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Ralph McCall teacher wins Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence

By: Allison Chorney

  |  Posted: Thursday, Nov 28, 2013 11:03 am

Brian Jackson (right) was awarded the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence on Nov. 19, in Ottawa. Jackson is a Grades 6 to 8 teacher at the school and teaches science, social studies, math, language arts and physical education.
Brian Jackson (right) was awarded the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence on Nov. 19, in Ottawa. Jackson is a Grades 6 to 8 teacher at the school and teaches science, social studies, math, language arts and physical education.
Submitted/ ForRocky View Publishing

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Brian Jackson’s passion for teaching can be seen in the innovative ideas he uses to help students learn, in his dedication to students outside the normal classroom hours and his desire to make learning fun. Now, Jackson is being recognized for that passion as he was awarded the 2013 Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence, Certificate of Excellence.

On Nov. 19, Jackson met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa to receive the national-level award.

“What a tremendous honour to be included with the 20 other people that were there, (it was) just unbelievable,” Jackson, 47, said.

Jackson, a Grade 6 teacher at Ralph McCall School, was nominated for the award by the Calgary chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is associated with the Calgary chapter through the Airdrie Space Science Club, a club Jackson formed four years ago to inspire students to enjoy the wonders of space science.

Jackson said the nomination application process was quite lengthy and required letters of support from the nominator, colleagues and parents. A selection committee comprised of education experts from across Canada then reviewed each nomination package to determine the winners.

“Brian is an individual who really does connect extremely well with both students and parents,” said Ralph McCall Principal Jim Forrest.

“He’s always willing to share his excitement for learning and is able to communicate that love of learning and wonder to his students.”

Forrest added, Jackson, who has been at the school for nine years, is always willing to make connections with students and makes himself available to them outside classroom hours.

“He is a really terrific teacher and a terrific person to work with,” Forrest said.

As part of the award, Jackson, who has been teaching for 23 years, was given a trip to Ottawa to attend the awards but he opted to share the special trip with his two children and paid for them to come along.

“I hate to use the overused expression ‘once in a lifetime,’ but it really was,” Jackson said of the four-day trip.

“To go down and share that with my kids was so special.”

He said during their stay in our nation’s capitol, they were able to meet the prime minister, take a behind-the-scenes tour at Rideau Hall and go to a reception at 24 Sussex Drive hosted by Mrs. Harper.

“We’ll never get a chance to do those things again,” Jackson said.

He said the reception at the prime minister’s residence was surreal because it is this national monument but also the Harper’s home with their coats hanging in the closet, their cats running around and their family photos displayed throughout the home.

“To sit and have a visit with Mrs. Harper was really neat,” he said.

Jackson said he will incorporate his experiences in Ottawa with his class as part of their Grade 6 democracy unit in social studies class.

“For me to get a chance to go down and be thrust in the middle of it is an experience I can take back to the classroom.”

Jackson said he will use technology he helped bring to Ralph McCall, when he goes to teach the students the democracy unit.

The innovative teacher received a $10,000 grant from Rocky View Schools to introduce Learning Pods (LPods) into his classroom two years ago. The LPods use iPods and Macbooks to facilitate collaborative learning in small groups. Students use a variety of apps such as Glogster, Phoster and Skitch to investigate a question and then share what they’ve found using Airplay.

Jackson will ask LPod groups to investigate and answer a question or parts of a question that will then be shared with other LPods to form a final complete answer.

He said to explore learning on the senate he might ask students what the function of the senate in Canada is.

“Collaboration is an important part of the classroom and having the technology available that allows for collaboration is key to success,” he said.

With the award, Jackson received a pin, a certificate signed by the prime minister and a $5,000 financial award to be shared equally with the school.

Jackson said the school portion will help get more equipment for the LPods and increase the technology base in the school. He said with his portion of the funding he will look at different professional development opportunities about technology.

“I’m really lucky to be where I am in a great school, with a great team and in an incredible community,” Jackson said. “I am blessed and very lucky to be a teacher.”

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence are considered Canada’s top honour for kindergarten to Grade 12 teachers and have been given out since 1993.

Jackson received the regional-level Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, Certificate of Achievement in November of last year.

For more information on the awards, visit


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