Teacher Feature: celebrating local educators during challenging times

CBC Ottawa is taking a moment to recognize the incredible educators who are making a difference in Ottawa

Meet the Ottawa teachers creating a positive impact in the community

(CBC Ottawa)

We all know an exceptional teacher who has positively impacted our lives. Whether it was their constant enthusiasm when teaching a topic, the encouraging coach at after-school sports, or the support system they provide in and out of the classroom.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, many educators went above and beyond during this unprecedented year.

'Teacher Feature' is a way for us at CBC Ottawa to highlight those creating an impact in the community and celebrate their contributions. Whether they're helping the life of one child or a whole school, in-person or virtually.

Meet some of the teachers who were nominated by parents, students and peers for their exceptional work.

Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Teacher: Isabelle Beaudry

School: École secondaire Mont-Bleu in Gatineau

Subject: English

Isabelle Beaudry is described by her student as a playful teacher who always makes class interesting—especially on Halloween where she dresses with "freaky customs." (Submitted by Isabelle Beaudry)

"Mrs. Beaudry was my English teacher for two years. She's always been a somewhat crazy teacher. She wears really freaky costumes on Halloween, and spooks us out during her escape rooms she creates in the classroom. She's really playful, and her class is always interesting.

But the reason why I am nominating her is because once I told her about my anxiety and how bad it got, she tried to help me the best she could. Once COVID-19 hit, we talked every day and that's how I was able to cope.

Even though she isn't my teacher anymore, she's still there for me, and she's always happy when I go see her.

I want her to know how grateful I am."

Teacher: Kris Meawasige

School: Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)

Subject: Indigenous Student Support and Re-Engagement Coordinator (kindergarten to Grade 12)

Kris Meawasige is a certified teacher for grades Kindergarten to Grade 6. He currently works as the Indigenous Student Support and Re-engagement Coordinator for Kindergarten to Grade 12 at the Ottawa Carleton District School Board. (Submitted by Kris Meawasige)

"Kris approaches his work by building and maintaining good relationships. He's authentic, honest, approachable and accessible. He's invested in all of the First Nation Métis and Inuit  students, parents and guardians that he meets and works with.

He completely understands the complex realities of urban Indigenous youth attending school in Ottawa and reinforces the pride in student's histories and traditions. He does this from a contemporary way with youth—especially high school students. 

To say that a teacher can relate to Indigenous youth is one thing. But having a person who can connect with Indigenous youth from a place of commonality is incredibly valuable for these kids and their families. 

Kris is making pathways into schools—and outside—where these kids and their families can see themselves, find pride in who they are, and feel safe and belong. 

He's  laying the groundwork for safe spaces for our children in schools. 

I can say that this person has helped my child and I in many ways and I'm  incredibly grateful."

Teacher: Sandra Adamson

School: The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board's Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing program

Subject: Teacher of the Deaf

Sandra Adamson is a 22-year veteran Specialist Teacher of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing. In 2020-2021, she was a teacher at Woodroffe High School and is now an itinerant teacher with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board's Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing program. (Submitted by Sandra Adamson)

"Sandra Adamson is a 22-year veteran specialist teacher of the deaf and hard-of-hearing. 

All of her students are new to Canada and on top of navigating new cultures and customs, they are also working on learning American Sign Language and English. 

Sandra has dedicated herself to supporting her students. Through two pandemic school years and summers, Sandra empowered her students to gain employment, further their education, get their driver's licenses and more.

She sees that her students need knowledge and skills, not just check marks and credits. To that end she was able to create a classroom where the students had full access, comfort and autonomy. 

Her relationship with her students is such that many of them continue to come to her for support or assistance in their post-high school pursuits. 

Creating an environment where students who've come up against many barriers can thrive, under any and all circumstances, is an accomplishment deserving of recognition and admiration."

Teacher: Elizabeth Thangaraj

School: Gloucester High School

Subject: Math teacher to new Canadians (ELD students)

Elizabeth Thangaraj in her classroom pre-pandemic. She teaches at Gloucester High School and was previously at Rideau High School. Elizabeth says, "I am honoured that someone recommended me for this because in reality I feel like I am the lucky one to have such a great job." (Submitted by Elizabeth Thangaraj)

"She's always been a fantastic teacher and during COVID-19 she continues to outdo herself. 

I have my prep while she's teaching math to a room full of refugee students from Grade 5 all the way to Grade 11. These students often have weak language and literacy skills and I can hear the students engaging and laughing as they embrace her creative multi-level lessons.

Since the students had to distance from each other and there was no group work allowed, Elizabeth created many opportunities for experiential learning. She created math kits with supplies sourced from her kitchen, provided tarps for students to learn outdoors and used a variety of math manipulatives to bring learning to life. 

Elizabeth enlisted virtual volunteers during the online learning stay-at-home order and was able to have students engaged.

She inspires both teachers and students alike with her caring attitude.

She's motivated to teach in a way that students thrive and when thrown a new task, she jumps in with enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism. She energizes the team and we would be lost without her."

Teacher: Holly Walsh-MacInnis

School: St. Mark Catholic High School

Subject: English Department Head, Grade 10 and 11 English and Grade 12 Mentorship teacher.

Holly Walsh-MacInnis has taught at St. Mark High School for 20 years. She's currently the English Department Head and has multiple leadership roles including Student Council Teacher Advisor. (Submitted by Holly Walsh-MacInnis)

"Mrs. MacInnis has had an impact on many many students throughout her twenty years at St. Mark High School. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, she's continued to stay involved around the school. Just some of the many positions she holds include being the Student Council Teacher Advisor, the organizer of our school's annual leadership camp, the English Department head, organizer of our school craft fair, support for numerous clubs and coach for some of our school teams. 

In addition, Mrs. MacInnis was part of the teachers' board writing the curriculum for the NBE3U class (Indigenous English). The effort she's put into this course is miraculous.

She's always looking to make a difference, especially when it comes to Indigenous youth and families in Canada. 

Finally, Mrs. MacInnis is always there to bounce ideas off of and is always there when you just need someone to talk to—even when she's so busy with all of the leadership roles she has. Her classroom door is always open to students who may need some extra support or just a quiet place to stay.

Mrs. MacInnis is kind, spirited, respectful and welcoming, and these are just a few of her many special qualities."

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