by Meredith Dault
September 5, 2011
The new school year is off to a bustling start for Robin Schock -- but this year, she’s not in class. Instead Schock, who recently graduated with her Master’s of Education (with a specialization in Cognitive Studies), is taking on the academic world in an entirely different capacity: as a Learning Specialist in an inaugural program at St. Lawrence College. The program, called Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE), will help students with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injury or other learning challenges take college courses in their program of interest.
“It’s an ideal job for me, a perfect fit,” says Schock happily. She credits her recent degree, along with her varied work experience and an undergraduate degree in Disability Studies, for helping her earn the position. Schock who worked full-time throughout both her undergrad and graduate degrees, says it became a “hobby” to take courses while she was working.
“My background is mostly working with students with disabilities,” she says, explaining that her past experience has included everything from working in group homes and with special needs kids, to a position at Queen’s in the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre, which is connected with Health, Counselling and Disability Services.
“I knew I wanted to go further and learn more about what the psychologists were doing at the centre where I worked, but I knew I didn’t want to do a psychology degree, so education just made sense,” she says, acknowledging that although she didn’t have an undergraduate degree in education, her life experience gave her an advantage. “I was definitely the lone black sheep in the program, not being a teacher, but I had a lot more front-line experience having been an educational assistant. Getting the Master’s in Education really solidified everything I did.”
Schock says that doing her degree part-time while she worked allowed it to fit her schedule, taking intensive summer courses during her vacation time. “I really fit the degree into my life,” she says. A mature student, she also appreciated being in a program that wasn’t entirely made up of fresh faces. “It was really a mixed bag of people coming back to school,” she laughs.
She knew, too, that she wanted to teach at the college level, and hoped to combine it with working with a variety of students. “I knew I could do it with a Master’s degree,” she says. She also recognized that teaching would be a way that she could influence younger people going out to work with children. “I wanted to teach them to look at students with disabilities in a holistic way,” she explains, “and to not just look at the student medically, or through their label. I thought teaching could be my way of contributing,” she says.
Schock says her new position gives her a perfect way to combine her experience and education, supporting students 1:1 as they take on the challenge of a two-year college program. “The students will get one-to-one support from the CICE team,” she says, explaining that they will have access to tutoring sessions and other academic support.
The program will be expanding over the next few years and is meeting a gap in post-secondary options. “It’s really a perfect job for me,” she laughs. “All my skill sets can be used: working one-on-one with students... I love that. Modifying curriculum, advocating for students with disabilities, and watching them succeed -- helping them meet their dreams while at the same time, meeting my own.” Being at St. Lawrence College will also mean she can pursue some part-time teaching. And Schock says that none of it would have been a possibility without her graduate degree.