Education, News

Becoming an Education Assistant after 20 years: Starting a new career as a parent

Program: Education Assistant

My name is Christine Holroyd, and I’m a student in the Education Assistant (EA) Diploma program at Stenberg College. Let me start by saying, I wouldn’t recommend “taking a year off” immediately after high school. However, that was the path I chose. Fast forward 20 years, and there I was, two kids, a husband, a few pets, and one mortgage later, finally figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

Christine and her family at the beach
Christine and her family enjoying the outdoors.

A fresh start

Enrolling in the EA program was both exciting and terrifying. I had a general idea about the career and was enthusiastic about my future employment prospects, but I did not know what to expect of Stenberg’s EA program. I imagined I would be one of a few (or perhaps the only) middle-aged students in an EA program full of 20 year-olds, fresh out of high school, who were confident and skilled in their technological and academic abilities. I hoped to squeak through unnoticed, achieve adequate grades, and leave with a rewarding career with which I could support my family. Yet, this program exceeded my expectations.

I hoped to squeak through unnoticed, achieve adequate grades, and leave with a rewarding career…Yet, this program exceeded my expectations.

The first week was awkward, no doubt about it. Zoom with 45 strangers… enough said. However, I quickly realized I was amongst like-minded individuals, peers, and dare I say, friends. We were all out of our comfort zones, and many of us were at similar stages in our lives. Amazingly, we were all ready to support each other. Orientation week was a brilliant mix of learning to navigate the course platform and ice breaker games to ease our nerves. This was guided by our delightful instructor, Sandi Binding, who quickly made us feel like we were sitting down for coffee with friends. I found myself excited to log in each morning.

A few weeks later, the real work set in. With each new course, my self-doubt would creep back in. I would panic for a couple of hours, print off every document, and jot down due dates. I knew I needed to push through, so I would take a breath, look at my course outline, and start tackling things one step at a time. With each completed task and knowledge gained, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Every test score received or essay returned, my pride and confidence grew. It has been truly empowering. 

With each completed task and knowledge gained, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Every test score received or essay returned, my pride and confidence grew. It has been truly empowering. 

The right place

I love being a mom, but high-fiving myself over getting all the laundry folded doesn’t have the same effect as receiving feedback from your instructor on a well-written paper. Of course, it has not all been sunshine and rainbows. I had a dream once that I was at the grocery store and suddenly realized it was the first day of my Autism course, and I had missed half of it. I could feel my heart sinking as this course is critical for practicum. However, when I ran outside and I found my cohort in a beautiful garden, my teacher hugged and comforted me. Looking back, I realize this dream is symbolic of my experience in the program. It can be challenging at times, and even a little stressful, but you are a part of a team that supports you.

Christine studying outside
Studying where you prefer is a perk of online education!

Now mid-way through the program, I can say with certainty that I have made the right choice. My only regret is not doing it sooner, but I know I was where I needed to be to start this new chapter. I am now even more excited and passionate about this career choice than when I first enrolled in the program. I always knew that children with exceptionalities deserved to be supported, and that this career would be both challenging and rewarding. I have now gained a deeper interest and understanding of the hurdles that students and families face every day. This program continues to increase my awareness, and forge my confidence and determination to make a difference as an Education Assistant.

Could the Education Assistant program be for you?

If you are unsure if this program is for you, I would suggest doing ample research and asking yourself if you are up for a challenge. More importantly, ask yourself if you want to make a difference in the lives of children and families. If you have the patience and passion for this field, and the only thing holding you back is self-doubt, step out of your comfort zone. If you put in the work, you will be supported throughout the program and succeed.

Want to learn more about becoming an Education Assistant? Check out this video which tells you everything you need to know about the program and the career.

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