Stephanie Carter

From School to Special Constable: Stephanie Carter Serves and Protects in Her New Career

“I am proof that just because you start out as one thing doesn't mean you have to stay in that role or that career for your entire life. You can choose to take something on that's different and maybe a little bit scary and a little bit more challenging,” shares Stephanie Carter, a mom of three young girls who lives in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. Before moving there she lived in Winnipeg and in Germany, growing up in a military family.

Until a few years ago, Carter worked as an early childhood educator with experience in the Aboriginal Headstart program and in the schools. She trained for that through distance education with Lawrence College while raising her kids. Her first job was as a Parent Support Worker, but her title has changed a lot since then.

These days she’s working as a Special Constable with the Ontario Provincial Police within the court systems. She went from the classroom to the courtroom and she’s sharing her story about how that happened. After almost twenty years in childcare, she wanted to expand and change how she helps people. On a whim, she applied for policing and was accepted. She describes it as a great opportunity and shares how she’s busy all the time but wouldn’t have it any other way.

On a typical day, Carter is providing security in courts, working in the office, attending zoom court, updating dispositions, and filling in a lot of paperwork. She fingerprints civilians and escorts prisoners to jail. Working in a small town, she does a little bit of everything, where her more urban counterparts tend to have more specialized roles. There’s a high turnover rate given people often use the role to get their foot in the door so they can apply to police college, but that’s not a path she is interested in pursuing herself.

The Special Constable training she attended was a six week program that covered computer programs needed for the job, court etiquette, prisoner escort technique, handcuffing and restraints and other crucial on the job skills. Beyond that, she applied what she learned in her on the job training as she settled into her role.

Having a background in child development has proven helpful for Carter, given she worked with people at risk and had to be aware of her surroundings. Finding compassion for others while keeping herself safe, she’s found it a big change from childcare but that it was good training for this next chapter and the learning curve she’s experienced.

Illustration by Shaikara David

Her advice for youth who might be thinking about traveling, going to school somewhere else, and leaving the community comes from being an advocate for expanding your horizons. She thinks doing so opens your eyes to what’s available to you and that’s why she tells people, “Don't hesitate. If it's something that you are interested in, and you think it might be something that will feed your soul, feed your fire, then pursue it. I don't think at any point, anybody should be hesitant on continuing their growth, whether it's educational, spiritual, whatever it may be. I think it's really really important to feed into that yourself.” She encourages youth to bring their teachings and knowledge back to their home community and share it with others, assuring them they can always come home.

Something she’s really struggled with in her past and present career has been burnout. She has had to understand and learn what her stressors are and to separate her work and home life. One of the slippery slopes she found can be a challenge is becoming close with colleagues and wanting to help so badly that she loses track of her own needs.

Self care is something she’s learned is crucial and for Carter that looks like being in nature, attends counselling, taking her dogs for walks, running and lifting weights. She is active on a daily basis and makes sure her kids are enjoying their interests, which lets her spend time with horses. She encourages people struggling with burnout to find something they enjoy and that nourishes them and make time to participate in it, even if it’s not every day. Keeping her home clean and organized also helps her feel better and feel less overwhelmed. Taking care of oneself is something that allows you to take care of others, she believes and she tries to find time to relax amidst the busy.

If she could give her younger self advice it would be to not hold back and to get out and see the world. Carter had the chance to see Europe as part of being raised in a military family. She tells her own daughter that she still has time to decide what comes next, noting how much pressure she sees today’s youth being under in being expected to know what they want to do after high school. Through her own journey, she knows their first choice isn’t always a final answer.

When she needs inspiration, Carter looks to her children and her husband who push her and make her strive for her to be the best at everything she does. Her parents and siblings, her extended family are also really important to her and she finds doing chores around horses while her daughter rides to be a soothing experience.

Hoping to share some inspiration herself, Carter says, “Set yourself some goals. You may not reach them all at once, but strive for one or two at a time.” She suggests focusing on attainable goals to avoid feeling overwhelmed and hitting bumps on the road and to find inspiration in small successes as you go.

It might have been scary and challenging, but Stephanie Carter chose to take something on that’s different. She knows she’s living proof that career changes are possible and you don’t have to stay in one job or one field your whole life. From the classroom to the courtroom, she’s found a new way to help and the former educator is learning new skills every day.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
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  • Province/Territory
    Ontario
  • Date
    November 3, 2023
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