As Superintendent, I have the honour of observing classroom instruction, having conversations with teachers in staffrooms and in committee work, and hearing many wonderful stories about our teachers from other teachers, principals, parents and students.
Last week, we found out that one of our amazing teachers, Nesika Elementary learning support teacher and district math teacher leader Sylvia Swift, has been honoured with a 2014 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
I have known Sylvia as a colleague for approximately ten years. She has worked as both a teacher and principal at four of our schools: Anahim Lake Elementary Rural Junior Secondary, 150 Mile Elementary, Cataline Elementary, and currently at Nesika Elementary. As a District Principal, I first met her as she travelled from her remote school in Anahim Lake to other remote and urban schools to share her teaching expertise in math. In more recent years, she has organized and led a guided math professional development series for her teaching colleagues. This series of dinner meetings which gathered teachers together from around our district regularly included professional reading, discussion, and demonstration of related skills.
Last year, Sylvia put her experience with multi-grade classes to the test. Due to low enrolment in our Balanced Calendar program, she taught in a Grades 2-6 classroom. Using personalized student inquiry projects, students were pushed to be experts in the field they happened to be studying at the time. To the casual observer, grade levels would have been impossible to distinguish in a class where everyone was a learner and was treated with respect.
Sylvia’s work was also featured last year at a District Education Committee meeting and on our School District No. 27 Showcase Blog. An even better testament to her work and her students’ work can be found at last year’s classroom website – The B.C.K. Balanced Calendar Kids. I would highly recommend that all educators in our district check out this site where personalized learning and public displays of student work come together to share the richness of Sylvia’s class for all the world to see.
What is so exciting about working and leading in our district is that master teachers like Sylvia have been willing to open the doors of their classrooms and share their instructional practice with all of their colleagues from around the district. Book clubs, dinner meetings, inservice workshops and the annual Summer Institute have attendance numbers that are continually on the rise. While we are so proud that Sylvia has been recognized on a national level, Sylvia herself would be the first to say that without a culture of collaboration and “iron sharpening iron”, an award like this would never be possible.
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