A Childhood Calling

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

From a young age, Kayla Quenneville knew that she was meant to help people in some way - although she was not always sure of the form that it would take.  "When I was in public school I was a “recess buddy”, meaning I would go down to hang out with the kids in the Developmental Centre at my school. Being down there and seeing how the teachers and educational assistants worked with the kids made me want to do the same. At first I wanted to be the teacher, but then years later realized that the educational assistants were the ones who worked that much closer with the kids. Which is what changed my mind from wanting to be the teacher to the EA."

Kayla was able to make her childhood discovery into a career path when she took, and eventually graduated from Fanshawe College's Developmental Support Worker program.  When asked what Kayla found most useful from taking the program, she had this to say: "The DSW program has many great courses that prepare you for the workplace and I could list reasons for all of them, but one sticks out clearly as the most helpful. When I was in the program, we had three placements. They were usually in three very different settings. It was great to get the experience and a feel for the different settings before graduating so we knew what was out there and see what we liked or disliked in each of them.”

Kayla chose to stick to what she knew she loved, when she took a position as an Educational Assistant at The Thames Valley District School Board. As an EA, Kayla can do a wide range of activities such as helping kids with schoolwork, following a teacher's instructions, helping students with personal care, and most importantly promoting an environment of acceptance, and inclusion.

Currently, Kayla works with a girl in senior kindergarten who has feeding and breathing tubes, and a boy in Grade 2 with autism, both of whom she helps take part in a regular classroom. Regardless of who she is working with, Kayla says the best part of her job is "really getting to know the kids. I’ve mainly worked with kids who are medically fragile and don’t use words to communicate. Getting a smile or laugh, an eye roll when a silly joke is made or even a sarcastic smirk, makes the day great. It shows just how much personality each of them has and makes working with them that much better. Also being that person that the child can trust and just being there for them when they need you."

When asked for a word of advice to the people who may be interested in the field, Kayla highlighted the importance of making sure you really do like to help people, because although there are good days, not every day will be perfect, and that's when it pays to have patience and to love what you do.