Do My Thoughts On Awards Change When I Win One?

This year as a staff, we’ve spent lots of time discussing awards. Should we have Award Ceremonies? Should we not have Award Ceremonies? How do they make students feel? I’m a big believer in intrinsic motivation, and I’ve read numerous amazing blog posts by Chris Wejr, George Couros, and Joe Bower that all speak to eliminating awards. I absolutely embrace this philosophy!

Right now though, I also feel very hypocritical. You see, today the news became official: I’m one of the national recipients for the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching ExcellenceThis has been one of the hardest secrets I’ve ever had to keep. I can still remember when I was told the news 15 minutes before the bell rang on the first day of school: Wow! Talk about an exciting start to the school year!

I think that the news has been surreal up until now, and it still kind of feels that way. The truth is that I feel overjoyed and so appreciative of my principal, Paul Clemens, who nominated me for this award, and the hours of time he spent organizing the package and writing the nomination letter! I also can’t thank the parents and administrators enough that wrote absolutely lovely letters of support. I wouldn’t even be talking about this award if it weren’t for all of you! I’m very grateful to all of the educators, administrators, support staff, and parents that have supported me over the years. I’ve learned so much from all of you!

Yes, today I feel very happy about winning, but I also know that winning hasn’t changed me as a teacher. I do what I do because I love kids! I do what I do because I believe in the power of education. I do what I do because I want to see ALL kids succeed, and I know that they can. I do what I do because nothing makes me happier than teaching, and I’m thrilled that I get to do what I love every single day. This is intrinsic motivation, and this is what I want for students.

What are your thoughts on awards? Does winning an award, change things for you? How? I’d love to continue the discussion on this great topic!


29 thoughts on “Do My Thoughts On Awards Change When I Win One?

  1. Sitting at my desk, weeping tears of joy! You go, girl! and way to go to your team for nominating you. Does it change how you feel about awards – I bet, deep down, it doesn’t. Is it wonderful to be recognized for what you do – yes, yes, yes…but we need to look at how we do it. I’m going to be so proud to say “she’s a friend of mine, and part of my PLN!”

    • Thank you so much, Lisa! I absolutely love learning from you on Twitter, and I’m thrilled that I’ve got to meet you and learn from you in person a couple of times too. I so appreciate all of your support! I also appreciate all that I’ve learned through your tweets and our few conversations.

      Thanks again!

  2. Hi Aviva,

    I was so happy to connect the blog with you when I met you today! You spoke beautifully and it was a pleasure to hear your words and see your passion.

    Your post is beautifully written and mirrors my own emotions right now!

    Thanks for sharing, as always!

  3. Congratulations Avia! Enjoy the moment, I know what you mean in regards to the awards debate. I’d argue that this is a recognition of your hard work. It’s not a random award or an award that doesn’t have any criteria. It’s a simple recognition of your role as a teacher, a collaborator and a believer in children.
    Savour this time,


    • Thank you, Angie! This awards debate is an interesting one, and has had me thinking a lot since I heard the news back in September. I am so thankful for the award though, and it really has been an incredible week! I’m definitely enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience, that I know that I will never forget!


  4. Although I am not a huge fan of awards in general, there are times when we all need to step back and applaud teachers like you who make us proud to be part of such a noble profession. I am so happy for you, Aviva! You deserve to be recognized!

  5. The awards debate will rage on….but let’s put this in perspective. You have taught the way you have not because of the possibility of an award but because it was rewarding (for you, for your students, their families…). The award is a result of the rewarding behaviour, not the cause of it. Enjoy!

    • Thank you, Kristi! As I mentioned in my reply to Diana, I think that it’s really important that we don’t do what we do because of an award. This was definitely the case here! I’m so overwhelmed and incredibly thankful for this amazing opportunity! This week has been one that I will truly never forget!


  6. First off congratulations. You are well deserving of recognition. Simply watching you share and model outstanding learning for students deserves acknowledgement.

    There are big differences in my view about these type of awards. First, it’s not really a competition. There are no winners and losers. And while many are deserving of recognition, we’ll never find a perfect system so we simply continue to honor one another the best we can and accept when someone wants to be kind enough to do so. Secondly, this is not done as a motivating device. You would have done your work regardless.

    It reminds me a bit when Home Extreme Makeover was on and people criticized them for lavishly building houses for select families and of course not doing so for others. We need to create more opportunities to honor each other. This one is for you. Enjoy it.

