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A standing ovation: Education Assistants win National Inclusive Education Award

“Champions of Inclusion”  – Sarah Negrin, Ann Negrin and Jenine Grass are helping inspire a growing culture of inclusion at NWSS…

Champions of Inclusion at New Westminster Schools….

May 29, 2019 – The dedicated support that a team of three education assistants give to their students to help ensure they are included in all aspects of school life at New Westminster Secondary has been recognized with a National Inclusive Education Award.

Ann Negrin, Jenine Grass and Sarah Negrin were in Victoria over the weekend to accept the recognition during the annual Inclusion 2019 conference.

It was a moment on stage they said they shared in their hearts with all Education Assistants at the school.

The awards honour teachers, support staff and education leaders who are ‘doing amazing things’ to ensure all students, especially those with exceptional needs, have full access to education.

The awards are presented by Inclusion BC in partnership with Inclusive Education Canada.

A standing ovation….

When Principal Murray McLeod shared the news of the award today at a special NWSS staff meeting, the result was a standing ovation.

“It’s very exciting to see our staff acknowledged in this way, and I think it’s something to celebrate!” said Kelly Proznick, head of the Visual and Performing Arts Department.

The three New Westminster Schools Education Assistants were among a total of six B.C. educators – including two classroom teachers and a registrar for the University of Victoria –  who received the  2019 National Inclusive Education Awards.

They were nominated by parent Laurie Scouten who celebrated the team’s professionalism and dedication for making a profound difference for her daughter’s education.

National Inclusive Education Awards recognize the following indicators of excellence in inclusive education practice:

  • Students are fully participating with peers in all school opportunities, inside and outside the classroom
  • All students are valued and encouraged to build on their abilities
  • There are no label-based limitations
  • There is school-wide culture and leadership

Staff at NWSS applaud recognition of Education Assistants Ann Negrin, Jenine Grass and Sarah Negrin…

Making meaningful inclusion happen every day…

At NWSS, the three EAs make “meaningful inclusion happen every day.”

Through the Foundations for Success Program at NWSS, they help students engage with school programs and the larger community – in part by asking the key questions that make a difference, such as:  “How is this helping the student?” and:  “How can we work together on this.”

“We don’t see ‘disabilities,’ in our students,” said Ann Negrin, who has been an EA in the district for more than 30 years. “We see strengths and limitations – which we all have. The thing that inspires us about this work is the growth we see in each of our students.”

Ann Negrin, her daughter Sarah – also an EA –  and Jenine Grass all emphasized how important it is to continue to educate the NWSS community about students with exceptional abilities.

See related:  Best Buddies: There's a Place for Everyone at NWSS

They noted that at NWSS, peer tutoring is one option that provides opportunities for students with differing  abilities to interact –  encouraging greater awareness, more understanding and more skills in engaging with students who have complex needs.

The three Education Assistants also applaud the willingness of several departments at NWSS  to welcome students and support inclusion.

“Our Fine Arts Department is amazing,” said Ann Negrin. “The teachers will talk to their students about the abilities of our kids, encourage them to be understanding, and give them some information that helps students to engage with each other.”

Negrin noted that the more structured approach to learning in academic subjects can pose an increased challenge, but said that ongoing changes associated with BC’s redesigned curriculum will open more doors.

Teacher-librarian Christy Veltman, whose background includes teaching students with complex needs, said regular sessions in the NWSS library for students with exceptional abilities encourage skill development, and are focused on literacy and numeracy skills, as well as engaging hands-on activities.

Veltman noted there is a growing awareness more generally of the need to engage all students.  “Inclusion is like Reconciliation (with First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples): Everyone wants to do it. They just aren’t sure how.”

For parent Lauren Scouten, the professionalism and advocacy of the EA team made a difference for Scouten’s daughter Abby, now in grade 11.  In finding the key to communicating in a way that her daughter understood, Jenince Grass began the process of transformation for Abby.

Scouten finds that Ann Negrin’s advocacy for balance in learning takes place both inside and outside the classroom is making a critical difference, while Negrin’s daughter Sarah ‘exemplifies the collaboration and communications tht Foundations educational assistants pride themselves on.”

Jenine Grass, and Sarah and Ann Negrin between them support seven students at NWSS. They say it’s important that EAs been viewed as a vital and respected part of a collaborative team with teachers, staff and administration, where communication is critical.

“It’s been an honour to be recognized in this way,” said Jenine Grass.