Empowering Change through Language Education: A Journey of Challenges, Resilience, and Inspiration

June 07, 2023

Mohammad Alhannash’s remarkable journey at Simon Fraser University (SFU) stands as a testament to his unwavering determination and resilience. Originally from Deir Ezzor, Syria, he had a deep passion for the English language from an early age. After completing his bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in linguistics, Mohammad set his sights on SFU, driven by his ambitions. Though his path was not without challenges, his burning desire to enhance his language teaching skills and pursue a PhD led him on an educational adventure that would shape his future.

Mohammad’s interest in teaching blossomed during high school in Syria when he enrolled in an English language course at a private language center. It was during this transformative period that he encountered an extraordinary teacher, Mahmoud Twair, who would leave an indelible mark on his journey toward language education. Mohammad explained, "Mr. Twair's pedagogical approach was truly remarkable, characterized by its engaging and inclusive nature. It left a permanent impression on me. Under his guidance, I was able to overcome my linguistic weaknesses and capitalize on my strengths, motivating me to pursue a career in the field of language education.” 

After graduating in Syria, while teaching English in Kuwait, Mohammad aspired to study in an English-speaking country. “I was intrigued by SFU’s distinguished reputation and academic offerings, particularly the Teaching Languages in a Global Context Program,” shares Mohammad.  

Mohammad's decision to pursue the Teaching Languages in Global Contexts Program at SFU stemmed from his deep resonance with its distinctive focus. He explained, "What drew me to this program was its unique emphasis on language education within a global framework. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to navigate the complexities of teaching languages, especially English, in diverse and multicultural environments."

Furthermore, the program's emphasis on pedagogical approaches aligned perfectly with Mohammad's academic and professional aspirations. He eagerly anticipated gaining a comprehensive understanding of language teaching methodologies and cultivating the necessary skills to create inclusive and engaging learning environments for students from diverse linguistic backgrounds.

With excitement and determination, Mohammad embarked on his educational journey and moved to Canada, fully aware of the transformative impact this program would have on his future career as a language educator.

Throughout his time at SFU, Mohammad encountered various personal and professional challenges. As he began his program, his wife had not yet joined him, leaving him as a single parent responsible for his daughter while navigating the complexities of settling down in a new country. "It was a challenging period, juggling the demands of my academic pursuits with the responsibilities of being a single parent,” Mohammad reflected.

In addition to these personal challenges, Mohammad willingly took on another significant endeavour by enrolling simultaneously in the PhD program in Languages, Cultures, and Literacies alongside his current program. This decision presented him with an intense workload and demanding academic expectations. However, driven by his determination and belief in his potential, Mohammad embraced the challenge and committed himself to succeed in both programs.

Mohammad reflected on this decision, saying, “In addition to earning a master’s degree, finishing a PhD was my main objective. It required a great commitment and willingness to make compromises to pursue two advanced degrees simultaneously. 

Mohammad’s journey at SFU was not without its difficulties, both emotionally and academically, but his perseverance, time management skills, and unwavering dedication enabled him to overcome the obstacles he encountered. Throughout his academic journey, he found support from understanding tutors and friends who aided him when unexpected situations arose, allowing him to navigate these challenges while staying focused on achieving his academic goals and creating a better future for himself and his family. With graduation on the horizon, Mohammad looks back on his time at SFU with gratitude for what he overcame and the knowledge he gained. Equipped with his newfound expertise in language education and two degrees, he is now ready to make a meaningful impact as a university instructor and teacher trainer, inspiring students just as his language teacher had inspired him. 

Reflecting on his journey, Mohammad offered this advice to prospective students interested in pursuing a career in language education: “Stay updated on current research, trends, and developments in pedagogical research and language teaching approaches. Reading academic journals, attending conferences, and engaging with professional communities are crucial for staying informed about best practices in the field. Equally important is to seek out practical teaching opportunities to apply classroom knowledge and gain valuable insights into the realities of language education.”