We are a public school district for everyone – no matter their background or ability. To help every child in our district achieve their potential, we rely on the support of parents and caregivers and, of course, the hard work of every member of staff. Today we recognize some of the staff who support some of our most vulnerable children.

Today is Educational Assistants and Child Youth Worker Appreciation day at Waterloo Region District School Board. Educational Assistants (EA) help to deliver educational programs in our schools. Child Youth Workers (CYW) are mental health professionals who work with troubled children who face a variety of emotional, behavioural or physical problems.

We are partnering with the WRDSB Educational Assistants Association (WRDSB EAA) to mark a day of appreciation for these important staff to coincide with the group’s 30th Anniversary as a Trade Union on January 19, 1988.

WRDSB EAA have shared a number of letters from community members who are marking their appreciation for the work that EAs and CYWs do in our schools. We encourage you to join the community and WRDSB in marking your appreciation for this important group of staff.

As is so often the case, students say it best. So please check out this speech that Ryan Barnes, a former KCI student and former student Trustee, gave to our Educational Assistants and Child and Youth Workers at a PD Day last year.


EAs and CWYs were a major part of Ryan’s school experience, and as he prepared to leave KCI for the next step on his journey, he spoke about the value this important group of staff adds to the life of students across our district. Here’s Ryan’s speech:

It gives me great pleasure to bring you greetings on behalf of the Waterloo Region District School Board and School Board Trustees. However, I’m not only here today to bring greetings, but also to share my deepest gratitude to the work of CYWs and EAs, as they have made a significant impact on my life.

When I was approached to address you, I was more than thrilled to speak. It’s one of the awesome advantages of being a Student Trustee. You get to wake up early and go to a seminar to give a speech while all your friends are off (sleeping in).

Really though, it is a huge honour to be here today to thank an amazing group of people like you.

Both CYWs and EAs have a huge impact on the lives of so many students in our schools. Students who struggle in some way, face extra challenges throughout high school, including dealing with labels. Labels are the worst thing. They create stigma. Labels sometimes get in the way of determining the capabilities and potential of a student. For the most part, all of those biases and prejudices are unintentional. As educators, parents, caregivers, trustees and community members ultimately we know as students that you want to see us succeed and to see us reach our fullest potential.

This is why EAs and CYWs are imperative within our system. Both CYWs and EAs provide students with hope and resiliency and make them believe that they are something greater. You help us see past the labels, our problems and issues and most importantly show us what we really are capable of.

That is the ultimate power. Your ability to directly change lives and influence students is phenomenal and is appreciated by many, including myself. Just know that there are people out there that are impacted by the work you do and those students who you have a hard time with will eventually be thankful for your support – I know I am.

This year is my fifth year. The beauty of being a fifth-year student is that you have time to reflect on life and educational experiences and how it has shaped you. A question that has been lingering in my mind for awhile is “How did I become the person I am today?”

I am confident that if EAs and CYWs weren’t a part of my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

I was fortunate to have a strong support system throughout my time at KCI. Many EAs and CYWs, some of whom are in this room, have helped me overcome many obstacles and life challenges.

Throughout my life, people have pointed out how I am different from others because of my hearing loss. I have been pushed over the edge and been bullied. I’ve encountered days where I felt disconnected and lonely. I’ve had many social and speech problems while growing up. Coming from Cambridge and entering high school at KCI and starting from scratch was very difficult for me. Grade 9 and 10 were difficult years. I was distant and extremely shy. Both CYWs and EAs helped me overcome these obstacles and as a result, I gained the skills to become more independent and confident.

Looking back 10 years, even 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined myself being the person that I am today, let alone standing up here giving this speech. It is unbelievable. I am a Student Trustee of the Waterloo Region District School Board, a Student Council Co-Premier at KCI, and an advisor on a variety of committees pertaining to staff and student wellbeing. All of you made that possible, both directly and indirectly. I am proud of the person I have become.

On behalf of the Trustees, myself and all the students in your care, we thank you for the important work you do every day.