You know the old adage that it’s never too late to find your true calling? Carol Gallant is living proof. The Capilano University Education Assistant grad decided at age 39 to finally pursue her goal of working with children in elementary schools.
“When I was in high school, I was a peer tutor in the special education department,” Carol recounts. “It was something that always resonated with me and something I always wanted to do.”
However, her life went in a different direction after high school. “I started working at a young age and had a family and life got away from me. But, then I got to a point of maturity where I decided to do what I always wanted to do—to take the risk and just go for it,” says Carol.
Since graduating from Capilano U’s Education Assistant program in May 2015, she has been working at Queen Mary Elementary School in North Vancouver.
One of the biggest advantages of the Education Assistant program, Carol says, is that it takes place in the evening so you can complete it while maintaining a full-time job. The 20-month, part-time program combines evening classes with a hands-on work practicum that prepares grads to work with children who require extra support while learning.
Changes in the K-12 school system
Provincial regulations now require almost every school to hire certified staff to assist students who present with a wide range of abilities.
In the 2014-2015 school year, one in four classes in B.C. public schools had four or more students with special needs. Every student with special needs is entitled to an individual education plan that sets goals for them, as well as the objectives and strategies for that student’s education team. An education assistant is a key member of the team that supports each student.
Because of labour shortages in this field, some schools are hiring non-credentialed staff. Prospective students are then faced with a decision—whether to attend school or not. Carol feels the program gave her a valuable skill set and fuelled her passion for the field.
“I think it’s very important to know the theory behind what you’re doing. Anybody can go shadow [in the classroom] and learn something at that moment. But I think it’s really important to understand the historical context behind what you’re doing,” she says. She adds that the practicum provides a stronger experience than simply “being thrown into the field.”
Carol Gallant. Photo submitted.
Carol says the faculty at Cap are one of the program’s biggest strengths. Learning from them has been her most memorable experience.
“They weren’t just teaching us from a textbook, they were out there working in their field, so we really got a hands-on perspective on what to expect,” she says.
An important member of the education team
At Queen Mary, Carol is involved in a number of programs and is seen as a valuable asset to the school. Jennifer Wilson, principal at Queen Mary, describes her as incredibly patient and understanding.
“One of the most important things about someone who has gone through [Capilano U’s] EA program is that you learn the skills and how to follow through with a particular program,” Jennifer says. “You know what’s going to be effective—even though it could look very challenging at that moment—so you can make better decisions about implementation,” she adds.
Although she’s a recent addition to Queen Mary, Carol takes initiative and makes an effort to focus on all the kids in class, particularly those who do not get enough contact. “She has been working with a number of different students and has been able to adapt to the varying demands, which can be very challenging,” Jennifer adds.
“I am able to create tools and help a lot of the other kids in the class,” Carol agrees. “Traditionally, teaching was more one-on-one, but now you’re expected to [assist] the other kids too. A lot of the kids with learning disabilities don’t get enough coverage, so I make it a point to help them,” she says.
“I find it very rewarding.”
Submitted by Communications & Marketing, written by Shanel Khaliq
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Learn more about the Education Assistant program at an information meeting on Tuesday, February 23.