As the Queen’s community celebrates the Class of 2023, it is also recognizing the formative influence of teachers who have inspired graduates along their educational journey with the Baillie Award for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching. Graduating students are invited to nominate their past teachers for the award, which are presented during the students’ convocation ceremonies.

Five teachers who have inspired Queen’s graduates were on hand last week during ceremonies at the Leon’s Centre.

Tamara Doleman received her award after being nominated by Christophe Gauthier (Sc’23) who took an art class taught by Doleman at Ashbury College in Ottawa, before enrolling in engineering at Queen’s. Gauthier credits Doleman with helping develop his leadership and organizational skills and with creating a classroom environment where he could foster his creativity.

“Ms. Doleman not only taught me the technical skills necessary to succeed in art, but also instilled a love of learning and creativity that has stayed with me throughout my academic and personal life," says Gauthier.

Stephen Merner, biology teacher and Head of Science at Iroquois Ridge High School in Oakville, was nominated by Jacqueline Tomazic (Sc’23). She describes Merner as highly influential for his ability to use stories to teach, foster learning, and encourage self-discovery among his students.

“Mr. Merner is not only wholeheartedly committed to the academic success of his students; he is invested in the personal development of each student, inspiring them to be the best versions of themselves and simultaneously challenging them to think outside of the box by teaching in unique ways,” says Tomazic.

Mark Mamo, who teaches Math and Special Education at Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School in Burlington, is described by his nominator, Kyle Meade (ArtSci’23), as someone who inspires a growth mindset among his students, helping them develop academic skills, competence and self-confidence that enables them to excel.

“Throughout the years, Mr. Mamo instilled a love of learning and inspired academic excellence as part of my personality and sense of priorities,” says Meade. “He helped develop my competence as a student and demonstrated to me that I had the ability to achieve. I would not be at Queen’s University today if it weren’t for him.”  

Jill Russell is retiring this spring from the District School Board of Niagara after teaching for many years at the DSBN Academy, a grade 6-12 school that aims to empower students to become the first in their family to graduate from a post-secondary institution. It is the first school of its kind in Ontario. Maggie Bernier (ArtSci’23), her nominator, says Russell’s commitment to consistently connecting her students to activities and local employers in their areas of interest exposed them to futures they had never considered.

“Teachers have the ability to spark a light in youth every day,” says Bernier. “Some don’t, some do, and some – few and far between – create galaxies of shining stars, lighting students up to achieve their full potential. This describes Jill Russell. Jill Russell is a lighter; a lighter of dreams.”

Brian Wilkinson, an English teacher and librarian at R.H. King Academy in Scarborough, was nominated by Aloka Wijesundara (ArtSci’23). Wijesundara says that Wilkinson’s gentle but firm mentorship and guidance pushes his students to be their best selves.

“While my time at Queen’s has presented its own challenges, the experiences I have had here have been invaluable, from making lifelong friends, to studying a program I love, to leading and giving back in student government,” says Wijesundara. “It was all possible because I had a champion from a young age who cared about my success, and wanted me to challenge and overcome my own circumstances.” 

The award was established by Chancellor Emeritus A. Charles Baillie in 2007.

“This award is a wonderful opportunity for graduating students to honour a high school teacher who supported them on their path to higher education at Queen’s,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs, who chairs the selection committee. “The university is grateful to Mr. Baillie for his generosity in establishing this program to recognize the tremendous impact teachers have on the lives of their students.”

Learn more about the Baillie Award for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching on the Student Affairs website.

Originally published in the Queen's Gazette

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