Where are they now? – Profiling Garbriella Szolnoki

Where are they now? – Profiling Garbriella Szolnoki

The objective of our initiative ‘Where are they now?’ is to create a forum or a bridge for German alumni to share their career stories with current students, and for students to ask alumni questions about careers.  We kicked off the project in June 2017, by emailing German alumni, asking them if they would be willing to share their career stories with current students of German studies.  Response was very positive, with over 15 alumni from a wide variety of careers, inside and outside of academia, indicating their interest in participating.

This project was led by Joan Andersen, as part of her volunteer position as Alumni Ambassador and Executive in Residence.  Joan is a German alumna of the University of Toronto, and moved into a career outside of German studies after graduating with a Master’s Degree.  Joan conducted a telephone or email interview with each participant with the objective or drafting a 5-8 minute long article profiling his/her career.

We will publish one or two ‘Career Profile’ articles every month which we hope our readers will find informative and maybe even inspirational. We welcome your feedback on this initiative by sending Joan an email at j.andersen.ma@gmail.com

Our eighth article profiles the career of Garbriella Szolnoki.

Welcome to this edition of ‘Where are they now’? In this article, we profile Garbriella Szolnoki – UofT 1998. I hope you find this article interesting and maybe even inspirational.

Gabriella completed her degree in 1998 at Victoria College as a part-time student. German was her major; French was her minor. She did language and literature courses. She entered Teacher’s College in 2001 with the goal of becoming a High School German teacher. When she graduated, there were no German teaching positions available, and she obtained a position as an elementary teacher. Gabriella has maintained her German fluency and since 2012, she has been teaching German on weekends (half day Saturdays) at the high school level in Oakville.

We caught up with her at her home in the GTA.

1. What made you decide to pursue German studies at the U of T?

I was born in Hungary and learned English and German as I grew up.  I worked as a tour guide in Europe so I already knew German when I studied it at the U of T.  I needed to take a subject that would be relatively easy to counter balance the difficulty that I had in taking science courses.  At the time when I took these science courses, I thought I would become a chiropractor and these courses were mandatory for that field.  I soon realized that this career was not for me, so I switched to study French.

2. Describe your current position and job responsibilities. 

I teach core French to Grades 1-8, in a classroom environment.

3. How did you come to select this position as your career?

As mentioned above, my first choice was to be a German teacher but since this career was not available, I chose to teach French instead.  My Saturday teaching has now allowed me to realize my goal of teaching German.

4. What does a typical day at work for you look like?

I am in the classroom for the entire day, working with my students.

5. What do you like most about your job?

I like to see the students learning something which they like and will be of value to them.

6. What are some of the challenges that you face on a day-to-day basis?

It’s always a challenge to get the resources and support I need. Luckily, I have a home classroom so I can set up a positive learning environment for my students who come to my classroom, in terms of what they see and hear.  Many teachers do not have this.

When I’m teaching my High School German course on weekends, I need to ensure that the students are learning what is of value to them, and what will earn them their Grade 10 credit for the course, and equip them to continue their German studies, if they wish.

7. What skills do you possess that make you a good fit for your current job?

I like working with the students.  I am fair, personable and willing to help students even if it means explaining things in a different way to create understanding.

8. How have your German studies equipped you with the skills you need to do your job?

Certainly, I needed to have completed German studies to teach German on Saturdays.  I am also using it this summer because I teach German as part of the Halton District School Board’s Heritage Language Program.  I teach 5 half days (Monday to Friday) until the end of July (which is 3.5 weeks).  

9. What are your ultimate career goals?

I am happy with my current teaching career.  Maybe in the future, I might branch out into teaching English as a second language.

10. What do you do in your spare time?

As you can see, my days and weeks are quite busy, especially when I’m teaching on Saturdays.  I like to spend time with my family and I exercise.

11. What advice do you have for German students who are pursuing their studies with the goal of securing meaningful employment post-graduation?

You need to develop and maintain a network of people and contacts who do what it is you want to do, whether it’s teaching, translating or interpreting German or any other career.  Look at the bigger picture and ask yourself ‘What else can German be used for, beyond teaching?’  I do recommend studying abroad as part of learning any language – consider an exchange program where you can study abroad, and experience the language and culture in their real environment.

12. For those readers who want to learn more, how can they contact you?

By email at: szolnokigabi@hotmail.com