Iqbal Bhatti


Reconnecting With A Passion For Teaching

Bow Valley College gives Iqbal Bhatti the chance he had been looking for.

When Iqbal Bhatti got a call from Bow Valley College’s High River Campus inviting him to join the team as an instructor, he responded “This is what I’ve been waiting for.”

Five years earlier, in 2012, Iqbal had immigrated to Canada with his family. Back in Pakistan, he had been working as a teacher at the post-secondary level. But as a Christian, he felt discriminated against in his home country because of his faith. After being refused for a better job in Saudi Arabia on the basis of his faith, he decided to leave Pakistan for Canada for a brighter future for his children.     

Iqbal and his family settled in High River, where they knew another family. He thought he’d easily find a job in Canada using his education and experience. In Pakistan, in addition to teaching at the college level, he maintained other jobs, including training English language and literature teachers for the British Council, working for the government, and preparing people for the IELTS test at a language centre in the evenings. “I was under the impression that I’m a qualified person,” he says. 

But when he applied to a teaching job in High River, he learned that he wasn’t selected for the position because of his accent. He applied to a number of other jobs, but didn’t get any. Eventually, he realized he needed to upgrade his education, and in 2015, he enrolled in the Hospital Unit Clerk Certificate at the Okotoks Campus. 

Through studying at the College in Okotoks, Iqbal met Geri Kirk, learning and technology administrator at the campus. “From the moment I met him, he was such a pleasant individual,” says Geri. “He was always helping the other students.”

When Iqbal discovered Geri had worked as a career coach, he asked if she could look at his résumé. “I discovered that the man can speak five different languages,” says Geri. 

She told him he has great qualifications and education to get a job as an ELL instructor. For example, he has his Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA). “That’s a grueling course,” says Geri, a teacher herself. 

Meanwhile, in 2017, at a meeting in High River for a council for immigrants, where Iqbal volunteered, he spoke for about 20 minutes, and it happened that Lynn Webb was there, who is the Regional ELL lead instructor at Bow Valley College. As soon as the meeting was over, Lynn introduced herself, saying Geri had mentioned his name. She asked him to send her his résumé. At the time, they didn’t have an opportunity for him, but in April 2017, she called him to tell him there was opening for a LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) instructor in High River. 

“I’m thrilled to apply,” Iqbal responded. 

After he was interviewed and Geri provided a reference — she said he is the best choice for the LINC teacher in High River because he has lived the newcomer experience — he got that call from the campus offering him the job. 

Now, two years into the position, Iqbal is happy to have returned to the profession he had back home. “This is my passion,” he says.    

Geri says he’s a “fabulous” teacher. “I can honestly say this, because I am a teacher and I’m fussy,” she adds. 

Iqbal Bhatti

Iqbal celebrates his birthday with his students, who bought him the cake.

In the future, Iqbal would like to do a master’s or a doctorate degree to address the language problems skilled immigrants face when they move to a new country. If English isn’t their mother tongue, he thinks we should encourage these Canadians to undergo extensive language training to equip them with the tools they’re missing to find employment in their field. 

Iqbal, however, is happy the College welcomed him. “When Bow Valley College hired me, I had an accent,” he says. “It is an inclusive society from my perspective.” 

And in Canada, he is pleased he is not ignored on the basis of his faith. “There are tons of opportunities for my children as long as they prove their merit.” 

Do you share Iqbal’s love of teaching? To join our team of instructors at Bow Valley College, visit our careers page and view our current job opportunities. 

Posted on April 8, 2019

Story by Julie-Anne Cleyn, photos by Chris Bolin and Catherine Gibbs

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