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Ralph, the Gentle Giant with a Big Heart

By August 25, 2020August 19th, 2022No Comments
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Before becoming an Early Childcare Assistant, Ralph was working at a factory and was going through difficult times due to having many surgeries on his hand. While he was away from work to have surgery, his company was bought and then closed. He was left with nothing. Because of his hand, he knew that he couldn’t do factory work again and so began questioning what he would do until retirement. One of his friends had a food truck idea which worked very well, he was then asked to gain more kitchen experience.

Ralph started volunteering in the kitchen of a local school. He remembers how he would help the kids every time they would come in and out of recess,. Ralph reflected that people often used to ask, “Have you ever thought of doing this? You’re really good with the children”. Ralph always loved children but had never thought of working with them, this was a true revelation to him.

Ralph started looking for schools offering childcare related programs, but there were waitlists of up to 2 years to join them. As a single father, he needed a program he could start immediately so he could become employed as soon as possible – that’s when he came to Anderson College, formerly National Academy.

Deborah, Ralph’s teacher at the time, remembers: “He was always happy and positive. He brought a lot of joy in our classroom and great ideas.” Ralph always went above and beyond and became a mentor to a lot of students. “He was always there to help and support his peers and he did a phenomenal job. With his personality, he really shined above everyone and in the end, he became our Valedictorian. I’m so proud of him!” said Deborah.

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Rae-Ann, Hamilton’s Campus Director, recalls the first time she met Ralph, “When he walked in my office and said he was thinking of doing Early Childcare Assistant, I knew it was going to be interesting!”. Not only did he help his whole class, but Ralph was also always willing to help.

Ralph’s efforts and mentorship in the class pushed and challenged Deborah to bring out the best in herself. Rae-Ann remembers Deborah saying: “I have to think of something bigger, something different to get him going because he is a real mentor in the classroom.”

Choosing the Valedictorian was an easy choice for Rae-Ann that year because of Ralph’s good grades, his supportive nature and his unwavering engagement with the program. “It was wonderful that he got up on stage at graduation with his daughters, it was a real family affair,” Rae-Ann reminisced.

After graduation, Ralph continued working with children. When summer camps opened, he was given the option to join a particular group for two months. “When I was at camp with the kids, that was it! I was hooked!” said Ralph. He saw a job listing in St Catherine’s for a Nature Forest Teacher position, unfortunately, the posting was only for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Ralph had to make a choice and decided to quit his union job, even after struggling so long initially to get the job. “I quit all of that to go part-time, 2 days a week just for the experience,” said Ralph. The part-time position led to a full-time position, right before COVID-19 happened. Ralph would take the children out on the trails and also organize a lot of indoor nature-based activities. “We would do anything from carving our own hiking poles to computer programming or photo editing. My contribution to this nature school is my Métis background, so I bring a lot of that to the school,” he added.

Ralph learned a lot about working with children by being a father, but the program taught him the importance of knowing how a child thinks and how to deal with each child differently, “Learning the ability to recognize different personalities and levels are the things I took away from the course,” said Ralph.

Despite many struggles, Ralph found his calling working with children. From his journey through the program to his role as Nature Forest Teacher, he has been able to combine both his passions for teaching and nature. It is apparent how happy he is and how much he loves his job.

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