Nicole Chen: Finding the leader within yourself

Year: 2018 – Province: Ontario

Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Nicole Chen

Francis Libermann Catholic High School
4640 Finch Avenue East
Toronto, ON M1S 4G2

School telephone: 416-393-5524
School website:
ELL website:

Subjects and grades taught: English as a Second Language/English, Student Success, grades 9–12

Nicole Chen is a natural-born teacher who knew she wanted to be in the classroom at the age of 6. Beginning as an English teacher, she has evolved into an innovative educator helping new Canadians learn English, have success in school and lead a healthy, balanced life.

Teaching approach

Nicole's main purpose in all of her teaching and after-school activities is to help her students become the most successful versions of themselves they can be and acquire all of the skills they need to become well-rounded people and global citizens.

In the Classroom

  • Provides multi-faceted support to international English-language learners (ELLs): works on speech therapy/pronunciation, gives students opportunities to share their own cultures and experiences, and helps students feel welcome; only then does she turn the focus to academics
  • Ensures particular support for high-risk ELLs: focuses on teaching literacy skills (preparing them for the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test), as well as socio-cultural expectations and how to fit into Canadian society; helps subject teachers modify their approach for ELLs in their classes
  • Creates opportunities for ELLs to develop leadership skills: takes them to conferences and workshops, encourages them to join student council (Nicole successfully advocated for an international student rep. position to give ELLs a voice on the council)
  • Emphasizes mindfulness: class Mindfulness Ambassador Councils encourage cooperation, gratitude, self-awareness and good communication to help students create peace within themselves and with others, and sustain enthusiasm, order and enjoyment in the classroom

Outstanding achievements

  • Named Teacher of the Year in 2017 by her teachers' association peers in Toronto
  • Led a writing team to co-author a course on social-emotional learning and mindfulness that will be introduced across the school board in September 2018
  • Leads platinum-level school environmental team (as rated by Ontario Eco-Schools), which carries out green awareness and information campaigns; the school, which is having solar panels installed in 2018, regularly ranks high in environmental contests and audits
  • Developed Grade 9 Environmental English course: students study, write and present green-themed poems at a poetry café and produce video blogs about protecting Canada's water supply

Rave reviews

"[Nicole Chen's] ultimate goal in the [English Language Learner] classroom is to help students find the leader within by trying to inspire others. [She] definitely inspires her students to be the best they can be."