Printer-friendly version   
Original News Release




March 3, 2008

Office of the Premier

Ministry of Education





Twenty teachers from around the province are being honoured with Premier’s Awards for Teaching Excellence for their dedication to students and student learning.


Aboriginal Learning – Lyn Daniels, Burnaby


Lyn Daniels currently teaches at Burnaby Mountain secondary school in Burnaby, where she teaches and fosters respect for the Aboriginal community. Recently, she co-planned a district-wide educational forum, Aboriginal Voices: Creating our Future, which hosted more than 100 participants and helped to generate the feedback necessary for the development of the district’s Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement goals.


Daniels also contributes to the professional development of her colleagues, initiating staff learning opportunities and curriculum projects, such as the Elders Project and the Emotional Education Forum. She serves as a guest speaker on Aboriginal education at various events and for post-secondary institutions, and currently chairs the district’s Aboriginal Education Enhancement Program and involves the Aboriginal community in the education process. She also works with teams of colleagues to provide support and one-on-one education for vulnerable students.


Aboriginal Learning – Nellie Dionne, Fort St. James


Nellie Dionne is a teacher at David Hoy and Sowchea elementary schools in Fort St. James, where she makes significant contributions to Aboriginal learning, both in her school and within the community. In order to teach Aboriginal language to all students, she has developed a Carrier Language and Culture program, which she has taught for 19 years.


She has also worked diligently to advocate for and shelter troubled students, providing a safe haven in her classroom with clothing, shoes, food, books and supplies.


Beginning Teacher – Joanne De Guevara, Westbank


Joanne De Guevara currently teaches at the Sensisyusten House of Learning in Westbank, where she works to foster pride, cultural identity and a strong academic foundation in her students. As a beginning teacher, De Guevara has been instrumental in securing the services of an educational psychologist and a speech and language pathologist to support student learning in her school. She has also been actively involved in efforts to ensure that her school has accurate and current resources, consistent with the curriculum in other schools, to help ensure a smooth transition for Sensisyusten students to the higher grades.


De Guevara has also developed positive relationships with the community, working closely with the local Community Services Centre to bring health-related learning to the school. She has invited practitioners of traditional dance, archery and other activities to teach in the school’s physical education program.


Beginning Teacher – Jeffery Weaver, Victoria


Jeffery Weaver has been a teacher at Central middle school in Victoria for two and a half years, working with his colleagues to integrate the teaching of music with instruction in social studies. He has also incorporated geography, history and anthropology into a unit on percussion.


He has pioneered events, such as Super Saturday, which matched groups of beginning students with professional musicians for a three-hour lesson, followed by a mini-concert for families. Participation in the band program at Central has doubled since his arrival at the school.


Community Engagement – Jennifer Murdie, West Vancouver


Jennifer Murdie teaches at Irwin Park elementary school in West Vancouver, where she works diligently to ensure that her school and its students are connected and involved with the community. She has invited the community to the school to hear student-written operas and musical performances, many with important social commentary, such as The Salmon’s Amazing Tale and The Eagle Feather’s Journey Through Time. Murdie has also promoted and supported multicultural acceptance and is the driving force behind the inclusion of cultural holidays, such as Diwali and Hanukkah.


Murdie also takes classes into the community. She and her students have helped to care for the environment by raising salmon, cleaning beaches and recycling debris. Furthermore, fundraising for UNICEF has been a primary charity focus for the school and with Murdie’s support and drive, Irwin Park elementary has gained the distinction of being the top fundraising school in Canada for UNICEF. 


Community Engagement – Damian Wilmann, Vancouver


Damian Wilmann teaches at King George secondary school in Vancouver, where he encourages a strong school relationship in the community by collaborating with community leaders to educate students on numerous social issues. He encourages his school to be active in creating a better community by bringing his students to places such as the Carnegie Centre in Vancouver.


As a result, students have participated in revitalizing the area by starting food drives and volunteering in the neighbourhood. Wilmann has promoted a drive among students to collect blankets for those who live in the Strathcona neighbourhood of the Lower East Side. He works to incorporate this learning into his classroom teaching, and finds innovative ways for senior students to teach those in lower grades.


Distributed Learning – John Douglas Harris, Langley


John Harris currently teaches at Lochiel U-Connect Education Centre in Langley – a program for home learners that blends state-of-the-art online instruction with face-to-face classes – where he uses technology to integrate robotics into various curriculum strands. His students have created many different types of robots, including underwater remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) that have won awards, including NASA’s Excellence in Design award at the 2005 MATE-NASA ROV competition at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.


Over the past 10 years, his student teams of software developers have also developed dozens of highly interactive online educational applications, such as the Virtual Salmon Dissector. These are now used by many schools, and have also won more than $200,000 in national and international awards, prizes and scholarships. Harris also contributes to the professional development of his colleagues, delivering an average of six workshops a year provincially, and sometimes internationally, on the integration of technology into classroom learning.

