University of Regina Graduate student wins 2011 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching

News Release Release Date: December 9, 2011 9:00 a.m.

University of Regina Faculty of Education graduate student, Sylvia Smith, is the winner of the 2011 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching – the nation’s top teaching prize.

The award was created in 1996, by Canada’s National History Society. The award honours teachers who excel at bringing history to life for their students. It inspires teachers and schools to strive for excellence in Canadian history education, and promotes the sharing of best practices. The award is administered by Canada’s National History Society.

“I was somewhat speechless,” said Smith, in explaining her reaction to winning the Governor General’s award. “There are so many other great teachers out there, that it was really quite shocking, and quite an honour. It took a little while for it to settle in.”

Smith is a teacher at Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternative High School in Ottawa, Ontario.  Her work, Project of Heart is an innovative, educational tool kit designed to engage students in a deeper exploration of Indigenous traditions in Canada and help students understand the history of Indian residential schools

Indigenous concepts of education and literacy are fully integrated into the curriculum. Elders from First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities regularly participate in classroom presentations and discussions. Students lead many of the projects, demonstrating their learning through videos and multimedia presentations. One project in particular involves students decorating small wooden tiles that represent the thousands of young lives lost due to the effects of the Indian residential schools system.

A key objective of the program is to encourage “ownership” of this historic injustice by enacting gestures of reconciliation for the past. Project of Heart continues to be shared with elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools in other regions of Canada. It was showcased at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first national event, held in Winnipeg in June of 2010.

Smith will receive her award in Ottawa during a two-day Canada’s History Awards Event, on December 11 and 12, 2011