On Dec. 19, Hillcrest Community School’s Simon Ives was awarded a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, the only kindergarten educator to receive the honour this year.
Ives received his certificate in a gym packed with supportive students and their parents, who went through a lengthy process to nominate him.
“It’s a big honour,” said Ives. “I think for me, honestly, the fact that it comes from the parents that’s what means the most about it.”
Parents John and Vanessa Rahme attended the award ceremony with their children Parker and Lily, who made Ives a poster to show their appreciation.
“They love Simon,” John said of his children. “He’s an incredibly gifted teacher, he’s very patient and makes them feel like coming to school is an exciting thing.
“It’s more his teaching style that stands out above the average teacher.”
Ives began an Eco-club at the school in order to get students interested in the environment. He said his goal as a teacher is to get kids excited about what they are learning. How he does that is what sets him apart.
“In kindergarten it’s a little bit different than the other grades,” he said. “You’re a little bit more of a performer maybe and so I guess I’m a little bit of a clown sometimes or a little bit of a comedian.”
Despite his playful and pleasant demeanour, Hillcrest’s principal, Nancy Lerner, said there are few who are as serious about their job as Ives.
“Simon’s got a unique teaching style in so much that he really respects and understands this age and stage in development in children,” said Lerner. “He understands how to encourage each child no matter what they come in to school with.”
St. Paul’s MP Carolyn Bennett presented the award to Ives and recalled how important a role her sons’ kindergarten teachers played at the beginning of their educational careers.
“It is the beginning of either loving learning or not,” she said.
Although Ives started out teaching grades 4 and 5, he learned to love educating kindergarteners.
“I like that they’re so enthusiastic and they say amazing things,” Ives said. “They have wonderful, almost magical, ways of seeing the world and explaining it so it’s really fun to get all their energy.”
Although Ives received the award after only eight years as a teacher, don’t expect it to go to his head. Lerner describes him as a humble, quiet and respectful person — one with a natural gift.
“Simon is one of those people for whom teaching is an art,” she said. “This man is meant to be a teacher in the truest sense of the word.”
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