...Connie Lasheras, Early Childhood Education graduateEarly Childhood Education
graduate Connie Lasheras knows kids being raised in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside need a kind smile more than most children.So three days a week - sometimes five - the Langley woman climbs into her car for the long drive to the city, where she works as both a Special Needs Educator and an Early Childhood Educator at the YWCA's Crabtree Corner Emergency Daycare.
"For eight hours a day, the kids are with people who are calm and reassuring and who smile at them," says Lasheras
."I think it makes them a little more settled and shows them a face of how an adult can behave."
It may seem like a lengthy drive from the Fraser Valley to the Downtown Eastside, but Lasheras
is used to long hauls.She
grew up in a small farming community in Saskatchewan where distances are measured in terms of hours, not kilometers.When she
was 15, she
family moved to Lillooet, which is a long way from just about anywhere.Lasheras
didn't make it to an urban environment until she
was in grade 12, when the family moved to Surrey.Graduating from Princess Margaret Secondary School, she
fully intended to become a kindergarten teacher.But then, as she
says, "life took over" and more schooling had to wait.
"I worked and traveled and got married and it just never happened," says Lasheras
settled in Langley, raising two children and looking after a small tree farm.She
took up bookkeeping and kept track of the accounts for both the tree farm and her
husband's Vancouver business.But she
never forgot her
dream of teaching.
"I knew what I wanted to do as soon as I saw my kids entered UBC," says Lasheras
."I knew I wasn't going to sit around and just weed the garden - I was going to go and get out there.I was very focused."Lasheras
sights on early childhood education.Having raised two typical kids, she
really wanted to work with children who faced challenges.She
also wanted something that laddered to a university program.She
research, spoke with daycare supervisors and heard consistent praise for the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program at Douglas College
Entering the program as a mature student, Lasheras
devoured the curriculum.Described by her instructors as "a hungry learner," she thrived in the program, which promotes active learning and emphasizes working in groups.She
also forged new friendships with her
"I was older than a lot of the students' parents," laughs Lasheras
landed a practicum at the YWCA Crabtree Corner Emergency Daycare
- a challenging assignment, but one she
was able to excel at because of her
life experience.Graduating from Douglas College in 2005 with a Diploma in Early Childhood Education as well as a Certificate in Special Needs Education, she slid right into her job.
Working at an emergency daycare, Lasheras
doesn't always see the same children each day.The centre works closely with the Ministry of Child and Family Development and Vancouver Supported Child Development, so the majority of families using it are struggling with issues other than just childcare.But Lasheras
is up to the challenge.
"I very much feel like I'm making a difference in the lives of the children," she