Community School Coordinator, Burnaby School District
Doreen is a long time Burnaby resident. She and her husband immigrated to Canada from Scotland twenty-five years ago, and raised their three children in Burnaby. She remembers, “When I came here there were one or two people who took the time to make me feel welcome, and that made such a difference to my day.”
She started working with the Burnaby School District in 1989 and has been a Community School Coordinator since 1999. Doreen has been instrumental in introducing numerous programs, services and events in the Maywood and Edmonds areas of Burnaby, helping to strengthen vulnerable school communities and provide crucial support for new immigrant families.
She is open to learning from other cultures and cares deeply for her students and their families. Her dedication has made the Community Schools of Maywood and Edmonds truly welcoming and inclusive.
She says that, “The most exciting part of my work is community development, and knowing who else a family could connect to. That’s the part I love most.”
Over the years, Doreen has coordinated hundreds of multicultural dinners which have welcomed new immigrant families and served as a catalyst for many long lasting friendships.
“What amazes me about many new families is the resilience and determination they have. Their determination comes from wanting the best for their children; to be away from war, to have opportunities for life. When I came, I had English and understood a lot of what was going on… I have great respect for people who come and don’t have English and don’t understand how things work here.”
It is Doreen’s ability to connect with individuals that makes her special. Her honesty and sincerity are evident in all her interactions, whether she is welcoming new immigrant parents to the community room in her school, establishing a multicultural support network, or advocating for student services in the school and community.
Asked for advice on how any of us could help, she responds, “It’s the small things – they don’t have to be big. It’s listening, helping with English and taking the time with people. The advice I give myself is to slow down and take the time to notice who’s in front of me. On the days I do that I always meet new people. I remember how much a genuine smile may mean to someone who hasn’t spoken to anyone that day.”
Doreen is a shining example of the kind of citizen Burnaby needs in this culturally diverse 21st century.