Grande Prairie, AB – Nicole Cooper, a first-year math and science teacher at Sexsmith Secondary School (SSS), is the 2020 Edwin Parr Teacher Award nominee for Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWPSD). The award, presented annually by the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA), recognizes one outstanding first-year teacher in each of the six ASBA zones. The nomination was a joint effort by SSS Assistant Principals Alison Lario and Jennifer Thompson.
Ms. Cooper graduated with combined Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education degrees from the University of Lethbridge in 2019, prior to joining SSS in September to teach Grade 7 Math, Grade 8 Science, and Biology 20 and 30.
"Speechless" is the word she uses to express her initial reaction to the award nomination.
"Becoming a teacher is all I have ever wanted. It is humbling to receive this recognition in the first year of my dream job, especially in a division filled with others who have set such high standards of education and student engagement."
She describes her first year of teaching as an amazing adventure.
"I could not predict having to teach through a pandemic in my first year, but my phenomenal coworkers have gone above and beyond. Their unwavering support has fueled my passion for education, causing it to grow all the more. }
"It can be difficult to fully comprehend the depth of what being a teacher really means. For me, every day spent working with young, bright minds is new and fresh. Their ability to teach me as much as I can teach them is invigorating and rewarding. Not being able to see my students' beaming faces every day has made it very clear to me that I am fully in this career for them. I can confidently say that they are the most important part of my day."
In their nomination letter to the selection committee, Ms. Lario and Ms. Thompson commended the first-year teacher for her willingness to pull from the expertise of seasoned colleagues and collaborate with staff to support the needs of students.
The pair say Ms. Cooper regularly blends creativity with her depth of subject matter knowledge to create an engaging classroom environment for her students, turning a Biology 20 lab on macromolecules into a Murder Mystery study of digestive forensics. A "Barbie Drop" project saw groups of Grade 10 students working together on mathematical equations to calculate drop data based on the height and weight of a doll and the bungee cord length.
"Ms. Cooper uses her professional knowledge to overlap curricular outcomes in ways that add real depth of student understanding. She also asks students to read articles that provide real world connections to science curriculum."
The Assistant Principals applaud Ms. Cooper for her relationship-building skills, beginning with her "Get to Know You" survey on the first day of school to identify students' interests and learning styles, through to the professionalism she exhibits in her communication with parents. She immersed herself in school culture as coach of the SSS Sabres Senior Boys Volleyball Team, joined the staff wellness committee, and was a teacher team member for the Hoops for Hearts basketball tournament. She will expand her coaching assignment to include badminton in the upcoming school year.
PWPSD congratulates Ms. Cooper on her nomination and wishes her success as she moves forward to the Zone 1 competition. The winner for the region is announced at the ASBA Zone 1 Fall General Meeting.
About the Award
Edwin Parr, past-president of the Alberta School Trustees' Association during 1956-1962, instituted an 'Annual Teacher Award' in his school system. Now presented by the ASBA, formerly the Alberta School Trustees' Association, the Edwin Parr Teacher Award was established in 1964 as a way in which Mr. Parr's memory might be perpetuated, and to honour the profession he so dearly respected.
Each year, the ASBA honours six outstanding first-year teachers with Edwin Parr Awards, representing each ASBA zone. School Boards are restricted to nominating a single candidate for the award. Awards will be presented to the winners at individual zone functions prior to the ASBA Fall General Meeting. For more information, visit http://www.asba.ab.ca.
Photo Caption: Nicole Cooper, a first-year teacher at Sexsmith Secondary School, is PWPSD's nominee for the 2020 Zone 1 Edwin Parr Teacher Award.