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Carstairs teacher making connections for student success

Meaghan Halkyard nominated for Edwin Parr Award
MVT Meaghan Halkyard
Hugh Sutherland School teacher Meaghan Halkyard. Submitted photo

CARSTAIRS - First-year Carstairs Hugh Sutherland School teacher Meaghan Halkyard has been nominated for the prestigious Alberta School Board Association (ASBA) Edwin Parr Award, recognizing her commitment to student success.

The provincial award is handed out to a teacher who shows significant promise in his or her first year of teaching. 

The eight school divisions in Zone 4 select a nominee for the award. Halkyard’s nomination was announced at the Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD) board meeting.

Originally from Cochrane and an April 2020 graduate of the University of Calgary, Halkyard, 23, teaches English and Social Studies at Hugh Sutherland.

Starting her first year of teaching the middle of the pandemic has created challenges and opportunities, she told The Albertan.

“I never thought I’d be starting my dream career in the middle of a global pandemic,” said Halkyard. “It has given me a lot of opportunities to test my own creativity. It’s been interesting but I’ve had so much support.”

Connecting with each of her students is a big part of her teaching method, she says.

“Checking in with every single student every day and enjoying a deep connection to learning together, that shows how I approach teaching,” she said. “It’s really important for me that my students feel loved and accepted and ready to achieve.”

Even with the current COVID-19 restrictions such as social distancing in place right now, she says its remains as important as ever to find ways engage and work together.

“Students just have a mindset that they can succeed, and this year they are relying on the supports around them to help them move forward,” she said.

Ensuring students are making their mental health a priority is vitally important throughout the school year, she said, noting that students are also helping her too.

“It’s a big priority in my classroom, as well as in the school as a whole,” she said. “We do a lot of mental health check-ins to make sure that it is talked about and normalized.

“I love the focus on wellness, respect and kindness in Chinook’s Edge, because I believe it supports student success. They (CESD) have such a healthy approach and I’m learning from them every day. 

“It actually helps with my own resiliency, because I’m teaching a full course load of four core subjects which can be a challenge in the first year.”

As well as her core class work, Halkyard has also been involved in other ways with the school community, including establishing home-school partnerships with parents and lending her time to the school’s GSA (gay-straight alliance) support program.

She calls being nominated for the award a great honour.

“I am beyond excited,” she said. “To be someone chosen from such an exceptional group of first-year students is a huge honour to me.”

Jody Dennis is the CESD division principal.

“What is truly key to her success is her ability to form deep relationships,” said Dennis. “She has clear expectations and is meticulously prepared for lessons, which allows her to transition seamlessly from one activity to another.

“She has a talent for encouraging students to go deeper in their understanding of concepts and much is accomplished in her classroom, because students know she cares about them.”

The divisions in Zone 4 are Battle River, CESD, Clearview, Red Deer Catholic, Red Deer Public, Wetaskiwin, Wild Rose and Wolf Creek.

The Edwin Parr Award in Zone 4 will be presented at a virtual celebration on May 31.

Dan Singleton

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