Rachel Cann is a 32-year-old autism and special needs educator, determined to equip children and young adults with the skills needed to find their own meaningful place in the community. She has spent more than a decade in the classroom, helping children with special needs to lead a normal life.
The journey never quite started with teaching but with being in the kitchen. In high school, Cann wanted to be a chef and her mother strongly believed that people should explore options to be sure about their passions. As time went on, Cann taught Sunday school and swimming which led her to working in aquatic therapy with a physiotherapist. There, she worked with an autistic student. She greatly admired the student’s determination and perseverance and she decided that she wanted to be a part of that process.
After completing her bachelor’s degree at the Mico University College, she ventured to Missouri Western State University to pursue a master’s in autism. Upon coming back home to Jamaica, Cann decided to work with Reach Academy and while still working there, her passion for helping those who don’t fit into the mainstream classroom could not take a backseat. And there iCann Help Learning Center was born.
In 2017, Cann opened doors to the iCann Help Learning Centre, a facility that caters to children up to 19 years old, depending on their cognitive abilities. Here, she uses animal therapy to aid her students and is focused on building her students’ skill set using bee farming and honey production. She has also trained her staff to use her unique methods to teach each child according to their level.
Cann’s goal is to create a first-world experience for the children here in Jamaica, and to be chosen as a distinguished woman in education means that she is doing something right and making a difference is very important to her.
Cann’s effort is considered a business and each business has its unique challenges. “iCann Help started on the goodwill of friends and family but I took the centre to the state-of-the-art vision I have. We need funding and so we are open to anyone who wants to help.”
During her spare time, Cann volunteers her services with the Jamaica Autism Support Association, Bellevue Hospital and teaches swimming all day Saturday.
Story by Jessica Harrison