The Ken Spencer Award

Seven Award Winning Programs Empower Students – and Teachers – to Rediscover the Joy of Learning

Educators who take risks each day to continually transform their learning environments are honoured with the Canadian Education Association’s 2015-2016 Ken Spencer Awards for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.

From coffeeshop Makerspaces, to team teaching and teacher co-learning, to mixed-age student mentoring, and arts- and exercise-based solutions that reduce student anxiety and heighten focus, these successful learning programs showcase a courage and willingness among educators to rethink traditional classroom practice that caters to the interests and needs of all students.

This year’s Ken Spencer Award-winning programs prepare students from Pre-K to Grade 12 for deep learning, address the well-being of both teachers and students, and inject passion, empathy and engagement into classrooms. Creating non-traditional spaces for students and teachers to interact has resulted in winning conditions for all.

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For a booklet showcasing the work of all 7 Ken Spencer Award winners:  



FIRST PLACE – $7,000

HWDSB Enrichment & Innovation Centre
A hands-on learning space where students can feel at home 

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
Hamilton, Ont.

The HWDSB Enrichment & Innovation Centre is a hands-on learning and inquiry Makerspace with a ‘coffeeshop’ atmosphere that serves over 400 gifted students per month from across the district. Each day starts with a cup of tea to set the tone for group conversations. Students are offered a variety of seating arrangements, from traditional desks to a kitchen table and comfy beanbag chairs. This relaxed learning community atmosphere has proven to be so vital for student success. The room design recognizes the need for quiet and individuality when learning and includes a cozy living room space with lamps, curtains, a carpet, a couch and books for “chilling” where even the most anxious learner can find a comfortable place to engage in inquiry. 

For more information

Media Inquiries 

John Whitwell
Principal of Special Education
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
HWDSB Enrichment & Innovation Centre

Zoe Branigan-Pipe
HWDSB Enrichment & Innovation Centre 

Jackie Penman
Manager of Corporate Communications
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
905-527-5092, ext.  2301
905-317-0086 (cell)




 The Happy Creek Learning Center
Redefining the optimal early learning environment

St. Gregory Catholic School Evergreen Catholic Schools
Hinton, Alta.

St. Gregory Catholic School has transformed its Early Childhood/Kindergarten classroom environment into the Happy Creek Learning Center, which offers a play-based multi-age hands-on learning model driven by the students’ interests and passions. This new approach has increased student engagement and learning significantly. Involving parents in the planning of this facility by sharing a strong evidence base in support of focusing on their childrens’ social and emotional development has fostered an extended family atmosphere among students, teachers and the community.

For more information

Media Inquiries 

Cindi Vaselenak
Evergreen Catholic Schools

Tim Fafard
St. Gregory Catholic School

Ray Côté
Media Relations
Evergreen Catholic Schools





Cochrane Healing Arts Time (CHAT) 
A safe place for students to refocus on learning

Cochrane High School – Rocky View Schools
Cochrane, Alta.

The Cochrane Healing Arts Time Program (CHAT) was developed in response to students who were at risk of disengaging from school due to the anxiety they experience from social and academic pressures. Facilitated by a certified art teacher, this creative arts program was designed to employ flexible instructional materials, techniques, and strategies to meet their students’ unique needs. The CHAT Room is a calm and welcoming space for students of mixed ages, skill sets and personal experiences to use healing arts as a tool to develop communications skills, self-esteem, confidence, creativity, advocacy, resilience, efficacy, and peer relationships.

For more information

Media Inquiries 

Brianne Link
Cochrane High School – CHAT Program

Edward Polhill
Cochrane High School
403-932-2542, ext. 4430

Angela Spanier
Communications Director
Rocky View Schools




Pedalling to Fuel Learning
Classroom cycling puts students in a better frame of mind to learn

 École élémentaire publique Jeanne-SauvéConseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CÉPEO)  
Orléans, Ont.

