Naia Lee, a grade 12 student at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary school, calls the work by one of her teachers – Wynn Deschner – an investment in her education. Lee recently earned one of two Vancouver School District’s annual teacher recognition scholarships.
The scholarships are awarded each year to recognize graduating students who have made a positive contribution to their school communities. Application criteria include academic achievement as well as a reflection submission on how a teacher has impacted the student’s educational experience in elementary or secondary school.
When Lee was in grade nine, she says she wanted to become involved in her school community to make a difference, but was struggling to gain enough courage to participate in a school initiative. That year, she joined the Youth Feminist Association and was surprised to see her teacher playing such an active role in the club. “She has continually supported me in extending my learning beyond the classroom,” says Lee. “Not only has Ms. Deschner been invaluable to my club’s success within the school, she has also strengthened my understanding of what it means to be an advocate,” adds Lee.
Lee says having a way to honour Deschner is one reason she is grateful to be a scholarship recipient. The Churchill student has accepted an offer to McMaster University’s Arts and Science program, although her path for September is still a little uncertain. Initial plans to take a year to travel across the country and visit student climate justice groups have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She is considering interning with local branches of environmental non-governmental organizations, as well as supporting student groups in Metro Vancouver.
Jeffrey Low of Windermere Secondary earned the second scholarship. He wrote about his marketing teacher Sylvia Lau, and how she helped to shape him into a community leader through innovative teaching and dedication to student initiatives. During the spring COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, the Windermere Secondary student and a small team of students collaborated with their teacher to coordinate the 2020 graduation class commencement film. “I learned how to operate under time constraints and unite a community to reach a common goal, despite extreme hardship,” says Low.
Low calls it an immense honour to be a scholarship recipient, saying the award will help him achieve his lifelong dream of pursuing post-secondary education. He adds, “Moreover, I am beyond thankful for teachers like Ms. Lau who have poured their heart and soul into helping students achieve success after graduation. I am utterly obliged to be able to share my experiences of how Ms. Lau has impacted my life and inspired me to foster a meaningful change in the community.”
With a keen interest in patterns and the stock market, Low starts work toward a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business in September.
The annual scholarships were set up on World Teachers' Appreciation Day, celebrated on October 5 each year.
Learn more about how the scholarships were created.