2 Barrie teachers honoured with Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence - Barrie

[Global News] 2 Barrie teachers honoured with Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence - Barrie

While teaching can sometimes feel like a lot of work with not enough appreciation, two Barrie, Ont., teachers are feeling the opposite this week after finding out they were recipients of this year’s Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence.

Beth (Elizabeth) Dewey, formerly of Barrie North Colligate and Leah Russell, of Codrington Public School, are among eight teachers selected from Ontario and 26 from across the country for the 2022 honour.

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence recognizes exceptional elementary and secondary school teachers for their achievements in education across Canada.

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(left to right) Leah Russell and Beth Dewey two Barrie teachers who won the 2022 Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence and Teaching Excellence in STEM.

Supplied by recipients

“It’s a really nice thing to have an acknowledgement that when you work really hard and you’re trying to do the best you can for students, and then somebody says, ‘hey, nice work,’ it feels pretty good,” Dewey said.

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Dewey is the vice-principal at Elmvale District High School, but for the last 15 years taught at Barrie North Collegiate.

Last year she ran a collaborative inquiry which looked at how to teach the Ontario curriculum in an engaging way for students to make the work they were learning feel applicable to the real world.

“It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. An award like this, you get this because you’re in a culture where people will support you in trying new things and trying to become a better teacher, and I really had that with my previous principal and some of my colleagues,” Dewey said.

Although she initially considered teaching as a career in high school, Dewey said she had other interests that led her to become a field biologist at the Ministry of the Environment for a time.

It was not until her late 20s that she started teaching as a way to travel overseas.

“Then the longer I did it, the more I really realized how much I enjoy it, so it’s kind of a strange way into the profession,” Dewey said.

When asked about her teaching style, Dewey talked about finding a learning strategy that works for each student and working to understand the best way to make them successful.

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“Often, when you make changes to your practice to help support a student who may have a specific need, that makes things better for the whole class,” Dewey said.

Grade 1 Codrington Public School teacher Leah Russell described a similar feeling to Dewey after finding out she won.

“I was very shocked to be nominated and then to actually receive the award. I was obviously very grateful and appreciative,” Russell said.

“It’s humbling, and I say that because at the school I teach at, we are such a close team. I can honestly, truly say that my success as a teacher in this building would not be the same if I didn’t have the team that I have here at the school.”

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Russell said she was nominated by a parent and her school’s principal because of her teaching approach during the pandemic.

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“I guess many parents had reached out to the administration to speak about how I was teaching online through COVID and how they were grateful and how their children’s Grade 1 online experience was through COVID, considering how difficult the times were with it,” Russell said.

Russell said being both a teacher and a parent was hard during the pandemic, but she tried to find a way to juggle the two.

“I always say it was like teaching in the circus,” she said. “In Grade 1, online especially, I always felt like I had to pull out a new trick to keep their attention on the screen, and keep things fun and interactive and try to limit the amount of screen time as much as possible.”

When asked about her approach to teaching, Russell said her goal is for students to feel like her classroom is a second home, where they feel safe and have fun learning.

The teacher of 12 years told Global News this was always the career she wanted to do growing up, crediting her own teachers as the inspiration to enter the profession.

“I was very lucky to get a job right away, and ever since, it’s just been like year after year of loving my job, and I can’t see it ever changing to something different in my career.”

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Russell said it’s an honour knowing she is making a similar impact on her students that her teachers had on her.

“I think, honestly, it’s a blessing, and it’s also an honour. I try to remember that every day when I go home and (think about) what difference is that I made in the classroom, and I always pre-plan for the next day: how can I make tomorrow even better for my students,” she said.

Source: Global News