• By: Dan Donovan

Chris Borris of OSSTF says working as an EA is impractical financially.

Ontario has one of the best secondary and post-secondary school systems in the world. While teachers are well compensated and negotiate with the province annually over wages and benefits, the same cannot be said for all ‘education workers’ — the educational assistants, continuing education teachers, instructors, psychologists, secretaries, speech-language pathologists, social workers, plant support personnel, attendance counselors, custodians, school office staff, lunchroom supervisors, early childhood educators and a multitude of support staff who bring their ‘A game’ to work every day to support students in the classroom. Here are some of their stories.

The definition of a Renaissance man or woman in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is a person who is well-educated and sophisticated and has talent and knowledge in many fields of study. Chris Borris fits the description perfectly, and he likes to make people laugh. 

By day Borris is an Educational Assistant (EA) working in a Behavioural Intervention Program. At night and on weekends, he pivots to perform as one of Ottawa’s most well-known and beloved stand-up comedians. When we asked Borris how he self-describes, he said, “education worker, comedian, writer, dad, son, brother, uncle, and husband.”

Borris says he started his education job as a casual EA and quickly moved into a full-time role. “I have a degree in Psychology. I’ve worked in group homes and for the school board for a long time.  I think it’s important to be part of a workspace where you can have a positive impact on young lives.”  

However, Borris is like many of the thousands of education workers in the province who want to stay working in education but are constrained by the reality that they earn less than $45,000 a year on average. Most work a second or third job to support themselves and their families. For Borris, this means running a comedy club (Yuk Yuks) and performing stand-up comedy.

“I enjoy working in the education sector, but it’s proving increasingly difficult,” says Borris. “I feel like the financial return for my work as an EA is prohibitive, so I may not be able to do the job full-time for much longer as I have several other employment opportunities. He adds, “It is important to properly staff a school which has meant class closures or bus closures, all of which make it very difficult to do my job properly.”

Curious to learn more about Chris Borris, we went to see him at Yuk Yuks in Ottawa. The crowd loves his infectious humour, which is clever, satirical, and very smart. He talks about growing up in his Ottawa South Keys neighbourhood, his family, school, how he met his wife, and numerous hilarious interactions with his young kids that he has turned into comedy bit gems. 

You just know from listening to his act that it’s all based on actual experiences and that Borris has had lots of interactions with all kinds of students, education workers, teachers, students, and other parents and their kids. 

Borris is eminently likeable and the type of person who brings value and quality to Ontario’s public education system. He’s got the degree, the experience, the personality, and the smarts that would make him a valued person to any employer.  

The Ontario government needs to ensure they create the funding envelopes to ensure people like Chris Borris can continue to work in education in Ontario. The obvious beneficiaries of this will be Ontario students. 

For more information on the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), visit www.osstf.on.ca