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2 Saskatchewan teachers recognized with Prime Minister’s Awards

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WATCH: Two Saskatchewan teachers are being honoured with Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence for their work during the pandemic to keep students engaged and excited about learning – Nov 29, 2021

Two Saskatchewan teachers have been honoured for going above and beyond to get kids excited about learning with Prime Minister’s Awards.

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence have honoured exceptional elementary and secondary school teachers in all disciplines since 1994. Teaching Excellence Awards recipients are honoured for their achievements in education and for their commitment to preparing their students. Nominations for the award come from the teacher’s community.

High school math teacher Nat Banting has won a Certificate of Teaching Excellence in STEM. Elementary school teacher Shelley Smith has received a Teaching Excellence Certificate of Achievement.

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A student favourite at Marion M. Graham Collegiate in Saskatoon, Banting has received international acclaim for his math programs.

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“Everybody likes Mr. Banting,” student Sebela White said. “Nobody likes math, so it’s weird to have a teacher that’s a math teacher who not only makes you want to spend time with them, but also want to spend time in their classroom.”

Banting’s approach focuses on meeting students at their level of learning and their day-to-day lives.

“We’re trying to maintain the integrity of their future because their education is a really important piece of that, but at the same time we’re trying to figure out how we can care for them in a very real way,” said Banting.

Read more: Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation urges government to act on COVID-19 transmission in schools

The last two years have been a testament to students’ perseverance, he adds.

“It’s been very interesting, and I think teachers don’t give up easily,” Banting said. “We pursue our students’ thinking as much as we can and as fervently as possible.”

While Banting is preparing young people for the next step into post secondary, Shelley Smith is getting her kindergarteners ready for first grade at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Warman, Sask.

“If I can instill a love of learning and a commitment to helping each other get better, then I think that’s a good start for them to become independent, confident and capable community members once they leave my classroom,” Smith said.

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It’s a little difficult for her to accept the teaching honour. She knows how hard her colleagues and friends in the teaching community have also been working to ensure stability and continuity for students.

Read more: Saskatoon schools see significant drop in online students for 2nd pandemic school year

“I think when you’re a teacher that you have to just adjust to what is put in front of you,” Smith said. “Children are resilient as long as you’re resilient.”

Shelley’s nominators say her work speaks for itself — in the dedication to her students and the way she’s mentored others over her 20-plus years of work.

“It’s inspiring to work with her,” said nominator and former colleague Jennifer Meilke. “She’s taught me a lot about children and families. And I ask her daily where she hides her magic wand because what she can inspire children to do is just phenomenal.”

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatoon public schools announce proof of vaccination requirement

Both Smith and Banting say it’s their students that motivate them.

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