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Huntsville teacher nominated for Edwin Parr award

Posted on March 21, 2024 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

Palliser School Division has nominated Bailey Clarkin for the 2023-2024 Edwin Parr teaching award. 

Every school board in the province is eligible to nominate one teacher in their division. The award

recognizes the efforts and impact of a first-year teacher who has shown outstanding dedication to teaching. 

Bailey Clarkin, who teaches kindergarten at Huntsville School in Iron Springs said, “I was surprised! I didn’t really think that it would be me, because it is really hard as a first-year (teacher). You are kind of just thrown into it.”

“September was (the most challenging), as a whole. Just setting those routines and expectations with the kids (…) For most of them, this is their first experience with school and so it can be really hard to get them into the routines,” Clarkin explained.

Clarkin holds a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Lethbridge, where she also specialized in early education which includes students from kindergarten to grade 3. In their nomination announcement, Palliser School Division praised Clarkin’s commitment to her students, particularly since many of Clarkin’s students speak English as their second language. 

Clarkin noted the challenges of teaching students who have had minimal exposure to English, or are learning it for the first time in her classroom. 

Huntsville School, which is located just north of Picture Butte in Iron Springs, offers an early learning program through Grade 12, the Grade 7-12 program is a Low German Mennonite (LGM) alternative program, but the other grades are attended by students from a variety of backgrounds.

With the added challenges of a language barrier, Clarkin said she must take extra care to ensure she is communicating in the most direct and efficient way she can, to ensure students are receiving what she has communicated.

“It’s hard because sometimes they don’t know what I am asking so I have to check myself and change how I am asking them to do things.” 

Because many LGM families do not speak English, the challenges of communicating are two-fold, “even with contact outside of school, sometimes I have to go through one of my colleagues or I have to send my notes home, very simply,” she added, “I have to double check and make sure it is easy and clear to understand.” 

Despite cultural and linguistic differences, Clarkin said fostering a genuine sense of belonging and acceptance in the classroom remains a top priority in her classroom. 

“I think the things I mostly believe in just meeting (students) where they are at, and supporting them, and nurturing them and making sure that they enjoy coming to school first before anything. Another thing I am a huge believer in is questions. I don’t think they are learning unless they are questioning me.” 

Clarkin’s commitment to multi-modal teaching, and “impressive” ability to manage the classroom is being recognized as one of the key achievements of her early teaching career. 

“I think I always try to be on their level. As a kindergarten teacher I have a lot of experience being playful and I am kind of a kid at heart so it helps me connect with them. I have a lot of support I am lucky to get the abundance of support, not only at Huntsville, but through my whole educational career.”

Clarkin said, “growing up, I never connected with a teacher of my own,” noting some of her teaching ethos was informed by resisting the teaching practices she didn’t like when she was a student.

“To me, a good teacher would be someone that meets their students where they are at, and pulls them up and shows support and acceptance and tries to get them to reach their potential with as little bias as possible.” 

“I still have a lot to learn and I am extremely grateful just to be nominated. I am not by myself; I have a whole team behind me.” 

The zone winners of the prestigious Edwin Parr award will be announced this May.

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