A Student’s Heartfelt Reunion With His Teacher Two Decades Later

Everyone remembers a great teacher; one that made you feel special, happy and cared for. Or someone who inspired you or took notice of your skills. Beyond assisting with academic achievements, a great teacher is someone who is compassionate, empathetic and positive. Many teachers don’t realize the tremendous and long-lasting impact they will leave with a student.

This summer, Torontonian Nashat Cassim, reunited with a teacher he remembers very fondly after almost two decades, all thanks to a social media marketplace ad.

Cassim’s mother asked him to post an ad for a flower planter she wanted to sell. He received a response from a woman named Karen Ayotte, whose last name he instantly recognized. After clicking on her profile, he realized it was his kindergarten teacher who he hadn’t seen since he was a child.

Cassim was just five-years-old when he arrived in Toronto from Sri Lanka with his parents and sister. The family settled in Regent Park and he remembers it was a strange and scary time, as told to CBC reporters.

But before he started his first day of school in a new country, Ayotte, along with another kindergarten teacher, visited his home. Along with school supplies, they brought encouragement and advice. Their kindness and support continued throughout the school year.

"I remember him so well," said Ayotte, who taught for 32 years at Spruce Court Public School and is the longest-serving teacher the school has had, according to a CBC article.

Cassim was only at Spruce Court Public for a short time before his family moved to Markham. He has since gone on to high school and university and is now completing his residency in pediatric dentistry at the University of Toronto. He works at the Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai Hospital and does outreach work in his old Regent Park neighbourhood.

All these years later, Cassim thinks his success is at least partly due to Ayotte and the other teacher who visited him that day and made him feel welcomed.

"I don't know if I'd be where I am today without them giving me that foundation," said Cassim in a CBC article. "It's a good reminder of what an impact a good teacher can have."

This summer, Cassim and Ayotte arranged a time and place to meet. Cassim brought her the flower stand from an ad and a thank you note with a Tim Horton’s gift card. The flower stand, which brought them together after all these years, was given to Ayotte for free.

"How it happened is so surprising to say the least," Ayotte said in a CBC article. "I was a little overwhelmed. And to hear how successful he is did my heart a lot of good."

Cassim also tracked down the other kindergarten teacher who visited him that day so long ago at the beginning of a new school year. The three plan to get together soon.

Photo Credit

Nashat Cassim/ cbc.ca


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