Grade 3 teacher Francine Perkal-Scott is feeling “honoured and humbled” these days and for good reason. The Pointe-Claire native is the winner of a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
“I represent all those wonderful teachers I work with,” Perkal-Scott said. “In the classroom, we create an environment where children can think and take risks and become the best human beings they can be. The key is to love them as they are.”
Sixty-seven teachers from across Canada received Prime Minister’s Awards.
Perkal Scott was honoured for her achievements with a $1,000 cheque to be used for professional development or teaching tools.
Perkal-Scott, 50, has been teaching for 23 years. She spent the past 15 years teaching in the French stream at Dorset Elementary School in Baie-d’Urfé. She was nominated for the award by Dorset school parent Lisa Migliaccio.
“Francine is spectacular,” Migliaccio said. “She taught my daughter, Chloe, who was a good student but was struggling in certain areas. Francine went out of her way to connect with Chloe and when I took a closer look, I saw that she made a point of connecting with every student, no matter how difficult the circumstances. I wanted to do something big to say to her that she stands apart from the rest.”
Migliaccio didn’t know how to go about it, so she surfed the Internet until she found the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence.
In September, Perkal-Scott was transferred to St. Paul Elementary School in Beaconsfield where she continues to teach Grade 3, but this time in the English stream.
“Francine is an icon at Dorset School even if she isn’t there any more,” Migliaccio said.
Last Friday, Perkal-Scott returned to Dorset School for a celebratory lunch and ceremony, where she was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a congratulatory letter from the prime minister.
Perkal-Scott has wanted teach for as long as she can remember and has her Grade 1 diary to prove it.
“I wrote in it, ‘I want to be a techer,’” she said with a laugh. “My (younger) sister and I played a lot of school when we were young and I was always the ‘teacher.’ ”
Perkal-Scott has been an avid reader ever since falling in love with the Dick and Jane books her first year at school and always has more than 100 books in her classroom to encourage her students to read. She names Ray Bailey, her Grade 10 and 11 history teacher at Chomedey High School, as her teacher idol.
“I believe in doing things the way he did,” she said. “He would allow students to explore and learn and then express their learning in unique ways.”
While at Dorset School, Perkal-Scott developed a robotics program, which involved students manipulating their Lego creations with computers. She plans to do the same thing at St. Paul’s.
Perkal-Scott’s dedication and caring reach beyond the classroom and beyond the raising of her two children, Stephanie, 16, and Thomas, 13.
She and her students raise funds for the Free the Children charity and support the Project Communautaire de Pierrefonds.
“I think it is important that our children recognize that there are less fortunate children and families in our own backyards as well as in far off countries,” Perkal-Scott said.
“I give them the tools so that they can grow up and make the world a better place.”
Perkal-Scott found out she was a recipient of the award in a circuitous fashion.
The Prime Minister’s Office sent Perkal-Scott news of her win via a courier service, but she was working, so it got sent back to the courier depot. When she got home, her husband – retired school principal Chris Scott – told her CBC Radio had called.
“I learned from them that I’d won. It was hilarious,” Perkal-Scott said.
Three other Quebec teachers were honoured for teaching excellence.
Johanne Morin from École de l’Étincelle de Sainte Marguerite in Ste-Marguerite and Jean-Marc Perreault from École secondaire de la Rive in La-valtrie both received Certificates of Excellence.
Edward Snowball from Jaanimmarik School in Kuujjuaq, Quebec received a Certificate of Achievements.
kgreenaway@ montrealgazette.com Twitter: @greenawaygaz