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.
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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.
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.