Teachers honoured for excellence in the classroom

Five county teachers among 14 honoured with excellence in education

Published on May 7, 2014
Five Cumberland County educators were among 14 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award winners recognized by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board in Truro on Tuesday. Chignecto Family of Schools supervisor Karla Mitchell-Smith congratulates Cumberland County recipients Jessica Starratt, Ian Pyke, Bonnie Moore, Charlotte Richard and Stephanie Mizuik.

Five teachers from Cumberland County schools were honoured for their work in the classroom by the NSTU and the school board.

TRURO – Fourteen teachers with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board were honoured Tuesday by the board and the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union for their unwavering commitment to student success at the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Awards ceremony.

Accompanied by family and friends, the 14 teachers were feted for their creativity, kindness and dedication to their craft.

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 is the 16th year for the awards program.

Five Cumberland County teachers honoured included: Stephanie Mizuik of Amherst Regional High School, Bonnie Moore of Junction Road Elementary, Ian Pyke of West End-Memorial Elementary in Springhill, Charlotte Richard of the Oxford Regional Education Centre and Jessica Starratt of E.B. Chandler Junior High.

Stephanie Mizuik

Take a trip to Amherst Regional High School and visit Stephanie Mizuik’s band room. You’ll find an unlocked door and students gathered practicing instruments or talking, and Stephanie smiling and welcoming anyone who enters. Stephanie’s gentle and accepting style is stated as the reason why her students feel valued in her presence, not for what they can do, but for who they are.

As the music teacher and band conductor, Mizuik sets a high standard for herself and her students.

As music teacher, conductor for the 9/10 Stage Band, Grade 9 Concert Band, Senior Stage Band and Jazz Choir, and co-teacher of ARHS’s English as a Second Language course, she has little down time.

Every morning, lunch hour and countless after-school hours are dedicated to practice for the many bands she conducts and the students she supports.

In 2013, the Senior Concert Band travelled to Boston where they competed in a prestigious music festival. Not only did they win first place in their division, but they were given the Esprit de Corps Award for displaying an exemplary attitude of positive support and outstanding personal behaviour.

That award, more than anything – say her students, their parents and her colleagues – shows just how big an impact Stephanie has had on the lives of her students.

Bonnie Moore

For Moore, being involved, giving back and inspiring positive interactions for her students is just the way it’s done.

She has been a positive presence at the elementary schools in Springhill for over 15 years, first as a core French teacher and now as a Grade 1 teacher at Junction Road Elementary.

From volunteering as a member of the school advisory council, to leading the Springhill elementary schools in their accreditation process, to leading the Run Club and planning fundraisers, her willingness to give of her time and expertise knows no bounds.

And her students are the beneficiaries of this generosity. To help her students better understand the impact their words have on one another, Bonnie began teaching her students about the “wrinkled heart.”

The “wrinkled heart” is made of tinfoil. After it’s crushed and bent, you can straighten it out. But the lines left behind are permanent. This lesson has left an indelible mark on her students. They are aware of the impact they have on others and actively work to reduce conflict and the “wrinkled hearts” that can result.

Moore is respected among her colleagues and her classroom practices are described as “impeccable.”

Says a colleague: “The pure joy in her students’ eyes when they see her is something that everyone wishes for their children, and Bonnie’s ability to make that happen seems effortless.”

Ian Pyke

How do you start your day? For the Grade 4 class at West End Memorial each day starts with a hug. That’s because Ian Pyke’s classroom is a place of safety, compassion, learning and, above all else, fun!

Since 2006, as a student teacher, Pyke has made a positive contribution to the climate at West End Memorial. If there is a committee, Ian is on it – literally. He sits on the Continuous School Improvement Committee for both West End Memorial and Junction Road Elementary, he is a member of the West End School Advisory Council and a member of the school’s Run Club.  He is a volunteer presenter at staff professional development days and recently organized a Culture and Heritage Fair for both elementary schools in Springhill, liaising with staff and community members to make the Fair the best it could be.

Pyke is also an innovative, effective and motivational teacher. He has several boy and boy-like learners in his classroom and he provides opportunities for them to shine. In the words of one of Ian’s boy learners, “Mr. Pyke makes learning fun even if he’s not supposed to – it’s like we’re doing work and we don’t even realize it!”

What a wonderful place schools could be for students if all teachers had his compassion and approachability.

Charlotte Richard

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

That quote by Aristotle uniquely summarizes Richard’s approach to teaching.

For Richard, excellence in teaching is not an act, but a habit.

As a Grade Primary teacher at Oxford Regional Education Centre, she expects her students to give their best. And, in turn, she gives them hers.

Her classroom is a place of warmth, creativity, inquisitiveness, imagination and encouragement.

Her students are eager to earn gems for the classroom Gem Jar. Once the Gem Jar is full – a result of respectful, positive behaviour by students – the class has a Gem Jar Party. All students in Richard’s class learn sign language, Innuinuqtun and French.

She has also opened her classroom to two student interns from Korea. All of this is undertaken to widen students’ cultural experiences and expand their understanding and appreciation for the world outside their classroom.

As we become adults, we often reflect back on our time at school. When we look back we don’t remember instructional methods or actual lessons taught. We remember the teachers who made a real difference in our lives. We remember the teachers we had a connection with and who we knew cared about us, who saw something special in us and helped us to see it too.

Charlotte is one of those teachers.

Jessica Starratt

Starratt has an “infectious enthusiasm for student learning and growth.” That’s how her colleagues describe her teaching style.

Her students just call her wonderful. As the guidance and resource teacher at E.B. Chandler Junior High School, he works daily with some of the most vulnerable students.

They come to her – or she seeks them out – to help advance their school work or to offer much-needed support and guidance, often through difficult situations.

An advocate of the restorative approach, Jessica values conversations and teaches students to resolve their differences in peaceful ways. Her colleagues, supervisor and parents of her students agree that Jessica has a knack for engaging students for whom school poses a challenge.

This past year, Jessica reached out to a group of struggling boy learners at E. B. Chandler. Her passion for real student engagement helped them move from reluctant mathematics students to enthusiastic participants.

She also highly values personal growth and improvement for her profession.

After many years as a successful and much-loved elementary teacher, she went back to school and obtained her masters in guidance. That masters enabled her to fulfill a personal dream and the students at E.B. Chandler Junior High have been the beneficiaries.

Put simply, Jessica helps troubled students to realize success. There is nothing she wouldn’t do to see a student succeed.