Educational Assistant Conference

Educational Assistants in Westwind were hard at work on professional development on Tuesday, January 31. Assistant Superintendent, Rick Gilson, organized an incredible conference for the 170 Educational Assistants in Westwind. The conference featured many terrific presenters. This was an incredibly valuable development for our Educational Assistants in a wide range of areas. The presenters we had at the conference are all experts in their field and deeply understand the southern Alberta context.

  • Conrad Boehme presented on a look at what students who struggle may experience. 
  • Tiffany Weeden presented on how to connect classrooms with nature and the aboriginal culture of southern Alberta, and on using Zen Me and Yoga techniques for the classroom to inspire focus, balance, and relaxation. 
  • Regan Bikman shared strategies from his experience as a Speech Language Pathologist to help students improve their communications. 
  • Jocelyn Roberts, from Alberta Health Services, presented Programmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) books for EAs to use with students with complex communication needs.
  • Erin Stonehocker presented on using reflexes and movement as a stress buffer. She writes, “We all experience different types of stress. Learn how MNRI or reflex exercise can help with stress relief in both adults and children. These simple exercises can help reset the chronic stress cycle and improve overall well being and function.”
  • Kent Hollingsworth provided EAs with tools to support positive grieving in students and how AD[H]D brains handle executive functioning. EAs left this session with strategies and ideas to support students who have these types of challenges.
  • Brandie Andrews explained how EAs can understand and help to manage anxiety in the classroom, and went into detail about attachment disorder and how to support students dealing with this difficulty and foster positive relationships.
  • Michelle McKinnon held activities regarding brain architecture, and how both genetics and environment affect brain development in children. In this session EAs and our Board Chair Patricia Beazer built model brains using straws and pipe cleaners that represented different genetic components. The activity is designed to be difficult to craft a ‘brain’ model that supports itself, but our EAs created a series of brains that isn’t collapse. Said Chair Beazer, “Our EAs are great brain builders!!”
  • Melany Duffin helped EAs focus on how to help younger students develop pencil and scissor skills and how to help students become independent by developing self-help skills like dressing skills, toiling strategies, eating skills, and building skills by chaining activities. 
  • Rick Gilson presented about the evolving world of education assisting in our school division. He shared resources and tips in a range of areas, shared technology tips, and gave EAs an opportunity to give input into areas they would like to see future training or support in. 

We are so glad to have had this opportunity to further learning and growth as a Division. This professional development should impact students in all classrooms throughout the Division