Thank you York University for featuring me on national entrepreneurs day!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Read article here.

It’s taken me a few days to post on my blog, about the shock, awe, and utter gratitude that I felt/continue to feel after having been gifted a wonderful interview/article written by York University’s Faculty of Education (where I am still a student after so many years) and featured as an entrepreneurial success story… (see link for complete article here and my media page here.) 

This feature on their website and socials was created in recognition of #nationalentrepeneursday.  Such a nice surprise considering the entrepreneurial role still feels a little foreign to me!

*All photographs in this blog post were captured by Laura Clarke Photography @lauraclarkephotos.

If I'm being completely honest, I cannot say that I feel the success which they so generously described, because this is only the beginning (most especially as a business owner)!  Perhaps it will start to sink in once I get closer to my goal of graduating from the PhD program, officially opening up my creative shop, and expanding the TransformEd studio space.

I also cannot take credit for the achievements, as I believe that they have been a shared effort from a number of important people or circumstances along the way:

(Please note that this entry will make most sense if you read what York's article was about first...)

1. My family. I lived at home until I was 30 years old, and only left after getting married. I became a teacher at 21 years old, which gave me 9 solid years to focus all of my energy and attention on what I loved most — teaching children. My parents did everything most European families do for their kids (e.g., cooking, cleaning, laundry, even vacations, etc.), which left me little responsibilities other than to commit myself to my work and studies. I was then able to pour my heart into my passion for early childhood education! Without their time, efforts, and care I wouldn’t be where I am today.

2. My work in the YRDSB. I work for the York Region District School Board (public board north of Toronto) with amazing educators and administrators who have always encouraged me and given me leadership opportunities at the school, board and Ministry of Education level. One opportunity led to another, and even some of the closed doors opened new possibilities!

3. My instructors/professors at York U. If they didn’t offer such interesting courses, then I wouldn’t have been inspired to pursue lifelong learning. I will always be thankful to those AQ courses, which paved the way for graduate work and to my supervisor — Dr. Isabel Killoran for helping me to finish my Master of Education. Without her I would likely not have conducted my own research or even applied for my doctorate. Isabel also sent my resume to the Faculty of Ed and they immediately hired me to teach their Kindergarten course to teachers and RECEs. And to my second supervisor — Dr. Gillian Parekh who has been so patient with me as I juggle the many parts of my studies/businesses/family.

4. My fellow graduate students. I mentioned several during my interview with York that are noted in the article, but one was missing — Maria Merecoulias, who always gives the right advice at the right time. I know that we will graduate together — I can feel it!

5. My Reggio Emilia, training in Italy.  Without these four visits to learn in Italy, my teaching and overall connections with people would not be the same.  I am forever inspired and thankful in your message of hope for what's possible in educating young children!

6. My blog turn consulting company.  I started a blog to document my classroom transformation from traditional Kindergarten to one that was Reggio Emilia inspired. This platform invited educators into my space of possibilities with over 3 million visitors/views worldwide. I began to offer workshops at conferences and later even virtually. Without the faith that these educators had in me, I wouldn’t be the professional speaker and instructor that I am today.  Thank you for reading my posts and giving me an audience or purpose for sharing my ideas/thoughts!

7. My husband. After my parents/brother, he has been my number one fan — believing in me from when we first started dating (almost 15 years ago) and pushing me further then even I thought was humanly possible! He is an investment advisor for BMO Nesbitt Burns and always has a lot of solid business advice for me to consider, which has definitely come in handy now. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have opened The TransformEd Creative Studio and Learning Centre.

8. My children.  They are not near the end, because they lack importance, but rather, as a result of being newer members in my life’s story. Even though they have only been here for such a short time, they have made the biggest and deepest changes in my career path. If it were not for them, I would have been back in the classroom instead of creating a studio space and shop that will benefit more children in our community!

9. My extended family.  Now I understand why they say that when you have your own children your parents and in-laws become such a life line! Both sides help us with babysitting, so that we can do all of the behind the scenes work. If it weren’t for them I would never be able to study, present my workshops, run the studio, or travel to Reggio Emilia for their week long courses. I appreciate them more than words can say.

I also have some pretty amazing siblings that keep rooting for me! My brother graduated his Master of Engineering, and he's the smartest guy I know.  Him and his wife always let me explore new creative ideas with their children and never hesitate when I ask to blog about the content.

My sister-in-law and her husband who live in the UAE always send me the most positive vibes.  Their genuine interest in my work is so motivating!  And last by not least, my brother-in-law who always offers to play with my children if I have a late night work session.

What would we do without family?

10. My unwavering determination that I will make a difference! At almost 35, I do feel proud of how far I have come, even though it’s hard for me to take credit for it… There are many days where I want to give up, but I don’t. I know I was placed on this Earth to TransformEd(ucation) and when in doubt I will look at my 2 and 3 year old to remind me of my greater purpose.

It also inspires me to have a Dad and Mom who were new immigrants to Canada.  They helped to lay a foundation of values and set a strong example for success.  I've had it so much easier, and will never forget that they travelled far away from their own support system in Greece to create a better future for us and now their grandchildren also.

If anyone deserves an article like the one that was written about me, it's them.  My Dad put himself through university working evenings and studying through the night when most students were asleep.  He graduated from Concordia University as an Electrical Engineer and later worked to lead a team of Engineers at CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).  There, his outside of the box thinking led him to accept an Emmy Award in Los Angeles on behalf of his team.  

TBC - To be continued ... and perhaps I should be the one to write that article!

Needless to say, they motivate me to keep going, and I have many reasons to share the credit for this piece by York University.  If you were one of the people or circumstances (even if your name wasn't mentioned in the article or blog post) you know who you are!

Thank you for helping to unleash my creative potential, my leadership skills, and of course to begin to actualize some of my wildest dreams...

"I continue to be grateful for my roots, especially the blog, which opened up a whole new world as an entrepreneur for my continued work in early childhood education...

... [I advise] students to find a platform to express their passion.

Engage on social media and in your community in some capacity -- 
for you never know what might transpire and the potential of your own reach."

Joanne Babalis, 
November 22, 2019

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