When asked what her favourite subject was growing up, Aparna doesn’t miss a beat. “Math. Because I had a really good teacher who encouraged me.”

Aparna always loved school, but it wasn’t until she became a teacher herself that their true role really clicked for her.

“When I became a teacher, I realized that we are the ones inspiring students to like a certain subject. We have a big role to play.”

This level of responsibility really stuck with Aparna. So much so that when she moved to Canada in August of 2010, one of the first things she did was look for an opportunity to continue teaching.

And she found that as a volunteer tutor at Pathways to Education.

For the past decade, Aparna has helped students with their homework, two to three evenings a week.

“The students ask me when I’m tutoring next and say, ‘We want you to teach us.’ That makes my day.”

Aparna isn’t just a good tutor, though. She’s also a role model.

When Aparna was studying in India, she noticed that she was often one of only a few female students in her engineering classes.“We were less than 10% of the class.”

And this divide is something she’s noticed while tutoring at Pathways, as well. “You ask girls and often they will say, ‘We don’t like math,’ or ‘We can’t do it.’ But it’s not about IQ level, it’s about opportunity.”

Just as she was encouraged to pursue her own love of math, Aparna believes that exposing girls to math, science, and technology from a young age will help them see these fields as potential career opportunities. “We have to give them the right exposure in terms of choice.”

As a professional engineer herself, she’s doing her best to send this message to the young girls she tutors by sharing her own career path.  

“I always tell students that I am an engineer, especially when I talk to girls. I show them that if I can do it, then anybody can.”

For Aparna, it’s not just about choosing a career field. It’s about helping young people develop a love of learning that will last far beyond high school. “I feel education makes people stronger. It makes humans better.”

In her own ongoing quest for knowledge, Aparna is currently pursuing a PhD in engineering—but that doesn’t mean that her time at Pathways is over. When asked if she would keep volunteering, her answer came as quickly as when asked about her favourite subject.

“Of course. I feel proud that I have consistently gone back to Pathways—to the same set of people, the same staff, the same students. I feel home.”