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Trish Coles, Centennial College

This week, we spent five minutes with Trish Coles, chair of the ESL Department and Assessment Centre at Canada’s Centennial College.


"I would change the high cost of living for international students coming to major cities in Canada with a magic wand"

Introduce yourself in three words or phrases.

Caring, quick-witted and compassionate.

What do you like most about your job?

The variety – I never know what issue will “pop up” on any day that requires attention, so it’s great.

If you had a magic wand, what would you change?

The high cost of living for international students coming to major cities in Canada.

What are your top 5 priorities?

I would say I’ve got three – providing the best possible learning experience for our ESL students at Centennial College, whether newcomers or international students; supporting initiatives to promote reconciliation, decolonisation and indigenisation in our classes and programs; and encouraging faculty to engage in learning and teaching research.

Tell us about a defining moment in your career.

There have been many but what I am particularly proud of is the support that Centennial College has provided to a group of Afghan Women Judges and their families for tuition bursaries to attend our English for Academic Purposes program.

I was approached by a member of the Program Advisory Committee regarding a group of former women judges who fled Afghanistan and came to Canada with the help of the Canadian Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ). The College Executive, without hesitation, agreed to grant tuition bursaries for this group so they could begin to rebuild their lives in Canada.

What was your first job in intled?

My first job in international education was as a instructor at University of Tripoli in Libya at the tender age of 23 after a brief period of teaching English in Paris, France. Libya was known as SPLAJ – Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya at the time. My first class was trying to explain the intricacies of defining and non-defining relative clauses to a group of young male Veterinary Science students who were delighted to have a female instructor to gaze at.

What keeps you awake at night?

Not much really! Perhaps, reflecting on the impact that translation applications and artificial intelligence will have on learning, especially English language learning. I think a serious look at the purpose of English language learning needs to be undertaken – how will faculty and student roles change with the availability of new and emerging technologies?

Proudest career moment?

It’s hard to identify one specific moment, so here are three: I’m proud to have been part of the education for the first generation of Emirati women to have access to post-secondary education, when working at the Higher Colleges of Technology in the UAE. I also managed an ambitious school improvement project for schools in very remote areas of the UAE – some in the Empty Quarter where the road actually ended and the desert took over, and others accessed by military plane –  when working for the Institute of Applied Technology in Abu Dhabi. Also being able to provide and support access to post-secondary education for equity deserving groups such as the Afghan Women Judges and families mentioned previously.

“Instead of arriving in Athens, I ended up in Warsaw”

Best work trip?

One of the best work trips I went on was to represent Centennial College at the Canada-MENA Education Forum in Abu Dhabi in February 2023. This was supported by the Canadian Embassy in the UAE and Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICAN). I was able to revisit Abu Dhabi Women’s College – HCT where I had worked for 16 years and Khalifa University where I had worked as well. It was great to see how both organisations had grown and gone from strength to strength. There have been several memorable trips to TESOL International conferences.

Worst work trip?

Well, I managed to board the wrong plane when traveling to a conference in Greece last spring. Instead of arriving in Athens, I ended up in Warsaw. This was a nightmare to say the least! Fortunately, the conference host, PeopleCert, was most accommodating and understanding so the overall trip ended up being a good one.


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