Awards celebrate inspiring Canadian educators

On October 5, UNESCO World Teachers’ Day events recognize the immeasurable contributions teachers make to our global society.

”Teachers have such a fundamental role in our society, moulding the next generation and the future from early childhood to young adulthood, and their impact goes well beyond that,” says Tara Vandeweghe, chief customer and marketing officer at Johnson Inc. “Teachers support students through so many of life’s milestones, celebrating their accomplishments but also helping them during difficult times.

“This is where there’s a real connection for us with teachers overall. Actively supporting excellence is an important part of how we do things here. It inspires us all to continually make things better for people in any way we can.”

In addition to offering preferred insurance rates for teachers, Johnson is the presenting sponsor of the 10th Annual Canadian Family Teacher Awards, which honours educators recognized for their especially outstanding contributions. A panel of education experts identifies 12 finalists from a list of teachers nominated by individuals in their communities, and the award winners are then determined through an online voting process. This year, more than 325,000 votes were cast in a single month.

Sylvie Copland is a kindergarten teacher at St. Catherine Catholic Elementary School in Peterborough, Ontario. Her affection for her wee students is clear: “They love everything!” she says.

Ms. Copland believes that the students’ experience in kindergarten sets the tone for the rest of their education, so she works hard to ensure that they love learning and coming to class.

The program she teaches is based on student inquiry, focusing first on the interests of the kids and then teaching the curriculum within that context.  She also aims to help her students be their best selves. “I want them to love each other, to love their neighbours and to help those in need,” she says.

For example, after coming back from a trip to Uganda and Kenya with Compassion Canada to visit her sponsor child a few years ago, Ms. Copland championed sponsorship in the school, which now sponsors two children in Africa while also helping people locally.

Amy Nye is more than just a beloved teacher at École Barrie Wilson School in Red Deer, Alberta. She also leads the school’s news studio team of Grade 5 volunteers. Using a green screen room with all of the equipment required to put together a professional newscast, the news team spends about 30 minutes each day producing the school announcements.

In the classroom, Ms. Nye integrates the language arts and social studies curriculum so that students can learn from what she calls “authentic research,” projects that go beyond textbooks and worksheets. One collaborative project was inspired by the Amazing Race, with groups of students learning as much as they could about a particular region of Canada and then building websites about their region.

Ms. Nye also teaches skills that help children manage their emotions, using mindfulness to breathe and slow down, especially when they’re upset. “It only takes five minutes and it can make a world of difference,” she says.

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At École Intermédiaire Central Middle School in Red Deer, Alberta, Karen Sveinson teaches literacy and leads the school’s comprehensive guidance counselling program. She also oversees and participates in an astonishing array of extracurricular programs.
For example, Diverse Voices, a gay-straight alliance, works to ensure that everyone at the school feels accepted, whatever their gender, religion, standard of living or sexual orientation. The “SwapNShop” provides students with food and gently-used clothing, and in the Mentor Club, Grade 8 students work with kids in Grade 6. There is a girls-only club and a games club. In the Stars leadership club, five teachers help give the 80 participating students an opportunity to develop leadership skills and make a difference in the lives of others.
“Where there is a need, I create possibilities,” says Ms. Sveinson. “Children need the opportunity to be inspired to learn, to take risks and to be accepted for who they are and who they want to become.”

Profiles adapted with permission from Canadian Family. For more information on the awards and award winners, visit



Angela West
Fenelon Falls Secondary School
Fenelon Falls, Ontario

Matt Burrows
Jasper Place High School
Edmonton, Alberta

Lenka Balcar
Paisley Central School
Paisley, Ontario

Larry Papez
Harry Bowes Public School
Whitechurch-Stouffville, Ontario

Dominique Beaucage
Lambrick Park Secondary
Victoria, British Columbia

Scott Howe
Woodland Heights Public School
London, Ontario

Jeffrey Locke
Holy Spirit High School
Conception Bay South, Newfoundland

Felice Abtan
John Ross Robertson Junior PS
Toronto, Ontario

Gaylene Mackay
Lindsay Thurber High School
Red Deer, Alberta

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