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Booker School teacher receives national award for Cornwallis project

Booker School teacher Temma Frecker sits with students who took part in her inquiry-based unit on Edward Cornwallis, the controversial founder of Halifax, whose statue stood in the city until recently removed and stored. Her unit caught the attention of Canada’s History, and Frecker has since received the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching from the organization.
Booker School teacher Temma Frecker sits with students who took part in her inquiry-based unit on Edward Cornwallis, the controversial founder of Halifax, whose statue stood in the city until recently removed and stored. Her unit caught the attention of Canada’s History, and Frecker has since received the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching from the organization. - Sara Ericsson

Temma Frecker described as teacher who ‘provokes [students] to question the world around them’

PORT WILLIAMS – A Port Williams teacher is the recipient of a national teaching award recognizing her role in captivating students by making history relevant in her classroom.

Booker School teacher Temma Frecker has been named a recipient of the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching for her unit on Edward Cornwallis – and his eponymous Halifax statue – during which she led her middle school students in discussing the Halifax founder’s controversial history.

The students argued Cornwallis’ statue should remain as an educational tool and presented a compelling case that’s captivated the province, their teacher, and now Canada’s History.

“[The students] were so surprised adults were listening to them, and that their voice actually mattered. That’s something you take with you for the rest of your life, and you come away with a strong sense that you can actually make a difference,” said Frecker.

Frecker says the students were surprised that adults listened, and that their voices mattered. “That’s something you take with you for the rest of your life, and you come away with a strong sense that you can actually make a difference,” she said.
Frecker says the students were surprised that adults listened, and that their voices mattered. “That’s something you take with you for the rest of your life, and you come away with a strong sense that you can actually make a difference,” she said.

Frecker and other staff members at the school use inquiry-based learning methods and often follow what she calls the ‘inquiry cycle’ when tackling a new unit – identify questions, seek ways to delve deeper, and decide how to share findings and take action.

These students took action during their unit on Cornwallis by sending a letter to the province and Halifax that argued the statue should remain standing among three new statues of other historic Nova Scotians, a proposal that caught the attention of Deputy Mayor Waye Mason, who told students they were “at the forefront of a national conversation” when he visited the school in February.

The statue of Edward Cornwallis that used to stand in a Halifax park. TIM KROCHAK • THE CHRONICLE HERALD
The statue of Edward Cornwallis that used to stand in a Halifax park. TIM KROCHAK • THE CHRONICLE HERALD

After the proposal received widespread media attention, Frecker was contacted by Canada’s History and encouraged to apply for the award.

And since head of school James Weekes shared the news over the school’s social media, comments have poured in from Frecker’s past colleagues, schoolmates and students – some of whom Frecker taught over a decade ago.

“Students I taught up north in Nunavik have been like, ‘hey look, that’s my old teacher’ – kids who would be in their late-twenties now – and I don’t even know how the word got out, so that’s pretty fun to see,” she said.

Weekes said he feels proud Frecker has received the recognition, which he said “shows what can happen when there’s a system that supports teacher creativity and ingenuity.”

“We don’t always have to stick to strict deadlines and structures. If the children are inspired by something, we can run with it – that’s what Temma does really well. She provokes them to question the world around them, and challenges them,” he said.

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