2015 Excellence in Teaching Awards

CCRCE News: 
Wednesday, May 6, 2015

CCRSB Recognizes 10 teachers for commitment and dedication to students

Last evening, 10 teachers employed with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board (CCRSB) were honoured by CCRSB and the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union (NSTU) for their unwavering commitment to student success at the 2015 Excellence in Teaching Awards ceremony. Accompanied by family and friends, the 10 teachers were feted for their creativity, kindness and dedication to their craft.

“Tonight’s recipients are unfailingly dedicated to the craft of teaching,” said Trudy Thompson, CCRSB Board Chair. “Innovative classroom practice; the ability to make students care and retain subject matter; participation in extracurricular activities and fundraising events; and acting as a mentor for colleagues and fully participating in Professional Learning Communities. Those are just some of the reasons tonight’s recipients were nominated and are being honoured with an Excellence in Teaching Award.”

Each year, the NSTU and CCRSB come together to recognize those teachers within the school board who truly exemplify excellence in teaching. Each recipient’s nomination must be supported by letters from school administration, a colleague and a member of the local community (this can be a student, parent/guardian or another community member). This is the 17th year for the awards program.

The 2015 Excellence in Teaching Awards recipients are:

Stephen Blum, Amherst Regional High School 

The students and staff at Amherst Regional High hold Stephen Blum in the highest regard. A man of action, he is always on the go, but never too busy to help a student who asks. Stephen is Amherst Regional High’s ambassador for international students. He is well-known for taking the time – ahead of the students’ first day of class – to get to know their backgrounds and culture. He does this so he can connect with them individually, to let them know that he is there to support them in their growth and journey. Stephen’s students have come to expect a high integration of technology in their day-to-day work. Much of his program centers on CCRSB’s Moodle, where students can find their assignments at home or at school. There is no excuse for failure when Mr. Blum is around. A master teacher, Stephen is intelligent, open to learning and always, always focused on student success first.  

ammy Harrison, Cumberland North Academy 

As a Grade Primary teacher at Cumberland North Academy, Tammy is responsible for ensuring that the first experiences students have at school are positive ones. While some teachers may bend under the weight of such a responsibility, she flourishes. Tammy is widely regarded as a master teacher, with a deep understanding not only of curriculum but the early development of children. She has acted as a mentor for intern teachers from the University of Maine and Crandall University, and lends her superior knowledge to school-based teams and committees, as well as the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union. Tammy’s classroom is welcoming, caring and socially-just. Students know they are respected and loved, and show respect, compassion and love in return. 

Stephen Hartlen, New Glasgow Academy 

Steve is an educator who goes above and beyond to help his students achieve their utmost potential. Early mornings, during lunch and after-school, he provides every opportunity he can to allow students to develop and become the best they can be. As a Grade 6-8 music teacher and instrumental music teacher at New Glasgow Academy, Steve’s gentle nature, respect and expectations provide his students a safe place to try, fail and succeed. He is skilled at adjusting curriculum to meet the needs of individual students and never gives up. When a student is struggling, Steve is by their side developing alternate strategies to help them succeed. Steve is a life-long learner. He recently completed his Masters in Music Education and takes that knowledge into the classroom. This year Steve spearheaded a new band program for Grade 6 students. Establishing the program was a huge undertaking but the positive effects on students are already apparent. 

Sherrill Lindsay, Pictou Academy

In Sherrill’s classroom at Pictou Academy critical thinking is nurtured and expected. She demands a level of rigour from her students that is carefully orchestrated to develop a sense of independence and ownership. She clearly lays out the learning target and provides students a clear path how to get there. How the students travel that path is their choice, and Sherrill is there supporting them for the whole journey. Her expectations are not limitations for students, but the gateway to true understanding. No one gets left behind in Sherrill’s classroom. Over her career she has developed in-depth strategies and approaches to differentiate her instruction, making her classroom truly inclusive. Sherrill’s calm, understanding approach positively affects the staff and students of Pictou Academy every day. She is well-known for encouraging others to find the positive, to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive learning opportunity. And she likes to sing! Many mornings “O’Canada” becomes a sing-along in Sherrill’s class; other classes find themselves singing along too. 

