Jordan Small is honoured to be a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award, Canada’s highest accolade for elementary and secondary school teachers — but he says teaching is never an individual effort.
Small was recognized in partnership with a former colleague for “innovative teaching approaches and a focus on student agency.”
“I’m pleased that it was a partnership award, because it recognizes that teaching communities are so important to our growth, self-reflection and wellbeing,” Small says. “There are so many people who mentored and guided me to become the educator I am who deserve this type of recognition.”
Small has seen the teaching profession undergo a paradigm shift since he first began teaching 20 years ago.
“The notion of the teacher as the knowledge keeper in the classroom has changed,” he says. “We can’t match the information available on the internet, which led me to serious reflection on the role of the teacher in the 21st century.”
As a result, Small has put a lot of thought and effort into creating a classroom environment that is conducive to social-emotional learning, because “no device can ever replace that.” He works to build a relationship of trust with his students and is eager for them to understand themselves as learners, discovering how they consume information best to meet their own needs.
“In a class of 20 students, for example, there will be 20 diverse learners with different styles and needs,” Small says. “It’s important for me to have them recognize the learning strategies that are effective for them and how to approach assessments as an individual.”
The current move toward diversification of the curriculum is another shift he supports.
“Acknowledgement of a diversity of cultures is responsive pedagogy and aligns with UCC’s value of pluralism,” he says. “In English classes, we seek and study the diversification of beauty in all of its forms and that must be at the centre of our curriculum decision-making.
“There is so much great literature in the world and creators from across the spectrum of cultures, ethnicities and religions. Representation matters, and students are always ahead of us in their flexibility and open-minded approach to engaging with diversity.”
Outside of the classroom, Small will be coaching the U14 basketball team and is “looking forward to getting to know a different facet of the students’ identities.” He’s confident that his coaching, in addition to his teaching, will be an enjoyable and collaborative effort.