For most teachers it would be a dream to start the school year with $2,500 to spend on their students. For members of Red Deer Local No. 60 Karen Sveinson and Amy Nye, it was a reality, thanks to being voted winners of the 10th annual Canadian Family Teacher Awards this past summer.
Canadian Family is an online publication focused on enhancing the lives of Canadian parents. Nominations for the awards are made by Canadians to recognize outstanding elementary and secondary teachers in their communities. From all nominees, a panel of education experts from across the country selects 12 finalists, with the winners selected through online voting.
This year, Sveinson received 74,000 votes out of the 327,500 cast to finish first. Nye finished just behind her with 66,000 votes.
Sveinson is a teacher and counsellor at Central Middle School. She was recognized for her determination to ensure all students feel accepted and connected to their school community through curricular and extracurricular initiatives including literacy, diversity, mentoring and guidance counselling programs and a “swap-n-shop” where students can pick up food and gently-used clothing items.
“It was such a humbling and rewarding experience at the same time … it was a real magical moment to have the support of everyone,” said Sveinson, who over her 38-year career has been inspired by many of her teacher colleagues, especially her sister, who was recently diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease, but continues to devote a great portion of her life to teaching in Cambodia.
“I’ve had this award given to me, but it was the support of my co-workers, colleagues and the school that made it a possibility,” Sveinson said.
As for her $2,500 prize, she plans to ensure all students at Central Middle School benefit from it.
“It will be used directly for kids in the school to really enhance the clubs that we have here,” she said, listing everything from books for the literacy program to helmets for the skateboard club as potential purchases.
Nye teaches Grade 4 at Barrie Wilson School, in addition to running the school’s news studio, which is staffed by Grade 5 student volunteers. She was recognized for engaging her students in learning through authentic research, digital technology and integrating core subjects like social studies and language arts. Like Sveinson, Nye said she was humbled by the award.
“It’s really nice to know the kids I’ve taught over the years, and the community, support what I’m doing,” she said. “I teach with a lot of highly educated and phenomenal educators in Red Deer and it’s really a special thing to be singled out.”
Nye, an avid traveller who has been to 53 countries, plans to put her winnings toward the purchase of virtual reality goggles and Google cardboard to allow students the opportunity to go on virtual field trips around the world.
Sveinson and Nye were two of four Alberta teachers to make the shortlist of 12 finalists. The other two were Gaylene MacKay from Lindsay Thurber High School in Red Deer and Matt Burrows from Jasper Place Composite High School in Edmonton. Information on all the Canadian Family Teacher Awards can be found at canadianfamily.ca. ❚