Stephen MacKeil, Hants East Rural High

Steve MacKeil is a leader. As a vice-principal at Hants East Rural High he is deeply respected for his ability to calmly steer students and staff through any situation and for always making time. The phrase, “my door is always open,” is not said tongue in cheek with Steve. Blessed with good old-fashioned common sense, Steve excels in his role as a leader and mentor for his fellow staff members. His steady, organized and thoughtful approach to teaching means that his advice and guidance is sought after as it relates to curriculum delivery, classroom management, relationship development and school operations. Steve is Hants East’s unspoken ambassador to the world. Through his efforts, international students have been made full members of the HERH community. He also chaperones school trips and has accompanied students to destinations across the world. His connections and relationships within the local community – forged during his 32 years with the school – help students and staff every day. 

Tony Matheson, North Colchester High School 

As physical education teacher, Tony spends his days motivating students to test their limits, to try new things and to focus on doing their best. For Tony, winning is not everything, it is trying your best that is important. He has passed this lesson on to countless students, their parents and staff through his many years at North Colchester. Tony’s gym classes are always creative and engaging. He is never afraid to incorporate non-traditional activities and technology. But where he really stands out is his work with students with special needs. Tony adapts his curriculum to include students with mental and physical challenges, ensuring that they participate in a meaningful way. He goes above and beyond to ensure that all students have a chance to participate in school sports. Parents say the results of Tony’s efforts are nothing short of phenomenal. Tony inspires students to always look at possibilities instead of limitations. 

Susan Mawhinney, Cobequid Educational Centre 

Not every teacher has the ability to bring curriculum to life, to tie theoretical concepts to real-life examples and situations that ring true for students. This has never been a problem for Susan Mawhinney. As an economics teacher at Cobequid Educational Centre, Susan has built a classroom environment that a former student describes as a living organism. She incubates interest among her students by sharing her passion and inviting students to find theirs. Students are challenged to scour newspapers and media to find examples for class discussion. Susan’s impact on her students and their lives does not begin and end in the classroom. A visible presence in the hallways, Susan knows students by name and makes time for any student who needs it. She has cultivated and demonstrated a culture of respect for all members of the CEC community through her leadership on the school’s Site Based Team and her passion for inclusion. 

Daniel Spence, Junction Road Elementary 

Dan Spence is busy! As a Grade 6 classroom teacher at Junction Road Elementary and literacy mentor for the Chignecto Family of Schools, Dan is everywhere…all the time. His colleagues and parents, alike, describe Dan as a meticulous planner who provides his students with a classroom environment that is safe, engaging and pulses with curiosity. “Tell me more” is a phrase frequently heard in Dan’s classroom as he works to help students expand their thinking. Dan is an active member of the school community. He volunteers his time to help with the school yearbook, as school clothing coordinator, with the School Advisory Council, the Home and School, and the Run Club. He is also the data lead for the Springhill elementary schools’ Continuous School Improvement math goal and is everyone’s “go-to” technology expert. He is an avid researcher who identifies what his students need and, with careful implementation and planning, provides for each and every learner.  

Charline Vautour Bourque, Cumberland North Academy 

Charline Voutour Bourque is a change management expert. As Cumberland North Academy’s Grade 5 French Immersion teacher, she oversees the addition of new students from nearby Spring Street Academy every September. Her students arrive nervous of their new school, unsure of what to expect and worried that they will not fit in. Charline is an expert at easing those fears, making the transition full of fun, growth and opportunity. Her strength comes from her belief in differentiated instruction and the understanding that students do not all learn the same way. Her prep time, before school and after-school are often taken up with offering students that little bit of extra support they need. An enthusiastic member of her Professional Learning Community, Charline shares her deep knowledge of the curriculum and teaching strategies with her colleagues. After 10 years at Cumberland North, she has developed a deep understanding of the needs of both students and staff.

Christine Williams, Trenton Middle School 

As a program support teacher at Trenton Middle School Christine works daily with students who face a variety of challenges, as well as the school’s classroom teachers. Recognized for her master-level of understanding of the tenets of program support, Christine forges connections between students, families, parents, teachers and outside agencies that enhances students’ ability to learn. Christine always puts the needs of her students first. When she faces an obstacle, she does not give up. She goes around and builds a solution. Her students and their families know that Christine will not give up and it inspires them not to give up as well. Her efforts to streamline the communications process between teachers, parents and outside professionals has allowed for better tracking and the identification of common areas of concern. It also ensures consistency in the implementation of accommodations for individual students and more positive, productive communications with parents.