Thompson Rivers University

Accessibility Services a partner in education

June 13, 2019

History major Melissa Little graduated from Penticton Secondary School.

Upon meeting Melissa Little, it doesn’t take long to be inspired by her sunshiny enthusiasm for student life. “University is not just beneficial on a scholastic level; it supports social and emotional outcomes, too.”

Little’s educational pathway was lined with supporters. Diagnosed with a learning disability in kindergarten, she was bolstered her pro-active mother and supportive instructors. Little attended Holy Cross Elementary School in Penticton, where she worked with the same learning strategist until the eighth grade.

“Teachers told me that anything was possible, but that it might take a little more time and effort. The encouragement and flexibility fostered my work ethic and motivation,” she said.

TRU’s supports and services gave it the competitive edge

After thoughtful consideration, Little chose TRU because of the abundance of supports and services.

“I explored other options closer to home, but from the Open House onward, Kamloops felt like was the right fit for me. I couldn’t have had this experience at a bigger university.”

Before graduating from Penticton Secondary School, Little met with Accessibility Services (AS) to arrange for accommodations. “Before I even started classes, I already felt on track – the staff alleviated so many of my anxieties.”

She credits the connections she forged with various educators and advisors as being at the foundation of her educational experience. Her eye on a future in education, the history major said, “I always wanted to be an elementary school teacher–I want to pay it forward.”

She now works with Accessibility Advisor Jeff Dineley. “His effort and accountability is on point. He is always one step ahead of the game,” Little said.

“Melissa is a very enthusiastic and dedicated student. Her positive energy makes her such a joy to be around. She will make a great teacher someday,” Dineley said.

In regards to positive study habits like time management, organization, brainstorming and planning, Learning Strategist Evelyne Penny helps build Little’s skill set and confidence. “Each assignment, exam and presentation leads to stronger outcomes.”

“Evelyne is the most non-judgmental, open-minded, supportive, helpful person. She’s the reason I haven’t dropped out of university. I can talk to her about anything.  I learn something new in every appointment.”

Accessing Accommodations

Penny reflected on Little’s drive and commitment to excellence. “Students with learning disabilities have to work longer hours, which comes at a cost in terms of the time and energy spent on course work. Melissa’s perseverance, determination and positive outlook are beyond admirable.”

When it comes to booking tests, there are many requirements and complexities to consider. “Erin McCarthy is the perfect person for that role in the Testing Centre. As an accommodations co-ordinator, she helps calm my nerves before an exam; she double checks my schedule to mitigate errors or amend any issues.”

McCarthy said Little is upbeat and enthusiastic. “Melissa is a real sweetheart, always so eager to learn. She often expresses her gratitude for the work we do, which we appreciate.”

Little paused to think about those who helped her along the way. “My experience with AS has made me feel comfortable and confident. I feel valued, respected and humanized. We are partners in learning.”

A career in sight

Penny said Little’s compassion and empathy will help her in her career.

“Melissa’s personal experience as a student with a learning disability will make her an excellent teacher. She knows what students can face and what their needs are,” she said.

All in all, learning how to learn is the overarching lesson of Little’s educational experience.

“Your final mark and your GPA only tells a part of the story – it doesn’t necessarily express what kind of effort went into learning,” she said. “Real life experience matters; it teaches resilience, tenacity, compassion and empathy.”

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