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‘They have voices that matter’: Empowering students at the heart of award-winning Port Williams teacher’s work

Booker School teacher Temma Frecker shakes hands with Governor General Julie Payette after being presented with the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching. -- Andrew Workman/Canada’s History Society
Booker School teacher Temma Frecker shakes hands with Governor General Julie Payette after being presented with the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching. -- Andrew Workman/Canada’s History Society - Contributed

PORT WILLIAMS, N.S. – Winning a national teaching award has reaffirmed a Port Williams educator’s belief that she’s on the right track in the classroom.

Booker School teacher Temma Frecker was presented with the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching on Jan. 28 from Governor General Julie Payette in Ottawa for her unit on Edward Cornwallis.

Frecker accepted her award alongside Booker School graduate Will Mercer, who she first met at a farmers’ market about 10 years ago when he and his family were handing out leaflets about wanting to found a private school.

Frecker was later hired as the school’s first teacher.

“It’s been a really big journey that goes beyond the Cornwallis unit… I’ve been teaching Will since he was seven years old. To see what he’s grown into, up on that stage and so well-spoken and articulate in representing how we do things at Booker School, it was amazing,” says Frecker.

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.
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.

“It was a nice full-circle kind of experience.”

The project Frecker was recognized for involved her Grade 6, 7 and 8 students who concluded that the statue should remain standing and serve as an educational tool, with the addition of statues representing other cultures in Nova Scotia.

The unit culminated with the students sending their own written proposal to government bodies, including the Halifax Regional Council, whose councillor Waye Mason told the students they were “at the forefront of a national conversation.”

Frecker says this unit, and others, are always focused “around student empowerment, and giving them agency.”
“I want them to understand that they have a voice, and it’s a voice that matters. They can go out and make change in the world because it’s not just a platitude – it’s true, and has meaning,” she says.

Temma Frecker says she tells students to be true to themselves, and has followed her own advice. Being true to herself has meant giving students the tools and know-how to engage with and contribute to their communities - no matter their age, she says.
Temma Frecker says she tells students to be true to themselves, and has followed her own advice. Being true to herself has meant giving students the tools and know-how to engage with and contribute to their communities - no matter their age, she says.

Booker School principal James Weekes said in November 2018 that he feels proud Frecker has received the recognition.

“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.

Frecker says the award is recognition not only for her, but also for the Booker School and the kind of teaching it encourages. After feeling inspired by the other award winners and their respective projects, Frecker says she’s looking forward to engaging with more such units.

She says the award process has also shown her that she, too, benefits from remembering that she has a voice, and that she’s successfully used it to achieve her own dream of becoming her own kind of teacher.

“I encourage students to be true to themselves, so I guess for me being true to myself is teaching the way I teach,” she says.

Sara.Ericsson@kingscountynews.ca

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