Student-literacy champion wins teaching award

Two Toronto-area teachers were honoured Nov. 1 at the second annual Faculty of Education Alumni Awards Dinner. 

Karen Murray (left) (BEd ’98), a literacy coordinator for the Toronto District School Board and a former primary teacher renowned for her work with students who struggle with reading, received the association’s Excellence in Teaching Award. High school teacher Michael Fellin (BEd ’97) received an honourable mention for his orientation and student-leadership programs.

Murray is lead literacy teacher at James S. Bell Junior Middle School in the Toronto District School Board. Admired for her dedication and creativity, Murray is widely acknowledged for her early intervention literacy program. She has trained parent volunteers to work with students with exceptionalities and provides guidance on inclusive curriculum and diversity activities in her school and community. She is an exceptional mentor to new teachers and has served as a host teacher for York education students.

Beyond the classroom, Murray has served as curriculum writer of the 2004 Visual Arts Resource Guide (K-8) for the Toronto District School Board. She developed and implemented a reading program with Frontier College for 6- to 12-year-old children in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood, a program that has engaged more than 300 participants. For her extensive community-based educational activities, she received a Certificate of Recognition during Children Services Month and a Volunteer Appreciation Award from Mayor Mel Lastman in 2002.

One parent wrote that Murray  “cares about education in all its manifestations and strives passionately to ensure that every child, regardless of circumstances, has proper access to a good and meaningful education.” And in the words of one of her former students, “Ms. Murray expects a lot from us and she cares about all of us very much. That’s about all that really needs to be said.”

Fellin (BEd ’97) teaches at Neil McNeil High School in the Toronto Catholic District School Board. He has distinguished himself as an innovative, passionate and effective professional whose contributions to his school and community have been substantial. He developed a highly successful, student-led orientation for Grade 9 students and organized a leadership weekend to help other schools plan similar initiatives. Fellin helped establish the Father McCarthy Leadership Centre where students are trained as peer tutors and mentors for junior students at risk, an initiative that won the 2004 Exemplary Practice Award for student leadership for his school.

Fellin also led a team that developed a student-success action plan that has reduced the student attrition rate at his school. He wrote a research paper on the intervention plan’s effectiveness, for which he received the 2006 Best Practice Award from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.

One of his peers says, “The true measure of Michael’s success is the positive attitude of the student participants. The infectiousness of his spirit on the lives of his students has brought out a love of learning that is remarkable. Students are proud of themselves and of their school. Perhaps this is the most important indicator of the impact Michael has made on our school community.”

The Faculty of Education Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award is awarded to a graduate of York’s Faculty of Education who has demonstrated a commitment to teaching and made a unique contribution to the teaching profession over time. It is sponsored by Manulife Financial.

This story was submitted to YFile by Anderson Coward, communications coordinator for York’s Faculty of Education.