    • Thank you, Dean! You make a really interesting point here, and one that I mentioned to some people that I wanted to blog about. When a group of us were chatting on the first day in Ottawa, one Awards recipient asked, “How can we honour those people that nominated us?” Another mentioned, “We can pay it forward!” Why not honour more people that deserve to be recognized for all that they do? This has me thinking …

      Thanks for reminding me of this conversation, Dean! A blog post is definitely on the way!

  7. Aviva…you know I lurk….but now I *have* to post…..congratulations. NO ONE deserves this more than you do. And I totally agree with Kristi – you are not a fantastic teacher because you set out to win an award. You are a fantastic teacher because you set out to change your students’ lives. To motivate them to be the best they can be. To encourage them on a life-long journey of learning. To support them in EVERY single way possible. I am so proud of you and so proud to be able to call you a friend.

    • Thank you so much, Amy! I’ve loved watching you teach over the years, and I’ve definitely learned a lot from listening to and conversing with you. I feel just as fortunate to call you a friend!


  8. Here’s to the crazy one…. Leave it to Aviva to get recognized for a prestigious national award, and find in that moment an opportunity to engage the community in a conversation around the viability of awards. It’s why she is so deserving of this recognition; because even in this space, when she should be basking in this rare honour, she is thinking about the impact this event will have on her teaching practice (and worrying that her parent email is going to be late tonight).

    Aviva shows us the power of reflection (and the accountability of doing so publicly) as a force for growth. She shows us the power we can harness from an international community of educators through her adept use of social media, her connectedness. And through the transparency she offers in both the planning and the execution of her classroom practice, we see an expert pedagogue pushing the envelope everyday. The profile on the award website mentions a few different pieces of technology. You don’t win one of these award for knowing how to use todaysmeet, or for livescribe fluency. Aviva uses an entire arsenal of tools — both analog and digital — because she knows that in order to differentiate for her students and allow them to take the reigns and lead their own inquiry, she needs to be open to a diverse palette of resources.

    I’ve heard it said from parents of students in Aviva’s class, that it’s like suddenly having your child in a private school. The ability Aviva has to connect with her parent community, and “know” her students, challenge them, pull them out of shells and offer them a safe and empowering stage to share both their questions about the world, and their thoughts and ideas and creations, to an international, authentic audience, is magic. The dedication it takes to cultivate that audience, that community, is daunting — is near impossible for most of us, and yet Aviva does this. This is recognition for someone operating on a different frequency, who forges a pathway for us to take fragments of and practice them in our own classrooms.

    We cannot all be Aviva: she is one of the crazy ones; but we are so lucky to have her in our board, and luckier still that she has managed to make the walls of her classroom transparent in a way that we can digitally visit her classroom and learn from her process.

    Congratulations on this well-deserved honour. You have more than earned the permission shrug off any hypocritical feeling, and enjoy this milestone in your career.

    • Thank you so much, Jared! I left this comment as my final one to reply to, as every time that I try to read it, I get all teary-eyed, and then I’m too choked up to read it to the end.

      Your comment’s left me speechless — a rare occurrence 🙂 — and the only thing that I can really say here is, “THANK YOU!” Jared, through The Commons and your continuous 24/7 support (just about), I’ve been able to share student learning with parents. You’ve helped give me, and countless other educators, the tool to really create this window into our classroom. You’ve conversed with me numerous times about pedagogy, and through your blog posts, tweets, and conversations, you’ve forced me to really think about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it! I’ve learned so much from amazing people like you, and this is just another reason that I’m truly thankful!

      And in my own little way, I’m okay with being “the crazy one,” that did manage to get my nightly email out to parents before midnight … yahoo! 🙂


  9. I wanted to take some time to seriously consider your question Aviva about the validity of awards, an external measuring tool, on what we hope is intrinsic effort. Angie, Kristi, and Jared say some key things in the comments which will influence what I have to say as well. Let me reference them before I say more.

    Angie said “this is not a random award or an award that doesn’t have any criteria. It’s a simple recognition of your role as a teacher, a collaborator and a believer in children.” It isn’t necessarily the lack of criteria that makes an award questionable – those academic awards we present at graduation have some clear criteria; I would suggest that it’s the sense of entitlement vs the sense of surprise/modesty/I’m-not-phrasing-this well-enough … you didn’t expect to be granted this distinction because you think you are “all that” or because you’ve been working on getting it for the past few years. Getting recognition, especially when you didn’t expect it or seek it out, is so very sweet and wonderful.

