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Alka Burman

Alka Burman

Faculty of Applied Health & Community Studies

Degree: Early Childhood Education (ECE)

Year of graduation: 1988

Meeting the Needs of Newcomers

I just celebrated my 15th year anniversary at the Region of Peel Children’s Services. I work as an Early Literacy Specialist for the Region of Peel. As part of the Ontario Early Years Initiative, I travel to early learning centres across the Peel region where I support staff in the important work that they do and provide consultation to parents of young children about their child’s literacy development and needs. 

I was always intrinsically motivated to support young children and found excellent leadership and teachers at Sheridan. It moved me to see their passion and commitment to a field that was still growing. After graduating from Sheridan, I obtained a degree in Exceptionalities in Human Learning from the University of Toronto. This is where I discovered the psychology of language and how to effectively incorporate it into my work. 

As I moved from my early childhood educator role to that of early literacy specialist, I had the opportunity to share my passion with fellow colleagues and families. I now work more closely with the Newcomers of Peel (and Canada) supporting families within the region’s diverse landscape. My interest in the needs of newcomer families was sparked several years ago when I began conducting workshops for Ontario Early Years Centres on reading, writing, brain development and nurturing home language development. Parents who are new to Canada face some unique challenges on their path to get their children school-ready. Parents are often confused about how to support their bilingual child. There is guilt around abandoning the first language so I am always happy to tell parents that they don’t need to be so drastic! Supporting a home language not only strengthens English language ability, but also maintains a strong connection to heritage and culture. 

I feel very lucky to have attended Sheridan. One of my most memorable professors was Angie Cummeford who taught some of the program basics, as well as a course called Interpersonal Relations which gave me a good understanding of working with families. All the practical strategies that I use for my current job start and end with my Sheridan education. My message to new graduates is to think of learning as a lifetime event; it never, ever stops. And Sheridan is a great place to start!

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