On Mondays, I’m lucky enough that I get to go to the training center, and I enjoy that because I get to meet all of the students and work with them in person, and that’s always a treat. Rest of the week, I Zoom-teach the different cohorts at Building Up.

How did you find out about Building Up?

I first met Mark four years ago. I had been working at LEF for the past 10 years, employed by the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).  As a Literacy and Basic Skills Teacher, I offer classes in math, reading and writing. Mark came to LEF and opened up Building Up program and were looking for someone to teach their math component.  Our paths crossed and four years later, I’m still here and loving our partnership!

What convinced you to do a career pivot to teach math to Building Up?

It was most definitely a challenge that I immediately agreed to because Mark’s vision was so inspiring. The first group was definitely a challenge because we were trying to find the best ways of helping the learners, since this was all brand new to us!  I love working with adults and I believed in Mark’s vision. I think Building Up is a wonderful opportunity and I’m just so happy to be part of it.

What’s your favorite part about working at Building Up?

I love meeting and working with all the students. I love getting to know all of them and seeing the progression from when they come to me on “day one”, to when they finish the class and eventually when they move on and get a job in the trades and start their careers.  I follow up with my former students.  I want to see how well they’re doing and how their lives have changed; how they’ve moved on, started a family and settled down.  It is very rewarding, to know that at the end of the day, you helped someone. It’s just a feeling that’s very fulfilling.

Do you have any advice to any incoming trainees or anyone who is considering thinking of applying to the program?

You have to come in with an open mind, trust the process, and give it your hundred percent effort. The people that work at Building Up and the TCDSB are wonderful, and everybody cares about every single individual that joins the program. My advice is for each incoming trainee is to trust the process and enjoy the ride.

Do you have an example or a story about a project or task you did that you really enjoyed?

To be very honest, I could be here for days talking about this question. To keep it brief, I would say that meeting individual students, being part of their journeys, seeing them overcome any barriers, and celebrating with them at graduation!   I am so proud of the students when I hear about their success stories, two, three or even four years later! There are so many inspiring stories. For example, I just spoke with a former student the other day and he sent me a picture of his new baby. It is amazing how far he has come; he has only been in Canada for four years and he now has a very happy family-life and a great job in the trades! His success story is unbelievable. In summary, I have to say the students make every day an enjoyable experience. They’re just amazing, I love all of them. I do. I love them all!

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Based on successful non-profit social enterprise models across the country, Building Up was developed in Toronto to improve our city’s environmental efficiency, affordable housing stock, and most of all – to create a real pathway for individuals experiencing barriers to enter apprenticeships and careers in the trades. Check out our blog for news, updates, job opportunities, and more!

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