St. John's teacher nominated for Governor General's award

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A teacher from Newfoundland is a finalist for this year's Governor General's History Awards for Excellence in Teaching. 

Chesley West encouraged his students at MacDonald Drive Junior High in St. John's to retrace their family histories.  Students then shared historic family heirlooms and personal stories with their peers, which will also be uploaded to a website.

For his creative teaching approach, Canada’s History Society has selected West as one of the top 25 finalists for this year’s Governor General's History Awards. 

One Grade 8 student retraced the history of his deceased grandfather, a war veteran who was actually a war hero.  Others have been sifting through dusty boxes in their attics to uncover ancient family heirlooms that reveal a glimpse into generations that passed before them.

Deborah Morrison, CEO of Canada’s History Society, said in a news release, “Canada’s most passionate educators are now turning to social media, cyberspace and digitized projects to create interactive and novel lesson plans that are transforming their classrooms into time machines to transport students hundreds of years into the past.  Through these awards our goal is to inspire more teachers to ‘do’ history and to create more inventive ways to engage their students in learning about Canada’s past and present.”

A list of the finalists, project descriptions, photos and podcasts, are available online at

“We can be proud of these outstanding individuals who are committed to sharing our history in new and innovative ways, inspiring youth to learn about the people and events that have shaped Canada,” said James Moore, minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. “Learning about Canada’s history is important. It helps us understand the country we live in today and encourages us to work together to continue to build the country we are happy to call home.”

A national panel of judges will next select six recipients out of the 25 finalists, based on a submission outlining the nominee’s achievements in the field of teaching Canadian History or Social Studies.  Those recipients will receive $2,500, a gold medal and a trip this fall to the awards ceremonies at Rideau Hall.  Their respective schools will also be awarded a cash gift of $1,000.  The awards prizes and other program support are made possible through an investment by TD Bank Group.

“History can be such an important guide of the future.  These teachers work hard every day to help the next generation of leaders understand where we have come from to know where we are going,” said Frank McKenna, deputy chairman of TD Bank Group. “TD is proud to support the Governor General’s History Awards for Excellence in Teaching - recognizing these educators that encourage students to learn about our history in creative and innovative ways.”

The recipients will also be invited to participate in the 70th anniversary commemorations of D-Day in Normandy, France in June, 2014 with travel provided by EF Tours.


Organizations: History Society, TD Bank Group, Canadian Heritage Social Studies

Geographic location: Canada, St. John's, Chesley West Normandy France

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