Megan Strain’s influence on Murdoch MacKay Collegiate extends well beyond the classroom.
The longtime English and art teacher at the Transcona high school was honoured for her influence on students and staff with the Celebration of Excellence in Teaching Award from the Province of Manitoba during Education Week, held April 15 to 19.
"It’s very nice to have someone think enough about you to put the application in, because it’s a very long and involved application," she said. "It’s nice to have a little pat on the back every once in a while. But I don’t like being in the spotlight — I’m always the person that’s in the background."
Either on her own or with colleagues, Strain has started up numerous initiatives at the school, from building Christmas floats for the Santa Claus Parade to making decorations for the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival to painting Bears on Broadway and even landscaping the school’s front field. She said administration has supported her with nearly every project she has undertaken.
"Here at Murdoch, if you decide you want to do something, and you get organized and you just start, everybody seems to fall in line," she said. "Very few things I’ve wanted to do, they’ve said ‘no, you can’t’. Usually, they say ‘are you sure you want to?’"
Murdoch MacKay principal Darwin MacFarlane became emotional when talking about Strain’s contributions to the school and to the neighbourhood as a whole.
"She’s a very generous, kind person," said MacFarlane. "Every year, she unassumingly helps out with baby food for Winnipeg Harvest, never asks for any recognition, never seeks any attention from this.
"She teaches kids how to care. She teaches kids how to be a part of a community.
MacFarlane said Strain particularly connects with quieter, more unassuming students, helping them find their place in the school.
"They’re the ones who are drawn to her and want to be a part of what she has initiated," he said. "Kids feel good about giving back to the community and not expecting anything."
He stressed Strain devotes a lot of her time outside of school hours to improving the experience of students at Murdoch MacKay.
"She takes students to the opera outside of school hours. It’s a school-supported function, but she does it on her own time," he said. "She wants students to understand a life without the arts is no real life."
Strain recently finished a project where she taught students to knit blankets for the Winnipeg Humane Society. She also helped design sets for the school’s recent production of The Music Man, and has volunteered to help out with Transcona BIZ banners before the year is out. As well, Strain organizes younger students to decorate for the graduation dinner and dance at the Winnipeg Convention Centre each year, a testament to the community the school builds.
"School is completely over, and they’ll show up at 9 a.m. to decorate the Convention Centre," she said.