PS News

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2010 Atkinson winner

Christopher Carswell wins 2010 award

Two decades ago a boy received a ribbon from a Grade 1 teacher who took the time to get to know him and encourage him. She noticed his potential and decided to make him the school’s student of the month.

Giving Christopher Carswell that ribbon had a tremendous impact.

“It was the first academic source of recognition in my life,” says Carswell, now 26 and the eighth recipient of the Joseph W. Atkinson Scholarship for Excellence in Teacher Education. “According to my mother, I ran with that and never looked back.

“That small gesture by a teacher inspired me not only to achieve great things in public school and high school but to go on to university, graduate school and now teacher’s college.”

Carswell, a teacher candidate at OISE/UT and an aspiring high school teacher, is studying to become qualified in the Intermediate and Senior divisions in English and history. He began his first practicum in November. He brings to his studies a pedigree of academic and research excellence and a passion for the classics and the power of knowledge.

“For as long as I can remember, teachers and teaching have been a part of my life,” says Carswell, whose father, stepmother and stepfather are teachers.

Carswell’s academic and research excellence could have led to a career as a professor, but he had other ideas. “While I love to research, I love to teach more. At the high school level, you can make more of a difference. They need role models. They need inspiration.”

He has two main professional goals: He wants to foster a positive attitude about being an intelligent and literate male, and he aims to make all students aware that it’s important to work hard and be passionate about what you do.

Carswell has always wanted to teach. “There was never a period when I wasn’t teaching someone something,” he says. He taught in high school and university, and he worked as a team leader at Ontario Place for four summers. He learned that today’s classrooms are tremendously diverse.

In high school he participated in Woburn Collegiate Institute’s teaching assistant program. The program paired students with Woburn staff members and introduced Carswell to lessons in Special Education, differentiated modes of instruction and other subjects. He was awarded the Certificate of Achievement as the student who made the most progress as an educator and the Woburn Staff Alumni Award for his contributions to the school’s learning community as the co-ordinator of the peer tutoring program.

He continued to excel at Queen’s University. He earned an Honours BA and won the classics department’s academic medal for the top graduating student. Even while slaving over papers, he was involved in peer tutoring.

Carswell achieved an MA in classical studies, and his thesis Sidera Augusta: The Role of the Stars in Augustus’ Quest for Supreme Auctoritas was nominated for the Governor General’s Academic Medal. As a graduate student he was a teaching assistant for classical studies, Latin and Greek. He was nominated for the Queen’s University Christopher Knapper Award for Excellence in Teaching Assistance by the classics department. While completing his Master of Arts, he spent several months as a classroom volunteer and teaching assistant at Markham District High School.

Carswell speaks Ancient Greek, Latin, French and Italian with different degrees of competency. He plans to add English as a Second Language and French as a Second Language qualifications when he completes his BEd in May 2011.

He has plenty to celebrate – the scholarship, his future graduation from OISE and wedding bells. He’s getting married in July 2011, to a Markham high school teacher.

The Atkinson scholarship – named for the College’s second registrar – is given annually by the Ontario College of Teachers Foundation to a teacher candidate studying at a faculty of education in Ontario who demonstrates outstanding academic achievement and a high level of preparedness for teacher education. The scholarship is funded in part by the generosity of suppliers and stakeholders who participate in the College’s annual golf tournament.

“It’s a huge honour,” says Carswell. “It’s a spur to do even greater things.”