Mission Makers: Antra and Rie—LDS Interns and a Whole Lot More

Mission Makers: Antra and Rie—LDS Interns and a Whole Lot More

Antra and I are still fondly referred to as “the Interns,” even though we are now part of the permanent team at LDS. Although we have very different backgrounds and had different roles, we’ve come to realize why LDS drew us together. We both applied to LDS because we saw a chance to do work that could benefit others, that our internship could mean something more than a position we’d later put on our resumes.    

Last year, as I was nearing the end of my Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Economics, I was also looking for a remote internship. As this would be my one opportunity to learn hands-on skills before I graduated, I knew I wanted to explore different skills.   

In an effort to reach a more diverse audience of prospective employees, Sierra, the Communications and Fundraising Manager, had posted the Digital Communications Intern position in a local networking group that supports women in business. That’s where I reached out to Sierra, who asked for writing samples before inviting me to interview.   

“Even though Rie didn’t have a lot of experience,” Sierra recalls, “I could see her natural talent in writing shine through in her portfolio. When I interviewed her, I also found Rie to be enthusiastic and driven. I knew right away that I wanted her on my team.”   

Contrastingly, Antra, being the proactive person she is, had started looking for a co-op position through her university in her second year. As a Computer Science major looking for a non-traditional work placement, Antra hoped to find an employer that valued her work beyond traditional data entry roles.   

“During the interview,” Antra says, LDS’ Executive Director “Rachel mentioned they had all these projects they were working on and wanted my help with them. I couldn’t believe it; you want me, an intern, to do valuable, meaningful work? That doesn’t happen often!” Antra was hired as a Graphics and Web-design Co-op Student and moved across the globe to work in person in the East Vancouver Learning Centre.  

LDS values continuous learning from everyone on the team. We were thrown right in, treated as equals, and became immersed in the world of the LDS Communications Team. LDS has opened our eyes to what it means to work collectively towards tangible change in the lives of others. We’ve redesigned the website, written two blog series, and participated in the Spring “Make a Difference” campaign to spread awareness of learning differences and the work LDS does for children and youth across British Columbia.  

As interns and now as staff, LDS brought us together and provided a space for us to learn, grow, and do meaningful work. We have learned that the LDS team not only believes in every student that comes through our doors, we also believe in and support each other as a team. Each and every one of us is provided with opportunities to explore and expand our skills.   

LDS fostered both of our talents and interests and let us become integral parts of the LDS Communications Team. With Sierra’s guidance, I was able to explore writing and learn about the various avenues it could take me, from those I’d already known, like writing social media posts, to entirely new adventures into grant writing.   

The whole staff also watched Antra grow her confidence and personality in leaps and bounds, becoming a vibrant team player. Working closely with Sarah, the Community Manager, Antra was immersed in graphics and design projects and became the LDS resident expert in WordPress and the Divi theme, Google Analytics, and Canva. Antra says, “I ended up doing a lot of things at LDS that I never thought I’d be doing, like in-person fundraising and redesigning the website, and it’s all been a great experience.”    

We want to thank our supervisors, Sarah and Sierra, for always believing in us and pushing us to do more than we ever could’ve imagined. We’d also like to thank the LDS team for becoming our work family and making us feel at home. 

Antra & Rie 

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Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. She recently graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in Communications and Economics and she hopes to use her position at LDS as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. Rie is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: Mike—helping families use assistive technology

Mission Makers: Mike—helping families use assistive technology

At LDS, our innovative use of assistive technologies (ATs) is a pillar of our work. This month’s Mission Maker is our Assistive Technology Manager, Mike, whose background in Mechanical Engineering first exposed him to assistive technology (AT).  

AT is a broad category of physical and software technologies that can help individuals with a range of disabilities. The most common example of AT is a prosthetic limb, but there are also ATs for those with learning differences. Mike’s role as the AT Manager includes helping families to navigate the tools available through LDS’s Assistive Software Suite, find the ATs that help their children the most, and then overcome the learning curve of integrating the technologies into their lives.   

