Support Assistants (also known as Education Assistants, Classroom Assistants and/or Teacher’s Assistants) play a valuable role in assisting the classroom teacher in meeting the diverse needs of students. While Support Assistants may work with specific students, they are also a resource for the whole class.
Under the direct supervision of a qualified teacher, Support Assistants (SA) work in classrooms to help implement aspects of instructional and behavioural plans, assist with personal needs of students, classroom management and student supervision, and provide other supports as needed. Support Assistants ensure all students have the opportunity for a successful and meaningful learning experience.
In the 2021-22 school year, the Government of the Northwest Territories funded 133 Support Assistant positions in Northwest Territories (NWT) schools through Inclusive Schooling funding, at the rate of 1 Support Assistant for every 64.25 Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 (JK-12) students.
Education authorities allocate positions to best meet the specific needs of their regions. Education authorities may also apply for grant funding to fund additional positions from a variety of sources.
For instance, an additional 205 Support Assistant positions were funded for the 2021-2022 school year by the Government of Canada through Jordan’s Principle and the Inuit Child First Initiative. These programs ensure all First Nations children living in Canada can access the products, services, and supports they need, when they need them; they also ensure culturally appropriate, equal services and safeguarding the best interests of the child.
Professional development for Support Assistants
Support Assistants receive professional development at the school and regional level primarily, through staff development funding provided by the Government of the Northwest Territories to education bodies.
In January 2022, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE), in partnership with Douglas College, began offering the Education Assistance and Inclusion (EIA) Certificate to its currently employed support assistants for free as a pilot program.
This program will help Support Assistants develop specialized skills that encourage the wellbeing, development, and education of NWT students. The current cohort are scheduled to complete their certificate in December 2023. Those students will be asked for feedback to help develop and improve upon the course for potential future cohorts.
ECE’s Student Support and Wellness division also offers optional professional development opportunities that can be accessed virtually. Additionally, where appropriate and upon referral, the Territorial-Based Support Team also offers training to Support Assistants. Support Assistants who would like to access further training should contact their Regional Inclusive Schooling Coordinator to discuss their options.