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Richmond education assistants connect with students

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 2:00 PDT, Fri May 29, 2020

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

While Richmond students are learning from home, education assistants (EAs) play a vital role.

“EAs are an important part of the school system and help implement and support remote learning in a variety of ways,” says Jane MacMillan, the school district’s director of instruction - inclusive learning.

Some EAs are working in schools with vulnerable students and children of essential service workers. Others are working from home, supporting students remotely.

“Support plans were developed and coordinated at the district level,” says MacMillan. “EAs who are supporting students of essential service workers work in shifts at designated school sites. Three shifts have been developed over the course of the day.”

Some in-school EAs support students with significant care needs, while others provide broader support. And EAs working from home are collaborating with teachers to engage students in learning opportunities that will fit their needs.

“They connect with families and students to provide direct learning support that has been developed specifically for each student. They provide the students with a wonderful connection to school and are able to help students engage in activities,” says MacMillan. “As part of the school team, EAs also provide feedback to help shape further learning activities based on the student's engagement and progress.”

EA Wendy Berry is one of those who has been working remotely—a format that has been challenging.

“Keeping a student’s attention online requires much more work,” says Berry. “We have to become more enthusiastic and animated.”

The student Berry works with is learning to speak English through learning activities that teach numbers, colours, body parts and sounds. After each activity, they listen to songs and do actions that help with understanding.

A really exciting thing that has come out of this is that my student independently picked up a book from home and started pointing at and saying all the familiar words,” says Berry.

And she says she’s found new ways to support the student she works with through technology, which she will try to implement when they’re back in the classroom. While Berry says physical distancing will be the greatest challenge once school restarts—especially for EAs—she knows students are missing the routine of day-to-day classes.

“I think kids are missing the contact with their EAs, teachers, admin and peers,” says Berry. “I believe we are like a second family.”

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