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  • Steve Taylor

Alumni Series - Lyanna Deng

Updated: Apr 23

The Alumni Series features testimonials and interviews given by recent graduates of WillowWood School. In this post, Lyanna discusses how her time at WillowWood School helped her develop the skills required to forge a successful career in computer science and artificial intelligence.


1. How did WillowWood help you achieve your goals?

WillowWood School helped me both academically and mentally. Willowwood has a low pupil-to-teacher ratio and most of the classes I attended had less than 10 students. I still remember what my biology teacher, Steve said in my first class: “There are only 4 students here. Everyone will have the opportunity to ask questions”. Since my confusion about the course concepts could be solved immediately, my grades increased significantly which really helped me with my university applications. In addition, my math teacher, Guy challenged me by giving me extra work and harder exercises that were not in the textbook, to train my mathematical thinking and analytical skills. This expanded my interest in the magical world of mathematics. Although I still don’t like calculus, I am now addicted to math theory (I recommend everyone learn it because It is really fun!).


Before I arrived in Canada, I had low self-esteem in every aspect. But the teachers (Rosie, Matt, Zach, Heather, and Alvin) at Willowwood always encouraged me which gave me a lot of confidence and I became much more outgoing than I was before.


2. How was your English when you first started in Grade 10?

I came to WillowWood in Grade 12 having already achieved a score of 7 on IELTS (International English Language Testing System). My listening and reading ability is sufficient but my oral and written skill were poor.


3. How did the teachers at WillowWood help you improve your English language skills?

Willowwood offered a free IELTS training program and the teacher Rosie gave me one-to-one IELTS speaking and writing practice which helped me pass the written and oral components of IELTS. My English teacher Walid and the school principal Fred gave me feedback for every assignment I wrote for English 12, which not only helped me get a good result for that course but also improved my overall English ability.


4. Did you make friends with international students?

Yes. There are a lot of international students at Willowwood and most of them are from China and Korea. We often had lunch together in the cafeteria and hung out together after school or on the weekends.


5. Did you make friends with domestic (Canadian) students?

Yes. I made friends with domestic students while I was at WillowWood. They are easy-going and friendly to the international students. Making friends with them not only improved my oral English skills but more importantly, let me experience and get used to Canadian culture.


6. How did the teachers help/make you feel during your time at WillowWood?

Every teacher tried their best to help every student feel at home and comfortable at WillowWood. I was able to talk to them about course-related stuff and personal issues them.


7. What school are you going to now? What are you studying there? What year of study are you in?

I am attending the University of Toronto specializing in computer science with an interest in computer theory, artificial intelligence, and computer graphics. I am currently in my fourth year and am now doing the PEY Coop at the Ontario Ministry of Health as a junior developer and also a research assistant in outlier detection for health data.


8. Anything else you want parents to know?

This school is not like the previous schools I attended. It offers a family environment and every teacher actually cares for every student and gives them the best advice when they need it.


9. List your academic accomplishments and achievements.

I was an Ontario Scholar and this led to me receiving the St. George College Admission Scholarship

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