Jenna works as a Special Education Assistant in a middle school in BC. Her training was through a community college taking the Community Support Worker / Classroom Assistant 1-year program. Jenna chose the SEA work as she has her own special needs child with Autism and that is what sparked her interest. The needs of her own child came first and she found she could work the same days and hours that her child was in school.
For the first 6 years, Jenna worked as an on-call EA. It meant waiting for a phone call in the morning to get her assignment. During this time she worked in many different schools with many different children. Jenna says “Although in my training I learned the technical end of the work, being on call I was being able to apply my skill and this is how my confidence grew.”
Jenna says "Although in my training I learned the technical end of the work, being on call I was being able to apply my skill and this is how my confidence grew."
In 2014 a position came up at the middle school for 20 hours per week. It wasn’t financially as great as some of the other positions but it had an appeal on a topic she wanted to learn more about. Jenna applied for the job and soon found she was on a new learning journey herself.
This new position was working with students in a resource room. There were 2 EAs and one teacher and about 25 students. The students came to the resource room for remedial math and reading support as well as a computer-based program called FastForword.
“Neuroplasticity and Brain Science is what I had to learn about,” says Jenna. And she said it fascinating to learn how the brain changes with this program. “I saw a nonreader emerge as a beginning reader and that was exciting.” Jenna also said it changed the way she thought about how all children can learn. “It also helped me understand what more I could do with my own child at home.”
The school has sent Jenna to one workshop of 6 hours to prepare her for this work, but mostly she learned on the job by shadowing the teacher and reading whatever material she can on neuroplasticity.
Jenna’s role is mainly supervising the students while they are working on the computer based program making sure they stay on task. She is required to fill in a log book, but the assessment is done by the teacher. Jenna also reads with students and will tutor math on occasion.
Running the FastForward program is expensive for a school and the EA role is an additional expense. Jenna worries each year her position can be cut.
Jenna is a single mom and to offset the low hours Jenna works part-time at Starbucks and works as an independent Stella & Dots Stylist. She relies on support from family to watch her son so she can do additional work for income. When I asked her if she wished she had a position with higher hours she laughed and replied, “I love my job and would not trade it for anything. I get to make a difference and I see real results.”