Each school and school district has their amazing stories about the people who are there, and it is particularly wonderful when those on the outside shine a light on excellence in the system. While there are many candidates who are deserving of an award, I would like to share the powerful and individual stories of three award winners from our school district; their stories are powerful, but the stories also transcend the winners, and speak to the wonders we see each day in our schools.
Arlene Anderson is a recent winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
I have written a post about Arlene before (here), in describing our technology innovators in classrooms across West Vancouver. The press release around her Award for Teaching Excellence well describes her as the ”techno-wiz teacher–librarian [who] inspires students and…reinvents [the] school library. If the school is an atom, the library is its nucleus where energy and enthusiasm fuel ideas.”
Arlene is always learning; she has made efforts to be familiar with, and lead, the use of noodle bib to help students create annotated bibliographies, wikis and voice threads. She has led staff in the development of scope and sequence for technology, and in understanding the importance of crediting the correct source, finding the original source of information, as well as understanding how to determine if the source is accurate or not.
She is also a side-by-side teacher with her colleagues, as in working with a science teacher to teach students how to create a wiki, find correct information on the Internet and check sources. In this project, there were five classes: the first group of students wrote out their research on a wiki, the next group checked the sources/accuracy then added information, the third group also checked and added…etc., and when all five classes had spent time working on these wikis, they had created a powerful document on body systems. Each class had a group of students working on each topic.
Arlene models the way for teacher librarians, at the heart of our schools, embracing technology to support students and their learning.
Diane Nelson has been awarded one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals, as recognized by the Learning Partnership.
Diane is the founder of the West Vancouver School District’s Premier Sport Academies, which include hockey, soccer, tennis, baseball and golf. Diane is a dedicated, well-respected advocate for today’s youth. Along with her 28 years of experience in education as a teacher and administrator, Diane has obtained her Bachelor of Education, Diploma in Counselling Psychology, and Master’s degree in Educational Administration, all from the University of British Columbia.
In my letter of support for Diane, I wrote: “In my role as superintendent I receive many accolades for the success of our academy programs. I am often asked what others can do to build these programs. The answer is, they need to clone Diane . . . . Diane’s vision, passion, perseverance, work ethic, and ability to connect to kids, parents and the community are why her programs have been so successful, and why we hear from dozens of families every year that she has changed lives . . . she is leading change in public education.”
I love how Diane has taken her passion for teaching and learning and combined it with her passion for sports. From an idea, she has built one of the most innovative learning experiences in the province; students and parents regularly rave about how their experiences with Diane have been some of their most powerful schooling experiences. The letter of support from Hockey Academy parent, Denise Cotton, is further testimony to Diane’s teaching excellence: “The Premier Hockey Academy developed by Diane has been a life-transforming experience” for her son, who now plays in the Western Hockey League. “Diane Nelson has most definitely made a unique contribution to education in Canada. She is a visionary, developing sports academies that are a perfect blend of academic excellence, personal growth and athletic development. It is no wonder that she has waitlists annually for enrollment in her academies.”
Caulfeild Elementary School received Honourable Mention, for the Ken Spencer Award that focuses on innovation in K-12 education. Caulfeild was selected from well over 100 applications for this recognition.
Caulfeild has been on an intense journey over a very short time. Facing challenges of declining enrollment, and ongoing conversations about its school signature, iDEC was born – a commitment from students, staff and parents to create a school-wide innovative learning experience marrying the best of what we know about good teaching and learning, the student-centric approach of inquiry-based learning, and embracing the technology of the world of today. iDEC provides a digital environment that supports any technological device and platform. From Kindergarten to Grade 3, teachers are embedding student ownership into their digital learning, everyday, with the help of Smartboards and iPads. By Grade 4, students will be able to bring their own electronic device into the classroom, and student webpages will serve as a central area for their learning and participation, where they solve problems, are creative, and participate positively in the school community. With thanks to Principal Brad Lund, the entire staff, and the support of our parent community, Caulfeild Elementary is generating interest around the country for its innovative programming. When people first engage in the program, what they leave with is an understanding of what ”‘power of the people’ can mean – and people are the key to this educational transformation.
I see excellence in the school system everyday. The stories of Arlene Anderson, Diane Nelson and Caulfeild Elementary School are repeated across the district everyday. Public education in West Vancouver, and across the province is blessed with amazing people committed to doing great things for kids everyday.