NewsJun 13, 2019

LNG Canada-sponsored Aboriginal Early Childhood Education participants graduate

On June 15, the first graduating class of the Aboriginal Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, funded in part by LNG Canada, will walk across the stage at Kitimat Valley Institute to receive their diploma. This is the first time the program has been offered in Kitimat.

“There is an increasing demand for well-qualified early childhood educators and caregivers, particularly in Kitimat,” said Susannah Pierce, Director, Corporate Affairs at LNG Canada. “That’s why LNG Canada has invested $52,000 to support Aboriginal Early Childhood Education teacher training. By investing in early childhood education training we are creating capacity in the community and enabling more parents to enter the workforce and realize the opportunities our project will bring.”

The funding, in partnership with the BC Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and Haisla Nation, provided 13 ECE placements to Kitimat residents. To qualify for the program and receive the fully-funded scholarship, all the students needed to be a resident of Kitimat and have entry-level requirements.

Aboriginal ECE program offered in Kitimat for the first time at Kitimat Valley Institute

“Historically, Kitimat residents had to travel to Terrace to take the ECE program. It created a lot of barriers for potential students from Kitimat, “said Tanya Rexin, President and CEO of Kitimat Valley Institute. “We’re thrilled the certificate program was offered in the community and students no longer had to commute the 60 kilometres to get to class.”

The students, ranging from ages in their 20’s to 50’s, participate in a diploma program that includes academic studies at Kitimat Valley Institute and practical experiences in licensed childcare centres in Haisla First Nations’ Kitamaat Village, Kitimat and Terrace.

Early childhood education and educators play a pivotal role in developing and shaping the early learning experiences of young children. According to the BC Government’s The Best Investment: Early Childhood Education fact sheet, approximately 85 per cent of brain development occurs before the age of five, making these years critical in a child’s long-term success.

The full-time year-long Aboriginal ECE program ensures students have the knowledge and skills to provide high-quality care and education to children from the age of three to school-entry age. The curriculum has a focus on Aboriginal children and the courses include language arts, developing creative experiences, developmental psychology, program planning. During each of the three terms, the students are required to complete a practicum to apply their academic learning in a real-life setting.

Once students have completed the ECE program, graduates are able to develop nurturing environments to foster early learning and development of young children. They are now empowered to work in partnership with parents, families and colleagues to promote cognitive development, social competence and language acquisition, and increase young children’s capacity to learn and thrive.

Aboriginal ECE graduates

Alysse Rice, who was pregnant while taking the program, offers some advice to those thinking about completing the ECE program. She said, “It may look like a lot of work but it’s not. It is time consuming but like me, you will feel a huge sense of accomplishment and be so proud of yourself once you are finished.”

Fellow classmate Lindsay Lingenfelter emphatically said, “The opportunity I was given to take the early childhood education course has been absolutely amazing.”

New graduates will be a part of shaping the future of the next generation said Kayce Gardner, one of the 13 graduates of the program.

With the LNG Canada export facility now in full construction and creating opportunities in the community, Nicole Good said, “There are a lot of families coming to Kitimat and the new skills we’ve learned during the course will be put to good use. I’m excited for the opportunity to meet new families and work with these little children. They’re our future. It’s amazing.”

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Alysse Rice: Feeling a huge sense of accomplishment

Alysse Rice, a new ECE graduate who previously worked in the hospitality and beauty industries, had been thinking about changing careers for some time.

While six-months pregnant, she chose to apply for the LNG Canada-sponsored Aboriginal ECE program because the timing just felt right.

“I wanted to learn more about child development to better raise my own child and support the growth of children within the community,” says Alysse.

She really enjoyed the Aboriginal ECE program and said the teachers were very understanding and supportive of her personal situation, particularly with her high-risk pregnancy that required a lot of doctor’s appointments.

Support from the school, instructors and classmates continued after the birth of her daughter. “I had my daughter in January and even after she was born I could leave for all her doctor’s appointments. My teachers were amazing.”

“The hardest part about the course was not being there as much as I wanted. I had to miss a few classes due to giving birth. I had amazing classmates who helped explain things that I missed. They also gave me notes which helped me complete my work.”

Although being a new mom comes with its challenges, especially when you are a full-time student, Alysse persevered and completed the program. She walked across the stage at Kitimat Valley Institute to receive her Aboriginal ECE diploma on June 15, 2019.

“The best part about finishing the program is being able to play and teach children while being making this a viable career.”

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