When Nancy Barr meets her new class of students for the first time each September she embarks on a building project.
Barr, a teacher at Brevoort Park School, believes in the importance of constructing a community within her classroom and in helping students to be engaged not only in their school, but also in the wider community that makes up their city, province and country.
"I start my year and I end my year building community," she said. "In the classroom we are, every day, a community of learners. We are a team, we talk team all the time. We do things together."
In recognition for her efforts in building both students and community, Barr was honoured by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission and the Think Good Do Good organization as a teacher who embodies qualities of understanding, compassion and leadership in the classroom.
"I believe what I do is what should be done in the classroom every day," Barr told trustees during the June 20 Board of Education meeting. "I believe kids should be treated with respect. I think that kids should know what a citizen is, that they should know how to grow a community and that they should be respected for what they have to say about their community and what they have to do to change their community."
Her work as part of a team that developed a new citizenship pedagogy in conjunction with the human rights commission illustrates Barr's personal investment in community, said Chief Commissioner Judge David Arnot, and her commitment to the classroom and building capacity and resilience in students makes her a teacher worthy of recognition.
"She is a champion for human rights and good citizenship, she is making the world a better place one student at a time. She is a teacher of excellence and she is a good example because there are so many teachers of excellence that you have in this school division," Arnott said. "Nancy puts the theory into practice in her classroom on a daily basis."
The citizenship pedagogy she helped develop with the commission and others can have an impact on students and, by extension, the entire community, Barr believes. It's an opportunity for both teachers and students to examine their thinking and create a strong learning model for others.
Today's students are the future decision makers, she told trustees. Building students in a community strengthens their spirit, and students who have good spirit are learners, Barr believes. Students who have been able to establish connections have the opportunity to be strong, capable and willing participants within a community.
Arnot said the opportunity to see Barr in action with her Brevoort Park students as well as those from her previous school, Princess Alexandra, created a lasting impression.
"The hallmark of a good teacher is a teacher with passion. Nancy has a passion to teach and a passion to learn and, most important, she is very compassionate toward her students," he said. "She commands respect. She is very firm with students but she is very respectful and she models that respect to her students. You can see it, you can feel it and she, in turn, receives respect."
As a member of a classroom and school community Barr stresses the important of celebrating success, but her definition of success is much more than achievement, it is all about students learning and moving forward together.
"I have kids working as teams together and it could be something as simple as stopping and talking about something and saying 'That didn't work out well as a team, what can you guys do better?' The celebrations are also celebrating that while you weren't perfect as a team we are going to celebrate it and get better. Together we are going to change and conquer and do good things."