Patricia RichettoJanet Szliske | CUPE Communications

Prior to the pandemic, Patricia Richetto had worked at École André-Piolat in North Vancouver for 14 years. “School was my comfort zone,” she said. “When the pandemic struck, everything changed. There was a lot of stress and things seemed negative.”

She didn’t even have a computer at home. Because her work as an education assistant (EA) switched to remote, online learning, the school sent her one. “The only thing I could do before this was send emails,” said Richetto. “I had to challenge myself to learn the computer in less than two months. I’m so glad I did, because it’s part of life now.”

As an EA, Richetto usually works with students with complex needs, working with 10 students from four classes. Art has been a big part of keeping positive, for both herself and her students.

“I started to do a little cartoon story, drawing the same little girl in different situations, like the first day at school or going to the dentist,” explained Richetto. “Now I’m working with a friend on a podcast project that’s an interactive storybook for children.”

“Although being back in school can be stressful, I’m very happy to be back and working with students,” said Richetto. Her advice to her students is to stay hopeful and live day by day. “It’s good to continue to support each other. We help each other and move forward together.”

Richetto said that technology also changed her life on a personal level, by helping her reconnect to her estranged family.

“I had been away from my family for many long years. Because I learned how to use the computer, we started to talk online in Skype meetings,” said Richetto. “It’s been so beautiful to see the babies of my niece and nephew—it gives me hope. I’m very happy that I was able to take something so rewarding from this pandemic.”