A former administrative assistant and human services specialist in the oilfield who discovered her passion for teaching later in life now finds inspiration in the classroom by teaching and building relationships with students.
Jennifer Howitt, a first year teacher at École Barrie Wilson Elementary, has been named Red Deer Public’s nominee for the prestigious Edwin Parr Teacher Award.
Each year the Alberta School Boards Association honours six outstanding first-year teachers with the Edwin Parr Teacher Award. School boards may nominate any first-year Kindergarten to Grade 12 teacher who has taught in an Alberta school jurisdiction which is a member of the ASBA.
Howitt, who teaches Grade 2, said she is humbled and honoured to be chosen for nomination.
“Everyday I love coming to work to spend the day growing and learning alongside my students. This award means the world to me to be celebrated for something that brings me such joy,” she said. “As a former student of Red Deer Public Schools, being able to pursue my career goals in this Division where I grew up is even more satisfying. Thank you for this incredible opportunity.”
Howitt credits friends who work in education for opening the door to the classroom, as they encouraged her to apply for a job in a school.
“Ever since I stepped foot in a school, this is where I belong,” she said, adding that being an older student going back to college and university was extremely nerve wracking. “I doubted that I could even do school again, or that I would academically be able to do university classes. It took my husband Cody telling me that I could do it. He was there to help and push me when I didn't have faith in myself or when I wanted to quit.”
Last July, Howitt was fortunate to teach in the Foundation for Red Deer Public Schools’ Reading College program, which helps Grade 2 students who are struggling readers become readers of potential. She said the experience helped to set her up for success. “The Reading College Program Coordinator Sue Carmichael has done an incredible job of setting the students up for success, and the new teachers up for success,” she said. “I still use what I learned during my time at Reading College in my classroom today.”
As for what Howitt enjoys most about her new teaching career, she said the relationships formed with students is something that has had a great impact. “The joy from the kids is what inspires me the most,” she said. “To see the spark when they understand something you’re teaching them, the ‘I love yous’ and the notes saying ‘I wish you would be my teacher forever’ are just so special.”
Colette Pedde, Principal at École Barrie Wilson, said Howitt stood out from the moment she was interviewed for the job.
“She has a passion for teaching that lights up her classroom daily,” she said. “Her depth of understanding provides a unique perspective allowing her to relate to the vast needs of our students and the greater community. Her perspective is so valued when we discuss programming and student needs. Jennifer is adored by her students and a very strong member of her grade team and entire school staff.”
Associate Superintendent, Human Resources Corrine Thorsteinson, said Red Deer Public is thrilled to nominate Howitt for this prestigious award.
“She has demonstrated a passion for creating a positive, engaging learning environment for her students,” she said. “She strives to ensure a literacy and numeracy rich environment in her classroom. Jennifer embodies Red Deer Public's values for learning.”