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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 2, November/December 2003

Prime minister’s award for teaching excellence

by Mary Locke

Here is a summary of a recent interview with Bob Heidbreder, an early primary teacher at General Gordon, who, along with two others from B.C. won the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

I came to Vancouver during the Vietnamese War as a draft resistor. Canada welcomed me and ultimately gave me the freedom to teach the way I wanted to teach. To be recognized by a country that accepted me in my time of need is a high honour, and to give something back to that country is important to me.

The main link between me and all the other recipients was the importance to all of us of teacher autonomy, which allowed us to cover the curriculum in a way that was best for particular students in a particular year. It also allowed us to use and emphasize our own talents, mine being language, poetry, puppet characters, drama, and adventures. The other B.C. recipients were teachers of drama and video."

Coming back to the point of teacher autonomy, Heidbreder added that he was gratified that the community recognized his voice in teaching, since this award grew out of the appreciation of the school community and his colleagues.

Heidbreder has taught in early primary in three schools in Vancouver: Tillicum, Maquinna, and General Gordon. He has published five books that grew out of his teaching: Don’t Eat Spiders (1986), Eenie Meenie Manitoba (1996), Python Play (1999), I Wished for a Unicorn (2000), See-Saw Saskatchewan (2003).

His book, See-Saw Saskatchewan, was a gift to all elementary schools from the Vancouver Elementary Principals and Vice-Principals’ Association in the 2002–03 school year.

Mary Locke teaches at General Gordon Elementary School, Vancouver.



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