B.C. teacher makes tearful plea for help; Children with special needs are hungry, tired and distressed, educator says

Kathy Tomlinson, CBC News

A Grade 6 teacher on Vancouver Island says the students in her class can’t learn because they don’t get enough help.

“I have very emotionally damaged children in my class … and I can’t spread myself thin enough,” said Naomi Nilsson, who has been teaching since 2006.

Nilsson has 27 students in her class at Khowhemun Elementary in Duncan, B.C. Eight of them are designated as having special needs.

“I know that they are not going to get the education that they deserve — and I know that society is going to be damaged because of that.”….

“I would love it if I could split myself up into 27 little pieces and sit next to each one of them and help them do their math,” Nilsson said.

Teacher Naomi Nilsson tells reporter Kathy Tomlinson her Grade 6 students are not learning because they don’t get enough help. Her class has one part-time teacher’s aide, who is in the classroom one morning and one afternoon per week.

“It’s infuriating, because there just isn’t enough money to give these kids enough support,” she said.

Nilsson said many of her students come from stressed families, where both parents work several low-paying jobs and are often away from home.

“My students come to school hungry … without lunches and without snacks. Some of them don’t have winter coats,” Nilsson said while holding back tears.

“They can’t just sit. Some of them it’s almost like they have little electrodes attached to their bodies and they wiggle and they vibrate.”…

Education Minister George Abbott acknowledged there is a problem….

“I need to speak out because enough is enough,” said Nilsson. “I am stretched thin. My school is stretched thin. The B.C. education system is stretched thin. Somebody needs to do something. There needs to be a change made for the kids.

“Someone’s got to speak up for them,” she said, through tears. “Because they can’t themselves.”…

Nilsson says many of her students come to school hungry, tired and too stressed to learn. “As a district, we have to take from core money to supplement special needs kids,” said Rhodes, adding the district gets $5 million per year from the province for special programs, but spends $9 million….

Nilsson said the system needs to catch up to the reality of how society, the economy, and school has changed….

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