Educational Assistant

Occupational Profile

What is an Educational Assistant (EA)?
Related job titles
Major duties
Qualifications and requirements
Compensation
Who are the employers?
Where to find job postings?
Professional associations and contacts
More relevant links

What is an Educational Assistant?

Educational Assistants (EA) help to deliver educational programs in the elementary, secondary or adult education systems. They play an increasingly vital role in today’s classroom.

The EA’s key role is to support the teacher working with individual, or groups of, students. They work alongside and under the guidance of teachers. The administration considers them support staff in most educational settings.

The development of the Educational Assistant role is linked to the introduction of Bill 82 in 1980. Under this Bill, school boards in Ontario are obliged to serve all children including those with exceptional needs. The need for additional personnel in schools to assist students was then first identified. Read more history here.
To learn about all related regulations click here.

Related job titles

In most cases, duties and requirements for the following titles will overlap. To some extent, they differ but employers describe all of them as non-teaching, complementary or para-professional positions. They do not require certification from the Ontario College of Teachers.

  • Educational Resources Assistant
  • Lunch Room Supervisor
  • Program Assistant, Education
  • Special Education Assistant
  • Staff Assistant Education
  • Teacher’s Aide
  • Teacher Assistant
  • Teaching Assistant

Major duties for an Educational Assistant

An Educational Assistant and a teacher are a team. The EA is assigned to meet the needs of specific students and/or program needs within the school. The teacher is ultimately responsible for the education of all students in the class and the EA serves as a support.

The EA’s duties will vary depending on the school board, type of school and level of education. They may include:

  • assist students with lessons under direct supervision of classroom teacher
  • assist special needs students, such as those with mental or physical disabilities, with mobility, communication and personal hygiene
  • assist with marking of tests and worksheets
  • assist with classroom inventory
  • assist in school library or office and perform other duties assigned by a school principal
  • assist the teacher in the completion of daily paperwork utilizing various computer programs
  • monitor and report to classroom teacher on student progress
  • monitor students during a break or noon hour
  • accompany and supervise students during activities in school gymnasia, laboratories, libraries, resource centres and on field trips
  • prepare classroom displays and bulletins
  • operate or assist teacher in operation of projectors, tape recorders and other audio-visual or electronic equipment
  • carry out behaviour modification, personal development and other therapeutic programs under supervision of professionals such as special education instructors, psychologists or speech-language pathologists

Qualifications and requirements

Minimum requirements are:

  • grade 12 and experience/training in working with young people is stated as minimum requirements in some schools. However, college diplomas in the human services field including Early Childhood Education (ECE), Youth Care Worker (YCW), Nursing or Nursing Assistant (NA), Educational Assistant (EA), etc. are preferred
  • proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages – English or French.
    English is the language of instruction in the majority of schools in Ontario. French is the language of instruction in some schools.
  • good interpersonal and communication skills are essential, as are energy and enthusiasm for the job

If you are offered a job, you will have to get a criminal reference check successfully completed in order to be allowed to work. This is a condition of employment for anyone who works with “vulnerable” clients, or clients in vulnerable situations (children, abused women, people seeking employment, settlement, marriage or other counselling).

Aiding students with special needs usually requires specialized training and experience:

  • college diploma or university degree in a related field of study
  • experience dealing with children with a variety of physical and intellectual disabilities and behavioural or other learning difficulties
  • a broad knowledge of child development as well as some teaching experience

Depending on the place of work, other special skills and training are useful, such as:

  • fluency in other languages
  • knowledge of sign language
  • non-violent crisis intervention training
  • proficiency with Braille
  • experience providing health care

Some buzz words and catch phrases which may be useful are:

  • genuinely committed to helping children learn
  • cultural and “ability” sensitivity
  • excellent problem-solving skills
  • empathy
  • ability to work in chaotic situations and still maintain a sense of humour
  • patience and understanding while managing difficult children
  • individual learning needs and behaviours
  • ability and willingness to perform required physical tasks
  • age-appropriate extra curricular learning activities
  • students who may be visually or hearing impaired or suffer from other physical, mental or sensory disabilities
  • use appropriate educational technology and assistive/adaptive devices
  • provide extra support to the children
  • teach self-help skills
  • understand and be sensitive to the obstacles facing the children in your care
  • recognize individual learning styles and the characteristics of learners
  • demonstrate skills that will support the development and empowerment of individuals
  • challenge students to fulfill their potential
  • document parent-teacher interviews
  • be part of an educational team
  • knowledge of various philosophies and theories of education
  • knowledge and skills in working within a multidisciplinary context
  • knowledge and skills related to meeting the needs of learners with a range of exceptionalities

After you analyze the above or any other information about EAs and think about your past teaching experience you may realize that you need to:

  • focus on your one-on-one teaching skills and accomplishments, assisting abilities and educational teamwork rather than curriculum development and classroom presentation
  • present yourself using verbs such as: fostered, maintained, arranged, directed, demonstrated, collaborated, coordinated, implemented, utilized, created, documented, developed, designed, reported, provided, supported

Compensation

EAs work on contracts that extend for ten months of the year while teachers are paid an annual salary. EAs are usually paid for a six or seven hour workday. Depending upon the board, they may or may not be paid for P.D. (Professional Development) days and school breaks/holidays. Hourly wages range from $14.00 to $17.00. The average salary is reported to be $26,000. In recent years, EAs in all district school boards have organized into either unions or associations. These groups have made gains in salary, benefits and some job security.

Who are the employers?

EA positions exist at the elementary, secondary and, recently, at the college level. EAs are hired sometimes to assist students with disabilities who are studying at the college level.

Main employers of EAs in Ontario are boards of education. According to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), in October 2000, there were approximately 14,000 Educational Assistants employed by Ontario school boards. However, you may also find EA in:

  • alternative educational settings (private schools, special schools)
  • children’s treatment centres
  • vocational services
  • day activity programs
  • life skills programs
  • English as a Second Language community programs

Settlement.org provides newcomers with background information about the Ontario school system and related links. For more information on how the Ontario publicly funded education system works you may read Ontario School Trustees’ Handbook..

In Ontario, public school system Educational Assistants are included in the para-professionals category. They often begin their careers working on a supply list replacing Educational Assistants who are absent. Most school boards accept applications for Supply Educational Assistant/Teacher Assistant all year round.

The Education Workbook, prepared by the StepsToEmployment staff for newcomers will help you to become more acquainted with the education sector and terminology in Ontario.

For information about religious and independent schools and related links click here.

Where to find job postings for an educational assistant?

Professional associations and contacts

Network and stay tuned. Keep up with recent developments in the Ontario education sector. Some of them affect foreign trained teachers and provide valuable information.

Interested in locating other teacher’s associations and organizations? The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto has developed a comprehensive Teacher’s Organizations list, sorted by province.

More relevant links:

About Other Teaching Related Employment in Canada by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

SNOW Project
Inservice Development for Educational Assistants (IDEA) Workshop Series. Online workshop series (some are free) curriculum materials, open discussion forums and other resources.