“I really like engineering and the science that I learned,” Mike says, “and that just stressed that I wanted to use that knowledge to help people and use it in creative ways.”  

Mike completed his Master’s in Biomedical Engineering as a way to use technology in ways to help people. This was also where Mike was first experienced working with children—his Master’s research focused on therapies for children with cerebral palsy by developing a game to improve children’s mobility.  

“In that experience,” Mike explains, “it really affirmed that this is what I wanted to do, and particularly with children they are so positive even though they are there to improve their mobility.” 

Since then, Mike’s career has been on a path of exploring how to use technology and his knowledge to better the lives of others, which led him to his position as Assistive Technology Manager at LDS. Mike is responsible for overseeing everything AT-related, including researching, acquiring, and integrating AT into LDS’s learning support programs.  

There are many assistive technologies available, and investigating the quality and effectiveness of those tools is part of Mike’s job at LDS. “I like to think that my role,” he says, “is to help our instructors and families access well-researched assistive technologies.” 

Mike’s job is also changing the narrative around online educational software applications as some teachers see them as crutches and not necessarily as helpful tools. However, Mike believes these technologies enhance what instructors are teaching and instead should be seen as tools to overcome certain barriers.  

Mike hopes to continue to open eyes and minds to the changing nature of software and its ability to help individuals with learning differences. In the short term, Mike would like to spread awareness of our AT Studio and integrate its tools into additional LDS programs. In the long term, Mike wants to help shape how ATs are created and designed to keep every type of user, including those with learning differences, in mind.  

“It would be great if we could…go back to companies and say, ‘These are the things we want to see in your products.’ Because a lot of these tools aren’t developed for people with learning differences, they just happened to fill a need. If we can get to a point where we push information back to [the assistive technology companies] and ask for new integrations and shape what AT for the learning sphere looks and acts like, that would be impactful not only for LDS but for everyone with access to those ATs.” 

In his parting remarks, Mike wanted to let families know that if they have any questions about our AT Studio or would like to try them out, please do not hesitate to reach out to him via email, at@ldsociety.ca 

“I really want families to be comfortable reaching out to me in saying, ‘Hey, let’s email Mike about Grammarly or Read&Write,’ or any piece of AT they may be interested in. I want to be that go-to person for helping them, and if you have any questions, please email me. I just want families to know I’m here for them.”  

—Rie 

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Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. She recently graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in Communications and Economics and she hopes to use her position at LDS as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. Rie is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: Emma—giving back the support she received

Mission Makers: Emma—giving back the support she received

“Growing up, I knew I wanted to work with children and youth in a supportive capacity so they can receive the support I had too,” says Emma, a Remedial Instructor at LDS and this month’s Mission Maker.  

As someone who benefitted from recreational and community engagement programs as a child, Emma understands the importance of accessible support systems. In high school, Emma began volunteering in community support programs and enjoyed working with children. Her understanding, empathy, work experience, and education make Emma an excellent, adaptive instructor for our students. 

Emma has a Bachelor’s of Kinesiology and is currently studying for a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy, both from the University of British Columbia. She enjoys being able to apply what she learns in lectures at LDS, and vice versa—to use her experience as an instructor to inform her education.  

With experience at various nonprofits and children’s programs throughout Vancouver, Emma has a diverse background working with children of various ages and abilities. She worked for a community engagement project with children at a local Neighbourhood House. Emma also has experience within the Vancouver public school system as an Education Assistant and a Community School Teen Programmer. There she focused on teaching social-emotional skills and community building.  

Emma believes her previous experiences inform her teaching style at LDS by making content that is engaging and relatable to her students. At LDS, Emma feels that she can use her experiences and her skill set to help make a difference in her students’ lives. 

