Press releases

2013 CEA Whitworth Award Winner: A Sustained Focus on Students on the Margins

Dr. Kate Tilleczek recognized for her outstanding body of research that documents the impacts of the modern world on young people
Release date: 
10 October 2013
The Canadian Education Association (CEA) is pleased to honour Dr. Kate Tilleczek, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Youth Cultures and Transitions in the Faculty of Education and Arts (Sociology/Anthropology) at the University of Prince Edward Island, with the 2013 Whitworth Award for Career Research in Education. This award is in recognition of Dr. Tilleczek’s work in articulating the impacts of modern society on marginalized students in the context of transitions through school, mental health, and technology.

After 15 years of teaching at a regional university in Northern Ontario, Dr. Tilleczek embarked on a research career to explore how and why socioeconomic status represents one of the greatest predictors of how well students do at school and later in life. In 2005, she joined a group of dedicated colleagues at the Hospital for Sick Children with whom she continues to work today as an adjunct research scientist.

“Early on, there was a social justice undercurrent to my research as I thought about how schools are treating students from low-socioeconomic situations and with mental health problems, including First Nations and immigrant youth,” says Dr. Tilleczek. “In my research to date, a story has emerged from many years of studying young people and public education – and from my personal experiences – that schools needed to do much better for students on the margins and come to terms with how they contribute to the marginalization of today’s youth.”

Based on her previous research on early school leavers, student transitions from elementary to secondary school, and the issue of marginality, Dr. Tilleczek’s current ambitious portfolio includes community school building processes that engage students and communities in developing curriculum in both inner city Toronto and in five aboriginal communities in Southern Chile. She is also leading an international study on the educational and social impacts of technology on young people, and is co-leading another project in each Atlantic province to study how youth and their families are moving through mental health systems.

“With the complexity of young peoples’ social lives today, there are many teachers coming to me to say that mental health issues are the number one problem that kids are up against and they don’t know what to do,” says Dr. Tilleczek. “And you also can’t overlook the incredible impact of technology on students’ academic and social lives – both the good and bad of it.” 

Dr. Tilleczek’s research and publications to date inform policymakers on why and how they should make important policy and practice changes to better the lives of young people.

The Whitworth Award Selection Committee was appreciative of Dr. Tilleczek’s dedication to enhancing practice through careful theory building in education for the social well-being of children and youth in Canada and around the world. 

“Dr. Tilleczek’s work revolves around the biggest challenges that young people face in a modern world,” says Dr. Michele Jacobsen, Chair of the Whitworth Award Nominations Committee. “We’re fortunate to be able to look at these different aspects of their lives in such a compelling way through her compassionate lens.”

Dr. Tilleczek will share one big idea from her research that will answer the question: What’s standing in the way of change in education? at CEA’s Calgary Conference on October 21st. ( She will also be formally recognized with the 2013 CEA Whitworth Award and presenting alongside 2013 CEA Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Research co-winners, Dr. Steve Masson and Dr. Leyton Schnellart, as well as 2012 Clifford Award winner Dr. Michelle Hogue. 

To access a bibliography of Dr. Tilleczek’s work, please visit:

About the Whitworth Award

Since 1967, the Whitworth Award has recognized individuals who have made a sustained and substantial contribution to educational research over a period of time. It has been awarded since 1967 and is awarded every three years. 

About the Canadian Education Association (CEA)

Founded in 1891, the Canadian Education Association (CEA) is a network of passionate educators advancing ideas for greater student and teacher engagement in public education. CEA does this by conducting research and spreading useful ideas through its publications, website, workshops, symposia, and social media channels, and supporting education systems to be more adaptive to the rapidly changing needs of all learners in an effort to reverse the trend of students ‘tuning out’ of their learning opportunities.

For more information:

Max Cooke
CEA Director of Communications (bilingual)
Twitter: @max_cooke

Dave Atkinson
Research Communications Officer