The Abbotsford News is honoured to profile 2022 “Heroes in Education” from a long and amazing list of nominees sent to us by our readers. “Heroes in Education” is graciously sponsored by Sevenoaks Shopping Centre, University of the Fraser Valley, BE Power Equipment, Valley Laser Eye Centre and the City of Abbotsford.
Brendan Ha fondly remembers his high school years, but he knows that’s not the case for everyone and that helped him make the decision to become an educator.
The head of the Lotus Program at Yale Secondary, Ha said he wanted to be a teacher from a very early age, but more importantly, he wanted young people to feel good about their time at school.
“I wanted students to have a good time, like I did,” he said. “I made it through and everyone can.”
And while the stress and anxiety of the teenage years can be overwhelming, Ha said the Lotus Program is the perfect antidote for those suffering in silence. It didn’t exist when he was a student, but now the school district wants more of them as they can see the benefits.
For Yale student Julia, the Lotus Program has been a godsend and the reason her grandmother Doreen nominated Ha for a Heroes in Education award.
“The Lotus Program gave Julia the space she needed when things got overwhelming for her at school,” Doreen said. “If a student is feeling overwhelmed in class, they can take their work to Lotus and finish it there. They can even take their exams in Lotus.”
HEROES IN EDUCATION SPECIAL SECTION: click here
Ha, who was instrumental in creating the Lotus Program at Yale, said students can get the program as a block or just drop-in when a little calming is needed.
“It’s a place to decompress; it’s a safe place,” he said. “Students don’t often realize there’s an anxiety program. They hear about it by word of mouth from other students who use the program. A lot of times we find they get the support they need and they tell their friends that a safe space exists.”
Ha often thinks about how useful Lotus would have been when he was a student and how it would have helped later in life.
“It gives you an emotional intelligence that we all need after we leave school, later in life,” he explained. “It allows you to be more hopeful and optimistic.”
The Lotus Program’s objective is “To provide a safe environment, free from all judgment, where students can feel safe to explore coping strategies necessary to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, all the while receiving social emotional and academic support.”
For Doreen, Lotus truly is working wonders both emotionally and academically for her granddaughter.
“Mr. Ha was one of her favourite teachers,” she said. “Julia found Mr. Ha approachable, easy to talk to, supportive and he was very understanding about each student’s individual circumstances. His academic support also helped Julia maintain her honour role grades in her grad year.”
The Lotus Program also works in tandem with Traverse, a program designed for students dealing with behavioural issues. Both provide a calm space where social emotional learning can take place.
And calmness is a difficult thing to find during these troubling pandemic times, Ha said.
“This has been the hardest part of my career,” Ha said. “The kids and staff are feeling a lot of the same things.”
Yet, despite the difficulty of COVID and the recent historic flood, Ha is thankful that he is in the teaching profession.
“You can’t forget those students whom you’ve helped,” he said. “You feel like you are crossing the stage with them.”