For example, Emma fondly remembers the time when one of her students asked her, “Do you know that the grocery store sells three cereal boxes for nine dollars?” At first, Emma thought this was an odd question, but when she was debriefing with the parent at the end of the session, the parent asked her child to bring the cereal boxes over.  

With the cereal boxes in hand, the student started reading the stories and the games on the back of the boxes. Emma realized that this was a huge turning point for the student. Previously, the student couldn’t read the packages or choose which cereal they wanted, but now they had a sense of autonomy and choice. “The student was so excited to able to understand what was going on in their environment. I got to see the skills being applied in real life,” says Emma. 

 “When I first learnt about LDS, I was drawn to how holistic they were,” says Emma. LDS focuses on academic outcomes, but there is an underlying focus on social-emotional skills and the child’s overall well-being. LDS also incorporates Assistive Technology and Speech-Language Pathology to best engage children in their learning. “I think having all of these evidence-based strategies and individualized supports for the students is so important,” says Emma. 

Emma also loves how important it is that LDS emphasizes affordability as part of its mission to be inclusive and accessible. LDS provides access to internal and external bursaries, so families who may not be able to afford remedial instruction can still access it. 

“It’s unfortunate that these kids are otherwise left behind because of something they can’t control like financial barriers,” says Emma. “LDS is able to remove these barriers that are preventing them from being successful in school, which is often tied to other skills like social-emotional and a sense of belonging or community.” 

—Rie 

_________________ 

Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: Cynthia—making a difference through her work

Mission Makers: Cynthia—making a difference through her work

Cynthia, a certified BC teacher at a specialized school for children with learning differences, has spent the last three years as a part-time Remedial Instructor with LDS. She feels that LDS is a further extension of her work in schools and a way to fill the gaps in educational support that may be unavailable in the school system.

Teaching at LDS “is a way of doing what I love doing, but in a different capacity,” says Cynthia. Providing one-on-one remedial instruction is a very different dynamic to her work as a teacher with a classroom full of students. But it brings her a sense of pride when she’s able to use what she has learned from her past teaching opportunities to provide accessible individualized education for students.

Cynthia has always enjoyed learning about how different minds work, including those with learning differences, which is why she pursued a BA in Psychology. Although Cynthia was unsure of what she wanted to do with her Psychology degree, with exploration and curiosity, she applied for her teaching diploma.

Cynthia chose to study Education for her teaching degree and experienced a range of different teaching styles and environments. She again explored various teaching experiences such as teaching at Montessori schools and in an English as a Second Language program.

Cynthia found her current career path with students with learning differences upon returning to Canada after teaching abroad. She had worked with students with autism in the past and remembered the feeling of making a difference through her work and the pride of accomplishment the students experienced with her help. So, when applying for jobs, she applied to the specialized school where she now teaches children with learning differences.

“It’s fun, always changing, allows me to be creative, and is challenging,” says Cynthia about why she enjoys teaching. “I like working with children and learning about what they’re interested in, and deep down inside, I think it keeps me young.”

For Cynthia, it’s essential that every student has the opportunity to learn in a way that best suits their needs, and LDS can provide a space for this. Connecting with her students is important to Cynthia. With the age group she teaches at LDS, they are old enough to be socially aware and have critical thoughts, which can lead to interesting conversations.

Using her knowledge about what her students are interested in and what they find relatable, Cynthia curates her sessions around these topics to keep her students engaged. She has found this creates an environment where students want to attend their sessions and are willing to learn. Receiving feedback from her students’ parents about the changes they see in their children, such as volunteering to read at home or seeing their confidence grow, encourages Cynthia to continue instructing.

“Growth is slow, but when it does change, it carries on to all other aspects of their life, which is exciting.”

—Rie 

_________________ 

Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the  Communications & Fundraising Assistant at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: Kaleigh—providing play-based and arts-informed teaching

Mission Makers: Kaleigh—providing play-based and arts-informed teaching

At LDS, we value the varied backgrounds and passions that our instructors use to relate to our students or further enhance their instruction. In the case of Remedial Instructor Kaleigh, her background is in the arts, she has a teaching degree, and she is pursuing an acting career. Her many pursuits add value to her work at LDS because they provide her with a vast knowledge of teaching styles to help her relate to our students.

