Premier's Awards for Teaching Excellence

Vernon Kee, Joe Tersigni, Poleen Grewal, Tony Morale, Susan Bellisario, Kelly Smith, Michael Fellin, Nicholas Kovacs, Douglas Fraser, Jonathan Hancock, George Knight, Monique Gazan, Manuel Cordeiro, Alan Baigent; Chantal Bertrand, Paul Edwards, Laureen Kuzyk, Selection Panel Chair Cynthia Mulligan, Premier Dalton McGuinty, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, Vimaladevy Vijeyacumar, David Margetts, Catherine MacDonald
Back row (left to right): Vernon Kee, Joe Tersigni, Poleen Grewal, Tony Morale, Susan Bellisario, Kelly Smith, Michael Fellin, Nicholas Kovacs, Douglas Fraser, Jonathan Hancock, George Knight, Monique Gazan, Manuel Cordeiro, Alan Baigent
Front row (left to right): Chantal Bertrand, Paul Edwards, Laureen Kuzyk, Selection Panel Chair Cynthia Mulligan, Premier Dalton McGuinty, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, Vimaladevy Vijeyacumar, David Margetts, Catherine MacDonald


2008-2009 Recipients

Teacher of the Year


Teacher of the Year – Monique Gazan

Monique Gazan
Teacher, Iroquois Ridge High School
Halton District School Board

Students in Monique Gazan's class know they can influence change – and they have. She motivated and empowered students to organize a conference with Stephen Lewis, raise awareness and money for a variety of global causes and advocate for healthier cafeteria food and classroom recycling bins. Every year, she refreshes her courses with new materials and methods, and inspires students to make a difference. She is a true leader, giving staff and students opportunities to take on leadership roles.


Teacher of the Year – George Knight

George Knight
Teacher, Napanee District Secondary School
Limestone District School Board

How do you build an engine powered by the heat from a candle with only a photograph to start from? George Knight's students could show you. Now they have made the engine solar powered and are receiving international recognition for it. This is just one of the real-life projects he initiated to challenge and inspire students. He instils a sense of enthusiasm for learning, collaboration and community involvement, and connects students with the world of work.


Teacher of the Year – Catherine MacDonald

Catherine MacDonald
Teacher, Department Head, Father Leo J. Austin Catholic Secondary School
Durham Catholic District School Board

Catherine MacDonald helps students dig up the past and connect it to the present. Her students have worked with forensic anthropologists, recreated ancient cave paintings and participated in archaeological excavations. Her passion and enthusiasm inspires staff and students. She is very active in the community, coordinating the Amnesty International Club, participating in several board committees and presenting education papers at archaeology conferences. She also developed a high school archaeology course and mentors other staff.


Teacher of the Year – Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith
Teacher, David Leeder Middle School
Peel District School Board

Whether on the volleyball court or in the classroom, Kelly Smith believes in helping students realize their potential. He helps at-risk youth by coaching volleyball and using innovative teaching methods, like producing an anti-racism video, creating a teen writing website and publishing books written by teen writers. He keeps students engaged, inspires them to be good citizens and builds strong relationships with parents and the community. A mentor to staff, his door is always open. He has also contributed to the writing of curriculum and textbooks.


Teacher of the Year – Joe Tersigni

Joe Tersigni
Teacher, Department Head, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School
Wellington Catholic District School Board

When history happens, Joe Tersigni's students usually know about it. His students have held teleconferences with soldiers in Afghanistan and students at Pope John Paul II's former school in Poland. He encourages students to celebrate Canadian holidays like Flag Day, and the leadership award he initiated has brought well-known Canadian athletes, politicians, musicians and journalists to speak with students. He has a profound impact on students and colleagues and has given workshops to new teachers on innovative teaching strategies.


New Teacher of the Year


New Teacher of the Year – Manuel Cordeiro

Manuel Cordeiro
Teacher, St. Edmund Campion Secondary School
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

In his first year of teaching, Manuel Cordeiro is already making a lasting impression on students and the school community. His Comic Book Club has engaged struggling students in reading and boosted their literacy skills. His reproduction of the allied war room during D-Day operations and diplomacy simulation games brought history to life. A gifted motivator and leader, he also organized a campaign with students to send holiday care packages to Canadian soldiers and support workers in Afghanistan.


New Teacher of the Year – Jonathan Hancock

Jonathan Hancock
Teacher, Glen Williams Public School
Halton District School Board

Jonathan Hancock knows how to communicate success.  He publishes a monthly newsletter that keeps parents informed about class events and the curriculum. He helps students produce videos and publish stories, while building their confidence and skills. The result has been significant increases in reading, writing and math in his Grade 3 class over the past two years. Eager to develop his practice, he attends numerous workshops including ones on special education to help him address the needs of students in his class.


