By Angela Marseglia
I was five years out of teachers’ college when my friend (and a fellow teacher), Patricia Ewing, suggested we buy an Oxford Learning franchise together in Toronto’s east end. Now, 20 years later, I own multiple franchises in the city and I can’t imagine any other career. I work with students of all ages to ensure they have the confidence and learning skills they need to succeed on their own and achieve their goals.
Love of learning
I was born and raised in Toronto. My parents, along with most of my extended family, immigrated to Canada from Italy in the 1950s. My father worked in construction, while my mother was employed at a furniture factory. Adjusting to life as Italian speakers in an English-speaking country was tough for them, but they worked hard to provide for me and, in many ways, their perseverance shaped my lifelong work ethic.
I grew up surrounded by family. Italian was my first language and very much the ‘language of love’ at my house. While I learned English from watching Canadian television and talking to friends at school, my parents never really picked up the language. Fortunately, Toronto has a strong Italian community, which helped them get by.
Growing up, I loved school and learning. My mom and dad were very supportive and encouraged me to pursue academics in the classroom and beyond.
I developed my language skills at school, learning French in addition to English and Italian. When I was eight, my parents enrolled me in piano lessons and, though I loved the instrument, I didn’t like the regimented way my lessons were conducted. Nonetheless, I stuck with them throughout middle and high school.
Nearing the end of high school, I was unsure of what I wanted to do for a career. I decided to study geography and history at Toronto’s York University, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1991. With a degree in two teachable subjects, I enrolled in teachers’ college at Western University in London, Ont. While attending, I taught in various schools and, by the time I had completed my practicum,
I knew I was meant to teach.
I graduated from teachers college in 1992, alongside my best friend and future co-franchisee Patricia, and moved back to Toronto. The next year, I obtained a position at The Linden School, a newly opened private girls’ school that offered small class sizes and a specialized philosophy, which empowered girls and young women to take risks and develop their confidence.
I loved Linden’s non-traditional approach to teaching. The school’s small class sizes meant I could get to know each student personally and understand their specific learning styles.
While teaching at Linden, I went back to school to get my masters degree in geography and environmental studies from the University of Toronto (U of T). My academic research took me to Vietnam for three months.
I obtained my masters in 1996 and, after three years working in the private sector, I decided to try teaching in the public school system. I was offered a temporary position instructing an Ontario Academic Credit (OAC) Grade 13 class. My students were inquisitive and bright. They asked a lot of questions and wanted to explore topics not covered in the standard curriculum.
It was a rewarding experience, but also very challenging. Class sizes in the public school system are very large, which makes it easy for students to slip through the cracks and not get the attention they need. As an educator, I wished I had the time and resources to help each and every student individually and it was devastating to watch some of them struggle to keep up with their classmates.