This teacher knows true inclusion means challenging assumptions
Even before she had a class of her own, educator Paige Deacon knew she wanted to make physical activity accessible to every student.
Creating an environment where students with disabilities could truly thrive meant challenging the assumptions of those without disabilities. In the course of her studies, Paige worked with individuals to modify their PE programs, assisted a neighbour with low motor skills in finding fun ways to be physically active, and volunteered with the Special Olympics and the Paralympic Sport Association. Finding innovative ways to help people experience the joy of movement inspired her.
“I had a neighbour with a disability growing up, and I encouraged her to play badminton, dance in the backyard, and bicycle around the neighborhood with me,” Paige says. “When I experienced a few classes in university where I was able to teach and create adapted activities for students with disabilities, and volunteer with adult wheelchair square dancing, I saw the joy that movement brings to so many people.”
Teaching runs in Paige’s family — while in university, she introduced some of the lessons she’d prepared to her mother’s Grade One class in Whitecourt, AB. By the time she had a class of her own, Paige was unstoppable. Between teaching posts at Whitecourt Elementary and Four Winds Elementary in Morinville, AB, Paige has taught Adaptive Phys Ed units to over 700 students. With her leadership, adaptive units are being incorporated into her school’s health unit and Sports Academy program, as well as the physical education program.
“It makes my heart happy when a student tells me after a few lessons that ‘all buildings should just have ramps instead of stairs so people can get in and out!’” Paige says.
“Students start thinking critically about how they can make a difference and promote physical activity and wellness to everyone.”
Paige knew the experience of adaptive Phys Ed would develop empathy in her students, challenge their perceptions around people with disabilities, and encourage them to advocate for accessibility outside the classroom.
“I chose to nominate Paige as a Difference Maker of the Year not only because of the effect she’s having on her own students, but on students throughout her entire school,” says nominator and Rick Hansen Foundation Ambassador Kuen Tang. “When I delivered my RHF Ambassador presentation to the school, all the students were thoughtful, thirsty for knowledge, and open-minded. They all wanted to be difference makers!”