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Montreal Adult Ed. teacher gets students moving with not-so-traditional English class

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MONTREAL -

Allyson Deodath is no ordinary teacher.

A teacher at the English Montreal School Board High School of Montreal Adult Learning Centre, Deodath’s not-so-traditional English class could include dance on the curriculum, among other techniques to get her students moving.

“I just want people to feel loved, be real and be accepted for who they are,” Deodath told CTV News.

Laughter can be heard through the hallways, according to her supervisor.

“When you're walking the hall and you hear her classroom, what does it sound like? It sounds like a party,” said EMSB Supervisor Lloyd Shaw.

“It's like an educational party, because you're not leaving that party without learning something.”

She’s been teaching that way for decades.

“As I was coming into my class, (I said) ‘that's the class I want to be in’,” said fellow EMSB teacher Lynne Carrier, “because there was always such happiness and laughter.”

She says her approach changed after she suffered two brain aneurisms, which pushed her to a near-death experience.

“When we almost lost Ally two years ago, it was a big shock to all of us,” said Carrier.

Deodath said her episodes inspired her to start a non-profit organization called Reach Out And Relate, or ROAR.

“ROAR is primarily to educate everyone on how to maintain mental health, so it's truly holistic,” she said.

Her co-founder and daughter Isis Meunier said she wants to break down barriers around mental health.

“Having mental health issues is normal, and there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, sadly,” she said. “But I hope with ‘let us ROAR’, we can slowly start to break down the stigma.”

Deodath's students are mostly new Canadians, who need extra support navigating a new life.

Deodath said being an active listener is the first step to helping them, and her members agree.

“We can be strong even though we are Immigrants,” said former student and ROAR member Mina Sadeghi. “As an immigrant we have a lot of problems … and we need someone to listen to us.”

“That is her way to build a community,” said Surangama Kumar, also a former student. “I'm very happy to support her and her ROAR family.”

“She always encouraged us to keep going and pursue our dreams, to be ourselves,” said Rosa Barrela, another former student.

After a year of online meetings, ROAR is closer to getting back to normal, with members meeting off-campus.

“I think that she's so genuine,” said Principal Harry Michalopoulos. “(The students) are at ease talking with her, and once they start opening up to her … they see that.” 

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