They teach at schools just blocks apart, but Rosemary Paniccia and Claudine Tyrell had never met.
Not until May 5, when both were honoured with Ontario’s New Teacher of the Year awards.
Paniccia, in her third year of teaching at Notre Dame High School, and Tyrell, a guidance counsellor at Malvern Collegiate, were two of 24 teachers who received Premier’s Awards for Teaching Excellence this year at the Atlantis Event Centre.
Days later at a photo shoot, the pair’s shared desire to improve the education experience of their students was evident as they chatted and laughed like old friends.
But both women have distinct approaches to education that make them stand out.
Paniccia said she’s fulfilled one of her goals: to make her English courses more relevant to her students.
“Notre Dame is an all girls school and I thought to bring in more female author texts to study,” she said.
Paniccia introduced a range of books from female authors of different cultural backgrounds. She said her students really connected with the material about girl identity.
In her Civics class, Paniccia’s students ran their own clothing drive for Jessie’s Centre for Teenagers, an organization that assists pregnant teens. She wants to teach her students that they are capable of reaching out to the local community.
“Women have the power to change the world in a positive way,” she said. “It’s about what message you take away from this experience.”
Paniccia is honoured by the recognition.
“I love to do it. I wouldn’t be a teacher if I didn’t love teaching and didn’t love the students,” she said.
Just down the street at Malvern CI, Tyrell was faced with the heady task of helping students who were struggling in school get on the right track.
“I was working with kids that were disengaged and with students that were not successful in their courses,” she said.
Tyrell spent her free time working with the students to help them earn their credits.
“Sometimes you’re just attracted to those sort of students,” she said. “It’s a different type of person that can work with other students in different ways to relate to them and make the class exciting.”
Nanci Harris, a parent council member at Malvern, saw how hard Tyrell worked to assist students, and decided to nominate her for the award.
“She exemplifies everything that was described as being someone who would deserve an award in excellence,” she said. “I have the privilege of seeing the support, encouraging and guidance she provides to my daughter.”
Winning this award came unexpectedly for Tyrell.
“I am very humbled by it and really didn’t expect to win,” she said. “It is just an honour being nominated.”
The Premier’s Awards for Teaching Excellence are given to Ontario educators every year who have made significant contributions to the school and the students’ lives.
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