A teacher from Mistawasis First Nation has received national recognition for her outstanding work in the classroom.
Denise Desjardins, who teaches Grades 1 and 2 at Mistawasis Nêhiyawak School has received the Prime Minister's certificate of achievement.
"I'm very honoured and the news is still sinking in," she said. "It's all so surreal."
Desjardins, who grew up at Mistawasis, has been teaching at the school for 14 years. She said for as long as she can remember she always wanted to be a teacher.
"Even as I kid I can remember wanting to be a teacher and I would play school. We kind of lived in a far corner of the reserve and so there wasn't really a lot of people around us that I could play with so I would play school with my toys," she said.
The Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence have honoured exceptional elementary and secondary school teachers in all disciplines since 1993, with over 1,500 teachers honoured to date. Teaching Excellence Awards recipients are honoured for their remarkable achievements in education and for their commitment to preparing their students for a digital and innovation-based economy. Desjardins introduced a number of initiatives in her own classroom including teaching the young students about robotics, and using the robots to teach problem solving.
"These are things [the students] will need to be future leaders because I feel everything will be so computerized and technology driven," she said.
Other initiatives used by Desjardins are the use of one-to-one tablets, which enable the studets to learn about augmented reality and have even created their own books with the students themselves being a part of the book.
"With myself learning Cree this year, and my whole culture and embracing that, I am able to include that as part of our learning within the tablets and the books we created," she said.
Desjardins said she feels she has learned as much from the students, as she has taught them. Some of the students have even helped teach Desjardins the Cree words. Desjardins said she is also grateful for the community support.
"I feel like it's family. I work with a lot of relatives and family here and I feel that just building that relationship is so important and I feel that being here so long and being part of the community has really helped me understand the children," Desjardins said.
Desjardins said one of her biggest rewards is having a student she taught in the past come back to her and share how much they appreciated the work. Moving forward Desjardins said she would like to find new ways to challenge her students.
"I've always set high expectations for my Grade 1's, just trying all these things with technology. It would be really interesting to continue with some of the projects we've done this year and try something new to add to it next year," she said.
This year, the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence have been expanded to include 17 new STEM-themed awards as part of the Government of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan, a multi-year strategy to create well-paying jobs for the middle class. This new category recognizes that tomorrow’s breakthroughs and discoveries depend on the ability of today’s teachers to nurture young Canadians’ curiosity and passion for STEM.
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell
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