First-year Edmonton teacher recipient of provincial educator award

Maya Morrison of St. Gabriel School is one of six recipients of the Alberta School Boards Association’s Edwin Parr Teacher Award.

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A first-year teacher at St. Gabriel is being recognized for her work leading a program for students with autism.

Edmonton Catholic Schools’ Maya Morrison is one of six recipients of the Alberta School Boards Association’s (ABSA) Edwin Parr Teacher Award. Morrison has been honoured for her work in the Guided Intervention Supported Transition (GIST) program.

The program is divided into four classrooms labelled as A, B, C, and D. Morrison teaches in the ‘C’ classroom that has six students and their educational or therapeutic assistants.

“We practise skills that we can send them back to their community schools with that will allow them to really belong there. So, the most specific thing that we focus on in my classroom is communication,” Morrison said.

“And then other classroom skills, such as raising your hand or learning to take your turn, share with others, tell your peers what you need or what you’d like to do, so that when they go back, they have purpose in their classroom and it’s a very meaningful transition. We work really hard for them to not be the students at the back of the class.”

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Morrison said she knew since a young age she was meant to be a teacher, and teachers were key figures in her life. She hadn’t thought about being in a special needs classroom until university, when she did a third practicum and was placed with the Centre of Diverse Learning at Edmonton Catholic.

“(I) loved the program. The mentor teacher, who was the teacher at the time, was just amazing and she had me just falling in love with GIST. Then I took some classes over the summer, and now I’m the teacher.”

Morrison said all teachers are working hard to define what an inclusive classroom looks like, and GIST demonstrates that.

“When we when we see a student in our GIST classroom, the attention that they get and the differentiation that the teachers make to ensure that they have everything they need and that they’re succeeding, that is like a little light into what I hope all inclusive settings — so a community school classroom with a child with autism in it — should look like,” she said.

The Edwin Parr Teacher Award was created in 1964. Each year, the ASBA honours six ‘outstanding first-year teachers’ with the award. School boards nominate any first-year Kindergarten to Grade 12 teacher who has taught in an Alberta school jurisdiction that is also a member of the ASBA.

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