She’s barely had time to unpack from her recent National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions Grosvener Teacher Fellow trip to the Galapagos Island, and now Janet Ruest is off again, this time to Ottawa to accept The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s Innovation in Geography Teaching Award, Canada’s highest geography K-12 teaching award.
“We are delighted that Janet’s community nominated her for this prestigious award,” says Connie Wyatt Anderson, Chair of Canadian Geographic Education Nov. 12.
“Janet teaches geography in a way that harnesses teen energy and curiosity to better appreciate the world we share. She deserves the recognition this award can bring.”
As for Ruest, she’s overwhelmed.
“I’m humbled. There are so many hard working dedicated, passionate teachers who will go their entire careers without very much recognition,” she said.
“I feel that I share this award with them, because for the last 26 years, I have been that person. I’ve been a teacher for 27 years and I love making a difference in the lives of students.”
The Innovation in Geography Teaching Award is comprised of a medal and $2,500 prize, split evenly between the award winner and a donation in their name to support geographic education in Canada.
It recognizes an outstanding contribution to geographic education in Canada and will be presented by The Honourable Nellie Taptaqut Kusugak, Commissioner of Nunavut at a medal ceremony on Nov. 18
Ruest will be in good company at the award ceremony, which will be attended by celebrated authors Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, who will both be receiving the Society’s gold medal.
Her recent experiences have taught Ruest that communities like Chemainus and Ladysmith may be small, but they can shoot for top honours.
“We can’t use the fact that we live in small communities or teach in small schools as an excuse that we are not ‘good enough’,” Ruest said.
“We have some amazing teachers in our valley and they are doing wonderful things with and for their students. I also hope my recognition will inspire students to set the bar for themselves a little bit higher.”
Ruest’s teaching methods are achieving classroom results. Today her students are working as urban planners, geographic information systems (GIS) consultants, hydrographers, and engineers.
For Jane Kaiser, now working as a GIS consultant, Ruest’s teaching style had a big impact.
“Janet was one of those teachers that you remember for the rest of your life. I feel she has always made an effort to go the extra mile by innovating and finding new ways for her students to connect with the geographic field of study.”
For Ruest, those kinds of words from former students are the best reward of all.