Student awards reception celebrates excellence in Education

York’s Faculty of Education celebrated the achievements of its alumni and graduates at the second annual student awards reception on Thursday, Oct. 16. More than 70 guests were there to congratulate the seven award recipients. 

In his opening remarks, York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri described York alumni as having “exemplified excellence in education through their actions”. He emphasized that “the University’s role in properly preparing graduates to make an impact in an ever-changing world could be seen in the actions of York alumni around the globe.”

The Faculty of Education Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award, now in its 10th year, is sponsored by Manulife Financial and administered by the York Alumni Office. The award recognizes a graduate from the Faculty of Education whose distinctive work has had a significant influence within the educational community. The winner of this year’s award, Kelly Smith (BEd ’93), was selected from more than 30 nominations. Smith, a teacher with the Peel District School Board, was praised by his colleagues for his ability to see the potential in every student. Smith was lauded for his ability to help his students realize their potential through storytelling workshops, anti-racism video productions and a host of other creative activities and programs.   

Right: From left, Faculty of Education Dean Alice Pitt with Excellence in Teaching Award winner Kelly Smith and James Allan, director, alumni

“Kelly’s nomination stood out and the committee was unanimous in its decision. We were impressed by his reach: he brings joy and discipline of creative writing to his students with whom he founded, described as Canada’s largest teen writing Web site," said Alice Pitt, dean of York’s Faculty of Education. "The consummate advocate for the underdog, Kelly goes above and beyond in his mentorship of his students and of the athletes he coaches.”

Along with Smith, several other 2007-2008 convocation award winners were recognized at this year’s event. Sandra Styres, a York PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education, received the Doctoral Entrance Scholarship. Sara Drudi (BEd ’08) was awarded the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation Robert M. Brooks Award. Carmela Beninato (BA Spec. Hons. ’07, BEd ’08) was awarded the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association Award. Donna-Marie Hamilton (BEd ’08) received the Patricia E. Harvey Memorial Scholarship. Melanie Freedman (BA Hons. ’08, BEd ’08) received the Retired Women Teachers of Ontario Award, York North Branch Award. The Cornerstone Leadership in Action Awards went to Palav Shah (BEd ’08) and Joseph Romano (BFA Spec. Hons. ’08, BEd ’08).

Many of the donors for the awards attended the event. They were formally thanked by the Faculty for their ongoing support. Lyn Hitsman, president of the Retired Women Teachers’ of Ontario; Stephanie and Winston Ling of Cornerstone Leadership in Action Awards; and Adam Gordon and Murray Parks from Great West Life were all present and were able to meet the students.

The event also celebrated the publication of Emergent Curriculum in the Primary Classroom: Interpreting the Reggio Emilia Approach to Schools (2008) edited by York education Professor Carol Anne Wien with contributions by several Faculty of Education graduate students. The book explores elementary school educators’ efforts to integrate the Reggio Emilia philosophy with standard curriculum in Canada’s diverse urban communities.

Above: Professor Carol Anne Wien (far left) with the graduate students who contributed to the book Emergent Curriculum in the Primary Classroom: Interpreting the Reggio Emilia Approach to Schools

"When we recognize professional and scholarly achievements of our faculty and alumni at the same event, we are reminded that the University plays a key role in all facets of educational life and has a responsibility to deepen our collective understanding of their points of intersection,” noted Pitt.

Visit York’s Faculty of Education Web site for more information on the awards.