The Chilliwack Progress is honoured to profile seven ‘Heroes in Education’ from a long and amazing list of nominees sent to us from the Chilliwack community.
It’s been a busy time for school counsellors. Since the schools were mostly shut down last spring break due to COVID-19, the role of counsellors has had to evolve with the needs of each student.
In Chilliwack, the first students to come back to the classroom were those who needed supports the most, according to Rosedale Traditional community school counsellor Sarah Jackson.
“Last June we opened our school to our vulnerable students,” she says. That gave those students direct access to supports beyond the classroom, including breakfast and lunch programs.
For those who didn’t come back, Jackson and others got together to identify which homes would need curbside delivery of food.
“It’s a way to let the kids know that we are there for them,” she says.
Many vulnerable students are still at home, and staying connected to them is a key part of Jackson’s job. The mother of one of her students has been so moved by Jackson’s commitment to their family that she nominated her for a Heroes in Education award.
That family is staying anonymous for this story, but says “we are all forever grateful to have had her in our corner.”
“It’s so lovely,” Jackson said upon learning of the nomination. “It’s such a nice thing. A lot of the counsellors have been quite busy. We provide a lot of support to our whole team.”
They work in one-on-one settings with students in and out of the classroom. They run small support groups. They create students’ Individual Education Plans and make sure they are being followed. They knock on families’ doors, go to doctor appointments, and may even check in on weekends and summer breaks.
“We have our in-school hours,” she says. “But for us, their needs don’t fall just in those hours.”
One of the biggest jobs has been staying connected with their students and making them feel welcome back in the school when they return. For some, the longer they have been away, the harder it is to return.
Being able to advocate for students is such an important part of the job, she says. And that means helping parents navigate new and emerging issues as they come up. And sometimes those can’t wait for school hours.
Jackson came into being a school counsellor through the social services. She has been at Rosedale for three years now and says she loves connecting with the students, as well as working as part of the district resource team.
While she is thrilled that a student’s family sees her as a hero for their child, Jackson says there is a whole team of heroes working in the school system who deserve applause.
That includes the school’s child and youth worker, Braiden De Haan. He partners with her in caring for students with vulnerabilities, and has found unique ways to get students to re-enter the school after being away for so long.
“I have to mention all the teachers, the whole team,” she says. “The aboriginal education department, the administration.”