Nova Scotia

Cornwallis statue project nets Port Williams teacher prestigious award

Temma Frecker of The Booker School to receive the 2018 Governor General's Award for Teaching Excellence.

Temma Frecker of The Booker School to receive 2018 Governor General's Award for Teaching Excellence

Teacher Temma Frecker, centre, is shown with Will Mercer, behind Frecker, and the rest of the students in grades 6-8 at The Booker School in Port Williams, N.S. (James Weekes)

A student project on the controversial Edward Cornwallis statue in Halifax helped land a Port Williams, N.S., teacher the 2018 Governor General's Award for Teaching Excellence. 

"I wish all of my class could be here with me to share this because it's really about us as a group," Temma Frecker, of The Booker School, said in a phone interview from Ottawa on Saturday.

On Sunday, Frecker and one of her students, Will Mercer, will present the grades 6-8 proposal for the statue at a history forum.

The bronze statue of Cornwallis, the military officer who is credited with founding Halifax for the British in 1749, was taken down and placed in storage about a year ago.

Halifax Regional Council's decision to take it down came amid increasing contention over Cornwallis's so-called scalping proclamation that offered a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaw person.

The statue of Edward Cornwallis was removed Jan. 31, 2018. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The statue remains in storage and a joint task force was formed to establish how to commemorate Cornwallis and Indigenous history. It could be years before final recommendations are announced.

Frecker's students came up with their own proposal for the statue.

It should remain off a pedestal but be placed in the park at ground level along with three other statues.

The proposed additional statues include:

  • Grand Chief John Denny Jr., the last of the Mi'kmaq hereditary grand chiefs.
  • Viola Desmond, a black Nova Scotian and symbol in the fight for racial equality.
  • Noel Doiron, who has been described as the father of the Acadians.

The four statues would face each other as if in conversation. Each statue would have a plaque explaining the person's contributions and struggles.

'It's pretty great to get this recognition'

When students went public with the idea, they were happy so many people were interested.

"We had all these calls for interviews, so it seemed like every couple days it was either a radio interview or a TV crew coming in or newspaper journalists coming to ask questions," Frecker said.

"So the students were all wrapped up in that excitement and then now it's pretty great to get this recognition to have the kind of work that we do."

The award will be presented to Frecker at Rideau Hall on Monday.

She is one of six teachers receiving the honour — which includes a prize of $2,500, an additional $1,000 for their school and an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Ottawa — for innovative approaches to teaching Canadian history.

On Tuesday, Frecker will go to Parliament Hill to be officially recognized. Frecker interned at Parliament working for several MPs, so "it'll be like going back to a place I know very well."

"I really want students to feel empowered, whether it's talking about history or talking about whatever they're really passionate about," Frecker said. 

"And I feel like this project really helped them become empowered and know that they're global citizens, not just Canadian citizens."


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.