Two teachers in northwest Winnipeg have received a high honour for the work they’re doing with students every day.
Last week, The Times featured two teachers in northwest Winnipeg who were selected to receive the 2013 Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence. Two other local winners — Leigh Brown, teacher at Children of the Earth High School, and Lee Van Cauwenberghe, who teaches at École Stanley Knowles School — couldn’t be reached by press time. The Times has since caught up with them.
Van Cauwenberghe and Brown were among the 60 Canadian educators to receive 2013 Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence, which were announced by Stephen Harper on Nov. 20.
Brown, a Grade 12 English, psychology and business teacher at Children of the Earth, won for her involvement in the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program, part of the Canada-wide Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative.
"Students do one credit in Grade 11, just learning business basics and business vocabulary, and in Grade 12 they work to develop an actual business plan, from start to finish, for a business they could potentially start," Brown said.
A very hands-on type of teacher, Brown is also part of the Medical Careers Exploration Program, a joint initiative between Children of the Earth, the Winnipeg School Division and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, where students do practicums at the Pan Am Clinic, Health Sciences Centre and Grace Hospital.
Brown, who has taught at Children of the Earth for 10 years, said whatever the course or project, she always expects the most of her students.
"Students tend to live up or down to whatever expectations you hold for them, so I always hold my kids to very high expectations," she said.
Van Cauwenberghe, a Grade 8 math and science teacher at École Stanley Knowles, also holds his students to a high standard. They’ve risen to the challenge.
Over 80% of Van Cauwenberghe’s students make the honour roll every year, obtaining math scores that are 35% to 45% higher than the divisional average.
"The system that I use, when the kids write a test, we always go over it the very next day in class," Van Cauwenberghe said. "Then, I let them write a second test, a different one, and they’re allowed to keep the better grade of their two scores."
If that sounds like Van Cauwenberghe’s students are getting off easy, they’re not. In his math classes, the students are not allowed to use calculators.
"I learned without a calculator, so I learned how (mathematics) worked," Van Cauwenberghe said. "I think they’re at a huge disadvantage where they learned with one and never really learned how the subject works. They just learned how to push buttons and not what the answer means. I try to break that as much as I can in one year."
Like Brown, Van Cauwenberghe loves applied learning. Through the Manitoba Scientist in the Classroom Grant, he’s brought forensic investigators from the Winnipeg Police Service to talk to his students about blood typing, fingerprinting and other aspects of crime scene investigation.
Van Cauwenberghe also organizes an annual Jeopardy! tournament, with the finals presented on two large screens in the gym.
"With Jeopardy! I get to know (the students) as people, which helps me build a relationship with them," Van Cauwenberghe said.
"They see me as more than a teacher. That helps them work with me, not against me."