Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hip + Urban Girl of the Week: Maria Barsali

When I first met Maria Barsali I was absolutely captivated by her big hair, hot outfit and friendly personality. Who is this girl? Was she a model? Fashion blogger? Socialite?

Maria impresses with her beauty and smarts. She is a Modern Greek/Ancient Greek/Latin Teacher for grades 2-12 & adults. When she's not teaching, she's travelling the world, working on her fitness or being named one of 'Toronto's Best Dressed' natch. She is incredibly down-to-earth and we are hot for this teacher, as our hip + urban girl of the week.

How did you get into teaching and did you always know that you wanted to teach?
I studied Education and Pedagogics at Thessalonica Aristotle University in Greece. I knew I wanted to teach by the end of my freshman year of high school. I like helping other people understand concepts and I was always good at it. I love learning for the sheer hell of it, and I especially love history and lit. Last but not least, I had a great public school experience full of good teachers who loved their jobs. That made a good impression on me and I thought to myself "hey, I could enjoy this job!"

What are some of the perks of your job & what do you like best about it?
A few weeks ago a former student stopped by my class to say hello.  He stood awkwardly in front of me for a second until his friend told me that he wanted a hug.  Nothing was wrong.  He just hadn't seen me in a long time and missed me.  And he had told his friend as much on the drive over.

Some students drift in and out of your class like ships in the night, never to be seen again, and others bless you with their continued presence in your life.

I felt very fortunate that day.  

Clearly, the best part of being a teacher is the opportunity to help kids and change lives but it’s also a great way to stay sharp and keep learning throughout my career. Moreover, I can use summer break, winter break, and spring break to pursue other interests, such as travel, fitness, and research. Often I use the time to pursue professional development opportunities or to supplement my income by taking on other projects.

What is your typical day like?
I hate routine and thankfully never two days are the same. I am an early bird so I usually hit the gym early when it’s quiet.  Then, I am off teaching. I use public transit or my bike, therefore I try to take advantage of every single idle moment to read something on the fly, arrange my appointments or communicate. My evenings are a mixture of private lessons, friends and family.

What are some of the disadvantages of your job, that maybe we don't think about?
Eh? Teaching is a wonderful thing. It's my passion so I love every single aspect of it. I just started a few years ago, so maybe you want to ask me again 20 years from now.

You were just named one of “Toronto’s Best Dressed“ by the Toronto Star. How did you feel when you first heard the news?
I had never thought about of making such a list. It just goes to show that style has no “stereotypes”. However, when I first saw the cover of the Star with my humongous picture on it, I giggled. I get that “hey teacher” way often on the street nowadays.

Where and who do you draw style inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from things and people around me. Following a grunge-cool style mantra you will most likely find me wearing a black or white outfit paired with local artist jewelry. I love mixing fabrics and I always look to infuse even the most basic pieces with a fashion-forward flair. My daytime-style is always practical and wearable. Alexander Wang, Rick Owens, Acne and Opening Ceremony are at the top of my shopping list.

Tell us how you get your hair that high and how do you get it to stay in place!
Practice and hairspray. It just stays. But don’t try to touch it. I‘ll get angry!

I know you‘re really into fitness. What advice can you give to other hip + urban girls about getting motivated to hit the gym?
Make some simple changes in your daily habits and you can find the time to work out with a busy schedule. Set up small goals and push yourself to achieve them. Allow yourself some time for the results to show up. There are no shortcuts. Expect ups and downs. Think about physical activity as a lifestyle rather than just a single task to check off. Look at your daily routine and consider ways to sneak in activity here, there, and everywhere. Try different types of exercise to find the one that stimulates and supercharges you.  Pick up a sport with your friend or significant other. I can only tell you it gets easier from there.

Where are your favorite places to hang out in Toronto?
You will most likely find me hanging out at the West end. The Beaconsfield, Baby Huey, P&L, Sweaty Betty’s, Camp 4 are among my favorite stops for drinks. I am a picky eater, but I frequently make the trip to Blowfish, Brockton General, The Combine Eatery or Enoteca Sociale for a bite.    

Best places to shop in the city?
When shopping for clothing in Toronto I always make a stop at Carte Blanche, Rac Boutique and Serpentine. In Montreal I love the Reborn and SSense boutiques in old town.

Where would you go on your dream vacation?
Anywhere there is sea, sun, love and no phone reception. I am fortunate enough to travel frequently. I visit Miami often for my vitamin D and candlelight yoga fix. I spent last summer in Maui, Hawaii and I was taken away by the experience. I am now thinking Brazil is next.

What would you tell your 20 year-old self?
The work-life balance is key.

What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls out there trying to figure out what they want to do?
Do what makes you the most happy. Even if you make a wrong step, recharge and start again fresh. Keep pushing yourself to be the best at what you do. Be patient but never give up. Imagine a new story for your life and start living it. Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok it’s not the end.


Loved this? Meet another Hip + Urban Girl of the week here!


  1. I 've seen Maria IRL, but hesitated to talk to her. She is stunning. Brains & looks, killer combo. Perfect HUG entry.

  2. Great interview! Saw her on TV the other day and at the Star. So stylish

  3. Came across her shoot in last month's Flare magazine. Amazing how she manages to balance out. Women like her encourage me to try harder.