Living Classroom Opens in Kenora

Kenora offers a lot of beauty with iconic Lake of the Woods

KENORA – Confederation College and the District of Kenora Home for the Aged (DKH) have partnered to bring an innovative curriculum delivery model to the community, by launching the ‘Living Classroom’ Personal Support Worker (PSW) program in Kenora. The model combines classroom and real-life experiences to support students in completing the certificate program.

“The goal is to provide students with a unique, hands-on learning opportunity to facilitate their completion of the PSW program, while also working to address the shortage of PSWs in our community,” said Laura Christie, Director of Confederation College’s Lake of the Woods Campus. “Students will be able to immediately apply the theory they learn in the classroom, by practicing their skills at Pinecrest Home for the Aged. They’ll also gain meaningful part-time employment at Pinecrest when they’re not fulfilling program requirements.”

Studying on-site at Pinecrest, the inter-professional, interactive learning environment will help students gain the knowledge and confidence needed to succeed in a career in long-term care. Someone who knows what it takes and what it means to be a PSW is Dannielle Planes. She graduated from the accelerated PSW program at Confederation College’s Lake of the Woods Campus in 2013, and was an employee with DKH before she even enrolled.

“I wanted to work with seniors because of their life experiences and the respect they have for people,” said Planes. “I enjoy the interaction that I have with the residents – whether it’s the intimate care we’re giving, offering some reassurance and support when they need it, or indulging in a quick waltz in the hallway with a resident who loves to dance – it’s all very rewarding.”

Planes is the perfect example of the impact a PSW can have on the life of a senior. Her passion for what she does and her love for the residents is incredibly evident. She was even tearing up when sharing her experience.

“What you get out of this job is probably more than you put into it,” she said. “It’s not just wiping noses and feeding people, it’s about bringing comfort and companionship to people in need. The residents hold quite a spot in our hearts.”

It’s people like Planes who make it easy for the District of Kenora Home for the Aged to hire so many Confederation College graduates; in fact, the majority of employees are alumni.

“Confederation graduates have a solid educational foundation and great hands-on experience,” said Michelle Spencer, Manager of Human Resources at DKH. “Being able to learn within their community, they become more invested and once hired, are quick to understand that our organizational culture at DKH is to treat our residents as family. The residents don’t live in our workplace, we work in their home. Confederation alumni get that.”

Spencer noted that the new ‘Living Classroom’ model will further that understanding even more. “We have a longstanding partnership with Confederation College and this new collaboration will take that to a new level. It’s truly win-win for all involved, most importantly the students and our residents.”

In addition to providing the opportunity to work part-time while completing the program, the District of Kenora Home for the Aged will also be providing options for tuition assistance – interest-free loans may be available for students. For more information about the ‘Living Classroom’ PSW program, contact the Confederation College Lake of the Woods Campus at or (807) 468-3121.

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