Distributed Learning – Denise Milne, Vanderhoof


Denise Milne is a teacher at Ebus Academy in Vanderhoof. Within the distributed learning environment, she has made significant contributions to student achievement and has developed an online program specifically for children with autism.

She strives to use the best of online communication tools to effectively engage students, parents and service providers on a regular basis. She holds and moderates regular online special education team meetings with parents, teachers, counsellors, health officials and other individuals. She also creates online resources for students and parents. Her work in special education has led to collaboration with groups that support at-risk teenage girls in Victoria as they work towards high school completion.


Environmental Awareness – M. Maye Davis, Courtenay


Maye Davis has been teaching science at Lake Trail middle school in Courtenay for the past 17 years, and has made exceptional contributions to her school and community in environmental awareness. Davis has been the teacher-sponsor for the Lake Trail Middle School Environment Club, which runs all the recycling programs at the school, participates in assemblies to raise awareness of environmental issues, initiates schoolyard “greening” projects, runs fundraisers in order to donate to local wildlife rescue societies, and arranges educational field trips. For the past 14 years, Davis has involved the Environment Club and her regular classes in the conservation and protection of nearby Morrison Creek and Park. In order to be successful in this project, Davis liaised with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Salmonid Enhancement programs.  


She has also helped the community by founding a local stewardship and educational society called Comox Valley Project Watershed to promote community stewardship of the area through education, information and action.


Healthy Living/PE and Coaching – Elizabeth Blake, Vancouver


Elizabeth Blake currently teaches at Sir Winston Churchill secondary school in Vancouver. She has coached numerous school teams, including field hockey, track and field, basketball, gymnastics, cross country, volleyball, soccer and curling. She has co-ordinated a number of meets and tournaments and donates her time as a referee.


While Blake has coached many teams that have competed in city and provincial championships, one of her most significant contributions is her patience and dedication to those students who struggle athletically. Her dedication encourages a healthy lifestyle for all students, regardless of ability. This dedication is shared with others as she mentors new and beginning teachers in physical education techniques. 


Lifetime Achievement – Dale Kerr, Tatla Lake


Dale Kerr currently teaches at Tatla Lake elementary/junior secondary school. Throughout her career, Kerr has shown exemplary commitment to her school and community, continuously seeking innovative ways to contribute, including starting the first Gifted Education and Fine Arts programs in elementary schools in her district. She coordinated a three-year Industry Canada Network of Innovative Schools project involving state-of-the-art technology practices, and designed a Family Literacy Project, which engaged students and their parents in writing their family history – a project that received awards from UBC and BC Innovative Schools.


Kerr also co-founded the Tatla Lake Regional Economic Development Association, which has provided educational and employment opportunities for all local residents and helped to create the Tatla Lake Community School Association. In addition to the work she does in her school and community, Kerr also started and has published a local newspaper, the Chilcotin Telegraph, for the past 10 years. 

Lifetime Achievement – Nader A. (Nod) Mirhady, Vancouver


Nader Mirhady currently teaches Science 10 and Biology 11 and 12 at Vancouver Technical secondary school in Vancouver, where he has spearheaded innovative projects such as the lab enhancement program, which gives students across the Lower Mainland the opportunity to do university-level labs in biology, chemistry, physics and math. Some of his students have worked with surgical simulators at Vancouver General Hospital and at the University of British Columbia medical school, and have then taught younger students what they have learned. 


His commitment to student achievement extends beyond his own school. He has developed an educational CD with quizzes, worksheets and general enrichment materials that are available to teachers throughout the school district and he helps to develop district-wide school safety policies by working with colleagues to offer professional development on lab safety. He is also a key supporter of stage craft, sponsoring the stage lighting and sound crew and supporting the reconstruction of the school auditorium.


Lifetime Achievement – Russ Stasiuk, Penticton


Russ Stasiuk currently teaches art, photography, film and TV animation and media at Penticton secondary school. He has been teaching for 27 years and has made significant contributions to the development of new and educational programs for his school, including photography, film and media, ceramics and art history programs. He also created the Pen High Arts and Media Education (PHAME) program, a student-driven digital media and arts production company that has won numerous provincial and national awards.


Stasiuk also contributes to student achievement outside of the classroom, taking students on art excursions to Vancouver and San Francisco, and often works evenings and weekends to support students as they complete their filming or editing projects. 


Lifetime Achievement – Peter Vogel, Vancouver


Peter Vogel teaches at Notre Dame regional secondary school in Vancouver, where he seeks innovative methods for engaging his students. He created the annual Physics Balsa Bridge Building contest, now in its 28th year, and produced a website devoted to bridge building. He has also developed physics as ‘performance theatre’ to encourage students to see science as fun and exciting.


