2022 PRPS Edwin Parr Nominee Lisa Dixon
For Lisa, the journey to the front of the classroom did not begin right out of high school. Instead, her path to teaching led her in many directions and through all aspects of working with children. Before returning to post-secondary, Lisa worked in preschools, daycares and even as an Educational Assistant (EA) for ten years at Margaret Wooding, Parkside and RMAP in Prairie Rose Public Schools. Still, it was her son who eventually inspired her to take the leap to go back to school to get her Education degree.
“My son struggled in school. He had to learn differently in order to understand the concepts being taught, so all of those strategies put in place for all learners really did help him.”
As a mother of a child who was not your typical in-the-box learner, Lisa recognized that each child required a different level and approach to learning to be successful. This understanding was further reinforced through her previous work as an EA where she was always looking for ways to support students based on individual learning preferences.
“I really learned how to be flexible and intuitive to support all learners. So incorporating those universal design strategies in my classroom now as a teacher just feels like it is just a part of who I am and what I do because it is how I had to help support my students with special needs as an EA. In my classroom, it is more about equity over equality. I feel like everybody needs something different. We all learn in different ways.”
Lisa currently works as a grade 5 teacher at Ralston School on the Canadian Forces Base Suffield. Principal Stacey Nunweiler says that she knew right away when interviewing Lisa that she would be a fabulous teacher and a perfect fit for Ralston School, where 90% of the student population comes from outside of Canada.
“Her life experience and desire to make a difference in student learning were admirable. Lisa took the first part of the year building relationships with her students that allowed them to trust her even with their vulnerabilities. Lisa has a passion for making learning equitable in her classroom that includes making the curriculum accessible to all her students through tools, strategies and intentionally planning to work one to one with students as much as possible.”
As well as ensuring equity and equality among her students, Lisa also has a strong passion for learning about culture and incorporating this knowledge into her classroom teachings. As an EA she spent many years working with Mennonite families, while in her current classroom, she has students from the UK, Ghana and Nepal. She has also taken a special interest in indigenous studies and enjoys finding unique ways to incorporate these teachings into her instructional practices.
“It is important to me to educate students about the inequalities that still exist today in Canada and why we participate in reconciliation. I find if you want to create critical thinkers, you need to talk about the heavy stuff, those topics that make people uncomfortable. But as the facilitator, I can navigate these topics with students to make it appropriate and show each other we can appreciate each other's opinions and ideas and maybe even be persuaded to think differently.”
When asked where she sees herself in the next five to ten years, Lisa says she wants to keep learning and growing throughout her career and feels blessed to be working in a profession that allows that to happen. She also looks forward to being part of the special moments that come from being a teacher, mentor and caregiver.
“My heart is just beaming all the time. When you have just those moments where the lightbulb goes on with the kids, or you get nominated for this amazing award, there are many ways to feel rewarded. This career is awesome because you are not in this alone. You are in this with other people willing to share and inspire you. I want to be one of those people for somebody else.”
The Edwin Parr Teacher Award is presented annually by the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) to six exceptional first-year teachers from across the province of Alberta. Each spring, Alberta school divisions nominate and recognize one outstanding teacher who will represent them at the zone awards ceremony. The Prairie Rose Public Schools’ board of trustees would like to congratulate Lisa and wish her luck at the Zone 6 awards event in May.