My name is Sarah Pike and I used to be a former student of both Sagonaska and Trillium schools during the two years that I was privileged to have in 2005-2007. I am writing to you today in regards to the debate of all demonstration schools closing. I am truly devastated that anyone who would want to take away such a beneficial asset to our society,
from our future teachers, police officers, fire fighters, pilots, nurses, builders, wielders, book writers, chefs, artists, politicians, public speakers… the list goes on. As a student growing up with a severe learning disability, Central Auditory Processing Disorder to be specific that was not recognized by the school board but only by the Ministry of Education it was frustrating!
Life before Sagonaska and Trillium was harsh, cruel and stressful each and every day, attending school and not being able to learn in the ways that most students learn was heartbreaking and agonizing. It affect my family’s life and my confidence level greatly. I felt like a failure despite my every efforts to strive forward; however, they all just kept pushing me through the system since they weren’t sure how to teach someone like me. One of the problems was that I struggled with the noises in a classroom setting because I was hearing everything all at the same level! Such as humming of the lights, students talking, someone pushing back on their chairs, a student running through the hall, the clock ticking… I couldn’t take it! Trying to hear the teacher on top of all that was frustrating, since I couldn’t process and figure out what was said and learn it all at the same time was a joke! Let alone having teachers tell me “2+2= 4” or “To read between the lines” was the best method of teaching! Trying to makes friends was a whole other story where bullying and being told your retarded kept me from socializing and interacting with others, including the one’s in the Special Need’s class. It got to the point that from the rate I was going I would have never even made it to through high school. THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED. My parents met a Child Advocate named Georgia Rayner who helped us as a family navigate through the educational system into the demonstration schools. With her help and guidance, my sisters and I were finally able to learn in an environment for students with severe learning disabilities. That’s when I knew that was the beginning of a brand new me.
One of my favourite memories from Trillium was within the first month of school in September and how every student accepted me for who I am and truly wanted to be my friend. That one stands out the most to me because I was never able to connect well with others around my age and always seemed to be bullied due to being shy, quiet and being placed in a Special Needs classes which was always promoted as a bad thing. That year was the first time in my life that I was not only accepted for who I was but it’s what changed me into a strong, dominate woman who isn't afraid to speak up or go after what she believes in!
One thing that I found valuable the most about my experience at Trillium School was being in an educational program that was fully equipped and centered around my learning disability. I was so excited to learn how to use phonics to help sound out new words, have an hour class dedicated to literacy every morning and being able to work at my own pace. My reading level went from a grade 3 to a grade nine level in 6 months! My math improved so much that I actually started enjoying math problems! Just to name a few. Learning in a regular school system had very little support for me and this was a refreshing change especially having peers who had the same or similar aspects of my disability. My only regret was that the program was only for two (2) years and not longer. As much as I would love to say my disability/disorder is only temporary it’s not, I have it for life.
After attending both demonstration schools, I went back to public school at George S. Henry Academy to finish my high school diploma. I struggled but this time, I knew how to learn by practising the skills and techniques that I was taught from Trillium. From there, I went to Georgian College for one year in the General Arts and Science program. This was my first time living away from home and having to experience a whole other change in my life. Thanks to my two years of boarding school, I was able to adapt well over time. During the time I worked with Georgian College’s Students with Disability Department, I learned even more valuable lessons in how to study, present lectures, write, organize my note taking skills, how to write a proper bibliography as well as even organize my class schedules and assignments! However, I realized during that time I was in the wrong program and needed to move back home to go after what I truly wanted, to become a teacher and one day work at Trillium. So, I went to Centennial College where I was enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program where I received after two (2) years my diploma with High Honours in Early Childhood Education. While I was there, I also became an Ambassador for the ECE program in 2013 for the Ghana, Africa experience in providing support for the Ghanaians' Childcare and Early Childhood Education programs. We did a two week lecture on teaching other educators about Child's Development, the Reggio Emilia approach, and how to accommodate children with learning disabilities (this was one area that I lectured and provided examples since the professor who was the main lecturer didn’t know very much about). From then, I became a Mentor at Centennial College’s Disability Department for other students with learning disabilities also in 2013 and did lectures on promoting services available for students who needed help such as severe learning disabilities in other programs around campus. Through all of my hardships and accomplishments, my final year at Centennial College I have received the "Irene Volinets Centre for Students with Disabilities Scholarship". One thing that struck out the most to her was that I have been an advocate for children, teens and young adults since 2010 at the age of 20! As if I couldn’t have been doing anything else during those two years at Centennial, I tutored and mentored over 40 students! I started realizing that teaching was so natural to me that it worked so well with my short-term memory loss that I decided to look even further then to become a teacher, but to be a professor teaching others about learning disabilities and how to make learning fun and exciting like Trillium, not boring and stressful!
So where am I now, I am currently working towards getting a Bachelor of Child Development so I can become a professor of Child Development teaching others about learning disabilities! My future dream is to develop a school here in Toronto or close by for children with severe learning disabilities where the program is more than two years but geared towards a child’s educational needs.
If it were not for my Trillium experience, I would not be prepared for what I am doing now as a Registered Early Childhood Educator, college student, advocate, tutor and mentor. By allowing me to attend Trillium, it taught and prepare me the valuable lessons in how to use my learning skills to be the best of my abilities. I also learned to advocate for myself and others who have special needs. I learned that having a disability doesn't define you as a person, but it can also illustrate that I have many other capabilities and that I can be anything I want to be because I’m the “POSSIBLE”! With Trillium, my experience in the education system have been a lot more productive, effective, and positive. The value of Trillium has abled me to be a full participant in my quest for learning and to not to be afraid that I can't do it. My motto now is, “change what’s impossible to it’s possible”! If you have a vision go for it, don’t let nothing stand in your way! That’s what Trillium taught me. Sagonaska taught me what is such a famous quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it” all you have to do is believe in yourself! From my Trillium experience specifically, I learned more there than from any public school I have ever been too; so I am very distraught at the idea that anyone would want to even think about debating such a stupid idea of closing such a valuable asset to our future generations.
Honourable Sandals, I continue to wish that all students with Central Auditory Processing Disorder would have the educational opportunities like I did by being in programs like Trillium Demonstration Schools. Without these programs, many of our future students will fall through the cracks of our education system and drop out of school early. I would say that, some may even end up at low end paying jobs with no bright future. As students with special needs who often go unnoticed since it is not a "seen" disability, investing in programs like Trillium are essential for the undermined, slow achievers who are often left behind. If we don't support programs like Trillium than we as a society are responsible for the instability in our economic future as Canadians. Are we as society saying then that only certain people count? Are we not all citizens? Don't we matter?