Wanda Graham receives a teaching award for her use of technology in her classroom
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: Wanda Graham (left) poses for a photo with Delta - Richmond-East MP Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay, who presented a Prime Minister's Teaching Award for teaching excellence to Graham at an assembly at Sacred Heart Elementary School Oct. 19. Photo credit: Nathan Rumohr / The B.C. Catholic.
Four years ago Wanda Graham received one of her greatest teaching challenges: incorporating 21st-century technologies into her classroom. The Grade 6 teacher from Sacred Heart Elementary School, then 60, barely knew how to use her computer, let alone how to incorporate YouTube videos and use digital whiteboards.
But after persevering and learning to utilize the new technologies she is now referred to as the "video queen" by her teaching peers. Her hard work also led her to be recognized as one of the best teachers in Canada: she has won the Prime Minister's Teaching Award for teaching excellence.
"My response to the new technology was, 'You're kidding me, I can't do this, this is way beyond me,'" Graham told The B.C. Catholic after receiving the award Oct. 19 at an assembly in Sacred Heart's gymnasium.
Graham, who started teaching in the 1970s, now says she won't go back to the days of chalk boards.
"I wouldn't go back to the old way if you paid me; I would quit first. I wouldn't do it! It was so boring!"
She said today's technology can be utilized successfully to keep students interested and motivated.
"There are so many teachers embracing this, but so many who are afraid," she said. "It's too bad, because the students are used to this and you have to meet them at their level."
Graham received the award from Delta - Richmond-East MP Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay.
"It is a great honour for me to be here today," Findlay told the students. "You have a very special teacher here today in Mrs. Graham."
Findlay told the students that she had spoken about Graham's achievement in the House of Commons the previous day during members' statements.
Unfortunately Graham's students couldn't attend the award assembly as they were on a field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium, but they had congratulated her earlier in the week after reading about her achievement in the Delta Optimist newspaper.
Graham said she was humbled and surprised by the honour.
"I was surprised when I found out I had been nominated," she said. "I felt I shouldn't receive an award because I feel there is any number of teachers in this school that should have. But I've taught for 32 years, so maybe that was the basis."
Principal Wendell MacCormack admired the way Graham had taken it upon herself to learn and integrate new technologies in the classroom. He added technology isn't the only thing that makes Graham a "master teacher."
"Everything she does is a teaching moment to her," he said. "That's how she really makes the connections with her kids. Once she has them on board that way she can deliver almost anything in the classroom."
He added that Graham touches her student's hearts first before she touches their minds.
Graham said she loves going to work. She added while most people around her age are thinking about retirement, she is looking forward to the best time of her teaching life (except the paperwork).
She also said she is grateful to work in a Catholic school because she can share her faith openly.
"The role of faith is the most important part," she said. "That's the difference between teaching here and teaching in the public schools: I can make that connection."