Valley Teacher Receives Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in STEM Education

Kara Dawson brings cutting-edge technology to all the elementary schools in her Vancouver Island school district. Students and teachers clamour to work with her as she travels around the district each week, building capacity among learners and encouraging educators to try new things.

Teaching approach

For Kara, inclusion is not an option; it is a necessity. She understands that primary-grade children need step-by-step guidelines to use and understand some of the technologies out there. She then helps teachers apply their knowledge to the age group they teach.

STEM in the classroom

  • Supports teachers so they can bring STEM into their teaching: for example, she set up a program so one teacher from each elementary school can attend bi-monthly learning sessions with her on aspects of applied design, skills and technologies that pertain to the classroom.
  • Supports students who struggle in the traditional classroom: has developed and posted online many tutorials and lesson plans for applying the Read-Write-Learn approach to helping students with dyslexia, dysgraphia or intellectual challenges and who need to work at their own pace.
  • Values extra-curricular activities as opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning: hosts Hour of Code, Girls Can Code, and annual or semi-annual after-school events for students to show teachers, parents and community members the games or videos they have created.
  • Regularly applies for, and wins, provincial and local grants for acquiring better and more effective technology resources for classrooms and teachers; creates resource kits for teachers across the district to use when working with technology

Outstanding achievements

  • Instrumental in developing the Learn71.ca website, a treasure trove of resources teachers, students and parents can use to support digital literacy; site now gets nationwide traffic; publishes weekly resource email and the Tuesday Tech Tip.
  • Lead teacher for implementing new coding curriculum in the district by researching and learning how to use classroom coding kits, which include technology such as Ozobots, Cubelets, Micro:bits and Spheros, and working with a team of teachers to implement them across the district.
"Kara displays all the qualities of a master teacher. She is kind, patient, generous with her time, and models a gentle, open-minded attitude towards learning that sets everyone at ease, including children who are anxious about using technology or afraid of trying something new." 
— Colleague
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