Northern’s community mourns loss of student in Iranian tragedy

Maya Zibaie died in Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crash

Northern Secondary student Maya Zibaie was an ambitious young lady.

During her Grade 9 year at the Mount Pleasant Road and Roehampton Avenue school last year, she worked through her ESL class and helped her friends with their work. Her efforts led her to take a Grade 10 English.

Northern principal Adam Marshall shared that with great pride when speaking about the 15-year-old.

“She spent her time supporting other ESL learners with her academics,” he said on Jan. 10. “She made strong connections with a fairly small group of our student population.”

When the news broke that Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was accidentally shot down over Tehran, Iran on Jan. 8, and a Northern teacher had a gut feeling Maya was on the flight, it came as a shock to the entire community.

Maya Zibaie

“The initial response is shock,” Marshall said. “I think adolescents don’t think these things can happen to them, so the response in classrooms and staff is shock, but as the day went on everybody came together.”

Northern’s guidance counsellors came to the aid and helped deliver the news to staff, who then went to their classrooms to make the announcement to the student body.

In addition, the guidance staff has taken aside Maya’s immediate friends to work with them one on one.

The Toronto District School Board has also provided additional assistance with added social workers at the school. Sadly, five other students from board schools were victims of the plane crash, spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed.

Senior kindergartner Sophie Emami of Lillian Public School, Grade 6 student Arsam Niazi of Pleasant PS, Arnica Niazi of Finch PS, Rahmtin Ahmadi, a Grade 4 student at Muirhead PS, and Dallington PS Grade 3, Shahzad Eghbali died in the crash.

All TDSB schools and administrative offices lowered their flags at half-mast for the week.

“What we have been doing is ensuring that social work staff are available at each of those impacted schools to make sure someone is there for any students or staff that want to speak,” Bird said. “We realize that this is just a horrible situation and we want people to know we have staff there if you are having difficulties.”

Northern is still processing what happened, Marshall said. The school will move forward with a proper memorial.

“From the community, from our parents and from our staff there are tons of ideas coming in. What we’ve been saying is we want to take a little time to digest this and do the best thing,” he said. “We want Maya’s close friends front-and-centre in the decision making on how we go about remembering her.

“Maya’s going to have a place at Northern forever, and we want to make sure it’s appropriate for the student that she was.”

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