Going beyond the classroom

By Anita Grace –

Shauna Pollock is passionate about preparing her students for the 21st century. In recognition of her dedication and avant-garde approach, the Churchill Alternative School teacher recently received the Prime Minister’s Teaching Award for Excellence.

Churchill Alternative School teacher Shauna Pollock is a new recipient of the Prime Minister's Teaching Award for Excellence. Photos by Kate Settle.
Churchill Alternative School teacher Shauna Pollock is a new recipient of the Prime Minister’s Teaching Award for Excellence. Photos by Kate Settle.

Churchill principal Megan Egerton describes Pollock as a teacher who “puts in 150%” and who is “preparing kids for the 21st century by integrating the technologies that are available now.”

“She is constantly looking for ways to engage and improve,” Egerton adds. For example, Pollock is using the money she received with the award to attend the Google in Education Montreal Summit where she will learn about even more ways to integrate new apps and technology in her classroom.

The Grades 5/6 teacher already embraces technology in a myriad of ways in her classroom. Last year she brought an iPad to the classroom and found that it “revolutionized” her approach to teaching. She now uses blogs, Twitter and Skype to add innovative aspects to every part of her curriculum.

Students use programs such as Skype in the Classroom for activities like “Mystery Skypes” in which they link up with a school somewhere else in the world. They take turns asking yes and no questions to try to figure out where the other classroom is located.

“It’s cool to get to see other people in the world,” says student Jack Wardlaw, 11. He adds that it’s a great way to learn geography. Coloured pins on a world map in the classroom shows the places Pollock’s students have connected with, including countries like Cambodia, Peru, Kenya and Sweden.

“The classroom walls are gone,” enthuses Pollock. “We can go anywhere. We can learn anything.”

She is also impressed with “the authentic learning that you can get out of using these digital tools.” Her students are not only discovering new tools, but they are using technology to make their work more meaningful.

When her class was reading books by Canadian author Eric Walters and blogging their book reviews, Pollock connected with Walters, who began reading these blogs. Pollock noticed that this connection made the assignments much more meaningful to her students. “The pride that they would take in their work was a completely higher level than I had ever seen from them,” she said.

“Shauna challenges us,” says Patrick Pearson, 11. “But things stick in our minds because she also makes it fun.”

Pollock, 31, was herself a student at Churchill as a kid, attending the school from kindergarten to grade 4. She also did her high school co-op placement at the school. She taught at Fielding Drive Public School before coming to Churchill three years ago, which she happily says is like coming full circle.

Churchill has embraced technology to support student learning. In May the school received an Ottawa Network for Education Innovation Award for their outstanding and innovative integration of technology.

But in addition to all the cool things Pollock is doing with technology, Egerton notes that she is a teacher who “makes kids feel included, heard, valued and cared for” and inspires them to get engaged in communities here and abroad.

Last year, two of Pollock’s students raised $250 for UNICEF’s School-in-a-Box kit which provides supplies for a classroom of up to 80 students.

Jennifer Fijalkowska, whose son Hunter was one of the fundraisers, says Pollock’s promotion of philanthropy has had a profound effect on her son. “We love that Shauna empowers the kids to such an extent that they feel that it is within the scope of their ability to do something about the issues that they and we face.”

“Shauna is passionate about what she does,” says student Skye Fergusson, 11. “She’s really involved with her students and supports us trying to make a difference in our communities.”

To see some of the innovative things happening in Shauna’s classroom, visit the class blog at www.churchill209.blogspot.com or follow them on Twitter @Churchill209.

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