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First days as an SSA: “It is never too late to start a new career”

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After more than a decade of working as a ski instructor teaching children how to ski in some of the world’s most iconic locations, Addison Burrows decided to change careers to become a student support assistant (SSA) at the Vancouver School District. Last September, Addison started the eight-month, full-time Education Assistants program at Langara College during which she learned about working alongside other educators and how to best support students. 

“It is never too late to start a new career,” Addison says. “Going back to school at the age of 30, I have never had such a positive and engaging learning experience,” she adds. “If I could go back and do the program again just for fun, I would!”  

Students enrolled in the Langara program are required to complete two teaching practicums to gain experience in dynamic environments at schools. Addison completed her first practicum at Tupper Secondary in December 2021 and went on to Emily Carr Elementary a few months after. As the program progressed, the more she felt like her career as an SSA was meant to be. 

When Addison first decided to take the leap to change careers, she thought about her passion for working with children. And as an SSA, the job is all about working one-on-one with students every day. “It comes down to making sure students have a good day,” she explains. “If I can be part of that and help make their day slightly easier, I take that as a win.” 

Another reason for the career change is her passion for promoting inclusivity and acceptance amongst youngsters from different backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities and sexual identities. “As an active member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, one of my biggest passions is supporting young people who may feel less than or outside of, and try to be a person they can come to if they are feeling that way,” she shares. 

Now two weeks into her placement at Lord Byng Secondary, one thing that’s resonated for Addison is while mistakes are an opportunity to learn and grow. “Mistakes will happen and will continue to happen,” she explains. “As long as you take them as learning opportunities, that is part of what makes a good SSA.” 

With the new school year in full swing, Addison reminds students to take time for themselves and to reach out for help when they need it. “It is okay to not be okay,” she says. “If you are having a problem or struggling with a class, come talk to us and we can help!” 

Interested in a career as an SSA? Check out our joint Education Assistant program for more information. 

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