find your path

  • 960x160-placement
  • Looking to make a change in your life or career?

    Start Here

2018 Champion - Marsha Haalstra

Returning to school teaches 'Don't Give Up'

Marsha Haalstra career as a Personal Support Worker wouldn’t have been possible if she hadn’t gone back to school as an adult.
Some 15 years after graduating from high school, the 37-year-old Dunnville resident decided to go back to school to become a PSW.

Photo of 2018 Education Champion Marsha Haalstra“I went back to school to become a PSW because of taking care of my mom when her health was declining,” Marsha says.
“I knew that PSW was a good job and I thought I would make a good PSW.”

Marsha has been selected as a 2018 Education Champion by the Education WORKS Alliance, after being nominated by St. Leonard’s Community Services in Haldimand County.

Since graduating from Niagara College in Welland last October, Marsha has been working as a PSW at two long-term care facilities in Dunnville.

Like many adults, Marsha had to become comfortable with being back in a classroom after years away from education. She also had to become skilled at juggling home life, working and going to school.

“I overcame those obstacles by prioritizing and trusting that I would get through it, and having good friends to talk to,” she says.

College wasn’t completely foreign to Marsha. She went to Ontario’s Ridgetown College after finishing high school for a short Veterinary Receptionist program; that led to work in a dog kennel.

Later jobs saw her working in greenhouses and in woodworking, but she decided to upgrade her education in 2012, taking academic upgrading classes at Niagara College in math, English and computers.

Completing those academic upgrading classes put Marsha in a better position when she applied to and was accepted into Niagara College’s PSW program.

Marsha is thankful that instructors at the college were supportive and encouraging, and were there when she needed help. Her friend, Kathryn Stengel, a nurse, was also very helpful as Marsha opened the door to work in health care.

Staff at the St. Leonard’s Employment Centre in Dunnville helped her after graduating, including preparing her for what to expect for job interviews in the health-care field.

Her successful journey has given Marsha a sense of accomplishment and a confidence boost. “I am happy about what I have accomplished and know that when I put my mind to it, then I can achieve the goal.”

Current and future goals include becoming the “best PSW” she can be and to continue to learn while working in health care.

“It’s never too late to learn new skills,” Marsha says. “If you have a feeling that things are overwhelming, know that you are not alone and find someone who you trust and talk to them. Don’t Give Up.


Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance

Submitted Photo