CUPE 401, Alert Bay Elementary School
Education Assistant, Noon Hour Supervisor; After School Sports and Arts Worker
I’ve worked off and on for the district for 20 years. It’s satisfying to work with children and steer them to get help. Math is one of my strengths and I enjoy working with kids on math, encouraging them to read and to ask for help. That’s why we are here.
Our school is part of the After School Sports and Arts Initiative so we encourage our children to eat healthy and get lots of exercise. We are getting water fountains where students can refill water bottles because we promote healthy eating, and drinking water is part of that.
We don’t keep our kids inside unless it’s very, very drastic out there. Otherwise they are out in all weather. We try not to keep them in so that they get fresh air, exercise and interaction.
A lot of kids have never skateboarded, so we take them out skateboarding. We try to branch out and we ask the kids what they want to see. We are in the process of getting a wide, not high, climbing wall.
Last year we brought in a musical for our whole school, this year we are bringing in gymnastics. It’s available to our after-school program, but when we do things like that it becomes available to our whole school.
Our community is really close-knit. Everybody knows what’s going on with our kids. If we see something that’s bothering them, we don’t walk away because it’s not our child. They’re all our children. Every child is important.
I do this job because of my son who fell through the cracks in school. He committed suicide at age 24. He had been labelled “dumb” and “stupid” and it wasn’t until he was tested in grade 11 that he was classified as being severely learning disabled. It took 12 years. That’s why this job is so important to me. I don’t want any kids fall through the cracks.
V. Lynne M.
CUPE 847, Merritt Secondary School
Education Assistant, 15 years
I think it’s very important to be inclusive of special education children. It’s valuable because other children have the chance to see what’s going on in other people’s lives. It provides balance.
I like the kids and I like being involved in my community. You get to know these kids and it’s our community, so it feels good to go home at the end of the day knowing you’ve given it your all. You can see the successes and you know these families and the kids are worth it. You put your passion into the work because of the students. It’s not just a job.
As an EA, you see kids in a different light because you’re in close contact with them, sometimes for 5-6 hours a day. You get to know them intimately and you care about them. It can be emotional letting those kids go home and knowing that their world might not be as lovely as the other children.
I would like a better mentorship program with new EAs starting their careers, so that we can pass on information and knowledge. Many people doing this job are going to retire and there will be a missed learning opportunity for new EAs.
This is our community, we should give a damn about what goes on and what is happening in our schools. It’s pretty great when you can see students who have graduated, and they are going to go on to contribute to our community. We need to keep those things in focus because it is worth it. The community is worth it.