Chemainus Secondary School teacher Janet Ruest was recognized in Ottawa on Wednesday as she received a prestigious award from Governor General Julie Payette.
The 22nd Governor General’s History Awards honoured exceptional achievements in five areas: teaching, museums, community programming, scholarly research, and popular media.
“I am proud of my students. I tried to design a project that fit both the history and geography curricula and my students rose to the challenge,” said Ruest, who joined 20 others including educators as well as students, community groups and cultural organizations all receiving awards.
“I am accepting this award on behalf of my students. Thank you to the thousands of students who, throughout my career, have helped make me the teacher I am today.”
Inspired by the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary and the desire to have students make personal connections to the curriculum she was teaching, Ruest asked her Social Studies 10 students to go beyond the textbook and research some lesser-known stories that were of interest to them.
Students were asked to interview someone who was at least 30 years older, and then share their learning and connections in a way of their choosing—some chose to write a short story, create a Prezi or PowerPoint, poster boards or other method.
One student took a more unique approach and created a “spy’s suitcase” to display their learning, which focused on her discovery that her great-grandfather was a spy for Bulgaria during World War II. A celebration of learning was held to showcase the result of this learning to their school community.
A highlight of this approach, according to Ruest, was that students had a choice in their topic, which gave students from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds a way to celebrate their family history.
“Pushing learners to think beyond the textbooks and connect with real-life examples that help them make sense of what they are learning is exactly what 21st century learning is
about,” said Rod Allen, Superintendent of SD 79. “Janet’s students are incredibly engaged in their learning, and that is a huge testament to not only what she is teaching, but how she is teaching it.”
Last spring, Ruest was the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Certificate of Achievement Award for Teaching Excellence, where she was recognized for a series of achievements, including continuously bringing community into her classroom.