Edwin Parr Award nominee begins teaching career in two Chinook's Edge schools

Shelby Duncan, the Chinook’s Edge nomination for this year’s Edwin Parr Award, has the unusual experience of launching her teaching career in two different schools.

Shelby began with the division last year by covering for a maternity leave in Grade 2 at Spruce View School, which is where she first caught the eye of the central office team. Once that term was complete, she moved on to cover a second maternity leave – this time for Grade 1 at Beacon Hill Elementary School in Sylvan Lake.

“I guess it took a lot of planning and strong knowledge of the curriculum, but every new teacher is faced with those things,” said Shelby, who graduated from the Red Deer College/University of Alberta program. “Chinook’s Edge provides such strong support in its mentorship program, and strong resources have been compiled for every grade. This is also a school division where so many people are willing to share their time and assist where they can. My mentor is a Grade 1 teacher, so she has helped me with lots of resources when I made the move. There are so many great teachers, I truly believe it’s my great support team that has allowed me to be successful.”

During her short time as a teacher, Shelby has already experienced Spruce View’s K-12 culture that sees one classroom per grade and then transitioned into the new school at Sylvan Lake where grade teams are working every detail from the ground up.

“I enjoyed both schools equally, for sure, but they are very distinct and it shows me how diverse we are as a large rural division,” said Shelby, who knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was in Grade 6. “I wasn’t the easiest student and I talked a lot, but my teacher never gave up on me even when I was being a brat. One day she overheard my friends mocking me when I told them about a book I wanted to read, and the next day I found she had discreetly wrapped a copy of the book and put it in my desk. It changed everything for me – I made new friends, I started trying harder, and became so engaged that I went on to become valedictorian. That’s the kind of difference I want to make in the lives of my students.”

The Alberta School Boards’ Association ‘Edwin Parr Award’ recognizes teachers who are new to the profession who show significant promise in their first year. What is most striking about Shelby’s teaching, according to the Division Principal who evaluates all beginning teachers in the division, is her focus on relationships.

“Shelby’s strength is her ability to engage every student,” said Dave Elwood. “ Her lessons have something for every child and she has a beautiful way of checking in with them on their learning. She provides targeted, authentic feedback on their learning and really helps them succeed. Right at the centre of all her work is her strong focus on relationships with students.”

There was an unusually high number of beginning teachers considered for the award this year, because of a new approach to evaluations. Along with Shelby Duncan, this included: Rochelle French (Innisfail Middle), Jerod Ferguson (Innisfail High), Raj Lourdessamy (École Deer Meadow in Olds), Emma Turville (Bowden Grandview), Kate Henry (Cremona), Melissa Abbot (Elnora) and Michelle Hindbo (River Valley in Sundre). The Edwin Parr Award winner from Zone 4 will be announced at a special event on May 29.

“Our new teachers amaze us every year,” said Superintendent Kurt Sacher. “The Edwin Parr program is about acknowledging their great efforts as a team – it’s not about putting a single person on a pedestal, but about sharing all of their great enthusiasm for teaching and for students. Even our veteran teachers enjoy learning through them. They are all highly skilled professionals.”