    I loved how Kristi summed it up: “You have taught the way you have not because of the possibility of an award but because it was rewarding (for you, for your students, their families…). The award is a result of the rewarding behaviour, not the cause of it.” Really, I couldn’t have said it better. This award is icing on a cake, not the entire meal or even the entire dessert.

    Jared uses a lot of words that show that you, Aviva, are not going to change because of this award (unless it’s to make you even MORE reflective): reflective, transparent, dedication, thinking about the impact on teaching practice.

    You are no hypocrite, Aviva. My philosophy on awards fluctuates depending on the person I’m reading/hearing, but I like what Andrew Campbell (@acampbell99) has had to say lately about it (“don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”, if I may interpret it as such). I received an award a few years ago (I’m not mentioning what it was because this post isn’t about me) and I remember crying with shock at the news – it was unexpected and I was nominated by people whom I respect and admire a great deal. For people who respect award winners because of the distinctions next to those names (we hope not that many in the field of education), maybe it’s a way for them to pay attention to practices that they might dismiss otherwise – e.g. hey, if the Prime Minister’s Awards committee think she’s doing something worthy and helpful, maybe I should consider her strategies or approach. For others, it’s confirmation of thoughts they might have held privately or semi-privately, that they are in the presence of an exceptional teacher. I just read an article (debate-able research methods or not) that said that an effective teacher with a large class helps students improve more than a mediocre teacher with a small class. (I’ll try to find the link.) – we feel uncomfortable sometimes talking about those distinctions but if we are to be constantly learning and growing as educators, it helps to have some sign posts showing ways of teaching and being that might benefit. If we can find many ways to acknowledge the good that students and teachers do, including but also beyond external recognition by organizations, we can make individuals feel as happy, honoured, and treasured as I believe you are feeling now. I’m not as articulate as I hoped I’d be, but I hope you can make some sense of this. Congratulations Aviva on this award, and continue doing what you do.

    • Thank you so much, Diana! You’ve given me a lot to consider here. Congratulations on your award by the way! Having met you before and seeing all that you do, I have no doubt that it was well-deserved.

      I think all of the comments from all of the amazing people here have helped me carefully examine my thoughts on this topic! For me, my biggest concern with awards is when people are only working for the award. If this is what’s motivating them to do what they do, then I think that there’s a problem. I can honestly say that this was not the case here.

      This awards debate will probably continue forever, but this week has definitely given me a lot to think about when it comes to this topic! Thanks again!


  10. Congratulations A well deserved honor I am sure! So happy to have the opportunity to learn from you and with you on Twitter.

  11. I’d like to take a moment and share in the congratulations to you too, Aviva. Through your modelling, you’ve been an incredible leader in the province. Daily, your students get to reap the benefits of your wisdom, enthusiasm, and innovation.

    I think I may be an outlier in the discussion about awards. I absolutely see no problem with them. I find it a way to to formally award best of class and it’s obviously deserved in this case. Regardless of my thoughts or the thoughts of others, i know that you’ll sit back and recognize what this means to you personally and to your own professional growth. We all know that there won’t be a little extra in your paycheque because of this but I’ll bet that there’a little extra pep in your step these days.

    You’ve taken the extra time and effort to make your classroom and the learning therein so visible to anyone who cares to look. By watching the stream of messages from your classroom on Twitter and through your blogging, it’s so apparent that great things are happening there and we’re all so fortunate to be able to watch!

    I’m delighted that you were recognized for what you’re doing. I know that your students are reaping the benefits. I’m so happy that our paths have crossed and that I’ve met you and learn daily from your efforts.

    • Thank you so much for such a lovely comment, Doug! Yes, this week has been an INCREDIBLE one, and it’s hard not to be “over the moon” while being here celebrating. To then think about heading home and getting to celebrate with more family, friends, colleagues, and students is also amazing!

      I’m also so thankful for the amazing people that I get to learn with every day both online and in person! You are one of these people, Doug, and I’m always so excited to start my day reading your blog and even conversing with you on Twitter (about coffee, education, or both). I’m thrilled that I’ve gotten to meet you in person a couple of times now, and I hope to get this opportunity even more in the future!

      Thanks for all that you’ve taught me through your tweets and blog posts! And thank you for your continuous support — it means more to me than I’ll ever be able to capture in words!


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