In 1991, Paul Zysman founded the International Language School of Canada in downtown Vancouver. From its humble beginnings, ILSC was originally a one-room language school where Paul acted as teacher, marketer student advisor – and everything in between. The school may have started small, but the vision was always big: learn a language by living it!
In 2018, ILSC celebrated 27 years of providing a transformative learning experience to people around the world. Since its beginning, ILSC has developed into a respected global educator with 7 language schools in 3 countries – Canada, Australia and India – as well as 6 vocational colleges in Canada, Australia and India.
Paul is a passionate and energetic leader who has mentored countless staff to continue on with his vision and passion for lifelong learning. From the beginning, he insisted that staff participate in creating and manifesting the school’s mission statement: to keep developing ILSC as one of the finest schools for language and career education where people have excellent and transformative learning and living experiences.
This past June, the BCCIE (British Columbia Council for International Education) held its summer conference. Paul was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, “which recognizes the long-term contributions made and the far-reaching impacts realized over a career of commitment to BC’s International Education sector.”
We had the chance to sit down with Paul and talk about the award, what it means to him, and how ILSC has changed the lives of many – including his.
Q: How did it feel when you found out you would be honoured with this award and what does it mean to you personally?
A: I went through a lot of emotions, and at the bottom of it all, it’s just deep gratitude. Deep gratitude because of this recognition and acknowledgment. And, not so much for the work that I’ve done, but really the work that the whole industry has done. It’s part of a social movement of young people travelling the world and looking for their higher selves. They are doing this by coming to other cultures. So for me, it was quite an honour to recognized as one of the ingredients, one of the parts of this incredible journey.
Q: The award touched on your involvement with CSR, can you speak a bit more why that’s such an important value to you and ILSC?
A: I guess for me, it goes really deep. It goes back to my childhood in terms of wanting to recreate a better world, what I would call “social intimacy” – the connectedness between people. Multiple are the directions in which good can be done in the world. And, in terms of ILSC, there is a huge opportunity for the school, with literally thousands of young people looking for different kinds of directions. This is a huge opportunity to give them other visions of how they can play a role in transforming the world and that can be done through transforming the self – so there is an interplay between self-transformation and global transformation.
Q: In your acceptance speech you touched on the importance of travelling and exploring other cultures, both for you and our international students. Could you elaborate why this is so important?
A: I think it goes back to the heart of what I believe good learning is all about. In that, every moment is a fresh new moment, every day is a fresh new opportunity. That’s what learning is about. It means having an open mind and an open heart. Travel really allows that because we grow up in a certain culture and a certain environment. By going to another culture, one really opens one’s self up to a whole new way of being and becoming – to different values, different languages, different cultures, music, dance, food etc. So that is going to the heart of learning. This is a very dynamic way of getting into that learning drive that we all have, and that’s how transformation takes place.
Q: You also mentioned in your speech that young adults of today are different in that they are looking for deeper meaning in their education and career choices. Could you expand on how ILSC connects them to that deeper meaning?
A: It’s basically the student-centred approach. When I say student centred approach I’m looking at the needs of the learner and student. That means that the teacher or facilitator really puts the student in touch with what’s alive in them, what they’re really hungering for. They may be really in touch with that, and if they are, then the journey is how to address that and keep addressing that, so that every day, every year, and every moment you’re really addressing that.” And that really gets to the aspect of what I call adult education – you’re learning how to become a lifelong learner. In other words, you’re always keeping open your heart and mind and able to really open up to what is your human potential.
With an inspiring leader like Paul, it’s no wonder ILSC has had such long-lasting success. Through his example, he has been able to coach and inspire students and staff alike to aim high and create their own destiny – and we can think of no one more deserving than the Lifetime Achievement Award. Take a look at Paul’s full interview below.