The Canadian Innovators in Education Awards

This year's deadline:
18 May 2016

2016 Canadian Innovators in Education Award Winners: A Clean Sweep for B.C. School Districts

Great things are happening in B.C. public education. The Canadian Education Association (CEA) and Reader’s Digest Canada are pleased to recognize the following three school districts with awards for promoting lasting, system-wide change for K-12 students: 

Profiles of the winning initiatives are featured in the November issue of Reader’s Digest magazine.

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First Prize: $25,000

Fine Arts eCademy
Developing students’ passion for learning in and out of school
North Island Distance Education School (Navigate)
Comox Valley School District 71
Comox, B.C.

Imagine using a stage production, creative writing and visual arts to deliver curriculum. That’s what the founders of Fine Arts eCademy (FAE) set out to do in 2011 when they decided to harness student creativity to accelerate learning across all subject areas. And by also supporting each student in his or her search for a “spark”—FAE lingo for additional interests such as nature, hockey or animals—teachers, parents, and community volunteers foster natural curiosity and critical thinking that further ignite a passion for learning.

FEA is open to any K-8 student, regardless of educational or artistic background. For participants, each week consists of three days in the classroom and two days of distance learning from home. The hands-on involvement of parents and teachers helps reduce the trials associated with learning remotely while enhancing the school-community connection.

“The program boldly challenges our notion of what a traditional school week looks like while providing students with the autonomy and confidence to make their own choices about how and what they learn,” says CEA President and CEO Ron Canuel. “This successful alternative to traditional bricks-and-mortar schooling is a shining example of how exploring learners’ interests, passions and strengths can bring a sense of meaning and purpose to schooling.” 

Second Prize: $10,000

Continuing the Journey With the Elders
Strengthening indigenous students’ connection to their school, culture and community
School District 5 Southeast Kootenay
Cranbrook, B.C.

Culture cannot be programmed; it is lived. The philosophy behind Continuing the Journey With the Elders is clear: sharing is teaching. For the past seven years, Ktunaxa and Métis elders based out of Mount Baker Secondary School have imparted hard-won wisdom throughout School District 5. They’ve built relationships with students, teachers, parents and community members by talking about their lived experiences, leading cultural activities and language lessons, and mentoring pupils one-on-one. In the process, the elders are helping Indigenous learners, the wider Cranbrook community and even themselves regain a sense of pride and belonging through education.

Focused on improving results for indigenous students by recognizing that traditional knowledge is an invaluable classroom resource, this program has allowed for a profound cultural and systemic shift in the way the school district approaches teaching and learning.

“This program has been so well nurtured for growth throughout the school district because it’s so in tune with the specific needs of the learner while also balancing the needs of the school and community,” says CEA President and CEO Ron Canuel. “It’s a stellar example of ‘Reconciliation in action’ that should be emulated in other school communities across Canada.”

Third Prize: $5,000 

Maker Educators’ Collaborative: Innovation in the Learning Commons
Discovering how schools can work together to forge new ways of teaching and learning
West Vancouver School District
West Vancouver, B.C.

Instead of innovating in isolation, a group of motivated administrators, teacher-librarians and teachers from four West Vancouver schools have joined together to build do-it-yourself spaces where students can collaborate to produce anything from robotics to igloos to videos. Located in each school’s library learning commons, the makerspaces have become creative playgrounds for students K-12.

Through idea sharing and the pooling of resources—3D printers, software, electronics, craft supplies and hardware tools—educators have set up a program that expands students’ skills and builds their confidence. Students are exposed to entrepreneurial thinking and learning through collaborative experimentation and carry those skills beyond the schools’ walls. 

“This program provides a blueprint for how to break the ‘innovation silos’ that tend to exist in classrooms and schools,” says CEA President and CEO Ron Canuel. “This small group of educators has displayed great courage and perseverance in rethinking traditional learning spaces—and their own roles within them—so students can gain real-world skills and practical know-how.” 

About The Reader’s Digest Foundation of Canada

The Reader’s Digest Foundation offers financial support to education in journalism at the university-level as well as to national organizations directly involved in advancing fundamental journalistic principles. In addition, it is the proud co-founder of the Canadian Innovators in Education Awards, established in 2015 to celebrate system-changing initiatives at all levels of K-12 education.

The recognition

Beyond the significant prize money, representatives from the award-winning programs will profiled in a Reader’s Digest Canada feature length article, will be honoured at a national CEA/Reader’s Digest Canada event and be profiled nationally to the CEA network through its various communications channels to encourage continued learning and sharing among educators.

Application information

About the Canadian Innovators in Education Awards

The Canadian Innovators in Education Awards will celebrate and promote educators who are leading lasting and system-changing initiatives at all levels of K-12 education in Canada.  

These awards will recognize and showcase the work of teachers, principals and administrators who are developing innovative teaching and learning programs throughout their school districts with a particular focus on improving student engagement and learning.

The current award holder:

  • Fine Arts eCademy - Comox Valley School District 71, Continuing the Journey With the Elders - School District 5 Southeast Kootenay, Maker Educators’ Collaborative: Innovation in the Learning Commons - West Vancouver School District

Previous winners:

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