Kaleigh has a Fine Arts degree in Theatre and a minor in Psychology. For Kaleigh, psychology shed light on how or why a person expresses themselves in a certain way, and drama was one of those ways, so her major and minor went hand in hand. This unique education allows her to be a very empathetic teacher when providing one-to-one instruction. Kaleigh is quick to notice when her students require a brain break or different teaching forms, such as visual or auditory. And as all fun drama teachers do, Kaleigh engages her students in games and takes a play-based teaching approach.

“It’s more important now more than ever to think outside the box,” says Kaleigh about her experience as a teacher. Kaleigh’s arts background has taught her to be adaptive and think quickly to take on whatever may be occurring in the classroom. She also emphasizes how she is a visual learner who grasps concepts best through examples and play, informing her teaching style, especially when academics are challenging for diverse learners. At LDS, there are learning outcomes to be met, and Kaleigh’s knowledge and skill set allow her to adaptively teach in an engaging way so that each student can meet those outcomes.

Kaleigh has always enjoyed the arts and music but was not introduced to drama until high school, where she took it as an elective. She enjoyed studying the arts in higher education because of the supportive community that thrives in this field. Participating in theatre requires social skills and communication and is a breeding ground for collaboration. “Whereas other areas of academics are about answering questions correctly,” says Kaleigh, “the arts are more about the process and how a student approaches the problem.”

One of Kaleigh’s favourite things about her job with LDS is that she can help her students grow and watch the “light bulbs turn on in their heads!” while she works in the arts in her spare time. Kaleigh believes all children can benefit from being involved in the arts and that art helps kids learn self-regulation and social skills while still having fun. Kaleigh also advocates for media representation and creating space and accessibility within the arts for those with different abilities. One day, she hopes to develop a program to bring the arts to children with learning differences.

—Rie 

_________________ 

Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: Sarah—creating community at LDS

Mission Makers: Sarah—creating community at LDS

“Since joining LDS as Community Manager, Sarah’s work has been fast-paced and ever-changing. Initially hired for a part-time, remote position, within weeks she was packing up her life in Ontario to move across the country to take on a full-time role in Vancouver. This speaks volumes about Sarah’s work ethic and adaptability. As the Community Manager, her current responsibilities include fundraising campaigns, community advancement, special projects, and communications. Her role combines her desire to strengthen community and create change. 

At LDS, community means a place that is both inclusive and accessible. Sarah emphasizes and relates to the aspect of her job description that is to maintain the “health and well-being of our community.” She goes above and beyond to hold space for each student to feel heard and valued. 

Sarah has a Bachelor’s in International Development, which helped develop her critical eye for analyzing both macro- and micro-level problems. She then received a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations, which gave her the tools to bring solutions and a big-picture vision to organizational issues. She gained experience in communications positions at large corporations but did not find the competitive, sales-focused environment motivating or fulfilling.  

Her education and her mother’s career as a social worker inspired her to want to take on a career beyond the typical, corporate Public Relations (PR) or Communications job path. “I didn’t know I wanted to work for a nonprofit organization,” says Sarah. “I just knew I wanted work that aligned with my desire to create systems change,” and she realized she could do that by working for a nonprofit. 

Sarah found work as a Project Manager at a private school that served children with learning differences. She enjoyed being able to exercise her creativity to complete big-picture projects and initiatives. Sarah appreciates PR’s earned media aspect and interacting with customers and clients to find solutions to their issues and listen to their stories, which helped guide her to her current position. 

At LDS, there are service deliverables and a mission as there are at many other nonprofit organizations. But what stands out to Sarah is “our work in advocacy, in transforming individual lives of children and youth, and bringing attention to the issues that face our society as a whole.” Sarah believes that the importance of LDS and nonprofit organizations is that they go beyond finding a temporary solution and work to solve the root of the problem to create lasting change.   

