by Cheryl Jackson Thursday May 5, 2011

For the second year I've had the honour of co-hosting the Premier's Awards for Teaching Excellence along with Gisele Quennville of TFO. Both times, I've been humbled by the greatness in the room. Here's an example:

John Atherton sat at the dinner table next to me. He won the award for Excellence in Leadership for establishing the GTA Physics Teachers' Alliance. Already I'm impressed - physics?!  He also launched the "Eureka Conference" which was attended by 600 classroom teachers - an event many said was the best they'd ever attended.  I'm not surprised.  He's a friendly, likeable guy who teaches at ALPHA II Alternative School in Toronto where he's known as a mentor rather than a teacher. Most impressive, however, was the way he worked our table like a pro, on behalf of his students.

He asked the Ministry of Education communications staff if they'd consider having a high school co-op student working amongst them.  After all, he said, these kids need placements and even former Toronto mayor, David Miller, allowed a co-op student to shadow him.  No guilt there.  And then he asked me if TVO gives opportunities to co-op students. I knew that was coming. I didn't know the answer, which probably means we don't, but I thought it was a good idea and told him I'd find out.  He also wanted to know more about the ILC, TVO's Independent Learning Centre. He has students who need to complete high school credits after the age of 18, when they're kicked out of high school.  Who should he talk to at the ILC, he asked. Atherton could have sat back, enjoyed his dinner, and forgot about his students for a couple of hours, but he didn't. Impressive, again.

All of the award-winners were just as amazing. You've got to read their short biographies, which are posted on the Ministry's website.  And know that for each of these winners, there were many more nominees who are just as creative and dedicated. Congratulations to all of you!