Kamloops teacher wins award, plans to do something special for students with prize money

Jordan Smith

Jordan Smith never expected to be nominated for the Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education, let alone to be named one of 10 ten winners.

And while the Kamloops, B.C., teacher says she is humbled and grateful for the award, it's not the public's recognition she considers most important. Since winning, she says the highlight has been hearing from her students.

 

"It's something quite exceptional to hear students you're so proud of say that they are proud [of you]," said Smith, fighting back tears.

"They are really the reason for all of this."

The award selected 10 winners out of 140 nominations from across the province. Smith was recognized in the category of Indigenous Education.

She is a teacher and program coordinator at Twin Rivers Education Centre's Four Directions Secondary School, an alternative learning environment designed to serve secondary students with Indigenous ancestry.

Smith's teaching connects students with Indigenous culture and history through hands-on learning like working with local First Nations artists, gathering with elders and — her favourite — traditional fishing.

"They [the students] learn about the ability to be outside and enjoy a day about patience," Smith said.

Students get to try out traditional spearfishing, which Smith says requires a lot of commitment, adding it's incredible watching them focus on a goal and persevering throughout the day — regardless of whether they catch a single fish.

Smith had originally planned on working in the elementary school system, but soon realized it wasn't a perfect fit.

"Lots of small children are maybe a bit much for me," she said with a laugh.

Following that, she worked in the non-profit sector, spending a lot of her time with teenagers, before eventually ending up back in the classroom with secondary students — an age group she fondly refers to as "awesome."

The secondary system allows Smith to develop relationships with her students over four or five years, allowing her to work with her students through life's challenges and joys.

"Those are some pretty incredible years in terms of growth and change," she said.

Winners of the Premier's Awards for Excellence in Education received a commemorative work of art by a 17-year-old secondary student from Victoria as well as a $3,000 personal bursary and a $2,000 contribution to their school.

Smith says she plans to use the money to help fund an upcoming field trip for her students.

(Story from CBC British Columbia)