This article originally appeared in the Bugle-Observer.
By Rebecca Howland
Two Nackawic teachers have been recognized for contributions to inclusive education.
Nicole Priest, a resource teacher at Schriver, a resource and methods teacher at Nackawic High School, were presented with awards by the New Brunswick Association for Community Living in Fredericton on Feb. 8.
Sarah Hoyt, Grade 2 teacher at Liverpool Elementary in Fredericton, also was a recipient.
“The award ceremony was at Government House with Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy Vienneau in attendance,” Judy Cole, director of communications for Anglophone West, said in an email. “The event was celebrated as part of National Inclusive Education Month. All three teachers were recognized as strong and caring advocates for their students as well as leaders, innovators and champions for inclusion.”
Cole said seven educators were recognized from around New Brunswick for the 2018 awards, noting educators from every level of the education system were celebrated during the ceremony.
Both Priest and Schriver said they were honoured to be recipients of the award.
“I was very humbled to be nominated by my principal and peers for this award,” Priest said in an email. “It definitely was an honour to receive such a prestigious award. Inclusive education values and celebrates diversity and the unique contributions each student brings to the classroom, and that is part of our culture here at Nackawic Elementary.”
Schriver agreed, adding the nomination was a surprise as there are a number of people making contributions to inclusion every day. “There are so many deserving people in my school and other educational institutions,” she said. “To be nominated and receive this award is special in itself.”
Larry Graham, Principal of Nackawic Elementary, said nominating Priest was an easy decision. “Nackawic Elementary is proud to foster an inclusive environment.,” he wrote in an email. “We are very lucky to have Nicole Priest, our resource teacher as the backbone of this culture. She is a leader of inclusionary practices and is well respected for promoting the needs of the individual child at NES. She goes above and beyond in meeting the needs of all the children and has a personal connection with many of them.”
Sean Newlands, vice-principal of Nackawic High School, shared similar sentiments about Schriver in the nomination letter he wrote. “Mary Kim is a champion of inclusion at Nackawic Senior High School,” Newlands wrote in the letter.
“She is a staunch advocate for students who need extra support inside and outside of the classroom. She is passionate in her efforts to ensure that all students are valued and included. She is patient, caring, empathetic, and approachable. She is an integral support for many students and staff members at Nackawic High School.”
Newlands said Schriver’s contributions include her support for the group, Best Buddies.
“This past spring, Mary Kim was concerned that the Best Buddies group was not nearly as active as it had been in the past,” Newlands wrote. “At the end of the year, she took the initiative to organize a group of students to have a noon-hour party so that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities were feeling more included within the school … Under her leadership, in three short months, she has changed Best Buddies from a club that only organized sporadic events on special occasions to a club that ensures inclusion is a core value of students and staff at NHS.”
A media release from the New Brunswick Association for Community Living said the local organization and its national counterpart, The Canadian Association for Community Living, believe inclusive education is one of the cornerstones for ending exclusion.
“From early learning right through to post-secondary, inclusive education is based on the values, work and effort of educators dedicated to the belief that everyone has the right to belong,” the release states.
In the release, Joy Bacon, president of the CACL said New Brunswick has come far in the past 60 years when it comes to inclusive education.
“It wasn’t all that long ago that children with a disability were not allowed to attend a regular neighbourhood school,” she said in the release. “Parents fought long and hard for their children’s right to belong in the classroom with their peers, something that is now guaranteed by two UN Conventions, the one on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the one on the Rights of the Child, both ratified by Canada.”
In his letter nominating Priest, Graham summed up the application with a quote from a student that not only reflects Priest, but Schriver and all of the recipients.
“She cares for me,” Graham wrote.