A year in a pandemic did not stop Marie-Claire Martin, the director of Académie Marie-Claire, from fostering a home for her students and staff.
"From the beginning, I knew she was welcoming, kind, caring, driven, dedicated, hardworking, generous and full of energy," said Jacintha Pasquale, a teacher at the academy in Kirkland, Que. "I knew right away that she was someone special, an inspiration."
Martin founded the private school in Montreal's West Island in 1995, building on the work of the daycare she started four years earlier. Today, the school serves students from preschool to high school.
Teacher Nancy Yang said that Martin's energy helps get the day's work done perfectly — and she sometimes even makes lunch for staff.
"I believe it is her love for life and work that keeps her looking this young!" said Yang.
Martin's colleagues see her share this love with everyone. Monica Ohri, another teacher at the academy, says that energy was vital during this unprecedented school year.
"We always looked at her for strength," said Ohri. "I don't think I would have gotten through this year without her. She's like a mother."
"I'm so touched. I'm so blessed to have them in my surroundings. They're simply the best," Martin managed to say through her tears.
"You're putting warmth on my heart today, because the year has been a difficult one."
When the school year began, Martin jumped into action, quickly making the academy as safe as possible — bolstering sanitation, cleanliness and even installing plexiglass panels on every desk.
"She is an exceptional human being who for over 20 years always put her students' and teachers' needs before her own since she opened this school," Ohri said in her email nominating Martin to be our Montrealer of the Month.
But Yang says that even before the pandemic, Martin was taking big strides to make the school safer and more inclusive.
"She created a language support service in both French and English that pays attention specifically to international students," said Yang. "Thanks to this service, these students are not getting lost completely while wrestling with all the difficulties they encounter in their first year in Canada."
Martin said she wants to make sure those who come to her school get the best possible educational opportunities, which is what pushes her to work as hard as she does.
"I want the children to be great citizens. I want them to aim further. I want them to reach the sky. I want them to be happy. I want them to be safe. I want them to learn a lot from us, the lessons of life," she said.
"You are on the boat of life, and we want to bring you to the best shore."
Do you know someone who has made a positive impact on you, your loved ones or friends? Submit your nomination here.