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Churchill High teacher honoured

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After receiving a big-time teaching award, Churchill High School teacher Tanis Westdal said she was just benefitting from what her own mentors taught her.

Westdal was one of 60 Canadian educators to receive the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence and Excellence in Early Childhood Education. The winners were announced Nov. 20.

"It’s very hard not to just tell somebody what they should be doing," Michel Chartrand, principal of Churchill High School, said of Westdal. "It’s much harder for us to let students grow on their own, and that’s what Tanis does. Tanis exemplifies that type of skill. More than anyone I know."

Westdal was pleased to hear Chartrand’s high praise.

"It’s very humbling, because you don’t think about yourself that way," Westdal said.
When Chartrand nominated Westdal for the award, she was teaching Grades 7 and 8 in science, English, social studies, and English as a second language in Churchill’s flexible learning, or FLEX, program. In the FLEX program, two teachers teach the same group of students, who in turn decide how they’d like to learn subjects.

"When you have strong learners in the building who allow you not only to discover yourself a teacher, but as a person, that’s what you trickle down to your students," Westdal said.

When Westdal learned she had been nominated, she was honoured, but soon let it leave her mind after not hearing anything. A few months later, a large envelope with the Prime Minister’s award stamp came in the mail.

"I called my family," Westdal said. "‘Come and look at this, I’m going to open it.’ It was super exciting."

Westdal said it shouldn’t just be her name on the certificate. Westdal said her FLEX program teaching partner, Dave Law, deserves major credit. She also gave a great deal of credit to Chartrand and Wong for their help and leadership.

"It’s something that should be given to a whole group of people," Westdal said. "To (Law) and (Chartrand) and Joyce (Wong, acting principal), and so many of the staff."

Two copies of the certificate were delivered, one for Westdal and one for the school. Wong said the school’s copy will probably go in a display case. Westdal’s 91-year-old grandmother told her not to hide her copy away either.

"So I am going to frame it and put it somewhere, I have no idea yet," Westdal said.

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