Poplar Ridge teacher wins national award

A local teacher is one of 15 across the country to be honoured with a national award for teaching.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper presents teacher Wayne Phillips with the award at Monday’s ceremony.

A local teacher is one of 15 across the country to be honoured with a national award for teaching.

Wayne Phillips, who teaches at Poplar Ridge Elementary School, was recognized with the prime minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Ottawa on Monday.

During the ceremony, Phillips received a certificate and pin, along with a letter from the prime minister and $5,000 to be used for professional development, equipment, resource materials or other tools for teacher or student learning at his school.

“I’m very pleased. I’m really thankful for the parent who nominated me,” said Phillips, speaking on his cellphone in Ottawa.

The awards are given to outstanding and innovative elementary and secondary school teachers who instil a love of learning in their students and use technology to prepare young people for 21st century society.

Phillips, 54, is a Grade Three/Four teacher at Poplar Ridge Elementary School eight km west of the City of Red Deer. He has taught at the school for all of the 18 years he has been a teacher.

Before becoming a teacher, Phillips delivered mail for 11 years, but he wanted a change. He had always loved working with kids and his wife Cindy is also a teacher so the profession seemed a natural fit. Besides teaching, he serves as a technology integration leader with one of his colleagues at the school, providing leadership and direction to teachers on how they can use technology in their lessons.

Poplar Ridge principal Barb Eklund said Phillips is highly energetic, enthusiastic and student focused.

“Another part of Wayne that is so valuable is that he is constantly reflecting on his teaching practice and seeking feedback in order to refine the effectiveness of his abilities in the classroom,” Eklund said. She said he is very supportive of other staff members, as well as being open to learning from others at the school.

Among the unique activities he has in his class is assigning his Grade 3 students jobs, including class photographer, computer helper and classroom manager, with students completing a resume, cover letter and references to apply.

In the classroom, students can earn “brain bucks” for performing their classroom jobs well, putting in extra effort or cleaning up after themselves. At the end of the year, there is an auction and students can use their brain bucks to buy something special.

Poplar Ridge teacher Jeff Goodyear shared teaching duties with Phillips in the past in combined classroom with close to 50 students.

“One thing about Wayne is that he is passionate. He goes the extra mile,” Goodyear said. “And when something comes along that might be good for his kids, like a SMART Board or whatever, he jumps into it feet first and gets it into his classroom as fast as he can. Kids just love being in his class. He gets them jazzed about learning.”


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