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Trent University Durham GTA Psychology Alum Honoured for Inspired Special Education

Colleen Shaw '08 chosen for OTIP Teaching Award in Beginning Teacher category


As a new teacher in the GTA, Colleen Shaw incorporates meditation alongside technology into her classroom. Her elementary students who face behavioural challenges and Mild Intellectual Disability (MID) exceptionalities know their devoted teacher celebrates their work and their thinking. When students came to school hungry, Ms. Shaw initiated a breakfast program.

Fittingly, the OTIP (Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan) and the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) recently recognized Ms. Shaw as one of three outstanding Ontario teachers with the OTIP Teaching Award for excellence.

“It’s unbelievable,” states Ms. Shaw. “I’m so grateful to have been nominated and selected for this award. I’m simply assessing my students’ strengths, interests, abilities, and needs to determine how to program most effectively for them. Getting them excited to learn and ensuring their mental health and well-being are addressed are what make me passionate about special education.”

As an Honours graduate of the Psychology program at Trent University Durham GTA, Ms. Shaw has long been interested in the human mind, learning and development. From Child Development and Sensation and Perception, to Thinking Critically about Psychology, she feels wide-ranging courses in her field were instrumental.

“Working in special education has been made much easier with this knowledge of exceptionalities, learning styles, and of how our brains encode information,” she affirms. "The transition from my studies to the classroom was fluid. Understanding what solid science and research looks like prepared me well for this professional learning environment.”

In her final year at Trent, Ms. Shaw volunteered as a peer tutor, and facilitated study groups as part of her thesis project. She felt this key opportunity further developed essential teaching skills.

“Getting to help others understand the materials and to watch those ‘Aha’ moments was beyond rewarding,” she recalled. “I knew from that point on that I wanted to get into education and was encouraged by my incredible professors.

As for Trent students following in her footsteps, she encourages them to take their time.

“Ultimately, that’s what university is for—developing a broad range of skills and understanding, and to figure out what your life’s work will be. If you choose teaching, remember it can be a difficult but incredibly rewarding career.”

At a ceremony in Toronto, winners and their respective schools received $1,000 and Certificates of Recognition. TVO also produced video profiles of the winners. 

Posted on Tuesday, November 14, 2017.

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