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Educational Assistant helps students shine at JAWS

Armed with a pack of gum, a loaded pencil case, and a ton of compassion, Anne Robinson comes to school every day ready to make a difference for students at J.A. Williams High School (JAWS). 

“It’s all about finding a way to connect with the kids because once you have that connection you can do that next step of figuring out what they need,” Robinson explained. “You have to start with where they are and find out what the piece is that they need to be successful.”

Sometimes that can be as simple as saying hello and not making assumptions or judgments about why a student is late for school or doesn’t have a sheet of paper that was handed out in class the day before.

“You just don’t know what it may have taken for some of these kids to get here in the morning,” she said. “I would rather help a kid who doesn’t really need it, than criticize a kid who has been bullied or told that they’re lazy, because so many of them aren’t; they are working so hard to just be here.”

Robinson has been an educational assistant with Northern Lights Public Schools for over 36 years. She started her career working with students in the Life Skills program at JAWS, then Central Elementary, then Vera M. Welsh Elementary, then back to JAWS and then back to Vera, before returning to JAWS to provide support to any students in the school who need it. 

“In my four years as Principal, I have watched Anne work with our students and help them earn their graduation,” said JAWS Principal Samear Abougouche. “She is one of the most important people for our students. Without her, there are several students who would not have been successful at our school.”

Everyone who works with Anne, including students, describes her as kind, compassionate and willing to do whatever needs to be done to help a student.

Anne’s kindness was what Sierra Hauser, now in Grade 12, noticed when she first came to JAWS two years ago.

“She was super supportive and kind to me,” explained Hauser. “I didn’t really know many of the teachers and I would always ask if Miss Robinson could help me with stuff because when she was explaining stuff it just always clicked for me.”

Hauser said Robinson really listens to the students and then customizes the support she provides based on what they need. 

“I notice she does that with other people, not just me. She’s very caring like that,” she said. “She 100% makes school less stressful for me and always makes sure I have the accommodations that I need.”

Retired JAWS teacher Pat Boon-Anderson said Robinson always goes above and beyond to support students. 

“No matter what you ask Anne to do she does it not 100%, but 200%. She stays late if she realizes that somebody has a test the next day and she needs to get a Chromebook ready for them,” said Anderson. “She has even gotten up, I bet you it was 5 o’clock in the morning because they needed someone to ride the bus to Kikino, get the kids from Kikino and ride with them to Lac La Biche, and she did that for years. If you’ve got something that needs to be done and she feels she can do it, she’ll do it.”

Assistant Principal Charissa Delaire echoes those sentiments.

“I once came back to work after 5 or 6 p.m. and found Anne who was stopping by to ensure a computer had an audio program set up to read an exam for a student who needed it the next morning. Anne has not only set up exams with audio, but it is her voice reading to students on the file,” she explained.

Robinson takes notes for students who are absent to ensure they can catch up when they return to school. She is known for creating notes, study guides, mind maps and other visuals, often working on them at home in the evenings. Teachers have often asked for copies of the resources she creates so they can share them with more students.

“Anne considers the needs of all the students in the class and accommodates individuals,” said Delaire. “The reason this is so impressive is that with Anne it is not one-size-fits all support. She provides varied supports based on the strengths and needs of the students.”

Whether it’s a neurodivergent student who needs help understanding an abstract concept, or a student who needs strategies to accommodate for a learning disability, or a student experiencing mental health challenges, or a student whose life outside of schools is impacting their learning, Robinson does her best to identify what she can do to help.

“Sometimes they just need a little help catching up or they need to build up some confidence because they’ve failed so many times they don’t believe they can do it,” she said. “Sometimes (it’s more complicated), but I think you still have to try. You just don’t know what is going to make a difference down the road.”

Anne Robinson is the Northern Lights Public School’s Staff Shining Star for the month of December. Each month during the 2023-2024 school year, NLPS is featuring different Shining Stars and celebrating their contributions and accomplishments.