The Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence recognizes “remarkable achievements in education and a commitment to preparing their students for a digital and innovation-based economy.” Sunset Park Public School teacher Anna Pearson exemplifies these qualities and much more, which is why she is a recipient of this year’s Teaching Excellence award.
A Grade 5/6 French Immersion teacher, in addition to teaching literacy in both official languages, Pearson instructs students in math, physical education, visual arts, science and social studies. One of her favourite subjects is social studies, as it allows her to encourage students to “think critically about past and current events and issues facing their world.”
Sunset Park Principal Amy Wood said, “The staff and students at Sunset Park Public School are so fortunate to have the honour of working alongside and with Anna Pearson. She is a true team player and is dedicated to her students, always modelling her love of learning. Her teaching styles are innovative, she encourages students to develop higher level thinking skills and her learning environment is engaging, allowing students to learn through exploration and hands-on practice.”
Pearson said it is important for her as a teacher to incorporate a variety of stimulating and engaging lessons where students learn through exploration and hands-on activities to keep them active and engaged in the curriculum.
Pearson’s classes have participated in writing tasks that saw students researching and writing biographies of fallen WWII soldiers from North Bay’s Algonquin Regiment and participating in a commemoration ceremony at the Algonquin Regiment War Memorial. During anti-bullying week, Pearson taught her students about real-world “upstanders” like Martin Luther King Jr., Viola Desmond, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Malala Yousafzai. Students then created biographies on a chosen upstander.
As part of her commitment to anti-bullying and ethical decision making, Pearson’s students met with Holocaust survivor Eva Olsson who spoke to students in Grades 4-6 at the school about her experience and trauma in the Holocaust and the importance of bullying prevention.
“In my commitment to citizenship education and diversity, over the years, it is important to me to engage guest speakers from various backgrounds who tell their own stories, in their own words,” Pearson said. “Guest speakers have included An Nguyen, the child of Vietnamese refugees who taught my students about the historical trauma and forced migration but also about Vietnamese culture such as New Year (Tet), Ms. Erica Kataquapit of Attawapiskat who taught my students about the importance of wampum belts and Dr. Amadou Ba, a Senegalese-Canadian francophone to speak my students about West African Culture, music and dance.”
Pearson also utilizes guest speakers to encourage her students to make real-world connections with emerging technologies, such as when she had a Marvel Studios Special FX manager speak to students about coding and animation.
Pearson takes full advantage of the vast learning opportunities that technology presents “to provide unique and innovative opportunities to actively engage in hands-on, inquiry-based learning with a variety of technologies,” she said.
Pearson’s students have travelled virtually through the Canadian Parliament buildings, a Lancaster bomber, Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford and a powerful virtual engagement with Anne Frank’s secret annex.
“I also use technology to bridge cross-curricular subjects and citizenship education. Through virtual experiential learning of the immigrant experience, I encouraged my students to explore specific settler communities related to their heritage and past while interweaving stories of Indigenous ways of knowing and being,” Pearson said.
Pearson models the commitment to life-long learning that she encourages in her students. Pearson is currently studying to achieve her PhD in education while teaching in the education program at Nipissing University. She also is active in the community teaching dance and martial arts.
A notable chapter in Pearson’s life-long learning was a scholarship to attend an educator seminar in Jerusalem, Israel where she learned approaches to teaching the Holocaust to junior students.
“The scholarship program solidified my commitment to teaching my students about social justice and linking my teaching to current events and difficult subjects. Every year we participate in International Holocaust Remembrance Day and discuss difficult topics in an appropriate and yet impactful manner,” Pearson said.
In 2020 Pearson was honoured for her Holocaust education in the classroom as a distinguished educator by the Canadian Society of Yad Vashem.
Superintendent of Education Timothy Graves said, “We are proud to recognize Anna Pearson as one of our outstanding educators and look forward to seeing her students flourish as they move on into their futures. Anna embodies the objectives outlined in the Board’s Multi-year Strategic Plan. She is an active and engaging educator and always connects her lessons to real-world issues while making them thought-provoking and poignant for her students.”
Since 1994, the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence have honoured more than 1,700 exceptional teachers from across Canada. At an upcoming ceremony, Nipissing- Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota will present Pearson with an official certificate and a letter signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Sunset Park Public School will also receive an official certificate.