Sarah’s favourite part of her job is working on large projects that make LDS stand out, as she likes project-based work where she can create, design, and bring her visions to life from start to finish. “I feel personally motivated by the projects we are doing and inspired by the people I’m working with,” says Sarah. 

About her time at LDS, Sarah feels that she is part of a well-oiled machine on a long-term mission to help children with learning differences; one that will create a more accessible and inclusive community and, eventually, bring systems change to our society.  

“We all contribute differently,” Sarah says. “Most of my work is on the communication and fundraising side of things, while others are part of program delivery or finances. Everyone plays a different role, but we are all working towards the same overarching goal.” 

Alongside her Community Management role, Sarah is working towards a Non-Profit Management Certificate at Simon Fraser University to take a new approach to management and support LDS to reach its vision and mandate. 

—Rie 

_________________ 

Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Maker: Stuti—practicum student experiences LDS

Mission Maker: Stuti—practicum student experiences LDS

In May 2021, Stuti, an education assistant (EA) student, joined LDS for her practicum. As an organization specializing in individualized remedial instruction for students with learning differences, this experience was slightly different from a public or private school-based practicum setting. We hoped that we could provide an eye-opening experience of the impact educational assistants and specialized instruction can have on students’ lives. 

Stuti was a science teacher in her home country of India and has always enjoyed working with children. However, when she immigrated to Canada, her Indian qualifications did not allow her to work within the Canadian school system. In March 2020, due to COVID-19, she was laid off from her job, and it gave her a chance to reevaluate. She wanted to return to a career that brought her joy and fulfilment. 

It wasn’t until Stuti began looking into education programs that she came across educational assistance and specialized instruction for students with learning differences. “Back in India, I saw very little concept of inclusive education,” says Stuti, but at LDS, Stuti saw how the theories and concepts she’d learned in her program apply in educational settings. “I wanted to be part of this difference.”  

“I had ideas of what the common challenges of autism were, but I didn’t know in-depth, or what exactly the support systems can be and how lives can be improved,” says Stuti. “I am more excited now for being an EA.” 

Stuti also kindly took the time to write about her experience in her own words:  

 

What an experience! My EA Internship   

Currently, I am pursuing Education Assistant Certification, for which I did my practicum with the Learning Disabilities Society in Vancouver, an experience that was invaluable in so many ways. I was given the opportunity to get involved even more than I ever imagined. My experience of working with LDS has been significant in terms of learning as well as building on my current skills. The LDS instructors are so professional, talented, creative, polished, and artistic. Every instructor gives their own magical touch to the lesson plan by introducing different strategies as well as diverse kinds of reinforcements, which make it more entertaining as well as engaging for the student. 

The practicum experience was amazing. It challenged me in so many ways. I found myself participating, as well as applying my course knowledge in the field. I got the chance to learn in-depth about learning disabilities and how to address individual needs. Also, LDS gave me the opportunity to learn about new strategies which I had not heard of before, like the Orton-Gillingham approach and Phonological Awareness Screening Test (PAST). Working with students in different settings like online, one-to-one, or in groups has made me aware of the challenges that one may encounter and how executive functioning skills can help to overcome those challenges. Working with the LDS team has helped me add more tools to my toolkit, which in turn will help me successfully assist individuals with diverse needs. I feel grateful to the entire team for sharing their strategies with me and giving me an opportunity to practice them with students.    

—Stuti & Rie 

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Stuti (she/her) joins LDS as an Education Assistant practicum student. Currently studying Disability and Community Studies at Douglas College, she hopes to use this chance to experience working with children with diverse abilities firsthand and gain a deeper understanding of what is it means to have a disability. She has two years of experience working as a science teacher in India. Stuti is passionate about education and believes everybody deserves an equal opportunity to receive it. 

Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: Anotidaishe—finding the gem inside each student

Mission Makers: Anotidaishe—finding the gem inside each student

Remedial Instructor Anotidaishe has always been moved by the Winston Churchill quote, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” 

As an instructor for LDS’ RISE at Home Program, Anotidaishe believes she is making a life through her role and, in doing so, she gets to meet new people, work with children, and watch them grow. These experiences are so valuable for her, and she is grateful to LDS, the parents, and the children for the opportunities she’s had. 

Although Anotidaishe never imagined herself as a teacher, “it’s been a series of small moments that have led me to realize ‘oh this is where I am supposed to be, and this is what I am meant to do.’” It was during a conversation with her grandmotherwho had also been a teacher to young childrenthat Anotidaishe realized that she is very similar to her grandmother, and this is probably where her love for teaching stems from. 

“I can’t pinpoint when in my life, but at some point, I realized I love seeing people grow and reach their full potential. So, I wanted to do something that helped people do that, and I guess being a teacher is one of those jobs.” 

Anotidaishe’s first experience with learning differences was in university. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Simon Fraser University with a minor in Learning and Developmental Disabilities. During her undergrad, Anotidaishe volunteered and worked with children running summer day camps. 

Working with children brings Anotidaishe so much joy, especially seeing their positivity and endless potential. A child’s imagination and their ability to grow and adapt to challenges gives her a sense of fulfillment in her job. “Kids have the most amazing imagination. At LDS, sometimes I ask [my students] to write stories. And the stories the students come up withI just wonder ‘where did you get this amazing idea from?’” 

For Anotidaishe, the biggest challenge of her job is helping her students overcome the mental barriers and self-doubt a student may have due to what they might have experienced, such as being told they are a “bad student” or receiving low grades. “Just give it a try,” she says to her students, “just one small step…and—before you know it—you’ve gone past what you thought you could do.” 

When describing her teaching style, Anotidaishe says the most important thing to her is to create a positive environment where students can believe in themselves to overcome academic challenges. She does this by building a rapport with her students to ensure that a student feels comfortable making mistakes, and that they understand that making mistakes is all part of the learning process. 

“I just want them to know that you’re in a safe zone, and you can make as many mistakes as you have to, and it’s okay,” says Anotidaishe. “I want students to see that they’re valued and that they are able to do the work.” 

The greatest accomplishment is when she sees her students grow their self-confidence and overcome the challenges they face. Anotidaishe tells her students, “Who you are is not what society says you are, but really the gem that is what’s inside of you.” 

—Rie 

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Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: Mel—a family struggle and a love for theatre spark an interest in Speech Sciences

Mission Makers: Mel—a family struggle and a love for theatre spark an interest in Speech Sciences

May is Speech and Hearing Month, so we thought it was the perfect time to check in with Melissa “Mel” Henderson. You might recall Mel as the person who recruited Alice to LDS, as mentioned in Alice’s Mission Makers story, or you may have met her during an intake, instruction, or summer break camp. As the Learning Support Manager, Mel works with our instructors to design, implement, and monitor engaging learning programs tailored to each individual student. Most recently, Mel managed and instructed our PEERS social skill program 

Mel’s background is in one-to-one remedial instruction, and she has a bachelor’s degree in Speech Sciences. Mel’s future aspirations include a career as an SLP (speech language pathologist). “Working here [at LDS] has been a delve into the educational side, and so I feel that’s the track I’m leaning towards, but it’s all really cool.”  

“An SLP is an expert on your whole vocal tract, from your neck to nose!” explains Mel. Although a career as an SLP is most often thought of as focusing on speech therapy, there are various avenues of work. Some more clinical and anatomical, such as helping with swallowing or monitoring cognitive functions during brain surgery. Others focus on speech and social learning, which relates to the work LDS does for children with learning differences.  

For example, Mel and Lara, an SLP who works with us, ran a social-emotional learning program during RISE Summer Camps called Worry Warriors. This afterlunch time slot was used to teach students about their emotions and coping mechanisms to be resilient.  

