2018 National Inclusive Education Awards honour 2 BC teams, 12 outstanding educators

New Westminster, May 9, 2018: Inclusion BC and the Family Support Institute of BC are proud to announce that 12 BC educators are being honoured with 2018 National Inclusive Education Awards recognizing their exemplary contributions to providing inclusive learning opportunities for students with special needs. Winners come from Prince Rupert, Saanich, Nanaimo, West Vancouver, Coquitlam and Vancouver.

Nominations were invited in three categories this year as part of Inclusive Education Month in February. We received 19 nominations that included 29 teachers, educational leaders and support staff working in preschool, elementary and secondary schools across the province.

This year’s winners work with students of all ages and abilities who learn, play and grow together in inclusive preschools, elementary and secondary schools. They all demonstrate the conviction that every single child belongs in their community school and in diverse classrooms, with the right to learn, discover and develop their unique talents and abilities together with their peers.

“Our schools struggle with many challenges and we often have to focus on where things go wrong. But these awards show the excellent work being done by so many excellent educators across our province and we want to celebrate that great work,” said Inclusion BC Executive Director Faith Bodnar.

In addition to their solid professionalism and teaching skills, these exemplary educators also demonstrated a deep understanding of the link between social, emotional and academic achievement and unwavering commitment to ensuring that all their students felt safe, valued, welcomed and included in all aspects of school life, not just in the classroom.

“Inclusive education is the foundation for building a more inclusive world for everyone,” said Angela Clancy, Executive Director of the Family Support Institute. “We are honored to shine a light on these examples of excellence and to celebrate together as we move towards a province that is providing more opportunities to advance inclusion for every single student.”

Two education leaders, two inclusive teachers and two school teams were selected as the winners of this year’s awards. The 2018 team awards were inspired by two unsolicited group nominations for exceptional teams of educators working together to advance inclusive education in their schools.

The stories behind these winning teams illustrate the key ingredients of successful inclusive practice: the vital importance of teamwork, proactive planning and collaboration, and a school-wide culture that supports safe exploration of new ideas. Above all, inclusive school communities are those with an open, welcoming attitude that respects every individual, while valuing and celebrating differences, diversity and innovation.

About the National Inclusive Educational Awards

The annual Inclusive Education Awards are presented in partnership with Inclusive Education Canada to recognize individuals or groups nominated by their communities who initiate or support unique opportunities that enrich inclusive educational experiences. We look for the following key indicators of excellence in inclusive education practice:

  • Students fully participate with peers in all school opportunities, in and out of the classroom
  • All students are valued and encouraged to build on their abilities
  • No label-based limitations
  • School-wide culture and leadership

About the 2018 Winners

Read background information the winners here.

Category: Education Leadership

Angela Pardek, supervisor,

Hastings Community Preschool, Vancouver

The mother of a preschooler who nominated Pardek described her initial reluctance to place her daughter at Hastings Community Preschool’s inclusive program instead of in a specialized autism school. She described how Pardek met her son on his terms, opened new doors and gently introduced him to friendship, new learning and newfound confidence to explore the world.

“My son senses people’s energy and he loves these preschool teachers and kids. He has to be bribed to leave school. He has been learning so much. He feels safe, I can tell, because he opens up and he looks in their eyes and hugs them like he would a family member.”

Sally Marr, Learning Services Teacher,

Charles Hays Secondary School, Prince Rupert

Marr’s award caps a career spanning almost four decades, was widely hailed by colleagues, parents and former students as an exceptionally caring professional, advocate and mentor who has shaped countless lives, while always finding time for vulnerable students, parents, colleagues and others in her broader community.

“From 1981 to 2018, Sally has been our go-to expert for all educators, parents and students to ask for advice and information on inclusive practice and access to learning,” said the colleague/parent who nominated her.  “She is a tireless advocate with her kind and intelligent approach to helping colleagues build capacity to design for all learners. Her social justice advocacy for inclusion and equity for all learners, families, and community members is second to none.”

Category: Inclusive Teaching

Twila Konynenbelt, Classroom Teacher, Brechin Elementary School, Nanaimo

The mom of a Grade 5 student described the strategies that Konynenbelt used in her teaching practice to make her daughter feel welcome, included and equally valued. This submission described a student who was inspired to reach ever higher in her academic and social goals, while Konynenbelt gave her mom new confidence in our public education system.

Kyme Wegrich, Classroom Teacher, Walton Elementary School, Coquitlam

Colleague Andrea Prochazka, an Education Assistant for 14 years who nominated Wegrich, described working in her classroom as “an awakening.”

“I am finally witnessing a teacher who embraces, celebrates and supports ALL the student’s in her class,” Prochazka wrote, describing the inclusive strategies incorporated into everyday practice in Wegrich’s Coquitlam classroom, and their school-wide impact.

“I truly believe that the culture in our school has become more inclusive because of Kyme. Her colleagues witnessing how she teaches, hearing her stories of success, and sharing in the joy she finds in each of her kids.”

Category: Inclusive Education Team

Saanichton/SD63 Team: Principal Kal Russell, teacher and IST Jodi Beaudry, IST Erin Stinson, Assistant Superintendent Scott Stinson, and EA/School Secretary Jessica Tamburino,

Saanich School District

This team was nominated by a “graduating” parent to honour a 9-year partnership that broke new ground and ensured that her daughter left school never doubting that she truly belonged.

“We have taken risks together and seen both disappointing failures and unexpected successes,” wrote the mom.  “My neurotypical kids have benefited equally from the inclusive culture they experience. We have thought critically together and disagreed sometimes but they have never wavered in their commitment to children and to inclusion.”

“I have supported other families to choose SD63 when they have been let down by other schools and systems repeatedly,” she added. “Again they have stepped up and demonstrated unwavering commitment.  Parents who thought they would have to fight and demand and advocate are met with: ‘We want your child here.  You belong here.  And let’s figure it out together’.”

Westcot Elementary team: Learning Support Teacher Laura Couling, Classroom Teacher Kelsey Woodleyand EA Heather Bushby,

Westcot Elementary School, West Vancouver

“Whether these ladies win the award or not, I feel like we have already won,” said the parent who nominated this team. “All three individuals recognize the importance of emotional needs, and that without feeling safe and understood, instructional strategies are ineffective.”

The Westcot submission shared in detail how this group’s teamwork led a remarkable turnaround that changed one student’s life profoundly. “My heart broke for her last year…. (now) I feel supported and respected as a parent and for the first time I no longer worry when I send my child to school. She has wings and I’m so excited to see where she can fly in the future.”