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The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week: Melissa Dent receives premier teaching award

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The Sarnia Journal introduces a new feature to honour great people in our community. If you would like to nominate someone, send their name and the reason you think they should be The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week to [email protected]  Please include your own name and number too.

Cathy Dobson

Rosedale School’s Melissa Dent is one of those rare teachers who never stops educating others.

When she’s not in the classroom with her Grade 7s, she’s working evenings and weekends with kids on special projects like Girls Who Game, or she’s gathering resources and ideas for her weekly newsletter that she sends out to more than 1,000 teachers.

She’s a teaching dynamo who just learned she is being honoured with the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, a national award given to 72 outstanding educators this year. Dent has won a Certificate of Achievement in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) category.

“It is so amazing and such an honour, particularly because my colleagues nominated me,” she said. “For me, it’s significant because it’s a STEM award. I’m getting it, not because I’m able to make my students sit in their desks and be quiet, but because I’m focused on 21st century teaching, which is about critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, citizenship, culture, character education and connectivity.”

Dent, 54, has been teaching for 25 years; 18 for the Lambton Kent District School Board. When the pandemic forced students to attend virtual school, Dent was one of many local teachers who taught online from LCCVI in Petrolia.

Those were extremely challenging times for most, but Dent made it easier for her colleagues because she has such a passion and understanding for technology, says Melissa Holmes, vice-principal at P.E. McGibbon School.

Holmes initiated the nomination process that lead to Dent being selected for a Prime Minister’s Award and said she did it because she was impressed by Dent’s untiring determination to ensure her students and her colleagues succeed.

“She never turns it off,” said Holmes who has worked with Dent on numerous projects and witnessed her go above and beyond many times to help her colleagues.

“She makes learning fun and she is so comfortable teaching through technology.  Her kids are always so engaged,” Holmes said. Doing all the paperwork for the award process was time consuming, she admitted.

“But I can’t think of anyone more deserving,” said Holmes. “This is the big one; one of the highest honours a teacher can earn.”

In announcing the award, the Government of Canada released a statement that reads in part: “The Certificate recognizes Ms. Dent for her commitment to innovation, not only as a leader in STEM but also as a strong voice in cultivating equity and inclusion.”

Quick Facts
• Since 1994, the Prime Minister’s Awards have honoured more than 2,100 outstanding Canadian educators.
• Award recipients are determined based on a rigorous two-tier selection process undertaken by over 130 volunteers from the education and early childhood education communities across Canada.
• This year’s recipients were chosen from among 150 nominations across the country.
(Source: Government of Canada)

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