6 October 2009
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Thank you, Gary Goodyear, for that warm introduction, and special greetings and congratulations to all the 2009 recipients of the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence and Awards for Early Childhood Education.
It is fitting that we're gathered together on World Teachers' Day to honour Canada's best teachers, which makes you the best of the best in the world. In fact, according to a recent assessment of student performance in 57 countries, Canadian students rank among the top five in the world in science, mathematics and reading, and that is something you and all Canadian teachers should be proud of.
As a one-time student and now as a parent of children in Canada's public schools, I know very well about the positive influence that teachers can have on our lives and on our destinies, and I believe that in terms of shaping our future, there is no group of people more important – except for parents – than the teachers of our country.
I'm sure every one of us can look back at a teacher, or many teachers, who got us interested, who inspired us, who saw potential in us and who gave us the confidence to succeed not just in school but in life.
Teaching is more than a job. Teaching is more than a career. It is more even than a vocation or a calling. It speaks to those who have a strong sense of commitment to others and to the future of our communities and our country.
Because they know that endowing the children of today with knowledge, wonder, empathy and hope is the best thing we can possibly do to ensure a strong, stable, prosperous and compassionate society tomorrow.
This room is full of teachers who hold these values. I'd like to profile a few of you in the hope of giving Canadians some sense of the talent and achievement that belongs to all of you.
From Vancouver Technical Secondary School, science, chemistry and physics teacher Shirley Turner brings the marvels of science alive for her students to help create the next generation of pioneering Canadian scientists. She makes the learning experience all the more rewarding and meaningful by weaving outdoor adventure and community service into her courses.
From École secondaire Paul-le-Jeune in Saint-Tite, Quebec, Jean-Pierre Frigon is inculcating his grade 11 students with a deep understanding and appreciation for Canada’s role in the Second World War. He personalizes this epic period in our history by introducing his students to local veterans who took part, and fosters remembrance through a commemorative space dedicated to veterans.
From Steinbach Regional Secondary School in Manitoba, media studies teacher Christopher Koop is upholding the legacy of the great Canadian scholar Marshall McLuhan, helping a new generation of Canadians understand the power and potential of the media in our world. I'm told that he sometimes cheers his students on in a superhero costume, which is a powerful medium and message indeed.
From the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation Head Start Program in Edmonston, New Brunswick, early childhood education teacher Suzanne Belanger works with aboriginal children and their families to inspire pride in their heritage and stimulate their interest in education.
And from Portage Collegiate Institute in Portage-le-Prairie, Manitoba, history and drama teacher James Kostuchuk teaches his grade 11 and 12 students the practical side of history through the creation of school archives. He also teaches the history of rock and roll, which I would guess is one of the school's most popular courses.
We in Canada have built a public education system that is second to none in the world, and as I've said before, for all its challenges and problems, our public education system is still a great unifier, a great equalizer, a great provider of opportunity, a symbol of some of the best things about our country, a source of much of its strength and success. So on behalf of the government and the people of Canada, I want to thank you for everything you do for our children, our communities and our country. Congratulations again to the award winners on obtaining the recognition for teaching excellence you so richly deserve.