Mental health is often affected by language-based learning differences as it can be challenging to process and express feelings. The rise of anxiety and depression rates among adolescents with learning differences further emphasizes for Mel the importance of SLP and working with youth. Her goal is to equip students with the confidence to believe in themselves to face any challenge.   

This goal was influenced by Mel’s own experiences growing up. Mel’s interest in SLP is rooted in her childhood passions for musical theatre and voice. SLP combines speech, language, and communication with technical aspects such as acoustics, psychology, and brain development, which together create a field of study that continues to keep Mel intrigued. However, Mel’s passion for working with children, especially those with learning differences, can be attributed to her childhood experience growing up with her sister who has a learning difference.  

“Seeing her struggle in school and how that affected her confidence in every part of her life growing up and what she sees for her future and knowing that I could work with people who are in the same situation that my family was in is really important to me.” 

Mel’s parents faced their own challenges in navigating her sister’s diagnosis, the school system, and finding additional resources for her sister, as options are not always obvious. Additionally, Mel notes how difficult it was for her mother, the primary caretaker, to advocate for her sister as she spoke English as a second language. Language barriers and financial barriers are all too real for many of our families we serve.  

“I just want to be able to make a difference and help people and provide resources that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise have access to because of finances or they’re not sure how. It’s not an easy process to navigate the school system with a learning difference, and so I want to be somebody who can offer that for families.” 

 

—Rie 

_________________ 

Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: June—providing a transformative learning experience for students

Mission Makers: June—providing a transformative learning experience for students

June, an LDS remedial instructor, is a bubbly and energetic woman. Throughout her interview, June explained her adventurous and exciting life journey with such joy. From the way she fondly discussed the students she has worked with to how she described the neighbourhood near the LDS office as a “little Italian quarter with mountains in the background that reminds her of her time in Italy, June radiates happiness and laughter. 

June started her teaching career at an elementary school, but soon after she got the travel bug. She received her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate and began teaching across Europe. Eventually, she found her way back to England and was working on-call and volunteering in her spare time. This was when June was introduced to a young student with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), which prompted her interest in dyslexia and learning differences. June went back to university to train as a Specialist Dyslexia Teacher and soon started working as a one-to-one remedial teacher. 

The experience of one particular student truly impacted June. The student came to June without the ability to read due to his dyslexia. “I worked with him for two years, and I thought ‘this is really quite hard. He wasn’t making much progress, and then suddenly, it all fell into place: he was reading, received accommodations for his exams, and eventually went to university. “He was flying! June exclaims with a laugh. He was June’s first student and case study during university, and she grew very fond of him. June is proud to say he received an art degree and is now a graphic designer. 

June has her own experiences with challenges, similar to students with dyslexia. She struggles with directions, sequencing, and working memory. “We all have our good days and bad days,” says June, “but it helps with my understanding of the students.” 

When asked what her favourite part about working with LDS is, June rattles off a lengthy list without a second thought. “I love that it’s student-centred, the contact with staff, and that LDS is so accommodating. I love that I can mix and match and work in schools, online, and in the Learning Centre. And the kids!” June exclaims. “Everything is just ideal.” 

“I love my students, June says. “I work with so many talented students, every single one of them. So creative, athletic, they all do something and it’s amazing. But they just don’t know it.” June includes positive self-talk, relevant subject matter, and activities that interest students iher lessons with them. She emphasizes her students’ strengths and builds on their talents and interests to encourage them.  

The most challenging part of her job, June says, is the lesson planning. “You need to plan loads and loads of stuff because you never know just how the lessons are going to go,” she says with a laugh. June is very mindful of the multi-sensory materials she prepares for students and includes activities for brain breaks. 

“I hope I can give them a transformative learning experience, and they can use the tools and strategies I teach them in their lives outside of LDS, and that can make a difference in their confidence and self-autonomy.” 

 

—Rie 

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Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

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