Dream Big Stories: Ms. Susan Vachon

One of the most important parts of a SMUS education is our focus on personalized learning. For more than 15 years – even before there was a name for it – personalization was seen as integral in ensuring each student’s success. And that success couldn’t have been possible without your support through the annual Dream Big fund.

“The purpose of the Dream Big fund is to help provide resources and opportunities to set students up for success in and out of the classroom. Look no further than Learning Resources to see that this support is truly making a difference,” says Ms. Susan Vachon.

SMUS’s Learning Resources program provides assistance to more than 130 students. Because students learn differently, what that support looks like is personalized to best suit the learner’s needs.

Learning assistance, Susan says, falls under three different categories:

  • Giving students more time to process information;
  • Giving students more time to learn essential skills (like test-writing or note-taking);
  • Giving students access to resources (like technology) that helps compensate for brain-based learning differences.

“What Learning Resource does is a reflection of the basics of good teaching: meeting students where they’re at, providing scaffolding and structure until they learn what they need to know,” Susan says. “I think Learning Resources was a precursor to personalized learning.”

Susan was hired at SMUS in 2001 as our first Learning Resources teacher. At the time there was only one student identified as having learning differences.

“The Dream Big fund enhances the work we do with kids to give them even better resources and greater opportunities for success.”

“As we became more aware that kids learn differently, it became apparent that more and more students had learning differences and we needed to support them,” she says. “It all has to do with helping students develop skills – being able to break down tasks into manageable pieces, organizational skills, brain-based learning strategies. These skills benefit all kids. … Self-advocacy is the ultimate goal of Learning Resources. We want students to become experts in how they learn; knowing what works and where they need help because that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.”

Ms. Laura Miller, Head of Learning Resources, says the annual Dream Big fund has made a “tremendous” impact on students in the last 15 years.

Donations through the Dream Big fund has allowed Learning Resources to purchase assistive technology, materials and furniture designed to help students focus, as well as for professional development for Learning Resources staff.

After being involved in Learning Resources at SMUS for more than 15 years, Susan says she is pleased to see the growth of the program, as that means students are receiving the tools and support they need to be successful. She adds that, from experience, she’s confident saying that Learning Resources can help change students’ lives.

“I’ve seen students turn their education around because of the support they receive from their dedicated teachers and the additional assistance of Learning Resources. We assess them, show them where their strengths are, show them where their struggles are, put a plan in place to support them and that changes their trajectory,” she says. “Having that Learning Resources champion on their side guiding them through their journey makes a huge difference.”


A Dream Takes A Team

You, too, can be their champion. Behind each SMUS student with a big dream is a team of people committed to helping make that dream a reality. That team includes teachers, counsellors, coaches and donors – all working together to give each student the support needed to make their dream real.

Please join us in supporting the Dream Big Fund.

Donate online at www.smus.ca/dreambig or contact Shara Campsall, Director of Annual Fund, at [email protected] or 250-370-6197.

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Kyle Slavin
Kyle Slavin is the school's storyteller. Through words and photos, he shares with the community all the amazing things that happen on campus.

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