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With learning difficulties attributed to physical inactivity and attention deficit on the rise, this project aims to literally get students from Kindergarten through Grade 6 ‘moving’ in classrooms. Since November 2012, the students from l’école élémentaire publique Jeanne-Sauvé have biked across Canada. The school bought 2 to 3 stationary bikes for each class. The students begin in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador and end their trip in Victoria, B.C. This represents a distance of 8,316 km and students have travelled a total of 29,670 km to date. Five other schools in the district have since purchased bikes to emulate this model in their classrooms.

For more information

Media Inquiries 

André Larouche
École élémentaire publique Jeanne-Sauvé

David Benay
École élémentaire publique Jeanne-Sauvé

Corinne Labelle
Media Contact
Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario




#elADSB – Algoma DSB eLearning
Teachers empowering deep learning 

Algoma District School Board
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

This district-wide E-learning initiative is tackling the root causes of student disengagement by providing long-term support to a core group of 22 secondary school teachers from nine high schools and two alternative programs to take risks and transform their practice using online environments. Students who participate in this program choose what they study, which empowers them for deep learning through rich tasks and on-line collaboration.

For more information

Media Inquiries 

Marcy Bell
Algoma District School Board


Donna Fry
Provincial Lead for Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching
Ontario Ministry of Education

Fran Walsh
Communications Officer
Algoma District School Board



Carillon Community Mentoring
Mutually beneficial mixed-age learning 

École CarillonCommission Scolaire Marie-Victorin 
Longueuil, Qc

École Carillon is situated in a suburb of Montreal that includes a high proportion of disadvantaged students. At the beginning of each school year, groups consisting of Kindergarten and Grade 6 students are formed to participate in a variety of projects such as painting murals, assembling robots, and multicultural cooking, which all integrate science, language and math concepts.  These meaningful, inclusive projects are directly related to students’ tastes, interests and talents and help keep young people in school for the long term, which is too often not the case in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods.

For more information

Media Inquiries 

Dominique Comeau
Directrice de l’école
École Carillon

Marjolaine Filion / Alain Roy
École Carillon


Catherine Giroux
Conseillère en communication
Commission Scolaire Marie-Victorin
450-670-0730, ext 2018




« InnuRassemble »
A cross-cultural program that opens young minds to difference

École secondaire Serge-Bouchard Commission scolaire de l'Estuaire
Baie-Comeau, Qc

Polyvalente des Baies 
Baie-Comeau, Qc 

École secondaire Uashkaikan
Pessamit Reserve, Qc

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InnuRassemble is an ambitious intercultural teaching and learning approach to promote dialogue between students from Manicouagan communities and those from the Pessamit Innu reserve 60 kilometres away, on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River. Integrating the performing arts as well as all the subjects in the Quebec Education Program, this approach creates meaningful educational experiences for the students to help them develop strong, life-long skills. To experience a culture, one must spend time with different people, learn while doing things together, visit places and share experiences with mutual respect of each other's richness. Students are taught through these meaningful bi-cultural learning opportunities, which is a wonderful way of opening the minds and eyes of our young people!

For more information

Media Inquiries 


Johanne Munger
Conseillère pédagogique
Français, arts et culture
Commission scolaire de l’Estuaire
418-589-0806, ext. 4804

Patricia Lavoie
Agente aux communications
Commission scolaire de l’Estuaire
418-589-0806, ext. 4860



The Ken Spencer Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning was established with the generous contribution of Dr. Ken Spencer to recognize and publicize innovative work that is sustainable and has the potential of being taken up by others; to encourage a focus on transformative change in schools; and to provide profile for classroom innovation within school districts, schools, and the media.

About Dr. Ken Spencer

Dr. Ken Spencer was a past Director of the Canadian Education Association (CEA) and retired CEO and co-founder of Creo Products. In 2011, he was inducted as a business laureate of the British Columbia Hall of Fame. Since 2009, he has generously donated the financial awards for CEA’s Ken Spencer Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.

The current award holder:

  • HWDSB Enrichment & Innovation Centre, The Happy Creek Learning Center, Cochrane Healing Arts Time (CHAT), Pedalling to Fuel Learning, #elADSB – Algoma DSB eLearning, Carillon Community Mentoring, « InnuRassemble »

Previous winners:

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