One is an advocate for outdoor learning and students with disabilities; another a diligent supporter of languages and an advocate for students of African heritage. Both are recipients of the York Region District School Board’s (YRDSB) annual Teacher of the Year Award.
Andrea Häefele of Highgate Public School in Markham has worked with staff members and students to advocate for accessible playgrounds close to the school. She also successfully appealed to the Town of Markham to resurface play areas so all students could take advantage of the facilities.
She helps develop Student Champions to support the school’s breakfast program, which provides a hot breakfast and nutritious snacks to more than 80 students. Häefele has worked with the Equity Team to teach junior students about ableism and shares her knowledge of support services for special needs students with families and staff. She encourages parents and grandparents to play active roles in the school community, bringing some in to teach the Dragon Dance, for example.
Elizabeth Pereira, a teacher at Milliken Mills High School in Unionville for 30 years, works diligently to ensure the Spanish and French language curriculum is engaging, culturally responsive and relevant for all learners. Under her guidance, the school received certification for its International Baccalaureate program last year. She also provides free tutoring for students from junior kindergarten through Grade 12 who struggle with reading and writing in English and French.
Together with a small team of teachers, Pereira developed the Nubian Excellence Club to support students of African heritage. A longstanding member of the Alliance of Educators for Black Students, she also launched its annual fundraiser for scholarships and parent conference. When the boys’ basketball program was in jeopardy due to the loss of a coach, Pereira took on the role of staff advisor to ensure the team could continue.
“Each year, the YRDSB recognizes teachers who have demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting student achievement,” said Louise Sirisko, Director of Education. “Teacher of the Year recipients are teachers who exemplify our Mission, Vision and Values as well as other practices that enhance classroom and school success.”
Top photo: Teacher of the Year recipient Andrea Häefele’s holds her award. She’s with, from left, Director of Education Louise Sirisko, her principal Lisa Stover and trustee Juanita Nathan. Next photo: Elizabeth Pereira holds her award and is pictured with Sirisko, her principal Alex Corry and Nathan. Photos courtesy of the York Region District School Board.