Terence Young Wins Prime Minister's Award

Terence Young, head of the SMUS English department, has been given a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence, one of the highest honours in the teaching profession. The award recognizes Canadian teaching excellence across subjects and grades, focusing on the development of innovative ways to teach.

Mr. Young travelled to Ottawa on May 12 for a week of events that included a dinner reception at 24 Sussex Drive, an awards ceremony at the conference centre, and a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his Parliament Hill office. In addition to these events, there was a two-day conference, during which fellow recipients talked about their programmes and shared ideas. In a symbolic coincidence, one of Mr. Young’s former students, Angela Magon, was also a recipient of the award.

Mr. Young’s aim in teaching English is to instil in his students a love of the written word by showing them “that an encounter with a poem, a line, a character can have a profound impact on how they think and feel.” Over his 20-year teaching career, he’s taken a very tangible approach to the sometimes esoteric study of literature by focusing on creative writing and publishing. In 1990, he started a Writing 12 programme at his then-school Claremont Secondary, which has since spawned an internationally recognized publication for student writers, The Claremont Review, and has been the basis not only for our own successful Writing 12 programme, but for courses that have been introduced in high school across Canada.

One of the many voices who wrote in support of Mr. Young’s nomination for the award cited his “passion for language, expertise in literature, proven talent in writing, infectious humour, belief in the power of the human voice and above all unwavering faith in his students’ potential.”

Again and again students, parents and colleagues have remarked on the profound influence this gifted teacher has had on their lives. Again and again they credited him for their career choices, their success in writing, their life-long love of poetry and literature, and in some cases for their very sanity.

For his part, Mr. Young says that “one of the unavoidable aspects of teaching is self-doubt,” making recognition of good work important to every teacher. The affirmation implicit in the Prime Minister’s Award, he says, “is very gratifying – it confirms that I’ve been doing the right things.”

Writing awards won by Terence Young’s students

The Petra Kenney Award for Young Poets (Great Britain)
First prize Peggy Hogan (2006)
Second prize Diandra Barsalou (2007)

The League of Canadian Poets Youth Contest (Canada)
First prize Peggy Hogan (2007)
Third prize Jee In Chung (2007)
First prize Claire Battershill (2003)

The Ripple Effect Contest for Youth (British Columbia)
First prize: Prose Diandra Barsalou (2007)
First prize: Essay Andrew Johnson (2007)
First Prize: Prose Taylor McKinnon (2006)
First Prize: Poetry Meredith Lewis (2005)
First Prize: Poetry Claire Battershill (2004)
First Prize: Poetry Alex Lea (2002)

BCTELA Student Writing Contest
Countless awards and honourable mentions

The Journey Prize (Canada’s top short fiction award)
Nick Melling shortlisted


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