OSSTF’s Rachel Robillard says, “the student is at the epicentre of what we do everyday.”

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.

Rachel Robillard is the Operations Coordinator for the Centre for Language Learning and the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute (OLBI) at the University of Ottawa. She is responsible for all logistical and material resources (class scheduling, enrollment, student concerns, sponsorships, contracts, and a host of related things that keep the processes at OLBI running smoothly so students and staff have a great experience while at uOttawa.  

Throughout her career, Robillard has always been directly or indirectly involved in academia and education. She says that, as a uOttawa alumna, “I always felt I would return to the University. I am also a proud Franco-Ontarian, and bilingualism is a vital part of my identity. I was living out west for over a decade and had moved back to Ottawa in 2018 when the opportunity to pursue my career at uOttawa (specifically OLBI) presented itself. I jumped in, feet first.”
Robillard is a professionally trained actor and teacher and holds degrees in both fields. She has worked as a secondary school teacher, an artist in the classroom, and as a performer for the Theatre for Young Audiences, and she has over 600 stage performances with various companies across Canada. She considers herself a ‘Jill of All Trades’ and says, “I have worked as project manager for a large-scale performing arts festivals as well as for Simon Fraser University, acting as a bilingual recruitment coordinator for the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs and, I spent a decade in international education recruitment, travelling abroad and working for a UK-based company.” 

It seems education has followed her, or she has followed it wherever she goes, and her passion remains working with students in the education field. “The current government sentiment towards education is making it increasingly difficult for educators to keep students at the epicentre of what we do.” 

Every day, I try to give myself the task of helping a single student overcome a specific situation or circumstance. It could be something as small as assisting with registration and enrollment, to implementing an emergency bursary for international students experiencing financial challenges directly impacting their ability to study,” says Robillard.
Robillard’s commitment to her work and career is built around the belief that every individual holds limitless potential. “My role is to nurture and support, and when possible, remove barriers, for that potential to grow and the individual to thrive. I have also been privileged to witness and participate in the unifying force of art in the classroom. Art is a gateway for many students – a means of expression and a creative outlet. It builds basic life skills and aptitudes that would otherwise potentially go underdeveloped or neglected. It offers assessment possibilities outside the main framework and breaks down accessibility barriers,” she says.

Robillard brings a great philosophy to the workplace and one that is even more admirable, given that Robillard has six-year-old twin boys at home. One must assume that her positive outlook, kind energy, and commitment to education will benefit them as they grow, in the same way, that her work has helped so many of the students and staff she supports each day.

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