Kay Corbier always wanted a career helping people. A summer job as a camp counsellor introduced her to working with people with developmental disabilities. Four years ago she transitioned to teaching from her successful career in social services, and now passes on knowledge to students in the Developmental and Social Worker program at Durham College.
Tell me what you do and how you do it?
I am a professor in the Developmental Service Worker Program at Durham College. It’s is a two-year diploma program, and we prepare students to work in community living organizations, probably some will work in the school board, but they are working with children and adults with a developmental disability.
What makes your topic of research relevant?
It’s relevant because developmental services is a specialized area of understanding in terms of working with people. There are some more general social service and child and youth care diplomas, but this one is particularly specific in working with children and adults who have a developmental disability.
How and when did you get interested in this area of expertise?
Oh Wow! For as long as I can remember, as I small child, when people asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I wanted to work helping people. How I specifically got into developmental services, is I worked at a summer camp with children with autism, and right away, my first day on the job I thought, “This is my career. This is it. This is me. This is what I am going to be doing.” Once I graduated with my psychology degree I started working for Community Living Toronto, and from that point forward I just started moving up in the field. I started out working part-time. I did overnight shifts, I did evening shifts, then I became a supervisor of a group home, program director, executive director, director of operations, HR. So, I would say I grew up in the field. I have held a number of positions, which really helps me with my students because I can say, “I have done that.”
Can you tell me about your roots and how you ultimately arrived in Oshawa?
I was born in Barbados. I ended up here because my mom is a nurse. She was trained to be a nurse in England, and when she finished her nursing training she went back to Barbados to work. She responded to a call for the need for nurses in Canada. She and my dad came to Oshawa, and she worked at the Oshawa General Hospital as a registered nurse. I followed her shortly after, aged nine.
Who has inspired you along the way?
I have been very fortunate to have had people supervise me who I thought were great role models and mentors. As well as, my mom who has been a great inspiration for me as well. Because, just coming to a different country, working and pursuing her career at a time when a lot women did not go away to go to school, and come to a foreign country to work.
What is the most important thing in this field you think people should know?
It is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach in terms of supporting people with disabilities. They will need to bring a lot of themselves into work, so, they have to be aware of their own values and their own biases. And that they have to listen intently to what people want.
What’s your favourite part of this research?
My favourite part is when students are excited and engaged with the material and they’re making me think, and they are analyzing stuff critically, and they are giving feedback and excited about the work and what they’re learning and what they’re going to do in the field.
What is the toughest challenge you have faced in this research?
I think switching from the role of expert in the field to teacher. It’s a very different role. You can have a lot of expertise in the field, a lot of knowledge about a particular field, but how you share that knowledge to students in a way that’s going to be meaningful to them, that’s going to have value for them when they go out and try to work, is a real transition.
This interview was edited for style, length and clarity.