Supporting Every Student
Hamilton District Christian High Education Assistant encourages students to find and use their skills to succeed.
2015 marks the 10th anniversary of Deb Vonk joining the Hamilton District Christian High family as an Educational Assistant. After high school, Deb worked in a nursing home as a nurse’s aide while saving money for college. Graduating with a Developmental Services Diploma in Specialty in Education from Fanshawe College, she worked in residential services, as an employment counselor and she taught evening classes at Fanshawe.
Once her children became school-aged, Deb pursued her original desire to use her talent working in schools. “When I was in college, I remembered that one of the first things we were taught was that every student is capable of learning. Some learn at a different pace or in a different way. It’s up to us to help them find what works best for them.”
Deb worked as an Educational Assistant in the London area and in Windsor before moving to Hamilton when she applied at Hamilton District Christian High and was offered an EA position. “I planned to stay here until my son Brandon graduated. He graduated in 2007 and I’m still here!”
The evolution to Project Based Learning opened new opportunities to provide support to students.”
For the first eight years at Hamilton District Christian High, Deb was the only Educational Assistant on staff. “Using projects allows students to be creative by using existing knowledge to learn new concepts. “Encouraging students to find and use these skills is a fun and rewarding part of my job.” Deb recalls when a recent group of students who enjoy music, created a rap of a list of some key concepts for science class. This was captured on video and shared with the class.
With a larger team of EAs now in place, each member is encouraged to use their own areas of strength to assist in specific areas while still providing individual support when needed. “We have an amazing team. One of the things I have enjoyed most is the camaraderie and the opportunities to share ideas and experiences.”
When students of different abilities interact together, there are often many memorable moments. “It’s heartwarming to see those students who are more able step up to assist those who need it.” Deb recalls a past field trip where a “tougher” student left his own group of friends on the bus to ride in the car with Deb and a classmate who used a wheelchair. “He stayed with us all day, jumping in to help whenever he could. Then another student in grade twelve took the time to play games with a younger student with special needs.”
Working as an EA, Deb believes there are three qualities that contribute to success: flexibility, teamwork and heart. “Every classroom we enter and every student we work with is different. I especially love being in the classrooms with teachers who are passionate about the subjects they teach and about their students. I get to enjoy learning the subject matter right along with the students.”
Deb sees the impact a Christian education has on her students.
“Several years ago, I worked with a student who struggled. He was given an assignment to put himself in the place of one of the people who was at the crucifixion of Jesus. The story he wrote would never win an academic award, however his thought showed incredible insight and understanding of what Christ had done for us.”
Deb still keeps a copy of that story hanging in her work area to remind herself that this is the most important lesson for us all.