One local teacher has been given a national award which is part of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
École Secondaire Notre Dame High School’s Grade 10 Assistant Principal, Mandy Reed has won a Certificate of Achievement and $1,000 for professional development.
Reed is one of 35 teachers who was honoured from across Canada and is the only teacher in Central Alberta to be recognized for this award. Over the years, she has taught social studies, Canadian studies and English as a Second Language to Grade 10 to 12 students.
“It’s an honour to be recognized at the national level, but it’s really what we do every day to make education meaningful and engaging for our students in Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools. This was a team approach. I’ve been surrounded by great mentors my entire teaching career with Red Deer Catholic and it’s a culmination of all that hard work and mentorship coming together,” she said. “It was an honour just to be nominated and about a year had passed before I had been notified that I had won the award and I was quite happily surprised.”
Reed was nominated by the principal and vice-principal at Notre Dame High School.
“It’s a pretty thorough application process that they have to go through. They have to acquire testimonials from parents and students. I had to fill out a questionnaire about things that I did in my classroom and they have to collect three reference letters and send them in as well.”
Reed’s contributions and achievements include being recognized as a master teacher and English as a Second Language specialist. She regularly helps colleagues in other disciplines integrate strategies for supporting English-language learners in their classes. She also developed the Taste of Home study unit where students brought recipes and memories of home to class, which became the basis for language arts, social studies, science and math lessons. The unit ended with a feast of dishes from students’ countries of origin cooked at school with parents’ help.
“It’s something that really helps the kids stay connected with their home culture. We have a unit of study where they are writing about memories of home. Everyone has memories connected with food. What was it like to be in your grandma’s kitchen? Do you remember what her hands looked like when she was grinding the corn or stirring her cake? We want kids to be able to celebrate that and they are writing and sharing their stories with their peers and families,” said Reed. “We end with a pot luck supper where they share their stories with their parents and then of course we share a meal and break bread together.
“It is emotional and for some of the students it is difficult because they are writing about maybe their grandmother they haven’t seen since moving to Canada. It is such an honour to be involved with that though because they are sharing a piece of themselves.”
Reed has also developed immersive classroom activities to stimulate and engage students while connecting with the curriculum. For a unit on the federal political system, for example, her classroom became ‘Reedania’ where students learned the vocabulary and concepts of the parliamentary system and then held a two-week mock parliament.
She created and co-presented a professional development workshop in which her students presented both heartfelt and hilarious stories of what it is like to be an English-language learner, and she was involved with student leaders in a school-wide fundraising campaign for victims of a devastating typhoon in the Philippines, from where the families of many of the school’s students emigrated.
Reed has been teaching in the Red Deer Catholic School Division since 2007. “I was inspired to be a teacher after working in South America teaching English. I found a real calling to do it. I found I was naturally drawn to students and English as a Second Language is what I minored in in university and I was naturally drawn to that and I had a real talent for that.”
Reed added there is much she loves about her job.
“I love the relationships we get to have with the students. Especially being an English as a Second Language teacher, we see students that are reunited with their families and students who are new to Canada. We get to share what is great about our country and what makes not just Canada but what makes Red Deer an ideal place to grow up, live and be a member of society,” she said. “We get to see kids through their hard times and their good times and help celebrate with them and help encourage them along the way. Nothing makes you happier when you see them cross the graduation stage and knowing you had a hand in that.”