Vogel’s ongoing commitment to student achievement has been coupled with his professional contribution to the education community and the community partnerships he has forged. For example, he enlisted sponsorship support for the bridge contest from Simon Fraser University’s School of Engineering Science, the University of British Columbia’s Engineering Physics program, BC Institute of Technology, and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, along with several private sector engineering companies, to create scholarships for students who go on to take calculus and physics.


Literacy – Deborah Koehn, Prince George


Deborah Koehn teaches grades 2 and 3 at Glenview elementary school in Prince George. Her innovative approaches to literacy include developing an after-school literacy club that connects reading and writing to hands-on activities like magic tricks and science experiments, and an evening program that has made the school library accessible to the community.


She developed a cross-grade coaching program that has been well received across the province, and includes a video that is available through the Network of Performance Based Schools, as well as lesson plans to help teachers integrate the program into their classrooms.


Koehn has also contributed significantly to student success at her school, leading a school-wide improvement in all areas of the Foundation Skills Assessment. 

Literacy – Elaine Jaltema, Burnaby


Elaine Jaltema teaches at Confederation Park elementary school in Burnaby, which emphasizes education through the arts. She encourages students to read novels that captivate their imaginations, foster social responsibility, and build their vocabularies and reading fluency. She is dedicated to cultivating her students’ life-long love of reading. In order to achieve this, she has read hundreds of children’s novels and posts chapter summaries and reading comprehension quizzes for her favourite books on the Provincial Intermediate Teachers Association’s website so other teachers can use the novels without having to read them all.

Each week, from September through June, all of the students in Jaltema’s class participate in literature circles, similar to the style of adult book clubs. Her students bring their books to life through drama productions that take place at the school and the public library.

Literacy – Sandra Santarossa, North Vancouver


Sandra Santarossa teaches at Cleveland elementary school in North Vancouver, where she has made significant contributions to both her students and to the broader community. She encourages her students’ love of reading, organizes events like the Primary Read-A-Thon and the Intermediate One for All, All for One reading programs in both French and English. She also created Cleveland’s KidLit Publishing program to encourage authorship and teaches story culture through many media and themes, including the school website.


Santarossa invites professional artists into the school to share their stories and expertise for the Storyteller-in-Residence program, and has planned extracurricular events like OohLaLa: Messages from the Arts, which brings students and parents together to enjoy different forms of literacy. She also collaborated with filmmaker Tony Papa from Avanti Pictures to produce a documentary film called WordLoveWorldLove, which won the Best Documentary ages 8-12 at the Kids First International Film Festival in California.


School Leadership – Margaret Penny, Victoria


Margaret Penny teaches Grade 3 at Strawberry Vale elementary school in Victoria, where she has led innovative teaching programs that help connect math and literacy programs and empower both students and teachers. She leads workshops for parents, encouraging them to take an active role in their children’s learning, and she participates in a Teacher as Researcher project aimed at parent education.

Penny mentors colleagues in the school, district and province through model lessons, workshops and videos, and initiates new approaches to teaching and learning at her school, such as Grade Group Pod Sharing meetings to increase dialogue about teaching strategies. She is an active member of the Greater Victoria Primary Teachers’ Association, a group that strives to offer teachers quality professional development opportunities.

Skills Training and Career Preparation – Linda Firbank, Squamish


Linda Firbank currently teaches at Howe Sound secondary school in Squamish, where she has played a pivotal role in the development of her school’s Career Prep program, wherein 50 per cent of Grade 12 students participate in work experience placements. She has nurtured relationships with employers in the community to ensure a variety of career opportunities for students, and has also helped to establish a searchable database of more than 700 local employers who have an interest in work experience or apprenticeship programs.


Firbank has extended her influence beyond her school, playing an instrumental role in developing new programs, including partnerships with Kwantlen University College to deliver a carpentry program, and with Vancouver Community College’s Culinary Arts Program.


Skills Training and Career Preparation – Garry Wall


Garry Wall has recently retired from teaching at Sardis secondary school in Chilliwack. During his career, he contributed significantly to the accessibility of skills training, serving as a champion of apprenticeships at a time when most parents and students were focused more clearly on preparing for university studies. With his leadership, annual student enrolment in the apprenticeship program increased from six students in 1995 to approximately 240 students in 2007/08 – representing more than a quarter of all apprenticeship students provincewide.


Wall also reached out to students beyond his school, expanding the apprenticeship program to students from the independent school system, as well as those in the neighbouring Fraser Cascade school district. 






Dale Steeves

Communications Director

Office of the Premier

250 387-6605

Public Affairs Bureau

Ministry of Education

250 356-5963


For more information on government services or to subscribe to the Province’s news feeds using RSS, visit the Province’s website at