“Dismissal is not an option. I won’t give up on him.” Those are the words of a truly dedicated and passionate inclusive educator, and they were spoken by Michelle Talbot, director and owner of Wee College in Moncton, NB, when discussing a boy in one of her centres. Sophie Woodley, an early learning facilitator with the New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL), used that quote to illustrate why she had nominated Michelle for a 2018 National Inclusive Education Award.
Ms. Talbot is one of seven of New Brunswick’s best “exclusion busters” to be honoured at the 2018 National Inclusive Education Awards ceremony held at Government House in Fredericton on Thursday, February 9. Presented by the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), the certificates recognize individuals or groups that have made or are making an outstanding contribution to inclusive education in their province or territory. The event, organized by NBACL on behalf of the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), is the focal point for celebrations marking National Inclusive Education Month.
“I was amazed by the amount of information she had about this little boy’s behaviours and challenges,” Woodley wrote in her nomination, which went on to describe not only Michelle’s commitment to the inclusion of all the children in her school, but also about how she engenders the same commitment in her staff.
“Michelle makes sure that all her staff receives training on inclusion,” Woodley pointed out. “She guides them through difficult situations and understands that inclusion is more than accepting a child in a daycare; that it’s changing the environment, it’s working together with parents and the community, and it’s giving equal opportunities to grow and learn.”
Wee College staff member Jennifer Shepherd echoed Woodley’s comments about staff training, describing how Michelle has worked to ensure that her staff is well versed in inclusive practices.
“Michelle is an outstanding teacher and mentor,” she wrote. “She has made, and continues to make, rich contributions to the educational experiences of her staff, and herself. She has assured that six of us have completed the Certificate of Inclusion for Early Years and Afterschool programs, making all three of her centres inclusive.”
Jennifer Vaillancourt, Senior Preschool Educator at Wee College Evergreen, echoed her colleagues’ sentiments in her letter of support for Michelle’s nomination.
“She is the heart of each of her inclusive centres,” wrote Vaillancourt. “All children are welcome to attend Wee College, regardless of ability, need, background, culture, religion or economic circumstances. She actively promotes inclusive practice to best meet the needs of our children, families and staff.
“Through inclusive practise, we strive to reflect our wider community and promote positive attitudes towards both the similarities and the differences in each other,” Vaillancourt reflected. To achieve this, she points out that “we actively engage with children, parents and other organizations.”
In summing up why she thought that Michelle Talbot was a deserving recipient of an Inclusive Education Award, Vaillancourt wrote: “Michelle lives and breathes her inclusive mission statement, and leads by example. She walks the walk.”
Ms. Talbot is shown in the photo above just after having received her Certificate of Recognition from The Honorable Jocelyne Roy Vienneau, Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick and the patron of NBACL, left, and, at right, Joy Bacon, President of the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL).
The Canadian Association for Community Living has been recognizing outstanding inclusive practices in Canada’s education system annually since 2007, with provincial and territorial community living associations like NBACL charged with accepting nominations and selecting recipients.
NBACL is a provincial, non-profit organization that works on behalf of children and adults with an intellectual disability and their families to end exclusion and ensure that persons with an intellectual disability live, learn, work and participate in community as valued and contributing members.
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