Carissa Keenan (middle) receiving her award with Karla Verschoor (left), executive director of Inclusion B.C., and Angela Clancy, executive director of the Family Institute of B.C.

Maple Ridge teacher celebrated as inclusive education champion

Carissa Keenan teaches at Harry Hooge elementary.

A Maple Ridge teacher was one of six in B.C. to receive an inclusive education award Friday in Victoria.

Carissa Keenan teaches at Harry Hooge elementary and was presented with a 2019 National Inclusive Education Award at an annual conference.

The awards are hosted by Inclusion B.C., the Family Support Institute of B.C. and Inclusive Education Canada and honour teachers, support staff and educational leaders who are “doing amazing things to ensure that all students, especially those with special needs, are given full access to education and included in all aspects of school life.”

Keenan teaches a Grades 5-6 class. She is being honoured for her ability to inspire students to work and learn together in a positive and inclusive environment, according to Inclusion B.C.

“By encouraging her students to follow and share their curiosities, she ignites their desire to learn and creates a sense of belonging to the community of the classroom.”

The organization also said Keenan knows how to turn problems into opportunities.

“When one of her students was so focused on the loss of a pet fish that it was causing relationship problems with other classmates, she turned the problem upside down, bought a pet fish for the class, and assigned all the students to care for it. The fish that was once a barrier became a bridge, fostering acceptance and belonging in the classroom.”

RELATED: Pitt Meadows teacher wins Prime Minister’s Award.

Elena Digiovanni, Harry Hooge vice-principal, said in a release that Keenan’s passion is contagious and that she inspires all around her to be the best that they can be.”

“Carissa brings an embracing and inclusive emergent learning perspective to her classroom,” Digiovanni added.

“She has transformed the energy and culture of the school by her dynamic presence and power to create positive change in all students.”

The annual Inclusive Education Awards recognize individuals or groups nominated by their communities who initiate or support unique opportunities that enrich inclusive educational experiences.

Key indicators of excellence in inclusive education practice:

• students fully participate with peers in all school opportunities, in and out of the classroom;

• all students are valued and encouraged to build on their abilities;

• no label-based limitations;

• school-wide culture and leadership.

Inclusion B.C. is a provincial federation with members that include community agencies, families and self-advocates, and which has led the movement away from institutions since 1955.

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