Sandy Balascak (right) will be teaching a course at UBCO this summer about teaching at-risk youth. ACE student Nick Riemersma (left) will be one of the youth speaking to Balascak’s students. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

ACE principal to teach young educators how to understand at-risk youth

Sandy Balascak will be teaching a UBCO course this summer, with help from some ACE students

Those youth in your class aren’t problem kids, just kids with problems.

That’s the message Sandy Balascak is hoping to get out to teachers in her newest course at UBC Okanagan.

“There is a lack of training for people to deal with at-risk youth,” the Agassiz Centre for Excellence (ACE) principal explained.

“I think it’s coming more to the forefront now, but a few years ago … I don’t think you could have found a course that dealt with at-risk and/or alternate youth.

“So how do you expect the teachers to understand them when nobody is teaching the teachers?”

From July 2 to 12. that’s exactly what Balascak will be doing at the UBC Okanagan campus. Although this will be her first year teaching the course, it’s been in the works for two years.

RELATED: ACE administrator to teach UBCO summer course

The goal, Balascak said, will be to help teachers understand at-risk youth, and focus on looking at the root causes of behavioural problems.

“Punishing behaviour is kind of like treating symptoms instead of looking at the root,” she said.

“There’s a lot of techniques that really just adjust the symptom of the problem, but don’t get to the why,” she continued, adding that asking why is an important part of figuring out what’s causing difficulties for students.

“They’re acting this way: why is that? Well, they’re seeking attention: why is that? Well, it’s because this is happening at home,” she explained.

“You just keep asking why until you figure out what the root of it is.”

Students in Balascak’s class will be spending much of the 9-day course learning about mental health issues and the resulting behaviours, as well as techniques to increase self-esteem and help students cope.

But importantly, they will also be hearing from ACE students, both former and current.

“I can get up and tell them, and say ‘Well a student said this, or a student told me that’,” Balascak said. “But it doesn’t have the same impact.”

Nick Riemersma, 16, is the one current ACE student speaking at the course. (He’ll be joined by graduates Emma Potts and Ivy Blake, although Blake will be appearing via video.)

For him, the course is an opportunity to have teachers learn how they can best interact with students like him.

“It doesn’t matter more about the studying, it’s more about how truthful it is, in the end,” he said. “Because up-and-coming teachers, really, they do need to know what to do and what not to do.”

For Riemersma, teachers who would push him out of the class group found him much more difficult to work with.

“When I was in school, I used to get in trouble and they were always pushing me out of the group. It felt like they didn’t like me or something like that,” he said. “So then I usually went more the opposite than anything, so that made me rebel more.”

This year’s course, titled “Overcoming behaviour issues by understand the causes,” is expected to have about 30 teachers taking part, Balascak said. She hopes it will run again at UBC’s Okanagan campus next year as well.

“It will be up to UBC,” she said. “As I get older, the more I can reach out and teach teachers how to understand these kids, the better I think it will be.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

New event invites Agassiz to meet museum’s resident ghost

The Haunted Museum Tour will take place on Oct. 26 and 30

REAL ESTATE: Homesteading in the Cariboo a reality

Columnist Freddy Marks talks about why so many are looking to a ranch life when it comes to property

Chilliwack maternity ward gets bundle of new equipment

Breast pumps, small fridges for patient rooms and freezer for donor breast milk given to hospital

Liberal candidate Jati Sidhu backs out of four interview appointments with The News

Jati Sidhu, the Liberal incumbent in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, said he was too busy to talk

Highway 1, crime and pipeline debated at Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon forum

Five candidates for the riding debated the issues Thursday in Abbotsford

VIDEO: Agassiz lights candles in memory of missing, murdered Indigenous women

The Sisters in Spirit vigil took place at the Agassiz United Church

VIDEO: Townhouse fourth Maple Ridge blaze in less than a day

UPDATE: Fire victims have much to be thankful for, despite loss of pets on Thanksgiving Day

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

BC Ferries filling up fast with post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Monday anticipated to be busiest day of the weekend

Most Read