Aurora, Ontario – Two Rick Hansen Public School Teachers Are Recognized as Difference Maker Educators of the Year.
A Rick Hansen-named school in Aurora strives to live up to its namesake every day. Two of its teachers are being recognized as Difference Makers of the Year for leading a Wellness Day that promotes well-being and inclusion.
“We are so proud of the efforts of our staff in upholding the values of the Rick Hansen Foundation. Having two staff recognized for their work to go above and beyond in promoting disability awareness, accessibility, and inclusion has been an honour,” says Principal Lisa Jeremic.
Last year, Jonathan Carr and Jennifer Lummiss led and coordinated a school-wide Wellness Day for all students. The school invited a variety of community partners and staff led the sessions for students. A RHFSP Regional Consultant participated in the event by leading a seated volleyball activity from the RHFSP Abilities in Motion Toolkit. The feedback was so positive that staff are now embedding some of the strategies into their daily programming.
“As a school, we have worked hard for the past six years to ensure that our values and beliefs reflect those of the Rick Hansen Foundation and are aligned with our school board’s focus on equity and inclusivity,” says principal Jeremic, “Jonathan and Jennifer’s work, along with what we are hearing from our students and fellow colleagues in the school, has highlighted the importance of creating safe and welcoming environments for all students.”
Teacher Jonathan Carr says the Wellness Day is just one day that supports something larger that’s being accomplished all year long.
“Being part of a school community that holds Rick Hansen's name provides me with a sense of accountability to ensure that I am seeking to make a difference in the lives of students, and equipping them to do the same,” says Carr. “I consider myself fortunate to be a part of a school named after Rick Hansen because it makes some access points easier to engage in such activities. Because we hold the Rick Hansen name, we have always adopted the Difference Maker message and are therefore always looking for initiatives which promote this mentality.”
Of course, you don't have to be named after Rick Hansen to adopt his message—in fact, Jonathan believes every school is in the business of making a difference in the lives of their students and can use the Rick Hansen School Program resources to support student achievement in these ways.
“Every teacher is a difference maker,” Carr says, “and the Rick Hansen Foundation is a fantastic resource to add value to difference maker initiatives in schools.”
The School Program lessons teach students the value of recognizing how important it is to never judge someone based on how their "disability" may make them look. Teachers at Rick Hansen Public School also use Rick Hansen's story to teach them that just because you have setbacks in life doesn’t mean you cannot seek ways to make a difference. Jonathan explains that in the story of Rick Hansen, he used his spinal cord injury to pursue making a difference on a global scale, that may have never happened if he hadn't suffered his injury. His attitude toward challenging circumstances is inspiring.
Teacher Jennifer Lummiss was excited to be recognized, “I have been handing out Difference Maker awards all year but never thought that I would be receiving one.”
She tries very hard to follow the school’s focus by being a difference maker to her students and staff. In her class, she used the Difference Maker unit and had the students research Canadian Difference Makers and create a final presentation biography about their selected person.
“I think working at a school named after a Canadian role model and hero definitely changes, impacts, and influences our daily behaviours, but also our monthly assemblies which focus on people being difference makers in our school,” she says, “We are constantly bringing our messaging back to being difference makers and positive citizens."