Vancouver teachers receive Prime Ministers awards

Three Vancouver teachers have been recognized as being among the country's top educators.

Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the 84 recipients of the 2009 Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence and Excellence in Early Childhood Education. The Awards were presented at a ceremony in Ottawa on the occasion of World Teachers' Day, October 5.

Shirley Turner, a science teacher and Duke of Edinburgh program leader from Vancouver Technical Secondary School was recognized with a British Columbia Certificate of Excellence. Rainer Mehl, a photography and graphic arts teacher from Kitsilano Secondary School, received a British Columbia Certificate of Achievement. Robert Arkiletian, from Eric Hamber Secondary School also received a British Columbia Certificate of Achievement.

Shirley Turner - 2009 British Columbia Certificate of Excellence

Shirley Turner is a science teacher with a passion for the outdoors that she shares with her students as a leader with the internationally recognized Duke of Edinburgh Program.

She teaches science, chemistry and physics at Vancouver Technical Secondary School, and is an innovator in the use of digital media to support learning.

Turner is the teacher leader of the Summit accelerated math science program. She made completion of the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze level award part of the expectations of Summit in 2005 when she took over leadership of both programs. Her goal is to broaden her students' perspective through participation in the wider community while providing them opportunities to appreciate BC's wilderness. In 2008/2009, Van Tech received 33 per cent of all Duke of Edinburgh awards for the BC and Yukon division. Last June, Ms. Turner was honoured to be a host for the Gold program ceremony with HRH Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex, in attendance.

As a Duke of Edinburgh award leader, Turner tracks her students' progress then plans wilderness expeditions with them. She accompanies her students as they trek into the outdoors to complete each award level. The success of the program is based on over 50 per cent of the bronze and silver recipients choosing to continue on to the prestigious gold level.

"I've completed two gold trips since Prince Edward's visit. We went kayaking in the Okisollo Channel where the tides collide near Quadra Island (June-July) and backpacking on the Juan de Fuca trail (September). I am expecting at least another 24 gold recipients by this year's graduation in June 2010," Ms. Turner reports.

For her exemplary work as a teacher and mentor to the students at Van Tech, Turner received $5,000, to be shared with her school.


Rainer Mehl - British Columbia Certificate of Achievement

Rainer Mehl Prime Minister's Award 

Rainer Mehl has a passion for photography and has built on his experience to bring practical and experience-based teaching to his classroom. He teaches traditional and digital photography, graphic design, animation, Grad Transitions and yearbook production at Kitsilano Secondary School

Mehl is an innovative leader who has developed best practices for yearbook production which have been adopted by other BC school districts and even schools as far abroad as China.

Last summer he was invited by a prominent yearbook publishing company to teach at a summer yearbook camp in Victoria. "Students from across BC came to the camp to learn how to be editors," said Mehl. "It was like band camp without the instruments. I've also conducted workshops for teachers to learn to be yearbook advisors."

Mehl is an experienced photographer and is pleased to see his students share his interest. "In the past few years I've seen an increase in interest in traditional photography," said Mehl. "Presently, half of my 300 photography students are signed up for darkroom photography and several senior students have set up their own darkrooms at home."

During his seven years at Kitsilano he has progressively built up a computer lab which has increased efficiency for graphic arts and yearbook production. He posts all assignments online to allow students to work at their own pace.


Robert Arkiletian - British Columbia Certificate of Achievement

Robert Arkiletian Prime Minister's Award

"Mr Ark" as he's known by his students, teaches computer programming and physics to grades 10 to 12 at Eric Hamber Secondary School.

Last year Mr. Arkiletian won the NCOSE (National Center for Open Source and Education) K12 Education Award for his efforts in creating Fl_TeacherTool, a classroom management software for teachers. In addition he won the 2009 Dave Michelson award from the Vancouver Linux Users Group.

Schooled as an engineer, Arkiletian has learned to create his own customized solutions to problems. Four years ago he started working on the first version of his classroom management software (Fl_TeacherTool).  Now, seven versions later, his software has transformed teaching and learning at his school and around world. The software is Linux-based, Open Source software, which he has made available for free over the Internet. "Hundreds of schools and other businesses have downloaded the software" said Arkiletian.

Arkiletian's software allows him to interact with his students in several ways. It provides a software-based projector for broadcasting demonstrations, a feature that allows students to take control of the broadcast and limited Internet access to keep students focused on required tasks. He can also see which students are running a particular program and he can remotely tutor a student by controlling their mouse and keyboard.

As proof of the success of Arkiletian's lab and his passion for teaching, Mr. Arkiletian's students have twice taken first place in Western Canada in the junior CCC (Canadian Computing Competition) hosted by the University of Waterloo. In addition, some of Mr. Arkiletian's students have even participated in post secondary level programming competitions at SFU.


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