The University of Montreal and of an innovative centre for social pedagogy
Opened in 2014, Centre L’extension offers educational and health services to students with special needs. Housed in Barclay elementary school in the heart of Parc-Extension, one of Montreal’s most multi-ethnic neighbourhoods, it provides students with personalized programmes to help them thrive, enjoy school, and succeed.
Most of these students had immigration experiences marked by hardships. When they arrived in Montreal, some, like Anastasia, had not been to school and did not speak French. "Rather than seeing barriers, we rely on students' strengths, which is the main focus of our concerns. We start from their needs and not from what we can bring them. Students are not just minds, they are communities. It is a real paradigm shift that we work on each day,” said Robert.
Master’s students with an option in special education are supervised by the professor and her colleagues from the Faculty of Education and are constantly encouraged to question themselves: “We take them out of their comfort zone. They monitor a student, but they are themselves monitored. It creates a transformative learning environment for everyone.”
Other than special education, the centre offers free dentistry and optometry services, given by interns from Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Dentistry and School of Optometry. “Improving the health, overall development, and well-being of children encourages them to learn,” said Robert.
In addition to heading up Centre L’extension, Josiane Robert directs the Faculty of Education’s Centre de formation initiale des maîtres (master’s preparatory programme). In the medium term, she expects other faculties to join Centre L’extension to further equip students for the future and light the spark to help them move forward in their lives with pride.