BY BILL PHILLIPS
Corey Walker didn’t have the best of time in school.
Academically he did great. Socially, not so much.
“I was teased a lot in elementary and high school because I was different,” he said. “It was not fun, it was not pleasant. It had an impact me and I had to learn to overcome that. I want to help people who are going through those kinds of things.”
The best way for him to provide that help, he says, is to become a trustee on the School District 57 board of education.
Walker, who is the northern regional coordinator for Autism BC, was diagnosed with autism as an adult. He knows, firsthand, what it’s like to be a special needs kid in the education system and is an anti-bullying champion.
“I’m hearing parents who have children with special needs express frustration with the school system,” he said. “It’s not that the teachers or the educational assistants don’t care, it’s that their child isn’t getting the support they need. When they try to bring it up with administration they feel they don’t get anywhere. We need someone who is the voice for the marginalized, someone who is going to stand up for them and bring their voice to the board table.”
And he has more to offer than simply someone who has first-hand knowledge of being a special needs kid.
He did most of his schooling in Prince George and graduated from Duchess Park. Originally hoping to be a high school teacher, he got his Bachelor of Arts in English and history at UNBC and has his instructor’s certificate. While he was going to university he did a lot of volunteering tutoring of high school students.
When he was diagnosed, things changed for him.
“That made me really passionate about helping others who have other challenges, be it autism or something else,” he said, adding he has done a lot of advocacy work throughout the city, the province and even nationally.
He has been involved with Inclusion BC and with the national Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance.
“All this has given me a really good understanding of what the issues are in the education system, and the strengths too,” he said. “I want to do everything that we possibly can to make sure kids feel safe at school … I want to fight to make sure we have inclusive schools, inclusive classes not just for people with autism but for everyone. I want to make sure students have an equal opportunity to have a good quality education and make sure they get the supports they need.”
Recruiting more teachers is a key part of accomplishing that.
“One of the first things I want to do is form a recruitment task force that involves all stakeholders, not just trustees, not just senior administration,” he said. “I want to get teachers, EAs and maybe some parents on it.
He acknowledges when it comes to recruitment, some things are out of the district’s control, such as wages, but a task force would look at what is in the district’s control and what can it do to attract teachers.
“I know they’ve been trying to doing recruitment, if we bring in some more people (to help with recruitment) we might get some creative ideas that are worth a shot,” he said.
He says there are principals filling in in the classrooms because the district doesn’t have enough teachers.
“That’s not good,” he said. “That’s not their job and they’re not necessarily trained in that subject.”
He also wants to be a voice for the employees as well.
“I know they love their job, but sometimes they feel like their voice isn’t being heard,” he said. “I want to be that voice. We have some really great people working at the school district, at all different levels. It’s disappointing and disheartening when someone feels like their voice isn’t being heard. The trustees have the vote, but it’s their job to listen.”
Walker it’s also crucial to develop a long term plan for rural schools.
He has been endorsed by North Central Labour Union. Prince George voters go to the polls October 20.