NC April spotlight: Educator of the Year Mary Vansco

Mary Vascoy, professor in the Educational Assistant and Special Needs Support program, was recently announced NCSAC’s full-time Educator of the Year.  

InsideNC caught up with her to ask about the award, her career, and life at NC. Here is what she had to say:

What classes /programs do you teach?

I teach a variety of course and work with a really great team of professors. I teach in courses in all the terms: Community Resources – CMDV 1426, Developmental Disabilities –HDEV 1122, Behavioural Counseling COUN1221, Therapy Assist – RHAB 1348, and I have taught Personal Care.

I get to go through the educational journey with my students from the beginning to the end and this is great because not only do I get to watch the students develop and grow, but I really get to know them.

How long have you been at NC?

I am only in my second year at Niagara College. However, my education started out at Niagara College. In fact, in 1999 I took this program – although I believe it was called Educational Resource and Special Needs (ERSN).

I worked in group homes as a support worker and in the DSBN as an educational assistant for a few years, and then went to university. I went to Brock University where I obtained my BA Honours Psychology in 2004 and my Master of Education in 2007. I am currently considering obtaining my PhD in Education but this is a personal accomplishment I want to achieve – one of the things on my bucket list.

I have never worked here before, but my husband (Cliff Patrick) and brother (Peter Vanscoy) have for 16+ years.

How did you feel when you were announced as winner of the educator of the year award?

I think the thank you letter to my students sums it up:

Hello Everyone,

I don’t know if words can do justice to how I am feeling. I won the Educator of the Year Award because of you, my great students. When I was hired for the job, I thought I won the lottery and as I have worked with all of you I thanked God that he blessed me with such wonderful people to learn with.

Relationships, of any kind, take an effort on everyone’s part. You all have gifted me with not only this award but an amazing two years since I have been at the college. When they called out my name, I almost did not believe it because I knew there were many great teachers around me. The people who chose me on your words were inspired,but it is because you all inspire me.

I have won various awards throughout my 21 years;) of life, but nothing has felt so dear and special to my heart. I normally do not get brought to tears – but when they called my name ….This award was truly humbling.

My greatest thanks for your efforts and your words,



How is this award personally meaningful to you?

This award is so meaningful because it is coming from the students and it is their voice.


How do you generally spend your days at NC?

Wow- I never thought it could be so busy-time seems to fly. This career is very multifaceted. I find I have to employ my belief in the Biopsychosocial model with our students–which states that there is not only a biology to a person but a psychology and a social environment. Hence, sometimes we have to not only look at teaching but use our knowledge of various resources (e.g., counseling) and guide our students so that they have the tools to learn and be successful.

I also believe that I have to try and make my classroom interactive – this not only always me to help my students to learn better –but they also bring a wealth of knowledge to the table which enhances the learning environment.

I believe in the open door policy, so even though I have office hours my students can come anytime. Lastly, besides being on a few committees, attending meetings, and lesson planning, there is a lot of marking. I am always working and sometimes need to remind myself to take a few hours. However, I love it, so it does not feel like work most of the time.


What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Teaching and working with the students. I love being in the classroom.


Are there any current projects/initiatives you are working on that you are particularly proud of?

I am working with my brother –Peter Vanscoy, Dave Stovel (both from the school of media -Computer Program Analyst) and Terry Poirier (EA-SNS). We are working with the CPA students to create an information base website to not only provide free information to EA-SNS stakeholders such as tip strategies for various learning deficits, but also we would like to continue to work with Peter and Dave’s students to create apps that would be useful for our students in their placements to help individuals with various disabilities.

Our EA-SNS team ( all the great professors I work with) are also working on a technology room to not only assist our students in the use of technologies for individuals with disabilities, but also the key stakeholders –school boards, agencies, and parents who work with individuals’ who have various disabilities. The technology room will also hopefully be a part of the website that is being developed.

I have also been lucky to have been able to connect with some great guest lectures who can teach them things no-book can. For example, I was able to have this gentleman from Community Living Fort Erie come and speak. He has Quadriplegic Spastic Cerebral Palsy. He talks about how he was trapped in his body and people thought he could not understand for years until his mother noticed him blinking wildly and thought he was trying to communicate – and he was. Finally, he has been given a voice through low and high tech methods – so he comes into my class and discusses his disability, stereotypes as well as gives the students hands on experience with communicating with him.


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in St. Catharines, and have only lived in the Niagara region.


What led you to becoming an educator?

I have always been interested in the brain and in particular learning. I also thinking teaching runs in my blood. My father was a teacher, my brother is a teacher, I am a teacher. Many in my family find it very natural –second nature.

During my time at Brock, I was able to work on a research team looking at brain wave function and sleepiness and I have the opportunity to get published in various journals. I also took independent studies to learn how to conduct educational and neuro-psychological assessments. This led me to want to know how the brain learns best, so in my master’s program I researched learning strategies that work best for individuals with learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental disabilities and head injuries. I also created a handbook for educators to use to help them understand assessment more fully so that the information given would be better utilized. Lastly, during my education, I worked at the Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara running after-school literacy programs.

After university, I worked for a company that was funded by the DSBN called Learning Potentials. I was employed as a full-time psycho-education program instructor and part-time psychometrist. I worked with adults who had various learning disabilities. This is not be confused with developmental disabilities.

There are many people who have various learning disabilities and they need to learn in different ways. Albert Einstein for example had Dyslexia. After a psycho-educational assessment, I would be able to understand more fully how a person needed to learn and I would design a program to help them read/write. In fact, many of my students could not read and write but within a year – year and a half, they went on to college and some to university. I know of some of my previous students who have graduated from Niagara College.

Although I really enjoyed working at Learning Potentials and watching the transformation of my students, I have always wanted to work here-at Niagara College- and truly when I was hired I felt like I won the jackpot. I do not take this job for granted and realize how lucky I am. I get paid to talk about my passions and pass on my knowledge to others –what can be better than that!.


Are there things that you enjoy about being at NC specifically?

There are many things to love about this place. It is probably the happiest place I have ever worked-everyone always seems to be in a good mood. I love that this educational environment not only offers education to students but to professors as well (e.g., CEPD). Now they are offering a path for professors to obtain their PhD in leadership through Niagara University.

Nonetheless, my favorite place to be is in the class room. I really do enjoy teaching and creating lessons. I get to learn from the students and talk about what I love –who could ask for anything more.


Are you involved in any clubs/groups or other initiatives in addition to your job?

I teach in the part-time CEPD (now called CPOD) to part-time professor on Universal design with Tania Fara- Vangent. I am also on the retirement committee. This is funny because my brother brought me on board my second week working here, and I helped with the retirement party that the professor I replaced attended, Debbie DelGiacco.  In fact, this professor taught me in 1999.

I am also working with my brother –Peter Vanscoy, Dave Stovel (both from the School of Media, Computer Program Analyst) and Terry Poirier (EA-SNS). We are working with the CPA students to create an information base website to not only provide free information to EA-SNS stakeholders such as tip strategies for various learning deficits, but also we would like to continue to work with Peter and Dave’s students to create apps that would be useful for our students in their placements to help individuals with various disabilities.


InsideNC congratulates Mary Vanscoy for being awarded NCSAC’s 2014 full-time Educator of the Year!

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