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College graduates answer school district’s needs
Okanagan College Media Release

North Okanagan Shuswap School District #83 is anticipating a significant number of retirements in the next couple of years, and graduates of Okanagan College’s Education Assistant (EA) program will be ready to meet the community’s needs.

“We’re at a point in time now where we have a significant percentage of our support staff at retirement age,” says Nora Kennett, District Administrator – Student Services SD #83. “Of course, we can never predict exactly when people will choose to retire – as each employee’s situation and choices are different – but it is safe to say that we will be looking to fill this gap in the next couple years.”

Kennett should know – she not only organizes practicums for students with the school district, but also sits on the College’s program advisory committee and is an instructor.

“I really value the link between Okanagan College and the school district,” says Kennett. “This connection allows the College and the District to dialogue around important course content and what practical experiences these students should have to be successful in the role they will play in schools. The students are learning what they need to be successful graduates and the school district is ultimately able to hire employees who have the knowledge and skill set to support our most vulnerable learners.”

Okanagan College’s Education Assistant certificate prepares graduates to work in the classroom with children with diverse and unique learning needs, including physical, cognitive and/or behavioural challenges. The program is a total of nine months and includes a 120-hour practicum, during which time students are each placed in a school where they work alongside CEAs (Certified Education Assistants), teachers and learning resource teachers to practice and hone their skills.

“The practicum is as important as the classroom content,” says Kennett. “Students have an opportunity to see the actual workings of a school and learn precisely what the role of a CEA is.”

This experience gives the College students the opportunity to put into action what they have been learning in the classroom and allows students to practice two main themes of the program: reflection and teamwork.

“During the practicum, students are encouraged to reflect – to examine whether or not certain strategies worked and develop thoughts on how they could do things differently next time,” says Kennett. “A school is a dynamic place and practicum students need to have the ability to be flexible and to quickly shift and change directions when needed, all within a team context.”

Kennett says that although most Education Assistant graduates do go on to jobs within the school system, others have found employment within community agencies, such as the Shuswap Children’s Association. With graduates eligible to apply for their Early Childhood Educator Assistant license
, some have chosen to take on roles in daycare and preschool settings. And others choose to work as behavioural interventionists focusing on supporting children on the autism spectrum.

“What’s interesting,” says Kennett, “is that in every class I teach – without fail – students remark on how the learning from this course about supporting and caring for others would be spectacular for everybody to know. Many tell me that they take home what they’ve learned and reflect on how to use the strategies with their own kids and family.”

Okanagan College’s Education Assistant certificate program is now accepting applications for a program start date of Jan. 5, 2016 at the Salmon Arm campus. For more information, call 250-804-8888, email or go online to