As Capilano University instructor Christian Steckler retires this year, he’s leaving an important legacy — a $20,000 endowment fund for immigrant students in CapU’s English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program.

While typical ESL programs teach proficiency for non-native speakers, the EAP program specializes in equipping students for academic success in post-secondary institutions. Students work on skills such as academic writing, all the while earning elective credits that count toward their diploma or degree.

Thanks to Steckler’s endowment, one immigrant student per year will be awarded a scholarship for EAP studies.

In his 10 years of teaching at CapU, Steckler developed compassion for his immigrant students, seeing the barriers they face. They had uprooted their families to Canada for better opportunities. As legal immigrants they paid taxes, and despite already having degrees, were required to match Canadian credentials. They wanted to move on and contribute to the greater community, but were held back by their English skills.

“They’re stuck,” Steckler says. “I really want to help them.”

A storied teacher

Steckler began working with immigrants with the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISSofBC). He often visited local schools to talk to students about the lives of immigrant families and during one visit, a colleague observed Steckler in the classroom. Impressed with his teaching style, she encouraged him to quit his job to become a teacher.

“She was an angel in my life,” Steckler says. “She directed me to the career that I have loved ever since.”

He took the advice to heart and began his teaching career, which took him from Vancouver to Nunavut to China, the Middle East and Japan. Steckler drew inspiration from the excellent educators he had growing up — they taught him learning could be both fun and rewarding.

“Learning is natural in the human condition,” he says. “Babies are born actively learning ­— so the trick is to nurture that desire.”

Ensuring excellence

Steckler sees an exciting future for EAP, as it continues to form partnerships with other departments to ensure smooth transitions for students in their programs of study.

“I think it’s a recognition of the importance of the EAP department and I’m grateful for that,” he says.

As he leaves behind a contribution that will provide the financial aid for achieving academic excellence, Steckler will miss his students with whom he has bonded over the years.

“My students were so community minded, helpful and friendly,” he says. “They changed the atmosphere of the class they were in.”

As an instructor, Steckler will miss the conversations the most. Away from their homes, his immigrant and international students often came to talk to him about their families and worries. He’s still in touch with many of his former students and is proud to see them reach their career and educational goals. He’s even attended the wedding of two students who married each other.

“You begin to feel like a dad,” he says. “I always have.”

Submitted by Taehoon Kim, Communications & Marketing