While some Alberta teachers were fêted in Ottawa by Prime Minister Chrétien for teaching excellence, a Calgary teacher was having a peak experience in Nepal.

David Rodney, a religious studies teacher at Calgary's St. Mary's High School, reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 13the 12th Canadian to scale the peak.

The Calgary Herald reported May 17 that Rodney had spoken to his parents by phone after he descended the mountain. "He sounded very peaceful," said his mother, Rita Rodney. She reported that her son had spent about one half-hour at the peak of the world's highest mountain.

Meanwhile, back on solid ground, 11 teachers from Alberta were among 67 Canadian teachers singled out for recognition by the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence. Prime Minister Chrétien paid tribute to the award winners, saying: "The teachers we honor today are true heroes because they have inspired a love of learning in their students, a gift that will stay with them the rest of their lives. They have helped open doors of opportunity that might have been closed and helped set young Canadians on the path to a successful future."

The Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence honor elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada who have best prepared students for the challenges of a changing society and knowledge-based economy. The awards, offered at the Certificate of Excellence and Certificate of Achievement levels, carry a cash prize of $5,000 and $1,000 respectively, which is given to the recipients' schools to be spent under their direction.

For more information about the awards program, call 1-800-268-6608 or contact the awards office at e-mail: pmawards@ic.gc.ca, or visit the Web site at www.schoolnet.ca .

Meet your local heroes

Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence Top of page

Certificate of Excellence

Cheryl Andrews is an elementary teacher at Central Elementary School in Brooks. She was recognized for devising a project approach for elementary classes that integrates all subject areas, creating special initiatives to help children feel special and spearheading student self-evaluation and student-led conferencing with parents.

Prime Minister Chretien presents teaching award to Cheryl Andrews

Prime Minister Chretien presents teaching award to Cheryl Andrews

Andrews said it is an honor to be recognized. "I feel very privileged to have been included in this very select group of dedicated and innovative educators. I am so proud to have been selected by my peers and the community that I work in, for consideration for this prestigious award. In Ottawa, we had a wonderful opportunity to share our best practices and teaching experiences with other award recipients. I know that I will be a better teacher for having had this experience."

Students who are unable to attend regular high school in Grande Prairie can attend a storefront school thanks to the efforts of Joan Beeson and Cindy Meagher. The aim of the Bridge (Building, Responding, Involving, Developing, Guiding, Educating) Network is to guide students back to the regular classroom where they can experience success in their studies. The secondary outreach program has experienced a high rate of course completion.

Joan Beeson

Joan Beeson

Cindy Meagher

Cindy Meagher

"This award is a great honor to our team," said Beeson. "Not only does it mean a great deal to Cindy and me, it also means much to the rest of our team—Kevin McNeil and Sharon Andreotti." Beeson said the award would not have been possible without the support of many people, including "our students for being the reason for this school's existence," Lorne Radbourne, superintendent, Wes Brooks, deputy superintendent, members of the school board and her school's advisory council.

Meagher was equally excited about receiving the award. "I feel honored and privileged to be a recipient of the Prime Minister's Award. Throughout my teaching career I have had an opportunity to work with many outstanding educators and administrators whose efforts have gone unrecognized and unrewarded, yet they continue to achieve their own personal goal of teaching excellence. Receiving this award has certainly inspired me to continue the development and implementation of teaching strategies—strategies that will allow me to meet the needs of my students and to hopefully make a difference in their lives."

The teaching duo of Patricia Clifford and Sharon Friesen from Banded Peak School in Bragg Creek received rave reviews for developing a program supporting the Junior Team Canada trade mission to China, initiating projects on environmental issues and creating the Galileo Centre—a PD site for teachers.

Edmonton's Tami Dowler-Coltman teaches elementary and secondary theatre at Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts. Her teaching philosophy is "Never say impossible!" Dowler-Coltman has been the driving force behind revitalizing Victoria School as one of the best art and music schools in western Canada. As a teaching colleague of Dowler-Coltman puts it: "Because of Tami's influence . . . this school does not simply offer instruction in various disciplines, it provides broad exposure to a whole range of ideas and skills. We're a renaissance school!"

