About Saint Mary's

Saint Mary’s University and Halifax Public Libraries helping immigrants become Canadians

10 March, 2016


Johnathan Shaw teaching immigration class

Jonathan Shaw (standing) teaching the Citizenship Test Preparation class.


One of the final steps for an immigrant to become a Canadian citizen is a rather intensive citizenship test. A collaboration between Saint Mary’s University and Halifax Public Libraries is making passing this test a little easier for a small group of immigrants.

Jonathan Shaw is currently completing his Masters of Education in Curriculum Studies (Teaching English as a Second Language). The Masters program is offered through Mount Saint Vincent University in association with Saint Mary’s University. Shaw has been teaching a Citizenship Test Preparation class that is offered as a community service by the Woodlawn Library in Dartmouth. As a Masters student he is required to do a block of practicum teaching, and he is completing this work by delivering this community course for the Halifax Public Library.

“Many immigrants can be very apprehensive of taking the test,” says Shaw. “It is much tougher than most people might expect and people routinely fail. Even someone born in Canada might find it difficult. It can be even more difficult when you’re taking the test and English is a new and second language for you.”

A requirement of Shaw’s Masters is to do a block of practicum teaching. To fulfil this requirement Shaw has volunteered to teach the course. Not only does teaching give Shaw his required hours in the classroom and experience, it also allows him to see firsthand some of the challenges immigrants face and the strong desire they have to become citizens.

“Through study and determination many of these immigrants have become more knowledgeable about Canada and more patriotic than most people I know,” he says.

Dr. Esther Enns, Senior Advisor Teaching and Learning at Saint Mary’s, is overseeing Shaw’s work in the class. She says the practicum portion of the Masters’ program not only gives students experience in teaching, but also shows them the importance of community service learning and improving the lives of those in their community.

“Community Service Learning integrates meaningful community service with classroom instruction and critical reflection to enrich the learning experience and strengthen communities,” she says. “Students work in partnership with a community based organization to apply their disciplinary knowledge to a challenge identified by the community.”

The final citizenship preparation class will be held at the Woodlawn Library on Wednesday. The class is very diverse and includes students originally from Iran, Bhutan, China, Syria, Thailand, Slovakia and Germany. Wednesday’s final class will also include a small celebration of the student’s achievements as they prepare to take the test and become Canadian citizens.