Three Central Okanagan Public Schools teachers are among a group of teachers from across Canada recognized for teaching excellence.
The trio is among 10 teachers and early childhood educators named as recipients of the Prime Minister’s Awards, meant to promote best teaching practices achievement and contribution to excellence in education in Canada.
In the category of teaching excellence on a national level, the local award recipient is Megan Frederick, a Grade 9-12 music teacher at Okanagan Mission Secondary.
On a regional level category for achievement, the local award recipient is James Strachan, a Grade 11-12 physics and engineering teacher at École Kelowna Secondary.
Rounding out the local award-winning trio in the early childhood educator regional category is Chantelle Colthorp, with the Awasisak Achakos Head Start for children ages 3-5.
Frederick was cited for her success in mobilizing students around music and for promoting Indigenous music and culture.
Her premise that music is integral to the well-being of her students is echoed on her website: “We move students towards music’s magical, powerful, engaging and transcendent powers that arise when we make music that resonates with deeper meaning and personal growth.”
Frederick has embraced 21st-century learning with digital didactic methods, which has been an asset in dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 in the learning environment of the classroom, such as staging virtual concerts for care home residents.
Having grown up in northern B.C., Frederick understands the importance of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and how it must start in the classroom.
For Strachan, preparing his students for their lives outside of the high school classroom means more than armouring them with foundational science concepts, it also requires they have an understanding of how what they learn applies to the real world, one that is increasingly digital-driven.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) extracurriculars can often be hard to come by in high schools, but that is not the case at KSS because of Strachan’s undeniable wit and passion for the subject matter.
Starting back in 1997, Strachan has been an organizer, sponsor and coach for the UBC Physics Olympics.
He arranged and sponsored weekend trips to inspire and motivate students in physics through this collegial competition – exposing students to an actual science environment.
He is also a high school mentor of the UBC Okanagan Atmospheric Cloud Chamber. In 2019, he guided a team of advanced physics students at KSS to design an atmospheric probe as an outreach projects from UBC Okanagan and the Canadian Space Agency.
Back in 2004, Strachan also authored the Consortium of Online Learning’s Physics 12, which constituted designing and writing code for the entire BC Physics 12 course, including a unit on appropriate Internet usage and how to protect personal information.
For Colthorp, a theme of supporting children in their healthy development in culturally relevant programs is a theme running through her teaching philosophy.
She creates an environment for children that is culturally safe and inviting – one that reflects Metis culture and teaching, where children feel confident as Indigenous people.
After more than 20 years in early childhood education at Fort St. James and serving remote communities, she opened a family childcare centre in her home after moving.
She worked as a support worker at Métis Community Services in Aboriginal Supported Child Development, a provincial program designed to enable children who require extra supports to be included in childcare settings, preschool, before/after school and community care settings.
Acting on her feelings there never seemed to be enough support for children who required it, Colthorp embarked on a process that led to the creation of Awasisak Achakos Head Start, a licensed centre providing full-time childcare to 25 children – with a waitlist now measured in years.
Awasisak Achakos means ‘Children of the Stars’ in the Cree language and is founded in Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
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