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.
There are many little ways to go above and beyond during the day, but not everyone thinks to do them. Ruth Grier and Lydia David, twin sisters and educational assistants (EAs) at Chilliwack middle school, make a point of it.
They are at school at 7:50 a.m. every day, greeting kids as they come through the doors. Just saying “good morning” can get a student’s day off on the right foot and they make a point of remembering as many names as they can. No matter what’s going on from first bell to last, Ruth and Lydia present a picture of positivity, smiling and talking and keeping things upbeat.
There are other things they do, like running an after-school rugby program twice a week, or bringing food from home to give to students who may not be eating well at home.
The kids repay that kindness and selflessness in kind.
“They always want to include us in the classroom activities. They’re like, ‘You have to ask Ms. Ruth and Ms. Lydia!’” said Ruth, who along with Lydia have been based at Chilliwack middle school for around 10 years. “Kids ask us how our day is going and if we’re doing OK, and we ask them how their weekend was or how they’re feeling. Trying to make that connection and form that bond with them is pretty important.”
Ruth said one girl recently learned their birthday was coming up, and brought in a birthday present and a card.
That was a touching moment.
When the school has special days/events, the women dive right in, as they did last Christmas.
“Every day in December, we dressed up in matching funky outfits and handed out candy,” Lydia recalled with a smile.
“Things like that make the kids laugh,” Ruth added. “They see us being goofballs and messing around and having fun with them, and it just helps us connect with them better when they can say, ‘That’s the EA that wore that silly hat!’”
As much as the life of an EA is rewarding, it can also be challenging, mentally and physically. The women said they have tons of support within the school from people like resource teacher Kellie Valburg.
But their best support system is each other, and they have the most fun when they’re together.
“We’ve done everything together our whole lives, so for us, this was another adventure,” Ruth said. “I know someone’s always there to watch out for me, and have fun with me because she’s just as crazy as I am.”
Working together has worked out better than either of them ever expected, and being named Heroes in Education tells them they’re doing something right. They’re surprised, and honoured, and it provides just a little more motivation for them to keep doing what they do.
“It’s very nice, and thanks to whoever nominated us,” Ruth said. “But with or without it, I just do my job and love everything I do.”
“I was a little shocked,” Lydia added. “Sometimes I guess we do underestimate ourselves. We do do a lot and it feels really good to be recognized.”