The Ontario Public School Boards' Association offers six annual awards to recognize outstanding contributions to public education by individuals across Ontario.
Helen M. Brown, a trustee with the Limestone DSB, is this year's recipient of the Award of Merit in Memory of Dr. Harry Paikin.
Brown was first elected to the former Lennox and Addington County Board of Education in 1995 after an exemplary 30-year career teaching at the elementary level. Her trusteeship has continued this tradition of excellence on committees and in her terms as vice-chair and chair of the board. A dedicated advocate for public education, she is highly regarded by board staff and fellow trustees and is respected for her work in developing provincially recognized procedures for school board amalgamations during the 1990s. She continues to be engaged with the students and teachers at her area schools, participating in their events and celebrations. She shows a similar commitment to her community through long-standing activities at her church and for local and national charities.
A standout achievement of Brown's teaching career came in 1987 when the former Lennox and Addington County Board of Education implemented a junior kindergarten program that she had developed. In 2004, the Limestone board honoured this achievement with the Trustee Helen Brown Kindergarten Centre at the Prince Charles School in Napanee, where Brown had once taught.
Her nominators had this to say: "Helen offers dignity and order, consensus and compromise, and recognition of diversity in an exemplary fashion. She is always prepared, and offers a wise voice and a calm manner to the Board table." Helen Brown received the award at a board event in July.
There were no submissions to the Fred L. Bartlett Memorial Award this year.
Chase Woon, a student at I.E. Weldon Secondary School in Lindsay, is this year's recipient of the Award of Merit in Memory of Jack A. MacDonald. In addition to maintaining an excellent academic record, Chase created a climate of tolerance and acceptance at the school with her strong advocacy for LGBT students and for people with mental health issues. Through her work as student trustee and member of the 2013-14 Minister's Student Advisory Council and through her leadership in many school and community activities, including a co-op placement with a local elementary school and a trip to China with the youth service agency Free the Children, Chase is becoming skilled at making a positive impact on the lives of the people around her. The board presented this award at an event in June.
Robert McKay is the recipient of the 2014 OPSBA Award of Excellence.
As an elected senator for the Thunder Bay Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario since 1995, McKay advises on First Nations issues on many area education, health and community committees. He joined the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee at Lakehead Public Schools in 2008, sharing his expertise with the school board. McKay is also a well-loved speaker and storyteller at board schools, where he delights students and staff with his engaging tales of a vanishing way of life.
McKay was featured in the documentary Voices of Wisdom: Learning from Elders, produced by the Ontario College of Teachers (http://www.oct.ca/resources/videos/voices-of-wisdom).
Sue Peever, a parent volunteer, and Suzanne Tardif, parent representative on the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, are all recipients of this year's OPSBA Achievement Award. The award was presented at a board event in June.
Sue Peever is a long-time volunteer with Lakehead DSB, serving on the parent councils of her children's schools and the former Council of School Chairs. Her efforts played an important role as the board developed its current Parent Involvement Committee.
Peever's commitment to public education has continued even though her children have graduated. She currently sits as a director on the Lakehead Learning Foundation, a charitable arm that raises funds for the board. For the past three years, she has spearheaded Project Lost and Found, which collects and cleans usable clothing that has been abandoned at school. The clothing is then redistributed to homeless shelters and area social agencies; the value of the items donated over three years is estimated at over $100,000.
Suzanne Tardif is a volunteer member on several Thunder Bay committees and a strong advocate for positive education experiences for all learners. She is herself an adult learner, who returned to school at age 28 to complete her high school diploma. She then earned an undergraduate degree at Lakehead University. It was here, in the Faculty of Education, that she was introduced to Humanities 101, a project then in its pilot phase that aimed to introduce struggling students to higher education.
Among her many community volunteer activities, Tardif is active at Lakehead Public Schools, serving on the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, the Success Advisory Committee and the Parent Involvement Committee. She has been a classroom volunteer and has led Positive Aboriginal Role Models, a pilot project that allowed her to focus on developing positive educational experiences for Aboriginal students. She also continues to volunteer with Humanities 101.
The recipients for 2014-15 will be announced at OPSBA's Public Education Symposium in January 2015.