British Columbia

Kamloops teacher wins education award for work with Indigenous students

While Jordan Smith says she is humbled and grateful for winning a Premier's Award for Excellence in Education, it's not the public's recognition she considers most important. She says the highlight has been hearing from her students.

Jordan Smith was 1 of 10 winners selected from 140 nominees across the province

Jordan Smith was one of 10 winners of this year's Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education. (Province of BC)

Jordan Smith never expected to be nominated for the Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education, let alone to be named one of 10 ten winners.

And while the Kamloops, B.C., teacher says she is humbled and grateful for the award, it's not the public's recognition she considers most important. Since winning, she says the highlight has been hearing from her students.

"It's something quite exceptional to hear students you're so proud of say that they are proud [of you]," said Smith, fighting back tears.

"They are really the reason for all of this."

The award selected 10 winners out of 140 nominations from across the province. Smith was recognized in the category of Indigenous Education.

She is a teacher and program coordinator at Twin Rivers Education Centre's Four Directions Secondary School, an alternative learning environment designed to serve secondary students with Indigenous ancestry.

The award includes a $3,000 personal bursary and a $2,000 contribution to the winner's school. (Province of BC)

Smith's teaching connects students with Indigenous culture and history through hands-on learning like working with local First Nations artists, gathering with elders and — her favourite — traditional fishing.

"They [the students] learn about the ability to be outside and enjoy a day about patience," Smith told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce.

Students get to try out traditional spearfishing, which Smith says requires a lot of commitment, adding it's incredible watching them focus on a goal and persevering throughout the day — regardless of whether they catch a single fish.

Smith had originally planned on working in the elementary school system, but soon realized it wasn't a perfect fit.

"Lots of small children are maybe a bit much for me," she said with a laugh.

Following that, she worked in the non-profit sector, spending a lot of her time with teenagers, before eventually ending up back in the classroom with secondary students — an age group she fondly refers to as "awesome."

The secondary system allows Smith to develop relationships with her students over four or five years, allowing her to work with her students through life's challenges and joys.

"Those are some pretty incredible years in terms of growth and change," she said.

Winners of the Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education received a commemorative work of art by a 17-year-old secondary student from Victoria as well as a $3,000 personal bursary and a $2,000 contribution to their school.

Smith says she plans to use the money to help fund an upcoming field trip for her students.

Listen to the full interview below:

Kamloops teacher Jordan Smith never expected to be nominated for the Premier's Award for Excellence in Education, let alone to be named one of its ten winners. 4:55