Port Coquitlam teachers win premier's award

Social inclusion, technology innovation for projects that encourage students to make a difference in the world

Two Port Coquitlam teachers were given premier’s awards for excellence in education last Friday for encouraging their students to broaden their horizons and make a difference in the world.

Sean Robinson, a Science 9 teacher at Riverside secondary, won in the area of technology and innovation for connecting students with peers from other countries to work on projects, including a solar-powered light for homes in the Dominican Republic that don’t have regular electricity.

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Ryan Cho, a social justice and music teacher at Terry Fox secondary, whose students made a video promoting consent culture and held a protest in support of the #metoo anti-sexual harassment campaign, won for social inclusion.

The two were honoured along with a third teacher, Hasheem Hakeem, a French teacher at Dr. Charles Best secondary in Coquitlam who was a finalist in the diversity and inclusion category. They all rubbed shoulders with Premier John Horgan and Education Minister Rob Fleming at a dinner in Victoria.

“What was really nice, we were all in Victoria, with teachers from big towns and small towns, and hearing their stories. Ad it’s really nice to see a provincial government to show support for teachers in this way,” Cho told the Tri-City News.

Robinson said he, too, enjoyed the event and was glad he could invite a guest — the student and parent who nominated him for the award.

“It provided an opportunity for teachers to make those connections with other teachers. What a great event to have all these teachers, movers and shakers from around the province all together,” said Robinson.

Robinson and Cho, who were also recognized at a board of education meeting Tuesday, said they were honoured to be chosen among many great teachers.

Board chair Kerri Palmer Isaak, who also attended the dinner, said she is pleased local teachers were nominated.

“It's so important we are recognizing the outstanding contributors,” Palmer Isaak said.

Winners from each of the categories will receive a $3,000 personal bursary for professional learning and a $2,000 contribution to their school community for professional learning.

And Cho and Robinson's work is far from over.

Cho said he will continue to promote consent culture among youth, whereby someone asks for permission before getting physical, whether it be a hug, kiss or more, to reduce misunderstandings and potential instances of sexual assault. He asked trustees at the board meeting to consider such a policy for schools.

“To me, that’s the next step. How could we be a model for other schools and districts,” Cho said.

Robinson, meanwhile, has written a book to help teachers use connections-based learning and his science students are connecting with peers in Kampala, Uganda to find ways to address lighting in electricity-poor areas of their country.

“My students are brainstorming many ideas of ways to help. One group is considering developing a bike generator, another is looking at solar technology. We’ll just see what they come up with.”

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