Certificate of Achievement

Secondary French and French Language Arts teacher Diane Seguin Hare has vigorously promoted French as a second language in her school. Her philosophy is to promote students' interest in language through cultural activities and events, and oral presentations.

Mandarin Chinese teacher William Kao gets good results from his students by encouraging academic excellence. A teacher at McNally High School in Edmonton, Kao has pioneered teaching Mandarin Chinese in elementary to senior high school. In addition to teaching, he is a respected speaker at professional, multicultural and language education conferences.

William Kao

William Kao

When asked by The ATA News about how he felt to have received the award, Kao said it was an honor. "This is the most prestigious award I ever received. As I approach the end of my teaching career, this award is especially meaningful."

Kao said he was fortunate to work with Edmonton Public Schools "which had the vision for the languages program," which in his estimation is more than just a language instruction program. "I believe that, as a teacher, I have the responsibility not only to teach Mandarin but also to incorporate the Chinese culture as an important component in the program. This helps to promote cultural sharing and understanding in our schools and society."

He was especially appreciative of staff and parents of students at McNally Senior High. "I would like to thank Mr. Rice, my principal, and Ruby Swekla, my department head, who have supported me every step of the way. I would like to share this honor with them all. As well, I would also like to say thanks to the parents who have given me a great deal of support over the years and to my hard-working students whom I love dearly. Without them, this program would not be the success it is today. Finally, I would like to dedicate this honor to my parents and my wife for their understanding and encouragement."

An innovative project that creates a supportive environment in which children learn to like themselves and grow to be productive citizens is the brainchild of Sister Margie MacDonell, an elementary school teacher at Rocky Elementary School, in Rocky Mountain House. The school's Peaceable School Community Project was developed as an antidote to emotional, verbal and physical violence. The project trains student conflict management and mediation teams, which successfully resolve 90 per cent of school conflicts. The program has been recognized by Alberta Education as a Promising Practice.

Sister Margie, as she is known at school, was low key about receiving her award. "It's great, I guess," she said in the May 18 issue of Rocky Mountain House's newspaper, The Mountaineer. She added, "I was really pleased the staff thought enough of me to do that. I didn't expect to get it."

Keeping her finger on the pulse of the community where she teaches earned recognition for Julie Norrie (nee Matatko) of Elizabeth School in Cold Lake. Among her achievements, Matatko gained the confidence and support of Aboriginal community leaders, developed a successful after-school newspaper club, and played a key role in improving student performance.

Julie Norrie

Julie Norrie

Norrie said she was honored and pleased at winning the PM's award. "Praise at this level in the profession is rare and acceptance of this award is one of the highlights of my career. Recognition for excellence in teaching at this point in my career is truly something I am proud of and cherish. I am very fortunate that I am working in a school where I can be certain that each day, when I walk into the classroom, I am met with students who are a source of joy and inspiration to me. Thank-you to my students and the staff at Elizabeth School who continue to support my efforts."

Clarence Samuelson believes that "a music teacher has to love what he does; he has to have passion for both life and music." Samuelson teaches secondary instrumental music and general music at John Maland High School in Devon. He is noted for having incorporated computer technology, music camps and peer teaching to make music fun and interesting for students. "Recognition for having a role in the molding of students' lives is a great honor. I am proud to be an educator," said Samuelson.

Clarence Samuelson

Clarence Samuelson

Robyn Shewchuk has the magic touch when it comes to drama. Under her direction, J. Percy Page Composite High School in Edmonton has won five of the last six awards for performances at the high school DramaFest in Red Deer, despite the fact that her school lacks a theatre facility. What's more, her students repeatedly win awards for acting, directing, sound production and set design.

