Prime Minister Awards for Teaching Excellence
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INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION OF BOLD INNOVATORS: PRIME MINISTER AWARDS FOR EDUCATORS
By Suzanne Forcese
It’s a new school year and a fresh start with a very important relationship -- the student/teacher bond. Educators act ‘in loco parentis’, with an impetus to reach beyond the mere teaching of basic skills. Inspiring, empowering, nurturing a culture of curiosity, and challenging young Canadians to shape the future -- these are the goals of educators in the day to day business of teaching. In recognition of their significant role in the lives of students and their families, nominations are now being accepted for the 2020 Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence.
In a statement released from the office of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, WaterToday learned, “Canada’s exceptional educators are challenging students to reach higher, work harder and think bigger, while instilling in them a lifelong passion for learning. If you know of an innovative educator in your community, I encourage you to nominate them for an award.”
This will mark the 26th year of the Prime Minister’s Awards Program of recognizing educators across Canada. To date, more than 1900 outstanding Canadian educators have been honored in the program. In an email statement from the office of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, WaterToday learned: “The program has honoured exceptional teachers since 1994. The award selection process involves over 120 major education and early childhood education stakeholders from across the country. Nominees are assessed through a rigorous two-tier selection process and recipients are recommended by the National Advisory Committee. Details about the selection process are available on the Prime Minister Award website:
The Prime Minister’s Awards acknowledge Teaching Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Excellence in Early Childhood Education. Canadians from coast to coast are encouraged to recognize inspirational educators who have made a real difference in their community by nominating them for an award. Nominations will be open until 11:59 a.m. (PT) on January 14, 2020.
On the first day of school for the 2019-2020 year, WaterToday spoke with one of the Central Canada recipients of the 2019 Award, from a Winnipeg high school, who has requested anonymity. Nominated by colleagues and the school’s principal for “his advocacy for his students, his work in literacy, innovation and education for sustainable development go beyond the expectations of a classroom teacher.”
“It has been the highest honor of my career,” the Winnipeg English teacher told WT. “I believe in the cause but I do not want to be in the limelight.” The Winnipeg teacher was recognized for his outstanding achievements that include revamping the school’s literacy resources, catering to the diversity of students’ backgrounds and creating kits to facilitate students’ access to Indigenous perspectives.
The Winnipeg teacher is a lover of the outdoors and wanted to bring the reality of sustainable development to his inner city students who come from an increasingly diverse population. Going above and beyond to foster inclusivity and get them outside with a fishing rod in hand, he has created one of the province’s largest sustainable development education programs. More than 200 students go on a fishing trip while learning about species and fisheries management. In collaboration with Ducks Unlimited the students experience chances to help with conservation work.
His advocacy for his students has brought over $100,000 in grants and donations to the school to make the fishing program accessible to students who could not otherwise afford to participate. Funds raised were also used for class sets of popular books featuring novels from authors of diverse backgrounds, flat screen televisions on mobile arms and laptops for his classroom.
In the classroom the Winnipeg teacher has blended low and high tech approaches to challenge students to strive to do their best and reach the next level of performance.
As any classroom teacher will affirm, the ability to meet the range of abilities in one class can be a significant challenge. This Winnipeg teacher has met that challenge and superseded it. He targets advanced writing skills for university bound students and has adapted the classroom to promote collaborations with desk-sized and large rolling whiteboards to facilitate brainstorming. He has also installed conference pods with wall-mounted screens that offer a more comfortable milieu for peer teaching and presentations.
The teacher, who was amazed and shocked by his nomination did “nothing extra for the award. The work had already been done.” Receiving the award from the Prime Minister in Ottawa with the other award recipients from across Canada “was an experience I shall always cherish.” What he found even more impressive and amazing was networking with the other recipients. “All teachers have a desire to share their ideas with their colleagues. We so seldom have that chance as 95% of our time is spent with students.”
“We have seen, year after year, how exceptional teachers have a positive impact on their students. In addition to guiding students to academic success, teachers help students to develop leadership, communication, innovation, management, and collaboration skills, which are transferable to the workforce. Students told us that their teachers are, ‘invested in their success and wellbeing and want them to do well in life.’ Teachers guide and encourage students to pursue their passions and strengths, allowing them to gain confidence.” (from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada written statement to WT)
If you know of a teacher who epitomizes the same level of exemplary dedication to his or her career, consider a nomination. Who can nominate? Any person or group with direct knowledge of the nominee’s contribution (i.e. Parents, colleagues, principals, board members, and students) can make a nomination.
PMA recipients are selected via a rigorous two-tier process that involves volunteers from major education stakeholders across Canada, including teachers’ federations, parent-teacher associations, post-secondary institutions, provincial and territorial education ministries, business organizations and student groups.
The program has recruited over 120 volunteer representatives from various education and early childhood education stakeholders, including provincial and territorial officials This large number is required as each nomination package is reviewed by up to four regional evaluators. After an initial screening for basic eligibility, copies of the nomination text and letters of support are sent to our regional evaluators for review. The regional evaluators look for clear evidence that nominees have excelled in all of the following areas:
1. Digital and Creative Literacy in the Classroom
“Day in and day out, Canadian teachers empower young people to shape our future. These people in a very real way are nurturing a culture of curiosity in Canada – an environment where young people are encouraged to reflect to challenge and to dream their biggest dream. The government is proud to celebrate Canada’s outstanding educators who are inspiring the next generation to be bold innovators.” (written statement from ISEDC)
2. Innovative and Exemplary Teaching Practices
3. Support Student Success and Skills Development
4. Global Citizenship and Community Involvement
5. Commitment and Leadership
And for the 2019 Prime Minister’s Award Recipient from Winnipeg who has lived this incredible journey it’s the beginning of a new school year. “Teaching is just one of those things. We are always teaching. Every moment provides a teaching experience. Life goes on. As teachers, we are always planning something else.”
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