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On October 2, I left for Ottawa to receive the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence from Stephen Harper.

It was an amazing, three day experience.  I joined sixteen other teachers, fifteen early childhood educators, and was lucky enough to have my wife and four-week-old son accompany me.  On our first full day in Ottawa, the teachers were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Canada Science and Technology Museum which definitely was a neat experience.  Afterwards, we cleared security at Parliament and took an in-depth tour of the library.  Following that, we were taken to a small room and prepped to receive our award from Stephen Harper.  My meeting with the Prime Minister was short but memorable!

When it was my time to receive my award, I walked into a small, ornate room where Stephen Harper was standing.  He reached out his hand to shake mine and asked what grade level and subjects I taught.  Then he turned around to pick up the award on a small table he was standing beside and we posed holding the award – *click *click went the camera and away I went with the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence!

The whole experience lasted no more than thirty seconds.  Although my time with the Prime Minister was incredibly brief, it highlights a six year journey to revitalize my teaching.  Today I’m teaching from a completely different paradigm than I was six years ago or even two years ago.  My identity as a teacher has been transformed.  Receiving this award is an honour I’ll carry with me for the rest of my teaching career and life – a phenomenal summit experience after an arduous climb.

It was a big day!

Our second day proved to be just as eventful.  In the morning, we attended a reception hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons and numerous MP’s were also present from the different ridings represented by the recipients.  It was really enjoyable talking with Mark Warawa, the MP from my riding.  After lunch we bussed over to Rideau Hall for a tour and photo op with the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston.  As soon as he entered the room, I liked him.  He walked in with the confidence of a man completely comfortable in his skin.  He came across as intelligent, funny, and very personable – qualities that were made clear as he addressed us and then opened up the floor for questions.  As soon as the discussion finished, we were whisked back onto the bus and driven to 24 Sussex where Mrs. Harper hosted a reception for us!  What a treat!  What made it doubly special was that she held Caleb (my son) for quite a while as she exchanged pleasantries with us!  This was definitely a memorable moment of the trip and one that I will always treasure.

The day of our departure came too quickly.  By this time, I knew many of the recipients much better and was getting to know their stories and the phenomenal work they were doing.  It was truly inspiring to be in the company of so many teachers who are changing the landscape of education across this great nation.  On the final day, all the recipients were broken into subject/topic groups and each recipient was given five minutes to speak on a panel.  It was amazing.  It was something I wish every educator in Canada could’ve been to – I was blown away and challenged hearing what others were doing in their classrooms.  Truly inspiring!

And then I was on a plane heading back to Vancouver.

To call this a whirlwind experience would be an understatement.  To say it was surreal would be trite.  I don’t know how many times I exclaimed to my wife at the end of a long day that I was still having a tough time actually believing all this was happening.  I was still buzzing when I stepped back into my classroom on a cool, rainy October morning the following week.

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