A passionate Comox Valley teacher has been chosen as the first recipient of a new national award.
G.P. Vanier Secondary School geography teacher Andrew Young received the inaugural annual Innovation in Geography Teaching Award from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
“It’s an unbelievable honour,” says Young. “I am flabbergasted someone would even think they should put my name forward, and to actually have been selected by the organization to be the recipient of the award is truly an unbelievable experience for me.”
Young will be flown out to attend a ceremony on Nov. 13 in the Grand Hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que. He will also receive $1,250 and will have $1,250 donated in his name to support geographic education.
Young says he’s chosen to support the Great Canadian Geography Challenge, a student geography competition, and donate some to Canadian Geographic Education, which will be used to help send a teacher to a two-week weather education program called Project Atmosphere.
As for the $1,250 coming to him, Young says he will use it to help Vanier students come on the Mount St. Helen’s trip he co-organizes each year, noting some students may not be able to afford an out-of-country field trip.
“Anybody who’s in the senior geography or geology class can go on the trip, and it’s a lot of fun,” says Young. “It’s a really good life experience for a lot of students who may not have left British Columbia, and then to go see a volcano is kind of cool — so, a lot of fun.”
Besides geography, Young also teaches social studies, law and criminology. The award is given to an “educator who has gone above and beyond their job description to further geographic literacy,” according to the RCGS website.
Young says he loves geography so he tries to embed it into everything he does. For example, his junior law class works with crime maps of the Comox Valley, using Crime Stoppers’ statistics, students determine areas where certain kinds of crimes occur.
Meanwhile, his criminology class does geographic profiling, which is used to predict a serial offender’s most likely location by analyzing serial crime locations.
Young says passion is important for teachers to have, and bring into their classrooms.
“Whatever you’re passionate about, if you can bring the things that you love into a classroom … and work with students to help them understand what your passion is, that passion transfers, and people feed off of passion,” he says, adding really good teachers work to find out where their students’ passions lie.
“Then, find a way to fit their passions into what you need to cover in the class, and then let them go with it.”
Seeing a student find their passion is one of his favourite moments as a teacher.
“When you see someone who is really excited about something and the smile creeps across their face and they realize that they get something, or they really understand something on a profound level, it is one of the most rewarding things that this profession offers,” says Young.
For more information about the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, visit www.rcgs.org.