There’s something about Strawberry Vale that draws out the best in early grade teachers.
For the third straight year, an educator from Strawberry Vale elementary school has won the district-wide Parent’s Choice award from the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.
This year’s Parents’ Choice award has co-winners, Grade 4 teacher Hannah Gough and Grade 3 education assistant Franciso Munoz in Bev Ross’ class.
Both are acknowledged for using enthusiasm and art to connect with kids in a genuine way that motivates them.
Jenni Mason is a mother who has witnessed the benefits of having her son in Gough’s classroom.
“[Gough’s] quirkiness catches the kids’ attention, she has a large class and still manages to connect with each child,” Mason said. “It’s fun and engaging in such a way, I don’t think they even realize it. She makes them feel like they’re special, it’s a natural gift that’s part of her personality. As a parent you love seeing it.”
Munoz was actually paired in the same class as Gough last year, when she was nominated for the award won by Strawberry Vale’s Grade 3 teacher Jenn Horton. The year before that, it was Strawberry Vale’s Richard Graham who won the Parents’ Choice award.
“[Gough’s] use of music in the classroom is a big part of her success, whether it gives them a break from class, or just something different, it motivates the kids and she gets them excited about going into the class,” Munoz said.
The Strawberry Vale fan club for both Gough and Munoz goes beyond parents to teachers too.
“The first year [Munoz] arrived at Strawberry Vale he was in my class, and I thought, ‘We won the EA lottery,’” said teacher Bev Ross. “Now I have him again, and he does so much for the school in such a quiet way, people don’t realize it.”
On top of helping design and build the artistic sets for school plays, Munoz has led multiple school art features including hand-printed tiles and a mural mosaic at the entryway.
A few years ago, while working with a boy with cerebral palsy, Munoz really showed his true colours, Ross said.
The boy received a new motorized wheelchair but was slow to try using it. Munoz introduced a goal of having the boy earn a ‘wheelchair driver’s licence,’ which Munoz designed and created. Over time, Munoz helped motivate the boy by building mini obstacle courses and encouraging him to try them out. At the annual school bike rodeo, the boy manoeuvred an obstacle course, and police awarded the boy a licence. The incident took place in front of the whole school, which erupted in cheers. All the while, Munoz was in the corner, away from all the celebration and taking no credit.
“It’s humbling that the parents would take time out of their own busy lives to to recognize us,” Munoz said.
For every new award winner there is also a retiring teacher. This year Gough filled in for Lenny Ross, who is retiring after going on medical leave.
Ross leaves as a very highly regarded teacher for his environment teaching and as an early adopter of the outdoor education concept. He created the pond that is now a cornerstone of outdoor education at Strawberry Vale. He also spearheaded the school’s Nature Play Perimeter Pathway when he originally sketched it onto the back of a picket sign during the 2014 strike. It’s led to a new edible garden, a First Nations-style big house, and more.
VCPAC Award winners
School Partnership award: Brent Kelly, retiring principal of Gordon Head middle school (37 years).
Victor Gim Inspirational Student Award: Hailey Prescott, George Jay elementary.
Gail Edwards Memorial dedicated parent award: Morley Bryant, Macaulay elementary, and Lisa Woo, Lambrick Park secondary and Gordon Head middle school.
John Young award: John Bird, Reynolds secondary and parent advocate for VCPAC.
Arkell award: Beverlee Forward, George Jay Elementary.
Fine Arts Champion award: Jody Onuma, Campus View elementary.