It is a well known fact that the educators at Black Gold School Division are passionate and dedicated people, deeply committed to inspiring success in their students – academically, artistically, through athletics, and as good citizens.
Over the years our teachers have collectively garnered accolades both regionally and nationally, and the latest to receive this type of recognition is École Champs Vallée School Science teacher Amanda Green (pictured on the left), who, along with her frequent collaborator, Edmonton Public School’s Julie Arsenault (pictured right), has received the 2022 Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence in STEM: Certificate of Achievement.
We recently caught up with a very busy Ms. Green to get her reaction to the award announcement. “Well, Julie and I found out a few months ago, and we cried,” said Amanda, with a laugh. “We were both emotionally overwhelmed. She is my science teacher soulmate.”
Amanda met Julie at an ATA Science Council conference a decade ago, and struck up a conversation.”I overheard her speaking in a line, and asked, ‘hey, what’s project-based learning?’ and she’s like, ‘well, this is what we’re doing,’ and we have been joined at the hip ever since,” laughed Amanda. “This year we’re celebrating our tenth friendiversary, and this award is the cherry on top!”
She credits her success to her close collaboration with Julie. “When I find something new I get really excited and want to try it out in my classroom, and she will take my excited, crazy ideas and make them tangible and authentic and attached to the curriculum,” said Amanda. “We’re a good team together, and none of this would have been possible had we not met at that conference.”
Amanda and Julie were deeply honoured to be nominated by their colleagues, Maria Nickel and Anju Bajaj – both past recipients of the prime minister’s award – along with recommendations and letters of support from students, parents, other teachers and administrators. “We thought that the application process would be great practice for the future, and when we actually received an award, we were a bit surprised – it felt very nice,” she said.
Amanda’s favorite part of the award application process was reading the letters of support from her students, and feeling their love and appreciation for her efforts in the classroom. “Regardless of the outcome, having that kind of affirmation is incredible, and very lovely,” she said.
Receiving this national recognition has caused Amanda to reflect on all the effort, passion, and dedication she has poured into her work as a science teacher. “I’ve been an educator for almost twenty years,” she said. “If I could go back and talk to my earlier self, just starting out in the teaching profession – and frankly hanging on for dear life, just trying to get through the day – I don’t think that she would ever believe that this is where we’re at today.”
Amanda looked off into the distance, then continued. “The biggest thing is to find what you’re passionate about,” she said. “For me, it used to be biology, and it has evolved into outer space, because I love astronauts, and because Canada has such a thriving space industry. Now, there’s also the environmental and energy education piece, which are the urgent issues of our time.”
She feels that being able to take the ideas you love, and are excited about, and to weave them into your classroom teaching is a very powerful thing for any educator.
“My interest in outer space was sparked by Chris Hatfield tweeting from the International Space Station, ‘Hello Earth!” and sharing his pictures and music and social media posts from orbit, and I said to myself, ‘this is a Canadian doing all these amazing things!” she exclaimed. “At that moment, I felt like, wow, we can do anything. And as a teacher, I feel that the biggest contribution we can make is to be that spark for our students.”