Lisa Hitch, a Grade 8 teacher at Sunrise Waldorf School, was named May 4 as a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
“I love teaching. This award is so exciting. I feel honoured to be acknowledged, and I think what I’m really delighted about is that whoever was judging those awards can see there are different ways to do things. In our STEM program here, we work through observing phenomena. We start that at pre-school and it just continues to grow. They become excellent scientists by Grade 8,” Hitch said at her classroom in the Cowichan Station school.
She also said she felt she was accepting the award on behalf of the whole school because the entire community of students, parents, and teachers is so close, forming a network of engagement and education that supports the students as they grow and learn.
Hitch is one of 64 teachers across Canada in three categories to get these awards but she is one of only two in British Columbia. Her award honours “outstanding Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics teachers that help develop the culture of innovation Canada needs today, and in the future,” according to the government’s website about the awards.
In Waldorf schools, a teacher takes a class from Grade 1 all the way through to Grade 8, so this is Lisa’s eighth year with this class.
According to her head of school, Kevin McDuff, Hitch “brings lively and inventive activities to her students that teach innovative thinking, allowing them to express themselves through artistic and academic activities and to discover for themselves concepts that arise from the experience of the activity. She also actively engages them in service to the wider community, including class performances for senior homes and a mural painting project honouring First Nations traditions. In recent accreditation visits by both the B.C. Ministry of Education and the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), the accreditation teams singled out Ms. Hitch as an example of an extraordinarily gifted teacher.”
The school is hoping to have MP Alistair MacGregor present her award certificate at the school’s Grade 8 graduation ceremony on June 15, although this is still being arranged.
Sunrise Waldorf could be called a “low-tech school” — no computers in class — but Hitch still uses inquiry-based methods to help students find the extraordinary in the ordinary. They learn to gather, process and analyze information, moving from wonder to observation to concepts, and develop the grit necessary to take risks and problem solve together through hands-on experiences.
And, she uses a program she herself brought to the school, called cyber civics, in which students learn how to retrieve, analyze and use online information, including how to critically evaluate search results and properly cite sources.
After screening a film about growing up in a digital age, students discuss precautions for creating a digital identity. To encourage the support of parents, Hitch sends home related parent-child activities and leads forums during parent-child evenings.
One of her nominators for the award said, “Lisa Hitch is a legend in her school. She is loved for her personality — empathic, fair, and playful; appreciated for her commitment — teaching the same students for eight years with unflagging purpose; and respected for her values — environmentalism, social justice, and gender equality.”