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Teacher Frances Squire receives national award for going the extra mile for students in the classroom
Frances Squire has had a life-long passion for teaching.
“When I was a little girl in my grandmother’s basement she had a blackboard and I had my dolls all lined up and I was teaching,’’ said the Grade 9 language arts teacher at Birchwood Intermediate in Charlottetown.
“When I was in high school I taught my classmates how to do things like knitting; hands-on things. I taught at community schools. Before I became a (professional) teacher in the classroom, I ran a computers for kids program, a crafts for kids program. My volunteer experience is probably just as long or longer than my academic professional experience.’’
Squire has been teaching in the public school system for more than two decades, mostly at the intermediate level.
Her hard work has paid off.
She is one of 10 teachers from across Canada recently honoured with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence’s Certificate of Excellence. Squire received the award from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a ceremony last month in Ottawa.
“It was huge. (I was) humbled, honoured. (I wondered) how did that happen?,’’ Squire said when asked what her reaction was when told she would receive the award. “It surprised me. I just do what I do. (Winning the award) takes a lot to process. I mean, this is my life’s work.’’
The award comes with a $5,000 cash prize. Half goes to Squire while Birchwood gets the other half.
The award honours outstanding and innovative elementary and secondary school teachers in all disciplines.
Recipients are recognized for their leadership and exemplary teaching practices as well as for their commitment to help students.
Squire, who is also an author and published poet, said she has always had a love of learning and teaching.
“I love being with people and sharing what I know and I love learning from my students. I just love the interaction back and forth. It keeps me young. It keeps me on my toes. That’s why I do what I do.’’
Her approach to teaching emphasizes student choice, hands-on and creative activities, collaboration and giving students opportunities to engage with and learn from community partners.
She strives to build a fun, caring, inclusive environment so students feel valued and respected.
Squire said it can often be difficult for a teacher to go beyond the curriculum.
“You have to find creative and innovative ways to do that within the structures you’re working in. That is not easy.’’
Squire says she didn’t win an award. It wasn’t a competition. It was recognition for hard work along the way.
“It was an acknowledgement that what I’m doing for the kids is good. There are many teachers out there ... that are deserving of this award, too, but just weren’t nominated. There are wonderful teachers out there.’’
Her biggest reward comes from the kids themselves.
“When a kid writes a story and wins a literary award I’m like ‘Wow’ or if the lightbulb goes on and they get something, that’s the reward for me.’’