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Honouring secondary school mentors

Annual award allows graduating students to recognize the influence of former teachers.

As convocation ceremonies this week celebrate the achievements of thousands of Queen’s graduates, three students are marking this milestone by also honouring a high school educator who had a major influence on their journey to post-secondary education.

The teachers have been selected to receive a Baillie Award for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching, established by Chancellor Emeritus A. Charles Baillie.

The 2022 recipients are:

Nadia Bernabei of Kingston was nominated by Emma Smith (BNSc’22). Bernabei offers extra support to her students and a safe space in her mathematics classroom at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School. In her nomination, Smith describes Bernabei as instrumental in helping her make the decision to study nursing at Queen’s and to find joy and passion in learning.

“She led me to nursing and encouraged me to follow my dreams,” Smith says. “Without Ms. Bernabei, I truly would not be where I am today, as the remarkable impact, inspiring wisdom, and lasting impact she has had on me is truly unmeasurable.”

Jennifer Clark, who teaches mathematics at St. Stephen Catholic Secondary School in Bowmanville, was nominated by Cheyenne Kammerer (Artsci’22), for being a strong role model for students considering a path in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In her nomination, Kammerer highlights Clark’s readiness to encourage her class to view mistakes as opportunities to learn.

“She genuinely cared about teaching us to be good people,” says Kammerer. “Her impact will be lifelong. If I can be half as optimistic, compassionate, empathetic, and kind, I will be making a difference.”

Ben Gross, a social and global studies teacher at Don Mills Collegiate Institute in North York, was nominated by Natalee Bryanna Veisi (Artsci’22), who details the ways Gross made their school a safer and more inclusive space, including his efforts to engage Indigenous leaders and artists to facilitate meaningful learning opportunities for his students.

“He is the embodiment of everything I, as an aspiring educator, hope to be,” says Veisi. “My desire to serve as an educator in the future is attributable to the excellence that I count myself lucky to have seen Mr. Gross demonstrate on a daily basis.”

Teacher-recipients receive a financial award, a framed certificate, and recognition in the convocation program.

Learn more about the awards and past recipients on the Student Affairs website.