New Teacher of the Year – Vernon Kee

Vernon Kee
Teacher, Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute
Toronto District School Board

Engineer-turned-teacher Vernon Kee makes learning fun and engaging.  Teaching subjects like computer science, engineering and physics, he has students build robots, create video games and investigate “paintball physics.” Known for his enthusiasm, he mentors new teachers, maintains the school's website, leads seven clubs, coaches six athletic teams and much more. He also helps students explore career paths and reinforces the value of giving by connecting students with local and global outreach opportunities.


Excellent Support Staff


Excellent Support Staff – Laureen Kuzyk

Laureen Kuzyk
Educational Assistant, Rainy River High School
Rainy River District School Board

Laureen Kuzyk's energy and enthusiasm for education can make even disengaged students embrace learning. An educational assistant for 18 years, she never stops anticipating and addressing the needs of her students – particularly those who face barriers to success. She has brought in used clothes and cut hair for students who struggle financially, and she tutors students after hours who struggle academically. Plus, she does this in a way that preserves their dignity and privacy.


Excellent Support Staff – David Margetts

David Margetts
Head Custodian, White Oaks Secondary School
Halton District School Board

David Margetts makes sure students shine in the spotlight – literally. The head custodian has volunteered as the school's technical director for 19 musical and drama productions. He manages a student technical crew that hangs lights and runs sound equipment. Margetts keeps the school shining too and instils a sense of ownership and pride among the school community. Committed to supporting students, he also steps in to coach and referee school sports and volunteers with other school activities.


Excellent Support Staff – Vimaladevy Vijeyacumar

Vimaladevy Vijeyacumar
Educational Assistant, St. Margaret's Public School
Toronto District School Board

A champion for math, Vimaladevy Vijeyacumar coaches the school's math league team. Her passion for the subject is infectious, with many students joining each year and rarely missing meetings. She instils confidence in students that they can solve any math problem. Many of them credit her mentorship for helping them win provincial and national competitions. A qualified educator for more than 16 years in Sri Lanka, she is an International Language Instructor and spent four years as a full-time school volunteer.


Excellence in Leadership


Excellence in Leadership – Poleen Grewal

Poleen Grewal
Principal, Thorn Lodge Public School
Peel District School Board

First-time principal Poleen Grewal is building communities. She strongly encourages parent involvement, visiting local neighbourhoods to encourage newcomers to attend parent events and offering these sessions in three languages. The school council has since grown and become more active in the school.  She also partners with community agencies, celebrates diversity and championed a new vision for the school. She builds professional learning communities for staff that are producing results. Student achievement in writing jumped from 56 per cent to 79 per cent – closing the achievement gap.


Excellence in Leadership – Chantal Bertrand

Chantal Bertrand
Teacher, Coordinator, Centre d'éducation et de formation de l'Est ontarien
Conseil des écoles publique de l'Est de l'Ontario

Chantal Bertrand is committed to helping everyone learn – in English and French, from age 16 to 60. She champions a vision of excellence and helps create a family atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome and respected.  She ensures courses and programs meet high standards – programs that have since been adopted by other schools. Throughout her career, she has worked to build community partnerships and collaborated on the introduction of courses that meet student needs, such as welding for women and computing for adults 55+.


Lifetime Achievement


Lifetime Achievement – Douglas Fraser

Douglas Fraser
Teacher, Department Head, Timiskaming District Secondary School
District School Board Ontario North East

With his passion for the Earth, Douglas Fraser has been making science come alive in his classroom for 25 years. Through courses and school clubs, he inspires students to think globally and become environmental stewards. His contributions to science education have also extended beyond the classroom. He helped produce computer programs for biology teachers, co-authored eight science textbooks and has spoken at numerous science education conferences. He has also developed and implemented science courses, the newest one is called One Planet – One Future.


Team of the Year


Neil McNeil Leadership Team
Teachers, Neil McNeil High School
Toronto Catholic District School Board

Team of the Year – Members: Alan Baigent, Susanna Bellisario, Paul Edwards, Michael Fellin, Nicholas Kovacs, Tony Morale

Back row (left to right): Alan Baigent, Tony Morale, Paul Edwards
Front row (left to right): Nicholas Kovacs, Susanna Bellisario, Michael Fellin

At this boys school, the leadership team has developed a peer support program to empower students as leaders in helping others. The cornerstone is the care of students transitioning to high school. Incoming students are paired with a “Big Brother” – a senior student leader – during a three-day camp experience. This orientation forms the basis of a relationship which is maintained over the year through peer tutoring and mentoring. The team's collaborative approach includes working with community agencies and has helped transform the school culture through an increase in academic success and student engagement.