Robyn Shewchuk


Robyn Shewchuk

Shewchuk said she was both elated and uncomfortable with her win. "I'm not quite sure why teachers feel awkward when recognized for achievements. Perhaps it's because we consider it a given that we do nothing less than our best in such a far-reaching profession. I believe that I've really found my niche teaching drama and am privileged to be acknowledged for doing what I've always wanted to do—teach. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a teacher. Perhaps the best gift is that I've been given the opportunity to do this in subject areas I'm also very passionate about—drama and dance."

Alberta's 1999 Excellence in Teaching Awards

Recipients of the province's 1999 Excellence in Teaching Awards were honored May 8 at the Westin Hotel in Calgary. Teachers are nominated on the basis of having excelled in a number of areas, such as creating stimulating learning environments, involving parents in student learning, motivating students to exceed their own expectations, and fostering students' intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth. Congratulations to this year's winners.

  • Holly Baines, Clive School, Wolf Creek School Division
  • Linda Beaudet, École St. Gérard School, Grande Prairie Roman Catholic SSD (TELUS Innovative Use of Technology Award)
  • Patricia Anne Christensen, Hugh Sutherland School, Chinook's Edge School Division
  • Doreen Evelyn Czajkowsky, McNally School, Edmonton School District
  • Maureen Gerlitz, Central Memorial High School, Calgary School District
  • Donna Griffin, Glen Allan Elementary School, Elk Island Public Schools RD
  • Shaun Hains, W.P. Wagner School, Edmonton School District
  • Robert Clayton Hicks, Lord Beaverbrook High School, Calgary School District
  • Ian Hindmarsh, St. Mary's High School, Calgary Roman Catholic SSD
  • Pieter Langstraat, Fairview School, Red Deer School District
  • Susan Patricia McLaren, Barrhead Elementary School, Pembina Hills Regional Division
  • Hank Reinbold, St. Albert Catholic High School, Greater St. Albert Catholic RD
  • Wendy Richards, Oliver School, Edmonton School District
  • B. Ruth Roedler, Midway Community School, Chinook's Edge School Division
  • Scott Royce, Holy Trinity Academy, Christ the Redeemer Catholic SRD
  • Susan Stevenson, McNally School, Edmonton School District
  • Lorraine Taylor, Gilbert Paterson Community School, Lethbridge School District
  • JoAnne Marie Thaxter, Lakeview Elementary School, Lethbridge School District
  • Charlene Ungstad, Parkside Elementary School, Grande Prairie School District
  • Gillian Vas, Prairiehome Colony School, Horizon School District
  • Greg Wheeler, Hunting Hills High School, Red Deer School District


Ron Sperling, a teacher at McNally School in Edmonton, is the recipient of this year's Pierre and Madeleine Monod Foundation language bursary. The bursary is given annually to a teacher of languages other than English. Sperling teaches French, German and Spanish as well as French at the International Baccalaureate level. He will use his bursary to study this summer at the Goethe Institute in Freiburg, Germany.

Colchester teacher takes third place in A&E competition

Colchester Elementary School teacher Patti Berry has taken third place in the sixth annual A&E Canadian Teacher Grant Program for Teaching Excellence. Berry developed a curriculum plan using A&E Cable in the Classroom programing. She received a grant of $1,000 at a formal ceremony in Ottawa on May 30. Thanks to her win, Colchester School picks up a television, VCR and A&E video library. Berry used A&E's A Last Wild Salmon and Cats to teach students about animal life cycles, the role of the environment in animal survival and the skills required to preserve natural habitats and ecosystems.

French science studies pay off

An Edmonton student took first prize and another received honorable mention at the 39th Edmonton Regional Science Fair on March 2021. Safiya Esmail, a Grade 7 student at McKernan Junior High School, took first place in the Prix de communication scientifique en français. The title of her presentation was L'effet de serrean experiment on global warming. Kiah Henry, a Grade 4 student at Rio Terrace Elementary, received an honorable mention in the Prix de communication scientifique en français for "Un système de Pouliean experiment in gravity.

The prix de communication is given by the Faculté St. Jean, University of Alberta.