Caitlin Cleveland: School Support Assistant Pilot Program

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — June 13, 2024

Check against delivery

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the hard work and commitment of northern teachers, but they do not work alone. Support Assistants play a vital role in classrooms across the Northwest Territories so today I ask my colleagues to help me celebrate some recent successes of some support assistants through the School Support Assistant Pilot Program.

Across our territory 320 dedicated Support Assistants work with NWT students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12. These professionals are not just aides; they are essential pillars in our classrooms who ensure students have the opportunity for a successful and inclusive learning experience. These positions play a critical role in helping classroom teachers meet the diverse needs of students; and while they may work with specific students, they are also a resource for the whole class.

Mr. Speaker, in 2020 the Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly clearly stated the need for adequate guidance and training for Support Assistants.

Today, I am proud to share our progress in addressing these recommendations.

To make the Support Assistant role more effective and supported, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment updated both job descriptions and the Inclusive Schooling Handbook. The Government of the Northwest Territories also forged a partnership with Douglas College to pilot an Education Assistance and Inclusion Certificate.

This virtually-delivered program was tailored to the needs of NWT Support Assistants in several ways. Participants followed a cohort-based model that fostered a collaborative learning environment to share learning and experiences. Program material was customized for our NWT context, ensuring relevant and practical learning. While participants undertook coursework, they continued their important work in schools where they could apply what they learned in real-time.  The courses and practicums equipped NWT Support Assistants with specialized skills to promote student wellbeing, development, and educational success. They also grew as leaders in inclusive education.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud that the Government of the Northwest Territories covered the costs of tuition, fees, and materials, helping to remove financial barriers for our Support Assistants to access this important program.

Since launching in January 2022, the program has had admirable results. This month, we celebrate 24 graduates. This achievement is a personal milestone for each participant and promises enhanced support to our students.

I want to share the inspiring words of Tena Blake, a Support Assistant at Chief Julius School in Fort McPherson. She described the program as “life changing” and saying it has “given me the confidence to look at furthering my education and taking more postsecondary courses that will benefit the work that I do with students.”

Mr. Speaker, stories like Tena’s fuel our commitment to build on this success.

I want to express my pride in each participant of the School Support Assistant Pilot Program. Their hard work and commitment to professional growth are commendable. I offer my sincere congratulations and best wishes for the future. To the NWT’s valued Support Assistants, we are grateful for the work you do.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.